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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Backward Wine, A Nightmare Inspired by Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five


Reinier Palinal settled into a tightly wound leather chair, sliding back in it as it gave way to his soft collapse. He had sipped through a few glasses of warming Amarone after dinner, putting him into a sort of inquisitive haze. He liked to read about wine as he drank it. Scanning through pages of wine criticism, he began to appreciate how his favorite writers managed to anthropomorphize wine. Humanizing a beverage seemed foolish at first, but Reinier learned to look at wine as a vehicle of exploration. Discoveries on the road were always richer to him when someone else was doing the driving, so he learned to let the wine take him wherever it wanted to go. Always learn more from listening, he thought. Sometimes it was a woman behind the wheel, others were more masculine. He sipped the Amarone and let it flow through his body, numbing his tongue and blanketing the back of his throat like a lap cat. He wondered where he was going as he read on. Reinier felt it pushing forward through unseen hills, meandering along wavy smooth paths that trail on and on…misty colored, tugged left, right…sideways and backwards. Backwards, now how can a wine be backward he thought? He’d read several passages and found that expression’s obscurity baffling. Heady? Yes. Muscular, full…round, silky…tight, sure. Backward made no sense. He took another sip of wine and the heavy leather smell of the chair zig-zagged through his nose, weighing down on his eyelids…backwards.

Reinier Palinal opened his eyes to a group of fuzzy figures, slowly coming into focus as their human forms. There was laughter and a palpably jovial mood. Their teeth were charcoal colored, as if they’d been baptized in barbeque smoke, yet no one seemed to care. Reinier faintly made out other ambient noises amidst their giddy laughter. It must have been music but it wasn’t familiar. As he struggled to pinpoint the origins of the esoteric sounds, he noticed the merry groups of charcoal toothed people were walking backwards, up a series of steps and through rose colored doors. Through the doors lay a grand table, strewn w/ empty decanters and ruby stained wine stems that seemed to have lost their transparency in the light. Lipstick smudge and Vaseline residue spackled the edges of each glass. The group staggered towards selected seats, backwards and w/ all the calamity of nursery school children before naptime. A series of waiters and waitresses marched backwards into the room, paying each of the rowdy patrons hefty sums of money as they settled into their seats. The ridiculous mood of the event had all the fanfare of a college basketball tournament game.

Almost one by one, each person at the table raised a glass to their mouth, commencing a swirling, gargling motion w/in their cheeks. Once they were satisfied w/ their bubbling, they collectively un-pursed their lips and expectorated copious quantities of crimson colored liquid into each glass. As they put their glasses down, the stems filthy edges and stained bowl rims disappeared, as if their spew exerted a polishing effect. The empty decanters were then drawn above each glass; miraculously sucking each stem’s liquid upwards into each decanter until they were filled. Reinier noted that the emptied glasses sparkled in the light. The clean glasses were then put on stainless steel trays, as the waiters carried them backwards through a dimly lit corridor behind the table. As the wait staff disappeared into darkness, each patron unzipped their adjoined bags, removing dozens of empty wine bottles. Each bottle was topped off w/ an upside down cork, wedged halfway down the neck of each bottle like melted wax on a candle. The wine stained corks were removed from the bottle necks and placed on the table. The empty bottles were raised above the decanters and sopped up the wine like 750 mL vacuum cleaners. Once the bottles miraculously wiped each decanter cleanly, the wine stained corks were shoved on jagged screws, then violently sandwiched back into the bottles, tightly wound until level w/ the top of the bottle necks.

Reinier noticed a change in mood around the table. The raucous volume quelled as an air of borderline civility feathered through the room. Waiters returned to the table, walking backwards, carrying separate trays of soiled stems, strangled by thick legs of alcoholic residue. Each dirty glass was cleverly planted in disorder along the table, yet none of the patrons seemed pay it any mind. Hands over stems they went back to their gargling, spitting volumes of wine back into their glasses. Their teeth whitened and smiles lessened with each spit. The waiters continued to dirty the table, followed by the patrons picking up after them, making those filthy glasses & decanters as good as new. Muffled footsteps could be heard in the distance.

What next? Reinier assumed those newly filled bottles of wine ought to be placed back in those bags, as the moods and behaviors of the patrons clearly demonstrated. Reinier imagined that the wine would later be returned to the retailers they bought them from, whereby the retailer would subsequently be responsible for re-packaging it with more bottles of a similar ilk. These packages would then be mailed back to the people that produced the wines, so they could deconstruct each bottle into its original components. Over the next few months, alcohol would be painstakingly removed from the wine until harmless grape juice was rendered. The grape pickers would then stomp backwards, until the juice solidified into separate grape clusters. Each cluster would then be hidden away among innumerable rows of vines, where each grape would retract in size over time, turning into little green peas as the sun set in the east and rose in the west. Eventually the little green peas would disappear, along w/ the wine and the people that made it.

In terms of exploration, Reinier Palinal still lets his wines do the driving for him….but that evening w/ the Amarone taught him there’s one place he never wants to go. From that point on, he vowed never to purchase or drink a wine that a critic described as backward.

3 Comments:

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Sunday, January 31, 2010  
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Saturday, February 06, 2010  
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Wednesday, June 16, 2010  

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