Chapter XIV

I love this bit, Mewsy says to herself. Th’anticipation! It’s true she hasn’t been on this side of the footlights in a while. Nor the other side, truth be told.

She waves at Morty Huff, who’s craning around to assess attendance. He evidently wishes he hadn’t, and sinks more heavily into his chair. The drear, it seems, has followed The Five and a Half to their seats in the Artist Dugout.

From her perch in a High Circle loge, Mewsy “Toast” peers over the gilt balustrade to take in the crowd. Rather paltry, no doubt, and yet — there’s a hum in the air, what with tulle knots of town ladies unfurling here and there, and the grunting and rustling of the usual matinee men, rifling for blackchaw in their attachés and coughing expressively. And of course there is squawking and th’occasional gusty moan from beneath the stage, where the orchestra plays at warming up. There it is — a bar or two of the clarinet solo from Gentle Sailor, looping broken-heartedly without resolution.

Oh! How it casts her back. It jangles in her chest without subtlety or ruth: a memory that could not be awoken except at this very place. Yes! — it was here, was it not? The cradle of carnal teen lust?

Night after wet summer night the transgressors would slide their two bits through the box office slit and rush in to stake out this very velveteen aerie.

It was here they cultivated the artisanal thrill of simultaneous crisis. Underscored by tinkling keys and a brassy hot band, here two rivers met and o’ergushed their banks. Then, when the flood had ebbed, wicked up by the fuckworn tapestries, they would swig Grenapêche from Tybalt’s flask and lie listening.

“Gentle Sailor… won’t you make a date with me… See a double feature, stay out late with me?”

Tybalt… oh…

Mewsy hikes up her gauze without cerem’ny and jabs rather rudely at her overused burrow. Want of the flesh ravages her, a filthy wet thirst that pulsates and must needs be met. If only her arm entire could be manoeuvred into feeding the Thing.

“You’ll get no proper purchase at an angle like that… though I love to see you try,” comes a voice from the ink behind her. Her shocked ejaculations are stifled by an all-too-familiar hand.

“Hush,” says Tybalt, “I’d rather I took you without any aid from some slatternly usherboy.”

“Tybalt you lurking great beast,” Mewsy hisses in a passion, whirling round. A fierce, brutal clashing of daggery gazes, and then: she’s in his arms. A handful of filings to his animal magnet.

“Easy, baby, take it eas’,” he murmurs smoothly, holding her out at arms’ length, “We’ve got a whole feast before us.”




Mewsy blinks rapidly and the twilit horizon wavers.

“The luck is yours,” she says into the general stupor, “That you can narrate his looks and caresses.”

There’s a humid silence as she takes some Morocco in her mouth and lets its haze pervade her.

“As for me,” she says, “Honest — from the moment he lays his hand on my girdle, I remember nothing.”

Gams gives a drawling laugh and indicates Mewsy’s whole self with one finger.

“This,” she says archly, “Is not what I’m used to.”

Mewsy has practically shimmied her chemise off from sensual writhing.

“Poor thing’s got enough to involve her without our piling on,” Ginger-Ann says. Then, laying her hand over Mewsy’s, “Men are such swine.”

“Perfect brutes,” Mewsy counters, “The best ones, at least.”

They all chuckle drily, and Mewsy heaves herself onto one elbow.

“Strolling weather, I think, gals,” she says, squinting toward an orange point of light on the next dune. “Don’t wait up.”