Through the walls Allan Kuper can just hear the last guests leaving.

When they are gone, he comes out, picks his delicate way through the empty wineglasses, the beer bottles, the ashtrays, the picked-over trays. All grist; he takes it all down, all the half-finished anecdotes, the abortive flirtations, the infidelity, the laughter and bad singing, down to the carpet. They turned the lights out when they left, courteous to the end, and in the semi-darkness he expands, swells to the dimensions of the room.

It was a success, he thinks. There are still a few stragglers passed out in odd places, wedged together in bathtubs or under kitchen sinks. Heavy with whiskey. He is painless these days, sharp enough at last, honed to an unfeeling edge on the hard stone of many, many other Allans; they are not filling, but they will do.

There was a time, he remembers, when he was stranger, more alien. It is good to be home, good to have a place in the world at last.