OK. She looked beautiful, if lo-res screen shots with everybody else cropped out counted. An enormous tangle of untamed mahogany-colored hair. A wondrous bosom. Mysterious eyes. A lovely smile. Will wasn't working from a check list exactly, but Bethany Byrne had gorgeous legs, and that was important to him in complicated ways. If these photos had tumbled out of an envelope from a Casting Director, Will Stover the producer would definitely be setting up a meeting.
Now: these three horses. What about these horses?
Stover had a bad time once with a girl and a horse. A bad time indeed. When you got right down to it, she’d preferred her stallion to him and—you know—how do you compete with a horse in the first place, right?
The difference, he reckoned, was that that was then—when he and the girl were nineteen or twenty—and this was now, when both of them were old enough to have their stuff squared away.
Bethany’s emails, now that they’d started that, were funny and provocative. She was definitely smart enough, and like Timothy Leary used to say, intelligence is the greatest aphrodisiac.
The hell with it: she’d given him her phone number. Not calling her at this point would only seem churlish.
He punched in the unfamiliar area code. He was feeling a bit like he did back in seventh grade, when the two cutest girls in class used to call him every night after supper and nobody thought to tell him that, no, they weren’t trying to tease him, they were calling him because they thought he was cute. He was cute so MAYBE they’d tease him.
He sipped at his wine, a new little cabernet from Trader Joe's, while the phone hooked up to the satellite or the ground station or the repeater, or whatever, and her landline, or satellite, or however AT&T did it these days. Stover didn’t have a landline at home anymore. He was a hundred per cent cell phone all the way since he’d moved out, an odd choice for a producer who is expected to LIVE on the phone, but Will Stover was an odd choice for a producer in the first place.
--It’s Will. From Match. HCE?
--Oh! Hi! Yes!
Her voice was shiny; young and enthusiastic.
--Is this a good time?
--Hang on a minute. Yes. Just a sec, let me get something…off--
--I can call back—
--Oh no, no, it’s OK, just let me…
There was a clunk on the line and Will could hear kitchen noises. The ambient sound in his ear increased the way it will when a phone has an auto-gain mic, whatever they call it.
--OK. I’m back. Hi!
He liked her girlishness.
--I don’t mean to bother you…it’s not too late is it?
--Oh, no. I’m always up.
--Good. Me too.
--Good. I mean…hey, can you hold on a minute?
--Sorry, just a sec…
The phone went whooshy again. He sipped at his wine. After a bit:
--I’m back. I wanted to pour a glass of wine.
--Good. Great. Me too.
--I’m in wine country you know.
--Yep. I mean, you know, not metaphorically or anything. Really. REAL wine country.
--No, I didn’t know. I—
--Yeah, they’re trying to turn it into the next Paso Robles.
--Yes, drunken wine tasters by the busload these days. People think we’re in the desert, and it’s too dry for wine, but, you know, it’s not really the desert, like DESERT desert, you know.
--I like to think of it as a transitional zone. There’s a marine layer that comes in at night. We’re not that far from the ocean.
--Yeah, you said that in an email, right?
--We’re, like, as far from the beach as, say, Burbank is from the beach. I mean Temecula is. I’m another twenty miles east.
There was a pause, but it was comfortable and each of them sipped their wine.
--So, she said.
--Yeah. I mean, as weird goes, this is pretty high up there.
--Not something I’d really choose to do, but…heh…I mean who knows what a person will do—
--When he gets desperate enough?
--Oh? Feeling desperate are we?
It was playful and sweet. Stover swung his feet up on his desk.
--You have no idea…
--Nope. What are you wearing?
--Chanel No. 5.
--Yup. You can take the girl out of the city but…
--So. I guess we’ve got something in common after all then, hunh?
--It would appear.
--I spent a lot of time in Paris in another life.
--Nice, yes, she pronounced the city. Paris, Nice, London. Tokyo. Hate Tokyo, by the way.
--Never been there, he said, but…yeah, I’d hate it. Probably. Definitely. It was the army I think.
--Yes…She turned serious: You mentioned that.
--Can’t seem to get too far from it, he said. And now of course I’m doing a movie about it.
--Write what you know?
--Yeah. Well, there’s no way to tell that story on the tube. People tried back in the 80’s, with CHINA BEACH and…the other one, unh…
--Didn’t see it. I don’t watch much TV.
--Makes two of us.
That giggle again. Like water through the fountains of the Alhambra, so soothing.
--See? she said. We’ve got lots in common! I mean I’d be embarrassed for you to see this old TV I’ve got.
--Seriously. I’m kinda thinking I want to get one of those new ones, the highly definitive ones, but if I don’t watch it, I mean, what’s the point? I haven’t even sent my NetFlix movie back yet. I mean I’d have to watch it before I sent it but—
--Sometimes you just have to ask yourself—
--What’s the point, hunh?
Space and time expanded and contracted between them. Electrons danced. Synapses fired. The conversation turned provocative and pastoral. Hysterical, historical and mock-histrionic. Serious and then sensuous again, as though that was where their happiness ended and began. Before Will Stover and Bethany Byrne realized it, it was three o’clock in the morning.
--Hey, she said, all sleepy and yawny. You wanna have a beer sometime?
--Sure, he said without hesitation, his heart filling with gratitude and relief.
--Let me tell you how to get to Temeraire….
Next: Timed Writing
Intruso, a long-distance postmodern love story
- Her voice was shiny
- Timed Writing
- On Location
- In the Beginning was Rock n Roll
- Cell Phone Interruptus
- The Hooch
- Blackbirds at One O'Clock
- Probiotics and the Muse
- Email by Rodney Strong
- Dope and Flax Seed
- Free to a God Home
- Lemonade and Consequences