"So when do I get
to meet your friends?" Skeeter asked
Peyton. "Will you introduce me as your mistress?
Be sure to tug your forelock when you do."|
"I think you’re
more of a petite amie. Or a paramour--"
"Hey! That’s not
a nice thing to say!"
amour--French for ‘with love.’"
fooling? Okay then. I paramour you too. French
kiss!" (Smouche.) "So, when do I get
to meet your friends?"
"I no longer
pursue a social life. Trying to teach Art History
to studio majors is enough to dampen any man’s
"Oh Peyton get
real! What about those raspberry parties Sadie
said you always used to throw?"
Over and done with, years ago."
"Well... oh never
mind. I’d’ve liked--but anyway, it’s fine by me.
Monopolizing you, I mean. After all I am
supposed to be your ‘kept woman,’ aren’t I?"
"You," he told
her, "are about as ‘kept’ as a high typhoon."
* * * * *
But no sense of
Just the hush,
the gloom, the silent stealthy dust creeping up
the stairs, infiltrating the miniloft like a
dubious shade of difference.
Sweep it off the
drawing table, Peyton; there’s work to be done.
Cartoon panels to pencil, ink, and letter--"A
Spectral Singalong with God’s Older Brother Bub."
(BLZ Bub, that is.) "This Month: Dead Rock Stars."
Jimi, Janis, Elvis, Lennon, Morrison, Moon. What
better than a touch of the tried and true? Or, for
that matter, a touch of the sour-lemon screwdriver
kept within easy reach?
perhaps; your circles are becoming elliptical.
("I am the
Eggman," as BLZ Bub would say.)
No matter. Patch
up the cracks in your shell, Bub; make it hard as
nails. They can only scratch its surface, no more.
"Can you match the dead rockers with their causes
of going bye-bye?" Assassination, heart attack,
heroin overdose, sedative overdose, acute
respiratory distress, choking on own tossed
cookies: A, B, C, D, E, F.
Or none of the
above, as in "listening to right now," as in
Stevie Nicks. Still alive when last we checked;
holding off the silence, if not the dust. La la
la la la, la la. Stand Back. If Anyone Falls.
I Need a Little Sympathy--echoing her earlier tune
about leaving sugardaddies alone, when it comes to
Sweep away the
O’Ring’s come back to town
not been so much around
night out most ev’ry eve
who’s left by himself to grieve?
and mussels, alive alive-O--
You’ve even begun to THINK along her lines.
"Have you noticed
how much Stevie Nicks looks like ME? ‘Cept she’s
got big dark eyes (poor baby). I sure do like the
way she dresses, though. And twirls.
And sings. I could dress like that if I had
the bucks, and you know I can twirl like a
dervish’s daughter, but I can’t sing. I mean I can
sing, but not SING. ‘Loud’ is about the
best I can sing, these days. Not like back when I
drank Piña Coladas--"
Not like two
weeks ago when she was here saying this,
Not like the
solid month they’d spent together before that;
scarcely a day going by without some sort of
in-person confession or conjunction--the latter
succeeding the former and a hell of a lot more
interactively. Accommodatingly. Delighting in her
company: alas my love you do me wrong to cast
me off discourteously--
She was supposed
to drop by tonight. Hadn’t shown. Hadn’t called.
And here it was--what?--after nine; a stitch in
for you," as the Eggman would say.)
"sugardaddyhood" could only extend so far, after
all. Or could it? One of these fine months she
might be wanting--what?--"help with the rent,"
say. Or no, better still, help for her
sister with the rent; but "don’t let Sadie
know." Of course not. Clever. Cunning.
Well... if it
comes to that--so what? Not like he’d been stinted
as a result.
Not, at least,
till just lately.
("Love ‘em ‘n’
dump ‘em," as RoBynne O’Ring would say.)
Indeed. You don’t
get used to sleeping alone; you get DISused. While
they’re off "pursuing a social life," polishing
their patoots with a yeek-yeek here and a
waugh-waugh there and a CLUMP CLUMP CLUMP
on the actual door--
"HI sorry I’m
late if you’d give me a spare key you wouldn’t
have to bother letting me in but I can’t stay
anyway I’ve got RoBynne downstairs outside in
Floyd and I’ve gotta drive her up to Port Dormer
right now so I--"
Peyton. "Take a breath."
drinking without me!" said Skeeter, removing the
glass from his hand, draining the one while giving
the other a smack.
Peyton. "Let’s go back to your first remark. You
say RoBynne’s outside--"
outside, in Floyd--"
"And you have to
drive her, in your pink car, up to Port
Right now, too. So I need--"
please. Port Dormer must be--what?--two hundred
miles from here."
after nine. So even at the rate you drive, you
won’t make it there till midnight."
