My Hawaiian Penthouse


My Hawaiian Penthouse

David Findlay arrived right on time. It figured. That was the kind of dumb luck he had: his flight never late and his luggage never lost. “And then this limo driver asked if I needed a ride,” he said. “And I figured, why not? I mean, he was cute. One of those hotties indigenous to this island, you know?”


We were standing in the kitchen. I stared at him, astounded that something so beautiful could speak four-syllable words. “Yes, well, that’s the aloha spirit,” I said, my hand shaking only a little as I poured vodka into three glasses.


“Are you sure there’s nothing I can do to help? I feel like I should—”


“No, thank you,” I said firmly. “You wouldn’t know—Harold likes every-thing just so.” I flashed him a smile to show I meant no harm—not yet, any-way. “Here, you can take these goldfish crackers out to Harold before he starts braying.”


I couldn’t help but eyeball his butt as he sauntered from the kitchen. Unlike some people in this apartment, David Findlay obviously went to the gym more than once a year. He was taller than I’d remembered, and with his perfect white teeth and his dark hair cut close to his head, he could’ve been a model. I hated him on sight—or rather, I wanted to bang him all night, which were probably two sides of the same coin.


It wasn’t fair, him looking so good after a twelve-hour flight. Then again, Harold had flown him first class. I took a slug from my drink while assessing my reflection in the kitchen window. One thing I had going for me was my full head of hair, thick and frosted at the tips.


“Teddy? Yoo-hoo. We’re a bit thirsty out here,” Harold called.


And my box, there was that too. I looked good in a swimsuit with my assets on display. “Coming,” I yelled back. Maybe I’d have to shake my moneymaker in Harold’s face a little more often.


“Bingo,” Harold said, taking his drink from me. “Did you get David what he needs? You must be hungry, David. A strapping boy like you.”


“This will do nicely,” David said. He raised his glass and toasted, “To Hawaii—and your hospitality.”


“Here’s a bathrobe,” Harold said, sliding a cellophane-wrapped package across the table. “One size fits all. I thought you might like it. We’re very infor-mal here. No need to dress for breakfast. I just wear my bathrobe. I don’t shower until after breakfast.”


I seethed into my drink. Already it was starting.


“Why, thank you,” David said. “That’s very thoughtful.”


I finished my drink in no time—because basically I couldn’t get a word in edgewise. The two of them were carrying on about people they had in com-mon, New Yorkers mostly. And seeing as I didn’t live in New York, I drank. And while I drank, I observed how David did it: how he managed to be courtly with Harold, while winking at me every so often as if we were conspirators.


“And you had an audience with the queen that year, if I’m not mistaken,” David said.

Yes, Harold had met the queen, which was what a million got you when you tossed those smackeroos at Westminster Abbey. And now he was going to regale David with every single detail, which I’d already committed to memory on the off chance that Harold might need a prompter. I slipped away to the wet bar and was back in no time, no doubt not even missed. The next two weeks were going to be rough on the liver, but once David was out of the picture, I’d lay off the sauce.


“What was her name, Teddy?” Harold asked, finally deigning to acknowl-edge my presence. “You know the one. Bit of a dull knife.”


“How should I know?” I snapped. “I wasn’t on that cruise. You took some-one else.”


“That was me,” David said. “Did you see the photos, Teddy? There was this woman named Mary Maybelle who trailed us everywhere. I think she wanted Harold—”


“That’s it. That’s her name,” Harold said. He toasted to David. “It’s good to have you around, kid. I don’t know why I didn’t get you out here before.”


David smiled coyly. “Well, you know how he could be.”Hewould be David Findlay’s benefactor: the one David had shoved into the grave and covered with dirt. A man named Miles. Miles Something—though certainly not Standish. Maybe Miles To Go.


“I used to see him every year at the Pilgrims’ luncheon,” Harold said. “Quite a nice fellow. I told Miles to bring you around more often.” He looked expect-antly at David. “Well, I guess he wanted to keep you for himself.”


“Miles could be a bit protective,” David said, smiling. “I think he worried I was an ingénue lost in the wilds of New York.”


“You mean possessive,” I said.


“Excuse me?” David asked.


“You never met him, Teddy,” Harold said.


“That doesn’t mean I can’t have an opinion,” I mumbled. Who were these two to tell me I didn’t know what was going on right under my nose?


“No wonder everyone raves about Hawaii,” David said. “It’s luscious just sitting here.”


