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after The Exorcist

and yes, Irene is just as drunk as everybody else but it’s Father Dyer who leads the way when he takes a seat at the piano and starts pecking out a tune, drawing everyone toward him like metal filings to a magnet, and she sings along with him and the others once she realizes she recognizes the song and now she’s really leaning into it, utterly unfazed by the bum notes and the hot and sour rummed breath coming from the mouths around her and how is it that she even remembers this stupid old song she wonders as she waves her arms to and fro like Lenny Bernstein himself but instead of a baton in one hand she’s holding yet another tumbler of sloshing scotch (scotching slosh) that she knows she’ll regret every peaty drop of in a few hours but regret is for timid souls and speaking of souls, who the hell else would invite so many goddamn priests to a party but Chris, her craziest old friend from Wellesley, who (yay!) is now back in the room after having shooed away that boorish director who was picking fights with the help just for kicks but oh no, Irene refuses to trouble herself with thoughts of such ugliness tonight, no no no, not when such wonderful people as these are here, so full of life and joy and wit and loveliness and talent but, oh, now Chris’s sweet little daughter Regan is standing here in her sweet little white nightgown and she, Irene, wonders if they’re making too much noise too late even though she knows they are, of course they are (what time is it, even?), and she feel bad, she does, sincerely, but it’s a party and a good party is never quiet or polite or early and she hopes to God that Regan understands this and that Chris won’t send everyone home but no, it wasn’t because of the screaming and the singing and the laughing that Regan came downstairs, is it, no, it’s because she’s come to tell the astronaut (Irene can’t believe she’s been drinking and singing all night with an actual astronaut—and such a cute one, too!—but his name, what was it?) that he’s going to die up there and she’s tinkling now, Regan is—pissing, actually, like a fully grown woman—straight down on her mother’s beautiful rug, and it’s getting all over her feet, the piss is, splashing, actually, spattering like the scotch Irene spilt earlier, because she didn’t move either one of her feet even a little bit out of the way and by up there Irene knows that Regan meant space, black airless space, and what a horrible thing to say to an astronaut (especially such a cute one—Troy? Trey? Terry? Teddy?) and as Chris leads her daughter away Irene watches the dark puddle widen in the loud silence, pushing its edges through the warp and the woof of the rug’s faded wool, and she knows like she’s never known anything before that even though it’s still dark on the other side of Chris’s big bay window the night is over