|Primary Characters:||Greg, Abby, Edward, Kitty, Larry, Dharma|
|Description:||Greg makes an unexpected life decision, and Dharma sulks, taking refuge over at Kitty’s. Abby invites first Greg, then Edward over to her place, where both men learn new tricks. Kitty finds comfort from a very unlikely source.|
When Greg reluctantly left the warmth of his bed, Dharma was already up, running back and forth in the kitchen. As always, she was enthusiastic about playing housewife. She was frying eggs, making toast, and pouring orange juice. Now Greg was running out of excuses to remain in bed, and he knew he had to get up. But he was so tired. It was only about 5.30 and he and Dharma hadn’t – turned out the lights until close to 2 a m. The rigors of married life.
“Honey, you have to get up now. Breakfast is ready. I’ve made you a lot of extra strong coffee. Rise and shine.”
“You know you have to be at the office early for that new case you’re working on.”
“Yes. I know. Alright, I’m coming.”
Dharma was right. The new case was a really big one, and he needed to make a good impression. He was representing a big meat producer, which delivered quality meat to restaurants and stores all across California, and the entire west coast.
They had been hit by a law suit, initiated by a group of animal rights activists, and now they needed to prove what a humane animal friendly facility the huge slaughter house really was. A publicity firm was handling their new charm offensive.
Greg’s law firm was dealing with the defence against the charges of alleged cruelty. If Greg did well on this case, chances were he’d get more corporate cases.
After drinking half a glass of orange juice, the entire pot of coffee and a slice of toast, Greg pushed out his chair, went to pick up his briefcase, and kissed Dharma goodbye.
“What are you doing today, darling?”
“This and that. Some shopping. Meeting Kitty for lunch. And this afternoon I’m teaching a yoga class.”
The phone rang, and Dharma ran to pick up.
“Oh, hi Abby. Yes, he’s still here. Honey, it’s for you. Abby wants to say a few words before you go to work.”
Greg tensed up. What would it be now? Some new hocuspocus? He loved his mother-in-law but sometimes her new age stuff really frightened him.
“Hi, Greg. Dharma told me you were going to represent one of those meat companies.”
“You can’t be serious. They murder all these innocent animals, and -“
“I’m sorry, Abby. It’s late, I really need to go. Don’t worry about it. My conscience won’t let me represent them if they really are treating the livestock badly. Trust me.”
“Think with your heart, Greg. Not with your brain.”
“Uh, alright. I’ll try. See you later, Abby.”
Phew. That was tough, but it could have been worse. Greg considered himself lucky to have managed to disentangle himself without any more complications.
He met the company’s representative at his office and they drove out to the slaughter house together. The place was huge, and from what he could tell immediately, the hygienic conditions appeared to be excellent. That, however, said nothing about the treatment of the livestock.
When Greg drove back to the city, some four hours later, he was pale, shaken, and in a cold sweat. He was also, though he tried hard not to show it, close to tears, as well as nauseous. As soon as he returned to his office, he sneaked into the washroom and threw up until he’d emptied out his stomach.
When he was done, he had to sit down. Just like his father and Larry, he had always been afraid to touch vegetarin food. Though he would never have referred to it as ‘rabbit food’, he had always felt that vegetables were unpalatable. Now he couldn’t believe how he could ever have felt that dead flesh equaled food.
After about fifteen minutes, and a few sips of water, Greg felt a little better, and he returned to his desk to figure out an excuse to turn down the important case, without offending neither his boss or the company he was to have represented.
Finally, when he felt he was running out of ideas, and was sorely tempted to simply call in sick, or hinting at a family crisis, he was saved at the last second, by his boss, who wanted him transferred to another case. At least that part of his problem was solved, but right now he was feeling weak at the knees from hunger. The last time he’d eaten was around 6 a m. Now it was close to 7 p m.
Dejectedly, he drove home, feeling saddened and traumatized by what he’d witnessed in the slaughter house.
He was hoping Dharma would be able to cheer him up.
“What’s wrong, baby?”
“Bad day at work. I’ll tell you later. What’s for dinner?”
As he said it, Greg found himself hoping for some of Abby’s more unusual creations.
“You’ll be feeling a lot better in a minute. Sit down and I’ll serve dinner.”
“What are we having?”
“It’s a surprise.”
“No, just tell me, please.”
“Do you really want to spoil the surprise?”
“Yes. Tell me.”
“Ok. Suit yourself. It’s made from one of Kitty’s special recipes.”
“My mother has special recipes? But she never cooks -“
“Ta da. Chicken a la King.”
Dharma was stunned to see Greg’s face turn even whiter and he rushed out into the bathroom. He didn’t emerge for some time, so she felt impelled to go after him.
“What’s up, darling?”
“Uh – a stomach bug.”
“Oh, you poor baby. Go on, go to bed. I’ll bring you your dinner in there.”
“No, thanks, Dharma. I don’t want anything that -“
“Ok, say no more. I’ll bring you something lighter.”
