On Tuesday they moved him into Modern Art with the crazy stuff — tin cans piled conical to a height of maybe forty feet. It was the hot new installation, everyone crowding in to take a look. He didn’t get it. The paintings either. They all had lines or color blocks or some weirdness. One had just gray.
People came to Modern Art and stood around mute like they were looking at God or else talked too much to impress the others. It didn’t fool him. Regundo felt disturbed in Modern. He liked the real God pictures in Medieval, where the Virgin reigned with the child, and Jesus hung on the cross, angels and seraphim, shiny halos like stiff hats. He dug the flatness of it — no hidden surprises. That’s how things went down in Medieval. He’d been there a long time. He liked it. One of the guards with some knowledge of art had called Medieval no perspective.
But now Regundo was posted to Modern Art for some indefinite period. The Bernard and Beatrice Rufenstocken Pavilion. A mouthful. Lafferty, one of the main curators, called it a special posting saying they picked only the best guards to staff this new wing. Bullshit thought Regundo sizing up his compatriots. He’d heard the new wing cost tens of millions.
They (he and the other best guards) had been warned to stay vigilant (no dozing against the walls), warned to keep people from touching the sculptures and paintings, from getting too close to the installations; even arm waving was taboo. Alarms sounded if anybody got within breathing distance of the art.
Lafferty also warned them to keep an eye out for the instructor — generally an older woman who liked stroking the paintings on the pretense of explaining brushstrokes to a friend. “Sounds sexual,” someone in the guard group muttered. Someone from behind – it sounded like Tabitha — made a crazy sounding laugh.
Pausing to glare at them, Lafferty picked up where he’d left off. If people talk too loud on their phones, he said, they have to be silenced. But nicely. Sssshhh! went the curator demonstrating with a finger lightly to his lips. Regundo stifling a yawn. Lafferty cautioned them about the cameras, especially in the new installation CANS. He kind of puffed out then, his little ponytail bouncing. CANS being his baby. And of course no eating or drinking outside the café-teria!
Yeah, yeah, thought Regundo. Too many rules. He couldn’t figure out why people bothered to come. Though the phones were his own personal bugaboo. Every guard had one or two things drove them crazy. He wanted to grab those phones and throw them against the wall, watch the guts spill out. The person on the other end still at it: yak yak yak yak yak. He seized up with controlled laughter.
“What’s so funny?” Tabitha had strolled over standing too close. She was after him, any one of them; fussy she wasn’t. He thought she was a retard. For real. Something way off the pike, there. Bixby thought so too. The old guard had her clamped in his sight view muttering screwball. Who was Bixby kidding — he’d have her regardless. At his age you’d take a package of liver, smiling.
“What makes you so happy Regundo?” Tabitha stared up at him. Damn but she could be persistent. “Did you kill your wife today?”
“I don’t have a wife.”
“Well I know that!”
Get lost, he was thinking.
“Tell us about the war,” she said. “Nam.” She flicked her tongue like her lip had the residue of something delicious.
Retard or otherwise, he knew when he was getting dicked. Screw you, he thought; screw Vietnam.
Her dumb-girl grin showed the gap between her teeth. On a different woman it could have looked sassy but on her… Regundo shuddered. Why was her uniform jacket always crooked, did she have crooked shoulders, one higher, or is it those black bangs cut into spikes? Those persistent boobs like flag waving patriots – always at you always at you. He looked away.
“You’re supposed to be over there.” He jerked his thumb at the far wall. A collage of rubber body parts hung on it like they’d been torn off and repositioned. The guards calling it the horny zone.
“Yeah, git on over to the horny zone,” said Bixby making a not so subtle adjustment to his fly.
Regundo scanned the massive room. If Lafferty or one of the other curators saw them grouped chummy this way…
The rule was clear: distance. Keep your distance from the rest of the guards which meant no fraternizing. Keep the public at a distance, away from the art! Keep yourself and everyone moving. Circulate the room, Lafferty like to say.
Regundo saw a room spinning on its axis. He checked his watch. Another hour left. Tabitha had sauntered off to annoy someone else.
