As soon as we were permitted to enter the building, there were beautiful boys with long skirts slit up to their thighs offering drinks of The Willing Gentleman or The Queen’s Bush. Soon, one of our friends was whisked away by a butler who cried, “Oh there you are!” Another butler asked who was brave. I started to step forward but another friend clutched my hand. “Don’t you leave me!” The second butler slowly made her way up the stairs and we locked eyes. “You,” she said, pulling me away. “You are brave.” She took me into pantry that we had to crawl into. It was covered in newspaper clippings and small statuary. I settled my long black tulle skirts around me as I sat on the stack of newspaper.
What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done? She asked me, pen poised to take down the notes.
I’ve survived — I paused. Everything. Divorce. Death. Rejection. Yes, everything.
She nodded and scrawled notes.
Are you brave tonight?
Are you mischievous?
Perhaps a little.
She pressed a waiter’s ticket into my hand. Come back when the clock chimes 37. Complete all of your tasks or earn the Queen’s wrath.
Well, that sounded about right for The Summer Solstice as I had been working closely with my always intractable Muse whose encouragement is decidedly of a severe nature.
One. Ask a bartender what the sexiest thing he’s seen here.
(The Queen’s sexy mostly naked dance)
Two. Find two strangers and tell them a story
(Hi strangers! I’m Deb. Let me tell you a story. When I met Jow, I was the reigning tequila queen . . .)
Three. What happens to the walls in the bathroom?
(The wallpaper changes from snakes to pomegranates)
Four. Do a butler a favor
(Slowly, I peeled his jacket off of him while he watched me)
Five. Earn a kiss from a butler
(I offered him my wedding lipstick, Jow and I kissed him and then a girl we had never met)
I met her back in the pantry just as “37” was intoned. She smiled at me, pleased and stamped the back of my check, granting me free (front of the line) entrance to an after hours club that specializes in burlesque that is notoriously difficult to get into. I stumbled back to my friends to see the beginning of the show where the butlers performed acrobatics to set out enough tables and chairs for everyone. We dashed to a table a butler recommended, to have another butler performing handstands on stilts on top of the table. The Queen stood at the front of the stage, masked as she waited for the virgin princess to be made ready to take her place by a silver haired tuxedo clad gentleman and a barely dressed man adroitly wielding a bullwhip as girls dangled from hoops from the ceiling.
We toasted with our friends at the table. It’s the summer solstice, you know. I said to them. They looked from the rites and looked back at me, their eyes wide as their brains clicked together the pieces of watching such a thing during a time that aligns correctly with it. Their mouths formed a silent O. I shrugged. I’m sure we’ll see how it plays out over the next few months!
Huge joints of lamb, soft salmon and tender chicken were placed at our tables. We ran from table to table, trading our lamb for salmon and chicken and ate from huge bowls of fresh herbs and birdcages filled with heads of cauliflower. We watched the end of the rite over glasses of wine and received our communion in the form of being hand fed spoonfuls of lush dark chocolate cake by the queen herself and the butlers.
Happy Solstice, lovelies.