Stirring the Pot

Flare of lighter in the dark settles down to disembodied cherry of a cigarette. Spill of light and noise as the door opens. He shakes a cigarette loose from the pack and holds it out without looking.

“Thanks.” Lighter. Spark, flame, coal. “Good party.”

He shrugs.

“You don’t think so?”

He shrugs.

“Man, you should have seen it, Jennie and Rus were going at it in the bathroom, right on the sink, and Sean was already there when they walked it, and–”

He grinds the butt out on the railing and spits into the night. More light, noise. He walks back inside, sliding through the party until Sheila spots him and corrals him near the bedroom. “You look beat.”

He plucks the red plastic cup out of her hand and swallows a warm mouthful of beer, eyeballing her over the rim. Long straight hair, Breeders shirt, ink smudge on her cheek. Says, “You seen Mikaela around?”

She takes the beer back and tilts it back, pretending to think it over. “Not for two, three weeks maybe. Thought maybe she’d be here tonight, but I guess not.”

He growls at her. There’s a weird pause in the chatter, and his words push into it. Everyone looks at him. “You see her, you tell her I’m looking for her. Tell her I haven’t forgotten the two month’s rent she owes me. Tell her, I don’t hear from her by next week, I’m dumping her stuff on the street. You tell her–”

“I’ll tell her,” she says. “If I see her. No promises.”