09. October 2014 · Comments Off on PORTRAIT OF YVONNE · Categories: ---

My name is Payton Browning. I had been Marketing Director for a major nonprofit foundation in Honolulu for five years when I met Yvonne Dumont at a charity ball. Yvonne was slim and stunning in a slender pale green satin gown, set off with emeralds sparkling in her tiny ears and an emerald bracelet gracing a delicate wrist. After just one dance, I had already begun to think I might be falling in love.

On our first evening out together, we went to a luau on Waikiki Beach. After settling down around the low table, I said, testing her just a little, “I adore these luaus, don’t you? They always have such interesting food. I love to try new food. Are you game for some poi?”

Looking straight into my eyes, she said, “I hate poi, don’t you?” I was impressed in spite of myself; no faking for this stunning young lady.

We danced under the stars while I sang softly into her ear, and later, when I saw her to her door, instead of telling me what a fascinating time she had had, all she said was, “Next time, let’s go to a place I know where they have karaoke music. They won’t care how badly you sing.”

Although I was a little stung by that, it appeared that Yvonne was a very sincere and honest person. She was quite beautiful, too; I was always gratified to watch as men caught their breath when she walked by.

I daringly declared my love for her on our fourth date, and she assured me that she loved me too, even though I was only a working man with an average income. She said she saw potential, and would be happy to help me to get ahead in the world.

As we continued to date, I have to admit, if I were being honest, that there were times when I wondered what she could possibly see in me. Though I was well built and slender, with what people told me was a beautiful smile, and might be considered nice-looking, I was no hunk. I also wondered whether I could really afford her in the long run. But it was a foregone conclusion that the next time she kissed me, I’d forget all about these worries.

If pressed, I would have to agree that she was an expensive date. She wanted to go to every charity event I set up, even though I was not required to go, and when we attended these events, she coaxed and wheedled me into renting a luxury car or arranging a limo for us. Then she usually spent the evening comparing her jewelry and attire with that of the wealthy ladies who paid admission, or flitting from man to man, “making contacts,” she said. It was quite true that her job as personnel manager for one of the luxury hotels required her to do a lot of networking, but when she did this, I was often left to drink away my loneliness on the sidelines.

Yvonne adored the multitude of fine restaurants in Honolulu, and hinted often to be taken on luxury cruises to the other islands. And it was only the third time I bought her a jewelry gift that I saw how much sweeter she could be when the gift was made of diamonds.

Yvonne

Payton stood silently on the threshold as I unlocked my door after our fourth or fifth date. I could see him wondering if he should ask himself in. He could barely keep has hands off me, but when I reached over and took his face between my hands and kissed him tenderly, he stopped thinking entirely.

“Thank you for a wonderful evening,” I whispered softly. I wanted him to strain to hear me, aware that my voice sent shivers through him.

“Thank you, Yvonne,” he said sincerely. He stood silently for a long moment, just staring down at me, until I smiled, curled my hand behind his head and gave him a quick peck on the lips. I could hear his heart hammering in his chest; he was eager for me to ask him in, I knew. But I turned and stepped through the door, pulling it shut behind me without looking at him again. Always leave them wanting more, my mother had told me.

I watched through the peephole as he stood there a moment longer, then turned to hurry back to the taxi whose meter had been running for the past ten minutes. He dismissed the cab and began the long walk home, and I knew he’d never even notice the distance while he floated on air.

The next evening I took special pains as I dressed for our anniversary dinner—it was already three months since I’d met Payton, and I still enjoyed our dates very much.

***

Just a few weeks ago, I’d met a new man. Michael, the hotel manager, had been showing a young up-and-coming artist around the hotel, and he stopped me as I was leaving for a meeting.

“I know you’re on your way out, Yvonne, but I’d like you to meet Al. He’s a rising young artist in the islands, and he wants to offer several of his paintings to the hotel for display for a month.” The gentle-looking man, maybe fifteen years my senior, shook my hand gravely; his hand was dry and his handshake firm—more like a businessman than an artist. I wasn’t quite sure how I should react—Michael gave no indication of his own attitude toward the man.

“That sounds great,” I said, thinking it would be a safe comment. “What kind of art do you do? Orchids?”

“Not much, no. Mostly I do sort of impressionist art,” he said. A large leather folder came out from under his arm and he opened it, presenting photographic prints of several very attractive pictures. From a quick glance, they seemed to be both city and countryside views, and there might have been something quite different about them. But I had to go.

“Works for me,” I told Michael as I rushed out, not failing to send a sweet smile to the good-looking artist.

I met him again the next evening at a Chamber of Commerce meeting, after which I began posing for him. It wasn’t long before we were having an affair, meeting in the late evenings, often right after a date with Payton. Al knew about Payton, but I wasn’t sure yet whether I should drop the younger man and lose out on the great places to go, in favor of an aspiring but relatively starving artist, so I didn’t want Payton to know about Al.

But I’m greedy, I thought; why can’t I have both of them?

Payton

One evening, as I waited for Yvonne to get ready for our dinner date, I noticed a new painting in her apartment. A raging seascape, the light and movement in the painting made it very difficult to tell that one wasn’t looking through a window at an actual live scene.

When she came out of the bedroom, I said, “That painting has an odd beauty, doesn’t it? There’s something special there, but I just can’t figure out what it is. The artist is excellent; who is he?”

