“Mr Hitler!” John said cheerfully. “It’s very good of you to join us. I didn’t really want you to attend, because I think you’re an odious little prick, but my wife invited you because she wanted to know if it was true about you only having one testicle.”
Hitler shuffled uncomfortably from one foot to the other. The night behind him was as black as cemeteries. He frowned. “Das ist korrekt.”
John leaned back into the hallway. “Jane,” he cried. “Hitler says it’s true. He’s only got one ‘nad.”
Jane’s voice came from the kitchen at the other end of the hall. It carried easily over the conversation and clamour that burbled from the rest of the bustling party.
“Seriously?” she called.
“Seriously,” he assured her.
“Has he shown you?”
John held up a finger, indicating Hitler should wait at the porch. Pushing past Einstein, Wordsworth and Cleopatra, squeezing between Socrates, Lincoln, Marie Curie and Marilyn Monroe, he walked briskly to the kitchen where Jane was discussing wines with the Marquis de Sade.
“Sweetheart,” he began, interrupting their conversation. “I’ve sold my soul to Satan so we can host this ultimate dinner party. On reflection, I’m beginning to think it was an unwise move, which I shall dwell on later during a moment of interior monologue. But for now, I must insist that I’ve already gone above and beyond the call of duty.”
Jane regarded him with an innocent pout. She stretched the expectant pause to infinity. “Your point being?” she asked eventually.
“My point being that I’ve done enough to organise this party and I’m not going to spend one moment of my evening examining Adolf Hitler’s sac to count the number of his balls. Even if that counting exercise means I don’t have to count higher than one, I refuse to do it. If you’re so desperate for proof I suggest you go and look for yourself.”
Jane smiled tightly. She gave the Marquis a brief peck on his cheek, excused herself, and then hurried out of the kitchen toward the front door.
“Your wife is a charming hostess,” the Marquis murmured.
John nodded. “That’s not much of a compliment coming from a man who poisoned prostitutes whilst trying to feed them aphrodisiacs. It’s nearly as flattering as when the Borgias said they liked Jane’s cooking.” He took a glass of mineral water from the fridge and walked over to Jesus.
Jesus considered him sternly. “It’s not a party trick, my son.”
“Of course not,” John agreed. Despite his words, he urged the glass closer to Jesus.
Jesus rolled his eyes. With resigned weariness he placed a calloused finger against the rim of John’s glass of mineral water. The clear liquid instantly changed to the rich, bloody hues of a cabernet sauvignon. John laughed cheerfully.
“Amazing trick, man.”
“It’s not a party trick, son.”
“No,” John agreed, sipping the rich flavour of perfectly fermented blackcurrants. “It’s not a party trick. It’s an amazing party trick.”
Jesus regarded him sceptically. “Did you really give your soul for this?”
And then he was gone, walking away between a pair of nuns, like a pimp on a promise. And John was left alone with his miraculous cabernet sauvignon, and the bitter aftertaste that made him fear he had made a grave and terrible mistake.
He had lived his life an atheist, content in the existentialist belief that the universe was without order and there was no God. When the opportunity to sell his soul had come along – a personal ad on Craigslist – John had leapt at the opportunity. To his mind, a soul was as useful and valuable as battery-operated wool. Any profit he could gain from selling his soul would be as pure as the profit derived from selling an invisible friend.
But now he was beginning to wonder if he had made a mistake. He wasn’t one to subscribe to arguments of logical persuasion but Satan’s interest in his soul was making John believe it might have had some extrinsic worth. And, when he contemplated the known existence of Satan (or, at least, the known existence of Satan’s hotmail address and his ability to organise parties) John began to wonder if the universe was as Godless as he and Jane had always believed.
Not that he was prepared to concede that a negative invariably proved a positive. But Jesus, son of God, was at the party and had just (miraculously) changed his Perrier into Cabernet Sauvignon. And, John realised, if there was a God, perhaps the human soul had some worth or value he hadn’t previously considered.
Bitterly, he wondered if he should have sent God an invitation to the party, to prove whether or not the deity existed. If he’d been a pantheist instead of an atheist, John figured God would already have been at the party.
But, regardless of whether or not God existed, John wondered if the ultimate dinner party was really what he wanted. Satan had assured him the party would last until he grew tired of the situation and John didn’t think he would ever grow weary of associating with historical giants and legendary idols. But he was also aware that the fragmented nature of the occasion – and the fact that there were so many other people present – was all reminiscent of Jean Paul Satre’s hell. But could it really be hell when he was basking in the companionship of his idols from history?
“John!” Jane called from the doorway. “John! You have to come and look at Hitler’s ball sac. It’s the most grotesque thing I’ve ever seen.”
The snob in me has always wanted to write a literary masterpiece that is thought-provoking and insightful. However, whenever I attempt such highbrow writing, I usually end up with the contrived drivel you’ve just read.
I know where the problem lies. To write a genre you need to read a genre: and I can seldom manage more than three chapters of pseudo-intellectual bullshit before I sack off the product and reach for a more edifying horror novel or erotic masterpiece.
Yet the snob deep within me would dearly love to write something that is so complex and self-indulgent it’s virtually inaccessible. Mind you, the problem then would be finding a publisher…