Written by Ramon Kwok
Click here to make comments
Click here if you'd like to exchange critiques
Being a society columnist has its rewards. You get to attend all of high societies fanciest galaís and functions. This particular one was pouted as the ball of the year. Everyone, who was anyone, was here. Like all such affairs, it was important to see but more important to be seen. My column "Rhodes Gallery" is popular among this group. A mention by me in my column could be a boost in a career or a snub could draw the wrath of an aspiring celebrity. It pays well, and I enjoy looking into a personís physic and find them egotistically naked. My wife thinks most of them are pretentious, a pompous display of the human genre.
Our costumes were dull, compared to some of the elaborate creations on display. Here money can buy an identity. One such costume caught my eye and I nudged my wife to look at a guest that was dressed as the Prince of Darkness, the Devil himself. All the costumes in the hall had that certain facade about them. The devilís costume looked as if it was Taylor made. He carried a long black cane, with the head of a serpent as a handle. I just stared at the cane, as if mesmerized. He came towards me.
"I see you are fascinated by my cane," said the man. "Here, have a closer look. You may examine it if you like. Iíve had it for years. Itís like, no it is my closest companion."
He handed it to me and I almost dropped it. I did not realize how heavy it would be. The body of the cane was black. You might think painted black, but on further examination it was just black no paint. The handle was the head of a serpent. Iím not an expert on metals but I would wager the serpents head was solid gold. I tried it as a cane, it was solid as steel. I pressed down on it to see if it would support my weight. It did. There was strangeness about it. I could not find the seam where the serpentís head joined with the shaft. It was all one piece. When you held it up by the shaft or the handle, it felt like a hard muscle. I turned to return the cane to the gentleman but he was no where in sight. I asked my wife where did the Devil go. All I got was a confused "What".
"The Devil," I said. "The one whose costume looked like it was Taylor made for him."
"The Devil you say," snickered my wife.
"Please, letís not be facetious," I said. "The one who gave me this cane to examine."
"Iím sorry darling, but I was talking to Sharon Jones, she is the one dressed as Pocahontas. Here, let me see the cane. God is that real gold? By the weight it must be solid gold. Iím not too thrilled with the snakeís head. Why do men put such ominous creatures on a cane? Itís almost like they are displaying their manhood for the entire world to see. I for one can never understand it. Must be one of your man things, that women find so confusing." Examining the cane closer Cecile continued. "Did you see these initials S.D.S. on the shaft?" Suddenly, Cecile cried. " Ouch, damn, I caught my finger in the snakes mouth. Here, take it away, I donít even like the feel of it." As Cecile handed me the cane she warned me. "Donít look now but Jack Slaggetís 350 pounds is coming towards you."
"Damian, Cecile darling," said Jack Slagget. "How long has it been since we seen each other?"
"Probably at the last grommet dinner or luncheon, I know there was food around," I said.
"Heís such a tease Cecile. He knows how much I like food. You know I just live to eat." Jack spotted the cane. "What a gorgeous walking stick Damian, is it yours? May I see it? Oh itís so heavy." The questions came so rapid I was unable to answer. No matter Jack returned to his one preoccupation, food. "Admin, Cecile you should try the salad bar there is so much to decide on, and the main course buffet, Iíve been through twice already. Oh dear, oh dear holding this cane has reminded me I havenít sampled the fresh baked Alaska salmon." With a twist of his massive body he turned and wobbled toward the buffet.
I retrieved the cane and noted. I said to Cecile, "He says he lives to eat, if he keeps eating this way he wonít live. Iíd better go over and speak with our host, Debra Thomas." Debra Thomas is a woman in her late fifties, dressing as in her early thirties. Sheís had so many face-lifts they call her the elevator woman. We have been friends for years and I have always written a nice review of her parties.
"Debra," I called. "Debra you look so radiant from across the floor I just had to come over and chat with you. The ultimate host as usual. Cecile and I canít thank you enough for inviting us.
"Damian," cried Debra. " Always gracious with words. You should, thatís how you make a living. What an ugly stick, when did you use a cane?"
"As a matter of fact, this cane belongs to one of your guests. He seems to have disappeared for the moment, Iíve been holding it ever since. Here look at it. Iím not sure what itís made of. The shaft is a solid black material, Iím sure the serpents head is solid gold. When you press down, itís solid. When you hold it up itís almost alive. There is this frightening beauty about it. When I hold it, I feel that it is a part of a terrifying event that is about to happen."
Debra held it for just the briefest of seconds shuddered then handed it back. "Damian, may I have a word with you in private. Letís step out onto the terrace." Safely out of ear shot Debra whispered. "Damian darling, I have some terrible news for you. We have been friends for so many years, I depend on you to be discreet." Debra paused before continuing.
"My god Debra youíre positively shaking," I said. "What is it love,"
"I have been diagnosed with a rare form of skin cancer. Probably from all the operations Iíve had. Iíve seen four doctors and they all agree. It is cancer. This will be my last party. Please do me a favour and write it up as the most glorious party ever. See if there is an incident that will put this party on the front page of your paper. I want to be remembered, as the legendary party hostess. Others will have to be satisfied that they cannot top Debra Thomas."
"How long," I asked.
"Six months give or take a few days," Debra whispered. "I want everyone to enjoy tonight. Oh oh here comes busybody Sara Demers. Please talk to her while I slip away. I canít stand her mooning over me and telling me how fortunate I am. And please not a word about my illness."
"Sara Demers," I almost shouted. "I havenít seen you for months. You look positively gorgeous." I stood in front of her shielding Debra as she casually walked away.
