canadian ~ twenty-first century literature since 1999

Diplomatic Immunity

by Eleasha Chidley

“I’m the love-child of Elvis Presley and Mary Magdalene,” he said, lifting one sleek black brow at me.

I regarded him over the rim of my Bordeaux wine glass. “I can see it in the lips,” I said. “Elvis.” Pause, cock my head and touch the rim to my teeth. “And maybe Mary in the chin?”

He laughed softly. “No, no, it’s all Daddy. I think Mum is in the feet.”

“The feet.” I leaned back and looked obligingly down. Dress shoes, spit-polished to reflect the pinstriped slacks and dark green suit; no tassels, no laces.

He shrugged and sipped his Chardonnay. “I really don’t know. I’m making this up as I go.”

In the background, above the Eiffel 65 playing so incongruently over the loudspeaker system, Ricki laughed long and loud. I wondered if he was actually as wasted as he sounded, and then guessed a resounding No. Ricki’s talent lay in pretending to be the hub of trend, while honestly languishing in the metronome halls of middle-aged ennui and desperation. Hence the mish-mash of themes and guests and content to the numerous parties he threw—this one now being a prime example.

“What’s your name?” the man in front of me asked. He was young; too young to be standing in a Greek Revival parlour drinking Chardonnay and wearing pinstripes. Maybe twenty-five.

“Kevin,” I said. “Briscol. Yours?”

He drew in a breath, twirled the stem of his glass between long fingers topped by savagely pared nails, and said, “Haven’t decided yet. You know, there’s this place in Japan where they don’t name their babies and let the kids decide for themselves when they get older. That’s what I’m doing. I’ve disowned my name.” He pursed his Elvis lips. “Wait, I don’t think it was Japan. Maybe South America somewhere.”

“Ah.” The music pounded on. Glittering strands of spider web silence stretched between us. To break it without being responsible for anything, I took a drink of my wine. Truth be told, I loathed wine. I hated the taste, I hated the concept of grapes rotted to a state of liquefaction, I hated the flushed, smelly, thin-vomit sickness that accompanied it. But it was a cheap thrill (in this case free, but for the admission price of social fakery), and one unanimously ordained by higher society, and thus excusable without the eternal sense of accompanying guilt.

“All right,” he said. “Call me Teddy, if you’re really going to be so uptight about it.”

“Hmm?” I scratched my cheek self-consciously. “No, no, it’s fine. I mean… Teddy’s fine.”

Teddy rolled liquid brown eyes and dipped his tongue into his wine. “I’m going to the loo,” he said. “See you in a bit.”

He disappeared, leaving me standing awkwardly in the middle of Ricki’s parlour, digging my toes into a lush cream Persian rug and squinting with a stupid, classless eye at the Monet prints hung in gilt frames on the rose bud-papered wall. Antoinette, Ricki’s waif of a wife, minced over to me. Her tiny feet, squeezed into diamond rhinestone heels, looked like raw hot dogs; greasy, stretched, and in dire need of boiling.

“Kenny,” she slurred, peering up at me with eyes that veritably swam in wounded girlishness, “I’m so glad you could make it.”

“Kevin,” I said. “Yes. Wonderful to be here.”

“How’s your car?”

My car? “Peachy, I believe. I parked it on the corner, since the driveway was full. Is that all right?”

She nodded. “Yes, yes, fine, I like it, red Lexus, isn’t it?” Muttered, “Good, must be off, have a… thing…” under her breath, and kept nodding as she tottered off toward the other guests, who were congregated into carefully-maintained knots about the parlour like cliques of catty teenage girls the day before prom night, casting glances and sweetly subtle slurs at one another with all the charm and perfection of politicians in an electoral bullshit competition.

A few long minutes passed, during which Eiffel 65 became The Cure, and then Bach. I thought about leaving, going home to the loft, getting rid of this penguin suit, kicking back with a brandy and watching America’s Next Top Model until my mind imploded. After all, Ricki was my ex’s friend, not mine, and I didn’t like paying debts I didn’t owe, no matter their terms or subject.

I took another mouthful of wine, and then abandoned the glass on a wooden table in the hallway and took off toward the kitchen in hopes of something to eat besides caviar or finger sandwiches of distressingly miniscule size.

Halfway there, Teddy’s David face appeared in the corner of my eye, grinning fiendishly and beaming with marble intelligence and charm. “Hey,” he said, catching my elbow and spinning me in close to him. “You don’t look like you’re having much fun.”

“I’m not,” I said.

“What say we just go home and fuck?”

I gaped up at him. “I beg your pardon?”

He looked at me sideways from under considerable lashes. “Your car has a rainbow bumper sticker.”

