Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Nature Boy, Chapter Thirty: Focus, Focus

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Focus, Focus

The Everclear is an inn on the western slopes of Boulder, although at the moment those driving by would not know it. The sign is buried in snowdrift, leaving a series of dots and dashes signifying nothing. The front drive skirts a pond that lies in that precarious position between packed ice and cracked ice, the kind that kills teenage skaters in Willa Cather novels.

The Everclear’s exterior looks as if a landslide had roared in from the Rockies, gathering timbers and boulders as it went, and deposited them in a miraculously organized fashion. Skye sits at a small table over a travertine floor, rings and rays the colors of custard and caramel. He takes thoughtful sips from a triple-espresso mocha as he attempts to sketch an introduction for the exhibit program. Sadly, his brain-to-pen connection is in the mood to latch on to every small distraction: the lights of Boulder, for instance, just past the ivory spines of an aspen grove. The pianist in the next room, segueing artfully from one jazz song to the next (“It Could Happen to You,” “Prelude to a Kiss,” “Laura”). The just-decipherable snippets of a conversation between two young intellectuals discussing a friend’s ineptitude at manpicking.

“I’ve never had the sense that she…”

“…magnifications of the Cinderella complex…”

“…occasionally someone with a paycheck?”

He solves his lede-lock with a desperate maneuver, sitting back in his chair, taking a sip from the mocha and turning his focus to the flavor, the warmth, the way it travels along his mouth, sending out jags of sensation. Five minutes of this conjures the verbal piton he’s been looking for: Talent. It’s time to slow the repetitions of Rachel’s tragic ending and shift to her talent. He hunches over the table and watches as blue ink streams across the white.

I would have to confess to visiting the same crime on Rachel Grossman as the rest of the world: I had no idea how talented she was until she was gone.

Employing the most valuable writing quote ever uttered, Hemingway’s “The first draft of anything is shit,” he scrawls on with triple espresso force, letting superfluous adjectives and non-parallel conjugations pass like unremarkable seagulls. The line of thought spools out on its own momentum, chewing up the paper. A half-hour later, he counts seven pages, ready for hacking and molding.

The mocha is gone, the pianist has taken his break. He gathers up his notebook, takes a mental snapshot of the Boulder nightscape and heads to his room.

It was not until this room that Skye realized how much he missed his solitude. He collects a can of peanuts and a Sprite from the mini-fridge, lies on his bed with his back to the wall and finds a football game. His thoughts drift in like bits of seaweed on the breakers. He is back to Nature Boy.

A half hour later, he is sprung from a snooze by three precise raps on the door. This is highly annoying. He opens the door to find a small woman wearing a trench coat.


She rolls her eyes. “Mandy.”

“Mandy! Yes. I’m sorry. It’s been a long time. How did you know I was here?”


“Oh! Sure. So you three… kept in touch.”

Oh yeah.”

Skye feels like the one actor in a movie who wasn’t given a script. The two of them stare at each other.

“May I…?”

“Oh, yeah. Sure. Sorry.”

She enters and climbs into an armchair.

“Would you like a drink? I think I’ve got some wine.”


“Yeah.” He extracts a mini-bottle of chardonnay, unscrews the cap and hands it over. She drinks half of it at a shot.

“So how are you? How have you…”

“I am incredibly horny.” She narrows her eyes at him. “You ruined me. That little session at the Springs got me all revved up and I can’t stop. I am a raging slut, which sounds great except that a girl like me has a hard time finding a steady supply of penis. So I’m here for some payback.”

She undoes the lower buttons of the trench coat, sets aside the flaps and opens her legs.

“You remember this, Mister Skye.” She reaches down to rub herself. “This certainly remembers you.”

Skye walks her way, closes her legs and picks her up.

“Ooh! You’re going to take me somewhere?”

He undoes the sliding door that leads to the balcony.

“Oh! Nasty boy wants it outside. Are we gonna do it right here on the railing?”

