By Justus E. Taylor

4,484 Words

Copyright 1994 by Justus E. Taylor

        Amanda Cosie hefted two heavy green ledgers from her desk over to the big black safe on wheels whose doors stood open every working day at four-forty-five p.m.. As she slid the books onto a shelf, she awkwardly lifted her wrists and dropped her hands downward at forty- five degree angles while she eyed the edge of the shelf for stray dust that might have otherwise clung to the cuffs of her silk blouse. She completed the pile of books in the safe by adding several journals and some work papers on which she had begun the end of the month's trial balance. Then she glanced over her shoulder toward the open doorway which separated her office from that of her boss Cary Elliot, owner of the new car dealership. Amanda was pleased to see that Mr. Elliot was placing a bottle of wine and two glasses on his desk, as he did every Friday at this time. She quickly found her purse and she started twisting her rump enticingly as she negotiated the short hallway that ran from the office area to the rest rooms.

        During a full ten minutes in the lady's room, Amanda rehabilitated every aspect of her makeup; lipstick, blush, eye shadow, eyeliner, mascara, a touch of hair spray which buttressed the slightly teased pile of dark hair which added two or three inches to her five-foot-five frame. Having checked her pantyhose for runs, she twisted her skirt so that the seam in the rear exactly split her shapely behind. She then cuddled a small atomizer in her hand and sprayed her neck and ears with the expensive cologne she kept in her oversized black-leather handbag. Finally, she smiled coyly at her own image in the mirror, winked, reassuringly pushed her hands upward under her cups and then left the room feeling very self-satisfied.

        As Amanda entered his office, Cary Elliot, seated behind his desk with his hands in his pockets, stood up and was somewhat obvious about shifting his underwear to make his organs more comfortable. She pretended not to notice this gesture as she leaned over the desk to receive a kiss on the cheek from the short, pudgy and balding Cary, before she poured herself onto the small red-leather couch that flanked his desk. Swiveling in his chair to face her, he moistened his lips, stared at her through the flame as he lit a cigarette, and eventually spoke sweetly to her.

        "Let me pour your some wine, My Dear. You've been doing a great job for me. You surely must be the world's greatest bookkeeper. And I think these Friday afternoon meetings we have help to keep everything on track, right?"

        "Sure, Mr. Elliot. I know your management technique keeps me satisfied,she courted, taking that instant to recross her legs slowly enough to produce flickering pictures for him, like the burlesque machines cranked with a handle in very old penny arcades.

        Shifting himself and his glass of wine over to the sofa, and resting his right hand on her thigh, he lowered his voice seductively and whispered, "So how long is it going to be? We've been denying ourselves for too long now. Your husband and my wife would never know the difference. They'd probably even benefit 'cause we'd become real easy to get along with, right?"

        "Some day soon, Mr. Elliot, very soon. I promise you, but I have to get going now. You know I'm supposed to be waiting on the corner for Buster by five-thirty. If I'm not there on time he might think something funny was going on,then make me stop working here. You know,so jealous it's just ridiculous!" Easing herself forward, off the couch, and rising to her feet, she leaned over toward Mr. Elliot and touched her right index finger to her lips, and then to his. Moving to the open doorway to her own office, to get her coat, she wiggled her rear so vigorously it almost required a contortion. Then, with the mink coat slung over her shoulder, she poked her head back into his office and throatily delivered her farewell. "Good night, Lover! Have a great weekend, you Hunk"

        Cary Elliot remained on the sofa for several minutes after Amanda had passed through the hallway and out of the glass front doors. Having already drained his glass of wine, he stretched forward to set the empty glass on his desk, out of the way, so that he could use both hands to help raise his bulk from his seated position. once on his feet, he peered into the imitation mirrored mosaic that hung behind the couch, and finding a little corner where the light enabled him to get a clear reflection, he smoothed a few gray hairs on his bare scalp, patted down his mustache on either side of his mouth, twisted his head and raised it a little, almost to profile, and spoke to himself: "you devil you," he purred, you've kept her going for five years!" He flicked the button of an intercom on his desk and ordered: "Have Michael bring the car around. I want him to take me home now."

