Category: strangers

The Strippers’ Dressing Room

We’ll call her Morissa, because that’s the name she chose to use when she danced. She was not very nervous, the first time she performed. She knew that she moved well, she knew that she was beautiful, and she was an exhibitionist by nature. Still, her illogical courage led her to make her living with her natural attributes.

She began her career at ‘Le Strip’, in downtown Toronto. It was an upstairs theatre setting. Not a bar. In a bar, the girls were incidental to the drinks, and within reach of the drunks. The girls at ‘Le Strip’ were on stage individually, in the spotlight all the time. They chose their own music, usually the latest hard rock. Morissa was different, and chose some swinging Frank Sinatra, and Count Basie music.

One bad thing about ‘Le Strip’ was the lack of a rear or stage entrance. It was above some stores on Yonge Street. A person, dancer or customer, had to mount the long, narrow staircase to the box office. The route to the dressing room led all the way across behind the seats. The dressing room was at the opposite end, and some men would not take a seat, but stand in the dim light at the back wall, so they could get a close look at the girls as they came and went.

Morissa’s first task was to make the gauntlet run, from the top of the long stairway to the dressing room across the theatre. She kept her face away from the back wall of voyeurs and looked at the girl that was on the stage. She was just finishing her set, and removed her tiny pubic covering and strode around showing pubic hair. She strode back across the stage to the dressing room stage entrance and paused, turned to the audience, and spread her legs to reveal her vagina for several seconds before she darted into the dressing room.

Two seconds later, Morissa entered the dressing room from the other door. The dancer that just left the stage was glistening with sweat. She picked up a white towel to wipe herself down and looked over at Morissa.

“Who are you?” she said.

“Call me Morissa. Do we have to do that?” she said.

“Do what?” the dancer said, while she wiped sweat from between her breasts.

“Show our… uh… private places.” A black girl in a cotton robe was sitting on a stool at the cosmetics counter.

“There ain’t no private parts here, honey.” She laughed and took a long toque on a thick joint. The marijuana fragrance flowed through the air.

The drying dancer was naked, moving down the length of the room to the shower at the far end. She called over her shoulder to answer Morissa’s question.

“No, honey, you can if you want to. This is a theatre, so showing your honeypot is legal, and we get a $25 bonus if we do it for a few seconds. They’d jail you if you did it in a bar.” The black girl blew a cloud of fragrant smoke into the air and beckoned to Morissa.

“Come over here, honey. Take the chair next to me.” Morissa did that, and put her costume bag on a back shelf.

“Maybe I should change my name to Honey,” Morissa said.

“She calls everybody Honey,” said a third girl. She was dressed and prepared to go on stage. She walked to the stage door, and when she heard her music come booming through the wall, she darted out the door and began her routine.

Morissa dug into her bag and withdrew first her cosmetics. These she arrayed randomly on her counter space before the huge mirror. The mirror was surrounded with light bulbs. She chose her layers of costume, one by one. She put them on carefully. She had practiced several times, to be assured that she wouldn’t make a fool of herself in the spotlight.

Morissa sat with the black girl, who still wore only her robe. It fell open, and that was ignored because it didn’t matter. Morissa learned that she was called Blue, and that she was transsexual. They passed a joint back and forth. Blue assured Morissa that the smoke would improve her routine, and she’d enjoy it more. They heard a burst of applause as the dancer on stage finished her routine with a revealing spread that earned her $25 for 5 seconds of exposed vagina.

Morissa prepared for her first performance. She was eager to see the smiling, eager faces in the audience, as they appreciated her body and her dancing. Of course, she planned to expose her vagina. She didn’t care about the $25 bonus. She enjoyed the rush of excitement she gets when she’s sexually bold, anywhere in her life.

Her music began. Frank Sinatra sang, “You Make Me Feel So Young”. Morissa flung the stage door open and strode on her long legs into the spotlight at center stage.

Desire At A Dinner Party

The hostess was a former model and a friend of my wife’s. My wife was an art director and many of her friends and associates were models, photographers, designers and other assorted phonies. My wife, I learned too late, was the Queen Phoney over all other phonies. So we went to the dinner party at the interesting old home of the boring old model.

I found out after I got there that the party was a bon voyage affair for a man who was moving to New York for an interesting job as a writer for a news magazine. His wife was to move with him of course. I looked across the table at Mrs. News Writer and was not able to stop looking at her. She was Israeli I was told. Her face was stunning, her complexion was smooth and tawny and something made me desire her. Her name is Rebekah.

