79. I Been a Butterfly

I said it wasn’t the money, not really. The house, the car, the boat, the suit, the shoes, so on and so forth — don’t get me wrong, temptations of Satan, to be sure. But it’s not the lens through which I truly see.

“Temptations,” said Doris. “Interesting choice of words. We made a deal. You snuck around. Money isn’t the temptation? What is?”

“What does money mean?” I asked her.

“Money doesn’t mean anything,” she said. “You got a dollar bill, you got a way to snort coke. That’s what it means.”

“Baby, I’ve been like a butterfly, all these years.”

“Charles. You are many things. But a butterfly?”

“I mean, down there is the world and the things of the world. And I’m fluttering above them. The house, the car, all of that. I have not been participating.”

“You wanted to participate? I never got that impression.”

“I never did. Not as long as we were in it together.”

“We’re in it together. I keep saying that.”

“You got the money.”

“I gave it away.”

“That’s the point. You could give it away.”

“I never would have taken it.”

“Who’s that smart?”

“You mind me saying, Charles? How was I to know that being rich would be a problem for you?”

“It’s the symbolism, baby. What money represents. That you can have the things you want. That you can provide them for others.”

“Money can’t buy the things you want.”

“The power. The authority.”

“You cared about that? Since when?”

“Since you had them and I didn’t.”

“We’re talking in circles,” she said.

We sat quietly. “You want another glass of brandy?” I asked her.

She thought about that. “Why not?”

I got up, went to the kitchen. A bottle we had looted from Duke’s cellar was on the counter. I got out another snifter for Doris, hoped there would be no reason for her to smash this one, too.

A second later I had my doubts.

A TV news truck pulled up to the curb. A sharp-featured blond in a fur-trimmed ski coat slipped out of the cab and scrambled over the frozen ridge at the curb. She stood on the sidewalk and studied our house. Next came a car. Two rumpled middle-aged guys, one with a camera around his neck and a bag over his shoulder. Print.

Trouble.

I got the brandy to Doris before the reporters had a chance to knock on the door.

“Down the hatch, sweetheart,” I said. “Maybe you want to make it quick.”

“What’s the hurry?”

“Go ahead. Bottoms up.”

I nodded toward the street.

“Reporters,” I said.

“You told them?”

“You kidding?”

“Then what?”

“They found out.”

“What are you going to tell them?”

“Nothing, if I can help it.”

“They’ll knock on the door all night. We leave the house, they’ll make us look like criminals.”

“We don’t have to play it their way.”

“I’m waiting to hear what you have in mind.”

“Come on,” I said.

I led Doris down the basement steps.

Tomorrow: You couldn’t drag me there.

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