“The air,” Harold said. “I don’t know why, but I always feel better in Hawaii. Mother used to say it cleared her lungs.”


“And this apartment, Harold, it’s beautiful,” David said. “Congratulations.” “Lucky for me, I got quite a deal on this place,” Harold said.


“A person could get used to it,” David said, “and never want to leave.”


I nearly gasped at his audacity. He might just as well have asked for the deed.


“It’s one of the world’s great resorts,” Harold said. “I like it much better than the Riviera. I never cared for Miami. Too many of the chosen.”


“Harold,” I said. “That’s enough.”


“Well, it’s true,” Harold said, smirking into his glass. He could be a naughty boy, saying what he knew he wasn’t supposed to. “Don’t you agree, David?”


“Yes, it suits me just fine,” David said. “And I’m so glad you stayed, Teddy.”


He raised his glass to me. “You know, we knew each other slightly when Teddy used to live in New York. But then you left so abruptly and we lost touch.”


“Well, I’m here now,” I said.


“To you,” David said, toasting. “Harold said you were leaving, so I was afraid we were going to miss each other.”


“Ships passing in the night,” Harold said.


“I had a sudden change of plans,” I said. And as long as this gigolo was around, I’d keep on changing plans.


“Harold mentioned you were moving. Some place in Michigan, right?” “His pal is a Ford,” Harold said.


“Your boyfriend is one of the Fords?” David asked.


“He’s not my—He’s an old friend of the family’s. His name is Clifford.” “Clif-ford Ford?” David asked. “Is that really his surname?”


I hadn’t thought about that before. “Sometimes he goes by—Yes,” I said. “It is.” He was rattling my nerves. “Anyway, the point is, of course I’m not leaving Mr. Armstrong here all alone. We need to find someone full-time who can help around the house. Harold likes his routines. Isn’t that right, Mr. A?”


“I don’t ask for much,” Harold said. “It’s my knees. Doc said I should’ve had that fancy operation. And now, it might be too complicated. Takes me a little longer now, that’s all.”


“Oh, Harold, you look great. So healthy and tan,” David said. “Your skin, it’s gorgeous.”


The boy was gushing like a waterfall. Harold beamed while I thought I might puke.


“I tell you, it’s the air,” Harold said. “It does everybody good. You’ll see.” He shook the ice in his glass and placed it closer to me, my cue to get him another. He never even met my eyes, just kept looking at David.


I had half a mind to toss that glass over the balcony. Maybe that would ruffle the feathers of these two birds. But instead I stood and loudly asked, “Mr. Armstrong, might I get you a refill?”


He looked at me then. “I might have another. Just a wee one before dinner. How about you, David? Will you join me?”


David sipped delicately, like a hummingbird at a thimble. “Actually, I think I’m all set,” he said.


“Oh, finish that,” I snapped. “We don’t deal well with abstinence.”


That got his attention. “Well then,” he said, “can’t have that now, can we?” And watching me all the while, he downed the rest of his drink.


We were in this to the finish; I knew it right then.


At dinner, he grilled me like a journalist on TV. I would’ve enjoyed it if Harold hadn’t been sitting right there. I could’ve given David Findlay the glossy-paged version of my life, the one I’d lived through that photo from Town & Country magazine. But with Harold sitting there, his squinty eyes fixed on me, I had to stick to the more prosaic version. In other words, I couldn’t lie.


I couldn’t lie because a few years before, I’d had a breakdown in front of Harold. Three bottles of Chateauneuf du Pape and several large snifters of cognac had turned me into a babbling fountain of truth, whereupon I’d told Harold more or less every horrible and depressing thing about my childhood and my family, as well as my encounters with collection agencies and the repo man. It hadn’t been pretty. I hated that Harold knew all the sordid sorrow of my past, although the upside of this outburst had been Harold’s proposal that we travel together. He’d offered travel as a kind of respite from the general chaos of my life at that point. So out of my drunken humiliation, at least there’d been that.


“Teddy was accepted at Princeton,” Harold said. “He’s quite a smarty-pants, you know.”


“Princeton. That’s impressive,” David said.


“Yes, I was accepted,” I said, smiling at Harold, “but I couldn’t afford it. Michigan was cheaper.” Alas, this was not the whole truth, so help me whom-ever. Rather it was one little white lie I’d managed to salvage after my break-down. Realizing how important Princeton was to Harold, I’d given Harold this line, and he’d bought it. And furthermore, Harold was often the one who brought it up. It seemed to give him great pleasure that he’d chosen an almost Princetonian as an escort. A member of his class, as it were, albeit one whose family had fallen on hard times. “Of course, it would’ve been nice,” I said, “but my parents are Michigan people.” Which I thought finessed quite nicely the question of their non-existent college education.