I hope you’ve experienced that kind of thing so you’ll understand what happened to me. I looked into her eyes, dark and deep as an ocean. She spoke with a knowing smile, her voice low and throaty yet I could hear her in spite of the conversations going on around us. I didn’t notice if her husband noticed that his wife and I were flushed with unexpected and unwanted stimulation.

“Arthur is leaving in two days,” she said. “I’ll stay here while he finds a home in New York. I’ll fly down and we’ll make the final choice together. Then I’ll come back here for a couple of weeks to arrange the rental of our home and moving of our belongings to the new place.”

“Do you have kids to put into school there?” I said.

“My kids are adults,” She said. “One’s in university and the other is in the military.”

“You look much too young,” I said.

“Thank you,” she said. Conversations around the table had quieted as a next course of the meal was served. I was embarrassed to think that everyone had been listening to our conversation, although nothing out of line was said. I’m sure the intellectual mating dance was obvious to all, with the possible exception of her husband. He seemed to be oblivious to the incredible hotness of his wife.

“Where is your home here?” I said. “Perhaps I’d like to rent it from you when you’re ready to rent it.” My wife heard that and glared at me. I didn’t care. I’d already decided I was done with her phoniness, and had to move on.

She gave me her address and phone number and asked me to call first if I decided to look at the place so she could make it nice. I said I would, and we dropped the dance of seduction we’d been doing below the surface. We returned to the general gab around the table while we enjoyed really excellent squab. The hostess graciously accepted my compliments on the meal. My wife later told me that the hostess hadn’t cooked it, just ordered it from a caterer. It came with the uniformed servant who had brought the courses to the table.

Three days later I left the office at noon and drove to the address that Rebekah had given me. I called ahead from the car and she told me it would be convenient for her as well. She opened the door in a white terrycloth robe, a white towel wrapped around her head, drying the just washed hair.

“I wanted to be nice and clean for you,” she said. “I have a feeling you’re a cunnilingus kind of man.” I was caught off guard and hesitated a moment before I replied.

“You’re right,” I said. “Perhaps you’re a fellatio kind of woman, so please show me where the shower is.

We enjoyed each other that way three or four afternoons each week, until she moved to New York. It had to end, so it was just as well. My wife and I split up as we would have anyway. I enjoy my freedom, but I miss Rebekah.

THE SZENTENDRE TRAIN

I took the Szentendre train twice each week.  Early Monday mornings I stood at the station near my home and waited for the train to take me into Budapest, where I was an assistant professor of anatomy at Semmelweis University.  Friday evenings I caught a train back to Szentendre.  Between the two short train rides, my life was bland, grey, boring, and repetitive.  In Szentendre I did my grocery shopping in the open market and prepared my meals for the week in the city. I was able to rent a cheaper flat in the city if I didn’t need cooking facilities.  In Budapest I spent most of my time in my flat, and the rest of my time with my students.

Last autumn I began to wonder about my life.  I had been on vacation for the summer, and the return to the routine of city life and work was objectionable to me.  Weekends at home were no better.  Lonely days and nights, some so lonely I just sat around my house and cried for hours.  It took all my will to go to the train station in Szentendre that first Monday morning in September.  The usual scattering of people was there, waiting for the train to Budapest.  I kept my eyes down as always.  I was not in the mood for idle small talk.  My spirit was in turmoil.  I wanted to be left alone, to avoid social contact.  At the same time, I wanted love, affection, attention, and sex.

My husband… my former husband… was a dentist.  He had run off with his office assistant three years before.  I didn’t see it coming, and it put me into a deep depression.  I wasn’t interested in anything, and I simply buried myself in my work. It had not always been so, but I was thirty-nine years old, living alone and longing for love.  I would have settled for any old fool of a lover, just to be touched by a warm, tender hand again.  I was grey.  My hair, my complexion, and my spirit were all grey.  I was a colourless lump of average looking, depressed, slightly overweight middle-aged female meat, and I felt like shit.

The first week back at work was the usual mess of misunderstandings and scheduling conflicts and what have you.  In spite of the lonely, empty house in Szentendre, I was looking forward to getting home to my garden and my sculpture studio.  I like to make pottery or sculpt animals and human figures in clay. It’s just a hobby, but it was satisfying in a way, and helped to pass lonely hours.  I worked in my garden during Saturday and Sunday mornings and in my studio on weekend afternoons and evenings.

