Chapters 10-12

Chapter 10: Anticipation and Emergency

 

Two days later we met again. I brought with me the dispatches I was thinking of sending my editor. I wanted her opinion. Were they accurate? Other than the fact she knew all these people, was there anything in there that could identify them to the general public? Were they truthful? Fun? Engaging?

In other words, I wanted her to read my stuff and be mesmerized by it.

Like she had said to others, I wanted to hear her say I’m so proud of you!  She said she’d take them home and read them and we’d talk later.

She could tell I was disappointed and asked what was wrong. I told her I was hoping she could read them now, not casually slide them into her bag like they were no big deal. I was acting like a little kid and she knew it.

Look at me, Mommy! Watch me, Mommy! Look, Mommy! Can you see how high I can swing? Can’t I hang upside down longer than anybody else? Didn’t my cannonball make the biggest splash ever? Mommy?See me, Mommy? See me, Mommy? MOMMY! Do you see me?

Vague memory I had from my childhood days on the playground made me happy…yet here I was, acting like that all over again. It wasn’t so cute anymore. I’d never done that with any other woman, so why now, with her?

I apologized and she laughed. She said it was okay. She was a mother, after all, and I wasn’t the first to react to the mother in her. Really? Other men did this with her? All the time, she said.

But I didn’t want to act like she was a mother. I wanted to act like I was a grown man and she a grown woman and I told her so.

“Oh, Gordon.” She patted my hand indulgently. “Don’t you know you’re only human?”

“What does that mean?”

“It means sometimes needy comes out in ways we don’t expect. Obviously you are needy right now. You need me to read your words and gush over them. Right?”

I reluctantly nodded.

“But, Gordon, honey…don’t you see what I’m doing?”

“No! I don’t understand.”

Admittedly, I was acting like a spoiled brat in my reply. She sat back in her chair and stared at me until I got myself unspoiled, which took a whole minute, then continued.

“Gordon. I will take these, ” she pointed to the papers in her purse and looked back up, “and I’ll read them alone, at home. Then I’ll have the time to properly digest everything you’ve written and make comments in the margins for you to read over later so you can savor what will be my, I am sure, well-deserved gushings.”

Oh. Put it like that, it made sense and I liked it. But expectation postponed sure can make a guy do some funny things. I proceeded with the next question.

“When will you get done with them?”

“Friday.”

Two days! Lucinda could tell from my body language and the expressions racing across my face and through my body, I was working hard to come to terms with waiting forty-eight hours. I was successful and walked her to her car.

I gave her a hug and a peck — I couldn’t help it! Her arm went round my waist and I felt the warmth of her hand slide from my back to my belly as I pulled away. She didn’t say anything. She held her purse up where I could see the papers and waved bye as I backed away from her car.

Forty-eight hours. Longest of my life. I awoke Friday with a sense of doom, not knowing from whence it came, but not ignoring it. That sense of doom saved my butt all these many years at the front of the Dance Floor Wars. Senses thus alerted to a heightened awareness, when Lucinda’s text came in the late morning, I felt this was not good news.

Call me her text said. I did. She answered in a rush.

“Hey. Listen. I got a call. My mother was in a car accident and I have to go. I know you were waiting for my response to your writing and I have it ready.”

In a rushing wave of sudden maturity I assured her, “Don’t worry about it. Go.”

“I know. I know. But, listen, I will text you my address. I’ve put the papers in an envelope under the mat on the front door. Get it at your leisure.”

“Is she okay?”

“No. Hurt pretty bad. Gordon…I’m not sure how long I’ll be gone. There is a key in the envelope, too. Could you check the mail and make sure nobody is messing with the house?”

I didn’t reply immediately and she continued. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have asked. I’ll figure it out. Never mind.”

“Wait up. I didn’t say I wouldn’t. Why would you think I wouldn’t help you out?”

“I don’t have time to talk about it now. Are you saying you will do it until I return?”

“Of course I’m saying I’ll keep an eye out on your house and mail. Don’t worry. Go.”

It was her turn to pause. “Well, okay…thank you, Gordon. I’ll be in touch when I can.”

