The Feast of Stephen Part 1
Joe Cornelius Hunter stretched out length-wise on the huge, puffy, luxurious chesterfield, his nose in a thick, heavy, hard-covered tome with the image of a big chair made of swords on the cover. He flipped the page excitedly, almost tearing it, getting some quick reading in before the evening’s festivities. For the third year in a row, the London House Management Corp was throwing a Holiday Party for their tenants, and for the first time in as many years, Hunter and Bill both had the night off. The Lond Ho Holiday Parties, (according to Doris the building manager from down the hall) were legendary, with copious amounts of free booze to be consumed, and tuck to be gobbled. Bill and Hunter took this as a challenge, so it was game on as far as they were concerned.
A cloud of warm steam billowed around Bill Williams as he stepped out of the bathroom wearing his way too short, threadbare robe singing,
“Good King Wenceslas looked out,
on the Feast of Stephen,
When the snow lay round about,
When the snow lay round about,
deep and crisp and even;
Brightly shone the moon that-“
Brightly shone the moon that-“
Hunter snapped the book shut, “Are you singing fucking Christmas Carols?”
“Technically, it’s a ‘hymn’ written by John Mason Neale in 1853, based on the 13th century spring carol Tempus Adest Floridum,” Bill cinched the belt around his waist, “Are you still reading that gay-ass Fantasy book?”
“Yeah, whatever.” Hunter was never a fan of Fantasy as a genre. Truth be told he always preferred Science-Fiction, or Horror as genres went, but three years ago he was at a Sci-Fi convention and a friend of his recommended he read George R. R. Martin. He was sceptical to say the least. “Veiled princesses in distress” and “dragons” just did not interest him. And for the last few years he had been powering through Henry Miller’s catalogue and had little time for anything else. Two years later he picked up A Game of Thrones at a second hand book-store and was having a tough time putting it down. He called up his convention buddy soon after and thanked him for the recommendation, who proceeded to tell Hunter it was the first book of a trilogy.
“You know,” Bill grinned, “the only good Fantasy book is King’s “Eyes of the Dragon.”
“So you keep telling me. Maybe I’ll get around to reading it someday…”
“You know I had a first edition hard-cover copy of it,”
Hunter rolled his eyes, he knew the story, Bill had told it at least a hundred times, and Hunter could probably tell the story by heart at this point.
“And I foolishly loaned it out to my then girlfriend, that bitch Devi, and what did she do?” Bill didn’t wait for an answer, “Only read it in the fucking bath, warping it all to shit that’s what!”
“The girl was pure evil.”
“No doubts there. I’m gonna get changed, are you about ready?”
Hunter spun his booted feet to the floor and sat up on the couch, immediately regretting this decision as it put him nearly face to face with the thin, ratty, nearly transparent, barely-holding-it’s-structural-integrity, bottom hem of Bill’s robe. All that sat between Hunter’s face and Bill’s junk was a thin layer of disintegrating cotton. He had to say something. He leaned back on the chesterfield and looked up at Bill.
“Dude, would it kill you to maybe pay the ten bucks and get yourself a new bathrobe, maybe something that wasn’t manufactured during the Laurier Administration? And maybe something that’s just a touch longer perhaps?”
Bill yanked on the threadbare belt indignantly, “I’ll have you know this robe was cut by Pierre Cardin himself in 1978!”
Hunter doubted that statement more than he could express, but said nothing. Clearly it was a Pierre Cardin, the sigil on the breast pocket was unmistakable, but sometimes it was better to just let Bill go on. Which he did. Usually at great length.
Bill spun on his heel, grumbling back over his shoulder, “Just because the best tailoring you’ve ever seen is above your fucking appendix doesn’t mean anything!”
“You’re quoting Withnail again!”
“Never mind that! Just get ready!” He slammed the door to his room.
As far as Hunter was concerned, he was ready. He was wearing a slate grey golf shirt with “Presson” embroidered on the left sleeve, a Christmas present from his parents, (along with a hard-cover copy of the first edition of Mostly Harmless by Douglas Adams, and a stocking full of satsumas). He had slipped on his least torn pair of black jeans, and his favourite Doc Martens (the 14 hole talls), ran a brush over his hair, and ran some deodorant under his arms; he was good to go. Just waiting on Bill again.
Bill tended to take long, drawn out, overly hot (in Hunter’s opinion) showers, and took twice as long as any girl he knew to get ready. Hunter on the other hand liked to get in and get out quick, zip in and zip out, like going to Wisconsin. He didn’t have time to screw around for hours at a time showering and getting ready, he had things to do, and people to see. Boxing Day grub and booze wouldn’t crush itself.