At closing time he managed to slip past her in the employee locker room while she worked over some new-hire she’d practically pinned to a locker. He left through an unmarked side door and stepped out into the night. He tightened his scarf and walked past the fountain lit by blue halogen. It made him feel colder. Just a few blocks then into the subway. Finally home, perched on a stool in his 3x5 kitchenette, he spooned out what was left of the peanut butter.
When he was younger no sweat— the standing all day. Now it fucking killed his lower back. A lot of them did exercises on the sly, raising and lowering legs, flexing ankles, sliding down the wall into a semi-squat, holding, then back up. The curators didn’t like it.
He slid his finger through the peanut butter film on the jar’s insides. He still felt hungry. What he kept in the mini-fridge under the counter wouldn’t satisfy a mouse. Mice had chewed into a loaf of Italian bread left out by mistake, right through the wrapper. Regundo studied the teeth marks in the crust. Fossil remains. Interesting as it was repulsive. He thought about saving the loaf in a plastic bin to preserve the way the museum preserved artifacts; then immediately lost interest.
To relax and forget his hunger he drank three beers. In the morning he’d eat a big breakfast at the coffee shop. With cappuccino. Foamy.
Falling onto his futon he found an old movie starring Errol Flynn. A true man’s man. Women, gorgeous women, not scabs like Tabitha, flung themselves at Flynn. Gorgeous women didn’t fling themselves at Regundo. Though once he had a wife. Marie. And not too shabby either. Now she must be old, he thought. Fifty or higher. That makes me really old, he thought.
He dreamt about her. He dreamt he had on his army fatigues and when they kissed his uniform fell away revealing a flowered Hawaiian shirt and white clam-digger shorts. He picked up a shovel and began digging a hole on some beach while she ran wildly in circles happily out of her mind.
Nobody at the museum knew or would ever find out. He kept his stuff hidden. They made one daughter, Elise Marie. He didn’t know her whereabouts. He and Marie and Elise Marie had lost touch. The dope and night sweats and his sleep walking screaming combat orders — finally did the marriage in.
Was he sorry? Sure. Hell, yes. Sorry he hadn’t taken off to Canada instead sucking it up. Nam. Well he didn’t. When he thought of Marie, it was her arms. Lanky girl arms. Some women kept them right to the end.
What a shame he thought silencing his alarm clock. He got off the futon slowly. A shame about Modern Art. He’d been content in Medieval. The years tucked away in deep, dark little rooms like those monks in the catacombs. Quiet rooms that the public mostly avoided, peeking in and moving on. He felt the rooms privately, inside his body, an infiltration of peace. Now all that had been taken away from him, too.
Every morning before the doors opened to the public he used to wander through the little rooms, touching soft padded walls, caressing the different shades of velvet: rose, green, blue, gray. One room has blue walls so dark and penetrating it felt like falling to the bottom of the ocean. Resting.
He stood still next to his futon. “God almighty!”
Being forced to leave Medieval was like an expulsion from heaven. Modern Art had stark white walls. A glass ceiling. Blinding. Who will remember that junk a century from now? thought Regundo. Rubbing his eyes he moved toward the bathroom. His hand trembled as he slathered on the shave cream. Best be careful with the new five blade razor.
Even after showering he still felt sluggish. He knotted his tie, put on his vest and slipped into the uniform jacket. The vest at least saved on shirt laundry — one shirt could go three days, four, under the dark vest.
After pancakes, eggs, a pile of bacon, he downed his two cappuccinos thick with foam. It calmed him, warmed his insides. He’d walk to work. There was time; plus the morning was bright. Delay, he thought, delay. The job paid crap. Every year they scaled back or took something else away. But that’s OK. He had his other money, his secret money. If he ever wanted to he could move to a better apartment. Just knowing was enough satisfaction.
As Regundo was about to step off the curb at 39th Street a car came tearing around the corner. A woman started screaming her brains out.
“Jersey drivers!” shouted a man nearby.
