by Katharine C. Otto
Posted April 13, 2016 katharineotto.wordpress.com
“Help me,” cries the aging but still beautiful Belle. Huge bejeweled rings sparkle on her liver-spotted hands, and diamond pendants drag cuts into her earlobes. Her eyes are wide with pain and fear.
He can see that she is fragile. She limps and leans heavily on the banister. The modern Southern Gentleman takes her tenderly in his arms, soothes her sobs, and says he, too, suffers. No one understands him. People can be so cruel. They gossip, tell lies. He feels he can trust her.
But today’s version of the Southern Lady has 150 years of experience under her Oscar de la Renta sweatsuit. She has thrown the corset into landfill, invested in liposuction, and now breathes a lot easier.
“Are you proposing?” she asks.
“Not exactly,” he stammers.
“Good. I don’t believe in marriage.”
“Nor I,” he says, with a sigh of relief. “I propose a toast, instead.”
He pulls a bottle of Chivas Regal from a shimmering sack and offers it to Belle. She pours hefty dollops into crystal tumblers. They toast their mutual understanding with delicate sips. He kisses her.
They toast their understanding again. And again. They lose count. She pours more Chivas.
He pops a Viagra. What they do the rest of the night is unprintable.
He promises to return for dinner that evening. He blows a kiss goodbye from his convertible Saab. She spends the whole day cooking.
At dusk, Gent gets lost on the way to Belle’s colonial townhouse. He stops at the Oglethorpe Club, then the First City Club, or was it the other way around? He stops at Johnny Gannem’s for directions. He stops at O’Malley’s to get a cup of coffee, and doesn’t remember how he got home.
She waits and waits. She tries to call his cell phone and gets a voice mail. The dinner overcooks. She cries. She takes a bite of the salmon in white wine and dill sauce, decides it’s awful, and throws it away. She finishes the white wine while staring into the glass, an antique, engraved collectible that she bought for too much money downtown.
She goes to bed, worrying that Gent has been killed, or worse. She must find him. She must. But she’ll worry about it tomorrow. She falls asleep and dreams of stock in Pfizer.