She hung up and a moment later I got a text with her address. A few minutes later she texted again.

Thank you. You know I do appreciate your doing this.

I texted back for her to be safe, drive carefully, not to worry about anything, and to make sure her mama got all better. A few minutes later I began a text that said I would miss her. But I cancelled it and thought, you know, this isn’t about me. This is about her and I didn’t want to distract her from this life and death situation only to feed my ego or heart.

Later that day, when I knew she was gone, I drove to her house. I checked the mail, walked to the front door, lifted the mat, and there was the envelope. I took out the key, put it in the lock, but hesitated to open the door. Feeling stupid standing there, I turned the knob. The door swung open. I stepped through.

The house was cool and dark with an occasional ray of light popping through curtains not completely closed. I closed the gaps until no sun came in. I looked around and wondered where I’d lay the mail. Kitchen table seemed the obvious place and made my way to it. I laid the mail on the table, noticed a cup in the sink, saw the light on the dishwasher showing load completed. I opened the door to the dishwasher and let the steam escape.

Turning around I walked through the house. I wasn’t being nosy; I had to set a benchmark for when I returned to make sure everything was okay. Neat and clean and orderly. Decorations sparse. What she owned was minimal. Walls were a mixture of dark and light. Tall floor lamps were everywhere. A full bookshelf dominated one room that was empty of all else.

I did not go into her bedroom. I couldn’t do it, though I glanced in briefly as I passed. Inspection complete, I walked out the door, locked it, put the key on my key ring, and drove away with the envelope beside me on the seat. Returning home, I placed the envelope on the kitchen table and did not open it. I felt as if to open it now, when she was going through such a hard time, would somehow trivialize the experience of reading her comments.

The envelope would remain on the table, untouched I vowed, until her return, when I’d hand it to her and let her explain to me these things she had written.

Thus knowing I wouldn’t see her for at least a week, I set my mind to the research at hand. With her gone from the battlefield, I’d be able to concentrate more thoroughly on those who were there. No distractions would be mine, editor would be thrilled, and I’d again be in his good graces.

Saturday night came, and being free to wander about at-will (no direction from Lucinda as to who to target), I picked out a spot at the bar, technically I sat in Lucinda’s seat, and decided I’d simply watch the ebb and flow of the battle. As my regular readers know, I report on The Big Picture. I’ve always covered The Big Topics. The ones that are important to the politicians, lawmakers, business leaders, policy makers, secretaries of state, dictators, and so forth. This night I’d watch the big picture again, only now I’d see it from the eyes of those doing the fighting.

I also wondered how the battle would go with Lucinda not in it.

 

 


Chapter 11: Dancing, Détente, and Double-Dealing  

 

“Good to see you again, Gordon. Usual?”

I reached over and shook Mike’s hand. “You got it, my friend.”

Mike set the Stella in front of me a minute later. “How’s the wound?”

I flexed my leg to show it was healing nicely. He laughed, got ready to say something but got called away by Amber. I turned toward the battlefield: The dance floor.

It was empty. The DJ had not yet arrived. The floor was made of wood and scarred from years of abuse. The railings around it had loose pickets. The disco ball hung darkly. Music played quietly in the background, not loud enough to make out, but enough to provide a quiet foundation to conversation.

I waited almost an hour for the first arrivals during which time I had dinner. The first group arrived. As the men walked in with their women they stopped and stared my way. I looked behind me to see what they were staring at only to discover they were staring at me. The women pushed their men forward and the group stopped in front of me.

The first man stuck out his hand. I shook it. He said, “Wow! You were great last week.”

The other man stuck his hand out for a shake and said, “Yeah. You took a bullet for a lot of guys out here. Brave man.”

The women, arms around their men, gave me the look. The look that said I could have them anytime I wanted only, well, you see, we’re married and darn and all that, but otherwise, oh yeah, it would have been on because you are a hero. I said something appropriate and nodded in appreciation. The men escorted their wives to a high top table with a good view of the battlefield.

A few men came in and sat at the bar. Two were there the previous week. I know because they told me they saw the whole thing and cheered when Bitterroot left. She wouldn’t have the guts to show her bitter war-horse face around there anymore, they crowed. Though I wasn’t sure about that, we shook. They sat and ordered beers including a next round for me. We toasted each other and drank deeply.