After about five minutes, Greg heard his wife opening the door to the bedroom. She was carrying a tray.
“Dharma, I really just want a little toast and a glass of water.”
“What’s really wrong?”
-Greg. Don’t lie. It can make parts of your body fall off.
“No, it can’t.”
“I know. Just fibbing a little. Like you are.”
She vanished into the kitchen and returned ten minutes later with a new tray with toast and mineral water.
“Now. Have you thought over what you want to say to me?”
“Dharma, it was horrible.”
“That slaughter house. Those poor animals. All that blood.”
“Why didn’t you say so right away? Did you think I wouldn’t understand?”
Greg didn’t know exactly why he hadn’t been honest from the start. Maybe he was afraid he’d come across as – wacky as Abby. But what was wrong with that? Now that he’d seen for himself what went on in those places, he felt an urge to call Abby, and look for support there. He hadn’t wanted to appear too squeamish in front of his wife. That was the truth. But of course Dharma was different from other women. She’d understand.
“I don’t know. Dharma – could we start eating vegetarian food?”
“You don’t like my cooking? I thought you loved my food?”
“That was before I knew how the animals were treated before they end up on our table.”
“But I buy free range chickens and eggs too.”
“I know that, but – Right now I couldn’t eat anything that used to be alive.”
“You think I’m a bad cook.”
Dharma’s face fell and Greg could tell she was about to start crying.
“No, I don’t. You cook really delicious food. That’s why I know you’ll cook great vegetarian stuff as well.”
But it seemed Dharma had become too spoiled by the expensive lunches and dinners with her mother-in-law to really want to give all that up, just for a whim. That was how she viewed Greg’s sudden interest in health food, not as a genuine change of heart.
That night, they fell asleep back to back. The atmosphere in the bedroom which was usually steaming hot like a night in the djungle, was decidedly chilly. More Antarcic than Amazon.
Next morning, Dharma went out early, and didn’t return for lunch. When she finally got in touch it was by phone.
“Dharma? Where have you been all day? I was worried.”
“I thought you’d be at work.”
“Uh – actually, I called in sick.”
“Oh. Anyway, I’m over at Kitty’s. She’s invited me to stay over while Edward’s visiting his old army buddy Herman.”
“You heard me. Take good care of the boys. Now I have to go. Kitty and I are going shopping for shoes.”
Greg thought Dharma’s voice had held a very cool note. He couldn’t believe this was his wife, acting this way. But he wouldn’t back down. There was no way he could eat any dead animal from now on. Suddenly, he had an inspiration. If he called Abby, she would be able to teach him about vegetarian cooking. At first, though, he was shy about asking, so he just mentioned that Dharma was away from home, hoping he’d be invited over. Abby didn’t disappoint him.
“Why don’t you come over for dinner tonight? Bring Stinky and Nunzio.”
“What about Larry?”
It was a well known fact that Larry could never remember to close the door, so any dog in the house was in danger of being allowed outside without a leash.
“Larry’s not here.”
Was it Greg’s imagination, but did Abby’s voice hold the same tinge of chill as Dharma’s had? He wondered what Larry was up to this time, but was too polite to ask.
“Ok. I’ll be right over. Abby –
“Would you teach me how to cook?”
There was a pause at the other end of the line. Greg’s face colored slightly. What would Abby make of this unusual request?
“Of course. I’d love to.”
“Thanks. See you in a while.”
Abby was in the kitchen when Greg walked in, and she was ready to start the first lesson. He was surprised to find that not only wasn’t it half as difficult to cook that stuff as he had thought it would be, but it was actually really tasty too. Why had he always thought of veggie food as revolting?
After dinner, Abby served some home made cider and they sat down to have a chat in front of the tv.
“Ok, Greg. Tell me what’s wrong.”
“Uh – nothing’s wrong.”
Greg cast a wary look in his mother-in-law’s direction.
She didn’t even bother repeating her question. A stern look was all it took.
“Dharma’s upset with me.”
“Never mind Dharma now. What’s the matter with you? You’re upset about something, aren’t you?”
How did she do it? Greg was glad he hadn’t grown up with a mother who could see right through him. Being a teenage boy with no girlfriend was bad enough as it was, without having all kinds of sex education shoved down his throat. He took care of that aspect of his education himself, courtesy of a certain type of magazine he found in his father’s study. As long as he put them back afterwards, he was sure their absence was never discovered.
So he found himself telling Abby everything, and while he was talking, Abby nodded approvingly.
“I know you wouldn’t let me down, Greg. Good for you. Of course I will teach you everything I know about cooking and organic gardening and -“
Gardening? Where would he find the time to garden? But somehow it sounded quite peaceful and pleasant. Yes, one day, he’d love to have a garden. An orchard and a vegetable patch behind the house.
“What are you going to do about that company?”
“There’s nothing I can do -“
Another reproachful look from Abby made him reconsider.
“I can’t do anything about it, but I can – quit and find another job.”
His eyes pleaded with Abby. Please say that that’s enough. And to his astonishment, his mother-in-law really did seem to understand.
