The prophet of tenth street

by Tsipi Keller [Israel]

pentru versiunea română click aici

 

WRITTEN IN PENCIL IN THE SEALED BOXCAR

here in this transport

i eve

with abel my son

if you see my firstborn

cain son of man

tell him that i

‑‑Dan Pagis

Where books are burned, people will be burned

‑‑Heinrich Heine

 

ONE

 

 

WHERE SHOULD he begin? With anti‑Semites? A subject locked in his heart? His veins?

 

He could open with the champion of civil liberties, the guardian of animal and human rights, the illustrious man renowned and admired the world over as a strict humanitarian.

 

From the pile of books on his desk, Marcus Weiss picks Down and Out in Paris and London and again goes over the hateful passages he has marked with a pencil.

 

It gets to him every time. The impeccable righteousness, the snub‑nosed indignation of the young, well‑bred Englishman. The nasal, clipped staccato, the distaste, the haughty aversion to everything Jewish: “The shopman was a red‑haired Jew, an extraordinary disagreeable man…. It would have been a pleasure to flatten the Jew’s nose.”

 

The Jew. The perennial Jew. The infamously famous, the infamously culpable nose. The Jew, like a pest, is not to be rid of. A shifty, nasty lowlife who unscrupulously swindles the jolly, unsuspecting citizens about him. Just look at his eyes, his bulging Jew‑eyes, his dark eyeballs, how they dart in their holes. Is it any wonder one thinks of rats when confronted with a Jew, his bushy eyebrows? One can tell, instantly, the Jew is up to something, cooking some unholy, yet kosher, scheme.

 

With two fingers, his heart filled with contempt, Marcus lifts the paperback by the edge of its cover and holds it over the wastebasket. How easy it would be to just drop it—a profanity of sorts, but how else can he settle accounts with Mr. Orwell? Mr. Orwell who had been his idol.

 

How painful the shock, the disbelief, when he first came across these passages.

 

He aches to dump the book, but knows he won’t. He tells himself he might need it later on, for further quotes, but the truth is he could never bring himself to destroy a book. Not even a Mein Kampf.


He puts Orwell back in the pile.

 

These are words. Words on pages bound by a cover.

 

Dangerous words. Words that incite and legitimize hatred.

 

How he detests them, those who detest him. He regrets not believing in hell. If he believed in hell, he could wish Orwell to burn there, with the rest of them, for all eternity.

 

He is not a fanatic; he is just seeking justice. The Jews specialize in seeking justice.

 

Marcus takes off his reading glasses and rubs his eyes, the bridge of his nose. What is it about the nose that irritates them so? His own nose isn’t large; it’s aristocratically aquiline, as a matter of fact, if on the long side.

 

He likes his nose. Gina likes his nose. She has said, after cunnilingus, that she finally understands why Jews are so endowed, why they were chosen at Mount Sinai.

 

Gina is a Jewess who likes Jews, particularly the males, if only because they’re good in bed, and are circumcised. She says Jews, born responsible, are reliable lovers, punctual in their needs and desires.

 

Aesthetically speaking, and she is qualified to speak – aesthetics is her business – a circumcised penis is more pleasing to the eye. In her opinion, this must be the naked truth behind the ritual. It was probably a woman, Gina is convinced, who had come up with the idea to cut away the excess skin—a swift and practical solution. And man saw that it was good, but later clothed the truth in verbiage.

 

When Gina talks about Jews, everything she says is like succor to his soul; it calms him.

 

Succor, he thinks, is such a Yiddish word.

 

Because of their special history, Marcus says, Jews have developed a talent for mitleid, compassion. From an early age he himself has taken on his shoulders the suffering and injustice inflicted on his people, and has carried in his heart their pain, their afflictions. They call to him from the grave: they want to reclaim their unfinished lives, the lives of their children.

 

He tells Gina: We Jews don’t love ourselves enough. We’re insecure. We could never be successful enough. No matter how hard we try, we’ll never be them. And we want so much to be them, although we don’t want to. When it comes to P.R. we fall behind, we can’t be bothered. Our martyrs do not acquire the status of saints—imagine all the saints we could have had! Millions of them. Those who died for kiddush hashem, and those who died because born into the wrong faith. But we do excel when it comes to holidays. Festive holidays, filled with songs that defy the goyim: “In every generation they stand up to destroy us, and God saves us from their hand.” In our homes, our synagogues, how we love to sing these songs. Such harsh words, such catchy tunes. We remember them from our youth, when we learned to shout them at the top of our lungs.

