by Merle Drown

By eleven o'clock our prep school's class had shrunk to a dozen guys worshipping a long discarded nostalgia for friendship. The younger alums from the co-ed years said the reunion rocked. Not for us, all pushing sixty, half of us bald, none of us trim. Two guys, who'd brought their wives, went back to the local motel, one wife more than a little reluctantly. Given the sorry bunch she was leaving, you can imagine how little awe her husband inspired, though we were disappointed that she left.

Dale, a minor star on our football team, whose best sport had been the twelve ounce curl, announced he'd gone on the wagon. "Doc told me it was my liquor or my liver," he said. "With you guys half-soused, the conversation's bored me for the past hour," he said as he left.

Over the five years between reunions we read of this alum serving on the country club board or that one retired to Florida, but our life's trinity—disgraces, debts, diseases—revealed themselves only at the end of a six-pack. If at all. Some guys didn't attend when their business was in Chapter 11 or their kids in rehab. Ten years ago, one guy brought the classic white Mercedes and blonde second wife with hypertension tits. Last reunion at midnight he told us her pill habit drove him to divorce her.

Before midnight we enjoyed baiting "Pimp," who still bore the deep acne scars of his miserable adolescence. In school, he'd falsely befriended the younger boys, then stolen loose change off their desks. Humorless and sanctimonious, he'd earned his living as an IRS auditor, a clerk with a badge. As a sign of our dispirited nature, Pimp ended up as our class agent, calling twice a year for news. We despised him all the more for it.

Besides the revelations, we came to see Goldie, our class's one success. He had built a multimillion dollar corporation, raised two successful children, and traveled the world with his beautiful wife. He'd even pulled all his money out of the stock market before the internet bubble burst. (Some of us claimed to have done that too, but we lied.)

All evening he had spun stories of meeting movie stars, riding in a race car with Paul and hiking Kilimanjaro with Willem, all the while slipping in the wittiest digs at Pimp. So I was amazed in the gents'—just Goldie and me—when he sipped Scotch from a silver flask and told me his life was the shits. "Prostrate cancer, for starters," he said. "Haven't gotten it up in a year. My wife's ditching me for another guy. My kid embezzled his company's pension fund, and it's cost me half my stash to bail him out."

Though drunk myself, I resisted any maudlin comradeship and said, "You had a good ride till you reached the manure pile."

"I'll be done in a minute," he said. "Don't tell the guys."

"Of course not," I said, a little smugly.

At our class table, Pimp, said, "I got to see a man about a horse," as if he'd invented the cliché, and went to the gents. Out he ran, screaming. In the can, I saw his oversized footprints in Goldie's blood.

BIO: Merle Drown is the author of stories, essays, plays, reviews, and two novels, Plowing Up A Snake (The Dial Press) and The Suburbs Of Heaven (Soho Press). Merle edited Meteor in the Madhouse, the posthumous novellas of Leon Forrest, (Northwestern University Press). Barnes and Noble chose The Suburbs of Heaven for its Discover Great New Writers series. Merle has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the NH Arts Council and teaches in Southern NH U's MFA program. Pieces from a collection-in-progress, Shrunken Heads, miniature portraits of the famous among us, or Balzac in a Nutshell have appeared in Amoskeag, Meetinghouse, Night Train, The Kenyon Review, Rumble, Sub-Lit, Word Riot, Bound Off, JMWW, Eclectica, Toasted Cheese, Foliate Oak, SN Review, Bartleby Snopes, (Short) Fiction Collective, and 971 Menu.