The place began to fill quickly. I don’t think my hand had been shook so much in the last ten years. Congratulations came from the men along with grips designed to prove they had the right stuff, too. Discreet cards were pressed into my hands by the women with call me’s whispered into my ear as their bosoms — Oops! I’m sorry — slowly brushed against me in various places.

Watching was going to be difficult tonight because I seemed to have become the center of attention. Not a good position for a reporter to be. I sat quietly as possible and hoped the alcohol made everyone forget I was there. Eventually it did and I got down to the business of gathering intelligence.

The crowd was mixed. Married couples. Other couples. Groups of dancing buddies. Single men. Single women. And by single I don’t mean unmarried, I mean they arrived by themselves, their marital state unknown to me. Groups of guys. Groups of gals. I could hear the dialects of the varying nationalities — Russian, French, American Southern, American Northeast, Texas. Races — yellow, black, white, mixed, and not so sure. Clothes — from early 50’s jive bop to 80’s disco to Casual Friday’s to strategically ripped and torn or teasingly diaphanous. Young and old and middle-aged, male and female, they engaged in hand-to-hand combat, the lines of battle ever changing.

Victory whoops could be heard through the cannonading drumbeats and the sweat on their faces and bodies glittered under the glow of the disco ball as they raised their hands to the sound, grasped each other in heated contortions, or coldly slipped a knife between ribs finding a warm, unsuspecting heart to which the death blow was delivered to its hopes and dreams.

I watched as the grievously wounded were carried off the floor while others were given a shoulder upon which to lean as they wobbled their way to a table or chair or dark corner to recover. Medics efficiently wove among the crowd delivering glass upon glass of pain killers carried high on trays above the heads of combatants.

I asked myself how tonight’s battle differed with Lucinda not in it. It could be the makeup of the crowd, but there were enough regulars I felt the vibe should have been the same. But it wasn’t. There was a grimness to the battle tonight. We will have fun, dammit! they seemed to say, but couldn’t figure out why they couldn’t.

Even though the battle seemed to be going along nicely, their eyes were dull and dead. The motions were made but no life flickered in the room. Around eleven-thirty I decided to call it a night and was settling my bill when in walked Bitterroot. The place had cleared out and the three couples remaining were focused on their own private détente talks.

Bitterroot looked around, walked over, and sat down beside me.

“Good evening, Gordon.”

“You remember my name.”

She shrugged and halfway smiled. “It’s not like I could forget it.”

I watched her face and kept my shins pointed toward the bar so she couldn’t reach them. I didn’t say anything. Mike laid the receipt in front of me.

“Thanks, Gordon. See you next week?”

“Probably, Mike. Later.”

She smiled at me again. “So…how are you?”

“Are you inquiring after my shin?”

She lowered her eyes and nodded yes.

“Then my shin is better though not healed. You kicked me very hard with the point of a stout shoe. Metal tipped, if I recall correctly.”

“Yes. Ummm…wasn’t nice. I came to apologize.”

“Apologize? Okay. You can apologize.”

She sat up nice and straight, held her hand out as if to shake. I took it.

“I am sorry, Gordon. It’s just…men can be so…so…”

“Whoa. Are you making excuses or are you apologizing?”

Yeah, I was rough. I should have graciously accepted her bridge-building attempt, but somehow I knew it would not turn out well for me if I did so. I felt a hard line was necessary.

“I am not making excuses, merely explaining. I am sorry I kicked you. I am sorry I told you to go to hell — at least until you had proven you were worthy of those sentiments and actions. You had been polite and I attacked unprovoked.”

“Apology accepted.” I nodded my head and walked away.

“Wait!” she cried out. “Is that all?”

I stopped and turned around to her. “Isn’t it enough?”

“No.”

“What is it you want?”

“I…I want…I want you to buy me a drink. I want you to visit with me for a little while. I want to, you know, invite you home.”

