What, No Box?

JOHN GORMAN

Carl Revere and his live-in novia were finally alone, a snarky grin widening across his slight, but contemptuous lips. Anita sat in splendid, Ingrid Bergman repose, waiting for her newly-minted 34-year-old novio to bring her martini. Carl stinkeyed the mess on the table the way only a Bloomingdale’s perfume-spritzer could. Everybody knew he was obscenely lucky to have a knockout like Anita, and he wasn’t about to mention her flirting. Still, he had to vent.

“Can you believe Gary?” Carl said, plucking a fresh glass out of the freezer.

“Nothing surprises me,” Anita said.

Carl shook the cocktail contents, then poured it into the frozen glass. He brought Anita her fix, then poured himself two fingers of Pinot.

“Leads such a busy life, he just stuffs it into a gift bag. Not even a balloon.”

“You invited him.”

“He’s your cousin.”

“Well, he’s not invited to the dinner party on the 19th.”

“That’s not going to fly.”

“So now you’re saying he should get a pass?”

“Of course not, but I won’t get stuck with Burt Hooper and all his yammering about the Languedoc. Gary will have to bear the brunt, he’s the wine snob.”

“He owes you.”

“But you know what galls me most?”

“What, dear?”

“That your cousin doesn’t have the decency to slip in a note. Take ownership.”

“Did you see him making love to the Fontina?

“I would’ve snatched it from his hand.”

“That I’d love to see.”

“Go slug your precious martini.”

“So now you’re calling me a lush?”

Carl tossed back a few aspirins then chased it with his Pinot.

“Don’t be so dramatic.”

Anita took a couple of steps forward so her auburn hair caught a full swath of light. She waited for Carl to make a face, as if it were her cue, and then she really hammed it up. Boar’s Head had nothing on her.

“How else can I be when all I’ve ever dreamed of has finally come true, I mean, what shimmering bright ingénue hasn’t longed to play a bit part in the life of Carl Revere? Honey, all we need to do is grab ourselves a new dining room table and Glamour will put our love nest on the cover of their next issue.”

“You know what that crumb gave me the last year?”

“Of course, I write down all of Gary’s wonderful presents in my diary.”

“He bought me a copy of Malcolm Gladwell’s new book because the creep wanted me to lend it to him when I was done.”

“And?”

“And, I did?

“Whose fault is that?”

“Not the point. He’s got no business exploiting my weaknesses.”

“I’m going to tell you something you don’t want to hear.”

Carl covered his ears with both hands.

“Real cute. Gary, in case you didn’t know, is very insecure, even more than you.”

“How perceptive.”

“Joke if you want, but it’s a fact. Wikipedia it if you don’t believe me.”

“So, do you have any suggestions?”

“Maybe.”

“That you’re willing to share?”

“What if we send him a ridiculously over-the-top thank you note for something he didn’t give like say a set of Riedel glasses, an Hermès scarf, or a piece of the Titanic?”

“Then he’ll think he’s even bigger shit.”

“Precisely.”

“So how does that help me?”

“He’ll have to up the ante next time, and, of course he won’t.”

“He won’t want to be pigeonholed into giving a ritzier gift because once you open that Pandora’s box there’s no going back?”

“Exacto! Leave the thank you note up to me.”

Carl undid the second button of his shirt and let out a deep breath.

“Do you think I’m petty?” Carl asked.

“What do you want to hear?” Anita said.

“The truth.”

“That’s bad for business.”

“I need to know.”

“Fine, but don’t be a big baby.”

“Promise.”

“Well, I don’t think you’re too petty.”

“Really?”

“Touchy is the word I’d use.”

“Thanks.”

“Don’t go being sore on me.”

“I’m not. I appreciate your honesty.”

Anita crossed her bare legs, sipped her martini. Carl got up abruptly, turned his ear as if tuning into a phone ringing or perhaps even a Siren’s call then walked over to the table and frowned at the slim pickings.

“You know, I wish we had some more of that Fontina,” Carl said.

“I could go for some Speck,” Anita said, spearing the olive at the bottom of her glass.

“Anita.”

“Yes, Carl.”

“I’m going to work on being less touchy.”

She pat him on the head.

“And I’ll tell you something else.”

“What’s that?”

“Gary’s got good taste.”

“Yes, he does.”

Carl plopped down in the seat beside Anita and began drumming his fingers on the leather armrest.

“Know what?”

“What?”

“I’m going to give the shirt to your dad.”

“He’ll love it.”

“He looks better in stripes.”

John Gorman’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Monkeybicycle, The Vehicle, Breakwater Review, The Main Street Rag, and elsewhere. His debut novel Shades of Luz is published by All Things That Matter Press. He earned his MFA in Creative Writing from Pacific University. Visit John’s site at Paper Cut, a blog that covers lit, pop culture, and all the cracks in between http://jgpapercut.blogspot.com.

Advertisements