I moved toward the painting to see if I could make out the signature, but she quickly pulled me away to help her with her coat and said, “Where are we going? I’m starving.”

Though I broached the subject a couple more times during dinner, she seemed to evade the question each time and I never did learn the name of the artist. But she was particularly sweet to me that evening, and I hoped she’d invite me in for a nightcap.

Yvonne

Once back inside my apartment that evening, after a quick goodbye kiss on Payton’s cheek, I rushed to the bedroom to change, quite satisfied with the lavish evening just past. It hadn’t been easy diverting Payton’s interest in Alex’s painting, and I wondered if I shouldn’t hang it somewhere else—in my bedroom, maybe.

Soon, wearing a comfortable but sexy blue jersey dress, I peeked through the curtains to make sure he had left. It was a quick three blocks to Alex’s, where I climbed into bed beside him and congratulated myself on my power over both men.

The next day, I met Payton for lunch. As I sat down, he said “You look fatigued, sweetheart.” He gazed into my eyes and I almost felt guilty.

“I know,” I said. “For some reason, I just didn’t sleep well last night.”

 ***

I modeled for Alex regularly, but insisted that he leave my face out of his paintings, just in case Payton saw one. His artistic strength was not in portraits anyway, and often I was only there to provide inspiration.

After a few weeks of seeing him, it was obvious that Al was in love with me. He tried to persuade me to come and live with him, assuring me that even though he hadn’t earned a lot of money yet, it was just a matter of time. His agent assured him that he had a big future ahead of him, and I couldn’t help but agree. His paintings were definitely amazing.

But Payton had a good job with a healthy income now, and I have to admit I enjoyed the balancing act. So I did my best to keep Al on a long lead.

***

Al and I were in bed together late one night, after he had finished his newest painting. He sat up, took my hands and said, “I’m going to show my new painting in Italy next month! My agent is working on an exhibit in Milan or Florence! Won’t that be thrilling?”

“And could I go with you?” I asked. “I’ve never been to Europe at all, and I’ve always wanted to see it. What’s the subject of the painting?”

“Some canals in Venice,” he said, “and it just might be the best thing I’ve ever done!”

“I’m so glad you’re happy,” I said as we twined in the bed together. “You’re a wonderful artist, and it’s about time you were appreciated!”

The next day while Payton and I were lunching, he told me he had something very important to talk to me about. I suggested we go somewhere quiet and private, thinking he had some news about a promotion or an idea about us moving in together. I still hadn’t brought up the idea of my going to Europe next month, but maybe this would be my chance.

That evening, as we waited for our dessert, Payton took my hands in his and made his announcement. “I’ve just learned that my Uncle Herb Browning died back stateside.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” I said, having no idea how close he’d been to this uncle. But he didn’t even notice my sympathy, and went on.

“He’s left me twenty million dollars!” A big grin split his face, and his eyes sparkled. He poured a glass of champagne and waited for my response.

“Oh, my God! Twenty million? You inherited forty million dollars?” I couldn’t believe it! So much money! I was really glad I hadn’t let Al come between me and Payton.

Grinning as if he’d never stop, Payton took both my hands in his. “And I’d absolutely adore to spend some of it on you. I got this for you today.”

With a satisfied grin, he handed me a sleekly wrapped package. I opened it to discover a Gump’s silver box, inside of which was a spectacular diamond and ruby bracelet.

Payton

Yvonne and I spent the next two days window shopping, and planning our new penthouse apartment. She asked my opinion on silverware, on wallpaper, and on which expensive pedigreed dog she should buy. She seemed to be stepping up her campaign to convince me that she loved me desperately, simply because I was “so much man”—nothing to do with the inheritance—and before long I invited her to a luxurious, romantic dinner.

Before we even ordered drinks, I could wait no longer and presented her with a five-carat pear-shaped diamond ring.

“I want us to get married,” I said.

“What?” she asked, as if this was an entirely new idea to her.

“I want you to marry me,” I repeated. “Will you?” She smiled and seemed thrilled, slipping the ring on her finger immediately, but I was a little worried about her response. It seemed just a tad uncertain.

“Oh, I’ll have to think about it, sweetheart,” she said.

I couldn’t even eat for the next ten minutes while she thought it over, turning her left hand from side to side to admire how the lights danced off the diamond.

“Tell you what,” she said finally. “I’ll give you my answer next Friday night, if you’ll make reservations at the Beachcomber Inn. Okay?”

“Absolutely!” I said, thrilled that she would seriously consider my proposal.

Yvonne

I wasn’t just stalling about thinking over his proposal. I really did want to think it over carefully. Marriage would be such a very big step—giving up my artist would be essential, but would I have to give up all gorgeous men, forever? And Payton was sweet and very, very generous, but would he want to burden me with kids?

On Friday at the Beachcomber, one of the most exclusive restaurants on the island, I gave Payton my answer. After thinking over the pros and cons—twenty million dollars, even if it did involve having kids, versus an aspiring, not-yet-discovered artist who might someday be famous, maybe—the only possible answer was, Yes!

Payton

Several weeks later, I found my bride-to-be hanging a new painting in the dining room. She told me it was a wedding gift. It was painted in a style that looked similar to the painting I’d seen in her apartment earlier—the intriguing seascape. The seascape had disappeared, but this one was a large, mostly gray painting of a volcano whose eruption was just about finished. One could see the devastated forest on the slope, and a small village in the distance almost covered by the lava flow. It might have been depressing and morbid, but instead seemed to instill an odd sensation of hope. But I still couldn’t see the artist’s name.

