When Tillie gets home and
finds Russell on the toilet posed like
The Thinker, he’s already in rigor mortis. “Russell?” she says. “Wake
up.” She shoves him a little and he keels off the pot and clatters on the
white tile floor, still in a sitting position, the remains of his last supper
dissolving in the bowl. She leans over to feel for a pulse at his neck but he’s
as cold and hard as the porcelain. Horror raises the hairs on her arms, but also,
something bright and shimmery as tin foil flickers around the edges.
But, God. Russell.
She flushes the toilet and calls 911, and then she calls Gabe.
“Russell’s dead. I found him on the toilet. The police are coming.”
“Whoa,” Gabe says. “I guess you won’t be at the gym tomorrow.”
“No,” she says. “Unless—if—no.”
It’s not until two men wheel Russell out in a black plastic body bag still
curled on his side in a sitting position that it sinks in that her husband of
twenty-five years is gone for good, and a muffled wail bursts from between her
* * *
She’d met Russell when she was a nurse—twenty-four—working
in the ICU at Holy Cross. He was a cardiovascular surgeon, handsome, forty,
married. They started their affair amidst beeping monitors, whooshing respirators,
pumping IVACs, and over naked, wired patients. The intensity of the critical
care unit charged them up, fueled them with sexual energy. The more unstable
the crisis, the more electric it got between them.
* * *
Over drinks and dinner in a restaurant she could never afford, he told her
that his wife was cold. Prudish. He said they’d grown in different ways over
the years. He said he could fall in love with her. For Tillie, who’d been
dumped recently by a guy she’d hoped to marry, Russell landed just right.
That he was married made her feel reckless and French. They started an affair
with back door visits to her apartment, remote restaurants, secret gropes in
hospital elevators, so many lies to the wife. They sneaked strenuous, desperate
moments, moments that left them spent and awed and wanting more.
Russell told Sally, his wife, that he was in love with someone else, and he
told her with whom. Sally then accosted Tillie in front of the ICU waiting
Tillie headed back from lunch with a few other nurses. Sally, in a soiled ivory
pantsuit and reeking of booze, had lurched at her. “Find your own
goddamn husband!” she’d screamed. The patients’ families watched,
momentarily distracted from the blaring TV and their critically ill loved ones.
nurses also watched, with wide eyes and suppressed smiles, the Numero Uno Hospital
Rumor now confirmed. Tillie winced with mortification, shoving down her shame,
transforming it to condescension. It was a lot easier to think of Sally as
Russell moved into her apartment. They married as soon as his divorce was final,
and bought a big, new house in the Glendale hills to celebrate. Before their
first anniversary, their son, Neal, was born, and Tillie quit the ICU for good.
The cloying scent of lilies fills the cemetery chapel as mourners file in to
pay their last respects to Dr. Russell Chap. Tillie holds a Kleenex to her nose
to filter out the decay smell of the flowers. She’d wanted gardenias but
the florist had pushed the lilies, and despite the stench, they look beautiful.
She has asked Neal’s partner, Derek, to say the eulogy, a final poke at
Russell’s homophobia. Russell had hated the “faggot parade” that
had traipsed through their house over the years. Now, two rows in the chapel
are filled with those fags, Neal and Derek’s friends.
Neal sits next to her in the front row, listening to Derek’s eulogy, his
throat working, his flat, wide face radiant. She resists planting a big fat kiss
on his cheek. Derek, a stand-up comedian hot in the L.A. comedy club circuit,
gives an eloquent, moving eulogy even though he’d never met Russell, nor
heard anything good about him. They have been a couple for two years and Neal
is over the moon in love. The real deal, he says. They had a monogamy ceremony
at Pismo Beach last year that Russell refused to attend.
Russell’s rejection devastated Neal, and it chipped away at Tillie’s
respect and love for her husband. Russell tried, she’ll give him that,
but he couldn’t suppress his dismay and judgment over anything gay. He
couldn’t bear it, and she developed her own intolerances—his milk
breath, the dental spatters when he flossed, the self righteous way he chewed
Before all that there had been family vacations, great restaurants, movies, concerts,
plays, the three of them, the happy family living large in the fat folds of the
Reagan years. They had a sweet life until their son, at seventeen, came out to
* * *
She sees Gabe enter the chapel and sit in the back. She concentrates to hide
the rush slamming through her. He’s wearing a black wool suit with a black
t-shirt. He’s combed back his tawny waves and tamed them with some kind
of gel that makes them gleam like polished bronze. Tillie is a moose cow in estrus,
her introitus swollen red and shiny wet, lowing for her bull. The only other
time she felt so animal was when she nursed Neal. She’d wanted to sit on
her haunches and bare her teeth at any threatening invader. The sight of his
toothless gums made her fierce with love and desperation to keep him safe.
