yourself,” she replied not even looking up.
poolside at the Good Harbor assisted
living complex up in Peabody, just off Route 128, the long, circumferential
road that old windbag Paul Dever had built back in
the 50’s when he was governor. “Dever Forever” his placards had read, the only problem
being forever lasted only one term.
eyeing you,” he said, standing there blocking out the sunshine, his swimming
goggles high up on his bald pate, the water running in rivulets down his saggy
jowls and onto the concrete deck.
right?” she answered, glancing up from her newspaper. “You’ve been eyeing me? Is that what you said? What are you, a teenager?”
eighty-two,” he offered tentatively.
a hand over her eyes and stared up at him for a long beat. “Well, I’m not telling you how old I am. Not until I know your name at least.”
“Can I sit
background Frank Sinatra sang “The Second Time Around,” half the people living
here probably having buried at least two husbands or wives, maybe even three,
many of them way out in front of any second time around.
free country,” she replied, reaching for a tissue, honking her nose.
he said, easing into a beach chair.
you. I’m not deaf.”
“So who are
Now the guy
was trying to play it suave, she thought.
He stood and yanked on the beach chair, pulling it adjacent to hers,
practically sitting in her lap. He
smiled at her through tobacco-stained teeth and tried to ease back into the
chair the way Cary Grant had in that movie he had made with Grace Kelly, the
one made on the French Riviera, the one about the cat burglar.
“You want a
“I got a
drink,” she replied, pointing a bony arthritic finger toward the water mixed
Sinatra?” he asked.
“I did in
his day, but he didn’t know when to quit.
Listen to him now, trying to hit the high notes, the dumb guinea not
knowing he’s lost it.”
Italian,” Tony protested.
“No need to
be offensive, Ethel.”
she replied, sitting a bit more erect in the beach chair. “I tell it like it is.”
moment Tony thought about planning his retreat, but instead he leaned forward
to make a point. “My experience with
people who tell it like it is is that they can’t take
it when someone else tells it like it is.”
In front of
them, four men and four women played volleyball in the pool, the nylon net set
maybe two feet above the waterline, the round ball remaining in play for one
trip across the net after each serve.
Might as well just stand still there in the water, Ethel thought.
didn’t reply, Tony tried another approach.
“So how long you been in here?” he asked, not looking at her, instead
directing his attention to the eight statues in the pool.
it sound like we’re in prison,” Ethel replied scornfully. “How long have I been in? Two months put in toward a life stretch, and
no time off for good behavior,” she giggled.
out loud. “I like a girl with a sense of
sipped some more of the Benefiber. At least it was the color of water and didn’t
sit like lead on the bottom of the glass like that other stuff. That way half the population didn’t know what
she was imbiding and then want to talk about bowel
come I’m the chosen one?” she asked, as if she wasn’t particularly interested
in his answer.
“Why, ya mean?” Tony asked, puzzled.
matter?” Don’t you talk English?” she
replied disdainfully. “Ya is n