Fairbanks Community Centre. There were eleven of them. Slouching, wretched failures, waiting, just as he ordered, warming up the eight lonely rows of rusted steel benches.
A petite man, sporting a pink golf shirt and ironed spandex, transforms himself below the counter of the canteen. He strains to open a window, expelling the lingering stench of hockey and overbearing fathers, and waves his hand, gently conducting the depraved rhythms of the departing: doors slam, engines bellow, children cry. Felix bows his head in thanksgiving and continues the ceremony.
The highest honour shall be reserved for the esteemed donor. For one lunar cycle, he will don my processional vestments — the sun-splashed gown and the scalp of Wellek. The sun-splashed gown gives the donor access to all chambers in the temple; one member of the kitchen clean-up crew will be chosen to dance attendance on his majesty and delight in the hidden secrets of the gown.
The temporary omnipotence relished by this anointed individual shan’t be construed as an exemption from other duties. This cannot be stressed enough. Said donor must continue to comply with the reasonable guidelines that have been laid out in the parchments. Failure to do so will result in immediate expulsion from the community or a lukewarm reference upon departure.
For returning members, as you may have remarked, yes, these guidelines represent a host of new restrictions. The 23 Goy-Sallop Tribunal recently deliberated on a number of grave issues; three weeks transpired, without food, water or shelter, partially due to budget cuts all for the sake of Wellek.
Let us pause for a moment and direct our humble gratitude towards those brave members of the 23 Goy-Sallop Tribunal, whose precious lights were snuffed out before they could ever wear the gown. Please stand and join me in a solemn chorus.
“Hano hano dali fie. Before they could wear the gown.”
Exit 42, on Highway 26, go pay your respects at the fateful rest stop. Run your fingers along their names etched into the oaken picnic table. So many memories. So much laughter, as I laid their bones to rest, burying them deep beneath the effervescent sewage pipeline.
On a moonless midnight drive, I can almost hear their tom-tom drums emanating from the recesses of my Oldsmobile. I can feel their cold, agitated limbs clawing at my bare feet — a friendly hello from the other side? Perhaps. Then, it dawned on me. How could I ignore these sensations? Whispers on my ankles. Please, altogether now, ladies and gentleman. The weak and dimwitted among you shall not slow us down! With vigour this time. Whispers on my ankles, fie dali cryptos! Just as they etched their own names into the picnic table, as I insisted on that fateful night, they carved the new blessed names into my ankles, on my bare feet, signaling the birth of our 24 Goy-Sallop Tribunal.
Jesse Rawls, Ronald Khalid, Alice Bedford and Vince Zelnik. Please make your way to the coatroom, awaiting further instructions. Alice! You have been selected — and please cover up those perky breasts, for your tip jar will be empty at the end of days.
Sandra, darling, that doesn’t apply to you and, might I add, you look ravishing tonight.
We must move forward without them.
Former outcasts are welcome to attend the Summer BBQ Festival of Florgentis on June 2. For the right price, they could find their way back to the front pew, like our beloved George here. Who would have thought that he would once again be seated at the right-hand of my altar? From back alley debauchery to royal feasts, the intemperate winds carry my seeds where they may. Honest, reliable George. Curious George?
Our annual BBQ wouldn’t be possible without our benefactors. It is written that we all aspire to don the gown, but for many of you, I regret to say, it’s not in the tealeaves — they shall never steep your name.
Ten dollars is my humble request, orders from on high. I remember when Wellek used to count his nine fingers with languid idleness. I studied his every move. He told me that one more finger would restore his sight. And so it did.
Nine fingers, the tenth is for thee! Wellek — the visionary who touched my soul on Dover Avenue. On Dover Avenue! Donations of less than 10 dollars will give us insight into the true, pernicious character of the donor.
Let me take this opportunity to single out a few vile creatures that continue to fall short of our suggested donation. Jesse Rawls, Ronald Khalid, Alice Bedford and Vince Zelnik. This list will continue to populate, unless you give. Give! Recall the words that Wellek taught us: your income, your labour or a night with your neighbour’s wife.
One more dollar or one more finger? I didn’t have the freedom that you do. Insert coins to play again — as the children’s video-arcades beckon us. It’s up to you.
We need bags. The BBQ is a sordid affair — last year, we ran out of bags. One bag left a giant coffee ring on the imitation marble dance floor. Please. Bags! Preferably biodegradable garbage bags.
Are they edible? I’m sure George could answer that one. Couldn’t you, George? George and I are good friends. He knows that my comments about his fluctuating appetite are good-natured.
I thought that depression results in a decreased appetite, eh George? He’ll be fine. I can make him forget with a few donuts and a coffee. Sandra, don’t console him.
Garbage duty sign-up sheets are posted outside the cloakroom. Matthew, can you please ensure that the coatroom is locked? Ronald can’t be trusted. Before you leave, ladies and gentleman, does anyone know if the buses are still running? My disobedient wife borrowed my Oldsmobile. Sandra and I will pray for her at the BBQ. Goodness! The buses have stopped running?! Is anyone heading towards Highway 26 East?
In loving memory of Felix Tragelle 1962-2005.