“Alright. That’s good. In fact, I know just the place. One of my ex-boyfriends runs a small law firm. Wait. Not that small. And it’s quite respectable too. One of the partners just got a new job in Europe so there’s an opening. I could call Sammy and fix it for you, if you like.”
“Would you do that for me?”
“Of course. That’s what family’s for.”
Greg leaned over and hugged Abby. This would feel so much better. Since his spiritual journey of self-discovery a couple of months back, he really was more comfortable working at a place like that anyway.
If he’d noticed the appreciative glint in Abby’s eyes, he would have felt a little uncomfortable, but he had no idea, so he just felt really happy about the whole thing.
“Why don’t you spend the night in Dharma’s room? The boys can sleep there too.”
“If you’re sure?”
“Don’t be silly, of course you’re welcome here. Go on. I’ll call Sammy in the morning. And I’ll make you my special tropical fruit breakfast.”
“That sounds delicious. Thanks.”
Greg ended up staying for far longer than he’d expected. Dharma didn’t get in touch for the rest of the week and when he tried to call her, she was always out. At the country club, shopping, even gone for a long weekend in Tahoe.
At the end of the week, Larry got in touch in his usual roundabout way. He sent a really weird guy to the house, delivering a verbal message. Greg couldn’t believe it was happening, and he could tell Abby was mad, to say the least, but also that she wasn’t surprised. She didn’t, however, confide in him about what Larry was up to.
On Sunday, Edward returned from his visit with his army friend, and he asked Greg over for a drink in the evening. On an impulse, Abby came along, in the hopes of having a word with her daughter. Dharma, however, was nowhere to be seen. Greg couldn’t help thinking she’d done it on purpose, to annoy him. Whatever the reason, Abby didn’t try chasing after her daughter. She just sat down with the two men for a nice long chat.
During the course of tha conversation, which was considerably more light-hearted than anything Greg was used to from his house as he was growing up, her situation with Larry came up.
To Greg’s astonishment, and acute embarrassment, his father was highly sympathetic to say the least. He urged Abby to get in touch if there was anything he could do. His motivation wasn’t quite as altruistic as Abby seemed to interpret it. Greg had recognized the look in his father’s eye, and knew his offers of help were largely due to his attraction for Abby, whose liberated lifestyle appealed to the old man.
“As a matter of fact, there is something you could do, Edward. Larry’s in trouble. Don’t ask, Greg. You don’t want to know. Anyway, he can’t come home for a while until the attention dies down.”
What could Larry have done now? Greg was afraid to ask, so he just remained silent, waiting to hear what else Abby had to say.
“The problem is, someone will almost certainly come looking for him at home, and – what I’m trying to ask you, Edward, is if you’d like to stay at my house for a week or so. If someone comes looking for Larry, he won’t be recognized.”
“You want me to pose as your husband?”
Abby smiled fondly at the memory of the engagement that had come around so late in her life.
Greg winced. Couldn’t she see how excited his dad was about playing her husband? He didn’t want to know anything about this. It was time he returned home. By now, he was feeling more confident about his cooking skills and what’s more, he would start his new job the next morning.
“Look, I really need to go and pick up the boys at your place Abby. I start my new job tomorrow and I really think – It’s been great staying at your house, but it’s time for me to go home.”
Abby beamed happily at her student.
“Of course. You’re ready now, Greg. Good luck and have fun in the kitchen. And if you need my advice, just call or come over for dinner.”
“Bye, son. In fact, I should probably pack a few things for my stay over at Abby’s house.”
Great. Just great. Greg had a really bad feeling about the whole thing, but he knew better than trying to dissuade Abby from this. He couldn’t help wondering why she didn’t notice his dad’s true intentions. Suddenly, it occurred to Greg that Abby might actually welcome the attention. And he couldn’t really blame her. Compared to Larry, his dad had to be a dream come true for a woman Abby’s age. What a nightmare.
The next day, after work, Greg decided to go by his old office to pick up the rest of his stuff in the office. Out of habit, he also dropped by the old bar where he and the other attorneys used to go for drinks and to discuss their boss, their secretaries, wives, girlfriends – what women call gossip and attorneys refer to as exchange of information or networking.
He wasn’t entirely surprised when he ran into Pete, sitting at the bar, a smug expression on his face that could only speak of intense sexual satisfaction. Without thinking, Greg began to look around for Jane. If they were playing the game, he’d better get out of there fast, or they’d try to draw him in, one way or another. Especially now, with Dharma gone, that was the last thing he wanted. Pete spotted him and waved lazily for his friend to join him.
“Oh, hello, buddy. Did Dharma let you off the leash?”
“Hi, Pete. How are you today?”
“I’m terrific, thank you for asking. Married life agrees with me, I can tell you that. Keeps me on my toes. What about you? Is Dharma around?”
“No. Is Jane here?”
Pete laughed in his face. Apparently, Greg’s reaction to Dharma’s best friend wasn’t completely his own secret.