Regundo looked to see if the plates were Jersey but a taxi had squeezed in between blocking it.
“Hey, guy, give us a hand!” The man was trying to help the woman who was bleeding from her foot. She’d buckled at the knees and was about to go down.
Regundo grabbed her other arm. “Dial 911!” he shouted into the air.
“No ambulance!” The woman, a blonde, sobbed hysterically.
“Why not?” said the other man.
“Bed bugs.” The woman cried harder.
Regundo watched the blood seeping through her pink suede boot. Nice suede. She was a blonde but not hot; more the Park Avenue type. Good coat, good haircut. Nice smell, too, he thought, inhaling her scent.
Propping her up by the arm he was thinking: what makes women act this way?
Men would dive into a river of crocodiles to escape a bullet, while a woman would bleed to death over a few bugs. Her suede boot now showing more red than pink. He thought about leaving. Could he be held responsible for leaving the scene? The ambulance wasn’t coming so fast.
The other man told the woman to sit on the curb. Regundo helped ease her down then decided it was time. “I have to get to work,” he said.
“Who doesn’t!” the man yelled as Regundo headed north up the avenue.
He’d done his best. Nothing to be ashamed of. The woman was careless crossing the street. It happened every day. People losing toes, limbs, struck by a cab, even a bus. City living. Get sloppy you can get hurt. Like war. Jungle rot. And all the rest that that entailed.
Funnily, despite what just happened, he was feeling pretty good. Once out of earshot of the guy and the bleeding woman, he felt OK. He passed another smaller museum and thought about applying for a job. Stopping a moment to look back, admiring its classical architecture. The building was square and lowish with a black iron fence surrounding a neatly trimmed garden. He doubted they’d have much space for Modern Art. It didn’t seem the type of museum to hire retards like Tabitha.
“It’s gonna be a bad day,” Bixby was saying as Regundo came into the locker room.
The place more crowded than usual. He squatted to tie his shoe lace. “Why’s that?”
“Robbery,” said the old guard. “Somebody pulled off some cans.”
He straightened up and shook his head. “What do you mean?”
“The new installation.” Bixby’s watery old eyes looked scared. “They gonna blame us. You’ll see.”
He was about to answer when Lafferty came tearing in flapping a bunch of papers.
“I told ya,” said Bixby.
“You know something?” The curator right in the old guy’s face.
“I don’t know nothin’.”
Lafferty continued staring him down. Then another curator came in, sized things up and put a hand on Lafferty’s shoulder. “Bob, take it easy.”
“CANS has been vandalized.” Lafferty turning to face the other curator. “Some are missing.”
“Bob, I know that,” said the other curator.
“We’re not sure exactly how many,” said Lafferty. “But I’ve got my people out there counting.” And he pointed nearly knocking someone in the eye.
“They’re out there counting,” he repeated.
Riley spoke up. “Can’t the artist tell how many?” He was a freckle face kid-type probably pushing fifty. Regundo had never trusted him.
“The artist!” Lafferty spun on him. “The sculptor,” he said, his voice rising. “The sculptor is a last resort! Do you understand? Does everyone get that?”
“Bob, please, Bob,” the other curator kept saying.
Oh is that all? Regundo stifled a yawn. Slap on a few more and who could tell the difference. It was damned ugly. Soup cans piled like a rusted mountain. Who’d notice a few gone missing? Cans. Shit that lay in the gutter. Not like men missing forty years later. “Pathetic,” he muttered, “fucking pathetic.”
“What’s your problem?” Lafferty was on him now. They all were looking at him.
“You have something on your mind Mr. Regundo?”
He shook his head. “No, sir, I do not. It’s my stomach. I have this pain…”
And he coughed, a huge blasting fart out before he could clench it back.
People looked surprised. Then Lafferty said, “Are you out of your mind?”
“Excuse me, sir.” The cramp disappearing as quickly as it came on. “I’m sorry,” he told them.
“Piggly-wiggly,” said Tabitha giggling.
“Now look Miss!” said the other curator.