Yvonne told me she would be interviewing a wedding planner the next day, and asked me to meet her for lunch. After we ate, she sat back and grinned, much like a satisfied canary-eating cat.

“We have to select a wedding site,” she informed me. “The planner I spoke to has three possibilities, and she wants you to accompany us to look them over.”

“Certainly, darling,” I nodded. I had quit my job by now, and aside from an occasional golfing date, my days were disappointingly bleak while she worked, or shopped and spent my money.

The first site on the itinerary turned out to be the Island Golf & Country Club, where Yvonne hoped to garner a membership after the wedding. Entering the grounds through a high white wrought-iron gate, at the end of a long curving drive, we caught glimpses of the lush golfing greens and the Mediterranean-white clubhouse and resort. Gently breaking waves were visible along the shore, and everywhere we looked there were clumps of exotic flowers and swaying palm trees. As we got closer to the clubhouse, I was overwhelmed by the sight of a magnificent waterfall off in the distance. Elegant and graceful birds dipped into the river or rested on a lagoon that was crossed by a small, romantic-looking bridge.

“We don’t have to look any further,” I said. “This is an ideal spot for our wedding.”

The wedding planner and Yvonne grinned at one another, and the deal was closed. I couldn’t help gloating that we wouldn’t even have to look at the other two sites.

***

That evening, as we perused what must have been the fiftieth wedding magazine, I told Yvonne, “Honey, tomorrow I’m invited to the Albemarle Museum of Art for a private showing of a new exhibit. You see, part of my inheritance makes me a museum Board member.”

“I’ve been at that museum,” Yvonne said. “All I saw were a lot of abstract paintings and some statuary. It’s interesting, but not really my cup of tea. You may like it better.”

“Well,” I told her expansively, “you don’t need to go if you don’t want to.”

She declined to accompany me, citing appointments to select invitations and bridesmaids’ gowns, and to have her nails done.

***

The next morning, I followed the smug curator through the closed museum to the new art exhibit. As a new member of the board, I merited special service. This would be my first glimpse into a world suddenly opened to me with the inheritance of my uncle’s fortune.

I didn’t know much about art, but I enjoyed the sumptuous luxury of the Albemarle. As we reached the Special Exhibit Room, James Robard, the long-time curator of the Albemarle Museum of Art, swept a hand theatrically at a large painting on the twelve-foot wall. “And here’s our latest addition, Alex Devry’s new painting.”

It was something like nine feet wide by five feet high, set in a gold leaf frame and matted on a velvety, almost insubstantial blue fabric. It hung alone on the stark white wall so there was nothing to distract the eye. The topic was a shimmering canal in old Venice, with the grand and noble ancient buildings standing watch on either side of a lovely arched bridge spanning the center of the canvas. The artist had used abundant shades of blue—in the sky, the water, the sunlit mansions, and in the striped shirts of the two gondoliers.

“Alex Devry is a respected artist whose works have increased in value over the recent past,” Mr. Robard explained. “It was a coup of the highest order that I was able to convince the artist to hang his latest painting in this museum. He resisted me for weeks, preferring, he said, to take this particular painting to a European gallery; something about the model.

“But I persisted until Alex could no longer hold out,” he nodded smugly.

“Congratulations,” I said. “This painting is quite nice, I agree. But where could the artist have seen my beloved?”

The curator turned to search my face, but saw no lightness there, only a sincere question in my eyes. He turned back to the painting and shook his head.

“But it’s just a bridge in Venice.”

“Yes, but her image shimmers in the water.”

The curator squinted to focus more closely on the painting, then backed up to stand ten feet away, slowly shaking his head.

“Are you sure? I don’t see anything.”

“And there, in the clouds! Can’t you see it? She’s so beautiful!”

No doubt now, the curator obviously thought; I was demented. Obviously wondering how to get rid of this odd new Board member, he decided to try humoring me.

“Okay… Do you want to move on to our next collection?”

“No, I just want to bask in my dear one’s beauty. And look, over here I see Yvonne’s own sweet hands.”

“Yvonne…?”

“Tell me, what’s the title of the painting?”

“Uh… Portrait of Yvonne.”

***

On my way to her apartment, I worked out the truth. Yvonne had been the model for the Devry painting I had just seen. The curator had said the artist finished it only recently, so Yvonne must have been seeing him lately. And she hadn’t said a word to me. I wondered what else she hadn’t told me, and decided to confront her.

Marching into the apartment living room where Yvonne was flipping through bridal magazines, I attacked. “What is there between you and Alex Devry?”

“Alex?” she said, taken aback. “I don’t know Alex Devry. Isn’t he an artist?”

Incensed, I rounded on her and demanded that she tell me the truth. “Your image is right there in his painting,” I shouted, caring nothing for the neighbors. “You can’t deny you posed for him.”

Caught, she admitted it. “Okay,” she said, “so I posed. That doesn’t mean anything.”

“But you just said you didn’t know him,” I accused suspiciously.

“Well, I know him, yes. But there’s nothing between us.”

“You don’t deny you posed for him?”

“Well, no. But just because I posed doesn’t mean there was something between us. It’s you I love, Payton—don’t you know that?”