“No. She’s at home, waiting for me. So I can’t be late. But sit down, we have time for a beer or two. Tell me what’s up with you.”
“I’ve got a new job.”
“Oh? Anything good?”
“I think so. Abby got it for me.”
Again, Pete’s laugh assaulted Greg’s ears. Apparently, the thought of a job like that was hilarious.
“And what is it? Tree-hugging? A petting zoo for kids?”
“It’s the same type of job I did before. More or less.”
“Really? Boy, did she get around, that woman.”
Yes, she certainly did, but Greg didn’t think it was Pete’s place to mention that.
“Anyway, I like it.”
“I hear you, buddy. So what’s this I hear about you getting a big corporate job and then being transfered to another, smaller thing? Is that why you quit?”
Greg debated with himself on whether to tell Pete the real truth. He should know better than to confide in his his old friend, but on the other hand, Pete was married to Jane, Dharma’s best friend. That should make what he had to say comprehensible to both of them.
“No. In fact I was relieved. That job – the big corporate one – was a nightmare. Pete, that slaughter house – it was the most horrible place I’ve ever seen. There was this beautiful little heifer and -“
Pete stared at him as if he’d been speaking in gibberish, and again, his face cracked into a big insolent grin.
What was this? Was Pete making fun of him over this?
“Well, well, well. Still waters run deep. You’d be the last one I’d suspect was into that sort of thing.”
What? Pete’s meaning totally escaped Greg. They were discussing slaughter houses and Pete seemed to be going on about something entirely different.
“Never mind. You were saying -“
“I can’t eat meat anymore. That place was – I’m going to have nightmares about it for the rest of my life.”
“Oh. So you’ve gone veggie now?”
Pete took another sip of his beer and nodded wisely. Just what he was agreeing with, Greg couldn’t figure out, but he had a bad feeling. If Pete was making fun of his reaction to the killing of livestock, wasn’t he going to make some kind of joke about this too? Cautiously, Greg decided to ask. He cast his friend a wary glance and began to think of a way to pose that question.
“Pete – so, what do you think about that?”
“About you eating veggie food? Why would I have an opinion about that?”
Amazing. There actually didn’t seem to be a hidden joke at his expense in Pete’s words. Maybe Pete’s mind was on his wife Jane and their weird games. It turned out Greg was partially right in his guess about what was on Pete’s mind.
“I’ll tell you something you might not know about me. Jane and I are eating veggie too.”
“Yeah, I thought you didn’t know that.”
“How did that happen?”
Now Pete was the one to look decidedly shy. What was this? Maybe Greg didn’t want to know after all.
“Well, as you know, Jane’s a vegetarian. I couldn’t be bothered with all that health food stuff so I said absolutely not. My mistake.”
“What do you mean?”
“Oh, well, uh – actually, Jane went on a strike until I wisened up. Have you ever gone without sex for six weeks?”
That was something Greg didn’t really want to discuss with Pete, but on the other hand, Pete was telling him things just as intimate and this time, he wasn’t even trying to gross his friend out.
“Since meeting Dharma?”
“Oh, well, I didn’t actually get anything at all, until college and even then not all that regularly.”
“Oh. You must be different from me, I guess. I was going through hell. You won’t believe – Uh, anyway, I caved of course and you know what – that stuff isn’t as bad as I thought. With a lot of vegetable oil to fry it in, and afterwards, a lot of vegan cream and stuff, it’s actually quite tasty. And Jane seems to think I’m on a diet. Doesn’t bother me. You just have to eat three times as much as ordinary food, and you’ll be just as full.”
“But don’t you care about the animals at all? Their suffering and -“
Greg knew it had been a mistake asking that question.
Pete had a thoughtful look on his face, obviously still dwelling on either the food or Jane, and if it was the latterGreg didn’t want to know. Then his friend shook his head and faced him again.
“I don’t know, pal. Do they care about me? Anyway, the good news is she actually cooks for me. Sends me a lunch box for work every day. The trick is not to look too closely. It’s probably sprouts or something revolting like that. But she drenches it in this delicious vegan dressing and I don’t feel a thing. Good luck, buddy. Now I have to return to my lovely bride.”
“Ok, it was nice talking to you.”
And it actually almost had been. Greg should have known it was too good to last.
“And Greg -“
“You haven’t forgotten our little game? I have two words for you: Spin drier.”
Greg had an impulse to just bury his face in his hands on the counter. That was image he definitely didn’t want to carry around in his mind. Though come to think of it, it wasn’t any stranger than any of the places he and Dharma had done it.
Back at Abby’s house things were progressing rapidly to a sort of inevitable conclusion. The attraction between Edward and the hippie woman was growing, and since by chance, they had been thrown together this way, there wasn’t anything or anyone who could come between them.
Abby didn’t see anything wrong with loving another man. After all, the goddess wanted her daughters to know as many men as possible. In her time, Abby had indeed known, intimately, a great number of men. Many of them would now be referred to as celebrities.
