It's a midsummer night, a party at a friend's backyard. You stand under a newly-erected tent, clutching a paper cup filled with diet cranberry juice. You don't "nurse" it. Every character in an inept, amateurish story "nurses" a drink, but yours is a professional tale with a striking and yet logical conclusion. You wouldn't appear in anything that is toothless, clichéd or inappropriate.
A woman next to you smiles. "I'm Marilyn."
She probably was quite attractive ten years ago. A semi-retired beauty queen, she still is semi-gorgeous, for a woman of fifty. You sigh. After all, beautiful young women don't exactly cry out your name in the night. Neither do older women. You've been single for a long time now.
You look again. Her skin is flawless in the dimming light. Her long, lustrous hair is arranged into a complicated hairdo. She wears a white summer dress. Killer ta-tas. Scratch that. Better: perky breasts. She sways her hips and you glance at the outline of her white panties, holding your gaze at her impenetrable geographical center longer than appropriate in the second decade of the twenty-first century.
Marilyn, huh? How prosaic. You'll call her Lady G. You know better.
"I'm Jacob," you tell her. This may or may not be a lie. She'll never find out.
"Hi, Maryanne," the man on the other side of her says. He's thin and dressed in black. Jeans, shirt, vest, sneakers--everything. He was dipped in black printer ink except for his head and hands. He's been pushing seventy for years.
Ah, competition, you think. So what? Your elbows are stainless steel javelins. They don't make such elbows any more.
"Where are you from?" Lady G asks him.
"I'm from Wales," he says. "My name is John."
But you'll call him Llewellyn. You know better.
"You don't sound Welsh," you say.
Lady G turns back to you with that familiar funny stare that people assume upon hearing your accent and asks, "Where are you from?"
You wince. You dread this question though she probably asks it of everyone, and though you have two ready-made answers. You can say either that you are from across the river, or that you were born in the Maldives. Not of Indian, but of white parents. She'll never find out.
What the hell? You choose the second answer.
"I've been to Moldova once," Llewellyn interjects. "They have good wine, but I prefer beer. You don't like beer, do you, Jacob?"
"Ah, the Maldives," Lady G says, stressing the second syllable. "Where is that?"
You can say that it's in the Indian Ocean or that her geography sucks.
You choose the first answer. "It is the lowest country on the planet," you add.
"That's fantastic," Lady G says.
"Not if you live there," you say. "Global warming will sink it soon."
"I've been to Indiana," Llewellyn says. "I broke a man's jaw in a bar. He hated beer."
"Ydych chi'n siarad Cymraeg?" you say. Thank Google, you know how to ask if he speaks Welsh. If he replies in the same language, you're dead.
His lips move. He's trying to make sense of your question. The band begins to play The Way We Were.
"A Godiva chocolate?" Llewellyn offers Lady G.
"Do you dance?" she asks you.
There are three different endings to this story. You can claim that in the Maldives they have only communal dances where people catch communicable diseases. Or you can have one dance with her and then excuse yourself to the bathroom and disappear. Or you can make love to her on a canopied bed, on red velvet sheets.
You straighten up. You are no longer a middle-aged man. You are a knight at the intersection of three roads. Your armor shines in the moonlight. Your heavy spear points forward. Your horse is hot between your legs.
You take Lady G by the hand. Llewellyn winces and clutches his chest. His hearing aid hisses at you, impotently, toothlessly. You can read his lips, but you won't. You know what he wants to say. You don't savor his defeat; you are above it. The moon penetrates your armor right to your heart. You soar above the crowd with your lady. Her loose hair floats around her body like a wispy cloud.
You know this is a happy fairy tale ending rather than a literary masterpiece, but you'd take that over some Eurotrash ordering four captains to bear you, like a soldier, to the stage.
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