Party in Hell
Exercise 1. Describe a party from the point of view of a soldier on leave from a war zone. Don’t mention the war or the fact they are a soldier.
She had only recently returned to the tedium of suburban life, and the invitations to social events were already becoming a burden. These housewives with their shiny cars and sticky children, their petty feuds and narrow world view chipping away at her forced calm. “Obligation, it is the price of acceptance”, she muttered to herself in the corner, desperately clutching a Vodka and Orange that is more vodka than orange.
A loud bang, sends her pulse racing, senses suddenly on alert. But the call of ‘Taxi’ comes in from the patio along with forced, socially acceptable, laughter. Its an old joke, from a culture she no longer understands. Loud sudden noises should evoke fear, not tired chuckles. She wants to shake these people, rub their faces in fleeting nature of their existence, but that isn’t what a good guest does.
Around her the social tango spins on, a tune she can remember but no longer understands. Each note jars, the rhythm seems false. She wants to scream at them, make them open their eyes to the world around them and pull them out the domestic fantasy they all seem lost in. Instead she takes another gulp of the bitter juice, finding to her surprise that the glass has emptied itself again.
Between her and the kitchen, lies the gauntlet of the young single men of the community. Young, smug little shits with their tennis shoes and know-it-all attitudes. Worse still are the divorcees mingled amongst them, privileged suburbanites with BMW’s and wandering hands. Yet beyond them lies the drinks cabinet and the blessed vodka that makes these gatherings bearable. They are here for her, invited so that they can meet the single woman who has entered their community. She gathers the tattered remains of her courage and moves forward, forcing a smile, knowing that they won’t notice that it never reaches her eyes.
Exercise 2. Describe the same party from the point of view of a child. Don’t mention the child.
This was supposed to be a party, but it didn’t feel like a party. Lots of people standing around using big words and long pauses while others nod agreement. Sometimes people would move from one group to another, sometimes a whole group would collapse and the people in it would reform in another place. It was like watching bubbles in a bath, the groups moving, bursting, reforming.
There was music too. Old, slow, stuff that he had heard before but didn’t recognise. It was playing quietly and no one was dancing, so he wasn’t sure why it was on. Sometimes someone would turn up the music up for a song, but usually someone else would turn it right back down again because it made it harder to argue about ‘politics’, and ‘batting averages’.
There was cake earlier, full of cream and strawberries. It was left in the middle of the big table so that you could come back and have as many pieces as you want. So far that had been the best bit of the whole thing. Far better than having to wade through strangers smelling of tobacco and dead flowers, their booming voices making a painful racket.
In the back of the biggest room, in a corner between the door and the an indoor plant, there was a sad looking lady. She didn’t join in the groups, instead she just smiled at people and occasionally went into the kitchen and back. One time she left her seat and he switched his empty juice glass for hers, but it tasted like it had gone off, so he poured it out on the plant.