“Michigan State or U of M?” David asked.


He was truly relentless. “Uh, hmm,” I said, biting a tiger prawn in half as I stared back at him.


“You’re an only child, aren’t you?” David said. “I can always tell.”


“No, I have a sister,” I said too quickly.


“Really? I would’ve sworn—What’s she do?”


I forked the rest of the prawn and stared at it deliberately. Too happy to have trumped his intuition, and now I was trapped. My sister was a cosmetician. My sister was a cosmetician at the very beauty parlor where my mother once had her hair done every Saturday morning. And Harold knew this too, because he’d met my sister when she’d come to New York for a beauty products con-vention. “She’s an entrepreneur,” I said.


“A what?” Harold croaked.


“Venture capital?” David asked. He sipped from his wine, eyeing me from the glass’s rim.


Stalling for time, I turned to Harold and asked, “You want me to cut that for you?”


“What’s that?”


“The prawn,” I said. He was having some difficulty.


“No, I’ve had enough,” he said. “But I might have another drink. Are you having one, Teddy?”


“So your sister’s in venture capital?” David asked.


“Of a sort. Cosmetics, pharmaceuticals,” I said, signaling for the waiter. “I can’t talk about it now, but L’Oreal might buy her out.”


“What’s that?” Harold asked. “Are you talking about Taffi?”


“Your sister’s name is Taffi?”


“It’s an old family name,” I snapped, as the waiter came scurrying over. One thing about Hawaii, it was all about the customer. “We’ll have another round,” I said.


“Actually, I’m perfectly sated,” David said.


“Sit on this,” I said. “We’ll have another round.” And then I smiled fiercely at David and patted his hand. “I think we’d better fasten our seat belts,” I said. “It might be a bumpy ride.” Either he caught the reference or he didn’t; at that point, I didn’t much care.


The truth was, I should’ve kept an eye on Harold rather than continue vol-leying with David. The next thing I knew, Harold was slumped over. “Harold, you okay?” I asked, touching his shoulder.


“What’s that?” he asked, raising his chin from his chest.


Harold could drink. He came from the old school, when Prohibition made career drinkers. But then again, maybe back at the apartment I’d been giving Harold the drinks I’d been making for David. Very strong drinks.


I dabbed the drool from his shirt. “Mr. Armstrong?” I cooed into his ear.


“You all right?”


He sat up a bit then, blinking his eyes. “Shall we go, Teddy?” he asked.


“What? No dessert?” Suddenly I had a perverse desire to make a public scene. “They probably have papaya. Can you say papaya, Mr. A? Papaya, papaya.”


“Maybe we should go,” David said, wiping his mouth with his napkin. It was a nervous tic of his, as if some morsel on his face might permanently mar his beauty.


“We’ll go when Mr. Armstrong’s ready,” I said. I was thinking about a liqueur, a bit of cognac to finish off the meal.


“We might pay now,” Harold said, with a bit of a slur. He brought his drink to his lips and missed, soaking his shirt. “Damn it all,” he said. He wiped weakly at the watery stain.


“All right then, let’s go,” I said. “Clearly I’m drinking with amateurs.” And just as I motioned for the waiter, Harold’s head fell forward.


Immediately, David and I jumped from our chairs and worked to right Harold. How many drinks had he had? Had I overdosed him? The maitre d’ hurried over, asking if there was a problem, if we needed assistance.


“Obviously,” I said, as Harold’s cane clattered to the floor.


“There’s a wheelchair in the back,” said the maitre d’, whose name was Louis. He’d been good to us in the past.


“That’s a very good idea,” David said.


“I don’t think he needs—”


“Yes, go get it,” David said, overruling me. “Harold, you okay? Can you hear me? What’s that thing you’re supposed to do when someone’s having a stroke?”


“David,” I hissed. “He’s not having a stroke. He’s drunk.”


“I think you’re supposed to ask him to smile. Harold, can you smile? How many fingers am I holding up?”


“This is absurd,” I said. “You’re fine, aren’t you, Mr. Armstrong?” The truth was, his face looked almost as white as his hair.


“I’m all right,” he murmured. “Just need some air.”