        Tallish and slimly built Buster Cosie always complained to his wife Amanda about having to pick her up from work every day. His argument was that since the deli-restaurant, where he waited tables, was all the way uptown on East Eighty-Sixth Street, and her job was way downtown at Tenth Avenue and Fiftieth Street, in the half-hour that it took him just to drive down and across town, he could go all the way home by himself; to their expensively furnished apartment downtown near the Brooklyn Bridge. Buster liked to make this argument because it always kept Amanda off balance. When he picked her up he could act grumpy or pleasant, as he chose. If he was nice she had to assume he was bending over backwards for her. If he felt mean he would just frown and it was assumed that she knew why. Actually, he loved picking her up, because he loved to drive. Amanda was willing to tolerate almost anything, simply to avoid risking her expensive clothes and jewelry on the crime-ridden subways. She continually threatened to learn to drive but could never be seen doing anything to bring that about.

        As their three-year-old Buick pulled up to the corner where she was waiting, Amanda scrutinized it quickly, before opening the door and taking possession of the front passenger seat. She first inserted her butt into the car, then swung her legs in, with knees only slightly gaped toward the passersby in the process.

        "Thank you Buster," she said, matter-of-factly, while immediately groping for the seat belt. She instinctively braced herself an instant before the car leapt away from the curb, with squealing tires and a blast of black and blue smoke from the exhaust pipe. Several cars to the rear made skidding sounds, sending Buster into one of his usual self-righteous tirades about the ineptness of everyone else on the road.

        "Did you hear that? Goddamn assholes, I had my signal on. They just want to lock you in! They'd keep you right there at the curb for the rest of the day. Well, up theirs! They ain't doing that to me. I got a license the same as they have!"

        Amanda clutched her hands tightly together and jammed her feet hard against the front firewall. She also rocked back and forth in quick movements, hoping to feel the restraining grasp of the shoulder belt; but in vain. Her often felt annoyance recalled the claim in all the owner's manuals, that you can't move fast enough to activate the belts unless you're flung forward in an accident. "Fine," she thought, "and if they don't work then, have the undertaker send in a complaint"'

        "Now look at that dumb bastard on our right," Buster was saying, "he knows I'm gonna be turning right soon. And when I speed up, to get ahead, he speeds up! I bet you if I slowed down he would too. So I'm not gonna do that! I'll pretend I'm looking over to my left, and speed up so fast I'll catch him off guard. That'll also get that other bastard behind me off my tail. Every time I hit the brakes he almost hits us before he stops. To hell with it, I'm making a left, and screw them all. My signal is on!

         Mrs. Cosie suppressed a scream and grasped the dashboard in front of her, as she witnessed her husband cutting across two lanes of traffic to make a left turn at the next corner. She was sure that at the very least another set of fenders would be demolished, and she'd have to charm Mr. Elliot again, to let them have the next good trade-in that he got, at cost. She nearly choked as she realized that having made the turn, Buster was revving the car up to almost fifty miles an hour within a block, trying to get in front of a small sports car. She knew that showing fear only made him more reckless, so she managed to start whistling, although it was very weakly.

        By the time they reached their Lower Manhattan neighborhood, the packages of deli food which had started the trip on the back seat were scattered all over the rear floor, some in danger of leaking their juices, from cole slaw, potato salad and the like. Buster hated the deli cold cuts, and the salads, pickles, sliced rye, french fries and the forever, rice pudding. Still, he had to bring such nourishment home, five days a week, or risk a non dinner for himself and their fourteen-year-old son Alex. If called to court he would have been willing to testify that Amanda hadn't cooked, even an egg, for fourteen of their fifteen years of marriage.

        As they approached the door of their two bedroom apartment on the eighth floor of a building that overlooked the East River, they could hear the justification for the frequent noise complaints from their neighbors. Alex was blasting heavy metal music on his stereo, so loud that it seemed as if there was a live performance in the hall. While Buster was dropping off the deli supplies in kitchen, Amanda scurried to Alex's room. Expecting to find him flaked out on the floor or bed, she was amazed to find him planted in front of a car racing video game, which most often occupied the screen of the IBM computer they had bought for him, for a school work advantage.