“Well, if you love me, why did you lie to me? And why didn’t you tell me about him before?”

Silence. I stood for a moment staring angrily at her. Then I nodded and turned to pace around the room, trying to calm myself. Pausing in front of the painting on the wall, I studied it without saying anything. Then I stalked into the bedroom where the other painting now hung above her bed. The two new paintings were indeed signed by Alex Devry. She watched me without saying anything.

Finally I turned to leave, trying to look as if I accepted her excuses. But I had privately decided to find out more, even if I had to hire an investigator.

A few days later, my research had confirmed all of my worst suspicions. I also learned just how important my recent financial windfall was to her. My investigator had found several creditors who had been promised the entire amount due in just a few weeks, after we were to be married.

When I confronted Yvonne again, she broke down and admitted the entire affair with Alex Devry.

“It happened before I fell in love with you,” she wept. “But I can’t keep lying, I was dating both of you at the same time. I’m really sorry, Payton—for seeing him behind your back, and for lying to you. I promise that it will never happen again.”

I paced around and around the apartment, this time not calming down at all. Actually, I couldn’t be certain it wouldn’t happen again. As she watched me, she became more and more anxious and finally asked, “What are you going to do, Payton?”

“I don’t know,” I gritted out between my teeth. “Maybe I’ll just make sure it can never happen again.”

“What do you mean?” She tried to stop me as I strode toward the door, but I pushed her aside. Feeling that I had nothing left to live for, I headed for the artist’s studio.

Yvonne

When Payton pushed me, I must have fallen and hit my head. I lay unconscious but awoke just a few moments later, realizing that Payton was so angry, he might do something terrible. Should I call the police? But what’ll I say? My fiancée is going to kill my lover? They probably wouldn’t even care. Maybe I can catch him. I rushed out the door but he was no longer in sight. I thought he’d probably taken a taxi, since his car was still there.

I rushed back inside and dialed nine and then one, but stopped just before the last one. It had better be the police, I thought, and turned to the phone book to find the number of the local police precinct.

I didn’t explain the situation very well, but the Sergeant who answered the phone said he would send someone to Alex’s place right away. I paced back and forth while I waited to hear, and wondered just what was going to happen now.

Payton

After I knocked Yvonne down and stormed out of the apartment, I headed off to Alex’s studio, possibly to kill him. But within a few blocks I’d begun to simmer down and start thinking.

“I’m not a killer,” I reminded myself. “This is stupid.”

I stopped in at a bar and realized I couldn’t kill Alex now, anyway. Yvonne would have warned him, and she had probably already called the police. As I cooled off, I decided I should just sit back and analyze the situation, as if it were a problem in marketing for my foundation.

I went through the choices I could see: I could kill Alex, or I could kill Yvonne. Or I could kill myself. On the other hand, I had no gun or knife, so beating him to death would have to do. I would confront him and, if he refused to back off, maybe I’d hit him. I hadn’t hit anyone since I was 14, but adrenaline was surging in my veins and I thought I might really be able to do it.

But as I swallowed whisky after whisky, I soon realized that hitting Alex, and probably getting hit back, didn’t seem like such a good idea after all. I knew it would be a while before I stopped loving Yvonne, even though she had betrayed me, and I didn’t really want to take her out of the world. And I certainly didn’t want to kill myself.

As for Alex, I told myself, I’m not really a violent man. I’m a compassionate person who worked for a humanitarian foundation and arranged charity events. I don’t kill people.

But if not death, what? There were only two other choices: to do nothing and just get on with my life without Yvonne, or to ruin them both.

As soon as I thought of this alternative, I smiled. I hated Alex, and felt betrayed and devastated by Yvonne’s actions, and it felt right that I should get back at them. And then I could move on.

I went home and, for the next few days, ignored Yvonne’s frantic phone calls. I frowned in confusion and puzzlement when a police detective tracked me down to question me about my threats to kill Alex. A week went by and I heard nothing more from my former lover.

But meanwhile, the Albemarle Museum exhibit was closed and two newspaper art critics reviewed the work Alex was showing in local galleries. They apparently didn’t like his paintings, and three of the four galleries requested that he remove his pictures. Somehow, the offer from Italy to show his “Portrait of Yvonne” fell through. And when the fourth gallery was purchased by a new owner, Alex’s paintings found themselves on the floor in a stockroom.

As for Yvonne, the new owner of the hotel where she worked expressed dissatisfaction with the current management and replaced it within the week, including her. When she tried to use the contacts she had made at charity events, she found that oddly enough, no one recalled her name. Her diamond engagement ring and her ruby and diamond bracelet provided her with income for the rest of the year, but Alex, believing he had lost his creative edge, no longer seemed so enamored of her.

When my private investigator told me all this, I smiled. “Alex was a fantastic artist,” I said, shaking my head. “It’s too bad he couldn’t paint this situation—he could certainly have done it justice.”

01. October 2014 · Comments Off on ADVENTURES OF THE DISCO KID AND PAUNCHO · Categories: ---

Once upon a time, toward the end of the “disco era” in the early ′80’s, a swinging young man who liked to introduce himself as The Disco Kid had an adventure. He was a devotee of discotheques, checking out a new one each week and visiting his favorites regularly.

After a while, he started hanging with a chubby young man who enjoyed dancing but was rarely picked as someone’s partner. That is, not until he hooked up with Disco, who always had several ladies waiting to dance with him, and willing to put up with Pauncho, as he was now called.