But Lafferty was starting to go out of his tree. His eyes bugged. The pressure from CANS too much. His pony-tail bouncing as he fired out: “Someone-has-violated- CANS! CANS! How could this happen? You’re supposed to be watching, reporting, telling about anything out of the ordinary! Yesterday did anyone see anything strange? Think! Think!”
The new guy that Tabitha cornered last night said, “Isn’t it wired?”
“Wired? How could we possibly…” And Lafferty sat down on the long wooden bench. Over the years people had carved initials, hearts, phone numbers, fuck-yous; whatever. He slumped there with his head drooped forward.
“Your blood pressure Bob,” said the other curator.
Lafferty was back on his feet. “This stays in-house! The sculptor could sue the pants off us! Everybody got that?”
Rusty cans — this is totally nuts thought Regundo, his mind drifting to the other museum. It had looked so perfect. But was is? What was perfect once you got close? Inside? Nothing. Marie was less than perfect inside. Always had her period, or some yeast infection, some problem that prevented his enjoying himself fully. Nothing, he thought. Nothing in this whole world is close to perfect.
Lafferty continued making threats. The other curator was trying to be reasonable. But Regundo had tapped out. He shook his head making believe he was listening and agreeing. When the others began to file out of the locker room, he followed.
The day passed quickly. From time to time some curator, or someone of museum importance, would take a guard off the floor. Interrogation. It was interesting. He wondered if they’d get around to water-boarding those they found suspicious. He looked forward to his interrogation. It went like that all day. They called him twice in the morning then once in the afternoon. Regundo enjoying these little forays into the various closet-sized offices.
It was mostly men doing the detective work though one woman was nosing around. She took him to her office after lunch. “Let’s have a little chat,” she said. “Sit down, nothing to get nervous about.”
He sat back in the chair and put both hands on the armrests. Burnished leather. Very nice. He rubbed the pads of his thumbs over hammered nail heads. Push to shove, he could sit there all day. “I’m not nervous,” he said.
The woman smiled. “Now tell me anything that might help us nip this in the bud.”
Two strands of pearls worn tight around her throat looked kind of sexy. Her matching pearl earrings were the button type. He preferred drop earrings. She looked low forties. Conservative. Her skirt-suit was typical NewYork black. She could be almost attractive, he was thinking, except for the reddish hair cut too severe for her features. He thought that nipping it in the bud was a little too late. The bud had been nipped. Ripped. Off.
He coughed to stifle a laugh.
“Are you some kind of wise-guy? This is very serious.”
“I meant no harm.”
“You laughed. I can’t understand why you would laugh. Do you know something about this? That you haven’t told us?”
She leaned forward across her big clean desk. “You’re positive?”
She sat back tilting her head to the side. He thought of a red bird looking at him from a fence. She said, “You seem fairly intelligent. Why did you choose this line of work?”
“It was the first thing I saw in the paper.”
“You took the first job you saw in the paper?”
“How long ago was that?”
Now he had to stop and think. He had to calculate. He met Marie when he got home the second time in ’73. Then took the job a year or so later when she put on the pressure. “Thirty years maybe. Thirty-five. Give or take,” he said.
“You’ve been standing around here for thirty-five years?”
She stared at him and he looked back without interest. In the beginning he was intrigued but that had cooled.
“Are you educated?”
“I got drafted straight out of high school. Served two tours in Nam.”
“Tsk tsk.” The woman was shaking her head but real phony. “I’m sorry.”
“What about the GI Bill? Couldn’t you have taken advantage to get your education?”
“Ma’am, have you ever been inside a VA Hospital?”
Her dark-gray eyes were pin points in her face. She started to fuss with some tulips in a pot on her desk. They were drooping but she played with the stems like she could get them to straighten up by just trying. It amused him. What else does she have up her sleeve? he was thinking, when she stood abruptly. “That’s all,” she said.
He got up, too, feeling somewhat disappointed. He could have spent the day in that chair watching her do the tulip thing. It would have made a nice change of pace.
When he got back to Modern the doors to the pavilion were padlocked shut. A sign read: This Area is Closed Temporarily for Renovations.
