A SPURIOUS CLAIM. 5-9-11
Edwin Cooper arrived at the party a halfway to being drunk.
There was nothing unusual in that for him because in the two and a half years since his second wife had emptied their joint account and had run off with a neighbor’s son – a charmer who was twenty-five years old and was still living with his parents and was idle and had zero talents and zero prospects – Edwin had tended to be halfway to being drunk most of the time, and travelling.
He did his customary circulating while imbibing a few more drinks and when he’d done his duty in that regard he was delighted to find that he’d reached the plane that all serious drinkers look for but rarely find as they get older. It’s the place where everything feels right and all people are nice and worries disappear and life is worthwhile.
He secretly ‘liberated’ a nearly full bottle of scotch and retired to the seldom used – since the last of his host’s children had left for college – ‘media’ room and he sat in a comfortable recliner and sipped his elixir carefully. By then he’d long mastered the art of imbibing with judicious balance so as to stay on, or in, that euphoric plane.
Because he had no distractions he was able to slip into a wallow of happy nostalgia and for a long time he enjoyed himself immensely and so much so that he did a whole lot of giggling and chuckling – mostly when he brought a bon mot or some clever repartee of his own to mind – and he even did some laughing out loud from time to time.
Inevitably the film ran out, as it were, and although he began to down the scotch more rapidly he couldn’t conjure up any more happy memories to feed on and, all too soon, sad ones flooded in to fill the void and he was unable to think about anything except his nasty divorces and, with that, how much he missed his second wife.
He hoped to be allowed to finish all the scotch and then sleep for a while before rejoining the party for a few minutes to thank his host and then leave and scoff some good brandy at his home, as was his wont.
However, just as he was dozing off a thought struck him with such force that he had to stand up and go and re-join the party right there and then.
His host was an old friend – a good and loyal old friend as he had to have been because no one else invited Edwin to parties any more, for obvious reasons – who was called Peter Harris. Even Peter’s sympathy was wearing a bit thin lately so when he’d, a little earlier, looked in on his friend in the media room and had seen that he was off in his own world and was mumblingly content, he was happy for him and for himself too in that it boded well as far as the success of his party was concerned. He’d hoped that he’d stay there and maybe sleep for long enough to be able to drive himself home when he woke up and save Peter from having to do so which was by no means an uncommon outcome.
Just like everybody else he knew well that a dozing drunk is far better than a mobile one and when he’d verified that Edwin most likely wouldn’t represent a threat for the rest of the night it meant that he was free to take a bottle of Champagne up to the spare room where a guest, a very friendly guest indeed, was awaiting.
Soon after Peter had poured wine for them both – and they’d both emptied their glasses promptly to, uh, clear the table for the laying on of friendly hands – they were very unhappy indeed when they heard a woman’s cry, along with ‘crowd noises,’ coming up from the living room.
Peter was loath indeed to stop what he was, uh, was into – also, he’d developed a serious physical handicap to walking by then – but because he was the host he had to check on the commotion so he stood up and adjusted his clothing and hobbled away to the bathroom where he splashed water strategically and then adjusted his clothing again and went downstairs.
When he got to the third step from the bottom one of his friends saw him and ran to tell him that Edwin was behaving strangely and exasperatingly in that he’d been going up to all of the younger women in turn and – even if she was dancing with someone or if she was deep in conversation – he’d grab at her to command her attention and then rudely demand that she tell him how old she was.
His informant went on to say that she’d been one of the accosted one and when she’d told him that she was twenty five it clearly wasn’t the answer he was looking for because he’d lost interest in her immediately and had moved away and on to the next woman.
When Peter got close to Edwin he saw that he was holding on to the arm of a young woman and, as she told him later, he’d asked her what her age was and had then pestered her with other questions that she didn’t want to answer and when he went on to make lewd proposals she’d cried out for help but even after that he wouldn’t let go of her arm.
Peter intervened and set the woman free and then he part cajoled and part strong- armed Edwin away and then guided him back to the ‘media’ room.
When Edwin had been made to collapse into the same chair that he’d occupied earlier Peter told him that he wasn’t to move from there for the rest of the night and should try to sleep his way back to clear-headedness and that he was going to check on him again at intervals and if he dared to leave the room, “for any reason at all,” he’d never be invited to another one of his parties, ever, “and think on this: How many invitations are you getting nowadays?”
He turned to leave but when he got to the door he stopped because he was curious about something and so he turned back and asked –
“Edwin, please tell me something, why are you so interested in women’s ages all of a sudden?”
Edwin, as is the way of all drunks, had already forgotten about his quest but it came back to him fully after being reminded of it and he struggled to get to his feet and then he tried to force his way around Peter to get to the door as he said, “I started thinking back on my life and it came to me that my first wife was ten years older than me and my second one was ten years younger. So, don’t you see, man? Somewhere out there there’s a twenty year old woman who belongs to me and I’m not going to stop looking until I find her.”