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  • The Scrivener


Updated: Feb 18, 2023

Down in the smart part of Florida in May.

The restaurant was very much that kind of place. Yeah, you’ll tell me, how am I supposed to know what that means? Well, it was a garish place. Everything about it was strident. The vulgarity and extravagance screamed at you from the moment you got in the door.

Dietrich and I didn’t fit their demographic for the perfect customer group The perfect customer group was a mixed gender pair of optimistic young himbo / bimbos stepping out of a black BMW ready to laugh too loudly and spend a lot of money on exotic Hawaian drinks. Dietrich and I were both male and I was wearing shorts and a tee shirt.

The female maitre D (I suppose that would make her a maitresse D, wouldn’t it?) -anyway, she had the kind of suntan you would usually only associate with an accident at a nuclear power plant. That is her business, but it didn’t look healthy. She pretended she liked us but was relieved when we agreed to take an inconspicuous table outside in the corner of the front terrace. She had told us with manufactured regret that we would have had to wait ninety minutes to get a table inside.

Curiously, the food was good and the waiter was efficient and genuine and decent and amicable, and we ate dinner and watched the boys in red jackets valet-park the baby Mercedes sedans and the BMWs.

As we were drinking our double decaff expressos at the end of the meal, a girl walked across my field of vision. She was perfect and had straight blond hair and wore the compulsory little black dress. The dress was backless and was held in place by a couple of irrelevant-looking straps. The girl wore no brassiere and the dress exposed the back of her small breasts. Her back was long, slim, and almost athletic. She leaned against the low wall at the edge of the terrace, looking out across the parking lot.

Dietrich gave the parking stub to one of the valets, and we, also, leaned against the wall while we waited for the car. I was telling Dietrich about my misadventures behind the wheel of the Grand Cherokee in Boston.

“Absolutely not my fault,” I said. “I’m sitting in the left hand lane by the Charles River, with my turn signal on, waiting to turn left over that bridge, what is it like the Harvard Bridge or the Charles Bridge or some damn thing, waiting to go to BU. Christ I been stationary for like fifteen seconds and this Japanese girl drives into the back of me in this brand new gold colored Toyota Camry, and I get out and go round the back and she’s bent the back bumper down on the brackets leaving a two inch gap below the hatch. That weird loopy T logo from her hood is lying in the road amidst a lot of crap and road dirt from the inside of the Toyota’s front bumper.”

And the girl (the perfect girl, not the Japanese girl) joins in the conversation uninvited. This is good news but almost unheard of for a perfect girl. Her conventional role is to avoid eye contact and try to fight you off, at least initially.

She goes: “You get plenty of THAT in the USA. People driving around like maniacs and bumping into each other like THAT.”

(She had zeroed in on my British accent and was now giving me a guided tour of the United States).

And she clapped her hands to demonstrate how people crashed into each other in the United States. And then I started noticing it. She clapped with her palms, and her fingers were pulled back like the fingers of someone who had cerebral palsy, and, when she attempted to clap, her hands damn near missed each other at the intended point of impact. She lacked coordination completely.

And the voice is wrong. It is veined with intoxication. But it isn’t tipsy. There’s something else, like it’s perennially fucked up. She should be falling over with that much poison in her system, but she talks drunk and fucked up like it’s been like that so long it’s the norm and she can’t remember it having been any other way. She can hold a conversation, but the subject is trivial, as if all the fine tuning in her brain has gone. She can hold banal conversations in this fucked up voice. She‘s brain dead but she’s been brain dead so long, she combines it with etiquette. Like a dead walkie-talkie doll.

She goes into this bizarre routine about fist-bumping.

“Make a fist,” She says. “Like that. Kiss on the cheek, continental. Shake hands, very formal. But bump your knuckles, like that. Common. Common greeting; not continental, not formal. Like, hiya buddy. Like that, bump your knuckles. Right, like hiya buddy.”

And she turned to Dietrich and took his hand, and bent it into a fist.

“Like that,” She said. “ And Bump. Hiya buddy. Not continental, not formal, just common. Common greeting. Get it?”

Meanwhile I was looking more closely at her face, and I could see that the skin was pulled unnaturally tight across her cheeks and the bridge of her nose, and I looked into her eyes and it looked for all the world like someone had done a makeover on the grim reaper.

After that the boy brought the keys to the car, and as we drove away I said to Dietrich: “So what do you think her story is?”

“Hooker,” Dietrich said.

“You think?” I said.

“What else could she be?” he said. “All I know is, when God creates someone extremely stupid, he usually compensates by making them outstandingly good at fucking. The rich old bastards around here, they love that sort of thing.”

Dietrich was German and spoke colloquial English with a slightly unnatural choice of vocabulary, It was nothing you could put your finger on but just not quite the way a native English speaker would phrase something.

“Jesus,” I said. “Hey, you know Mike K at A & K? I was at a trade show with him last year year in Boston. He told me that the night before he and his buddy had dissuaded some girl in a bar from going to Las Vegas to be a stripper.”

“Yeah?” Dietrich said.

“Yeah they told her if she went there and did that she’d probably wind up in a ditch out in the desert somewhere, dead.”

“Yeah?” Dietrich said.

“Well it occurs to me,” I said, “that that poor little thing in the parking lot is probably headed for the same deal. I mean with her life skills so atrophied, what’s she going to do when she loses what’s left of her looks, or if she gets permanently too fucked up to function?”

But maybe she won’t. Maybe she’s just the pampered wife of some rich cradle snatcher, and maybe that night she was just a little twisted on champagne and prescription happy pills.

“Yeah, right,” Dietrich said.


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