The drop from the balcony is usually ten feet, but the snows have reduced it to three. Skye lets go of his package. Mandy’s mouth forms a perfect circle as she disappears into the white. Skye heads back inside. Mandy screams to the stars.

“You could have just said no!”

The Packers are on the five-yard line. Rodgers takes the snap.

It’s a meet-and-greet with the academics, a woodsy conference room decked out with trays of quality cheeses (edam, provolone, brie), fruits and wine-not-from-a-box. Skye stands in a corner, listening to the psychology professor, an energetic Mexican woman with hair the color of steel wool.

“I’m drawing as much of a profile as I can, but I’m still connecting a few dots. I’m wondering, did she show any indications of depression before the homicide?”

“Yes. Nothing obvious, just an expression she had, a faraway look. I had two descriptions for it: the dark room and the locked door.”

“Excuse me.” It’s Sigh, looking oddly serious. “Could I have a word with you? It’s somewhat urgent.”

“Oh, sure. Excuse me, Dr. Espinoza.”


Sigh takes him to an outside walkway. He maintains the grim expression until he’s sure that no one’s watching.

“Okay. Here’s the deal. I know about last night, and frankly it’s one of the funniest fucking things I’ve ever heard. That said, I am duty-bound to pretend that I am greatly offended. So I will go back in there by myself, wearing a pissed-off expression, and I would like you to follow suit in a couple of minutes, looking, um, chastised. A little later, if you could come to my table and fake a little apology, it would be much appreciated. But oh my God, you have balls the size of Ecuador! What man in the world hasn’t dreamt of doing that?”

Sigh holds forth his knuckles. Skye gives them a bump.

“So… why are we doing all of this?”

Sigh laughs. “I totally forgot to tell you. I’m engaged to Mandy’s sister.”



“You are the oddest couple I could ever imagine.”

“I totally dig the reactions we get. They seem to think I’m a child abductor. But you know twins, they’re a little telepathic about each other’s pain, and they’re both pretty upset about…” He covers his mouth and disintegrates into laughter. “Sorry. I keep picturing her in mid-flight.”

He straightens his collar and clamps his mouth shut. “And now to earn my Academy Award.” He clears his throat and jabs a finger into Skye’s chest. “Do not let this happen again, sir, or I shall be forced to demand my satisfaction. Harrumph!”

Sigh storms off, and Skye indulges in some laughter of his own, picturing the cartoon-like silhouette that Mandy carved into the snow. Harrumph. He re-enters the room, looking artificially upset, and takes an occasional glance toward Sigh’s table. He finds Dr. Espinoza and continues their talk about states of mind, suicidal inheritance, all the things he’s getting bloody sick of talking about. After a suitable passage of time, he reports to Sigh’s table and kneels next to Brandy’s chair.

“I just wanted to say I’m very sorry about the incident with your sister last night. She… caught me by surprise, and frankly I’ve been under a great deal of stress what with all of… this.” He gestures toward the room.

Brandy gives him a serious expression, looking eerily like her sister, and even now he can’t be certain that this isn’t another twin-prank. ”Oh, and congratulations on your engagement! You two make a terrific couple.”

Ah, he’s found the magic button. Brandy smiles, for a half-second, and then forces it back.

“Thank you. But I’ve encouraged Mandy to stay the hell away from you.”

“That’s probably for the best.”

Sigh sees an opening and takes it. “Skye, have you met Dr. Stalignan?”

He takes him to the next table and introduces him. Dr. Stalignan is a buxom strawberry blonde with eyes that form crescent moons when she smiles.

“I’m so pleased to meet you. And we’re so honored to have Rachel’s work.”

Sigh interjects. “Dr. Stalignan has sicced her grad students on the scrolls, and they have come up with some astounding things.”

Candace folds her hands. “We conducted a virtual census on the figures in the scrolls. Commoners, royals, celebrities versus unknown, fictional or real, ethnicities, et cetera. But the most intriguing discovery came from our media analysis.”