At the graveside, the casket is settled in its concrete vault and sealed. Tillie
tosses the first handful of dirt into her husband’s grave. Neal throws
the next, and then everyone takes turns grabbing handfuls of soil and tossing
them in, laying Russell to rest. She scans the crowd for Gabe, but doesn’t
see him. She hopes he’ll show up at the house for the post-funeral affair—food,
drinks, condolences. She’s given him directions and he said he’d
As she heads to the waiting limo, Tillie glances back and sees Russell’s
first wife, Sally, bone-thin and dressed in black and wearing huge sunglasses,
lingering by the grave, her silvered hair frizzed out around her head catching
the sun like a halo. Tillie watches her pick up a handful of dirt, bring it toward
her mouth, and then toss it into the grave. Sally never remarried and Tillie
knows that Russell helped her financially after the alimony stopped, though they’d
never discussed it. She lives not far from them in a small house she owns. They
ran into her enough that Tillie joked about her stalking them. Sally always spoke
to Russell, a polite hello, sometimes bringing up some news from their hometown
in Poplar Bluff, all friendly chit-chat while pointedly ignoring Tillie, which
* * *
Russell had tried to get Neal interested in manly, father-son activities as a
child, but the violence of football made Neal nervous, and baseball and basketball
bored him. They went camping and fishing and Neal hated the dirt and bugs. Dead
fish made him cry.
“He’s sensitive, Russ,” Tillie told her husband. “Artistic.
Like my dad.” Russell agreed. He doted on his son, they both did. When
Neal began to listen to his father’s opera collections, Russell took him
to see Pagliacci, and Neal was blown away by the music, the story, the staging,
so Russell got Sunday matinee season tickets. Tillie didn’t go—she
snored through opera, and she wanted this time to be especially theirs—so
they bonded over Leoncavallo, Puccini, Bizet, Verdi, Rossini, and Wagner. It
would lead Neal to Otis Parsons to study costume design and to work for the Los
In seventh grade Neal confessed a crush on his math teacher, a man.
“I love him so much,” he told his mother.
“Let’s not tell Daddy,” Tillie said, hoping that this was just
something to get through.
* * *
Tillie arrives at the house in the limo accompanied by Neal and Derek. The caterers
have everything ready and Tillie heads straight to the bar. She wants champagne
but the caterer says no champagne at funerals, too festive with all that cork-popping
and foam, so she orders scotch.* * *
Guests file in, speaking in low, serious voices at first, and then raising
in pitch as the liquor flows. Tillie shakes hands and accepts condolences,
the room for Gabe, and then there he is, filling the space in the doorway.
A cluster of Neal’s friends nudge each other and stare.
He’s never been to the house before and she becomes sharply aware of its
gleaming opulence: the French crystal vases, silk-covered walls, the polished
granite surfaces. It oozes affluence and privilege, making her proud and uneasily
self-conscious at the same time. She’d never voted for Reagan—neither
had Russell—but they and her whole social gang of doctors and their wives
had benefited hugely from the lark of trickledown economics. They’d raked
in the dough and stuffed as much as they could into their bulging stock portfolios
and IRAs until the grim, dark cloud of Medicare reform snuffed out all the
Russell’s office staff arrives and they besiege Tillie before she can
greet Gabe, and she finds herself in the role of the comforter as they wail
dead boss. She leads them to the bar and food tables and they quickly fill
their plates with crab cakes and cold shrimp, and grab bottles of beer. When
herself, she finds Gabe in conversation with a woman, late thirties, in a tight
emerald-green knit suit.
“How good of you to come,” Tillie says to Gabe. She gives him her cheek,
and then she turns to the woman in the green suit and holds out her hand. “I’m
Tillie,” she says.
“Allison Cabrera,” the woman says, taking Tillie’s hand. “I’m
with Bristol Pharmaceuticals. So shocking about Dr. Chap. I considered him
“Please,” Tillie says, waving toward the food and bar. She takes Gabe’s
arm and leads him away, leaving Allison looking after them.