Regundo had wanted to eye-ball the sculpture up close. See if he could find the empty spots. Who’d want those cans? It made no sense. It was a puzzle that he felt the need to solve. Why? Impress the redhead? Then he chuckled putting his hands in his pockets.
They’d have to give him some recognition. Mr. Regundo is responsible for solving CANS. Lafferty, someone, would have to say that.
Temporarily posted to Pyramids — a large sprawl area dimly lit by incandescent bulbs, after a couple of days he began feeling blue. Not jittery like in Modern; but sad, confused. He thought of those old jazz singers, the ones on heroin who sang the blues then overdosed. He wandered to keep circulating the room. It was midweek and very few people came to Pyramids. It seemed to be a kind of big wide hallway, a route to another zone. Everything beige — walls, pyramids, crypts, carvings — all that Egypt Mesopotamia stuff. The color of sand. Hardly anyone asked questions. Not even how to find the café-teria. Four other guards were posted in Pyramids too; but Regundo didn’t really know them. They stayed apart. Except to tell him when to take lunch. People were worried. CANS having its affect.
He squinted at his watch. The poor lighting in Pyramids was having an affect on his close vision. He wandered over to the east arch. “What’s the lunch situation?” he asked the short bald guard.
“You have two o’clock.”
Lucky break! He was still feeling full from another huge breakfast. He’d gotten in the mode. Big eating. Started with CANS. A coincidence? Strange how it hadn’t occurred to him before. Like his body knew before he did that he was going to be under a lot of stress and strain. In need of extra fuel. Nodding at the bald guard, he moved away to circulate.
Regundo walked the area musing over the little museum — not exactly little; but little compared with this behemoth whale, he thought, this virtual city. He decided he could be happy at the little museum. On nice days he could take his lunch into the garden. Well maybe not. They must have rules, too. Museum-goers don’t like eating where the staff eats, like they could catch a contagious disease, eating while breathing the same air. But the smaller museum might have a small staff area, say a picnic table behind the building, not the nicest part of the garden, but still outdoors. What the fuck! Maybe even a bench or two to catch some rays. The idea cheered him. He gazed around Pyramids. Imagine that, he thought. Eating outside in that garden, the sun warm on his face.
Pyramids didn’t have an ounce of natural light. Neither did Medieval; but that was like comparing Tabitha to Angelina Jolie. Now that’s hot he thought — not that stinking pile of cans causing so much trouble. He wandered around Pyramids. It had to be fucking hot in that desert, he was thinking. Nam was hot and bitter cold. Wet. The worst place he’d ever been. He thought about the dark-blue velvet room in Medieval. Almost a womb.
The next morning there was an envelope with his name tacked to the information board. Another rule: check the board when clocking in and out. He couldn’t stop yawning. He felt Tabitha’s eyes on him as he pulled out the push-pin holding the envelope.
“A love letter Regundo?”
Oh my dog, he thought. Even surprising himself. He’d meant Oh my god. “You bring out the worst in me,” he told her.
“I’d like to get to know you better.”
“Some other time.”
“I don’t know.”
“Is this a brush off?”
When he raised his eyebrows, she cried out, “Cruel man!”
He guessed he was. It didn’t matter. He wondered if the redhead, that curious curator with the tulips, had found him cruel? Marie? Probably Marie did. Passing it along to Elise Marie. That’s not right, he thought squeezing his fist. Not right for her to tell his daughter bad things about him.
Tabitha stood with her thick breasts pushed out. Her retard way of flirting.
“I have to get to Pyramids,” he said turning away.
“You’ll be sorry.”
For what? That he had to work in the same museum with her — that’s what he was sorry about.
“I’m posted to French,” she shouted. She knew how to get him. Women always did. She meant The Impressionists. The most trafficked area of the museum. Prestige. Tabitha shoving it in his face. Pyramids sucked; everyone was in agreement on that. I’ve been mummified said the guards who got posted there.