        "Alex, turn down that noise," she shouted, of course to no effect. "Alex...," realizing that his back was to her, and that she was being drowned out by the subject of her complaint, she moved over to the stereo and began to randomly search for the off switch. This caused the music to flutter, warble, fade and at times become even louder. Alex started rocking in his chair, apparently groovin' to these effects while still intent on his video game. Finally, in frustration, Amanda went to the wall and yanked out assorted plugs and adapters, causing the room to suddenly fall silent, as even the computer's picture shrunk and disappeared. Then Alex turned around. "Hey! Mom, why'd you do that?"

        "You were so busy blasting everybody out of the neighborhood I couldn't get your attention to turn down that noise, that's why!"

        "You see? I could have been doing a paper for school and the whole thing would have been erased," he protested unconvincingly, pointing to the computer.

        "You? Do a paper for school? About what, scholarship tesses?" she chided sarcastically, "Anyway were going to have dinner in a minute. Wash your hands and come to the table."

        Still feeling put upon, Alex probed for a nerve by mumbling: "Where is it from this time, a candy stand in a movie theatre?"

        You better shut up, if you don't want to be slapped in the mouth," Amanda shot back. She was surprised that she was still sensitive about her notorious lack of food preparation.

        Gathered in the dining alcove, the trio ate in spurts of silence, broken by Amanda's report to Buster about Alex's addiction to the car racing video game. "He's a boy; that's natural for boys," Buster defended, seeming to perhaps even stick out his chest a little as he spoke. Amanda persisted, needing to get Alex in some sort of trouble, in retaliation for his remark about her never cooking. "Boys are also supposed to grow up to be men and know to earn a living! What's he gonna learn from those dumb games while he brings home grades that don't even reach passing. We really couldn't afford that computer, but we sacrificed things for ourselves. The best we can do now is make the minimum payments on our charge cards. The interest is just killing us! And for what? For him to sit listening to that so-called music while he sees how many accidents he can get into on that toy game? He's gonna wind up just like you, Buster. I think you'd keel over and die if you ever thought I might enjoy riding in our car with you."

        "That's not fair Amanda. My driving is excellent! Those assholes on the road create the problems. Every time I've been hit it's been by some jerk who wasn't watching what I was doing. You've never been hurt in our accidents have you? Even while totaling three cars we've always come out all right, so I must be doing something right!"

        Noting the rising heat between his parents, Alex decided it was a strategic moment for him to deliver some bad news. "My Home Eco Teacher wants one of you to come to school at eight o'clock tonight for a conference," he discreetly slipped in between the bickering. Buster and Amanda were more distracted by the idea of having to do something by eight o'clock, since it was already six-thirty, than by the actual content of their son's whispered remarks. Amanda caught her balance first and raised a question: "Home Eco? Only the girls take that, don't they?"

        Alex was gratified that the first question hadn't been why anyone had to go to the school. He mastered a simple conversational tone as he responded. "Oh, you remember, all the schools make the girls take shop and the boys take cooking and sewing so as not to be accused of being sexist or something."

        Buster had begun to warm to the notion of getting out of the house for the evening, no matter what the reason. He immediately volunteered to go, and he announced it quickly so as to preempt his wife's options. "Of course I should go and see what this is all about. It's dark, so it's safer for me to go since I can drive over there. What does you teacher want? You get in some trouble? What'd you do? Tell me so I can think up an excuse before I hear her complaints. C'mon Alex my boy, what harmless prank did you pull?"

        "Nothing Dad. I didn't do nothing. Well, except I haven't been showing up for the sissy-fied cooking class. A lot of my friends cut it too. I shouldn't have to take that, since everybody , especially us, knows you can eat out of restaurants and never cook anything... I don't mean anything Mom. Don't get mad. But it's true isn't it?"