Edward, on the other hand, feared Kitty’s retribution, but felt this was his only chance at adventure at this point in his life, so he went ahead without looking back.
While all this went on, Larry was hanging out in cheap motels, drinking a fair bit, watching a number of porn movies, in short, having the time of his life, while at the back of his mind trying to remember he was on the run from the law. Even better. He had no idea his wife was sleeping with another man.
In theory, Larry embraced Abby’s ideas about the open relationship, but deep down, he couldn’t figure out why it was ok for her to sleep with others, but not for him. Not that he wanted other women, most of the time, but still, why was it different? Larry was used to not understanding things, so as usual, he didn’t dwell long on this puzzling matter.
By now, it had finally dawned on Kitty that her son, her handsome, law school graduate son, Greg, had become a – one of those – strange hippie types. She wouldn’t stand for it. Why in the world hadn’t Dharma warned her sooner?
Leaving her daughter-in-law, wide-eyed and suitably materialistic with Kitty’s credit card in her eager hands, Kitty drove over to Larry’s and Abby’s house. She had no idea her husband was even staying there, and certainly not what was really going on. Since Edward was having an after-dinner nap, she didn’t even see him.
“Kitty? How nice to see you. Come in. Would you like a cup of herbal tea?”
For once, Abby was stretching the truth a little. She had a feeling Kitty wouldn’t understand or appreciate the goddess’ recommendations regarding polyandrous practices.
“No, thank you, Abby. I’ll be brief. My son Gregory is not going to be one of those -“
“One of those, what, dear? You haven’t caught him cross-dressing, have you?”
“What? Oh, certainly not.”
Abby didn’t think so either. But for some reason, it amused her to torment this fellow human being. It was bad of her, she knew that, but at times, she couldn’t stop herself. Her little girl was the one whose mind was being poisoned by Kitty’s materialistic ideas.
“Then what’s wrong?”
Actually, Abby had a pretty good idea of where this was leading, but she enjoyed playing with this woman’s mind.
“He’s become one of those – those – vegetarians. I won’t stand for this.”
“Why not? Your son has made a very mature and loving decision, and we should all support him in this period of transition as much as possible.”
“You can’t be serious. Gregory’s health will be in danger.”
“No, it won’t. It was in the past, but now he’s safe. Besides, it’s a well known fact that a vegetarian diet not only helps keep you in shape, it aids weight loss, lowers cholesterol levels and in general has a beneficial effect on your immune system.”
Greg didn’t need to worry about his shapely form, as Abby well knew, but she was certain this particular aspect of vegetarianism would appeal to Kitty, and slyly she’d let the conversation slide onto this track. She was right.
Kitty’s face underwent a startling transformation. You could almost see her mind processing this new information.
“Really? Lose weight, you said? How much, how soon?”
“But Kitty, you don’t need to lose weight. Not much anyway.”
“What? I know my derriere is a bit -“
Ignoring Kitty’s outburst, and focused on the dietary aspect, Abby continued.
“I can give you list of recommended products, a menu and anything else you might need. Of course, exercise is also beneficial. I could teach a little about yoga.”
“Yoga? Isn’t that some sort of meditation?”
“It’s a workout. I’ll show you the more important moves. You can do it at home.”
“And it definitely helps one’s figure?”
“Absolutely. Not to mention your sex life.”
Kitty winced at Abby’s outspoken ways, though at the same time she noted the information with interest. She would make Edward try this new diet and workout. He could use any help he could get.
“Thank you. Now I need to go. This was very interesting.”
“I’ll get that list ready for you. And I’ll send you a yoga tape.”
“Thanks, I guess.”
As she saw the last of Dharma’s mother-in-law, a contented smile played on Abby’s lips. This had been a very satisfactory week. No more cooking dead animals when her daughter’s in-laws were visiting. And – Edward wasn’t exhibiting any of his performance problems with her. But then Kitty obviously didn’t know anything about the Kama Sutra.
The entire week, Edward spent with Abby, while Kitty thought he was away, visiting yet another army friend, or business associate. Kitty’s important business didn’t leave any time for wondering about her husband’s whereabouts.
Larry, who by now had grown tired of hanging out in dingy motel rooms, was beginning to consider returning home. After all, he reasoned, the cops were probably busy chasing after some other poor bastard by now. So he picked up most of his dirty laundry, except for a few garments he left under the bed. He also packed the towels in the bathroom, and a few other odds and ends that fitted into his sports bag.
On his return home some time in the early morning, Larry didn’t bother announcing his arrival. He merely dropped down on the couch, and fell asleep. Noises and appetizing smells from the kitchen woke him up, and he ambled in that direction for a bit of breakfast.
To his surprise, Edward was sitting in his chair, helping himself to the breakfast Abby was putting on the table.
“Oh, hi, Edward. Not easily offended or impressed, Larry merely pulled out another chair, sat down, grabbed a plate and tucked in. Abby made no comment either.”