One night Al Peppard, which was The Disco Kid’s real name, met Pauncho – also known as Carl Verdugo – outside a new disco called The Swingin’ Swan. As they entered the double leather studded doors, they were besieged with pretty young ladies who had heard of Al’s dance moves and desperately wanted to be seen grooving with a good dancer. Tonight Pauncho had to step back and watch, or make the rounds of the dance floor edges to find a partner willing to chance being stepped on.

Carl – Pauncho – was actually a good enough dancer but, because of his girth, was suspected of being clumsy until he and his partner reached the dance floor. Then most of the ladies were gratified to find that he rarely stepped on their toes, and that he led assertively. But the Disco Kid could always win them back. After all, he was both an exciting, inventive dancer, and a good-looking, not-too-tall young man.

This was the night Patty Sloane and her pals, Becky and Freda, had finally decided to take a chance on a night out. Patty had turned 21 just the day before, and her slightly older friends had often begged her unsuccessfully to sneak away from home to join them at a disco palace. Now that she was “legal,” they had insisted she check out The Swingin’ Swan with them, and see what all the fuss was about.

As she got ready for her big night out, Patty stood in front of her mirror unsure how to choose between her shiny red satin disco skirt and matching bolero jacket, and the classy little black number she knew would wow those Disco Daddies. They both looked fantastic beneath her swinging mane of golden blonde, and she loved the strappy black sandals her mom gave her for her birthday to go with the black dress. But the shiny white vinyl thigh-high boots she’d bought after she first heard Nancy Sinatra sing, “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’,” were perfect for her debut on the disco scene so the red satin it was.

Patty, Becky and Freda scored a table near the front door to watch the new entrants. When the Disco Kid swung in, Patty was looking straight at him. Shockingly, she could feel herself swooning, just as if he were Elvis himself, for God’s sake! But he was just her type – thick brown hair slicked back with one stray lock falling over his forehead, sultry brown bedroom eyes, a narrow dark moustache the width of his wide mouth, and a strong, determined chin. His narrow sloping shoulders, in that blue paisley silk shirt, and a pair of slender, expressive hands completed the picture. Certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, she told herself as his gaze moved slowly around the room.

He hadn’t seen her, and she quickly grabbed her bag, slid out of her chair and hot-footed it into the restroom. She needed to freshen up before approaching him, and she’d have to beat out a number of other girls to be his partner. But she intended to be his last partner of the night.

Becky and Freda were still looking around for her when she returned to the table. Patty slid back into her chair, nodding at the waitress passing by just then. She’d take another ginger ale. Her friends gabbled on about the cute guys who’d just come in, and the fact that no one had asked them to dance yet. But Patty slid her chair around so she could focus on the dance floor, and looked around until that lovely young man was in her sights.

“I’ll see you in a few,” she mumbled to the girls as she stood, adjusted her skirt and ambled over to Al’s table.

“Where are you going?” Becky wailed after her in a loud whisper, and then Freda’s “Shooosh” silenced her. They settled back to watch their girl operate, sipping their gin-and-tonics and grinning at each other.

When she reached her destination, she had to join five other girls waiting there for the Disco Kid’s attention. The bottle-redhead dancing with Al at the moment seemed to be hogging his interest, and when she managed to keep him with her for a second dance, Patty’s face grew flushed and her stomach muscles tightened. She finally stalked out onto the floor and tapped the greedy girl’s green-and-white clad shoulder to cut in, but the bitch shrugged her off and danced away from her.

Patty stood in stunned silence for a moment – she’d legitimately cut in, and that redhead should have graciously stepped back. She trailed the pair quickly, and this time pulled the girl around to face her. They stood eye-to-eye for a moment, and then the other girl put both hands flat on Patty’s bolero and shoved her. Patty stumbled back a few steps, but caught herself and a moment later, was clawing and screeching like a cat greeting her first dog. The other dancers crowded eagerly around as shiny red satin and white vinyl blurred together with green-and-white dotted Swiss.

Patty saw the Disco Kid fade back into the crowd and a frown furrowed her brow, but she wasn’t going to stop pulling hair until that bitch took her nails out of Patty’s own tresses. Finally three men, goaded by their partners, waded into the fight and pulled the girls apart.

By now the music had stopped, and, still standing and breathing hard, Patty pulled away from her captors. She stood, arms akimbo, and said, into the hushed silence, “You think you’re such hot stuff! Well, I hereby challenge you to a dance-off!”

“A what?” the redheaded intruder screeched. “A dance-off! What’s that?”

“It’s like a duel,” Patty said loftily. “We get a partner and do our specialty steps, and the crowd decides which one of us wins.”

“And what do I get if I win?” the girl asked with a smug smile.

“You win Disco. Or I do,” Patty stated. From the corner of her eye, she could see Al whirl around where he stood at his table talking to some ugly brunette.

“You’re on!” the redhead glared.

Patty rushed back to Al’s table and gripped his hand, smiling and tugging him onto the floor, and pulled his head down to listen as she whispered to him. The redhead stood glaring at them for a moment, then reached out to a tall, slender stranger standing nearby. He was dressed in a blindingly white shirt and pants, his cobalt blue tie loosened around his neck and tossed over his shoulder. He looked at his own partner, shrugged and joined the redhead, and they moved away to confer.