The first Friday night of the new semester, I boarded a later than usual train to Szentendre, because the hectic first week of school left me with some extra duties.  Evening was settling in when I took my seat.  The coach was empty except for a young man seated across the aisle from me.  He looked at me and smiled with a slight tilt of his head.  I averted my eyes and stared out the window at the passing scene that was fading in the descending evening light.

I had never seen the young man before, and I wondered for a moment why he had smiled at me. I was one of the first passengers to leave the train.  I hurried across the platform toward home, and didn’t see him disembark behind me.   When I arrived at home, I made a small supper for myself and did a bit of housework before I went to sleep.  Saturday morning, I busied myself with my garden and my studio.  The weekend passed with the usual boring loneliness, and by Monday morning I was ready to return to the University.  At least I had some human interaction at my job, even though it was only with the students in my anatomy classes or some professors in the lounge.

As usual, I kept to myself on the platform, waiting for the commuter train to take me into the city.  Most of the scattered people were reading newspapers or talking quietly to each other.  I tilted my face up to the rising sun, closed my eyes, and let the warmth soothe me.  I heard the train coming, and I felt the people around me moving about in preparation for its arrival.  Someone stood next to me, almost brushing the sleeve of my coat, but I did not acknowledge it.

The breeze from the moving train touched me, and I opened my eyes to climb aboard.  I took a seat and looked up to see the same young man I had seen on the Friday evening ride home.  He again smiled and nodded at me.  I half-smiled in return, took some papers from my briefcase, and pretended to read them.  I didn’t understand why the young man noticed me, and I dared not look at him long enough to see if I knew him.  I doubted he was a student in one of my classes because I know each of them quite well.  I had the impression from my quick glances that he was tall, broadly built, and with a good-looking square face.  He had a high forehead under thick, blond hair that he wore tied low down on the back of his head in a long ponytail.

The train rolled into the Budapest station.  I did not hurry to leave my seat because I hoped to see the young man from a different angle, when he couldn’t see me staring.  I pretended to be searching in my bag for something when he got up and went to the door.  His legs were long and his ass was absolutely beautiful.  The muscles in his thighs were tight in his jeans, stretching the denim.  I could see on the back of his red windbreaker the symbol of the University of Fine Arts in downtown Budapest.  He left the train and turned right toward the exit that leads to downtown transportation.  I turned right toward Semmelweis University.  Before I left the station I stopped and looked back, hoping to see the red jacket in the flowing crowd.  I was stunned to see him standing in the middle of the people rushing this way and that all around him while he looked back at me.  Flushed with embarrassment, I turned quickly and rushed up the stairs with the crowd and out onto the street above.

The week dragged so slowly, I was insane with impatience for the Friday evening train to Szentendre, so I could see the young man again.  By Wednesday afternoon I was beside myself.  One of my students even asked if I was feeling well.  I hadn’t realised that it showed.  I was building up a volcano of curiosity, a lava flow of desire, a fantasy of romance that was ridiculous and I knew it.  My mind was filled with visions of myself in my studio, the young man naked on a platform while I drew him and sculpted him and painted him.  I saw myself walking around and around him, casually viewing his legs, his ass his arms and chest and finally, his cock, hanging like salami over his plump balls.

Suddenly, in the middle of my final Wednesday class, I had a thought: maybe he didn’t take the train back and forth only on Fridays and Mondays.  Maybe he took the train back and forth every day.  It’s only a half-hour each way.  I spent my weeknights in the city because the University provided a living allowance that almost covered it, and the house was just too lonely to live in alone all the time.  At least I could occasionally enjoy a good restaurant meal, or a concert, or just walk anonymously among the strangers in the square.

The final class ended, and I impulsively rushed to the train station and got there just in time to see the train boarding.  I looked everywhere for the red jacket, but could not find it.  I decided to board the train anyway, and go home for the evening.  Maybe the young man had taken an earlier train on Wednesday.  Maybe he would be on the Szentendre platform in the morning – with me also there… on the platform.  I went up and down through every car on the ride home.  I tried to pretend I wasn’t looking for anyone, in case I saw him.  It was ridiculous of course, because what other reason could there be for a foolish old woman to be wandering up and down a whole train, if not looking for someone?

He was not there.  I walked home on the dusty road, unlocked the front gate and carefully locked it behind me before I went up the stairs to the door and let myself into the house.  I felt like a real idiot, going on like this about nothing.  I was obviously emotionally screwed up, or I wouldn’t feel weak as a kitten just thinking about…who?  Thinking about this stranger who is young enough to be my child.  I had to do something to keep busy or I’d go crazy, so I got a bunch of vegetables out of the refrigerator and cut a slab of beef into cubes and made a pot of gulas.

