All That Glitters Ain’t Gold
A pyrite glimmer clings to the glamorous Percentage Hotel. Guests slump into the reception hall, leaving a trail of grease on the linoleum floor. The host, Mark, greets them exuberantly. His small, blue eyes are bright as they catch the glimpse of thick wallets barely contained in the guests’ suit pockets.
“Yes, very gooood to see you Mr Currah!” He says as he shakes Currah’s hand. Thick droplets of grease fly off Currah, the movement shedding slime onto the reception desk.
The annual gourmet club dinner is about to commence and only the high rollers have been invited. I am one of the twenty waitresses, getting paid in sticky notes and tips slapped into my back pocket. The latter usually forces a shrug of revulsion, which I disguise as surprised pleasure. The waitresses are lined against a wall, to the far right of the reception hall. We have tight hair, pressed clothes and clean faces.
The 100-odd guests mingle in the hall, dripping with jewels and conversing loudly about their business, someone else’s business, or the nation’s business. A bell rings loudly and the gourmet club waddles into the dining room. A sour stench hangs in their wake, hiding behind sweet perfumes and stinging aftershaves. The cleaners emerge from compartments in the walls and swivel around, mopping and scrubbing and disinfecting.
A second bell rings and it’s the waitresses’ turn to carry in plates of food. As I leave the hall I turn around and see the last of the cleaners return to their wall compartment. The hall is empty and it gleams too brightly.
We, the girls, carry steaming plates of dumplings, fried meats and thick sausages. The guests are shuffling in their seats, beside themselves with glee. They guzzle down wines and beers, chugging the fermented drinks into their stomachs. I look closely at Mr Currah and notice his belly pulsating. It beats inordinately, as he shovels food into his mouth.
“Guests, guests, we welcome you.” Mark sings across the tables. “We welcome you and partners to another wonderful year of the gourmet club.”
Mr Currah stands up and takes the microphone.
“It’s a pleasure to be the host of such a prestigious night.” He pauses to take a hunk out of a deep fried chicken wing.
Currah continues on with a long winded speech, outlining the importance of their night and the grandeur of their club, which they must make sure to upkeep. Eventually he sloshes down into his seat to a round of wet applause. The plates are cleared and the main meal is presented. Thirteen waitresses struggle into the room, arms straining beneath a gigantic rectangular base plate. On the plate – in all its glistening glory – sits a whole cooked pig. Its pink flesh has been glazed repeatedly, giving it a slightly gold colour. Its eyes are black and sunken with the intense heat of the oven.
The room rises to an uproar as the guests shout nonsensical sounds in unrestrained excitement. Saliva drools down their chins as they gnash their teeth animatedly. I stand against the wall, trying to keep my face impassive. The guests are bouncing up and down in their chairs, banging their silver cutlery in unison. A rolling beat can be heard beneath their screaming. Mr Currah’s mouth is wide open, a green sprout lodged between his two front teeth, flailing with his movements.
Mark leans forward with two sharp carving instruments. His teeth have gained a razor edge to them. His eyes are two dark slits and shadows ripple in the contours of his face.
The knives bit easily into the pig flesh, scoring down to the bone with a sloppy, ripping sound.
I notice Mr Currah bend over, his stomach pulsating once more. More violent this time, it beats up and down, little balls of flesh pouncing against the cage of his body. His nose stretches into a wide, pink circle. It flattens and rounds, becoming a snout. His fat fingers congeal and harden before my eyes. Stubby hooves protrude from his suit jacket.
Looking around I notice the guests changing and evolving in a grotesque mess of flesh and hair and material. The stench is back in full force. Several waitresses throw up violently on the carpet. With a unanimous roar, the room erupts into movement. Guests threw themselves at the cooked pig, tearing meat from the carcass with their teeth, scrabbling through the pig with hooves and claws and feathers.
Through it all, the pig’s black eyes stare on. Its golden skin is torn open and innards spill onto the floor.
-Words by Kate Morrison
– Original artwork by Aiden Morris