“I’m sorry. Media…?”

“Materials. We used a dozen non-invasive techniques to analyze the various materials used in the works. We assumed it would be purely found materials, but the computed axial tomography – the CAT scan – revealed anomalous elements in the Pinky Scroll. It appears that Ms. Grossman made several subtle augmentations with black ink. The curious thing was that none of these additions made any changes to the lines beneath them. However, when we isolated them, we realized that each of them seemed to spell out something: the letter I followed by the letter X.”

She stops to allow Skye a guess.


Candace lets out a very unprofessional giggle. “No. Think Roman.”

“Oh! Nine.”

She nods. “In addition, the augmentation occurs precisely nine times. I think it’s the title of the piece.”

Skye gazes past her. “Nine. That’s beautiful.”

Dr. Stalignan smiles, turning her eyes to crescents. “I thought you might enjoy that.”

This time he has landed on a hockey game. He’s not really a fan, but the looping chaos of men on skates serves as a balm to his brain, with assistance from a bottle of beer. A quiet knock emanates from the door. He stumbles across the room, opens it, and finds that he is seeing double.

“Mandy! Sandy!”

“Brandy,” says Brandy, and rolls her eyes.

“We’d like to buy you a drink,” says Mandy.

“Well that’s… very nice,” says Skye. “And I’m so sorry about…”

“Not necessary,” says Brandy.

“Hold on,” says Mandy. “I’d like to hear it.”

Brandy purses her lips. “Proceed.”

“I am very sorry for tossing you into the snow. It was a foolish and hurtful thing to do.”

Mandy smiles. “Thank you.”

“Let me, um, slap on some decent clothing.”

They head to 13th Street, known to collegians as The Hill, and find a wine bar. A trio of guitar, violin and female vocalist plays hot jazz from a tiny stage in the corner. Their drinks arrive with deliciously stinky cheeses. Brandy finishes her Pinot and hops down from her stool.

“Okay. You two behave yourselves.”

“You’re leaving?” asks Skye.

“I don’t think you need an all-night chaperone. I just wanted to be on hand for the opening negotiations. Good night, my half.”

Mandy kisses her on the cheek. “Love you, half.”

Skye watches her walk to the door. “Half?”

Mandy smiles. “That’s how it feels, sometimes. I am but one half, for good and bad.”

“You’re definitely different, though.”

“Yep. Brandy’s the boss.”

Skye takes a pair of black grapes and pops them into his mouth. “I’m very sorry about…”

“Oh stop already.”

“Okay. You just caught me off guard, that’s all.”

Mandy laughs and covers her face. “I can’t believe I did that! That’s much more of a Brandy thing. I don’t know what got into me.”

“Me, apparently.” The double entendre sneaks up on both of them and sends them into a liberating round of laughter. The band plays “How Long Has This Been Goin’ On?”

“Mandy, would you like to… Can I make it up to you?”

A cloud of pink washes over Mandy’s face. “First, dance with me.”

Dancing with someone half your size is a challenge, but the song is brief, so the hunching does little damage. They return to the table and order a couple more glasses. By the end of the round, the trio is playing a tango version of “Begin the Beguine” and Skye is chewing on Mandy’s young lips. He buys a bottle of cabernet and they head for his rental car.

A lot of women would be surprised to know that immediately following sex, the average male is overtaken by a powerful urge to flee. This occurs even among highly attached males, and is usually overriden by the high-reasoning portion of the mind. After a lengthy, surprisingly athletic session with Mandy (fueled by months of abstinence), the flight instinct kicks in so strongly that Skye feels his limbs are about to explode. He tries to distract himself with a trip to the bathroom, even brings a glass of water to Mandy, but he can’t seem to shake it. He orders his mind to proceed to slumber; it steadfastly refuses. Then he begins to toss and turn and adjust his pillow.

Mandy strokes his back. “What’s the matter?”

He rolls over to give her a kiss and says, “I think I need you to go.”