"Which is why we
gotta get going, sweetie, we gotta get
there by midnight, and it’s not payday till
Wednesday so can I have some carfare
Peyton. "May I ask why you have to drive RoBynne,
in ‘Floyd’, the two hundred miles to Port Dormer
by midnight tonight?"
"Because we have
to stop WOLFGANG!"
Who, it seemed,
had just called his ex-squeeze RoBynne from a
phone booth outside the reddest-necked bar in Port
Dormer. Which, it seemed, just happened to be
across the street from the town’s baddest-assed
Italian restaurant. Both of which, it
seemed, he threatened to enter at the stroke of
midnight and there profanely denounce Ronald
Reagan, Frank Sinatra, Christopher Columbus,
and/or that Korean airliner the Soviet Union had
recently shot out of the sky--
--all to "prove
his love," according to Wolfgang.
called Skeeter begging for immediate transport to
Port Dormer; so here was Skeeter begging Peyton
for financial underwriting of the same, and
Taking his glass
back: "You shouldn’t be driving if you’ve been
wasn’t drinking! That was wetting my whistle!...
Okay, okay, don’t spaz, RoBynne can drive; she’s
very good ‘n’ careful--"
stories downstairs outside: "Will y’foggin’
hurry the fogg up PLEEZE!"
Go to the window
and peer down. There was Floyd the vintage pink
DeSoto Firesweep, all right, under the parking lot
lights; and beside him the equally unmistakable
Ms. O’Ring, dancing in frantic place.
"Can you trust
her on this?"
RoBynne’s my best friend! Best girlfriend anyway,
and when she’s in anguish she’s serious about it
and I can tell so PLEEZE--"
for his wallet. "Just promise me one thing, will
you? If you find yourself in any redneck
and Port Dormer, don’t try to drive back
"We can pull off
to the side and sleep in Floyd--"
pull off to the side and sleep in the car!" He
handed over some more bills.
"I take plastic
too, you know," said Skeeter, giving him a hasty
smooch. "I don’t taste any after-dinner! Didn’t
you eat anything tonight? I’ve really got to cook
more for you--can’t have you wasting away on
output was limited to the dish he called
Bouillabaisse Tartare: empty random canned goods
into a saucepan and stir the contents together
"for as long as it takes."
cooking!" Skeeter had groaned, taking over his
kitchen and cooking up a palatable storm, wearing
a cute li’l red apron over her cute li’l pink
compactification of hugely! healthy! appetites
above and below, throughout and through-in...
...but not, at
least, just lately.
matter?" she was asking.
"You should be
"Go on. I trust
you to shave me, don’t I?"
She squinted up
at him. Through beady little gleaming eyes.
forward, reaching out, pressing her pug against
his proboscis... and standing that way for a
moment, the two of them together...
Till a faint
"Skeeee-terrrr!" arose from the down and
ALREADY!" out the window.
And off she
No longer a
question, now, of whether the circle would remain
unbroken. More and more it was becoming an
* * * * *
Peyton, go to
school. Go teach something.
Studies Division was housed off the West Quad in
the rattletrap Old Library. Here nine faculty
members were quartered, if not drawn; with Dr.
Theodore Ecklebury in a good-sized office on the
third floor, and Peyton Derente at the top of the
stairs in a room neither good nor sized nor
originally intended to be an office.
He had first been
summoned up here--when?--eight, nine years ago, as
a freshman taking Art 110 instead of having to
shovel it out. The incumbent shoveler had found
Peyton’s essays entertaining (they’d had to write
essays in those days) and brought them to
Dr. Ecklebury’s attention.
Then as now, Eck
resembled a dyspeptic Teddy Roosevelt in owl-eyed
bifocals instead of a pince-nez, and with fewer
opportunities to feel Dee-lighted! But he’d
praised Freshman Peyton’s fluency, his quick grasp
of comparative detail. Had young Mr. Derente
considered pursuing a career as an art
Well, why not?
Skill at bombast and braggadocio might come in
handy too, given the state (then as now) of art
criticism à la mode. So he’d gotten his BFA,
served as Eck’s graduate teaching assistant while
earning his master’s degree, joining the full-time
faculty three years ago--
semester since, there’d been retrenchment and
belt-tightening. Frozen budgets, cutback staff,
increased teaching load, piled-up duty
plate--and being relegated to an ungood
unsized erstwhile storeroom at the rickety top of
the rattletrap stairs.
So why did he
True or false? Whichever way you answered it,
another Tuesday afternoon was upon us. Meaning
another 20th Century Seminar, with one hour
devoted to students reporting what they’d
extracted from a week of "intensive study,"
followed by a second hour’s group discussion of
(And may God or
Fate or Chance be merciful to me a sinner.)
Peyton had never
yet disparaged the History of Art, as such--only
the attempt to impart it to puddingheads. This
afternoon there was Heather, who always looked
frightened, and Dominique, who always looked lost.
