Jason Jobin,

It’s Halloween, and Hirsh has not been to a house party in at least a year, he figures, and being at one again seems to make all the reasons to have been avoiding them—his dad, the bugs—seem huge and legitimate. The party’s host, Garret, has decorated the house to look like the inside of a hospital. IV bags hang off living-room lamps and coat hooks in the entry. The kitchen-table-turned-operating-theatre is bathed by bright spotlights hung overhead from a heating duct. There’s a heart monitor, blood-pressure cuff, hopefully fake syringes, and real nachos. Everything is white via bed sheets and white planks of tacky foam boarding that Hirsh rubs with his hand as he makes his way past the boot room. It’s already party-hot, sweat-glazed, like being in tropical sun. Most of the mid-twenties guests wear scrubs, or are grievously wounded, or yelling hysterically about they can’t believe or fathom why they haven’t been prescribed oxycodone and just dressed sort of shabbily in loose flannels and jeans whose shredded bottoms look like Chewbacca’s feet. The kind of Halloween party where the guests are just old enough to be at an actual costume-controlled party where you might be shamed for not taking it seriously. There’s a strange thrust to things, weird decorum, intensity of assumed characters, at least initially when people are near-sober and before things get rolling. And it’s as Hirsh is noticing the relative quiet that he sees, across the room, his old friend Charlie Cogman with a knife in his head, and starts pushing through the bodies to get to him.

Hirsh is dressed as a chair. More specifically, a scratchy grey wool hospital waiting room chair. He rescued an old chair at the dump and fashioned a harness from his eighth-grade backpack left on its side in the garage for the past eleven years. The chair hanging off his front. Also wearing a grey leotard in an attempt to not be seen as a person, to really focus the eye on his chairness. Prior to the party, he thought the waiting-room chair would be very meaningful, because so much sadness and joy is witnessed by such chairs, but now he thinks it’s just stupid and confusing and not very significant at all. No one else is dressed as a chair. A girl holding a tiny pediatric chainsaw looks at him with pitying eyes, not even willing to explain to him the issue, so severely must he have misunderstood the party’s theme. No one else is dressed as a thing, that he can see. They are all people dressed as other people. He sees his old college friend, Samantha; she’s dressed as a surgeon, has a cool head-set with a built-in flashlight and what looks like a telescoping monocle on the eye shield. He remembers she’d gone to medical school. Quite a few other friends, not college types. Most in scrubs, dish gloves, and Asian-exchange-student-tier face masks.

The main floor of the house is laid out in an open concept, but one that doesn’t appear to be by design, as if walls and counters and small rooms within rooms had been ripped from the floor and what remained just happened to be an open space. The room strangely industrial, like there might be chains overhead. Three couches form most of a square to Hirsh’s right. There are two long counters in the kitchen covered in drinks and things to add to drinks, some of which have been poured into graduated cylinders or bedpans or comically large syringes in the Bugs Bunny style.


As in The Malahat Review, 208, Fall 2019