The request takes a moment to penetrate. Mandy’s lips straighten to a line.

“Are you joking?”

He takes her hand. “I’m sorry. This opening tomorrow is incredibly important, and I know I won’t be able to sleep if you’re here.”

She’s about to get angry, but she’s a little too blissed out from sex to raise the energy. “I will. But you owe me.”


“I’ll need to…” She gestures toward the bathroom.

A few minutes later, she taps him on the shoulder, and he walks her to the door. She looks a little wounded.

“Thank you,” he says.

“I had a… good time,” she says.

He kisses her, says good night, and closes the door before it develops into anything else. He hears footsteps, a door, a car door, an ignition. Within minutes, he’s asleep.

The University Art Museum is a recent addition, using the same materials as the rest of the campus but possessing a much hipper attitude. The lower walls are smooth, cream-colored, topped by a band of frosted glass windows and rough-cut sandstone. The corners are marked by triangular battlements, as if someone had sliced off parts of the building with a fast-acting glacier.

The interior dimensions are tremendously generous. The two scrolls face each other across a broad gallery, employing the lower six feet of white walls that rise another 25. The impact is overpowering, and Skye spends every free moment just staring.

In between, he is back to the celebrity treadmill, chatting with people whose names he will immediately forget, answering questions he is beginning to find repetitious. There are differences, though. Compared to the New York crowd, these folks are more neutral and casual in their fashions. Many are academics, who seem determined to affix their theories to Rachel’s work. If they could, they would simply write them on the backs of business cards and attach them to the scroll with thumbtacks. Here’s What I Think.

The other irritation is Mandy, who seems determined to affix herself to Skye. She sidles up on a regular basis, scratches his back, takes his hand. He tries his best to offer a glance or a smile. Finally, he interrupts a conversation with a ring of grad students and takes Mandy to an outside hall.

“A little break for a makeout session?” She squeezes his butt; he grabs her wrist.

“You need to leave me alone.”

She gives him a blank look. “Sorry?”

“That in there is very important, and I need all my faculties. I don’t know what you thought last night was about, but I really don’t have the time to play boyfriend right now.”

She looks like she’s about to cry, which only pisses him off further.

“Listen to me. Please. The woman who made those scrolls? I was in love with her, and she hasn’t been dead two months. There was a woman in New York who got mad because I didn’t fuck her, and I suppose now you’re upset because I did fuck you and I’m thinking every last one of you needs to go away and let me do my fucking job.”

He re-enters the gallery before her destroyed expression makes a dent. Focus, focus. Fortunately, Sigh comes up with a reporter from the Denver Post, so it’s easy to return to the issue at hand.

“Yes, I’ve got a few minutes. What would you like to know?”

Two glasses of white wine have taken him to the proper level of lubrication, but he has planted a karmic seed and it’s coming back up as poison ivy. Mandy sits at a table not ten feet from the podium, bawling her eyes out. Throw in the hovering twin and their diminutive size, and one might conclude that the museum had arranged for a piece of performance art. Standing at the right-hand border of a scroll now called Nine, staring at a pulp-fiction drawing of a crying, big-breasted brunette, Skye notices Sigh chatting with a patron and waves him over.

“What’s up?”

“I really hate to ask this, Sigh, but your fiancee and her sister need to go.”

Sigh blinks thoughtfully. “God, Skye…”

“Look, I mean this in a completely professional sense. Whatever feelings might be hurt, I need to get up there in a couple of minutes and deliver a decent representation of Rachel Grossman and her art. I am not going to do so with Mandy performing her little soap opera. I’m sorry for putting you in this position. On the other hand, you did play a part.”

“I didn’t talk you into being a jackass.”

“Yes. I’m a jackass. At the moment, I don’t care. Come on, don’t be a fiance, be a program director. Be fierce. These scrolls are important.”

Sigh seems to make the calculation. “You so owe me a beer.”

“I owe you ten.”

