American Holiday Fiction

Every year, Patty planned one major party. At first, it was just around Chrismukkah (her mom was Jewish and dad Christian), or New Year’s, big bashes thrown for a dozen or two of her closest friends and their plus ones, with drinks free-flowing and music that killed neurons. 

Then she moved on to Thanksgiving, with a big turkey, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie, inviting all her family and friends, until the turkey was the one least stuffed by the end. From there, she threw chili cook-offs and barbecues for Independence Day, singles mixers for Valentine’s Day, costume parties for Halloween, even beach cleanups for Earth Day and tree plantings for Arbor Day. Some of these were smaller affairs, but there was always one giant fete for each calendar year. After a few years, she’d covered nearly every nationally recognized holiday, and several others, too. Her events were always a smashing success, and as word about her talent for the festive grew, so did the scope of the entertainment. 

Soon, the town was raving about her functions the next day, and newspapers dubbed her “Party Patty.” She had to fight away neighbors and even strangers asking her for invites, but always caved, expanding her invite list and her place settings accordingly. She had early on found that she could not keep paying for all this herself, being of only an ordinary class and continuing to work a simple job in advertising. As a result, she began to encourage a reasonable entrance fee and donations from all those who could afford them. 

The parties continued to grow both in scope and in extravagance, with a wider range of cocktails, a neverending set of diversions, and always new themes. She set aside a fixed percentage of each to go to a charitable cause, a move which only earned her more adherents. And the parties were unfailingly a rousing hit. They left Josie both exhausted and energized. 

Luckily she had a very understanding cleaning crew whom she could depend on, and who could depend on her for a generous tip. She also had a dedicated set of friends who were enthusiastic about helping carry out her irrepressibly creative ideas, and who would slyly steer away Josie’s detractors. While a select few of the wealthy donated freely to her cause, there were plenty of those in high society who called her celebrations “in poor taste,” “slumming,” or simply “gauche.” Josie ignored them, but secretly wished for revenge. 

She was just wondering what party to throw next year. She’d just had a fabulous Pi Day shindig, each partygoer bringing a different flavor of pie until every table in her house was covered with crusts and crumbs. They’d danced to her carefully curated playlist of hit math-related songs (Beyonce’s 1+1 was in there, Radiohead’s 2+2=5, and of course Kate Bush’s Pi), served drinks in graduated cylinders, and played poker and math-themed family feud. It was an unmitigated success. 

Now she pondered how she might top that one. What kind of event would be the perfect new thrill for her guests? What holiday was even left? She didn’t - quite yet - want to wander into the overly-specific themes like Frosted Doughnut Day, nor did she want to celebrate what were otherwise monthly themes like Poetry Month. She’d done May the Fourth with a Star Wars theme, Juneteenth with a reverse re-enactment, Friday the 13th with a murder mystery, even a Giving Tuesday fundraiser. There were still some she hadn’t tried, like Flag Day and Tax Day, but they didn’t excite her. She was looking for something more compelling.

Then, when Yael mentioned that she was born on April 1st, it hit her. She could pull off the world’s most amazing April Fools party. She’d start now, at end of March, over a year from the day, working up to it. She’d put a full page ad in the paper, and rent out the grand park in front of her apartment so that anyone could attend. She would leave clues around town about where it was and how to get there, which needed deciphering via certain tricks. She’d have an army of pranksters make crank calls, which would turn out to be phone invitations. She arranged to have things in her home stop working unexpectedly, or for strategic holes to be placed in drink bottles that would come apart at the right moment. She would have jokes upon jokes unfolding at the right moment, in a way that would be simultaneously humiliating and hilarious. 

She reveled in the idea, turning it over and over in her mind at bedtime for over a week. Then she began her preparations. It took months just to work out the plan in full detail. She gathered her select group of volunteers who would do all the intricate dirty work that she couldn’t, and she coordinated them with the fine detail of a master composer. Over the next few months, they pulled invisible strings in all corners of the city. In the mayor’s office, memos were subtly altered to direct attention to their event. Carefully planned “snafus” would pop up around the city at key moments, drawing police away from the raucous party, only to find that the problems had disappeared by the time they arrived. Distractions would go on at other spots, pelting unsuspecting tourists and other unsavouries with slimy concoctions they’d howl with laughter about years later. 

The high point of Josie’s intended achievement, however, was to turn the tables on those aristocratic snobs who had always pooh-poohed even her biggest blowouts. She’d coaxed all the working class of the city away from them that day, so that none of these posh ones could have their own festivities. Caterers called away, bakers busy, musicians missing, and her thick-walleted rivals would have only each other to look at. It would be the ultimate payback for their contempt of so many years.

Josie waited patiently for the day. As the year turned over, she watched the gears of her operation turn. Her small militia got in place by Valentine’s Day. By Saint Patrick’s, all but the most minute and last-minute details were attended to. All she had to do was wait for March to end, and for her elaborate play to unfold.

On April first, the rich would play the fools. And everyone else - well, they would be invited to Paradise.

March 30, 2021 15:36

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