"Oh Damian you do go on," giggled Sara. " Not as gorgeous as our Host, Debra Thomas. If only I had her looks and the style she lives in. How fortunate can you be, married five times and each time reaping a small fortune from each of her husbands. All I would need is one of those men and I could be hosting this party." Saraís eyes came to rest on the cane. "Damian what on earth are you doing with that grotesque stick?"
"A gentleman left it with me and I canít seem to find him," I explained "Here, have a look at it close up. The serpentís head is solid gold."
"Solid gold," said Sara. "Well maybe it is not so hideous after all." Her eyes were glowing at the thought that the snakeís head being solid gold. "Now if I had this cane and the golden head I would be quite satisfied." Sighing, Sara handed the cane back to Damian.
"Would you excuse me Sara, I must speak with Henry Miller over there."
"Mr. Miller," I said. " Damian Rhodes from the Globe. I called you for an interview last week and you were out of town.
"Oh yes my secretary told me," said Miller. "What is it you want to know.
"Is it true that you are closing your factory here and relocating to an Asian city," I said. This would put 500 people out of work here. The experts are claiming that your labour cost has been slashed by 75 %. Compare this with your retail sales prices, your profit margin would exceed 150%. Would you care to comment on this?"
"No," said Miller. "If you print any of that gossip you and your paper will find yourselves in court, good day. Then pushed his way through the guest colliding with Jeremy Sloth.
"God Damian," said Jeremy. "What did you say to Miller?"
"Jeremy," I said. "If you were not such a layabout you would know."
"Your always working," said Jeremy. "Me I canít be bothered what Miller does. It seems like a whole pile of work chasing after him, only to find a battery of lawyers protecting him. Thatís not Jeremy Slothís bag. Actually Iím more interested in your cane. Where did you get it?"
Jeremy took the cane and strutted around a bit. Trying to look like a wealthy gentleman.
"You know Damian," said Jeremy. "If I had this cane I could show up to these functions and do nothing and look important."
"You do nothing now," I said. " You live off a small inheritance. You have never had a real job. How more nothing can you get? Give me the cane and be off with you."
Movie agent Matthew Duncan was chaperoning his only client Marilyn De Garland. Marilyn is married but Matthew is trying to present her as single, sexy and seductive. He is marketing her as the most desirable woman in movies. The publicity she receives is only matched by his personal desires. Iím not the one to ruin a career before it starts so I never wrote about Jane Land and her husband, Billy Ray Land. They were two Hollywood hopefuls. There was no room for a HillBilly, in Hollywood, but there is always room for another sex queen. I introduced Jane to Matthew Duncan. It wasnít long before Jane Land became Marilyn De Garland. Matthew was infatuated with her the moment they met. He gave up all his other clients to work full time on her career. Billy Ray became one of the thousands of husbands that get pushed into the background. There was a group of photographers surrounding Marilyn. She was accommodating by posing for any one who asked. I moved closer to Matthew and touch him on the shoulder.
"Damian," he cried jumping back a few steps. "You scared the wits out of me."
"Sorry, I didnít know you were so tense," I said. "What is the matter. Youíre shaking, for heaven sake?"
"Billy Ray, heís been drinking too much, and falls into this jealous rage. Iím afraid for Marilyn and myself." Matthew composed himself and asked. "Where ever did you get that ominous looking cane? I wish I had one just for protection."
There was a commotion out in the foyer and carried on into the banquet room. It was Billy Ray and he staggered towards for Marilyn. "There she is ladies and gentlemen," announced Billy Ray. "Hollywoodís new sex goddess. The most desirable woman on the silver screen today. The woman in every mans dreams. To crave, to hold, to covet. And we owe it all to this man, Matthew Duncan, who also carries this torch of desire. The flame burns deep in his heart and will only be extinguished by the total submission of his sex goddess."
I stepped in front of Billy Ray and tried to calm him down. The alcohol on his breath was overwhelming
"Damian you old bastard," slurred Billy Ray. "What have you got here? Looks to me like one of those fancy gentlemanís cane. When did you start strutting around with a cane? I never knew you to be that pretentious. Let me see It." snatching it away from me before I could stop him.
"Careful Billy Ray," I warned. "You could hurt some one."
"Your right there old buddy," said Billy Ray. "I could use this as a walking stick." Billy Ray pantomiming Charlie Chaplin. "Or I could use it as a defensive shaft in case of an attack." Crouching into a defensive stance, his eyes burning with hate. "Or I could even use it as a weapon like this."
I was frozen in my tracks; helpless to stop Billy Ray from bringing the cane over his head and with two hands crashed it down. The serpentís head buried into the skull of Matthew Duncan. Shock and horror were on the faces of all the guests. Ladies screamed, pandemonium was everywhere. Except for the small circle around Matthew and Billy Ray. Matthew collapsed in a torrent of blood. Billy Ray now shocked and sober, realizing what he had done sank to his knees. The cane falling from his hand to the floor. I could not move. The scene around me was in stop motion as if everyone was frozen, shock and horror on all their faces. Through dazed eyes I saw a hand reach down and retrieve the cane. It was the man dressed as the Devil.
"Who are you?" I stammered "Whose initials are those on the cane? "
"Are you sure you havenít met," He said more of a statement than a question.
"Think Damian, you have met each of the seven characters. Surely you can describe each one with a single adjective. There is Jack Slagget, Henry Miller, Matthew Duncan,
Jeremy Sloth, Debra Thomas, Billy Ray Land and Sara Demer. Solve that and you will know who or what is S. D. S. Pleasant dreams Damian."The cane 02/22/99
By Ramon Kwok 2,386 words