Edward nodded in acknowledgement of Larry’s greeting, but at this hour, he didn’t really have much to say. He did steal a speculative glance at Abby’s fiance from time to time. Would Larry have any suspicions about the other man’s presence in his house? But it appeared Larry didn’t have anything on his mind except some breakfast and shower and a shave. All of which he was in dire need of, as far as Edward could tell.
When Larry went into his and Abby’s bedroom something called his attention to the state of the bed. He looked closer and found that both sides of the bed had been slept in. At first that didn’t make much impression. Thing always took a long time to sink into Larry’s brain.
He continued into the bathroom, dropped his dirty laundry on the floor and began to pick out his shampoo and shower cream. A look inside the medicine cabinet revealed two sets of shaving gear. By now, even Larry’s suspicions were aroused. The bed might be explained by a visit from Dharma, but unless Dharma’s body hair had undergone an unusual growth spurt, the shaving gear had to have another explanation.
So he trailed back into the kitchen, wearing nothing but a small towel, barely wrapped around his waist.
“Abby? Is Edward sleeping with you?”
Abby and Edward were doing the dishes, but they both turned and faced him as he walked in. They looked at him for a moment, as if contemplating their reply. Apparently having come to a decision, Abby spoke up.
“Uh – yes. I am.”
“Oh. I thought so.”
Larry returned to the bathroom, satisfied that he’d arrived at the truth. And people said he was an old junkie with scrambled eggs for a brain. Here he was, solving mysteries like a regular Sherlock Haines. But when he’d showered and shaved (using Edward’s stuff, which was far more expensive than the second hand crap he used himself), Larry had had time to think the matter through.
If Abby was right, and the goddess encouraged women to sleep with as many men as possible, wasn’t it extremely unfair to Kitty that she was only sleeping with one man, and from what Dharma had told him, Edward wasn’t even very good at it. Wouldn’t it be a kindly act from a fellow human being, if he offered Kitty the chance of following the goddess’ bidding?
At least that was the gist of the idea that took form in Larry’s mind. And anyway, when was the last time he’d ever slept with another woman? 1975, he guessed, or possibly 1976. Some time during the 70’s. Whatever.
Without letting his houseguest or his fiance know, he slipped out the back, hotwired his van and drove over to the poor deprived Kitty. Naturally, she’d be beside herself with gratitude over his generous offer.
His reception was anything but warm, however. Kitty looked at him the way he’d seen Abby stare at a big black spider that had landed on their bed with a heavy thud last month. But Larry wasn’t that easily deterred.
“Hi, Kitty. How are you doing?”
“Larry. I’m fine. How are you?”
“Aren’t you going to ask me in?”
There was a pause, in which Kitty nervously looked over Larry’s head, smoothed out imaginary folds in her very chic outfit and seemed to be deep in thought.
“Very well. Is there anything in particular you wished to discuss? I was just -“
“Yeah. Maybe we can do it in the living room.”
“Ah, yes. I suppose we could. If Celia isn’t busy cleaning up.”
“No, I’m not.”
Casting a dirty look on her housekeeper, Kitty resigned herself to her fate. At least the man looked fairly presentable. He was wearing shoes, his clothes appeared to be clean and relatively new. And he had his shoes on.
She wondered what reason Larry could possibly have for this intrusion into her home. He didn’t keep her waiting for long. Politely introducing a topic was clearly an alien concept to Larry.
“I was thinking. Abby’s always telling me that it’s a religious necessity for women to sleep with as many men as possible. So it struck me that you probably only have Edward to do it with. And Dharma tells me he isn’t even very good at it.”
Kitty looked as if she was about to faint. She couldn’t believe she was hearing this. Making a feeble attempt to get up and leave the intolerable guest, she knew she was trapped, and was forced to give up and remain in her chair, her face a couple of shades redder than before.
“Well, how about it?”
“How about what?”
“Oh, I didn’t say that, did I? I’ve come to offer my services. So you can fulfil your obligations to the goddess or whatever it is Abby says.”
“Abby sent you here to – offer your services?”
“Nah. She doesn’t know I’m here. This was my idea.”
“Oh, that explains it.”
“Certainly not. I can’t believe you just suggested what you did. Get out of my house.”
“But don’t you want to pay Edward and Abby back for what they’re doing to us?”
“Didn’t I tell you they’re sleeping with each other? No, I didn’t, did I?”
Larry struck himself on the side of the head, as if trying to clear the reception on an old tv set.
“Abby and my husband Edward are – sleeping together? Oh, my god. I knew he was unnaturally fond of that woman.”
“Hey. Watch your mouth, Kitty. That woman is my fiance.”
“Exactly. Oh, what have I done to deserve this?”
“So you’re absolutely sure you don’t want to have sex with me?”
“No. I mean, yes, I’m sure I don’t want to.”
“Ok. It was just a friendly suggestion.”
Kitty buried her face in her hands and began to sob. Edward was a terrible husband, but he belonged to her. They hadn’t gone through all these years of – boredom and silence and – bad sex, for it all to end like this. Larry was forgotten. Nothing mattered anymore, except this new betrayal. A hand on her shoulder had her whirling around in terror. What was it now?