I was struck dumb at her ill-timed and badly delivered attempt at acting the coquette, and stared at her, not knowing what to say. What was this woman’s game? I slowly shook my head and backed toward the door. Three steps later, I turned smartly on my heel and left. Would a sniper’s bullet be mine when I reached my car? I made it to my car and careened out of the parking lot in a hurry.

Arriving home, I wrote my notes, stowed them in the folder, stripped my clothes and threw them in the corner, and took a long, long hot shower. I thought of Lucinda and her mother. Lucinda, at the hospital, watching over her mother, listening to the beeps of the machinery, and worrying. I knew she wasn’t thinking about me, but I thought of her and I missed her. The battlefield, as furious as it had been this night, and as many accolades as I received for my heroic actions from the previous week, was not one I cared to be in again without her vibes in the mix.

Maybe it was time for this old journalist to give up covering the front. Maybe it was time to let the young kids come and see the battle with fresh eyes. Maybe I’d give thought to hanging up my helmet. It wasn’t like I could make a difference anyway. What did it matter?

Well and truly in love with Lucinda, I stung my body until there was no more hot water to sting it with. I toweled dry, but barely, and fell into the bed. Sleep was hard won and not refreshing. I went to our regular Sunday morning breakfast place only to miss her more.

“Hey, where’s your wife?” the waitress asked.

“She’s not my wife,” I replied dully.

She stared for a moment, but I could tell she didn’t care. She replied brightly, “Coffee?”

With my nod, she went and got one cup. I ate my breakfast haphazardly, not tasting anything. I laid a twenty on the table and walked out without my change. I drove to Lucinda’s house, checked the mail and realized no mail delivery on Sunday, so no reason to go in. I held the key to her house and caressed it between my fingertips. Everything looked normal and I drove away and home. I sat in a chair most of the day simply staring.

I could not bring myself to think about writing. I didn’t care about the war. I wanted to be away from it. Away. Away. Gone. Never see the front again. I wanted a quiet beach where the loudest thing I’d ever hear would be the thunder as it rolled in on the front of a storm. I wanted not to have any person around who had ever seen the war or heard of the war or wanted to talk about the war. I wanted no one to ever know what I had been doing all these years. I didn’t want to tell the tales ever again.

And I worried about Lucinda. As it got dark, I texted her.

How’s your mother?

My phone rang a few minutes later. My heart leapt at seeing her name. I fumbled the phone, dropped it, grabbed it up, and answered.

“Hello?”

“Hey. Mom is still alive. She has not regained consciousness, but they say she isn’t brain dead or anything, just working hard at getting better.”

“Oh. Good. How are you?”

“Tired, but I’m not having to do much right now because she isn’t awake.”

“Oh. Okay.”

“Thank you for asking, though.”

I smiled. “You are welcome.”

“Did you read my notes on your writings?”

I paused briefly. “No. Not yet. Not that I don’t want to, it’s…well…”

“You wanted to hear it all from me first hand, right?”

“Yeah. Right.”

“Okay. That’s how I prefer it, too, though I’ll tell you I think you are brilliant.”

I could hear the smile in her voice. Brilliant? I didn’t want to think about what it meant. “Hey, guess what?” I asked.

“What?”

“Guess who showed up Saturday night, late?”

“Bitterroot.”

“How did you know?”

Lucinda laughed quietly. “That’s her strategy. I’ve seen her rip a guy apart only to show up the next week smiling and flirting and getting drinks from him. Sometimes inviting him home.”

For all I’d seen in this war, I was a babe in the woods when it came to backstabbing, double-dealing, lying, cheating women with a hidden agenda.

Lucinda interrupted my thought. “What did you do? Buy her a drink? Make nice with her at the bar? Did she invite you home with her?”

“No! No! And yes, she did, but hell no I didn’t go. I might be stupid, but I’m not crazy.”

“What did you do?”

“Hell, woman, I barely accepted her apology and walked out.”

I heard her chuckle. “I’d have loved to see it.”

“Do you mean to tell me, after getting attacked, men will fall for that crap from her?”

“Oh, yeah. Happens all the time.”

“Please, Lucinda, explain to me how a woman can do and say those things and still get men to do her bidding. Explain it to me. Please.”

