Johnny America


In the Kitchen at the Party


Illustration of four boxy-faced men

You’ll rec­og­nize me eas­i­ly at a par­ty. I’m the tall man with a boxy face who nev­er leaves the kitchen. There are oth­er tall men with boxy faces who may go out to the pool, sit on the fur­ni­ture in the liv­ing room, or gen­er­al­ly min­gle in dif­fer­ent rooms, but I’m not one of them. I’m the one in the kitchen. That’s just how I op­er­ate. That’s my thing.

I try to be help­ful. I fix drinks, I make room in the fridge for the dish­es peo­ple bring, and I bring those dish­es out up­on re­quest. And though it’s nev­er my kitchen, I will have fa­mil­iar­ized my­self with the dif­fer­ent cab­i­nets, the use of the garbage dis­pos­al and the au­to­mat­ic ice cube dis­penser on the door of the fridge— all the lit­tle ins and outs. I’m re­al­ly quite good at be­ing in the kitchen, if I do say so myself.

The kitchen is a busy place when the par­ty is in full swing. I feel quite pop­u­lar as I fix gin and ton­ics, rum and cokes, and scoop mac­a­roni sal­ad on­to pa­per plates. I feel brim­ming with pur­pose. And for me that’s what it’s all about. Noth­ing com­pares to the pur­pose I feel be­ing in the kitchen at all the swing­ing par­ties I crash. And last night’s par­ty was al­most ex­act­ly the kind I hope for.

You might say it kicked off when a young woman with dirty blond hair asked for a Sex on the Beach. She was pa­tient and friend­ly as I looked up the in­gre­di­ents on my phone.

“I lost my vir­gin­i­ty on a beach,” she said.

“You don’t say,” I said, pour­ing in the peach schnapps.

“Sand got e — ve — ry — where.

“That can happen.”

I stirred in the vod­ka and hand­ed her the cup. She thanked me but looked disappointed.

In hind­sight, she was prob­a­bly ex­pect­ing some kind of flir­ta­tious joke or in­nu­en­do. It didn’t oc­cur to me to make such a joke be­cause I didn’t have the time; things at the par­ty were re­al­ly pick­ing up.

I don’t drink at par­ties be­cause I take my kitchen du­ties very se­ri­ous­ly. I need to be on the ball for any sit­u­a­tion that may arise. If I get drunk and have to chop up limes or blend some­thing, who knows what could go wrong? The mere thought gives me anx­i­ety be­cause I can’t stand the idea of let­ting any­one down. It’s al­ways my se­cret hope that peo­ple will think back on the par­ty and say, “And who was that tall, boxy-faced guy in the kitchen? He was on point!” To me that feels like as close to fame as I’ll ever get.

At one point last night my friend Tony came and talked my ear off for a while, but I did my best not to let him dis­tract me. He was say­ing some­thing about a TV show he was into.

“The third sea­son is sort of go­ing back to the roots of the first sea­son but it’s not quite reach­ing the heights of the sec­ond sea­son in the way that the fourth, fifth and sixth sea­sons are sure to do…”

I on­ly half-lis­tened. I kept sling­ing beers and cock­tails, and telling peo­ple where the bath­room and coat rooms were. Af­ter a while Tony took the hint, shrugged, and walked off. I liked Tony but it was still a great re­lief. I need­ed to focus.

Lat­er on, the dirty, dirty blond woman who told me about her sex on the beach came back. This time I no­ticed a slight lisp as she sly­ly asked for a Red­head­ed Slut. She was smil­ing like it was some great joke, but as nei­ther of us had red hair I didn’t quite see the humor.

Like be­fore, I looked up the in­gre­di­ents on my phone and served her the mix­ture in a clear plas­tic cup.

“I’ve heard red heads are red e — ve — ry — where,” she said.

“You don’t say,” I said, pour­ing in the Jägermeister.

“I’m sure you’re won­der­ing and the an­swer is ‘yes.’ My car­pet does match my pubes.”

I hand­ed her the drink and kept it mov­ing. There was a line form­ing by the fridge.

I nev­er stopped work­ing at par­ties. I worked hard­er at par­ties than I worked at my re­al work at the con­ve­nience store. I took pride in the fact that I left no cus­tomer un­sat­is­fied. Luck­i­ly, the host, who I per­son­al­ly didn’t know, had a very well-stocked bar. Every ran­dom liquor I looked for, I found. I had nev­er even heard of Frangeli­co be­fore. I vowed to have a well-stocked bar of my own some­day. As it stood then I had on­ly a pint of cheap whiskey in a draw­er some­where and a half a bot­tle of cin­na­mon fla­vored vod­ka in the back of my freezer.

Some­time af­ter mid­night the par­ty start­ed to die down. The kitchen was get­ting less and less traf­fic and I be­gan to feel I’d out­lived my use­ful­ness. Sud­den­ly I was just a no­body stand­ing around in some stranger’s kitchen with noth­ing to do. I pulled out a stool and got off my feet for the first time since I ar­rived. Look­ing out in­to the liv­ing room the peo­ple I saw seemed un­in­ter­est­ing and their con­ver­sa­tions unin­spired. I wished I had some task to oc­cu­py me. Peo­ple were prob­a­bly be­gin­ning to won­der who the tall, boxy-faced guy stand­ing alone in the kitchen was.

Then the blond woman was back. The top cou­ple but­tons of her silky red blouse had been un­but­toned. She came up to the oth­er side of the counter and asked for a beer.

“On­ly a beer?” I asked. I had hoped for more of a chal­lenge. “Are you sure you don’t want a But­tery Nip­ple, or a Bend Over Shirley, or a Roy­al F—”

“No, no, just a beer. Those oth­er drinks were too sweet. Be­sides, I’m too tired to keep flirt­ing with you.”

“Flirt­ing with me?”

“Yeah. I was prac­ti­cal­ly throw­ing my­self at you before.”

“You don’t say.”

“Yeah. I asked all my friends about the tall, boxy-faced guy help­ing out in the kitchen.”

“What did you learn?” I asked, very cu­ri­ous to hear.

“No one knew who you were — no one knew any­thing about you — but they all agreed you were on point with the drinks.”

That’s all it took — my se­cret hope ful­filled! Oh, what a mag­i­cal night it had turned out to be— filled with mean­ing, I think.

Filed under Fiction on June 5th, 2020

Care to Share?

Consider posting a note of comment on this item:


Previous Post


Next Post


Join our Irregular Mailing List

For very occasional ramblings, word about new print ephemera, and of course exciting investment opportunities.