 

Look at our parents, Gina says. The humiliations they suffered. And still, they counted themselves lucky. For the Jews in Europe, the word lucky took on a special meaning. My parents, you know, fled Romania on foot. You and I, she accuses, never knew our grandparents. A whole generation deprived of its cushion, its security blanket. For a sense of self, parents are not enough. When I was little, my most fervent wish was to know whether or not my grandmother had been pretty, whether or not she had painted her nails red. My mother would say, Yes, of course she was pretty. Yes, of course she had painted her nails red.

 

Our parents, Gina says, were not the Wandering Jews; they were the running Jews.

 

Shoes, Marcus thinks. Jews and shoes. His parents, too, had to flee, with him, still a baby, in a satchel. They fled Germany, and never again, not even once, repeated a word in their mother tongue.

 

At his desk, Marcus looks up the term, the Wandering Jew. According to a medieval legend, the Jew had insulted Jesus and was therefore condemned – conveniently, one might add –to wander the earth until Judgment Day.

 

Who was it that said that trees have roots, Jews have legs.

 

He dials the New York Public Library; he needs to find out when and where the term anti‑Semitism originated. He wonders how it happened that such a fancy term is applied to something so base. What’s wrong with the simple and direct, anti‑Jewish?

 

The line is busy. Marcus tries again—it’s still busy. Of course, he reasons, anti‑Jewish is too overt and, in modern times, one needs to camouflage and elevate his hate. It feels more respectable, even authentic, to be called an anti‑Semite; it sounds progressive, scientific. What’s more: it is cleansed of the mention of the Jew.

 

Marcus pushes the redial button. A sleepy male voice comes on the line, and Marcus, in the gentlest of tones, inquires about anti-Semitism. He thinks he detects a quick intake of breath on the other end, but knows he might be mistaken, it could be his overworked imagination; he is overly touchy, sensitized, always on the alert. When he reads, his trained eye spots, involuntarily, all the capital J’s on the page. The word jewel, invariably, gives him a fright, and he has to stare at it for a while before he lets go. Only when he knows the author is Jewish, he relaxes his guard. Mostly he feels proud that a Jew writes about Jews—openly, without excuses. And even when he disagrees with the content, at least he doesn’t feel he’s been abused or violated.

 

Gina says he is not a true American, he takes most things too much to heart. He hasn’t learned, she says, to ignore, with equanimity, the inevitable shortcomings of others. He tortures himself with questions, he doesn’t know when to stop.

 

“Hold the line, please,” says the librarian, and Marcus thinks: If he lets me hang on for an inordinate length of time, then I’ll know for sure…

 

He gazes out of the window at the stark branches of the trees in the courtyard below. In the building across the way, all the windows are shut and draped. A shudder, a chill, runs through his body, as if to corroborate the information just processed in his brain: it is cold outside. It is warm and cozy in his study; it feels like a womb.

 

He is still holding. He puts the call on the speakerphone, to let the man know he hasn’t been sitting there, like a schmuck, holding an empty receiver to his ear.

 

He wonders about librarians—what makes them tick.

 

He drums his fingers on the desk. During the summer, the windows he faces are friendlier: the drapes are pulled aside, and he gets to see a chair, a table, an elaborate lamp. He may reach for his binoculars and scan the windows for movement. He himself is on the twelfth floor, which affords him a full view of about forty windows. He doesn’t expect much, just a stranger in a room, moving about, watering a plant or straightening up. When he catches someone in his lenses, he remains with them until they leave; then he waits for them to return, reflecting how oddly empty, deserted, a room seems after one has left it.

 

“Hullo?” his speakerphone interrupts his musings, and Marcus, suddenly remembering who he called and why, grabs the receiver, thankful that the librarian has come back on the line without disconnecting him.

 

The librarian is very helpful. The term, Marcus learns, first appeared in 1879, in an anti‑Jewish pamphlet written by a German, an apostate half-Jew.

 

So there, he thinks. That’s where he might begin.

