The dining of the great meal took place casually in chairs and on a soft sofa in the living room at the home of Veronica Eyes in Berlin, Wyoming. Plates and beverages rested on a coffee table; some people stood while they ate and drank. There was the murmur of blended conversations. There was light laughing.
Steel Brandenburg III sat in a chair in a corner beneath a tall reading lamp with a red velvet shade. He was quiet. He was alone among the people. He watched the others eat, trying to decipher if they liked the store-bought gravy. He braced himself for bitter reactions. Everyone acted as if he wasn’t even there as he raised fork to mouth repetitively. He was a ghost, someone looking in from the other side. He had to break the barrier.
“Are you all enjoying the gravy!?” Steel suddenly blurted out. The others stopped talking for a moment and looked at him. One guy named Craig, who was a real jerk, said, “What’s with the gravy, man? Why are you always about the gravy?”
Steel cleared his throat and looked around at everyone as they awaited his answer. “I… I just want everyone to get the most out of their meal. Gravy’s wonderful for that. It adds flavor and richness to our food.”
Craig the jerk busted out laughing. The others followed suit, even Veronica Eyes.
“Whaaat!?” Craig said with a disbelieving laugh. “That’s like the gayest thing I ever heard anyone say.”
He moved closer to Steel and looked down at him. Craig Nusmerg was a tall buffoon with an odd-shaped body, something resembling a bosc pear. People say the heavy drinking has caused his body to morph and turn him into the strange being he now was.
Craig Nusmerg had been a high school basketball star and nothing much more since. He worked the presses of the local newspaper for the last ten years and always smelled of ink and grease. He was divorced and lived alone in a rectangular can at the local trailer park. Now he was towering over Steel like an over-ripened Godzilla.
Steel looked up at him and shrugged his shoulders. “Sorry. That’s how I feel.”
“Why are you here anyways?” Craig wanted to know. “Nobody gives two shits about the stupid gravy.”
Steel glared at him. “That’s not true. I’m sure plenty of people here are enjoying the gravy.”
Craig scoffed and shook his head. His eyes then caught the white gravy boat sitting on the coffee table and he went to pick it up. “You like gravy so much,” Craig said to Steel as he carried it toward him, “Here you go. Have some gravy.” He tipped the gravy boat, and a thick stream of warm brown gravy came pouring out right on top of Steel’s head. Craig kept pouring and pouring, snickering with delight, until the entire gravy boat was empty. Steel just sat there and let him do it. He let him do it all the way. He just stayed in the chair as the gravy dripped from his hair, down his face, and into his lap.
“God damn it, Craig!” Veronica cried out. “You got gravy all over my favorite chair!”
Craig just laughed, went to grab more beer from the refrigerator, and slipped out onto the back patio.
Veronica ran to get some towels. When she got back, she started mopping up as much of the gravy as she could. She handed a towel to Steel. “You better wipe your face off,” she said. “You look like some horrible creature.”
“Do you think I could use your shower,” Steel asked her with gravy spattering out of his mouth as he spoke.
Veronica was aghast by such a request. “My shower? Oh, no. No, no, no. Let’s just get you out into the yard and hose you off.”
Veronica led Steel out the front of the house and had him stand in the small yard of grass. She went to the water spigot and cranked it on as she leveled the hose. She aimed the nozzle at Steel and began to spray him off. “Close your eyes and your mouth, Steel,” she told him as she worked. “I don’t want to rupture your pupils or break your teeth.” But then again, maybe she did.
It wasn’t long before the real Steel emerged from beneath the slick of gravy. She had him turn around and hold his arms out to his sides. “That’s good,” she said. “I need to get you nice and clean before we send you home.”
“Home?” Steel asked without turning to look at her. “You want me to go home? Why don’t you send that fuck-off Craig Nusmerg home? He’s the jerk. He’s the one who started this whole thing.”
Veronica sighed as she sprayed. “You weren’t even supposed to be here.”
“Right. You lied to me. Why did you lie to me?”
“Because I just knew something weird like this would happen. Weird things always happen when you’re around, Steel. You’re a weird magnet. You’re… You’re just completely weird. I didn’t want you ruining my party.”
Steel turned and stepped back from the spray of water. “Sure. Sure. I get it. Sorry to trouble you.” He walked off, soaking wet, and moved down the street toward where his pickup was parked. He got in it and sped off.
The moon was full and bright, and the landscape illuminated. Steel Brandenburg III drove his white pickup like a cowboy even though he was nothing like a cowboy. He went out to a place called Silver Lake and parked within the bones of the trees near the shore. That same moon that had chased him from the city was still there in the sky, looking down, watching him.
He got out of the truck and went closer to the water. It looked like a mirror with the way the light was shining down on it. He craned his neck upward to look at the ivory disk in the sky and then he just started to scream like an animal. He screamed and screamed until his throat hurt. A herd of deer shuddered through the surrounding brush. He fell to his knees and bowed his head in irreverent prayer, mocking a God who never saw him or cared for him.
He got back up and stumbled to the truck to retrieve his phone. He pressed the button for Veronica Eyes. He breathed as he waited.
“Hello? What is it, Steel? Why are you calling?”
“I just wanted to know if you have ever heard of a symbolic revenge tale?”
“What? What are you talking about?”
“You should be aware that the silly little actions of you and your friends could have serious consequences.”
“What? Have you been drinking? Where are you?”
“Stop asking me questions, Veronica. Just stop. But be prepared.” He ended the call. He looked around at the wilds. The treetops suddenly bent in a gust of wind. Something snapped and fell nearby.
TO BE CONTINUED
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