5. Va-va. Then Voom

“A plan?” I said to Duke.

I lifted my head from his shoulder, swiped at my eyes. My tears had turned to mud in the underworld dust that covered the shoulders of Duke’s suit.

“You really are a mess,” said Duke. He took a napkin from the table and rubbed at my face, leaving a smear of gray on the white linen.

I reached for the wine glass again.

“Maybe you had enough,” Duke said.

“The dam,” I croaked. “Burst. Feelings…” I made a vague, fluttering gesture.

“Old story. You bottle it up and then when it blows…”

I tried to speak but all that came out was a low groan.

I lifted Duke’s glass again. Doris’s glass.

Love of his life, or so he claimed as he wandered the Earth after his death.

I had my doubts.

Not to argue against Doris’s talents and charms. If Doris ran the world, all the trains would run on time. If you had a t, it would be crossed. Dependable, dogged, that’s Doris.

All this does not come bundled in plain brown wrapping. With Doris, you get done with the va-va, you still got the voom. She puts a lot of parts in motion. She seems taller than she is. The red hair. The pouty lips. Those heeled boots that she fancies. “A real firecracker!” is the common description. True enough. Doris has a volatile side. But if you’re the object of her affection, that’s not necessarily a negative.

More than once — actually, more than a couple hundred times — I’ve heard people wonder out loud, What is she doing with him?

Even if I’ve got to say it myself, nonetheless I will.

I’ve got charms. I talk. I listen. I cook. I know I’ve got a good thing going. I try to keep it that way. I appreciate. I flatter, but cunningly, believably.

Then there’s the authority that a big man such as myself brings to romantic pursuits. You’re running a road crew, you don’t put a featherweight on the jackhammer. If you get my point.

I drained the glass of Duke’s wine before he could stop me.

Doris was not the love of Duke’s life. Duke was the love of Duke’s life. Giving her a pile of cash and a mansion was a display, not a gift.

The wine. Boom. MDMA, if that’s what it was. It’s not called Ecstacy for nothing. The roulette wheel of thoughts started spinning again. Oh. The soft parts of Doris, the fleshy expanses, the crannies and crevices, the humid regions. An avalanche of cash, dollars and coins, up to my knees, my hips, my shoulders, past my nose. Then I was gone, buried.

“Fatman!”

Duke shook my shoulder.

“Wha…?”

“Enough.” Duke pried the glass out of my hand again.

“You see?” he said. “You see the problem? You see the answer?”

“The question was what?”

“All that dough Doris got.”

“Your money.”

“Her money.”

Hers. Right. Not mine.

“She’s driving the scooter. You’re hanging on in back.”

“That’s…”

“Emasculating.”

“Wrong.”

“The argument? Don’t bother. Here’s what we do.”

“On no.”

Duke tapped the back of my hand with a finger. His nails were blue and his skin the color of turnips.

“We make you a pile of your own.”

Tomorrow: They make pills for this

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