“Oh, Gordon. It’s very simple, really. You see, the men who fall for that routine, the ones who believe she is sincerely apologizing, the ones who buy her the drinks, and go home with her to service her…they are the ones who believe the feminist party line.”

“The feminist party line is what exactly?”

“All women are smarter than all men. Women can do no wrong while all men are scum-sucking bottom feeders. Men are inherently evil and women are inherently good. Men seek only to use and abuse the poor, helpless woman who, if it weren’t for the big, bad, brutish male, could be anything she wanted to be.”

“It sounds like you understand the party line well.”

“Oh, I do. I used to believe it, too. But you know what I found, Gordon?”

“No. What?”

“I found out women pushing that agenda down the throats of other women and men were the ones who were in it for the power and the glory and the money. In other words, they were little dictators looking for a country to rule. They sought their prey. I made a study of it. I didn’t like what I saw and I didn’t like what I heard. I had more discussions with those feminist leaders than you can imagine. All I saw in them was a female version of my husband.”

“And this is Bitterroot?”

“No. Bitterroot isn’t a leader. She’s a true believer. She believes in the righteousness of her way and she thinks all men will kowtow to her because of their overwhelming Male Guilt.”

“Male guilt? What’s that?”

“Have you ever heard of White Guilt?”

“Oh, yeah.”

“Same concept, only Male Guilt.”

“I don’t have any male guilt.”

“I know. You’re too honest. But Bitterroot doesn’t know it. You mark my words, Gordon. She’ll be back around trying to get you to do her bidding. And when you won’t, she will get more and more confused and the confusion will be followed by anger and the anger will be followed by all sorts of games on her part. Her campaign will be long. It will be a fun story for you, though. Be prepared to get a lot of letters from the Righteous Chick Brigade.”

“Should make my paymasters happy. It means they will be selling papers.”

We said our goodnights and hung up. I slept very well indeed.

 

 


Chapter 12: Rules of Engagement

 

During the coming week, Lucinda and I fell into a pattern of texting each other with hellos and how-you-doings. In the early mornings, at our regular coffee times, and at nine each evening, we checked in with one another. I kept her updated on her mail and house; she was happy enough to not worry about it. Her mother finally woke but, being elderly, was not going home anytime soon. The extensive damage to her body meant only time and care would see her through.

During this time, Lucinda found out her mother had dementia; she felt guilty that she missed the warning signs, but nothing she could do now. The accident had happened, not because someone had hit her, but because she had insisted on driving down a dirt road she remembered from her youth (a road that had never existed) and plowed straight through a house after jumping a curb, taking out a mailbox, and knocking a car out of the driveway. They say she was going at least fifty-five miles an hour in a subdivision in which she knew no one.

As sad as the story was, it could have been worse. But the family was gone on vacation and the only one hurt was Lucinda’s mother. When questioned, she said she did not know what a “seat belt” was and furthermore, she had to milk the cows and, by Jesus and Jove, they best let her up to do it so the milkers’ udders wouldn’t burst and get infected. She had to be sedated.

Lucinda called me Friday night and told me all this. She cried between the sentences. My parents had long been dead, so I didn’t have this to worry about it. She spent her days calling long-term care facilities until she found one that could handle both physical injuries and memory issues. It was two hundred miles away from her home. She said she was going to drive up there the following week and make arrangements.

“What day are you going?”

“I’m planning on driving up on Monday.”

“Let me drive you.”

She said, “You don’t have to do that.”

“I know. Please, let me drive you.”

“It’s going to be a long day, maybe two.”

“I know. Let me drive you.”

“Gordon, I hate to put you out. You have work to do.”

“Lucinda. Please. Let me drive you.”

I could hear a desperation in my voice and wondered if she heard it, too. I think she did because there was a long, long pause coming from her side of the phone.

Then I heard a quiet, “Okay.”

We made the arrangements, I felt needed, and again slept very well that night.

I woke Saturday morning still in the warm glow of being needed. Drove to Lucinda’s house, checked the mail, put it on the kitchen table, made sure all was well, and left. After a nice long nap that afternoon, I prepared for my insertion into the fray. Flak jacket for Bitterroot’s attack. Press credentials in wallet, but only brought out if needed.

