5.06 / June 2010

Look Away Dixieland

Last Friday I invited friends over for drinks at my duplex. I didn’t do anything fancy—just threw together a plate of Gouda, Wheat Thins, and store-bought tapenade. I put on the Temptations and poured myself a big cold glass of Pinot Grigio. It was when I was rinsing my hands, deciding whether to change into jeans, that Scarlett O’Hara rang my doorbell.

It was shocking: not only because I didn’t believe she existed—but because, if so, it just didn’t seem like Scarlett O’Hara to show up uninvited. But there she was, shutting her parasol, simpering and flashing me those legendary dimples. I didn’t know what to do. I welcomed her inside.

“It’s fantastic to meet you,” I said, quite honestly.

“Fiddle-dee-dee,” said she.

Scarlett swayed into the kitchen. The hem of her hoopskirt knocked against the dog’s water bowl. The dog started barking at her, so I grabbed him by the collar and dragged him to the laundry room.

“Can I get you something to drink?” I asked. “Some scuppernong, maybe?” I couldn’t resist.

“I do declare,” said Scarlett, “a glass of wine would be fine.”

I uncorked the bottle and poured a heavy splash. Scarlett stood by the mantle, admiring herself in a mirror I’d hung there. “Have a seat,” I ventured. “Excuse me,” I said. “I was just getting ready for a party.” I adjusted the lighting for ambiance and fussed with a vase full of dying peonies.

My friends started to arrive soon after. Oscar, who is black, took it worst. “What the fuck is this?” he said. “Fuck this shit.” Hillary and Nicole were more polite. Hillary sat in the corner, ate crackers, and stared. Nicole tried to make conversation. She kept mixing up names — Clark Gable, Rhett Butler. Scarlett smiled and asked when her suitors would be arriving.

The guests left at nine — all except Scarlett, that is. I checked my watch and tried to deliver all the cues to leave a proper hostess might use. Finally I put on sleeping clothes, old sweatpants and an oversized T-shirt.

But Scarlett O’Hara wouldn’t leave.

She looked sleepy and kept yawning, her dainty hand poised in front of her mouth. “Would it be all right if I lay down for a bit?” she asked.

“Sure,” I said. I found pillows and a velour throw. When I came back to the living room, Scarlett O’Hara had removed everything but her petticoats, chemise, and stays.

“Would you mind helping me loosen these stays?” she asked. Her eyes looked wet. I stood behind her and undid the knot at the bottom of the corset, then worked the ties loose, jamming my fingers up between the laces. “Thank you,” she said, and reclined on the sofa. She fell asleep almost immediately, snoring lightly, and I briefly considered strangling her, but decided against it. I walked around the duplex shutting off lights and put myself to bed, hoping she would be gone in the morning.

Emily Howorth has fiction forthcoming in Boulevard, and her stories have appeared recently in wigleaf, New Madrid, and other journals. More can be found at emilyhoworth.com. This story first appeared in Washington Square Review as the winner of that magazine's 2011 Fiction Award.