I glanced at David who was giving me the evil eye. “What? I didn’t do any-thing,” I said. I could tell he was blaming me—and if Harold went down on my watch, he’d make sure everyone knew it.


“Should I go get the car?” David asked.


“Yes, why don’t you do that,” I said, fishing for the car keys in my pocket. But just then, Louis was back with the wheelchair. A lovely model, one of those collapsibles, it popped into shape at the twist of a lever, and with that, we lowered Harold into the seat. “Okay, Harold, here we go,” I said, and off we went through the Surfrider’s dining room, which, as luck would have it, was entered by a staircase. So we had to backtrack and parade down the main aisle, past the gaping hordes, and out through the terrace doors onto the pool area where blue-haired tourists clustered for the evening hula show, a show which now included Harold in a wheelchair slumped like a bag of potatoes.


All the while, I babbled into Harold’s ear a steady stream of baby-talk non-sense. The last thing I needed was an autopsy revealing the contents of his stomach, with me indicted for involuntary manslaughter. “Here we go, Mr. A,” I said, palming the valet a twenty as he helped load Harold into the car. Mean-while, Louis stood alongside the now-empty wheelchair—waiting for us to leave, perhaps fearful of litigation.


It never crossed my mind—and perhaps it was just as well—that I shouldn’t be driving. But it was Saturday night in Waikiki. Crowds of bovine tourists shared the avenue with streetwalkers in impossibly high heels, while a sea of miscreants on Vespas and Ducatis roared by me on both sides. I swerved off Kalakaua and zipped along the Ala Wai Canal. The lights were going my way—except for the one blinking yellow, then red, just as that drag queen on stilettos stepped into the street. I blasted the horn—and that girl leaped for the curb like her life depended on it.


“Jesus. You’re insane,” David yelled. “You almost hit her, Teddy.”


“Sorry. I won’t miss next time,” I said. I glanced over at him—whereupon he started to laugh.


“Did you see the look on her face?” he asked, snorting through his nose.


Alas, I’d missed that. I checked the rearview to see if there was a drag queen on my tail. But there was only Harold lolling across the backseat. “How we doing?” I asked David.


“How you doing, Harold?” David asked, turning around. “We’re almost there.”


David was picking up the slack. Together, it was possible we might get Harold home alive.


Through the lobby and up the elevator and into his bedroom—We were that close. I had him in his bedroom armchair, untying his shoesies. I thought if we could just get him undressed and into bed, maybe he could sleep it off. But then he moaned my name—and fortunately I had the good sense to grab the waste can.


“I don’t know what came over me,” he said, when his mouth was no longer full and he could talk again.


“That’s okay,” David said, though clearly it wasn’t, not from the look on his face.


“You want David to take this?” I asked Harold.


Instead of answering, Harold lowered his mouth into the can again.


“Washcloth,” I said to David. “Get two. Cool water.”


We cold-compressed Harold’s forehead and left a cloth atop his head, water dribbling down his face. “Must’ve been the fishies,” Harold said, struggling for dignity.


“Fishies, my ass,” I muttered.


“They tasted a little fishy,” Harold said.


“Very fishy,” David said, grinning at me now.


“We won’t eat there again,” Harold said.


“Can you empty this, David?” I asked, passing him the can, making sure he got a good look inside.


“Must’ve been the fishies,” Harold said.


“You ready for bed now?” I asked, mopping his brow. “Want me to get your jammies?”


“Won’t eat there again,” Harold said.


“No. That’s a certainty,” I murmured, unbuttoning his shirt. “No question about that.”


Once I had him undressed and into his favorite blue jammies, I helped him to bed, where he lay flat on his back, his gaze unwavering at the ceiling. “Bad boy,” he said.


“No,” I said. “Bad fishies.” I pulled the covers around his chin. “You’ll feel better in the morning,” I said, turning out the light and leaving him to contem-plate his performance.


Outside on the lanai, David leaned against the railing with a drink in each hand. “You doing double duty?” I asked. “Or is one of those mine?”


“Here,” he said, handing me a drink. “You know, I thought we might lose him.”


“Are you kidding? Harold Armstrong was pickled at birth. It was those bad fishies.”


David laughed and toasted in my direction. “We should go out,” he said.


“Are you kidding me? And leave Harold all alone?”


“Sure, why not? He’ll sleep it off.”


Was David Findlay propositioning me? Maybe the night was salvageable, after all. I clinked my glass against his. “I’ll be right back,” I said. “Lemme go turn down the heating pad so he doesn’t wet the bed.”