“Hey, don’t cry. Now, I got it. Let’s get drunk. That always cheers me up. Or puts me to sleep. I forget which. Anyway, how about it?”
Kitty looked up and fixed Larry with a speculative stare through the veil of tears. Yes. Getting drunk sounded like a very good idea.
“Very well. I shall send for Celia and -“
“What do you need her for? I can pour your drinks. Come on.”
“Yes, alright. Go ahead.”
Two hours later, Kitty was feeling a lot more relaxed and her view on Edward’s betrayal was that it was hilarious. What woman in her right mind would want to sleep with Edward? Good luck to Abby. Kitty’s normally so elegant appearance was slightly worse for wear by now, but her smile was a lot more genuine, and she was leaning comfortably on her new friend’s shoulder.
At some point she’d kicked off her shoes and was waving her legs in the air. Once, Celia had looked in, and backed out again, a hand covering her mouth. What was so funny about a woman having the time of her life?
“Larry, let’s open another bottle of – that French stuff. Yes, the one with the fancy bottle. That’s the one. Good. You’re a darling.”
“No, you are. Did I ever tell you that I think you’re the most beautiful woman in the city? Except for Abby. There’s no one like dear Abby.”
“Larry, shut up. Don’t mention that woman’s name. Give me that.”
Kitty grabbed the Cabernet Sauvignon and pressed it to her lips, gulping down the precious fluid, by the gallon.
“There. Feeling much better. Great idea. About an hour later, Kitty was so drunk she was having trouble pronouncing her husband’s name, and was close to falling asleep. Larry, who wasn’t half as drunk, due to much more practice, took pity on her and offered to take her to her room.”
“You look beat, Kitty. Let me help you to bed.”
“Yes, ok. Let’s go to bed. I could sleep for a year.”
After a few failed attempts, Larry was able to get his arms around the giggling Kitty, who wasn’t any help at all. When he tried to pick her up, an unexpected complication conspired to make him drop her again. She almost fell to the floor, but at the last second, Larry was able to push her back onto the settee. -Oops. Kitty herself appeared to find the whole spectacle hilarious.
The next time Larry tried to lift her up, he was successful. He even managed to get into the hallway.
“Where’s your room, my lovely lady?”
After a look at the winding staircase, Larry was tempted to abandone the project, but there was something about the way Kitty had said ‘let’s go to bed’ that had given him hope for the rest of the evening. So he struggled valiantly with his burden until finally, he was outside the door she’d indicated. There he was forced to put her down on the thick, lush carpet, while he opened the door. So close to his goal. Just a little longer.
And at last, he was able to deposit Kitty on the satiny bedspread and rest his back. She wasn’t particulary heavy, but Larry’s back had taken a bit of beating in the past, so he was happy stretch out a bit. He found that the most comfortable place to do this was the bed. It was bigger than his and Abby’s bed, and looked extremely inviting, though that might have had something to do with who was lying on top of it.
Again, giggling like a stoned college student, Kitty was removing her jacket, blouse and skirt. The slip was very sexy in Larry’s view. It was also expensive, but that didn’t register. What interested him was the content of the garment, not the fabric itself, though it revealed enough of the occupant to stimulate his imagination.
Now he realized that he’d forgotten to close the door behind them, so he hurriedly corrected this oversight. That accomplished, he got back into bed beside Kitty, before she changed her mind.
The following morning, they didn’t awake until really late. The sun which was high in the sky, shone in through the open blinds and got in their eyes. Kitty opened her eyes and became aware of the unfamiliar sensation of being close to someone else in bed, and – how was this possible? She was thoroughly satisfied.
“Edward? Had she already enforced the new vegetarian regimen?”
To her horror, she now recognized the man fast asleep next to her. He was snoring, and didn’t show any signs of wanting to wake up. What a nightmare. How in the world had she ended up in bed with Larry? And why was her head hurting so terribly?
If she went downstairs to the kitchen and managed to talk Celia into giving her something for the headache, maybe this would all turn out to have been a nightmare. Looking around for her dressing-gown, Kitty was finally able to disentangle herself from the arms that were still holding on to her.
She hesitated, while she put on the dressing-gown. Who would have thought Larry of all people would be this – skillful? Hm. That was food for thought at least. But she couldn’t bear to watch him sleep in her bed, and far less listen to the dreadful noises issuing from his mouth or was it his nose? With a shudder, she backed out of the room, in search of an aspirin and – something to make her forget.
To her relief, Celia took one look at her and made her sit down on one of the kitchen chairs. The housekeeper filled a glass of water at the sink – Kitty was about to object, but found that her tongue was sticking to her palate and she wasn’t really in a state to protest.
Next followed the aspirins. Two or three disappeared down Kitty’s parched throat. Now Celia made coffee. It occurred to Kitty that this was the first time since she’d hired the woman that she was being treated, if not with respect, then at least with some consideration.