“I can’t wait for all this to be over,” Tillie whispers. “Promise
you’ll stay until everyone leaves.”
“Nice house,” Gabe says, looking around.
She met Gabe at the gym a year ago. He’d been oblivious to her while she
became obsessed watching his big, beautiful body as he worked out, imagining
him naked. Erect. She fantasized about fucking him right there, straddling him
on a flat bench, hanging from pulleys, suspended in machines, sweat dripping
off the both of them. She and Russell no longer had sex, part of the wreckage.
They made a few half-hearted attempts, and just stopped. Sometimes she wondered
if it was all over for her, crying with her vibrator whirring away in the guest
room where more and more she slept to get away from Russell’s snoring.
She started by saying hi to Gabe, catching his eye and smiling until they routinely
greeted each other. She made small talk waiting for whatever machine he was working
on. Then she asked him to spot her on squats and bench presses, to give her an
assist on lying triceps curls. She asked him about walking lunges and the best
way to split up body work.
She offered to buy him a margarita and he accepted. They went to a dark, cool
Mexican restaurant in sweaty gym clothes and she learned he was a carpenter
between construction jobs, and that she had fifteen years on him. He’d also written
a screenplay he was trying to sell, an action drama. “It’s L.A.,
right?” he said, smiling.
“I want to go to bed with you,” she’d replied. “I’m
They went to his small, converted garage apartment that he rented from an old
lady named Fay, who leered from the windows of the main house. Tillie was nervous
as hell, she hadn’t slept with anyone but Russell for well over two decades
and it had been several years since she and Russell had sex. The happy couple
was celibate. The happy couple was a sham.
Gabe shed his clothes and she got light-headed. His skin was smooth and reddish
brown over his well-defined muscles. She glanced down and his man-energy came
at her like ocean waves, knocking her down in the surf. She wondered how much
blood it would take to erect so much penis, and how her dusty, rusty vault would
ever accommodate it. She worried about her body, the age difference. Her breasts
had left their former perch, her nipples like demure and downcast eyes. Despite
extreme sessions with the Butt Blaster, the skin on her ass hung in mini folds
she could tuck dimes into.
He stepped forward to enfold her and her legs gave, she lifted her face and
pressed her mouth to his and took in his tongue. She felt him hard against
For so long she’d repressed the heady yin-yang polarity of being a woman.
Blood filled her spongy places in an achy rush, and there was no turning back.
* * *
Tillie floats around the guests, making sure the caterers keep the food plentiful,
spacing out her booze so she doesn’t get completely hammered. She keeps
an eye out for Gabe, who’s drinking beer and mingling. Allison Cabrera
has glommed onto him again, teetering on her stilettos and touching his arm.
Gabe has a way of lasering his eyes on whomever he’s talking to, and Tillie
knows its effect. It’s obviously affecting Allison Cabrera, who’s
leaning into him closer and closer. Tillie wants that cunt out of here.
Neal comes over to her and asks if she’d like for him to spend the night. “No,
baby,” she says. “I’m dying for everyone to leave.”
“Derek and I are going to take off, then,” he says. “He has
an early meeting with his agent and a rep for Comedy Central. My boyfriend the
smiles the same sweet smile he’s smiled since he was a toddler, and then
he pulls his mom aside. “Who’s the hunk?” he asks, indicating
Gabe who’s now chatting up a bunch of O.R. nurses who have joined him
“A patient of Daddy’s.”
Around nine o’clock the last drunken stragglers leave. She writes a check
to the caterers, thanking them for the great job. She finds Gabe watching TV
in the family room, and sits next to him on the sofa.
“God. It’s over.” She turns to him. “I hope you can stay.
you spend the night?”
“Kind of cold, isn’t it? The guy’s put in the ground and I’m
sleeping in his bed?”
“It’s not like—“
“I’m not staying. But I’m here now.” He loops his heavy
arm around her. She knows she should keep her mouth shut, but that’s never
stopped her. “You made a friend,” she says.
“Allison. The one in the green suit.”
“She says she was banging him pretty regular.”
“She was banging Russell?”
“So? You’re banging me.”
“She was banging Russell?” Tillie sits upright, processing. Russell banging? “She
comes to my house and says she’s been banging Russell?”
“And I’m at his house and I’m banging you,” Gabe says.
“She says we’re paramours-in-law. A paramour is someone who’s—”
She jerks her head around. “I know what it is. You told Allison about
“No big deal. Pretty funny, really.”
