The doors had been flung wide and the guests were standing dutifully, awaiting their introductions.
“Dr. Hassan Shinseki,” Mr. Thick said in a booming voice. An elderly gentleman with horn-rimmed spectacles, wearing a blue double-breasted suit, entered.
“Mr. Oscar Hernandez Budiman.” This diminutive man’s every article had been selected to give the illusion of height: drain pipe trousers, a pinstriped jacket and spiked hair.
“Professor Angelica Xian.” A women’s populist, her clothes reflected her philosophy. Turkish trousers with cuffed and buttoned ankles, and a blouse, gathered at the waist by a drawstring obscured her figure and allowed her unfettered mobility.
In stark contrast was the more impressive half of the Blum couple: “Mrs. Constantine Blum.” This tall woman stood a full foot over her husband and sported a leather bolero jacket over a sleek bodysuit and heels inches high. Her face was stricken with make-up. Her partner: “Mr. Ngoyo Blum.” Wore a Hawaiian shirt with a hibiscus floral print and front pressed trousers. Except for their host, who was conspicuously absent, there was but one final guest.
“Mr. A. Artaud.” Artaud was the only one not dressed in period. On his arm, a marsupial clung. He had evidently not gotten the memo.
“And now, Mrs. Smith will show you to your seats.”
Yet she stood still, unable to move. She was fully cowed. This was an extremely influential coterie, people—like Masterson himself—who usually stayed out of sight.
“Mrs. Smith,” Mr. Thick said again, more loudly, “will show you to your seats!”
And so she fell quickly back into role and began to bustle about, leading the guests to their places into which they slowly sat, daintily descended or aloofly plunged as was in accordance with their personality. Mr. Artaud was the only to thank her. His marsupial was going to spontaneously reproduce soon, he told her and indicated the tumor on its belly. She smiled politely. She guessed that he considered himself as one of the Citizenry and would repugn the effete indifference of the others. The artists were often like that.
“I’ll have a brandy,” Blum announced. “And for my wife, a glass of your finest poison!” Everyone laughed at this witticism, which in itself also served as the signal for the Performance to begin.
“I object!” Mrs. Blum said. “We can’t have a drink before our esteemed host presents himself!” Others clucked in agreement. “Mr. Thick, perhaps you could enlighten us as to his whereabouts.”
“Quite right!” Dr. Shinseke agreed. “He promised to appear on the hour. Though a belated entrance is in line with his particular panache.”
Mr. Thick looked knowingly at Mrs. Smith: now she should scuttle off to the kitchen. A BOI™ had begun pumping the scent of burnt meat through the vents. It was a subtle, yet effective addition to the piece.
Hers was a good role. It paid the bills and she should be thankful. But she regretted always missing Mr. Masterson’s entrance. But perhaps this Mr. Thick wasn’t so comfortable in his role. Perhaps he wouldn’t notice if she lingered for a moment.
Fortunately, it wasn’t long before Masterson made his entrance, escorting a wisp of a girl through a heretofore invisible door that spiraled open a few feet above the floor.
The girl was entrancing to say the least. She wore a diaphanous dress that barely troubled her figure, which was lithe as the petal of a white rose. Her skin was the color of milk—not the knotted yellow kind that came from the sun-starved Bovinerators™ below, but the pearlescent variety of which none remained but in novels. Her lips were slightly parted, halfway between a pout and diffidence, as is the common expression of one often pursued, but rarely valued. Her bones were slight, her feet delicate, her arms slender, her legs rangy and youthful. She wore neither bangle nor necklace. Only a lock of auburn hair floated around her neck: everyone would have agreed that was treasure enough.
Masterson was just as elegant, dressed in a dinner coat with raglan sleeves and a thin, silk tie. His salt-and-pepper hair had been done in the fashion of the times. He wore black dinner shoes with shiny buckles.
A walkway rose from the floor to meet the alcove. The front fell in increments, forming steps. It was down these that Masterson and his exquisite companion descended to join the pageantry.
Just as the girl’s delightful feet touched the floor, she disappeared.