Slow Squeeze(6)

By: Dianne Emley


“Beverly Hills?” Iris guessed.

William nodded. “Definitely.”

Then Iris saw a bird not native to these parts.

She was pretty, with a diamond-shaped face, wide-set brown eyes, full cheeks, and a puckish mouth, all of it just past ripeness. She was short and a bit round and walked with quick, mincing steps on purple Frederick’s of Hollywood shoes with ankle straps and three-inch heels. Her white suit had a bolero jacket with bright faux jewels scattered across the lapels. Her skirt was short and tight with a high back slit. Her blouse was purple silk with a low V-neck revealing serious cleavage. She wore big gold jewelry, a large, white, hobo-style purse, false eyelashes, many shades of eye shadow, and hot pink lipstick. She had very big, very black hair teased into a style suggesting a bird’s nest.

“Now there’s someone who marches to her own drummer,” William said.

“I have a sinking feeling she’s my client.”

The host had wandered away from the podium, and the woman danced on those heels looking for him, twisting an oversized watch on her wrist with long, hot pink porcelain nails. She skipped to the front of the podium, picked up the reservation list, held it to her forehead to shade her eyes, and peered into the bar. Iris tentatively raised three fingers in greeting. The woman fluttered the reservation list at her and started walking quickly, her pace constrained by her tight skirt, waving the reservation list in time with her hips, holding her other arm out to the side as if to balance her top-heavy proportions. Iris slid from the bar stool and started her own noisy walk across the tiles.

“Ma’am?” the host said, hopping behind the woman. “Excuse me, ma’am?”

She stopped, turned, grabbed his arm with one hand, and waved the list with the other. “Oh my goodness! Barbeh girl, you’re losin’ your marbles. Here ya go, buddy.” She gave the host his list and continued walking toward Iris, her now free right hand extended in front of her, a smile stretched from ear to ear.

“I-ris! I-ris Thorne. I’m so sorry I’m late.” She shook Iris’s hand firmly. “I just can’t get used to these Los Angle-lees freeways, Lord Almighty.” She continued to hold Iris’s hand. It wasn’t Iris’s style to release first, so they stood there, hand in hand, as nearby diners casually watched. “It is you. My gosh. You’re much prettier in person than you were on TV. Not that you didn’t look pretty on TV, of course. What am I sayin’! Where’s the bar? This town’s gonna drive me to drink and I’ve been here but a week.”

“Nice to meet you, too,” said Iris.

Barbie climbed onto a bar stool with difficulty, the short skirt now hiked well up on her fleshy thighs, restraining her. She grabbed Iris’s wrist. “Iris is such a lovely name. You don’t hear it no more. I bet you were named after your grandmother or somethin’. You know you’re even thinner in person than you were on TV? I’d just die to be tall and thin like you. I’d just die.”

William placed a cocktail napkin in front of her.

“Whatchy’all drinkin’?” Barbie finally let go of Iris’s wrist. She sat with her back straight, folded her hands in her lap, and exuded anticipation.

“Chardonnay.”

“You Californians and your wine.” She stretched the i in wine. “I’m a bourbon drinker myself.” Barbie leaned slightly forward toward William and pressed her hand on his. He glanced down her blouse. Anyone would have, just from curiosity. “Hey, bud. I’ll have a bourbon and ginger ale in a tall glass with a lotta ice. Thank yew. So, was it your grandmother, Iris?”

“Grand…? No, my great aunt is named Iris.”

“I bet she’s a kick in the pants.”

“She’s eighty-nine and buys a new Cadillac every year.” Up close, Iris could see that although Barbie’s jewelry was big and garish, it looked like the real thing.

“Well, bless her heart. Let’s toast to dear Aunt Iris.”

They clinked glasses.

The bartender set a glass filled with slender breadsticks next to his previous hors d’oeuvre offering.

“Well, aren’t you just the attentive one, Billy.” Barbie placed manicured, jeweled fingers on top of William’s hand. She made eye contact that surpassed friendly. “I just love California men. Ain’t nothin’ like ‘em where I come from.”