 

 

TWO


 

 

MARCUS WEISS. Fifty‑two years old, and still in good shape. He is five feet ten inches tall, and of slender build. Same as a girl’s, Gina insists, especially around the pelvic area. One evening, as he comes out of the shower into the bedroom, she approaches him, staring intently at his pubic hair, as if confronted with something she’s never seen before. Not now Gina, he thinks. We have to be uptown in half an hour.  But she takes him by the hand and positions him in front of the full‑length mirror, covers his sex with her hand and looks in the mirror. Something is still displeasing to her, something is still not right. She moves his penis to this side, then that, as if his maleness were in the way. He observes in the mirror how she handles his flesh. He notes the matter‑of‑fact efficiency of her long, cool fingers, and reflects, I love this woman, this dark‑haired woman. Even if, or because, she fingers my sex as if it were a piece of tenderized meat she’s about to toss in the oven. Gina, he asks. What are you doing? I want to show you something, she says, tucks his penis between his legs, peers at the result in the mirror. Forget for a moment, she says in an absent‑minded tone, a tone, he imagines, she employs with her clients who come for a fitting. Forget for a moment what you’ve got down there and concentrate right here on the surrounding area. You can see for yourself how it is immediately apparent that the overall shape of your triangle is exactly the same as a woman’s. It inspires a tenderness, a girlish tenderness.

 

I don’t know about that, he says, although he does begin to see the resemblance she is talking about.

 

It does, it does, she says and releases him, resumes getting dressed. It’s perfectly normal, she continues, informing him that there’s a neuter period during which all human embryos are female, and only later become male when male hormones are introduced. Are you sure? he asks. Positive, she says. It’s called the undifferentiated or indifferent period. I thought, he says, it was the male chromosome. She regards him a moment, considering. She then regroups and says, Perhaps, but not in your case. In his case, she knows for fact, some hormone was interjected just in the nick of time. Another minute or so and he would have remained a girl forever, bereft of his superior male credentials.

 

But his hands, his hands, she loves his hands. They’re definitely masculine, Gina says, and very sexy. On this he agrees. He contemplates his hands, turns them over. Yes, they’re good hands, expressive. And the network of veins, very blue and prominent, suggests an artist’s, an otherworldly, sensitivity. His fingers are long and square‑tipped; his nails are strong, blessed with a natural shine. Gina, who tends to bite her nails when tense or excited, envies him his nails.

 

But what he likes best is when she tells him she loves his voice. She says she hears his love for her in his voice, especially when they speak on the telephone.

 

To better remember what came first and what happened later, Marcus divides his life into befores and afters: the before and after Paris; the before and after he married Myra; the before and after he joined his father’s business; the before and after their daughter, Rosina, was born; the before and after his divorce; the before and after his parents died; the before and after he sold his business and began working on his dictionary; the before and after he met Gina.

 

The before and after Paris, he recalls with affection. His golden years as a foreign student in the City of Light. It was pure luck that landed him in the quartier, on the rive gauche, with all the students and artists. He was twice lucky for having a faucet, all to himself, in the privacy of his room, and triple lucky for having hot water as well. He shaved every morning in front of the small mirror, brushed his teeth, moved a wet cloth over his skin. Once or twice a week, he went to the public baths, for a real shower, or even a bath. He felt grateful for every moment, and often, walking the streets, he’d suddenly remember that he was actually in Paris and he’d marvel at himself, at his good fortune. He walked the same streets, frequented the same cafés as his famous expatriates; he lived on a street named Dante.

 

On the sixth and last floor of 7, rue Dante, life was shared and equal. Thomas, the German, was the indisputable leader. And for good reason: he had been there the longest, had the largest room on the floor, as well as a kitchenette. But most of all, he had a woman living with him, his own, twenty‑four‑hour woman, a tall, soft, honey‑haired Yugoslav named Johanna, whose wide mouth caused traffic jams in Marcus’s mind, especially when she smiled. He thought he would need at least two pairs of lips just to engulf her lower lip. She was motherly and sexy at the same time, and she moved so slowly, so nonchalantly, it tore at his heart. He thought she was a goddess, and observing her the way he did convinced him he was destined to be an artist. He noted her smallest gesture, noted the elegance, the tension, in her stretched fingers as she held a cigarette, between puffs, away from her face. Every day he hoped to get invited into Thomas’s room, watch Johanna prepare a meal. For Thomas was generous that way, inviting friends to sumptuous, late‑night snacks, the ingredients for which were mostly stolen.