The next few days Regundo continued feeling low. His huge breakfasts had dwindled to an English Muffin and one regular coffee. He continued to walk to work. Passing the little museum which he now thought of as my little museum. Of course it wasn’t. But these days everything was my. My 9 News, my homepage, my ass. Despite all that my crap he felt he belonged in the little museum. It should be my new home, he thought. My garden. My shiny black doors and iron fence. He could get a dog. A hound with a good honking bark.
Pushed out of Medieval, he felt disjointed.
“I need a transfer,” he told Lafferty. It had taken more than a week to nail down this appointment with the curator. “I need out of Pyramids, you see…”
Lafferty cut him off with a wave. “Yeah, yeah, I know what you mean.” All the same he glared at Regundo. “So where’d you have in mind? Impressionists?”
Hell, no! Well, yes, he thought. Well not with Tabitha posted there. He scratched his head watching the curator watching him. Why they had to put a retard like her in the best location… his mind was swimming.
“Sir, I appreciate that you’d think of me for Impressionists but I’d be happy to go back to Modern. Unless I could get back to Medieval.”
“Medieval? Not a chance,” said Lafferty.
Why not? Why is Medieval out? thought Regundo. He cleared his throat saying, “Modern then?” Adding, “I miss the natural light.”
Lafferty looked suspicious. “We never solved CANS,” he said.
“So I heard.”
“What else have you heard?”
“Well not much, being that I’ve been mummified.” It just slipped out. Like the day that big hairy fart erupted.
Lafferty pursed his lips. They looked pinker, fuller. Was Lafferty into lip plumping? The curator sighed. “It can be a bitch. Too many sarcophaguses. I advised them to go lightly, but, no, no, they had to requisition every one that’s been dug up over the last ten million years.” He made a nasty-sounding laugh. “It looks unbalanced. Don’t you think?”
Regundo knew this wasn’t a real question.
“That’s not my area of expertise,” the curator went on, “so I’ve got no power.”
Don’t tell me your troubles thought Regundo shifting his weight to his other foot.
“It’s Bayler-Sparks,” said the curator.
He cocked an eyebrow at Regundo like they shared a private joke. “That Marylou.”
Now he was telling him the name of the redhead like they were pals or something. Why this sudden personal touch? Regundo scratched the arm that used to have impetigo.
“Marylou Bayler-Sparks,” the curator repeated.
He looked past the curator at the wall calendar. Cheap and ordinary. Like you see in a coffee shop near the register. This month had a photo of a polar bear. Strange to be hanging in a museum office, he thought. Why not a Degas calendar or Toulouse-Lautrec? The museum gift shops overflowing with them.
“So about my transfer.”
“Back to Modern.” And Lafferty shoved his head in some paperwork.
He returned to Modern. It was the same. He saw no difference in CANS. Though he circled it dozens of times, he couldn’t find a single opening that once contained a rusted soup can.
The days droned. It was almost worse than Pyramids. He circulated the room to stay awake and out of trouble. He felt his blood sugars drop and tried switching lunch hours with Bixby who refused. Once, long ago, Regundo fainted from eating pure starch for a solid week. He’d craved bread so he ate loaf after loaf until he fainted. The doc in emergency had advised him to stick with protein. Protein will never lead you astray, the doc said. Astray. That word had stuck with him.
On his fourth day in Modern, with the sun glaring down through the glass ceiling, not the beneficial sun that surrounds the little museum, but a harsh punishing sun, the kind that could eat bodies alive with melanoma — feeling sure of this, and feeling this penetrating sun moving deep into the layers of his skin, Regundo somehow knew he was getting cooked.
By two in the afternoon his old impetigo was acting up. Not just his arm but now his legs and his torso. He scratched through the uniform jacket. Bixby noticed and made a joke about fleas. He ignored the old guard and moved away to keep circulating.
Overnight they’d changed some paintings. A type of grouping hung along the wall in a line. Big ones getting slightly smaller, then smaller, and smaller down the row. Each one painted a solid red with a horizontal black line. That was the trick — keeping the lines on the same even plane as the pictures shrank in size. These artists, he was thinking, bending to scratch his ankle. Don’t they have anything better to do than this sort of shit?
