Myron sat upstairs in his favorite chair by the window, with a glass of wine in his hand. It was an Italian red, rich and full-bodied. Outside, the wind rippled the surface of the bay.
His mind was as unquiet as the broad expanse of water. What the hell was going on? Here he’d been trucking along, writing fol-de-rol about these two fictional characters, Smones and Curtailer, when one of them, Mitchell Smones, up and shoots the other, blaming him for alienating the affections of his wife, Jewel, who is in reality, for God’s sake, his, Myron’s, wife. And Smones and Curtailer actually refer to him, Myron, their author, by name.
He took another gulp of the wine. It was a Montepulciano 1985, not a rare vintage, but respectable. Very rich, very pleasurable. He should have sipped it slowly and savored it. But he couldn’t. How had he lost control of his characters? What would happen next?
His cordless phone, on the glass table next to his chair, rang. He kept it near him wherever he was in the house.
His heart sank. Because she had been well established in the business world before their marriage, Jewel had kept her last name, Black, rather than adopt his. So whenever he picked up the phone and it was someone asking him if he were Mr. Black, he knew it was a solicitor of some sort who had gotten his wife’s name off a list and assumed that he, the man of the house, must be ‘Mr. Black’.
They had discussed combining names. Myron and Jewel Black-Night? A bit too cute.
“There is no Mr. Black,” he said, coldly.
“Oh, my. Well….”
She sounded young and scared. Probably new on the job. Probably working her way through school, or trying to support her children. What a way to make a living, calling strangers on the phone hour after hour, irritating the shit out of them, trying to get them to listen to some boring, stupid sales pitch, trying to get them to buy things they had never heard of, and did not need.
“I was hoping to reach the Black residence. Is this the right number?”
He softened. He always did. He did not know why. He had rehearsed in his mind what he should say when one of these twits called him, ‘No, this isn’t the Black residence, honey, but you sound kinda cute–what color underpants are you wearing, anyway? When was the last time a real stud slipped it to you? Say, where are you calling from, I’ll come right over….’
He wondered how far into his pitch he would get before she hung up on him. But what if she got into it? What if she DID tell him where she was? What would he do then? They probably gave them instructions to follow in case this kind of thing happened. Would she call the cops? Was it illegal to talk dirty to unsolicited phone callers who irritated the shit out of you? Or was it open season on them? But what if the caller were a guy? A variation of the same pitch would probably get rid of him fast. Unless he were calling from San Francisco. Then Myron would be the one to hang up quickly.
Anyway, he never followed through on the fantasies when the time came. He did not know why he was civil to these people. It must have been his early childhood training, to be polite and helpful, which he could not overcome.
“Well,” he admitted grudgingly, “Mrs. Black does live here.”
“Oh, great! Is she home? This is Gretchen, from Time-Life books.”
“No. She’s at work.”
He held the phone too tightly. His hand was moist. Surely she would not ask for Jewel’s work number. Surely, they knew enough not to bother people at work.
“Will she be there tomorrow at this time?”
“No. She’ll be at work.”
So far, he was winning.
“Oh. Well, when….”
“Try Monday,” he blurted, eager to end it.
“Great! She’ll be there Monday?”
“She might,” he lied.
Who knows? Anything was possible….
“What time of day?”
“Afternoon. About this time. Try in the afternoon.”
“Oh, thank you. Good-by”
He switched off the cordless phone. His throat was dry. He felt sick. He knew his wife would not be home Monday afternoon. Why didn’t he say, ‘There is no one here named Black’? Why didn’t he say, ‘We don’t want any, don’t ever call again’? Why didn’t he say, ‘Gretchen, baby, suck my…’?
He felt angry, dirty, used.
He would just have to put it out of his mind. No point in dwelling on it. He picked up the glass of Montepulciano and sipped. The stem of the glass was deep blue, the wine a vibrant ruby red. He looked out over the windy bay. He tried to calm himself. The cat jumped onto his lap and, without thinking, he began to stroke her thick, white fur, which would have been soothing, except for the resurgence of agitation about his rebellious characters, Curtailer and Smones. What the hell was going on?
The doorbell range. Now what? A brush salesman? Seventh Day Adventists, with their multi-colored tracts?
He groaned and pushed up out of the plush arm chair. He crossed the pale, pink carpet and down the half flight of stairs to the marbled entry. He opened the door.
It was Jesus. He was carrying a suitcase. He looked tired.
“I’m moving in,” He said.
The way He said it, Myron was not about to argue.
As though in a trance, Myron took the suitcase from Him and showed Him to the spare room downstairs. He carefully placed the suitcase beside the dresser. He stood by the door, not knowing what to do. He was nervous.
“Coffee?” asked Myron. “A glass of wine?”
“No, thanks.” He gave Myron one of those famous beatific smiles. “I’d like to be alone now, if you don’t mind.”
“Sure,” said Myron, stepping out and closing the door behind him. He caught his breath. He was relieved, but, at the same time, annoyed; relieved of the self-conscious discomfort he’d felt in His presence, but annoyed that He had not shown more interest in him.
He went back upstairs, back to his chair and his glass of wine. Sitting there like that, he started to get excited. He started to realize what it meant. Screw Smones and Curtailer. Imagine, Jesus Christ Himself as a house guest. Jewel was going to be surprised. He could hardly wait until she got home from work, so he could tell her. ‘Guess who’s here, honey. You’ll never guess.’
[TO BE CONTINUED]