        "I can understand where you're comming from son," Buster coaxed," but you should have gone to the classes even if you didn't bother to cook like you meant it. But anyway, I'll smooth things out with your teacher. Just put in an appearance now and then till the end of the term." Rising from the table Buster ambled toward the bedroom saying:"I think I'll take a flop for a half- hour, and then head over to the school. Write down the teacher's name and room number for me so I won't have any trouble finding her." After closing the bedroom door behind himself, he stretched out across his bed; the twin bed that was farthest from the windows.

        Buster was annoyed when he awakened to find that it was already eight-fifteen. Leaving the bedroom, noticed Amanda was half-asleep on the living room sofa, being lulled by the tv's flickering picture and steady drone. Alex had apparently left the apartment to hang out with his friends. Quickly zipping into his blue ski jacket, he dashed for the elevator which, luckily, was discharging passengers on his floor at that moment. When he reached the Buick in the basement garage there was that ever reliable exhilaration that seemed to expand every cell of his body whenever he unlocked the car's door. He slithered in behind the wheel, checked that the seat was all the way back (even though no one else ever drove the car) to fit his six-foot torso, so that he could stretch out his arms to the wheel; like his vision of a race car driver. After punching the electronic door opener, he guided the car up the ramp to the street. Glancing to his left, down the one way street, he gassed the motor and the car quickly hooked to the right, out onto the roadway, where he popped out the clutch to make it take off like a rocket, down the block.

        It was close to nine-fifteen as Buster was searching for room four-three-seven where he was to meet with a Ms. Hannah. At the instant he found the room, he saw her with her coat on, about to extinguish the lights and close the door.

        "Excuse me, Ms. Hannah?"

        "Yes, I'm Ms. Hannah."

        "I'm Buster Cosie, Alex's father. I'm sorry I'm so late, but Alex forgot to tell me about the meeting until the last minute. You know how kids are. Is it Too late? Can we still talk? I'm really sorry to inconvenience you." Buster's concern not to inconvenience Christine Hannah steadily grew as he became aware of her shapely body and very attractive, perfectly complexioned face.

        "No, I guess you're not that late," she answered reassuringly."I do want to get an idea of what the problem is with your son. Come in and have a seat. Sit here, by my desk. There's no way that anybody your size could be comfortable at one of those student desks."

        Buster was flattered that she was actually noticing him as a person, not only as a student's father, and he made every effort to smile to enhance his attractiveness. He removed his glasses and tucked them into his jacket as he employed his sexiest tone for his next question. "So, has my son been giving you a hard time about your cooking class Ms. Hannah?"

        "Oh, Christine will be fine. It's so much easier to communicate if we can drop the formalities. It's not even a matter of his being unruly as such. He just never shows up for the class. I could merely fail him of course, but I wouldn't feel that was doing my job as an educator." She was careful not to sound bitchy as she continued: "Is it some notion he has about 'woman's work' and being macho and all that? If that's it I'm sure it would help for you to explain to him how the old roles game has almost completely disappeared, with so many women in the work force now. You know!"

        "Yes, I agree with you one hundred percent," Buster enticed, through broadly smiling lips. Then, taking on a carefully drawn frown, he made his commitment by promising, "You can stop worrying right now. I'll straighten him right out when I get home. And I don't mean with orders. I'll explain things to him and reason with him as I always do. Of course I have the ability to get tough too, if that was ever necessary, but I'm sure he'll see the light without that. The problem is solved! I'd really like to talk to you some more, not just about Alex. He's important, but not that important, if you catch my drift. Is there a place near here where we could go for a drink?"

         Christine felt like her mind had been read. She smiled happily as she supplied the fact that there was a cocktail lounge only two blocks away that was sophisticated and quiet.

         While seated in a booth and nursing two glasses of white wine, Christine and Buster became increasingly comfortable in the dimly lit bar. Soft shadows emphasized the good looks of each to the other. "Are you by any chance a widower , or even divorced?" Christine spoke off-handedly, leaving it fairly clear that the answer was not going to be critical one way or the other.

