Glen Pourciau

Austin called me in tears on Tuesday and said that his friend Peg had died. Austin is gay, but he loved Peg. She’d been to the hospital for a heart procedure, but as soon as her daughter got her home and they walked into her house she dropped to the floor and was gone just like that. After he talked to me I remembered that he always told me that I could come over and look at his library and take whatever books I wanted. He’s got so many he doesn’t know what to do with them. Austin’s old and I started to think he might die too, maybe even soon since he’d miss Peg. So I called back and asked when would be a good time for me to look through his books. He started to speak but stopped, and then just hung up on me. I thought he might call me and apologize, but he hasn’t. I don’t know when I should call him again, but he did make the offer and he must remember saying it. You’d remember it, wouldn’t you?

I haven’t heard from Christine in some time and I have no idea what she’s up to. This is the third time she’s dropped me, but she’s too weird for me anyway. Have you ever been in her house? She has no furniture, it’s as bare as can be, except in the kitchen, which looks like something out of a decorating magazine. And it’s strange because she never cooks and has no idea what to do in the kitchen and Garland just heats up prepared food from Costco. They’ve been married twenty years, but I think Garland’s gay, something about the way he holds his shoulders and the way he touches his hair. They still have those eight or nine huge dogs that bark and charge at anyone who gets near them, like wild animals, and it doesn’t faze Christine the least bit, she never calls them off you. She says they give her a sense of security, and there’s no telling what kind of pent-up aggression she’s expressing through those animals. And speaking of wild animals, did you hear she was attacked by a swarm of bees? She shouted for Garland to jump in to rescue her, but he got swarmed himself and they both ended up in the hospital. Lucky for her I wasn’t on the scene because I probably would have stood there and watched.

What got her mad at me was that we were in a restaurant we used to go to run by the mother of a friend of hers, and they kept bringing out all this delicious food. We were complimenting her friend’s mother on how good the food was, and she thanked us and then commented that I always wore such nice clothes and never seemed to gain any weight. I told her that I grew up in a fashion-conscious household, just for something to say, not wanting to take all the credit for being well dressed. Christine stiffened as she listened and looked me up and down as if some foul odor was coming from inside me. I think she was jealous of the compliment. She’s had trouble controlling her weight and she must have twisted what I said into an implied insult to her and her family, which never entered my mind. You know her family owned a department store, so maybe she was sensitive to what I said because she sees fashion as part of her background. That’s the way I interpreted it, the longer I thought about it, and it’s a fact that since then she doesn’t want to talk to me or look at me. She used to call me all the time and now nothing. She’s always known I can’t stand her dogs and that I cringe at the uproar they create. They jump up in your face and look you right in the eye, their mouths open and their tongues hanging out. I can’t help but grimace and duck away, and who wouldn’t? Do they think I’m a buffet table? I don’t know. I snarled back at them once and Christine didn’t like it, but that was awhile ago. So what gets into her thinking it’s my fault her friend’s mother complimented me and not her, and what’s it got to do with me if she fears she’s getting fat and doesn’t know how to dress herself? For whatever reason, family or not, Christine has always had bad taste, especially in clothes, and she doesn’t like to take many baths either. Have you ever noticed that she doesn’t wash her hair? Maybe her dogs like the smell of her, but I’d be afraid those monsters would turn on me all at once.

It’s too bad. Before this happened she used to drive me around in her old Range Rover, all over the surrounding towns and countryside, and on those drives we saw everything for miles around here. Now she wants to give up on our friendship because her friend’s mother said something nice to me. That’s just too petty. I can’t take her back as a friend wondering what kind of friend she can ever really be. If she calls, I won’t answer the phone. I’ve made up my mind that I’m not having anything more to do with her.

Glen Pourciau’s collection of stories, INVITE, won the Iowa Short Fiction Award. He has stories in recent or forthcoming issues of AGNI Online, the Antioch Review, Barcelona Review, the Literarian, Little Star Weekly, New England Review, and other magazines.