Tillie steams. This pharma rep is going to slither around to the doctors she
calls on, spreading her juicy gossip: Did you hear? The better gossip she brings,
the more likely they’ll prescribe her products. They’re all a bunch
of raptors. And it didn’t occur to that lunkhead that their affair might
warrant some discretion? But if she thinks of the lunkhead not being
in her life, she gets panicky. She doesn’t get it, the hold he has on
By Wednesday her social crowd will all know that Tillie has been cuckolding
Russell with a hunk from the gym fifteen years her junior. Does she care? Without
Russell Chap—who the fuck is she? Who’s going to invite her to their
elegant soirées now?
“Are you pissed?” Gabe says, an edge to his voice.
“I just wish you hadn’t said anything.”
He gets up. “I’m going. This place is too fancy for me anyway. I’d
be afraid of wrecking something.”
Her impulse is to wrap herself around his knees and beg, but she’s too
exhausted. What she needs are her pajamas, her bed, and a sleeping pill.
She walks him to the front door. They kiss and she holds his lips until he breaks
“See you tomorrow,” she says.
As he leaves, she notices the worn, shiny elbows on his suit, and a button
is missing. She wonders if Russell’s clothes would fit him—maybe
with some alterations to broaden the shoulders, take in the waist, lengthen
the pants. Add some IQ points.
* * *
Russell’s been cheating on her! Indifferent, dull, nerdy, gay-bashing Russell.
The years had drained him, as had his grief over his homosexual son—or
so she’d thought. How long had he been unfaithful? If she pictures him
aroused, Allison’s dark hair spread on the pillow, Russell humping away
on top, grunting, buttocks grinding, banging, she gets queasy—he was her
And yet, she’d been guilty of the same thing.
And yet, she’d mostly loathed him.
And yet and yet and yet.
She thinks about Sally, alone, working at the library. Sally and Russell had
been high school sweethearts in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, marrying after they’d
graduated from college, before Russell went to medical school. She’d majored
in library science, and then she’d worked in various libraries while Russell
went through med school, his internship, residencies, and fellowships. When he
finished, they’d wanted to start a family, but Sally had a hysterectomy
for cancer. She’d become depressed, and lost all interest in sex.
* * *
Gabe has told Tillie that he loves her, once. It was after they’d made
love and she’d blurted it and he’d replied, “I love you,
both been drinking. After that she’s said it a few times in the heat
of a moment, but he’s never repeated it.
Is it love to have a grinding obsession? A needy, emotional lust? Saying I
love you to him doesn’t feel right in her mouth. She wishes she had Neal’s
clarity. He’s always had this calm common sense about things, even as
a little kid.
She’s a widow now, her new phase, a new identity. She is financially secure
and free, but all she wants is Gabe. He doesn’t want to come to her house
because he feels uncomfortable there, so she goes to his tiny apartment, tiptoeing
down the driveway so as not to bring his old landlady, Fay, to the window to
gawk at her. He can’t afford to eat out often, especially in the restaurants
she likes, so she conjures celebratory occasions to have an excuse to take him
out and pay. Initially he’s reluctant, and then it becomes easier for
him to accept her generosity, first ordering the least expensive items and
with her encouragement, ordering extravagantly.
He remains unemployed and she doesn’t ask him how he pays his rent or if
he’s looking for work. Once in a while he grumbles about his union, how
they have their favorites who get all the plum construction jobs.
He sends his script out to a few studios and to Bruce Willis’s agent, since
he’s written the lead role with Willis in mind. One night she asks if she
can read it and he gives it to her. She reads it as he watches, and it’s
formulaic crap about terrorists taking over Disneyland, holding hostages in
the Magic Kingdom and blowing up Space Mountain.
“It’s a blockbuster,” she tells him. He pulls her to him, lifts
her skirt, and yanks off her panties. He gets on his knees and tongues her.
“You’re going to be soooo famous,” she moans.
* * *
After a few weeks, the concerned phone calls asking “how-was-she-doing
and did-she-need-anything?” stop, and she’s glad. Gabe starts coming
over and spending time at her house. She encourages it, of course, open, needy
She knew that he smoked now and then, but it turns out that he really smokes,
more than a pack a day, and she has a former smoker’s aversion for it.
He also drinks a hell of a lot more than she knew. He often gets plastered
in the evenings in front of the TV. And still, no job.
He talks about starting another screenplay, a romantic comedy involving twins.