Then the Disco Kid nodded to the band, gathered Patty into his arms and as the music started again – playing “Stayin’ Alive” – they whirled once around the floor. Then they began a series of flips and lifts the likes of which most of their audience had never seen. It appeared to be merely an updated jitterbug, but Al entered fully into the spirit and his skill balanced perfectly with Patty’s. When they finished their little flurry of steps, everyone watching applauded wildly for five long minutes. Then the crowd turned to the redhead and her partner, and there was an expectant silence.

She stood next to him demurely, holding hands at arm’s length, for a long, silent moment. He nodded to the band, and to the strains of “Dance Inferno,” whipped his arm toward his chest and stepped back. The redhead twirled three times, dropping one of his hands and grabbing the other, and they were off in a complex series of steps. Their efforts were just as wildly applauded, and the band began again, this time in a fast Latin rhythm.

Patty and Al stepped out and did a modern version of a samba, which was greeted happily by the throng, but the redhead and her partner tangoed out to “Piña Colada,” looking as if they’d never be apart, and when they finished, the crowd went wild once again. It looked bad for Patty.

During the next dance, Al failed to catch Patty’s hand after a complicated step, and she crashed into a spectator who hadn’t moved away in time. She fell against a table and was knocked unconscious, and Al rushed to her side, Pauncho right beside him. Al yelled at his friend to call an ambulance, and then sat beside Patty and held her head in his lap. He smoothed back her hair tenderly, took her hand in his and a single tear leaked slowly from his eye. It was so sad, and many watchers wept with him.

Finally, the ambulance arrived and paramedics pushed through the crowd and loaded Patty into the van. Al insisted on accompanying her to the emergency room, and once she was cleaned up he was told she’d be fine but they wanted to keep her overnight. By then, her friends had arrived, wringing their hands and anxious about what they were going to tell Patty’s poor mom.

She was moved upstairs into a double room and as the mild sedative began to take effect, the nurse kicked her visitors out. The girls and Pauncho left, but Al remained behind in the waiting room, pacing back and forth for several hours.

As he waited for assurance from the nurse that she wasn’t going to die, Disco told himself it was not his fault she’d been hurt, but she was awfully cute. Then he decided he had no responsibility for her injury since he hadn’t encouraged her to fight with the other girl, but he had to admit she could really dance. After a few hours he began asking himself, what if he had to pay for her hospital bill? But when his friend came back to the hospital, after the Swingin’ Swan closed, Al found himself yelling at Pauncho that he didn’t care if he did have to pay, he loved Patty.

When he was allowed back into her room, after being up all night, he was dazed and hung over, and not at all sure what he was feeling. They sat down with her breakfast tray and talked.

“How are you doing?” he asked.

“I’ll be fine,” she said in a tremulous voice. “I’m sorry I dragged you into all this.”

“That’s okay. I saw you come to my table while I was dancing.”

She glanced sharply at him. “You did?” She’d thought he’d never even noticed her. Goes to show how wrong you can be.

“I’d never have stayed with her for another dance,” he assured her.

“No?” She smiled, a little more confidently. Then, “But I was sixth in line – I just couldn’t wait.”

“I like an aggressive partner.” He waggled his eyebrows and grinned playfully.

“Do you?”

“And I like you. I’m sorry you were hurt, and I forgive you for making a scene.”

“Thank you. I just thought you’d be a great person to meet.”

As they continued talking, she finished her breakfast but when the nurse didn’t kick him out again, he stayed.

They spent the rest of the day and part of the next together. It didn’t take long for them both to learn just how very little they had in common. She didn’t approve of drinking; he loved shooters. She had three cats and two dogs; he didn’t like animals. He was a Roman Catholic; she was Jewish – both thought the other misguided, and he was a wee bit bigoted.

It soon turned out that he smoked a lot, and she was allergic to tobacco smoke; he was usually out dancing all night till 4 a.m., and she usually fell asleep by 10; he loved to spend money, especially on clothes, and she was thrifty.

After a few minor misunderstandings about money, religion and their personal habits, they had their “first fight.” And then they broke up.

When Pauncho picked up Disco that night on their way to the next dance hall, the Disco Dungeon, he was forbidden to talk about Patty or the events of the night before. But before too long, Pauncho couldn’t resist a comment. “Just think, Disco, when you’re dancing, you don’t have to listen to them talk.”

His friend laughed. “It’s okay to talk while you’re dancing, since you usually don’t fight on the dance floor.”

“At least you don’t if you’re not two girls,” Pauncho responded, and broke into gales of laughter. Al couldn’t help laughing with him, and punched his friend’s shoulder.

He grinned and said, “Oh, Pauncho!”

Carl said, “Oh, Deeesco” and, laughing heartily, they drove off to their next adventure.

24. September 2014 · Comments Off on STYLE IS ETERNAL · Categories: ---

“Fashion is what one wears oneself.  What is unfashionable is what other people wear.”

Oscar Wilde

Today’s woman wants to know how she can fashionably express her personality in her style, especially if she’s not tall and slender like the models she sees everywhere.  Television shows about makeovers, and commentators on the Red Carpet at Academy Awards shows, provide lots of information for deciding what looks good around a woman’s figure problems, for her lifestyle, with her economic situation.  Lots of help, but not everything.  Many women still flounder and seek out personal shoppers, or get conflicting advice from others who don’t know much more than she.  What’s a woman to do?