My Farmer’s Daughter Experience

In 1951, I was spending the summer at our family cottage on Georgian Bay. I was fourteen and my brothers were eight and four. Mom was with us all the time while Dad was in the city during the week, and came out on weekends. Occasionally he came out on Wednesdays, just to sleepover and drive back. It was two hours each way, but Dad loved to drive. He was very comfortable in his big, black, Buick Roadmaster.

We had friends, the Smiths, who had a cottage nearby. They also had a hobby farm a few miles from our beachfront place. It was early July, and their hay crop had to be harvested before it was too late. Mr. Smith came over and asked if I’d help get the crop in. In those days, hay wasn’t automatically scooped up and tied in neat bales or huge rolls.

A horse pulled a large wagon out into the field that had been cut and dried. We pitchfork people moved along slowly, tossing the forks full of golden stalks of hay up onto the wagon. Two guys were up on the wagon, catching the forks full from us and building a haystack under themselves. They were the sons of the farmer that worked the farm for the Smiths. They had given me work gloves, but I managed to raise a couple of callouses anyway.

Around midday, the farmer’s daughter brought sandwiches, coffee and water for the crew. She was driving a pickup truck to bring the lunch, and she parked it in the shade of poplar trees at the edge of the field. The farmer’s daughter was named Cloe, and she was sixteen years old. She sat and ate with me, and talked about her life on the farm. After lunch, she decided to stay and help toss hay up onto the wagon.

The sun was hot, the air was humid, and the sounds of the millions of insects filled the air with clicks and calls and chirps. Sweaty clothes clung to our bodies, and I couldn’t help glancing over at Cloe. The way her breasts pushed against the wet front of her shirt when she threw a fork of hay up was… nice to see. I’m pretty sure she knew I was looking, and maybe she liked it.

The sun was glowing bright orange over the western horizon, and the crew was preparing to take the wagonload in to the barn and store it in the loft with a conveyor belt thing that carried it up. Cloe tossed her pitchfork onto the hay on the wagon. She took my fork and tossed it up too.

“Wanna see something?” she said. Before I could answer, she grabbed my hand. I found myself stumbling across the field, trying to keep up with her. Cloe led me to a large bramble of raspberry bushes. “C’mon,” she said, “Let’s go in.” I pulled back.

“I’m not going in there!” I said. “You’ll get torn to pieces on the thorns.”

“Follow me, Dopey,” she said. She ran around to the other side of the large bramble bush and disappeared. I followed cautiously and found myself looking at an opening in the thick foliage. It led to a foxhole kind of hollow surrounded with dense raspberry bushes. I went in. Cloe was lounging back on the dirt bank, plucking ripe raspberries from bushes around her and popping them into her mouth. I sat against the opposite dirt bank and looked at her. She glistened in the shadows, her face, hair, neck and chest shone with perspiration.

“Eat some,” she said. I picked a raspberry and put it into my mouth.

“Good, eh?” she said. I agreed with her. She put several raspberries into her mouth at once and chewed them. She laughed, and the red juice ran down her chin and dropped onto her wet chest where her blouse was open two buttons. I watched the juice trickle down her chest to disappear into her shirt. She was watching my face with a bemused grin. “Do you want to lick it off?” she said. She began to undo another button.

“I can’t. I mean… the wagon’s leaving. I have to catch a ride in to the barn,” I said.

“We’ll go in a little while,” she said. She rose to her knees and removed her blouse. “My truck’s still here.”

My Parents Didn’t Know Me

They were good parents to my two younger brothers and me, but they didn’t know about a few important parts of parenting. Mom was a dedicated mother. She managed the house and kept it clean. She was a very good cook, she knitted beautiful garments for us, and she never wanted to do anything else. My brothers and I would tumble into the side door after frolicking in the snow. We’d climb out of our wet coats and boots, mittens, hats and scarves and run into the kitchen for some of Mom’s unbelievable chocolate chip cookies and milk.

While we were gorging like wild animals, Mom went to pick up all our wet, scattered clothes and sort them out to dry. She didn’t scowl. She didn’t say anything because she saw it as her profession to do those things, and we loved her for it. We weren’t being callous toward her, we were doing what we were expected to do. When I was a kid, and I got out of bed early in the morning to use the toilet, before I could get back to bed, I’d find that Mom made the bed while I was in the bathroom. She liked doing that.