The coffee only made her feel marginally better, but she had regained the use of her voice.
“Celia, please, make up the guest room for me. I have to get some sleep.”
“And get that horrible man out of my house.”
Celia stared at her employer, as if trying to figure out who it was Kitty wanted to get rid of, then nodded. There was a smirk on her face that made Kitty wince, but she’d deal with the woman later. If necessary, she’d buy her silence, if she didn’t simply have her deported. As Kitty well knew, illegal aliens came more cheaply than those with a Green card.
“I’ll see what I can do.”
Ten minutes later, Kitty was back in bed, but this time alone. She fell asleep almost right away, and when she next regained consciousness, she felt a lot better. After some discreet investigation, she learned that her dreadful visitor was gone, and she allowed herself to relax again.
“Yes. What is it now?”
“I would like to talk to you about something.”
“Yes, now, if you could spare a moment.”
“Look, Celia, there’s no need to tell anyone about my – uh – visitor, is there?”
The housekeeper stared at her as if she’d forgotten all her English. She tended to do that whenever Kitty had orders for her that didn’t suit the woman.
“What I mean is, I’m going to give you a raise. A big raise. It’s only fair since I want you to start cooking vegetarian food. If necessary, you can take time off and go to some cooking school. I’ll pay for it, naturally.”
“I will need a vacation in Mexico.”
“Excellent idea. You go off on that vacation, and then when you return you take cooking classes or something.”
“Ok. Sounds good to me. You got a deal. I won’t say anything to Edward.”
Kitty nearly fainted again, when she heard her housekeeper’s way of referring to her husband. For a second she even wondered if Edward could possibly have – No. And she wouldn’t ask. As long as Celia kept her mouth shut and learned to cook that wonderful aphrodisiac and weightloss food, she’d let sleeping dogs lie.
Breathing a sigh of relief, as she saw her housekeeper vanish in the direction of her room, no doubt to pack her things for the expensive vacation, Kitty’s mind began to work again. She would get Edward back from that woman, and she’d put him on that new diet. Then she’d teach him a thing or two. In fact, maybe Abby had taught him some things as well. Mm. That thought was rather appealing, except for the fact that it was Abby who would have taught him those new tricks. But still, what a promising situation.
When Greg got back from work, he expected to be greeted by a couple of very desperate dogs. Instead, they were lying in their chairs, looking dazed and content. Noises from the kitchen made him hope that Dharma had returned. Who else would be in their house? Of course, it could be Abby. If he was really lucky, his dad would be back home, and there would be no need to worry about any embarrassing scenes over at Abby’s house.
“Darling. You’re back. I called Abby and she told me everything.”
For a horrible second, Greg thought Dharma was going to comment on her mother’s affair with his father. But she was thinking about something else entirely, as her next words confirmed.
“Can you forgive me for not believing in you? You were right and I was wrong. I’ve been very selfish. From now on, I swear we’ll only have vegetarian food. All the time. And I’ll never go to any restaurants with Kitty. You have my word.”
“Of course I forgive you, Dharma. I’ve missed you.”
“I’ve missed you too. Are you hungry?”
“A little. Want me to cook?”
“No. It’s ok. I’ve got it all covered. Guess what we’re having.”
Here we go again, Greg thought. Please let it not be chicken again.
“I can’t. Just tell me.”
“You don’t like surprises, do you?”
“Not even nice surprises?”
“How do I know if they’re nice or not?”
“Good point. Ok. It’s fried mushrooms, fettucine, walnuts and soy cream sauce. With a tossed salad. Vegetarian dressing. And I’ve got Abby’s home made apple cider.”
“Sounds delicious. Dharma? Can you keep cows as pets? I know Abby’s got a goat, but could we get a cow?”
“Of course we can. But how are we going to have time to take care of it? Oh, I know. Let’s keep it over at Abby’s. She’ll love to help out. And – Greg, please, can I have a pony? Please, please, please.”
“Why not? Where are we going to get that cow?”
“I think I have an idea. Larry’s good at liberating animals and things. He’ll find a cow for us, and liberate her. But I think we’d better buy the pony. Or a horse. I’m not ten anymore. It will have to be a horse, I think. But pony sounds so cute. I’ll do some research and then we’ll go out and buy it. I’m going to love this. You’re so sweet. And you’ve been sleeping alone for so long. I know exactly what’s going to cheer you up. Come on.”
“But the dishes -“
“Forget about the dishes. Let’s go downstairs to the laundry room. Jane told me a trick she and Pete’s been trying out. While the machine’s -“
Oh, no. Some things never changed.
“Dharma? Please, can we do it in the bedroom? On the bed.”
“Are you sure that’s what you prefer?”
“Alright. This is your treat. We’ll do it in bed. Like billions of other people. Why not?”
At last. Things were back to normal. He really didn’t need to worry about what his parents were up to, or Dharma’s. They had their own life to lead, and despite the frequent downs, there were some pretty amazing ups too. He wasn’t complaining. It was good to be alive and to be Dharma’s husband.