Plus Tim, who wasn’t Tiny but big as a lummox and
about as erudite. So naturally he doubled as the
Liberal Studies student intern, turning even
mundane office chores into hazardous
They had chosen today to replace the steam
radiator in their assigned classroom; so Heather,
Dominique, and Tim adjourned to Peyton’s
ex-storeroom, bringing with them an apparent
poltergeist as thumps, bangs, and eerie whistles
resounded through the walls and floor:
Rap rap rap.
Ssshhhhssss. RAP RAP RAP. WhaaaaaAAAAnnng!
Heather (due to make the first report) even deeper
into panic mode than usual, so Peyton took pity
and turned to the lummox. "Now, Tim--you’ve been
reading about the competing influences of Lee
Krasner and Thomas Hart Benton on Jackson
"Yeah," said Tim.
"So that copy machine? You know, the one
downstairs? They wanted the minutes xeroxed, so
I’m feeding them through and the copies are coming
out? And I take them outta the tray and, whoa!
the words brush off on my hand, right offa
the page! The toner, see, it must not be fusing
onto the paper, or maybe it’s the wrong brand or
something. So we can’t copy anything more right
now and I called the repair guy again but
hadda leave a message. He wasn’t there."
"Very good, Tim.
expression. Where am I? What am I doing
here? WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE?
(Take me now,
But God or Fate
or Chance yielded to the Old Library poltergeist,
who chose that moment to come plundering up the
teeter-tottery stairs, accompanied by
Don’t let it
Don’t let it
get me, OW!
Don’t let it
Don’t let it
get me, OW!
--till in burst a
creature wearing gypsy petticoats and DayGlo
camisole, followed by another in camouflage prom
dress and porkpie hat; both singing "Eaten by the
Monster of Love."
"HERE you are!"
said Skeeter in the porkpie hat. "Are these your
friends? Hah there, friends! Lemme introduce
mahself: Ah’m Vicki Lee ‘n’ this hyere’s Stacey
RoBynne O’Ring, "I wanna be Cherie Jo!"
"You are so
completely not a Cherry Jo!"
"That is CheRIE!
Like ‘My Cherie Amour!’ You are so foggin’
blitzed but fresh as New Wave daisies. Not visibly
worse for wear, as you might expect after an
all-night round trip by DeSoto Firesweep.
"We changed at a
"Look, we brought
y’back like a souvenir--"
And Peyton was
handed a World’s Greatest Foundryworker
"What have you
two been filling your canteens with?" he asked,
just an Eskimo Pie or two--"
both of us--"
Peyton: "We are
trying to hold a seminar here--"
"Ooh, can we
"Boy you’re big!"
said Skeeter to Tim. "What’s your name,
"Not Sailor. It’s
"No way! I used
to sleep with a horsie called Timmy."
draped her DayGlo self across Peyton’s desk. Up
rode the petticoats, down hung the camisole, and
again came the whispering:
dude... woontcha like to be my sweet poppa?...
does she tell you stuff? I was raised Catholic, I
could tell you stuff--"
musclin’ in on my main man!--"
RoBynne, her gypsy lace carrying away Peyton’s
memo pad and tape dispenser. "Oh, yer main
man, hunh? I’ll show you some musclin’--"
The girls squared
off and began to scuffle. Heather and Dominique
tried to beat a terrified retreat but ran slap
into Tim, who looked ready to gather them into his
cumbersome arms and have a little tussle of his
blared Peyton. "Tim--let them go!"
"Aw," said Tim.
(Heather disappeared out the door, but Dominique
loitered perplexedly on the threshold.)
"And you two!
Calm the hell down!"
"Aay, we’re not
wouldn’t fight with my very best friend--"
And there was a
tipsy playful embrace.
("We gotta have
class like this more often," Tim told
No need for Li’l
Bit to worry, or Teacher Dude either for that
matter; RoBynne O’Ring’s heart belonged to
Floydie. She toTALly adored that car, y’know, she
rully had to like possess it; what foggin’ Pink
Cadillac could compare with a Pepto-Bismol
Firesweep? Here! look! c’mon, take it! two hundred
thirty smackeroonies, every cent RoBynne had in
"You didn’t say
anything last night about her having $230!"
know," said Skeeter.
couldn’t get it till this morning," said RoBynne.
"Y’think I like keep all my money in my
"Yeah, Peyton! I
mean, if she did, there’s no telling WHOSE hands
might get on it--"
And another tipsy
better drive you home," Peyton sighed.
"DIDN’T I tell
you how sweet he is to me?"
"Yuh, he’s a rull
sweet poppa all right--"
Which was why
they wanted to negotiate the sale/purchase of
Floyd right there and then: to have the benefit of
Peyton’s counsel and advice. He counted to ten and
tried to comply, but got off to a careless start
by referring to RoBynne’s $230 as her entire
liquid ditty? C’mere, Peyton, I got
somethin’ ELSE to show ya--"
What became of
Wolfgang he never found out.