Dad was a good earner. When I was born, they shared a small apartment with my mother’s parents. By the time I was 18, my brothers and I lived in a luxurious home with two new cars in the garage. I also had a new sports car, and in turn, each of my brothers had sports cars. We also had a summer home where we each had our own powerboat. We had charge accounts for whatever we needed. So what’s my problem?

My parents didn’t have the background to understand a kid that wasn’t like all the other kids. My mother believed I lacked intelligence. She occasionally said things to me like: “Your friends are always the dumbest kids in school, like you are,” and “I worry that you won’t be smart enough to make a living.” I had to find the strength to survive that.

With Dad, it was easier. He never touched me. He never put his arm around my shoulders. He never praised any good I did, and always expressed displeasure when I did something wrong. Never spoke to me, except for an occasional lecture about my behaviour, which was never very bad. I did art, I raced cars, I had adventures. Dad never mentioned anything to me, while also never touching me.

After my father died, I learned from his friends that he was always proudly boasting about my brothers and me. The son-of-a-bitch should have told ME.

Out of the confusion of living rich and unappreciated, I eventually became a writer and artist of sorts. I created, designed, and wrote commercials, and a TV series that aired for about 30 years. I watched the first episode with my mother. At the end, the credits listed me as creator and writer. My mother turned to me and said, “Who are you?”

My parents didn’t know me.

Wealth is Overpriced

Two small houses share a driveway that runs between them. It spreads out to two garages in the back, one behind each house. The neighbours are friendly enough to chat on their lawns, but not friendly enough to vacation together. Their character and ambitions were not harmonious, so their relationship was simply casual.

The occupants of the house on the left were the Warrens, Clark and Marianne. Marianne worked at the county courthouse as a court stenographer. She was satisfied with the job, although it was often boring and never fulfilling. Clark was an insurance salesman at the same time as he was working toward real estate development.

The family that lived in the house on the right was Milton and Honey Young with their 12-year-old son, Adam, and their 14-year-old daughter, Sylvia. Honey enjoyed staying at home, caring for the house and the family. Milton was a proud draftsman at the telephone company. He enjoyed his job at the big drawing board amid co-workers who had become friends. The regular hours and days off enabled the Youngs to schedule times when they could visit together, or chat around the dinner table. The family was peaceful and comfortable.

The Warrens and the Youngs had been neighbours for about two years, when Clark Warren began to move ahead into real estate development. One of his life insurance clients was a developer. He agreed to accept Clark into a large suburban development he had just begun. In the cul-de-sac where five model homes were to be built, Clark Warren could own one.

Clark’s model was a front-to-rear split level house with imitation brick on the exterior, and a roof of green shingles. During construction, Clark struggled to arrange his calls to insurance prospects so he could go by the development site to see how his house was coming along. One time, early in the construction, Clark was watching the walls begin to go up, and he noticed that something was wrong. He went to the project manager and asked to see the blueprint of his house. Sure enough, the sliding door that was to lead to the rear patio was instead facing the side of the garage of the next house.

Clark’s response to this traumatic event led him to visit the site several times a week. He would walk around in the construction mess to check every detail against the plan. At the same time, he succeeded in selling three major industrial corporations massive policies. Clark Warren was on a roll. He drove himself on, starting his days early and ending them late. He became addicted to making deals. He made an arrangement with a bright young salesgirl to share his insurance clientele. She would take care of the day-to-day needs of the insurance office so Clark could put more energy into real estate development.

During the same time that Clark Warren was wheeling, dealing, and acquiring a solid portfolio of stocks and properties, Milton and Honey Young were satisfied with their life. Their children are well behaved and disciplined, resignedly taking after school jobs and working toward scholarships. Milton was asked to step up from the drawing board and become the director of a new division based on computer design facilities. A nice increase in salary and a private office came with the position, so he accepted.

Clark Warren, meanwhile, acquired a Mercedes Benz, and a BMW for his wife, Marianne. His real estate dealings had become large, and he was working sixteen hours a day – some days even longer. Marianne enjoyed the increased cash flow and the luxuries it bought, but rarely seeing Clark was becoming an irritant. She became friendly with a new judge named Oliver Kane. He was a young man, quite attractive, and divorced. They occasionally had lunch together, and on one occasion, after a gruelling day in the courtroom, they went to dinner before going home.