Skye tries not to watch as Sigh makes the request, but he can’t avoid the result. Brandy stares a laser beam in his direction. Mandy’s face collapses, producing a stifled sob that echoes through the hall. People stop their conversations to look in Mandy’s direction. Skye retreats to a back room to get some coffee and even out his faculties. Through a small window, he sees Brandy leading Mandy toward the parking lot, holding her by an elbow. He feels greatly relieved.

The repetitive answers to journalists and art-lovers have turned his speech into something that feels rehearsed, so he makes a point of interrupting himself for digressions. He wants his audience to understand that he’s not an infomercial, that he really means it. It goes well, and he’s relieved that his scheduled responsibilities are done for the day. Post-speech, he attracts the usual circle of questioners, with the usual questions, but one of them throws him off his tracks.

“Who do you think she’s more angry at, her mother or her father?”

It’s not just the question, it’s the asker, a young woman with the looks of a Bollywood starlet and, of all things, an Irish accent.

“I’m sorry, I was thrown off by, well, you.”

“Ah. I was raised in Dublin.”

“That makes sense. It’s also a very good question. Like any good artist, Rachel had the ability to see through the distractive layers of emotion and subjectivity to the ugly core of truth. I think it’s readily apparent that her father was beyond violent. He was sick, and needed to be dealt with accordingly. The only person who could see to it that this was done was the one sane adult in the room, her mother. I think her mother’s lack of courage, her willingness to play the punching bag, infuriated Rachel, and forced her to remove herself from the situation. Her departure was entirely justified, but I think Rachel created these scrolls as an act of contrition, for abandoning her mother. In the end, it wasn’t enough. I think the guilt was what drove her to suicide.”

The woman’s eyes get larger as Skye’s analysis reaches its conclusion. She says, simply, “My goodness,” which sends the rest of the circle into titters. She smiles at the reaction, touches Skye’s hand and says, “I’m so sorry.”

At some point, Skye looks up and realizes that there are only a dozen people left in the hall. He has been talking ceaselessly, scrubbing out time. A man paces his way, wearing a checked coat and blue jeans. His boots make a knocking sound on the hardwood. He has short red hair, an immaculate beard. The man extends his hand and smiles.

“Are you Skye Pelter?”


“From San Jose?”


“A player of the slot machines of Winnemucca?”

Skye hesitates, then lets out a nervous laugh. “I’m sorry. Am I in a James Bond movie?”

The man smiles affably, though the smile is decidedly forced.

“I’m Thad, formerly of Salt Lake City. I believe you’re the man who fucked my wife.”

Skye realizes that he’s still shaking Thad’s hand. He also knows that he’s utterly exhausted, that Thad could probably beat him to a pulp if he wanted to. He looks around for a security guard but lands on Thad’s eyes, which are the steely blue of the waters off the Mendocino coast. The babies those two could have had…

Thad wraps Skye in his arms and lifts him into the air. He sets him back down and tries to say something, but all that comes out are the sounds of rusty hinges.

A second man approaches, a striking young blond with a boxer’s nose and hair spiked with product. He peels Thad away from Skye and holds his head to his shoulder as he weeps.

“I told him it wouldn’t work. Big fat crybaby. Hi, I’m Charlie.”

He disentangles a hand and holds it out for Skye to shake.

“So here’s what the drama queen meant to tell you. Your mad affair with Lindsy put a capper to a lifetime of playing it straight for Thad’s fascist Mormon family. Once the divorce was filed, he fled to Denver, went full-gonzo homo and met a ruggedly handsome lawyer named Charlie. When he saw your name in the paper, his eyes popped out of their sockets like a character in a Tex Avery cartoon, and he saw his chance to live out his Candid Camera Robert Deniro scenario and then heap gratitude upon your personage. So thank you, Mr. Pelter. Thank you for fucking Thad’s wife.”

Thad mumbles something like “Thank you” into Charlie’s sweater.