He kept trying to figure out the red paintings. He moved down the line of them, one to the next. They seemed to be hung evenly. He couldn’t make sense of it. He mentioned this to the new guy, Pedersen, the one Tabitha tried to nail. Pedersen calling it a work of total genius.
“I don’t think so,” Regundo replied.
He stepped further away from the wall and stared at the black lines. Some appeared to be moving, wavy, like the horizon line at a beach when you’re drunk. He pictured those beaches in Nam bombed to smithereens. He read somewhere they’d been turned into millionaires’ resorts.
He began walking the perimeter of the huge room hugging the walls just out of line of the alarms, trying to stay out of the sun’s rays as much as possible. He followed the white walls around and around. “Whatchu up to?” said Bixby as Regundo passed him a third time. Modern. It was like entering an enormous glacier. White and perfect and undisturbed. Cold. Awful.
He didn’t mind anymore that CANS was piled like shit in the middle. It made him feel better. He thought he could smell shit coming off it. He continued to follow the perimeter line like he was commanded to do so by the area. The area doing the pulling. He stuck out his hand and let it trail the wall.
“You can’t do that,” Bixby said the next time Regundo walked past him. “You gonna make the walls dirty.” Calling after him, “Lafferty’s coming.”
It was a lie.
My glacier, thought Regundo. My glacier, my choice.
After work he stopped in a sports bar he passed every night on his way home. He’d never stopped in before. It was loud. Loud bar, loud widescreen, loud music, loud people. Generally he preferred the old Irish Pubs. Quiet with an older crowd. But most of those had folded.
At the packed bar he found a stool and squeezed in. Surprised by how many chicks; he’d expected mostly guys, it being a sports bar. Shows how out of touch he was. Getting old. He knew that, but a place like this rammed it home. Plenty of young blondes with big fake honkers making big fake laughs. Congenial, though, he thought ordering a beer then changing his mind. “Hey, make that a Margarita instead. Heavy on the salt,” he told the bartender.
It came crusted thick on the rim. He squeezed his lips to the glass and felt the salt making a path to his bloodstream. He drank quickly and ordered another. Felt something pressing him from behind. A blonde was smiling and apologizing. “Sorry, it’s just so crowded in here.”
He watched her batting those blue eyes. Ultra-blue. Fake, too, he thought, but so what.
Regundo got up and offered the stool.
“Thanks,” she said, dipping a little so he could look down her cleavage.
He placed his hand on the small of her back. “That’s right, sit down sweetheart.”
There was no question.
She drank steady, no sign of faltering. After their fourth, fifth, sixth he said, “We’re out of here.” She got up steady as a brick wall. He admired that — a woman who could hold.
He splurged on a taxi. He put his hand up her skirt and felt around inside her. “Nice,” he said kissing her neck and spreading her with three fingers. “What’s your name?” His voice sounded unfamiliar.
“Emily,” she answered making little gasps.
He figured the taxi guy was taking it all in, maybe filming them with his cell. Cool. Let them be seen all over the web like Paris Hilton. Maybe Marie would tune in and see him with this Emily chick. He stuck another finger inside and thought she could take his fist, no sweat. But it seemed mean. He didn’t want to come off mean. Not right away.
In his apartment lobby light she looked creased. Deep black roots in her blonde hair, but not sexy like the young girls wore them. This was tired hair. Regundo felt pretty tired himself. She was clinging to his arm talking dirty. “Wait till you see,” she said.
I have seen, he thought. I’ve seen enough.
He thought about Pyramids. He wanted to take her there. Hit her over the head then lift her into one of the many sarcophaguses. Or better yet, place her on top of a high covered one like a funeral pyre. Light her. Let her smolder up there all night. It could be beautiful.
The woman was looking around. “Where’s the elevator?”
“Walk-up. Fifth floor.”
“That’s a distance,” she said. “Oh, well.” The lines around her eyes looked shot with ink. “Come on!” She pulled at him playfully. “I’ll race you.”