Marianne tried to reach Clark with phone and text messages, but there was no response. After dinner, Marianne did not go home. She went instead to Judge Kane’s apartment. She did not get home until almost three in the morning. She was relieved and concerned that Clark was not there. She didn’t know that while she was with the young judge, Clark was with the young woman in his insurance office. Within weeks, each knew of the other’s indiscretion, and a few months later, they were divorced.

The house was sold; Marianne got to keep her BMW and half the money from the house sale. Clark was also to pay her a substantial alimony each month. He struggled to keep his cash flow healthy, living in a penthouse with a spendthrift girlfriend while driving an expensive car and making monthly payments to Marianne.

A few years later, Clark Warren bumped into Milton Young on a downtown street. Milton observed that Clark had aged badly. Dark rings around his sunken eyes made him look ill. Clark noted that Milton had hardly changed. He looked fresh, and said he that he was happy with his family and still on the same job, although he rejected an offer to go into management. Clark asked why.

“Wealth is overpriced,” he said. “Don’t you see?”

The Chinese Lady

Several times during a week, Reuben Fieldstone stopped in at the same little convenience store. The sign over the display window read: Star Shoppe. It was pretentious for the dark little storefront, squeezed between and beneath the commercial office buildings that enveloped it. It was directly on Reuben’s route from home to office and back.

It was on the rush hour route, so he left for his office either after the morning rush slowed, and returned home before or after the evening rush. His days were pretty much his own, because his business was doing well. His studio was making garden characters, such as gnomes, toads, and mushrooms out of clay. The staff and manager are experienced and productive, and he was comfortable to leave them on their own. He just went to the office each day out of habit, and just to make sure all was well.

A tiny, adorable, young Chinese woman ran the Star Shoppe. She was always behind the counter at the cash register with her arm around a very young infant that rested on her hip. She rang in the purchases and made change with her free hand. Often, Reuben would see her husband at the back of the store, near the entrance to their living quarters. He looked to be too old for this petite young woman. He wore a permanent scowl and chain-smoked all the time. The woman was pleasant, but in her eyes, there were signs of burden.

On his usual, boring drive to his boring office, Reuben Fieldstone stopped by the Star Shoppe for some mints. At the cash register were the lovely woman and her baby. The husband, muttering and apparently drunk, scowled unseeing from his bridge chair at the back of the store.

The woman was suffering anxiety, and whispered, “My God will save me. I will continue, and I know my God will save me.” Immediately, Reuben scanned her small arms for bruises, and was relieved to see that there was none. “Do you want help?” he whispered. She looked up into his eyes but said nothing. When she handed him his change, her fingertips lingered a moment on Reuben’s. She looked at the floor and back at her husband, but did not look at Reuben again. He left the store and was filled with pity.

Two days later, Reuben was in the store to buy a magazine and chewing gum. While he paid, he whispered to the woman, “Do you want help to get away?” She looked up into his eyes and made a barely visible nod of her head. “I will help you,” Reuben said. “Can you be outside with your baby at midnight?”

“Tonight? How…?”

“Just bring what you need for the baby. You won’t need anything else,” Reuben said. “I will be at the curb, ready to go, at midnight tonight. If you can’t make it, we’ll do it tomorrow night or the next. You shouldn’t have to suffer punishment from a drunk.”

Reuben Fieldstone was excited. He felt like he was in a spy adventure. He was aware that he could have a lot of trouble from the husband and the law, and he’d deal with it when he had to. He spent the evening arranging his spare bedroom for his guest. He had been using it as a den, but it took little to make it a bedroom. He shelved all the books and magazines, and opened the sofa bed. He put fresh linen and blankets on it.

A few minutes before midnight, Reuben got into his car and drove to his clandestine rendezvous. He felt anxiety and eagerness as he contemplated what he might do next, after he gets her to safety. As he approaced the Star Shoppe, he could see that the woman was not there. He circled the block, and when he came around, she was there with the baby and a plastic bag. He stopped in front of her and went around to open the back door. Without a word, she got into the car with the bag and the baby. Reuben noticed that she looked very small in the rear seat of the large car.

He drove straight into his garage to avoid scrutiny. Again, neither of them spoke as he helped her out of the car with the baby, and took the bag from her. He led her through the door into the house. The woman caught her breath when she saw the kitchen, gleaming with white enamel and polished steel. The baby began to cry. Reuben led the way upstairs, showed her to her room, and left the bag on the bed.

He retreated down the stairs, wondering what the hell he had done, and what the hell is he going to do next?