It Was a Dark and Stormy Night
The front of the restaurant was an island of light in the otherwise ink black sky. Clouds were moving in. The sun had rose red that morning foretelling storms. No shit, Mike thought as he stopped to push the door open for a woman. She was black haired and porcelain skinned. He had spotted her on the platform, getting off of his train. He was intrigued and wanted to follow her. He wondered what she looked like naked and feared that that wonder played itself on his face. So he kept back. Ten paces at least. She walked fast, then slowed as she approached the front door of the restaurant. He quickened his pace slightly, caught up with her and reached for the door to pull it open.
She smiled slightly at him, whispered “Thank you” and went in. The foyer light caught her red curls and set them on fire. As red as the sunset had been.
“Sir, your coat is wet.” The maitre’d said. Mike looked down. It was wet. He had no idea why.
“I have no idea why.” Mike said.
“Please. Perhaps you’d prefer to check it. Andrea will take it for you.” The man pointed at an alcove off to one side of the restaurant. A bored looking brunette was resting her upper body on her elbows. She stared off at the far reaches of the dining room, quietly chewing gum.
Mike took off his coat. It was a London Fog classic cut rain coat. He shook some of the moisture off. A drop caught Andrea in the eye and for a moment she looked as if a tear of joy was running down her cheek. Then she winced as the motor oil, tar and chewing gum residue that lived in the drop of water hit her cornea.
“Goddam!” she exclaimed.
“Sorry about that. No idea how it got wet.” He took his small green chip for the coat claim and stuffed it in his pocket. He turned and thought he heard Andrea pouring some liquid, or perhaps she was spitting, in the coat’s pocket. He decided to ignore it.
Kristen sat at one of the tables in the corner. She looked up to see him approaching. He regarded her carefully. She looked lovely. That didn’t make his job any easier. Her hair was neatly coiffed and one lock hung over her right eye. She was wearing a dark green strapless dress that emphasized her pale skin and thin build. The dress was low cut and emphasized her cleavage. Mike stuffed a hand deep into his pants pocket and pretended to root for change as he crossed the open dining room floor.
“Hi” he said as he sat down, folding his hand neatly back upon itself inside his pocket. He winced.
“What is it?” she asked.
”Nothing. You look lovely.”
"Thanks. I know the red dress is your favorite. That’s why I wore it. You look nice too. Did you see the sunset?”
”It was raining.”
”Drink, sir?” the waiter asked. “May I recommend something from our wine list?”
”Please do.” Mike encouraged him.
“The Meridian merlot is a wonderful choice.”
”I’d prefer a white.”
”I’m afraid that the Meridian merlot is all I can think of right now.” The waiter seemed both confused and obtuse.
“Why is that?”
”It’s the only thing we have a glass of right now.”
”Something isn’t right here.” Mike said. Things weren’t adding up. Usually waiters had a much better sense of wine. So did Mike. But all he could think of right now was the damn merlot. Kristen was no help whatsoever. When he wasn’t engaged with the waiter, she sat quietly in the background. Almost motionless. It was as if she needed to be animated by some outside force. What was more, the waiter was following the same pattern. Top it off, he only seemed to be casting the slightest of shadows. Mike looked at him. Straight on. Nothing wrong there. Then he looked at him askance. The man was as thin as a rail. As a matter of fact, he was thinner. Viewed from the side, he was as thick as a sheet of cardboard.
“Honey?” he looked straight at Kristen. Then he looked at her from the side. She seemed fully formed and fleshed out. “You all right?” he asked.
”Fine. I was just thinking about that time on the beach. You know, on Fire Island, when we rented the cottage and walked down to the beach after midnight. I had a bikini on under a windbreaker. You slipped the overcoat off my porcelain white shoulder and looked at the rest of my skin, glowing in the moonlight. The waves were crashing in and masking our breath, heavy on each other as hands pawed and groped in dark regions, setting brains on fire with what might be. Finally, you slipped fingers in under my suit and began to inch the bikini bottom off. A dark, nether patch, red, natural red hair was exposed on the white flesh. You took my top off and pushed me down on the sand, thrusting your tongue-“
“Sorry sir. But Banrock Station seems to have just hit me as a fine selection.” The waiter interjected.
“Why are you not wearing any pants?” Mike asked.
“No idea sir. But did you see Monty Python Live in Hollywood?”
”No. Banrock station will be fine. Thank you.” Mike said. The waiter didn’t leave. He watched Kristen lose her top in the moonlight. Her breasts relaxed and she ran her hands over them slightly.
“Her name is Diane.” Said Mike.
“Huh?” said no one in particular.
“Her name is Diane. My wife’s name is Diane. She is not tall and slim and a redhead. She could lose about ten pounds and has brown hair. She’s at home right now and Kristen is the art director on the second floor over whom you seem to be having masturbatory fantasies.”
”Could be.” Said no one.
“Look.” Mike continued. “I realize that I’m an imagined extension of your persona with the name and moxie of your friend the copy editor. And I realize that as a fictional character, I pretty much come and go as you please. I’m ok with that. It’s not bad work. There’s a lot of downtime, particularly the way you write. But can I ask you this? Could you please not publish me until you’re beyond the first draft.”
”Don’t know what you’re talking about.” The voice said.
“Yes you do. Look. Scroll up for a second. I’ll wait.” Mike paused and the restaurant seemed to slip away. Then it was back. “See. This is your first draft. And that’s ok. We all gotta start somewhere. I’ve always been an advocate of keeping going. You can always circle back and fill in the gaps. But this is ridiculous. Its obvious that this is a first draft and yet you’re posting like it’s the final deal. Look, its clear that I’m the only character you’ve thought out. I’m here but she’s not. In fact, you’re just going on right now so you can put her back on the beach and jot down a quick paragraph about her tits. This is absurd. Stop writing right now. Print this out, get a red pen and correct it. Then put it out for publication and not a second before. Got that? Oh and stop writing while you’re horny, would you please?”
There was a silence. Kristen looked up. Her green gown contrasted with he smooth, silky skin beneath. “Is everything all right, honey?”
”Fine.” Said Harry. “Do you remember that night on the beach? Your breasts relaxed as I took your top off. They glowed in the moonlight, firm and pert and each the size of a softball, the nipples pointed slightly outward...”