Eight o’clock. The lights and sounds of New York City leaked into Ozzie’s apartment, sneaking in through cracks in his blinds and the window in his bedroom that hadn’t shut since the weather turned cold. The radiator in the corner rattled: the neighbors had very loud sex.
Ozzie Graham stared into his closet. His expression was somewhere in between resignation and desperation. With a sigh, he closed the closet door, backed out of the room, and grabbed a beer from behind his kitchen island.
His phone vibrated.
Hey, champ! Was just wondering if you got my other five texts. I sure hope you’re coming to the Glint costume party tonight, it’ll be a blast.
With a groan, Ozzie let his head tip down onto the counter. He cast a doleful eye onto his goldfish.
“My boss is way too strange today,” He said, aiming at the fish. All he got in response was the flick of a fin. He pushed himself back up onto his elbows and took another swig of his beer. With his other hand, he googled “quick costumes”.
“An… alien?” He shook his head. He didn’t have any facepaint. “Uh… ironic hipster. No. Yoga instructor?” He had a brief flashback to his recent breakup. “Yeah, no, not at all.” It was with increasing desperation that he finally made it to the bottom of the list, “greek god.”
Ozzie shook his head. There was no way this was going to work out. He opened his phone, swiped onto recent conversations, and began typing his excuse.
Sorry, can’t make it. Food poisoning.
But before he could press send, another message popped up.
Thought you might have trouble with transport, so I’ve arranged for Nancy to pick you up at 9. Don’t be late!
“Fine, universe, I’m going,” Ozzie said, standing up again. “But don’t expect me to be happy about it.” He had no choice, really: the only costume that he could throw together right now was nowhere near his personal preferences. He was going to have to wear a toga.
When Nancy pulled up, he was in costume. Wincing in anticipation, he said goodbye to his goldfish, took a swig of beer for the road, and made his way out onto the street.
“Hey, Ozzie! Looking good.” A woman that worked across from him handed him a glass of cider. She appeared to be some kind of witch.
“Thanks, Sam.” Ozzie took the cider, but he was feeling tipsy enough that he made the executive decision not to drink any. “I like your…. witch thing.” He gestured vaguely at her hat.
“Thanks! I stole it from my niece.” She rolled her eyes. “Honestly, I thought costume parties were way out of fashion by now. How is this professional?”
Ozzie just shook his head. “Walsh does what he wants, I don’t want to ask why.” He tipped his cider at Sam. “Listen, it’s been a great twenty seconds, but I think I’m gonna head towards the food.”
The catering was always great at these events, no matter what nonsense Jonathan Walsh had come up with on his latest treadmill session: tonight was no different. Ozzie was perfectly happy just standing next to the tiny quiches and attempting to blend into the wallpaper.
Which was why, just as he was getting settled, Walsh himself had to get a craving for whatever they put in the punch.
Ozzie watched him walk towards the refreshment table, resigned to his own fate. At this point it was too late to run: he just had to defend himself with the best logic he could muster and stand up for his own personal rights.
“Hey, Ozzie!” Jonathan plowed forward, opening his arms up in an invitation for an embrace. When Ozzie made no attempt to reciprocate, he resumed his normal standing position. “Glad to see you’re here today.”
“Great to see you too, Jonathan.” Ozzie said, sighing under his breath.
Jonathan laughed. “It’s really funny how you said that, because it sounded to me like you’re not actually happy to be here tonight.” He came forward and put a comforting arm over Ozzie’s shoulder. “This is great! Costume parties are great.”
“I don’t see you wearing a costume,” said Ozzie, frowning, “and I would appreciate it if you let me go.”
Jonathan released him instantly. “Appearances are deceiving, Ozzie, old pal. I’ve got a magnificent costume under here, just waiting to be revealed.” He struck a pose. Ozzie winced into his drink.
“Really! It’s fantastic. I’m sure you’ll personally appreciate it.” Jonathan winked.
“What does that even mean?” Ozzie shook his head before Walsh could respond. “Look, I’m just going to go over and thank Nancy for giving me a ride over here. I’m sure your reveal will be great.”
That said, he moved as quickly as he could without running over to Nancy. While she wasn’t the best conversationalist, Nancy was very predictable and much less likely to try and change your life through corporate meetings.
“Hey, Nancy! Thanks again for giving me a ride,” he said, forgetting his initial decision and taking a sip of cider. “What’s your costume?”
She was in quite a getup, actually, considering that she was- well- Nancy. She gave him an odd look, then pointed to her headband- affixed to it were two springs. They matched her silver dress.
“I’m a robot.”
“Oh, great! Great. Really inspired.” Ozzie shifted from foot to foot: the toga he was currently wearing gave him a little too much ventilation down below and his nether regions were starting to become considerably chilled. “Listen, I’m just going to-“
“Employees of Glint Enterprises!” Came the booming voice of Jonathan Walsh out of nowhere. “I’m so, so glad to have you here!”
Ozzie craned his neck, managing to make out the stage where Jonathan was standing pretty clearly through a gap in a couple of peoples heads.
“I’m always happy to have a chance to connect with you, my employees. Especially on a night like tonight- the night before Halloween, a real time to let your inner identity out!”
Jonathan zoomed forward onto the stage: he was, apparently, on one of those hoverboard things. “And so it is my great pleasure to start off the real fun tonight Toga-ther with all of you!”
With a swift movement, he revealed his costume: a toga that, while most likely tailor made, looked just as terrible as Ozzie’s. Ozzie wasn’t sure whether to be disappointed or proud of himself.
“Please tell me that isn’t a toga, Nancy.” He said into his hands, which had helpfully covered his face.
“It’s a toga, Ozzie. I would never lie to you.” She patted him on the back: funnily enough, Ozzie didn’t feel comforted.
He was never going to live this down.