Cuba Gooding Jr. opened the oven. The frozen stuffed mushroom caps and finger-sized spanakopita he’d bought at Trader Joe’s were almost done. He had two bottles of Charles Shaw wine, red and white, already opened, the white cooling in the fridge, and there were six more bottles where those came from. He’d packed a styrofoam cooler with ice and Miller Lite. The coffee table in front of the ViewSonic flat screen TV he’d bought at WalMart on Black Friday for 69 dollars was covered with bowls of chips and various dips and also pretzels. He’d asked people to bring some snacks if they felt like it, and anything special they wanted to drink, but this looked like it would be a nice little party. He loved getting together with friends and watching this fabulous awards show celebrating movies.
The phone rang.
“Show me the money!” the voice on the other end said.
It was Cuba’s friend Tom. Tom always quoted Cuba’s movies to him as a greeting.
“Hey, Tom,” Cuba said.
“SHOW ME THE MONEY!” Tom shouted now.
“Yes, Tom, show me the money.”
“You do it.”
“You say it.”
“Tom, I’m getting ready for the party.”
“Fuck you, say it.”
“Show me the money,” Cuba said. His voice heavy with resignation.
“Tom, I have to finish cleaning up. I’ll see you at 8.”
“Oh,” Tom said. “Yeah, no. I just called to tell you that I couldn’t make it.”
“What do you mean you can’t make it?”
“Sorry, dude. Something came up. Snow Dogs. Show me the money. Bye.”
Tom hung up.
Cuba shrugged. He wished his good friend Tom were coming to the party, but there would be plenty of great friends coming to celebrate with him. The best thing about Cuba’s friends, he thought to himself, was how they didn’t need to constantly remind him every year at this time that he had himself won an Oscar once and that it now loomed like a cruel shadow over the decline of his career. Even though it had been a tough few years, he was still focused on doing the best job he could, whatever that job might be, and he still loved Hollywood, and movies, and the pageantry and excitement of the Academy Awards. Cuba Gooding Jr. farted a little bit. He was so excited!
The phone rang.
“Show me the money!”
It was Cuba’s friend Mike.
“Hey, Mike, we’re all set. Ryan Seacrest is just about to do his hilarious red carpet coverage, you’ve got to get over here, man.”
“Hey, yeah, about that, I don’t think I’m going to make it. It’s just that I have this thing and so I can’t. Sorry. Snow dogs. Bye.”
One by one all of Cuba’s friends called and canceled. None of them were coming. The party was ruined. Cuba sat in his living room and watched the Oscars by himself. He drank half a bottle of wine, and then put the corks in what remained. He had hardly touched the hors d’oeuvres, but those would keep if he wrapped them up in foil and put them in the fridge, and so he did. The chips were a different story. All of that had to go in the garbage. Cuba climbed into bed and turned off the light and just imagined what fun everyone who had been at the ceremony must be having. The thrill of success. The promise of a bright future. Cuba smiled as he caressed the gun he kept under his pillow. “They have no idea what can happen,” he whispered to himself. “They are like sweet, innocent, baby angels.”
The next morning, Cuba saw that all of his friends had updated their Facebook profiles with pictures from Adrian Brody’s Oscar Party, with the caption “movin’ on up!” It made Cuba sad, obviously, but he never said anything to his friends about how it made him feel. They were his friends, and he hated fighting with them.