In Providence

In Providence: The Butcher

If you were living in Providence in 2004, it’s possible you may have been invited to a party.

“My friend asked me to go with her, and she got sick last minute, and couldn’t go, and she tells me, she tells me, ‘You should still go! Go and have fun.’ I was not the type to do that. To go without the person I knew — without anyone I knew — but it was Halloween, I had nothing else to do, I didn’t want to do nothing, you know, I was young, I was a young guy at the time, and I wanted to go out, and so I go.”

He goes.

“The party’s on Prairie Avenue. I still remember that. Prairie Avenue. Get up to the house. Doesn’t look like anyone’s home. I thought– I should go. I shouldn’t be here. You ever have that feeling like — I should go, I shouldn’t be here, I should go home? But you don’t because you tell yourself you’re being anti-social, you’re being a wimp, you knock on the door. I knock on the door. Okay? I knock on the door.”

He knocks on the door.

“A guy opens the door. Big guy. Tall, tall, tall guy. Seven feet tall, could be. Dressed up like a priest. Big tall priest. Friendly guy. Come on in, come on in. Didn’t ask who I was. I could have been anybody. I could have been Dewey Cheatum, anybody. Shows me right in. I go inside. There’s a room on the left. A living room. In the living room, there’s a woman sitting on a couch nursing a beer. She’s dressed like Raggedy Ann. Okay. In front of her, you got a guy dancing. The guy is dressed like a clown. I f—ing hate clowns. I hate ‘em. He’s dressed like a clown and dancing in front of Raggedy Ann, and he looks like he’s going in slow-motion. He’s barely moving, and the music playing is some kind of bells. Bells playing. The kind you hear when you meditate. A bell dings. It rounds out. A bell. Rounds out. The guy’s dancing. I’m thinking– There are drugs here. People are on drugs. But I don’t see any drugs. I say to the guy who showed me in– You doing drugs here? He gets mad, mad. Nobody’s doing drugs here! I don’t know why, but I believe him, but that’s worse then, because why is this clown dancing like that in front of Raggedy Ann if he’s not on drugs?”

The tall, tall priest led him to a back bedroom where he assumed he was supposed to put his coat down, but that wasn’t the case.

“I went dressed like a doctor, because I had the scrubs from when I wound up in the hospital without my clothes. I’ll tell you about that some other time. That’s not a story for now, but– But what was I saying? Yeah. He shows me in the bedroom and I go to put my coat down, and there’s no bed. There’s nothing in the room. It’s an empty room. I turn around to ask him why he’s showing me into an empty room, and he shuts the door. Slams it. Loud. BAM! Loud, loud, like that. I run at that door. I’m banging on it. What the f—, man, what the f—? Who else can hear me? Who did we pass in the hall? Can they hear me?”

He remembered passing two people making out. One was dressed like Clark Kent as he’s transforming into Superman. The other didn’t seem to have a costume. Somebody was in the bathroom. It was then, though, that he realized this party was very sparsely populated.

“My friend had told me this was going to be a big party. Big party. I went to parties with her when there were people out on the streets. Out on the porches. Smoking, talking. This wasn’t like that. Some people, but not a lot. A clown in the living room. What the hell is going on? Now I’m locked in this bedroom. What the hell is going on?

He thinks about going out one of the windows, but as he’s considering it, the couple who had been making out in the hallway burst in, and go down onto the floor, still kissing, ripping at each other’s clothing.

“I’m out of there. I’m not waiting.”

But when he gets in the hall, there are suddenly people everywhere. He can’t go back the way he came in. There are wall-to-wall monsters and rock stars and it looks like a blob of hands and arms and noise and skin. He turns around to go out the back, which is how he winds up in the kitchen.

“In the kitchen, there’s a guy. He’s got an apron on. There’s blood all over the front of the apron. Okay. A costume. A butcher. Cool. Love that. He turns around. He’s holding a knife. It’s a real knife. Let me tell you something. I’ve seen real blood before. When I split my head open at the Burger King, there was blood on all my clothes because I had done my laundry before I went there and the blood got everywhere and I wasn’t going to go back and wash them again so I waited a week then washed them so I had blood on my clothes for a week and I know what blood looks like. This dude had real blood on him, and he turns around, and he’s holding a knife, and I can see that he’s been cutting up this– I think it was a ham. He’s got blood all over his face, he’s smiling at me, I go F— no and I’m looking for a back door, and there isn’t one, and I turn around and I run right into that big clump of people in the hall.”

It’s like a tunnel of limbs. People are grabbing at him. He can hear the bells. Somebody’s mouth is on his neck. He doesn’t know if this has turned into something orgiastic since last he looked at it, and somebody was doing loud, lamaze-style breathing right next to him. He pushed and pushed and found himself, somehow, in the living room, even though he should have wound up right at the front door.

“The girl’s up. The girl’s up and she’s got the clown costume on. The clown is sitting on the couch and he’s got her beer and her costume on. He’s dressed like Raggedy Ann, but he’s still got the clown make-up on. The tall priest is standing on the other side of the room and he’s egging on the girl and she’s stomping–stomping hard on the floor. The bell dings, and she stomps so hard it looks like her foot is going to go through the floor. I’m watching–I was in a hurry to get out of there, but now I’m watching, and I stood like that watching her bring her foot down. She’s going to put her foot right through the floor. The clown is watching her like me, then he looks over at me and pats the spot next to him on the couch, and I go and sit down. I don’t know why I did that.”

He sat there and watched the Raggedy Ann-turned-stomping-clown stomp and laugh and tell the tall priest to turn the sound of the bells up higher.

“I can’t tell you how long I sat there. The woman got sick of stomping and she left. More people came in. More people left. I sat on the couch, and then the clown got up and left. This sounds weird, but the whole f—ing thing is weird, but I saw what I thought was the sun, and I thought, F—, I’ve been here all night, it’s the next morning. I walk outside. It’s pitch black. Dead of night. I get back to my car. I look. I’ve been there an hour. That’s it. An hour. How? How is that possible? I was there all night, dude. I’m telling you. I was there all night. I drive home. I call my friend. I go ‘What the f— party did you send me to?’ You want to hear this? She knew the butcher. The guy in the kitchen. She knew him, because he asked her out and she said ‘No’ because he creeped her out. She met him at a concert and he creeped her out, but when she shot him down, he told her about this party, and she said she would go, because a party is a party. Why not? That’s the party she sent me to. The guy told her ‘Find me at the party. I’m going to be dressed like a butcher.’ That was the guy that asked her out. She said ‘Did you see him? Did you see the butcher?’ ‘F— yeah, I saw the butcher.’ She never saw him again. Good for her. I never saw him again either. If I ever saw that guy again, I’d run, man. I’m no punk, but I’d run. Let me tell you. I’d run.”

That was the last Halloween party he ever went to. His tradition after that year was to fix himself a nice meal, put on The Exorcist, and turn his lights off.

“I do crack a beer though. Not for Raggedy Ann or the clown, but because I like beer, but I think about them when I do it. Hard not to.”

And he still doesn’t like clowns.