“Goodbye,” and she goes. I stay there, holding the gift I was about to give her. Had told her I was giving her. This after-noon, on the phone. I said “I’d like to come over with some-thing for you.” She said “How come?” I said “Your birthday.” She said “You know I don’t like to be reminded of those, but come ahead if you want, around seven, okay?” I came. She answered the door. From the door I could see a man sitting on a couch in the living room. She said “Come in.” I came in, gave her my coat, had the gift in a shopping bag the woman’s store had put it in. “I have a friend here, I hope you don’t mind,” she said. “Me? Mind? Don’t be silly— but how good a friend?” “My business,” she said, “do you mind?” “No, of course not, why should I? Because you’re right, it is your business.” We went into the living room. The man got up. “Don’t get up,” I said. “It’s no bother,” he said. “How do you do? Mike Sliven,” and he stuck out his hand. “Jules Dorsey,” and I stuck out mine. “Like a drink, Jules?” she said, as we shook hands, and I said “Yes, what do you have?” “Beer, wine, a little brandy, but I’d like to save that if you don’t mind.” “Why should I mind? Though something hard is what I think I’d like. Beer.”
“Light or dark?” she said. “Whatever you have most of,” I said. “I have six-packs of both.” “Then . . . dark,” I said. “I feel like a dark. Suddenly I feel very dark. Only kidding, of course,” I said to Mike and then turned to her so she’d also see I was only kidding. She went to the kitchen. Mike said “Now I remember your name. Arlene’s spoken of you.” “I’m sure she had only the very best things to say of me too.” “She did and she didn’t,” he said, “but you’re kidding again, no doubt.” “Oh, I’m kidding, all right, or maybe I’m not. Say, who the hell are you anyway and what the hell are you doing here? I thought Arlene was still only seeing me,” and I grabbed him off the couch. He was much bigger than I, but didn’t protest. “Where’s your coat and hat?” I said and he said “I didn’t come with a hat and my coat’s over there, in the closet.” “Then we’re going to get it and you’re going to leave with it.” I clutched his elbow and started walking him to the closet. Arlene came into the living room and said “Jules, what are you doing?— and where are you going, Mike?” “I think out,” he said. “Out,” I said. “I came over to give you a gift and take you to dinner for your birthday and later to spend the night with you here or at my place or even at a great hotel if you wish, and god-damnit that’s what I’m going to do.” “What is it with you, Jules?—I’ve never heard you talk like that before.” “Do you mind?” I said. “No, I kind of like it. And Mike. Are you going to leave when someone tells you to, just like that?” “I think I have to,” he said, “since if there’s one thing I don’t like to do in life it’s to get into or even put up a fight, especially when I see there’s no chance of winning it.” I opened the closet. He got his coat. I opened the front door and he left. I locked the door. Bolted it, just in case he already had the keys. Then I turned around. Arlene was standing in the living room holding my glass of beer. She came into the foyer with it. I didn’t move, just let her come. “You still want this?” she said. “No, the cognac,” I said. “It’s brandy but good imported brandy.” “Then the brandy,” I said. “How do you want it?” “With ice.” “Coming right up,” and she went back into the kitchen. I followed her. She was reaching for the brandy on a cupboard shelf above her, had her back to me. I got up behind her—she didn’t seem to know I was there—put my arms around her, pressed into her. She turned her head around, kissed me. We kissed. I started to undress her right there.