She’s embarrassed to tell Neal about Gabe. He’d say, seriously, I
know what you’re doing with this guy, but, seriously, what are you doing
with this guy? And she’d say, seriously, I have no idea, except that the
thought of being without him—she can’t think of it.
She asks him not to smoke in the house but she comes home to clouds of nicotine.
“Can you smoke outside, please?”
Gabe is stretched out in bed in a t-shirt and his Jockeys with a beer next to
him and an ashtray balanced on his hard, flat stomach. He takes a final drag,
and then stubs out his cigarette. He gets up and pulls on his jeans, his boots.
You don’t have to leave,” she says, hating herself. But he just
pushes past her, down the stairs, slamming the front door.
A few miserable days and he won’t respond to her calls. She goes to his
apartment, but he refuses to talk to her, says it’s over. She slumps at
his door. Somewhere along the way she’s lost her mind.
She hears the back door of the main house open; it’s Fay beckoning her
to come inside. Tillie wipes her face with her sleeve and gets up.
“I’m sorry. I’m leaving,” she says.
“Come in, have a cup of tea with me,” Fay says. A cup of tea sounds
good and then maybe she can try again to change Gabe’s mind. She climbs
the steps to the back door and enters Fay’s neat little home. They sit
at the small, square kitchen table covered with a red-and-white checked oilcloth.
“He’s just like his father,” Fay says. “Stubborn as a
“You knew his father?” Tillie blinks with surprise.
“I’m his mother,” Fay says.
They have tea and pound cake, and Tillie learns that Gabe was a change-of-life
baby who never left the nest. Fay says he’s a good carpenter, but a lazy
one, working a job or two until he has enough money to take off for long stretches
of time, easy for him since he doesn’t pay her any rent.
“It’s my fault,” Fay says. “I spoiled him rotten. The
ladies like him, though.” She slurps her tea.
“Like flies. Always been like that. His daddy was the same way.” She
holds her fragile china teacup between two gnarly-fingered hands, her eyes flat
“The ladies? Other—ladies?”
“Oh, honey. You thought you were special.” A cracked smile.
It’s all too much, but she can’t stop.
“You mean there are others—besides me?”
“You should ask him about that. But yes.” She squints at Tillie. “You’re
a bit long in the tooth for him.”
Tillie feels the blood rush to her face. She stands up and thanks her for the
tea and heads out the back door. She looks at Gabe’s apartment; she hears
music, country western. She hates country western. She forces herself to walk
down the driveway and out to her car. She gets in the driver’s seat and
puts her head against the steering wheel.
She thinks about Kenny, the guy who dumped her before she met Russell. He left
her for some coke-snorting bank teller, and she was devastated, drinking heavily
and showing up to work hung over with greasy hair and B.O. She wanted to die
until one day she realized that, in her grief, she’d dropped fifteen
pounds and she looked really good, so she went shopping for all new clothes,
the thing with Russell started.
But Kenny. She fell hard for him, a structural engineer who dreamed of one
day opening the perfect hot dog stand. They smoked a lot of dope, laughed like
and had a lot of zealous sex. They went fishing once, a pristine alpine lake
high in the Eastern Sierras. It was beautiful, a day and setting that made
you glad to be alive and she was feeling it: the swooshing breezes, the shimmering
aspens, the fat, blue lake and the quicksilver fish. She was feeling it and
took out a cigar and pulled off the cellophane and cigar band and tossed it
on the ground, right where the crystal quartz water lapped gently on the shore.
She was no tree hugger, but she was outraged that he’d litter like that,
especially in the unspoiled, practically holy ground that is the backcountry
of the John Muir Woods. She discreetly pocketed his trash plus the trash from
his fishing supplies, and kept her mouth shut instead of calling him out on it
like she would’ve if he’d been a stranger.
And when she’d told him about the abortion she’d had when she was
twenty, he’d looked at her as if she were dog shit on a shoe.
“How can you live with that,” he said.
What she wanted to say was: Easy. I live with it so, so, so very easy.
What she wanted to say was: Who are you to judge me, you self-righteous
fuck? But she’d kept quiet. Spineless! Afraid he’d get mad. Afraid he’d
leave her. Which he did.
And all these years later, all this polish and affluence, all this maturing—and
nothing’s changed! She is still a sniveling belly crawler. Was she born
this way? A genetic belly crawler? Right now it’s all she can do to stay
in the car and not go skulking down the driveway to pound on Gabe’s door
and grovel like a good dog.