Hunter dropped the book on the cardboard box “coffee table” and pressed play on a Pixies disc that was in the CD player. He clicked ahead to track seven, Black Francis singing about a monkey gone to heaven, two minutes in the phone rang. The red, big-button phone sat on the arm of the Huge Leather Chair, ringing it’s crackly, electronic ring. Hunter hit pause on the stereo and ripped the phone’s handset from the base.
“Hey Hunter, its Sara.”
Hunter put on his goofy ‘Rico Suave’ voice, “Well, how do you do young lady?”
“Oh, I do fine, thanks, could I talk to Bill?”
“Absolutely,” Hunter put his hand over the mouthpiece and shouted towards Bill’s closed bedroom door, “Oi! Bill! It’s Sara! Pick up!” He listened at the earpiece and hung up after hearing a ‘click’ that told him Bill had picked up the phone.
Seconds later Bill emerged from his bedroom wearing a white button down shirt with a thin, black leatherette tie, and his best charcoal cargo shorts, he also had his bedroom phone in his hands, and looked to be in a rage. As he stomped angrily into the living room, the cord went taut, then yanked itself from the bottom of the black and clear plastic phone, as Bill gave it a quick, violent jerk.
“What’s up?” Hunter wanted to know.
“Ahh-“ Bill growled as he blew past Hunter headed for the sliding balcony doors. He flipped the lock and wrenched open the glass door, then the screen, took two steps outside, then dropped the phone, unceremoniously off the balcony. Bill watched it sail, tumbling down to shatter on the deck below, just missing one of the heavy, concrete ashtrays.
Now Hunter was curious, “You know, you really shouldn’t be tossing thing’s off the balcony, they could evict us for it.”
“I’m not going out tonight. Have fun.” And with that he flopped down on the plush chesterfield and turned the TV on to CNN.
Hunter didn’t know what to think of this latest development, but knew it must have had something to do with the phone call, “What did she say?”
“She just decided to stand me up for tonight.”
“And, well, apparently she ‘forgot’ she already had plans to go to Fred’s company party or something. Who knows? Seems a bit strange to me that his company is having their Christmas party on Boxing Day, but what do I know eh Hunter?”
“Well, I know what you’re NOT going to do, and that’s sit around here all night watching the so-called ‘news.’ Now get your shoes on.”
Bill shook his head, then grumbled something Hunter couldn’t hear.
“What’s that bear?” Hunter asked, in his best “Mr. Dressup” voice.
“I said ‘I suppose your right!’” Bill stood up.
“Yeah, eff her if she doesn’t want to hang out with us tonight!” Hunter said, yoinking the remote control from Bill’s hand and switching off the set.
“Yeah, yeah, eff her.” Bill said, not sounding entirely convinced, as he grabbed his size 14 Doc Martens from the rubber mat by the front door. He slipped them on, tied them, and in moments they were out the door and waiting for the elevator.
“So what’s with the singing anyway?” Hunter wanted to break the awkward silence, and move the conversation away from Sara, and that was the best he could come up with.
The elevator door opened to an empty lift, and the boys stepped in. Bill pushed the lobby button five or six times as the doors closed.
“Well, Hunter unlike you I can actually sing, so sometimes I do, if for no other reason than to cleanse my pallet of the off key caterwauling that assaults my senses every time you take a shower.”
Hunter suddenly remembered, “Oh yeah, you were in, like, the Calgary Boys Choir or something when you were a kid!”
Bill nodded, “Yes, It was where I learned to sing properly.”
Hunter nodded, glancing up at the numbers above the door, as they slowly blinked downwards. The lift was halfway to the lobby, and seemed unusually slow today, he thought.
“Yeah I remember now,” Hunter smiled, “you said that when you auditioned for the choir they asked you to sing something, but you had nothing prepared.”
Bill looked over at Hunter, knowing what was coming.
“And you chose to sing the National Anthem didn't you, but then forgot the words!” Hunter laughed.
“Yeah, yeah I was young, and under pressure to perform! Plus it was right around the time that bastard Trudeau had gone and changed the lyrics to shoe-horn ‘god’ into the anthem, so you can almost forgive my confusion at the time.”
Hunter was still laughing as the lift came to its usual stuttering, shuddering, jerky halt. The doors parted and the bright, colourful Christmas lights sparkled in the boys eyes as they stepped out into the lobby.