It was something of a sure thing that whenever I entered a gay bar, I became invisible. Boys walked into me like I was a screen door—and then pushed by, out into the open air. David, on the other hand, walked into Hula’s like he owned the joint. Boys smiled at him like he was dessert before circling around to check out his ass. “I like this place,” he said, posing next to a huge banyan in the outdoor courtyard.


“I thought you would,” I said. The year before, one night when Harold had ticked me off, I’d been standing more or less where we were now and somehow I’d managed to engage an army boy in conversation—or else it was the drinks I’d bought him. At any rate, we’d gone to a parking garage, maybe in search of his car, and no sooner had I started kissing Sergeant Don’t-Tell than he was spitting at my feet. “Well, excuse me and my tongue,” I’d told him. Just my luck, I’d pick up a closet case.


“What about him?” David asked. He nodded toward a boy whose body could earn enough to feed entire African nations.


“What about him?” I repeated. The truth was, a gay bar killed my confi-dence. For some reason, I never wore the right clothes, and if I dared to dance, a space suddenly cleared around me. Given my history with gay bars, it was kind of odd to remember that Cliff and I had met at one. Quite a few leagues removed from Hula’s, but nonetheless, I’d been sitting on the pool table watch-ing Cliff play darts, him looking at me and me looking at him, and for once I’d had the feeling that maybe this time—


“Can I get you anything?” asked a waiter.


What a lovely specimen. They grew like pineapples on this island. He was smiling at me, probably because I was with David, but suddenly I didn’t care. “Absolutely,” I said. “Make them both a double.” I grinned wickedly at David who raised his eyebrows. “And your point is?” I asked.


“Nothing at all,” he said. “Nice to see you getting frisky.”


“Oh, you ain’t seen nothing yet. I’m a barrel of fun once I get going. Let’s drink up and go to the dick dancers.”


The strip club was called Venus, which conveniently rhymed with penis. I’d been there before—and not only after I’d wiped army spittle from my shoe. Venus was the kind of gay bar I could handle because it was all about the money. It didn’t matter how you looked or didn’t look; if you had the money, you got the fun. And since I had a wad of twenties Harold had given me to buy vodka and goldfish crackers, and with David in tow, I had no doubt those dick dancers would be all over us.


There was a line out in front, filled with a gaggle of giggling Japanese girls. I tried to be tolerant because, after all, who didn’t love a faceful of Hawaiian pork? Those Hawaiian dancing boys were all that and a bag of chips. And once we were inside, there they were: six of them lined up on the circular stage, all wearing identical yellow rain slickers with yellow umbrellas, gyrating behind a wall of water as that eternal anthem “It’s Raining Men” blasted from the speak-ers. I could hardly contain myself; this was heaven on a stick. “Over there,” I said, leading us past a table of shrieking women. We found places at the bar, which circled the stage—front and house left, as it were. Prime real estate for lap service.


“What can I get you boys?” the waiter asked. Yet another pineapple lovely.


“Well,” I said, eyeing him from head to toe, lingering long on his phospho-rescent green teeny bikini. “Hmmm, let’s see—”


“Cocktails?” he asked, smiling.


Hawaiians really had a handle on hospitality. I waved a twenty under his nose and said, “You take care of us and we’ll take care of you. Let’s start with a couple martinis.”


“Are you sure?” David asked.


He could be such a killjoy. “Listen,” I said. “You drink martinis in here, it shows class. The boys notice. Watch, you’ll see.”


There was one boy in particular whom I’d noticed the last time. His name was Storm. Storm of the big thighs that he could wrap around my head—the tighter the better. I could wear him out for lunch.


And right then, a rumble of thunder sent the six go-go boys scurrying into the crowd. Lightning flashed and smoke billowed, and the girls went wild. “Get ready,” I said to David. And when the fog cleared, there he was: his arm upraised, lightning bolt in hand, hurricane of my dreams—my one and only Storm. With skin the color of caramel and raven black hair, he had a smile that said, “Come and get it.” I could see us living happily ever after in a little sugar shack on the leeward side of the island. Every morning my big kahuna slipping from bed to pick fresh papaya, the two of us slathering each other—


“Hey there, hottie,” Little Rickey said as he sidled up to David.


Little Rickey was too little—at least for me. I could eat him for breakfast and still be hungry an hour later. And then came Hector, sculpted from Cop-pertone marble. These boys and their perfect bodies. They’d spotted David right away. He was easy on the eye and now he was slipping dollars into their trunks and giving them the feel.