Personality

Here are some brief tips to consider when shopping for a fresh seasonal wardrobe, another ensemble, or even a new dress to wear to the holiday party.

  •  The Classic personality wears little if any trendy or outrageous touches, vibrant colors, or exotic jewelry. She sticks with tried-and-true styles and fabrics, and presents a calm, peaceful presence.
  • The Creative personality usually has at least one exciting, colorful item in her costume, such as a scarlet blouse, silver open-toed sandals, a Dali scarf. Clunky jewelry is great for this look, as are trendy items and unusual fabrics.
  • The Casual personality typically wears little or no jewelry, rarely wears stiletto heels or suits, and prefers comfort and ease in her wardrobe.
  • The Romantic personality wears lots of ruffles and frills, lots of decorative touches, and luxury fabrics such as velvet and silk. She likes low-cut tops and skirts slit up to here, and often wears slinky satin for evening.
HOAX

Though they spell “HOAX,” these are the typical body shapes defined in the eighties by Mary Duffy, a former fashion model and creator of a plus-size line for Simplicity Pattern Co.

An H figure is one with hips no more than two inches larger than the bust, maybe an undefined waistline and wide-to-regular shoulder width.

The O has an upper body fuller than the lower half, possibly with a protuberant tummy and midriff, fullness in the neck, face and back, and relatively slender hips, thighs and legs.

The A is the most common body shape, with fuller lower body, heavy thighs, narrow bust and shoulders.

And finally the X is a curvy, womanly figure, sometimes challenging to dress in styles designed for slender models; you may have a full bust, a rounded hip and a clearly defined waist, there might be extra fullness in the upper arms and thighs.

Occasions

For business dressing, there are some basic rules:  Cover your cleavage, skip the stiletto heels and leave the fishnet tights at home.  Make sure your derrière is covered up when you lean over, and remember, tight clothes belong on a smaller woman.

For casual dressing, don’t jump right into sweats, or old shorts and a swimsuit top.  Some good suggestions for a pulled-together look include a neat T-shirt or sweater, a pair of jeans or Dockers, and a tweed or denim jacket.

Evening dressing should be fun but still flattering.  Try showing a bit of your delicious décolleté, wearing a jacket over your bustier or throwing a shawl around your shoulders to avoid flaunting your ample arms, slipping a transparent blouse over your camisole.  Consider keeping one foolproof party dress in your closet for last-minute invitations to those fabulous fests.

Style

The point in selecting a style is to distract the eye from focusing on the wrong things and direct it toward the right things – the curves you want to emphasize, rather than any bulges you’re unhappy about.

20. September 2014 · Comments Off on THE WIG’S THE THING · Categories: ---

Soon after arriving for her morning shift, Betsy Forman, the Day Nurse whose turn it was to check patients in, turned the page of the desk calendar to Tuesday, July 11, 2015. She tried not to hear the family conversation in the lobby, but couldn’t help it as both the doctor and the patient’s father had loud, insistent voices.

“We hate to do it, Doctor,” Mr. Matheson boomed, “but the D.A.’s office determined she has to be confined here for at least a month.”

“Please, she’s only 19,” Mrs. Matheson said tearfully. “Poor Ruthie just couldn’t keep away from that lowlife Hal Bundy, and it’s his fault she was convicted of that cocaine charge.”

“Yeah, well, it was mostly Ruthie’s fault,” Mr. Matheson declared stoutly. “Doc, listen, can you make sure she’s put in with someone nice? She’s a little shy, and she needs help coming out of her shell.”

The doctor smiled down at Ruthie whose pretty, cocoa-colored face was pale, and her black eyes were red-rimmed. He couldn’t help but feel sorry for her.

“She’ll be fine,” he assured her father. “Her roommate will be Helen Barth, who mostly sleeps. But the nurses, like Nurse Forman here, will take good care of her, won’t you, Nurse?”

Betsy nodded and passed the commitment papers to the doctor, who handed them to Mr. Matheson for his signature. As her husband signed, Mrs. Matheson put her arm around her daughter who was slumped over listlessly beside her.

“See, honey?” she said. “The nurses will take good care of you. And we’ll visit you every weekend, I promise.”

The girl shrugged indifferently, seeming not to hear her mother’s words. Betsy circled the desk and took the girl’s arm. She walked Ruthie down the corridor toward the attendant, Les Montgomery, who smiled warmly at her. The girl didn’t even look at him, but he walked her down the corridor to a room. Her parents watched him open a door and lead their daughter inside. Then Mrs. Matheson began to cry in earnest, and her husband put an arm around her and led her out of the rehab center.

***

After a few days, with group sessions in the morning and private sessions with the doctor every afternoon, Ruthie had begun to feel much better. Dr. Chang told her that if she continued to improve, she could leave after serving only four weeks; the judge had sentenced her to four to six weeks in rehab.

But on her fifth day, Nurse Forman led the girl out of her room and saw that there was something on Ruthie’s mind.

“What’s going on, hon?” she asked kindly.

Ruthie considered the question for a moment, then took the nurse’s hand and pulled her into a quiet corner of the hall.

“Can I trust you?” she asked, looking furtively along both sides of the corridor. Betsy nodded, not certain where this was going, and Ruthie said, “I’m pretty sure my roommate is an alien.”