Skye smiles awkwardly. “The pleasure was all… mine?”

Which sends Thad into a fit of laughter to go with his crying. Charlie strokes his hair and smiles.

“You see why I love him?”

Sigh turns off the coffeemaker in the break room and heads out to make a final check. As long as this day has been, he yearns for some emergency to forestall his return to his angry fiancee. What he finds is Skye Pelter, sitting on the floor with his legs straight out. He stares at the Nine scroll and takes a swig from a bottle of wine. Sigh settles down next to him.

“Day’s over, champ. Gotta close.”

Skye laughs. “Hi Sigh! Hi Sigh, that’s like Hi Skye, or high sky, all my life man stupid jokes. But you know about that.”

Sigh sighs. “Most people think it’s C-Y. Cy.”

“Good for you! Y’know, Cy, the penis is a powerful organ. Just today, this single extremity, why, it changed a man’s life! And broke a girl’s heart. It also played a part in bringing this magnificent piece of art to the residents of the Denver Metropolitan Region.”

“And it also turned you into a douchebag.”

Skye slaps Sigh on the knee. “Don’t think I don’t know it. I’m sorry. Y’know, Cy, I used to be quite the softball player. Shortstop. I had this ferocity, not so much about winning as playing the game right. To the point where I became kind of a dick about it. Yelled at my teammates, that kinda stuff. And so I quit. Not because I was tired of it, but because I didn’t like who I was when I played it.”

“Hard to believe.”

Skye takes another draught and looks at the scroll.

“Nine. She’s a beauty.”

“Yes,” says Sigh. “But I don’t think she’s good for you.”

“A femme fatale.”

“Yep. Come on, I’ll drive you to your hotel.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t want to keep you.”

“I think it’ll work out okay.”

He lifts Skye to his feet, wraps an arm around his shoulder and helps him out of the room.

“Nine,” Skye half-sings. “Fucking nine.”

The sun rises behind them, behind the blocky buildings of the resort, across a lawn the size of a soccer pitch that ceases at the fenced-off clifftop. They sit on a beach facing the ocean.

“Three million dollars?” She wears a purple beret.

“Yeah. Hard to believe.”

“But who?” She wears a nose ring in the shape of a gecko.

“Don’t know. Anonymous.”

“Well that’s weird.” Her hair changes from black to green.

“I don’t know if I can accept it.”


“I didn’t earn it.”

She laughs. “Do you know how many rich people earn their money? Most of them were simply born rich.”

She sprouts wings.

“But it’s your money.”

“And I no longer exist.” A hummingbird lands on her shoulder, bearing a striking resemblance to Woody Allen.

“I’ve never seen a hummingbird that wasn’t flying.”

“Oh. This is Paolo. He was a plumber in Barcelona.” Paolo offers him a cigar.

“Gracias. You know, you look like…”

“Yeah. I get that.”

Skye lights the cigar with his finger. It tastes like strawberry cheesecake.

“So what do you want?”

A box kite zips past, trailing a stick. She catches the stick and holds on.

“It doesn’t matter. What do I deserve?”

“To be seen. The world needs to see your work.”

She smiles and flaps her wings. “I think that would be nice.”

The sun rises in the west. She laughs. “Well that’s just silly.”

The Foo Fighters appear on the beach below them and begin to play.

“Don’t you ever change your ringtone?”

Skye rolls over and grabs his cell.

“Hi Claudia.”

“You got my message?”


“So what do you think?”

“I want some kind of guarantee that it will be exhibited publicly on a regular basis.”

“Damn. You sure got a pair.”


“I’ll get back to you. By the way, the exhibit sold out. Two hundred and thirty five thousand dollars.”


“You’re welcome.”

Skye sits up on the edge of the bed. “Claudia, you are fucking awesome.”

“And awesome fucking. I’ll call you later.”


He gets up to peer through the curtains. The sun is rising in the east.

“Do you just assume that all gay people are into this campy shit?”


“Well I am! God, I love the cheesy saddles.”

