It was going to be a lonely New Year’s Eve for Duke. Jill had to visit her mom in the hospital -- and Duke hadn’t planned ahead. He usually spent New Year’s Eve in a neighborhood bar with Jill, getting totally ripped. In fact, last year he managed to get them thrown out of three different places. Before .
Duke rolled a joint and left their apartment in a bad mood. He headed towards his favorite bar on Avenue A -- only to find it closed. Boarded up by the city.
“Fucking shit,” he muttered, his words forming clouds in the cold air. “What am I gonna do now?”
He circled the block a couple of times trying to figure out where to go. He finally went inside a bookstore on St. Mark’s Place to get warm. A bulletin board cluttered with flyers caught his eye. Looking through them he came across a small card inviting everyone to an Anarchist New Year’s Eve Party. It sounded pretty strange. But there would probably be free booze. So Duke decided to check it out. He ripped the announcement off the wall and stuffed it in his pocket.
It took him awhile to find a building to match the address on the torn card. It was past Avenue C on a block where most of the tenements were either abandoned or destroyed by fire. Piles of charred bricks only partially covered by snow lined the broken sidewalks.
I wonder if anarchists do drugs, Duke thought. He banged on the door. Someone opened it and told him to come in.
Inside was like another world. A bunch of people clustered around a kerosene heater were arguing loudly. One guy kept jabbing everyone in the chest with his index finger to emphasize what he was saying, but they seemed to be having a good time. Duke edged past them and sat down on the floor next to a sagging sofa. He wanted to take his time and ease into this one.
A dude on the sofa turned to him and said, “Hi, my name is Vern. I’m an anarchist and a survivalist. I’m going to make it through the next war. I’ve got this concussion-proof watch with a built-in compass, and I’ve got an escape route out of the city all mapped out. I won’t get trapped here like a dumb hippie.”
“Good for you,” Duke said. He mentally tried to calculate how much coke the watch would buy.
A woman sitting next to Vern leaned over and told Duke her name was Vikki and that she’d come to the party with this guy and, really, he wasn’t much fun and, hey, she had this cute little tattoo of a butterfly on the inside of her thigh and would he be interested in joining her in the next room for a closer look?
“Sure,” Duke said. “Are you an anarchist, too?”
“Of course,” Vikki replied. “Isn’t everyone?”
Hours later, trying to find the door, Duke stumbled over a body surrounded by empty bottles. It was Vern, passed out on the floor.
Duke bent over him and slipped the watch off his wrist.
“Thanks, buddy,” he said softly, putting it in his pocket. “Happy New Year.”
Ron Kolm is a contributing editor of Sensitive Skin and the editor of the Evergreen Review. He is the author of The Plastic Factory (fiction), and Divine Comedy and Suburban Ambush (poems). Ron’s papers were purchased by the
library, where they’ve been catalogued in the Fales Collection as part of the
Downtown Writers Group. His book Duke & Jill, is forthcoming from Unknown Press. New York University