Slow Squeeze(8)

By: Dianne Emley


“Oh, no thank you. I’d prefer some mineral water.”

Barbie widened her eyes. “She’s always on top of her game, isn’t she? Well, I guess that’s how you gotta be in this world. You either hunt with the foxes or run with the rabbits, isn’t that right?”

“True words,” Iris agreed.

William filled a glass with mineral water from a green bottle.

“But I like your style. Bein’ timid never got a woman nowhere except to the kitchen sink.”

“The female please disease.” Iris squeezed lime into her glass.

“That’s it! That’s it.” Barbie shook her finger. “Tryin’ to keep everyone happy. But you and I, we’re independent. But the world takes its price for that, don’t you know?”

“Yep,” Iris said emphatically.

“Are you two going to break out in a chorus of ‘I Am Woman’?” William asked.

“No, a chorus of ‘I Sacrificed Marriage and Family for a Career’,” Iris said.

“Really?”

“Sure. Just ask my mother.” She winked at him.

“I admire ya, Iris, for being out and amongst them. You’re making it easier for all the girls who come after. A toast to you, darlin’.”

Iris touched her glass against Barbie’s. The full glasses clinked dully.

“Gee, I thought I was just paying the mortgage.”

Barbie rubbed her ample belly. “I’m starved. I started a diet today but guess I’ll get back on it tomorrow. Should we get a table? Can you eat something, Iris?”

“I can always eat.”

“A woman after my own heart.”

William picked up the check that was sitting on the bar in front of them. “Drinks are on the house. I really got a kick out of you two ladies, and I’m sorry for bringing up bad memories.”

“You don’t have to do that,” Iris said. “Thanks.”

“Well, that’s real nice, Billy. Thank you.”

Barbie stretched one leg down until her spiked heel touched the floor, then heavily slid her hip off the bar stool. She hoisted her large hobo bag onto the counter, dug her hand around inside, and pulled out a twenty-dollar bill. She extended her hand with the twenty and crooked her fingers at William. He stepped up to his side of the bar. Barbie shoved the twenty inside his shirt pocket, then patted his pocket with her hand, caressing his pectoral, her long porcelain fingernails against his shirt.

“Just a little something to show my personal appreciation for the good service. Maybe we’ll see you later, huh?” Barbie turned and started walking toward the restaurant, swinging her hips.

Both Iris and William watched her.

Barbie turned back. “Iris, y’all comin’?”

Iris looked at William and raised her eyebrows. He shook his fingers as if they were hot.





CHAPTER FOUR





The gas flame candle in the middle of the table flickered in the wind. Floodlights beneath the patio illuminated the rocks, the narrow beach below, and the phosphorescent sea foam. The setting sun painted the ocean and sky in Jell-O shades of red and orange. Sea gulls were starting to disappear as the sun went down. Tall heat lamps on poles kept the restaurant’s diners warm.

Barbie lifted her bourbon and ginger ale to her lips. “I love this, the ocean rollin’ and crashin’ underneath our feet. I just took a li’l place down at the Marina. Do I love it! I’ve always wanted to live by the water.”

“You’ve just arrived in L.A.?”

“Just a week ago. Fresh from Atlanta.”

“Making a fresh start after your husband’s death?”

Barbie exhaled slowly and looked across the ocean. She sipped her drink.

Iris stumbled. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize your husband’s death was recent.”

Barbie looked at her, her eyes tinged with red. “That’s okay, honey. It wasn’t that recent. Just takes me by surprise sometimes. It’s a funny thing. One day, a person’s there and the next they’re gone for good. It takes a long time. I go along and I’m fine, then all of a sudden I think about him and I…” She dabbed at her eye with a linen napkin.

Iris dabbed at her own eye.