Originally published in ZYZZYVA

Originally published in ZYZZYVA

September 13

            John Travolta is in your kitchen, propped in front of an open refrigerator with his face wrapped in damp dishtowels. You’ve got three fans blowing on him—two oscillators set on wooden chairs and a Super Tornado duct-taped on top of the fridge door breezing steadily across his face. You unwrap it to see a flattened nose, a glass eye skewed in its socket, his broad comic face sagging like a stroke victim.

            You curse.

            Rule number one: Don’t steal a wax museum statue from people who can hurt you. Rule number two: Don’t transport it to your apartment in a beat-out Subaru in late summer when the mercury is pushing past 90º and the air conditioner is dead as dead. You were so close, a few feet, within inches, and now here you are: you alone with Travolta. You alone with a libido so gone that all the gods of myth and man can’t do a thing to resurrect it.


Months earlier

            The night sky is the blackest linen snapped out above and flecked with platinum. Tiffany is on your arm, formal and sleek, though cautious as she navigates the red carpet on spindly black heels. You escort her through the opening of a massive white tent in the parking lot next to Davies Symphony Hall. But this is her world, not yours. She’s just allowing you to take the lead.

            Inside, the annual symphony gala post-party buzzes and you remind yourself to thank Tiffany’s parents for the invitation. Anthuriums and birds of paradise rise from the center of the table into the soft amber light above. Before you is a place setting. Silver flatware. Expensive crystal. Fine china. It’s a black tie affair. Obscene wealth is crushing you in every direction. How did you get here, a simple Catholic boy from St. Louis sitting among San Francisco’s social elite? You feel uncomfortable in your rented tux, but you could get used to all of this. For the first time in your life, possibility is before you. You see clearly the road ahead.

            Tiffany sits next to you, legs crossed, fingers poised on the stem of her champagne glass. She couldn’t be more delicious in her slinky cobalt gown. She has all the fresh features of a Seventeen magazine model, washed jade eyes dusted with gold mica, blond hair rising high and loose, her soft jawline set off by Mom’s diamond pendant earrings. She sprinkles caviar onto a wedge of toast, careful to keep the fingers of her blue velvet gloves clean. She places it to your lips, and you accept it tentatively, tasting the salty jelly for the very first time.

            Several yards away, Tiff’s father Chuck stands huddled in conversation with other men of means. The mood looks serious until it is broken by the kind of robust laughter reserved for accomplished men. He throws back the last of his drink: 26-year-old scotch, a spirit befitting a corporate titan with steel-streaked hair and twenty thousand people at his beck and call. His wealth allows him to stay in shape: squash games at the Pacific Club, the annual triathlon, a mahogany tan nurtured on Noreen, the 40-foot yacht named after the hurricane he once navigated through. This could be me someday, you tell yourself as large ideas like destiny and purpose run loose in your head.

            A four-piece jazz ensemble fills the tent with Duke Ellington’s “Sophisticated Lady.” And there, three tables away in her black spaghetti-strap gown, is Tiff’s mom, June, bubbling in conversation with Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, the evening’s guest soloist. She sips champagne and places her palm to her chest, fawning over the violinist. June is still put together at 48, curvy and tan, cold blond hair cropped short and sassy, glinting halogen-blue eyes, no vestiges of a plastic surgeon’s knife. Her aura has a wealth-enhanced sexiness. It’s clear where Tiffany got her genes.

            You feel a smooth dot of velvet under your chin.

            “Come here,” Tiffany says, using her fingertip to pull you close for a kiss. You see her slip a tiny scarlet pill between her teeth. Again she kisses you, docking with your mouth, delivering a hit of R-72 from the tip of her tongue.

            “What is it?” you ask.

            “Trust me,” she says.

            And you do, swallowing and washing it back with champagne. She rises from her chair, grabbing your hand, leading you through the crowd to the dance floor.

            Twenty minutes later, the tiny beauty mark above Tiff’s left breast becomes a psychotic turn-on. An erection rises with hydraulic force. Metallic light snaps behind your eyes. You need relief from the sexual acid burning your thighs. You pull Tiff in tight.

            “Let’s go,” you whisper in her ear, desperate.

            “Where?” she asks.

            “Anywhere. A car, a closet, an alley, wherever.”

            “Does something need attention?” she asks, smiling slyly.

            “Now,” you say, gritting your teeth.


            “You don’t understand.”

            “I understand,” she says.

            You’re pissed, but her teasing unleashes atomic pressure beneath your belt. You excuse yourself, buttoning your jacket to conceal your erection. You split the crowd, dodging, weaving, and then bumping with a half-spin squarely into Tiffany’s mother. Her martini sloshes, but you snap your fingers around the rim and save it from spilling.

            “I’m so sorry,” you say.

            “No worries,” she says, “Your face is red. Do you need a drink?”

            “I’m fine,” you say, forcing your fists down into your jacket pockets, hoping she won’t see the berm in your pants. You can tell she’s had a few by the sheen in her eyes. She takes a step in close, slides her fingers around the lip of your upturned lapel, and smoothes it, running her palm down your chest with an unmistakable pressure that is channeling desire.

           “There,” she says. Vodka sparkles on her teeth.

           “I’m on my way to the restroom,” you say. “Catch up in a minute?”

            “You owe me a dance,” she says.

            You straight-shot to the men’s room, latch the stall door clumsily, and relieve yourself with discretion, ignoring the steady clatter of footsteps echoing off the tiles. Tiffany flashes in a fleshy-pink dream show behind your eyes for all of 90 seconds before the sudden rise to glory succumbs to a cool descent, and a transitory sense of satisfaction.


The complete story, coming soon to Amazon.com