It was Misty’s first party and she really wanted it to go well.
It did for an hour or so.
During the earliest years that Misty and I were together
we played in some small nightclubs in Hialeah, Florida.
These jobs were always five or six nights a week,
long hours, and short pay. We got by.
We had never lived in a place where we could have guests over.
We finally moved into a cluster of bungalows off Flamingo Way,
Hialeah’s main drag.
The white cabins looked like an old-fashioned motor court,
but each contained a little efficiency apartment.
It was just before Christmas,
and Misty was anxious to have our first party. I guess I was too.
She went to a lot of effort to fix the place up
and get the food and drinks just right.
(I wrote “food” in the previous sentence
because I don’t know how to spell hors d’oeuvres.)
We had only invited a few musician friends,
but we felt like real people for a change,
instead of rooming house rats.
The little tree was lit, and tastefully, though cheaply, decorated.
She had carols playing softly behind the conversation,
which was mostly about how rotten night club owners were,
and why the bad musicians got better gigs than we did.
The usual musician stuff.
Then the police car lights came swirling
like a winter snowstorm, only blue and red.
People were running by our place in all directions.
There was loud pounding, and the crash of a door being broken down.
Then the ambulances and fire trucks screamed in
and more hurried scuffling around.
To our horror, they started running by our window,
carrying people or bodies out on stretchers.
We started to go out to see what the matter was,
but the cops told us to stay inside.
We did see that the cabin in question was right next door.
Two people had died in their beds,
and one was found on the kitchen floor.
It was a chilly night and they had the gas heater on.
But there was no gas smell.
Later investigation raised the theory
that the flame in the gas heater
burned up the oxygen in the air and they had suffocated.
Jalousie windows may have been the cause.
They are made of horizontal glass slats
that crank shut and seal more tightly than most windows.
Our guests left. We were depressed.
In later years,
with some distance and time between us and that night,
the terrible event slipped into our cluttered past.
I felt sorry for Misty. It was her first party.
Copyright © Jack Blanchard 2005 to 2016