Your self-respect called. Oh, wait. Wrong number.
Mustering a herculean effort, she starts the car and heads home, driving slowly
in the right lane so she can’t whip around in an impulsive U-turn and
Neal’s car is parked in front of her home, and good, because Neal and
Derek are great company and generous, big-hearted listeners. She is ready to
to find a path, to grow a backbone, and they can help.
She enters the house. It’s dark downstairs, but she hears Pavarotti’s
tenor, and “Vesti la Giubba” from Pagliacci pours down the stairs.
She loves the boys, but she hopes to not see or hear them fucking. She goes
up and the rooms are dark and empty until she comes to her room, and she prepares
to be annoyed.
Neal’s alone, sitting on her bed, laptop open with Pavarotti blaring in
front of him. He’s got a broad blue headband pulling his hair back from
his face, which is heavily made up—false eyelashes, white pancake make-up,
two round pools of blush, smoky, spangled eyes, and waxy red lips. He wears
a silk clown costume with a gold ruff, one of his designs for the opera. An
bottle of champagne sits wet and drippy on her bedside table. He takes a belt.
“Neal,” she says.
“I’m applying to clown school,” he says. He has a lace hanky,
and he waves it at her. “Don’t try and stop me.”
“Neal,” she says, again.
“Hi, mums.” He belches, and swigs more champagne.
Pavarotti’s tenor escalates mightily, and Neal clasps his hands together
under his chin, his face broken and tragic, and sings with him:
sul tuo amore infranto!
He collapses and his thin shoulders heave. She closes the laptop and swoops
down on her kid, enveloping him. “What is it, honey? What’s happened?”
“Derek’s been fucking around, Mom, porking some fucking—comedian.
He says it’s meaningless but when I asked if he’d stop seeing him,
he said, no, he can’t. So what the fuck does that mean?” He dabs
at his eyes with the hanky, smearing it with black. One eyelash flaps like
a crow wing on his lid, and he rips it off. “What’s wrong with
people? Is monogamy some vestigial fucking—some anachronistic—” he
flings about for a word—“appendix?”
“Oh, baby.” She strokes his head.
“Even Dad—” He stops abruptly.
“You knew about Dad?” she says.
“I found out after he died. How did you know?”
“When I was I kid, we’d all go to the opera together, and then go
back to her house and do jigsaw puzzles or play Scrabble.”
Tillie sits there, stunned. Had Russell been seeing Allison since Neal was a
Then Neal asks, “How did you find out about Dad and Sally?” Spastic
sobs tear up his words.
“Sally? No, not Sally, honey. Allison. The woman that came after the funeral,
the pharmaceutical rep. Sally? Sally? Sally is—”
“I know—Dad’s first wife. I thought they were just friends,
fidgets with the hanky.
“I saw them kissing. He said it was just to comfort her and that I shouldn’t
say anything to you. It made me feel close to Dad, like we were sharing something,
Russell was seeing Sally all these years? Taking Sally the Loser to the opera
with their son? Kissing her?
This would be hilarious if it weren’t so—wait—it is hilarious,
fucking hilarious, all of it, a regular laugh riot. Tillie’s shoulders
start shaking. But seriously, folks. All the air squeezes out of her upper
body as she keels over, laughing.
“Mom, are you OK? What’s so funny?” But he’s getting
giggly, too, watching her helpless and flung down, tears streaming as she slaps
bed and squeezes her legs together, unable to breathe.
“You’re freaking me out,” Neal titters.
“Ah—ah, oh, honey, it’s just that, oh Jesus.” Nothing
is what it seems, the whole world—SURPRISE!—hysterical, really. Comedy
Who’s on first?
Hoo’s on first.
An Abbott and Costello bit.
The phone rings. Neal looks anxiously at the caller ID, which indicates a private
number. “It might be Derek. He knows I’m here.” He licks his
crimson lips and answers. “Hello?”
A horse walks into a bar. The bartender says, “Why the long face?”
“Who’s calling?” Hoo’s calling. He hands the phone to
his mother, who’s wiping her eyes and starting to regain some composure. “Someone
Gabe! Gabe. A beat—and then her face screws into a red, toothy fist. She
screeches like a shore bird and stomps her feet. Neal’s incredulous clown
face sets off new gales.
Now, take my wife—please!
She takes a deep breath and goes for it, laughing with all she’s got, laughing
like she’s never laughed before, like life itself depended on her every