        Well, looking at you I'm sorry to say that I'm married," Buster responded, using a ploy that he knew was honest, but still a compliment. I think marriage has it's good points," he added, "in the beginning that is. But after fifteen years of it I frankly wish there was some way to push a button and make it all go away." As he said this he was also searching under the table with his foot, and soon encountered her leg, which he gripped from the thigh down with his own two legs.

        "I'm thirty seven and I was once married for three years," she volunteered. "I don't think it was all his fault that it didn't work out. I'm a very passionate woman not every man can handle the pressure of that; if he's not a guy who's always hot to get to it. I think of sex as a kind of currency.You spend it on another person if that's a person you want, and that other person does the same to get you, and keep you! Do you know what I mean?"

        "Of course I do," Buster forcefully agreed, "and if there was ever a man who was always ready to make love, it's me! My wife is the very opposite, never wants to give it up. We even have twin beds! I must admit she was a little better the first six months after we got married, but for almost fifteen years now she'd be every bit as happy if I never raised the subject. Let me get you a fresh drink," he interjected this as a statement, without asking, since he felt he had a vested interest in Christine becoming a little light-headed.

        By casually glancing at his watch, Buster noted that they had been talking for an hour-and- a-half, while consuming three drinks. Christine's eyes loomed large and misty in the dim light, and he was imagining all manner of things about her mouth. "It's getting on towards midnight," he commented lightly, could I possibly give you a lift home? If you're not driving I'm sure you don't want to chance public transportation this late at night." "That sounds good, Buster, she beamed, but I have to warn you that I live out in Queens.How late are you allowed to stay out? Oops, I take that back! It sounds like a bitch. I'll simply say yes, and when we get to my house you're invited in for a night cap, O.K.?"

        "That's super! You're some sweet, beautiful woman. Let me help you with your coat. I'll take care of the check at the bar."

        As they left the cocktail lounge they noticed that it had been snowing lightly for a while and there was about a half-inch of snow already on the ground. Christine guessed that she should be considerate, and she grasped his arm while suggesting that perhaps it would be better if he could help her get a taxi.

        "Not on your life," Buster insisted, genuinely happy for the additional driving challenge the weather presented. He pushed the light snow off the windshield and rear window of the Buick with a brush from the trunk. After about three seconds of warm-up, he jockeyed back and forth, out of the parking spot. He blessed the cars to the front and rear with moderately heavy raps to their fenders in the process. He then made a partly sideways and skidding lunge down the block. Christine snapped on her seat belt and suddenly realized that the tipsy relaxed feeling she had been enjoying had to be cleared from her head. Peering to her left to get a critical look at Buster, she took note of his fully stretched out arms, his head tilted forward causing his transfixed eyes to roll up towards his hairline, staring in fixed focus, like a preying animal. She probed, much more weakly than she wanted to.

        "Are you all right?"

        "Sure I am, except for that stupid son-of-a-bitch in front of us who's gonna make us miss the light at the next corner." Simultaneously Buster floored the gas pedal, pulled out and around the car in front and caused the Buick to slide slantwise for several yards before it straightened out at the moment that he slammed on the brakes, in response to the traffic light which had long ago turned red. This move sent the Buick skiing on the wet snow, into the middle of the intersection! In Christine this awakened stark fright! Buster gunned the engine, spinning the tires for several moments before they caught the pavement, hurtling the car on it's next skiing slide which ended well into the next block, a few inches from the rear of a trailer truck.

        Ultimately, they arrived in front of Christine's house in Queens. Her eyes were closed, as they had been ever since she had wet herself back at the entrance to the Fifty-Ninth Street Bridge. At the bridge Bustet had actually spun the car around one-hundred-and-eighty degrees and had traveled backwards for more than sixty feet. Testing the world by squinting to see if it really was her apartment building, Christine then leaped from the car and slammed the door. Then she opened it again, but only about six inches. Her voice had a razor's edge, cutting Buster like he had never heard. "There are two rules of Home Economics that I swear by. Women who won't cook don't screw! And men who can't drive can't wait! You're a sexual miser!" Slamming the car door again, she marched into her apartment building, and she slammed that door too!


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