“In my defense,” says Skye, “this is the only diner I know in the Boulder region.”

“Well this Amarillo omelet is fantastic,” says Thad.

“Do you know that ‘amarillo’ means yellow?” says Charlie.

“Ergo,” says Thad, “all omelets are amarillo.”

“Unless they’re horribly burnt,” says Charlie. “I’m so glad we could see you before you left.”

“And prove that I’m not always a blubbering idiot,” says Thad.

Skye chews on his ranchero bacon. He’s tempted to tell his new friends about the offer on the scroll. The news is so huge, he’s afraid that holding it in will cause internal bleeding.

“How’s the ex-wife?” he asks.

“I’m a little concerned,” says Thad. “She went all incommunicado on me, and then her father told me she took off to Silverton, Oregon. Moved in with an old college pal, Kathy Goon.”

“Go on!” says Charlie. “Goon?”

“Unfortunate name. Came to the wedding. Did not like me one bit. Which leads me to believe she’s a perceptive woman.”

“I’m so glad I never knew you as a latent,” says Charlie. “You must have been an unholy prick.”

“A holy prick,” says Thad.

The Charlie/Thad repartee is vastly amusing. Skye feels like he should have been charged admission. The three of them share a teary farewell, then Skye decides to work off his pancakes with a stroll around the block. He stops at a jewelry store window to admire a set of opal rings.

“I want that one, and that one, and especially that one.”

If the accent doesn’t give her away (so close to birdsong), certainly the coffee-cream skin and the stylishly long nose do.

“Well hello!”

“So you remember me?”

“Who the hell would not remember you?”

“Aye, so he’s a charmer, too.”

Skye laughs.


“You went kinda leprechaun there.”

“Yeah. I do that when I’m flirtin’.”

“So you’re flirting.”

“Who wouldn’t flirt with a charmer like you? Name’s Chitra. Art student, U of C. There’s a pub around the corner. Can a lass buy ya a Guinness?”

“A lass can.”

He wakes in Chitra’s room, four blocks from campus, and wonders if he’s tempting fate. He’s got the best insurance policy ever – the next-day departure – and Chitra seems to understand the arrangement. He gets up to study a series of old movie stills on the wall.

“What’re ya lookin’ at?” she asks.

“Are you a big Bollywood fan?”

She blinks her dark eyes. “Notice anything familiar about those photos?”

“Well. Um… this rather lovely young woman. And…” He looks back to the bed. Chitra flips aside the blanket, putting her body on exhibit.

“She looks like you. With clothes.”

“Me sainted mother. Anjali Divakaruni. A rising star in the Indian film industry, until she met an Irish actor and moved with him to Dublin. Tres romantique.”

“So what’s your full name?”

“Chitra Flanagan.”


“Yeah. That and the accent are my primary weapons. Blows people’s minds. Gets my questions answered at art openings.”


“And that answer you gave! Devastating. It made me tremendously hot.”


“I’m what you would call a sapiosexual. I’m turned on by intellect. And I knew, if I ever saw you again, I would do whatever I could to get you into bed.”

“Well done. So what do you want from me?”


“Lately, everybody wants something from me.”

Chitra develops a witchy look, and snaps her fingers.

“I want you to take me to dinner. And I want the liberty, over the next few months, to pelt you with questions, because I intend to write my master’s thesis on the subject of Rachel Grossman.”

“That seems ridiculously fair. May I ask something in return?”

“Ask away.”

“I’m traveling tomorrow, so after this dinner, I would like to drop you off and spend the night alone in my hotel room.”

She smiles, very slowly. “It’s such a pleasure to hear one of you men admit it.” She catwalks across the room and wraps him up in her limbs. “However, if that’s the deal, let’s make it a late dinner, and see what we can do about getting this apparatus back in working order.”

She slides downward, planting kisses as she goes. Skye looks to the ceiling and says, “Chitra Flanagan.”

Photo by MJV

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