Price Breaks and Heartaches
A journal of retail and failed romance
Foreplay On The Edge Of Forever
The poodle was old and rickety, his yellow coat frosted with bits of white, his name was Puff and it seemed to have taken a liking to me. It sat beside my chair with its head resting on my lap. I usually don't mind attention from members of the animal kingdom but Puff had a nose that never seemed to stop running and the wet patch that had begun to spread across the front of my jeans was becoming as embarrassing as it was clammy.
Tallulah's father was a dentist with a slowly dwindling practice, her mother stayed at home and kept house; Tallulah's sister had just turned the insufferable side of twelve. The dog seemed the happiest person there, everyone else seemed prickly and my jokes were going over like lead flapjacks.
Not a good sign, not a good sign at all.
“...and the dog says 'Do you think I should have said DiMaggio?'” I grinned to let them know I had reached the punch line.
“I don't get it,” her father frowned. We had all gathered into the parlor of the house Tallulah had grown up in. It was full of family photographs were each person's expression seemed to grow more somber as time worn. There were similar photographs in my own family albums full of fading smiles and withering images.
“What did you say you were going to college for Albert?” her mother asked.
I cleared my throat before speaking, the dog whined affectionately at the sound, “Well all I'm really doing right now is widening the depth of my knowledge so that I can be a better writer. I'm considering trying out for a teaching or literature degree.”
“Those aren't really marketable skills are they?” her father asked.
“I would think they're very marketable, after all were would we society be without its dreamers and visionaries?”
Her father rubbed his chin thoughtfully, “Is that another one of your jokes?”
Tallulah interrupted, “He's trying to find himself.”
“No offense,” her father said. “It's just that I had a bit more direction when I was your age.”
I smiled, “None taken and I always appreciate feedback. I like to think I've learned more from the hundreds of rejection slips I've gotten then I would have from a single sale. Not that I would have minded just one sale... I mean have you read some of the dreck they're putting out there?”
“I can't say that I ever would have.”
“Sure the editors tell you they want something new and different but try sending them a story about demoniacally possessed asphalt and see what happens...”
Tallulah's family were starting to shrink back in their chairs, her mother tried to change the subject, “So how do you like working at Paper Shredder?”
“...It's all sexy vampires and serial killers these days. What happened to eldrich horrors and mind bending terrors from beyond reality? What happened to trained killer orangutans and formless intellects from the stars?”
“ALBERT!” Tallulah's voice was a shout.
Her sister groaned, “Can I please be excused?”
“Don’t be rude now Connie,” Tallulah’s mother scolded gently. “It’s not often we get to meet one of your sister’s boyfriends.”
“Big whoop,” Connie left the room.
I offered Tallulah a smile, “Must be something with sisters this week.”
Cheap streamers decorated Kevin and Marv’s apartment, sodas, bottled water, snacks, macrobiotic tofu and beers were available to all. There were only seven of us but the quarters were close enough for it to all feel a little too crowded. The gathering had been arranged by Joanna in honor of her boyfriend Marv’s birthday; the original plan had been for a surprise party but Kevin K Hanson literally ruined the surprise before she had gotten done inviting everyone.
As you can see I had been invited as well and told I could bring along a date. I wasn’t always comfortable doing so. Back in high school, once Adrian had realized that Lilly and I were an off again on again item he had gotten into the habit of finding an excuse to strip to the waist whenever she was around. It got him kicked out of the Library Club in record time.
The cake and presents were an hour away it was supposed to be mingling time but it seemed like all the couples had paired off; Marv and Joanna were talking over by the cooler, Kevin and Alice were hanging all over each other. Tallulah and I were just there to be polite and we spent most of the evening watching the clock. Corey was there and back to being his old self, and what more was, he and Sarah seemed to be hitting it off quite nicely. The only odd man out was Ida, he was sitting off to the side looking bored.
“Hey Ida!” I left Tallulah by the beverage table for a moment, “You don't look like you're having a good time.”
He shrugged, “I should have followed my instincts and brought a book.”
“Yeah I noticed things are a little subdued around here.”
It's those damn hippy chicks Kevin hangs out with,” Ida explained. “Usually we bring a movie or two for one of these things but those two have all these ridiculous touchy feely prerequisites.”
I rolled my eyes, “Oh don't remind me. I've had to sit through My Dinner with Andre twice! That's twice more than any human being should have to, I don't care how many thumbs up it got.”
“Roger Ebert be-damned,” Ida said. “I don't trust the opinion of any man that can't appreciate the movie Caligula.”
“Caligula! Best use of a giant gladatorial lawnmower in a film ever!”
“I thought so,” Ida shifted in his seat, “How long have you and Tallulah been seeing each other?”
“Almost a month now, you know I've never been in a relationship that lasted until the Holidays...”
“From what I've heard some of your relationships have been brief by mayfly standards.”
“Well, that's all in the past now.” I turned to look for my girl and found her trapped in conversation with Kevin, “Gotta go. Talk to you later Ida.”
I got there just as Kevin was wrapping up one of the lamest jokes I had ever heard.
“...and then dog looks at him and says 'Do you think I should have said DiMaggio?'” Kevin laughed slapping himself on the knee.
“Ok then.” I said, “You two having fun?”
Tallulah suggested, “Maybe we should get going now?”
Kevin said, “Nah you've got to stay to sing happy birthday. Wait till you see the cake Joanna got, it looks just like a motorcycle!”
“Really?” Marv said with childlike glee.
“Oh nice going,” Joanna said. “Anything else you want to spoil the surrpise for?”
“Sheesh calm down,” Kevin said, “It's not like I brought up the leather jacket or anything.”
Once we had pried Joanna's fingers from around Kevin's throat the party got underway; cake, presents and a hasty goodbye. I dropped Tallulah off back home and after about 15 minutes of smooching in my car we parted company. As you can see while the weather was growing colder, my romance grew hotter; we made our way around each other's perspective bases only to find ourselves to unable to steal home. This was more a matter of logistics than desire, we didn't have anyplace where we could get some privacy and it was too damn cold to try parking in a secluded space; if I was going to shudder while clutching Tallulah close to me it would be from pleasure not from a light frost forming on my genitals.