Monday, October 24, 2005

It's a better than good time

It was now half past seven. She passed from room to room, floating on air. Every one of them had to be open; the windows murmuring crickets and scents from the garden, new sheets and tablecloths, the clutter of photograph frames and souvenirs tidied into drawers.

Beside the jacuzzi plump towels hung over marble. She fiddled, spritzing fragrance without disturbing anything. Her fingertips smudged her ear-rings and lightly dusted her neck. It felt milky, vulnerable.

She remembered Notre Dame. One midnight they skidded through the icy rain and hauled themselves into the last brilliant carriage as it shrank into night.

It was many years since she had exposed herself to midnight, or even to rain except in hat and gloves. Her legs couldn’t run now, she panted not like an angel but like a red-faced padrona with a mop.

She knew he was not very well either, he looked scurfy and vague, she did not want to overwhelm him. She remembered him tall and mop-haired, and after graduating a giant in mirror-shades who idled poolside in Los Altos while she swam miles. Last night his linen suit was a web of creases, he was stooped and he had sour breath, he probably drank too much, but after they’d done the show they sat in a park and began to laugh and joke: in the old days he had been a Communist, she used to get up and sing whether anyone wanted her to or not.

He choked with mirth, appreciating her. The sunset sparkled on his lenses and he told her: You’re still my number one, you know. She sat on the bench, wild with excitement, and couldn’t say a word. It was an awkward moment.

Two marriages and four children later, it could not mean exactly the same thing. This estancia was her wealth, it was also her fear, her comfort zone. She was going through the salon smoothing it away.

She did have a little dope stashed away in case it was needed. With the evening newscast she preferred a liqueur coffee; it never stopped her nodding with sleep. 215 lbs, and he used to say she looked like Joan Baez.

Outside, a car scrunched gravel – but it pulled into the neighbour’s drive. He wasn’t even due yet. She had been trembling on the lip of the sofa, but now she sank back into it. Like her girls said, Chill.

When he finally did get there the doorbell woke her up. She pulled herself out of her nest crossly, and finally remembered that Dolores wasn’t there to answer the door. The corners of the house felt so distant and it was cold because of all the open windows. Damn him, this had better be good, she thought. She hated the ugly mood that was cancelling all her preparations. The thought of tussling on apricot in her own room, surrounded by her medicines, was grotesque. This had better be dynamite.

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