Not used to being part of the story, I found I had to examine everything I did in the light of this new reporting method. If I thought I was embedded before, I was truly embedded now, only I felt I was a spy, undercover, finding that which couldn’t be gotten from the leaders because they didn’t know it existed. If anyone here ever cottoned on to the fact I was Gordon Wesley Asbury, Ace Reporter, no longer would I be trusted or welcomed or lauded for heroism. Everything I did would be suspect and probed for angles and agendas. Responses would have to be carefully crafted to protect themselves, and thus truths would not be arrived at.

Skirting the fire pits, Bitterroot slunk in through an entrance off the outdoor patio. She hid it so well, if it had not been for someone pointing to her, I’d have missed her. Her field of fire was clear: She could have pointed a gun at me, pulled the trigger, and as quick as you could have said Bob’s your uncle, I’d have been dead. I pretended not to see her, but knew she was watching me closely.

Yes, she studied her enemy to find a chink in his armor. I could well imagine she had done research and found out I was a journalist. She’d keep this knowledge to herself because, to her, this was a tactical advantage. She thought I was too stupid to imagine she’d find this out and would whip out this information when it most suited her. But mostly she’d come to certain assumptions about me and would begin to fashion her questions and refine her approach based on those assumptions.

She’d be wrong, of course. The information the paper’s flacks put out about me suited the paper and my paymasters’ agendas, and did not in any way represent the real me. But that’s okay. I was ready for her. She knew I was:

Stupid.

Weak.

Political.

She was wrong on all counts. I certainly wasn’t stupid; I was only weak for Lucinda; and what politics I ever commented on were not mine but inserted by my editors when expedient to their agenda.

However, what did I know of Bitterroot? She was:

Angry.

Bitter.

Narrow minded.

Manipulative.

Which meant I couldn’t trust one goddamned thing she ever said or did, and that she’d use every weapon in her arsenal to destroy me if she thought she could not control me. I was going to have such fun giving her every opportunity to hang herself with her own words and actions.

I felt a tap on my arm and looked up to see a woman. I smiled.

“Would you care to dance?” she asked, shyly.

“Uh…sure.”

That’s how I found myself out on the floor for my first dance in more years than I cared to remember. I did not want to dance. I was working. But I remember Lucinda telling me how badly she felt when she got turned down, and I couldn’t do that to this woman. I followed her out to the floor and she proceeded to plaster herself to my body. Her friends stood at the railing and kept giving her the two-thumbs-up signal. They didn’t think I saw nor did they think I saw her grin back at them.

But the dance ended and, as I had seen Lucinda do many times, I held out my hand to shake hers and thanked her for the dance. She blushed and ran to her friends as I returned to my seat.

And thus started the avalanche. I felt vibrations jumping from woman to woman. Oh! He dances. Fresh meat. No. I don’t. I’m not. But what was I to do? If I turned down one and not another, feelings would have been hurt, humiliation made public, and the pack mentality would take over. Yet, I knew nothing of dancing and did not want to humiliate myself too badly, either. However, in war, one must do what one must do whether or not proficient. I marched to the battlefield each time my hand was taken or my name called. And I laughed and smiled and allowed women to push me around as they wanted and use me as their pole.

Now, now, dear reader. Don’t get yourself into an uproar thinking that last comment somehow degrading to women. It is not. Lucinda had explained to me the rules of engagement; such rules allow for the idea that a man can, in point of fact, be allowed to act as a “pole” for a woman. The rules of engagement are as follows:

  • Men are required to lead.
  • A man’s lead is considered merely a suggestion.
  • A woman may choose to follow a man’s lead, delay the following of that lead, or ignore it completely.
  • As long as the woman is pleasant about it, it is the man’s job to smile at her choice of moves, no matter what they are.
  • If a man does not know how to lead, then he is to simply rock from one foot to the other, preferably as close in time to the music as he can, smile, and say she is doing a fabulous job of making him look good.
  • If the woman chooses to dance around him, use him as ballast for any of her moves, or should take his hand and raise it above her head as she spins, he is simply to allow it and smile.
  • If a man sweats profusely, he is required to bring extra shirts and undershirts and change throughout the evening so as not to offend a woman’s feminine sensibilities.
  • And smile as if his life depended on it because it does.