 

Under Thomas’s tutelage, they all became expert thieves. Thomas reiterated the rules: Never get caught in the same store twice: first offenders are let go by the store detectives without calling in the cops. Know your rights: If they catch you stealing and search your bag, they cannot confiscate goods you’ve stolen elsewhere; those belong to you, tags and all.

 

They shoplifted everything: food, clothes, books, records. When Marcus got good at it, he joined Thomas on thieving expeditions, often filling orders for friends who needed this or that. They were very near the top of the world: they attended classes at the Sorbonne. A student in Paris was king, the Latin Quarter his kingdom. Education was free, medical care was free, movies and transportation were discounted. But the best deal of all were the subsidized student cafeterias—the breeding ground for animated discussion and revolutionary talk. The cafeterias were spacious and clean, and the French matrons behind the counters were tidy, severe, but dispensed the tasty, five‑course meal with a motherly mien. Marcus marveled at the generosity of the French who had taken him in, him and the thousands other foreign students. Thomas said that Marcus was naive, sentimental. The French had taken them in to extol the grandeur of French civilization, French thought. Their aim, in short, was propaganda: brainwash the foreign student in the French way. Feeling grateful, Thomas warned, was provincial, petit‑bourgeois, traits Marcus had better get rid of fast. It’s not a matter of gratitude, Marcus argued. It’s a matter of reciprocity, of paying respect to the country that hosts you, that tolerates your thieving so long as you don’t get caught in the same store twice.

 

They were choosy. For their late‑night snacks they stole pâtés, caviars, exotic rice from the Orient; anything that came in packages or fancy jars. They took the stuff and brought it to Thomas’s where the loot was assembled on the double bed for Johanna to feast her eyes and to decide the night’s fare.

 

Day and night they roamed the streets, not only in the quartier and its environs, but everywhere, all the quarters, the plush ones and the seedy ones, in a mad and wild pursuit of their freedom. They got to know the city well, all its secrets, its ancient passages, its very narrow streets and alleyways. They got drunk on Montmartre, sang bawdy songs in one of the small cafés. They got drunk with the clochards down by the Seine under Pont Neuf, explored the wonders of rue Mouffetard. But most of all, he loved the sound of wheels on cobblestones. He loved to listen to the cars rumbling down the wide boulevards, along Les Champs Élysées, coming around Place de la Concorde, or La Place de l’Opéra. He couldn’t believe such beauty, and he didn’t care if Thomas was right about the French: he himself was sold on the French, on the way they crushed their R’s, on the way they played Flipper in the corner bistro, swearing, La vache! The way they puffed their cheeks, threw their arms in the air, to indicate that some things in life were absurd and couldn’t be helped. He loved their baguettes, their salad dressing, their rich milk. He loved their boursin à l’ail, and he devoured kilograms of their céleri rémoulade. He loved their ham, their crêpes, their croque‑monsieur and croque‑madame; and when he woke up early he’d go down to the café and have his croissant sans beurre, a hard boiled egg and a demi‑tasse.

 

In time, except for his accent, he became French: he puffed his cheeks, threw his arms in the air, yet in his heart he knew he’d never achieve the fluency of mere kids; would never come close to the tough old men in the square, scarved and bereted, a stub of a cigarette dangling from their lips, feeding pigeons or playing boules.

 

Together with Thomas, he worked nights for a while at Les Halles, not only for the money, but for the “experience,” hauling produce crates off trucks. For two weeks in the summer, he lived in a village near Bordeaux, picking grapes with the peasants and gypsies. He sneaked into the empty chateau of the local baron who owned the grapes, the village and everything in it, and lost his virginity on the marble floor.

 

He learned a lot in France, he felt inundated. In his sixth floor garret he wrote assiduously, in French, a little play about two clocks at a repair shop, discussing their lives and the lives of their owners. He leaned against his window and gazed dreamily at the slanting rooftops, the windows, the expanse of the sky, and breathed in the solemn serenity of a still life. He bought an easel and watercolors and tried to lift the landscape onto his canvas. But his hand, holding the brush, felt awkward, uncertain, inadequate, and the harmonious composition he saw out there and envisioned in his mind as the final drawing, never materialized on the canvas. He thought he might write and direct movies, for he did, didn’t he, always carry images in his head. And every so often, he did remark to himself, didn’t he, that this or that image would make a good opening scene for a feature film. And when he witnessed something funny or sad on the street, he did, didn’t he, instantly freeze the picture, enclosing it within the dark frame of a camera lens.