“No,” Nurse Forman said in surprise. She hadn’t thought Ruthie had shown symptoms of paranoia, but this might be the first sign of it. “She’s just addicted to marijuana,” she assured the girl, “and she’s been in and out of a local jail for assault and theft until a judge sent her here. She was born in Fort Hood.”

“Not that kind of alien,” Ruthie said, scorn in her voice. “Well, I mean, it’s actually Helen’s wig that’s the alien. Helen is actually just a costume the wig wears.”

Betsy almost giggled at this despite her training, but as she looked closely at the girl, she decided Ruthie wasn’t joking. She said merely, “Her wig.”

“I’m sure of it,” Ruthie cried. “I know you don’t believe me, but I’ll prove it to you. Come on!”

She grabbed the nurse’s hand and pulled her into their room. Her roommate, Helen, appeared to be asleep beneath the thin coverlet on her bed. The nurse moved to Helen’s side and lifted the wig off the sleeping girl’s head. “See? It’s just a wig. Do you see how ridiculous your idea is?”

Ruthie, who appeared never to have thought of this simple solution, nodded. Her shoulders sagged and she turned to sit on her own bed. The nurse replaced the wig, smiled at Ruthie, and led her out of the room.

The next morning, Nurse Betsy was found strangled to death in a drug supply cabinet in the locked infirmary. When the police arrived at the clinic, Ruthie was waiting and insisted on telling them all about Helen and her claim that her roommate’s wig was an alien. But after speaking with Dr. Chang, the police ignored her claims as the ravings of a drug-addled brain.

Later, in her session with Dr. Chang, Ruthie told him that she had seen the wig make its way off Helen’s head and stare at her, Ruthie, from Helen’s pillow. “How does a wig stare?” the doctor wondered.

Ruthie shrugged one shoulder and shook her head. “I don’t know,” she said. “All I know is that the alien wig was staring at me. I don’t know how.”

“I’m sure you realize, Ruthie, that such a thing is completely impossible. Now I want you to try a new sedative; you should sleep better, and maybe you won’t hallucinate again.”

As she usually did, Ruthie shrugged complacently and took the pill. The doctor watched as she tossed it back and then left the room. Later that night, one of the nurses found Dr. Chang strangled in his locked office. After interviewing all the nurses and attendants, the police arrested one of the patients, Allen Greenwald. Allen did not have an airtight alibi.

***

Ruthie hated the way the new drug made her feel so after the first day, she pretended to take it when the nurse handed it to her but secretly dropped it, and the next few, in her bra. After four more days, she slipped the pills into Helen’s tea.

A few hours later, she was sure Helen was asleep so she snuck over to her bed and yanked the wig off her roommate’s head. As she held it triumphantly in the air, the wig sprouted four tentacles and gripped Ruthie by the throat.

She screamed, but by the time the attendant arrived Ruthie had been strangled, just like Betsy and the doctor. And Allen Greenwald, the patient who had been suspected in the deaths of the nurse and the doctor, had been securely locked away.

20. September 2014 · Comments Off on THE BEST MEDICINE · Categories: ---

I was introduced to the benefits of massage at a very young age. My dad was a physical therapist whose job was to assist patients, referred by local physicians, to regain the use of their arms or legs. He would bring his massage table home at night and offer his five children the benefit of his strong, warm, loving hands. Whenever one of us had sore muscles, we reaped the wonders of those excellent hands; we may have pushed ourselves a little further than kids who didn’t get to be massaged.

In the early part of the century, people received massages only if they were undergoing physical rehabilitation, or if they were athletes or wealthy but stressed-out businessmen. There was also something called a “massage parlor,” about which the less said, the better. In general, there was little sensuality associated with professional massage, only for the overtly sexual use.

In the 1970’s, young people, who would come to be known as the “Me” generation because of their focus on their own bodies and desires, became aware of massage as a sensual tool. Sex therapists encouraged couples to massage one another to improve their sex lives. Magazine articles inspired married women to purchase perfumed mink oil and other types of massage creams, and to set aside an hour or two a week to exchange massages with their husbands, usually as a prelude to sex. These were very unscientific massages, of course, consisting of the opportunity to touch each other in a sensual way rather than for any therapeutic benefits they might offer.

During the 1980’s, massage came to be accepted into the New Age concept of medicine. People began thinking of massage as a homeopathic remedy, and the occupation of “massage therapist” was born. So today, athletes, busy working men and women, college students, stressed out dentists, truck drivers, housewives and babies, can all enjoy the various benefits of massage.

Deep-tissue massages, which are very long and slow and provide the most healing benefits, are generally done by experts and are best done in conjunction with medical or psychological therapy. There are more superficial massages which can help people to relax; these can be done by friends or lovers, and contribute more to better communication than to better health. Healing massages are more psychological than physiological in nature, and are usually done because of health needs and for compassion, rather than for relaxation or communication.

A study conducted by the University of Miami was reported on in Prevention magazine in May 1998, which indicated that fifteen to twenty minutes of parent-child contact daily in the form of massage could improve problems such as diabetes, asthma, dermatitis and insomnia. Such “caring touch” can be used to increase the baby’s blood circulation, digestion, muscle tone and neurological development, according to American Baby, April 1997. Thus, massage itself has the power to heal.

So for sore muscles, sickness, communication and a healthy sex life, massage – not laughter – may be the best medicine.