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I enjoy Evite party invitations for the on-line responses from people who are showing up or declining. A woman named Bonnie (an editor at WORD San Diego) sent me an Evite: "Bring a dish to share, along with a piece of your original writing to accompany the wine, though I'm not sure which genre goes with either white or red."

Victoria responded, "I'll bring a red wine poem, a white wine poem, and a gin-induced rambling."

Another response said, "I'll have nothing to read because I haven't written anything but e-mails and budget justifications for years."

A guy named Nate wrote, "I'm maybe-ing because I know more people who ask me to help them move than invite me to parties."

Kathy, a teacher, responded, "No! I will be doing a bunch of writing that weekend, but unfortunately it will be report cards. Maybe I should just bring them along. Who knows, after a glass of wine or two, everyone may get an A."

I e-mailed Bonnie about her party. When she wrote back, I jokingly told her that she uses too many exclamation points in her e-mails. The essay I wrote for her party was about people using the wrong punctuation in letters and e-mails.

I can't cook, so bringing a dish posed a problem. I live near Filippi's Pizza and decided to pick up one of their lasagnas. I didn't realize that it would cost $70.

There was a lot of food and wine at the party. Bonnie poured me a glass and said, "I thought you said you didn't drink." It's what I tell people, because if I drink, it's a glass or two of wine. She commented on a party I wrote about where I got buzzed. I had forgotten about that. She said, "Well, why don't you just stop saying that you don't drink? Obviously, you do."

The rest of the night, Victoria gave me a hard time about drinking. If I started telling someone a story, she'd interject, "Did that happen because of your drinking?"

Victoria is a court reporter. She read a story called "The Great Divide," in which a woman was in an accident with a drunk driver, and her husband, who had left her five years earlier, still called. "It's more than just insurance forms and logistics. There are some things even new wives can't fix. Or understand." Later she says the new wife is named Lydia, which rhymes with chlamydia -- "both nasty and unwanted."

Someone at the party told me that a lady named Amy got a two-book deal with Viking/Penguin and would be working with the same editor who had worked on Sue Monk Kidd's The Secret Life of Bees. Amy read from her second novel, a piece called "Fingers and Underpants": "Wendella had never seen a human finger before. Or at least not one that wasn't attached to a hand or the rest of the body...She recognized what it was right away. Kicked it a few times around the patch of grass on the alley side of the chain link fence. Saw that the nail had been chewed down to the nubbins, as her mom would say, just like her own. Wendella liked biting her nails. She found it soothed her insides, especially when she'd been through a cussing out by her daddy." I was captivated by this character who plans to win the school science fair...by bringing in the finger.

Amy's boyfriend, Eber, was interesting. We agreed on movies -- we both thought Million Dollar Baby was overrated, but had an argument about Crash. After 15 minutes of discussing it, others asked us not to ruin the story for them. We went into the kitchen and argued for 45 minutes. When a woman heard Eber say how the movie shows that "all of us are racist," she objected. (I found out via e-mail the next day that some people at the party were annoyed with me for not letting the topic drop.)

The story Eber read was about a guy who woke up and realized he didn't have a mouth: "I attempted a yawn and only felt my cheeks stretch. Breathing was working okay. Thank God for clear sinuses." He also mentions how much easier shaving is. The funniest part of is when he says how he goes through 47 ATM receipts and writes, "I just dutifully collect them each time I go to the ATM until my wallet barely bends and sitting on it becomes uncomfortable. Then I sort through them in an obligatory ritual, feigning a sense of fiscal responsibility before throwing them away."

Eber told some funny stories later in the evening. He talked about how his youthful experimentation with drugs almost kept him from a job because he was honest about it on the application. Eber said he once worked in a college radio station that brought Bob Marley in for an interview. Eber was in his office while Marley was on the air, and he saw billows of pot smoke coming out of the windows. He thought the FCC would come shut the station down.

A doctor named Suzi was at the party. She wrote a mysterious piece about a homeless woman digging through trash at a hospital because of the large amounts of food hospitals discard. "Since bags were tied tight, you couldn't smell, and it led to surprises." Her piece was funny and scary -- she ended it with a cliffhanger. I never asked her how she was going to end it. Or if hospitals throw away the funky, bloody things she described.

After Suzi read, someone convinced Bonnie to turn off the disco ball she had in her living room. Everyone laughed. Between stories, her husband Randy was playing bongo drums they had in the corner. (I thought he could've punched up some of the pieces with bongo beats in the right places.) I told Randy the disco ball would look great on top of a Christmas tree, and he told me they'd done that before.

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