The Life of the Life of the Party

Garry Gillard

Published in: inprint: the short story magazine, vol. 5, no. 1, 1981

It was me who tooted the horn. But it wasn't true that I had 'never been so drunk in all my life'. I didn't say it, and wasn't even particularly drunk. But that was only one of the lies in Sid's story.

As soon as I walked up the drive I saw him up the tree, so naturally I kept my eyes open and didn't drink too much, to see what would happen. I sort of expected something of the kind to happen, because Sid had been acting pretty funny: I'd heard on the grapevine that his business was falling apart and so was he. And there wasn't any reason for him to invite me and Sheila to his place. We didn't like him any more than he did us, and neither did anyone else that was there, I think. That's why we behaved the way we did.

I told Sheila pretty well straightaway, but laid it on pretty heavily about not letting on to Sid. And then I went in with Andy Cheel when he went inside to have a slash and told him what I'd decided. I must say we all did it really well. Nobody once looked up the tree, in fact. I think a lot of us even forgot about him for most of the party because we were all having an unusually good time, probably because of the presence of the absent host. When I told Bill Smallacombe, for instance, I took him off in the opposite direction, pointed at something over the road and said, 'Don't turn around whatever you do, but Sid's up that big tree up the back'.

Christ!', said Bill, 'so he's finally gone bonkers'.

I know', I said. 'I reckon he's just being stupid. Listen, this is what I think we all ought to do. Let's ignore him for the whole afternoon, drink his beer and eat his steak and have a good time. If the stupid prick wants to sit up his own tree and watch us, we might as well let him'.

'Yeah, righto', said Bill.

So we did, Bill told Norm Daniels, and Norm told his wife, and so on. And we all got on with it, just like I said. That's why I 'accidentally' dropped the last couple of empties on the heap and broke them, and why Sheila and Georgina Lloyd had a bit of fun about Sid and Joy's lounge room. Georgina couldn't have given a stuff what Joy's taste in curtains was like. She said what she did because she knew Sid would appreciate it - he was always going on about 'good taste'. So, of course, he swallowed it. People only hear what they want to.

There was a lot of other stuff which happened that he doesn't tell in his version. It wasn't just Bill who pissed on his tree, for instance. It was both Bill and me. That was the highlight of the day. We were both nearly busting in both places. Trying to have a normal leak while trying not to laugh at the same time just about gave us both a double hernia. We were talking about Sid, and you can see why this is one part he left out.

'I hear Sid's show's got the wobbles', said Bill, setting it up for me.

'Well, you can't expect to run a business and try and be a writer at the same time', I said.

'What Sid needs is more an underwriter', Bill came back. Geez, we laughed.

As it turned out, that was the reason the silly bugger was up there. He'd invited all us representative middle-class Australians, laid out the food and drink, and then disappeared up the tree so that he could write a story about what he saw and heard. We didn't realise that at the time, and wouldn't have cared, although as I say we did feed him a few lines, even if he didn't use all of them.

There was something else I said that he didn't put in. Sheila and I were the last to go, leaving all the scraps and the mess and the empties where they were, and before I got in the car and did dum-didderly-um-dum on the horn, I turned round and shouted up the drive to the back: 'Thanks for the party, Sid!'

He didn't put that in.


Note

This is the only story that I've ever had published.
It refers to a story by Murray Bail called The Life of the Party.
It appeared in inprint: the short story magazine, vol. 5, no. 1, 1981.
The punctuation style is that of the journal (which has long since disappeared).


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