But not me. I was waiting on my Storm who’d begun working his way through the crowd. His head up, he seemed to sniff the air like a dog on point. Maybe he was searching for the one guy who would take him away from all this—and that guy would be me. Without taking my eyes from him, I slugged back the rest of my martini. Where was that waiter when you needed him? I waved my arm and held up my empty, and right then Storm looked in my direction. His eyes brushed across me and landed on David. And then he started moving our way.


“Gimme another,” I said to the waiter, winking as I handed him a twenty.


Then I peeled off another twenty and ran it across my lips, creasing it in half. And just like that, Storm altered his path: right past David, right to me.


“Hey, sexy,” he said, straddling my leg, squeezing it between his thighs, just the way I’d dreamed it. “Whatcha got there?”


It was maybe the first time I’d heard his voice. His eyes flickered around the room, and then came back to my twenty. I could feel myself getting light-headed; the boy could make me dizzy. I held the twenty under his nose like a dog biscuit as I ran my hand down his chest, over that impossibly smooth skin, all the way to his little swim trunks.


“Go on. Gimme a squeeze,” Storm said.


The boy had a big basket—which wasn’t the only reason I’d noticed him. I wasn’t only a size queen. Probably he was also quite intelligent.


“That’s right,” he said, his lips grazing my cheek as he leaned toward my ear.


“Now, reach inside.”


I was breathless with anticipation as I slid my hand beneath the loosened waistband of those skimpy swim trunks. Down I went, deeper into the basket of treasure, following the trail leading to the gold, all along its lovely smooth-ness.


“Go on,” Storm said, taking the twenty from me. “Pull me off a little.”


And hearing those words, such intoxicating words, with his mighty tool gripped in my fingers, my head began to swirl and dip and roar with a thou-sand voices. And like that, I went out. I blacked out. Right there in front of Storm, my perfect Storm, my legs buckled and I fell backward off the stool. I fell back into a coven of mean girls who shrieked and giggled and shoved me off their laps and onto the floor—which was how I came to, their voices echo-ing in my ears and David’s face hovering above mine.


“Teddy? You okay?”


I would’ve hit him—had I not been curled on the floor. Of course I was not okay. “I’m fine,” I said, yanking on his pant leg to pull myself upright.


“We should go,” David said, offering me a hand.


“We’re not going anywhere,” I said, clutching his shoulder as I glanced around. “Where’s Storm?”


“Over there,” David said, nodding to where Storm was now astride a gorgeous Asian woman. She was feeding him slowly from a six-inch stack of bills. There was champagne in an ice bucket, and a well-dressed man who seemed amused by his lady’s amusement.


“You know what? I think Storm likes you,” David said, hardly able to keep from laughing.


“Oh, shut up,” I said. I saw now what I should have done. A twenty got you noticed, but twenty ones bought you time. There was a lesson there some place and I might’ve written it down if I’d found a pencil. “How about one for the road?” I asked David.


“Are you kidding? We’re outta here,” he said, roughly propelling me for-ward.


I let him push me. He’d get his later. Maybe I’d do something nasty to him once we got back to the apartment. I’d have a nightcap in the study and plot my course of action. That’s what I decided.


“No, Teddy, this way,” David said, yanking me from the bar.


Okay, so maybe I couldn’t see so good. The music was so loud and the lights were whirling in circles. It could make a person dizzy. And David was jerking me around. I felt like a rag doll as he shoved me out the door and into the night. “You don’t have to push,” I said, or at least that’s what I tried to say.


“You’re drunk,” David said, laughing.


“The hell I am,” I said, marching forward with intent. It wasn’t my fault there was a banyan tree in my path—with an extended root system buckling the sidewalk. Next thing I knew, I was down, my palms skidding across the asphalt. And my ankle probably broken.


And once again, there was David, looking down at me with concern. This was getting to be a habit. “You okay?” he asked. I could tell he was trying not to laugh.


“Of course not,” I snapped.


He helped me to my feet, careful not to touch my hands where the blood was oozing like pinpricks. Meanwhile, across the parking lot, there they were: that gaggle of mean girls who’d witnessed the whole thing. They were pointing and giggling, doubled over with laughter. “Oh yeah?” I shouted to them. “You think that was funny? How about I break my nose now? Would you like that?”


And next to me, Mr. Compassion was laughing so hard I thought he might asphyxiate himself.

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