The Ultimate Dinner Party by C.B. Johnson
Nobody knew it but it was the eve of another historic money crash, the kind that has bankers jumping out of windows from great heights. Lucky Mackenzie was happy, but his wife, Mitzi, was of late so happy that by comparison he seemed kind of sad. They had recently experienced insane levels of success in their professional lives, beyond even their own wildest dreams. They had come up in the world. Everyone they knew lived in towers and they were no exception. But they had previously had to live in the lower levels, near the ground with the ants and the rats. They had once lived with a sightline into a neighbouring apartment, where they had regularly seen a solitary man silently brush his teeth, back and forth and back and forth, for twelve months.
The Mackenzies had crowned their newfound happiness by securing a brand new residential tower address to call home. Their tower teetered high above the old neighbourhood of small brick high-rises and practically forgotten street-level brownstones. It had a façade of scalloped balconies. They presently moved in the last framed print and Mitzi, who had briefly studied a semester of design, directed Lucky in arranging the furniture. After dinner, befuddled on wine, they wandered about the apartment together, trying out chairs and sofas, and posted photos of each other to their relevant social media timelines. Lying in bed, an abstract euphoria accumulating in the darkness, they planned a very special dinner party for the week of Lucky’s birthday.
Lucky had hinted that he wanted a real piece of repressed art for his birthday, a sculpture he had seen in a museum.
‘We have room for museum-scale works now,’ he had said.
Mitzi stayed up through the small hours one night, making inquiries online, and eventually was able to acquire a near-same piece from a studio in Beijing. It was shipped immediately and arrived well in time for Lucky’s birthday. It had been cast in steel and was almost a foot high. Cute? She didn’t understand it.
Finally, the day was upon them.
A futurist restaurant came in and occupied the kitchen for the evening. Guests mingled by the cast-steel artwork, the real piece of repressed art, atop its very own plinth.
‘Nice,’ said a guest, reportedly in hold of an arts PhD.
‘I heard that cost as much as their last apartment,’ said another. ‘Maybe more.’
Lucky caught this comment and told Mitzi in the bedroom, where she was still getting ready. She threw her head back and laughed.
Lucky went out, grabbed a drink and put himself into circulation.
‘Cheer up, Lucky, it’s your birthday,’ volunteered a guest, a Mitzi invite whose name Lucky had already forgotten.
‘I am cheered,’ replied Lucky, ‘I just look sad in comparison to my wife, she’s so happy.’
Mitzi finally presented herself in black pants and top and black-framed glasses.
‘Are you an architect?’ enquired a colleague of Lucky’s.
The woman was disappointed, as one is apt to be, to learn that an acquaintance is in finance.
The wait staff dipped the music and dinged a little bell; dinner was ready. The main course was very fine. It was Mitzi’s choice, in vitro meatballs suspended in biofuel. As they excitedly ate, the guests discussed the latest unselfing trend to strafe the social elite: psychic vacations. They heard about lucid dream safaris (action adventure), deep-brain bungee jumps (cognitive thrillers), childhood memory expeditions (nostalgia/terror), underdeveloped cerebral area orientations (mental gentrification), next-level confidence tours (success fantasies), and insentient recreation (détente absolue).
The arts PhD declared that ‘the future has arrived, it just isn’t evenly distributed,’ to blank stares. ‘Gibson,’ he muttered.
Dessert, which is to say Lucky’s birthday cake, consisted of an incredible floating assemblage entitled ‘unique forms of sugar and cocoa in space.’ Everyone gathered together, encircling the cake, and sang ‘Happy Birthday.’ Cake in hand, the guests milled about the balconies, gazing across at each other, and down at the city. Tiny cars on the avenue blinked and winked back. One of the men, a junior colleague who had eyed Lucky all evening, asked how it was all done. How Lucky did it.
‘What’s the catch?’ he said.
‘The catch is you have to be me,’ said Lucky.
The man laughed. Lucky laughed. The staff gradually disappeared and guests who had stayed on until after midnight took taxis. Lucky and Mitzi were finally alone again. They congratulated themselves. Their dinner party had been a roaring success. But nobody knew it had been the ultimate dinner party.
About the Author:
C.B. Johnson is the author of numerous works of short fiction and a book, Modernity without a Project, published by Punctum Books, Brooklyn: New York. He lives in Sydney.