 

I made it my aim to be the best pole a woman could ask for and, in that servicing of her dance needs, open up an opportunity for gathering more intelligence on all sides of the war.

My first dance partner giggled in a corner with her girlfriends. The next one was a tall woman; too long in the sun had given her skin a weathered look. Much more and she’d look like leather. But she smiled nicely, raised her eyebrows, and held out a hand.

The dance was quick and she, thinking I could cha cha, began the moves. I attempted to copy her. She realized I did not dance and she frowned.

I inquired nicely. “I am sorry, but I don’t know the moves to this dance. Can you show me?”

I could hear the pained patience in her voice as she said, “Well, I don’t usually teach…”

“Ah. Okay. Maybe we can freestyle then?” Freestyle we did. I attempted to use my time to get background on her.

“My name is Gordon,” I hollered over the music. “What’s your name?” She leaned in to me and hollered back her name. “S – – .” “Nice to meet you, S – –. Do you live around here?” “Sometimes. I travel from my house here to my house in Palm Springs.”

Oh. High Society. I named her that. I said, “Ah.” We wiggled around a bit and she did not inquire as to my residence. “I don’t live far,” I offered. She nodded her head as if she could not have cared less. I tried again after doing a particularly special spin on one foot. “You married?”

“No.”

Huh. No follow up from her. We bounced around a bit more and the song mercifully ended. I thought much more of this sort of performance and no other woman would come get me. It was a relief. However, the next hour dragged as I was passed from one woman to the next. Once I found myself in the middle of a group of women whooping and hollering encouragement for me to get my Disco Dancer on. That found me working up a sweat as I pointed my finger in the air and shook my butt and crossed my legs and made like I was enjoying this mad, mad, mad, mad world of mine.

But the women were happy; each and every one of them hugged me and said how much fun I was. Two said they wished their husbands would have fun with them. Now tired, I went to the bathroom and sat in a stall to rest. I pulled out my cell phone and called the bar. Mike answered.

“Hey, Mike. It’s Gordon. Get my bill ready. I got to go.”

“Where are you, man? We got anxious women lined up out here.”

“Can you take my credit card number over the phone?”

“Yeah. Sure. Hey, I’ll tell them you left.”

“Thank you. I’m walking out now. Ready for the number?”

With bill paid and butt in the bucket seat, I careened out of the parking lot a second Saturday in a row. How does Lucinda do it week after week? How do any of them do this week after week?

I slept four hours when throbbing and jerking muscles reached a fever pitch and woke me. I took something for pain and crawled back in the bed. The ringing of my cell phone woke me. It was Lucinda. Her mother died during the night making the road trip unnecessary. We talked briefly, she said she’d keep me updated. I said I wanted to come to the funeral. There would not be one, she said. Her mother would be cremated and in a few months taken to a family plot on the other side of the country. There is where the memorial service would be.

“Take care, Lucinda. Is there anything I can do for you?”

“No, Gordon. Thanks. It’s for the best. She woke up during the night last night. All faculties working. She said she loved me and she said goodbye. She chose to die. She knew she’d have no quality of life.”

Lucinda cried quietly for a couple of minutes and I simply listened. “She chose to die. She wanted to die. It was her time and she knew it. My mama’s dead.”

“I know, baby. If you need me, you know you can call anytime.”

I heard her blow her nose and sniffle some more. “Yes. Thank you. Bye. Talk to you later.”

I’d now have a lot of time to organize my notes from last night and threw myself into the task. By the end of the day I had several completed stories for my editor and sent them. He and I pretended all was well and that I was back on the straight and narrow. The paper was still planning on how to best run these when the series was completely written. But already I was coming to the conclusion I needed to quit this gig. I had money in savings. A secure pension. Plenty enough for marriage.

Whoa. Stop that thinking, Gordon. Where in the hell did it come from? Marriage was not on my radar. Lucinda wasn’t ready for me. I wasn’t ready for her. A mild diversion, maybe. A long weekend, possibly. An occasional trip, if…

 

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