Unscrewed(3)

By: Lois Greiman


Harlequin plopped his slack-lipped snout back on the mattress with a groan.

Thirty-odd minutes and five pairs of pants later, I was back in the skirt and bra. But I’d added the Guccis, six fat hair curlers, and a layer of makeup.

“The shoes didn’t match the pants,” I said. My tone wasn’t defensive. It’s never defensive when I talk to dogs. That would be pathetic.

Harlequin tilted his head and gave me a loopy expression that may have suggested canine approval.

But why wouldn’t he approve? My skin was clear and I was wearing a damned nice bra.

My legs looked pretty good, too. Little bows really add something to the overall appearance of an ankle. And it probably didn’t hurt that there was a quarter of a mile between them and my rarified hemline.

“You chew these up and I’m sending you to live with your dad,” I warned, slanting my head to get a straight view of my legs. Harlequin did the same. “Yeah, he spoils you now, but—”

Perking his wind-sail ears, he turned his head toward the door and emitted a bark deep enough to vibrate the floorboards.

I jerked my attention toward the offending portal. The cookie dough ball bounced from my stomach to my knees.

I wasn’t ready for Rivera. My hair was still in hot rollers. My earrings didn’t match my nail polish. And my tires needed rotating.

Another woof rocked my world.

Snatching my blouse from its place on the chair, I raced toward the bathroom, wildly assuring myself that Rivera wouldn’t come early. He might be a hard-ass know-it-all cop who habitually accused me of heinous crimes and threatened me with incarceration, but he wouldn’t be so cruel as to show up at my door a full…I glanced at my watch. It was 7:57. Damn it!

Harlequin barked again. I could hear his nails clicking on the curling linoleum as he frolicked in a circle near my front door. I yanked the hot rollers from my hair and tossed them into the sink.

My stomach roiled, but I ignored it, chanting, “Life is short. Life is short. Life is—”

The doorbell rang. Harlequin bayed. I froze like a dumbfounded mannequin. My stomach did a double flip, threatening to expel its contents by any means possible. The doorbell rang again.

I struggled into my blouse, buttoned madly, then opened the bathroom door a fraction of an inch. “Just a minute!”

Harlequin was hyperventilating. I was doing the same. I closed the door, braced my back against it for an instant, then used the toilet before it was too late.

It sounded like a freight train when I flushed, but I was beyond caring.

The doorbell rang again.

“Be right there.”

Harlequin was barking nonstop. Barking and bounding. I could feel his euphoria in the soles of my sexy shoes every time he hit the floor.

My hair looked like it had been slopped on my head by a mad Impressionist. I had planned to wear it up when I’d vowed to go casual but classy. I wasn’t sure what to do with half-naked and sweating like a water buffalo.

Maybe I shouldn’t answer the door. Maybe Rivera hadn’t heard me yell. Maybe if I was really quiet he’d go away and—

The toilet gurgled. I glanced toward it. Toilet paper was swirling madly toward the rim. My heart flipped inside out.

“Holy crap!” Rummaging madly between my vanity and stool, I jerked out my plunger and torpedoed it into the bowl.

Water spilled over the edge like toxic waste.

I whimpered something between a prayer and a curse.

Knuckles rapped on my front door. “McMullen. You in there?”

“Just a minute!” I didn’t sound so congenial anymore. A little breathless. Kind of nuts.

My plunger slurped at the toilet contents, then won the battle with one victorious glug.

Water sluiced down the drain. My shoulders slumped, the exhausted victor.

“Damn it, McMullen. What the hell’s going on in there?”

“Nothing.” My voice was raspy with post-traumatic exhaustion.

“Open the door or I’m breaking it down.”

I peeked past the bathroom door to where Harlequin was having some sort of ecstatic seizure in my entryway.

“McMullen.”

“Just wait!” Damn barbarian. He didn’t deserve a push-up bra. Should have worn a horned helmet and a pelt. “I’m coming.”

A moment later Rivera was pushing his way past Harlequin into my vestibule.

“You okay?” His voice was clipped. His eyes scanned my house, expecting desperados behind every table leg. If he pulled out a Glock, I was going to kick his plum-shaped ass onto Opus Street, but apparently all was safe, because he shifted his devil-dark attention back to me with slow deliberation.

I resisted squirming like a pubescent tuba player.

“Of course I’m all right,” I said.

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