My hand reached out of its own volition and clutched at the nearest inanimate object, which happened to be the edge of the grand staircase banister. “Oh,” I said weakly. Sexual preference wasn’t one of those things I went around broadcasting, generally. “And you just assumed…”

“Well, it was that and the tube of Astroglide on the dash.”

I waffled between stark shock, anger at having my privacy so tenaciously violated, and bewilderment. “I see.” I gripped the silky smooth banister, and then pushed away from it. “As much as I’d like to—”

He sighed, waving a hand in my face. “I know, I know. You don’t take propositions from strange guys, you’ve already got a boyfriend, I’m not your type, you tested positive, your sister is staying at your place and you can’t come to mine because insert-reason-here, your mother just died and you’re too broken up to indulge carnal urges, you have an unadmitted vampire kink, erectile dysfunction, Catholic guilt, Madagascar playing Antigua at eleven, daughter/cat/parakeet that desperately needs your undivided attention, been hurt before… Have I left any out?”

I blinked. “No. That is to say, I don’t have a daughter and my penis functions quite to my liking, thank you. I meant that I’m hungry and I’d like to have some sort of sensible food before running off for secretive liaisons with a man I don’t know. Blood sugar, you see.”

“Oh.” Was that relief or chagrin I saw gleaming out of his pretty eyes?

“The kitchen is this way,” I said.

After coercing Ricki’s miserly cook into dishing us up bowls of the broccoli cheese soup that was going to be tomorrow’s main lunch course, I sat at a bare table in the centre of an abandoned dining room and stared surreptitiously at my impromptu companion. He was absurdly good-looking, and the way he licked his spoon made my spine wiggle and tingle. I looked away from his mouth (which I expected by now to break into Heartbreak Hotel at any moment) and gave the dining room a thorough perusal instead. From the sight of the dust that coated every available surface, and the utter lack of anything resembling the marks of recent TLC, I figured that this must be one of the undoubtedly many rooms in Ricki’s house that had not been ventured into in anything resembling modern history. There was always the question of Ricki even knowing it existed.

“So,” I said, as cheese broth dripped from Teddy’s spoon onto the tabletop. “Umm.”

“How ‘bout on the table,” he said, and shoved his bowl out of the way.

My mouth went dry. “Where do you get the gall?” I asked, but it was verbal marvelling, not criticism. “And why me?”

He flashed pearly whites. “I’m an angel of death on my last-ever run to earth, and I want something to tie me over the next few millennia. You’re the type I chose for my last roll in the hay.”

“I thought you were Elvis’s love-child.”

“Mary Magdalene’s, really,” he said. “Elvis was unmarried at the time.”

“Of course.”

Next thing I knew, he was leaning across the table, prying the spoon away from my white-knuckle grip, tossing the bowl to shatter on the floor with a flick of the wrist, and yanking me forward. My mouth met his with the benefits of velocity and gravity on its side, and I tasted blood and felt the electric tang of pain go through my lower lip. His hands fisted in my shirt. His thumbs rubbed circles on my collar bone. I felt saliva well up under my tongue, spill into his mouth, drip down my chin. We broke apart after an eternity. I stared into his snickering brown eyes and said, “I love you.”

He looked both disappointed and exultant. “Yes, that usually happens. We’ll work around it. It’ll go away.”

Half an hour later, sprawled boneless, sweaty, panting, and elated on the table, skin bare to a phantom breeze, I murmured, “I still love you.”

“Huh.” He rolled over and pressed his face into the hollow between my armpit and neck. “I guess it didn’t work. Sorry. I’m afraid you’ll have to suffer lovelorn in this mortal coil. God takes a dim view to his angels breaking schedule.”

“But not a dim view to sodomy?”

Teddy’s shoulder lifted in a laconic half-shrug. “I think that went out a while back. I can’t keep up with it. Black is the new black, and then white is the new black, and then everyone’s cussing you out for wearing pink… It’s quite exhausting.”

He kissed my nipple, and then bit it gently. I was too tuckered out to respond with anything more than an appreciative grunt, and rolled over to wrap an arm around his smooth shoulders.

When I woke up, he was gone. On one of the white linen napkins we’d been given with the soup, he had written in what appeared to be red crayon, I’m sorry I couldn’t stick around. God’s getting pissy. Thanks for the flower power. ~T. PS. Your car has a parking ticket.

And, when I tottered from the house, rumpled and mellow, ten minutes later, so it did.

Eleasha Chidley writes: "I am seventeen, I had an article about my hometown published in the magazine Our Canada when I was fourteen, and this past year, I won second prize in a flash fiction contest. I live with my parents, brother, sister, Charlotte the dog, and a menagerie of other pets, on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. I've been reading since I was four, and writing since I was seven."





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