 

At other, less auspicious moments, it occurred to him that his artistic aspirations brought him too close for comfort to Frédéric Moreau, Flaubert’s idle dreamer from Éducation Sentimentale.


Life was enchanting, but once in a while he got a glimpse of what he thought must be the dark side of Paris when, on a gray morning, he and others watched, with great solemnity, as the police pulled out from the thick, murky waters of the Seine the drowned body of a young woman, wrapped her in plastic and drove away. Unrequited love was his awesome assumption.

 

After three years in Paris he went back to New York and joined his father’s business. He got married, had a child, became a successful businessman.

 

Years later he returned to Paris for a visit and looked for his past. He had forgotten most of his French, but insisted on speaking it, errors and all. The old Latin Quarter seemed more crowded and, to his bitter astonishment, except for a few remnant patches, the cobblestones were gone, replaced by the smooth, uniform paving of asphalt. He walked around as if in a daze: how could they have done such a thing? Le Boul’ Mich and Boulevard St. Germain have lost their charm. At the hotel, at cafés, he inquired of the French: Why? Why? And they looked at him, surprised at his question, then shrugged, smiled, said, Mais c’est mieux, non? It’s much better for the cars. The cobblestones were very bad, n’est‑ce pas, for tires, for drivers. Drivers prefer asphalt. But the beauty, he said, the beauty of Paris. They puffed their cheeks, threw their arms in the air; at least in that they hadn’t changed.

 

He revisited the old haunts; incredibly, they were all there, untouched, except for Café  Flore that had revamped its toilets, installing shiny mirrors and brass. After digesting his disappointment over the cobblestones, he fell in love with Paris all over again, walking from morning to evening, noting with pleasure the lyrical eccentricity the French displayed when naming their streets: rue des Mauvais Garçons; rue des Bons Enfants; rue des Manteaux Blancs. For lunch he devoured a ham sandwich avec crudités, sipped a glass of beer, savored le tabac brun of filterless Gauloises. And every morning, at the hotel, as he woke up and lay in bed, listening to the soft, intimating voice of the radio announcer, he felt again the soft, gray melancholy of Paris tug at his heart. He reflected on how morning radio shows captured, and revealed, a country’s, a people’s, mood, its character. Especially so the French whose soft and musical tones stirred the soul of the foreign listener who years before, in his youth, felt he belonged, felt he was home.

 

Marcus sighs, reminiscing. During the three years after Myra and before Gina, he spent a lot of time with Oscar, his dear and old friend. He smoked and drank, was up at all hours, went out when he wanted to, shut himself up if he felt like it, without having to explain or report to duty.

 

In those, now distant, days he was happy to conclude that it was easy to get along with men, and that women only brought stress into your life. After twenty years of marriage, it was normal for him to assume that he knew something about women, but, as he began dating, he very quickly realized that what he had become accustomed to were Myra’s idiosyncrasies. And those very same idiosyncrasies now made him suspicious of all other women, of their peculiar, often annoying, mannerisms.

 

Then Gina came and, like the good fairy in a story, changed everything. He eats healthy foods, drinks in moderation, and when he craves a cigarette he sticks a plastic straw between his teeth. He sleeps regular hours, does yoga, and never misses his annual checkups. He never has heartburn. His bowel movements come easy, and he has learned from Gina to delight in them as the obvious and reassuring sign that all essential organs in his body are in top form. Yet every so often, when he lies on his back on the living room carpet, his legs drawn up to his chest in a strenuous stretch, the blood pounding in his face, he begins to talk to himself, saying things like, Get off the floor, you jerk. Who needs this? You’ll get a heart attack.

 

At such moments he wonders how Gina managed where Myra had failed. Was it Myra’s wrongheaded approach, or is it simply the fact that he, like most men, has finally succumbed and placed himself in a woman’s caring hands?

 

That’s the key, he thinks. Caring. Myra endeavored to change him, not for his sake but hers.

 

When Gina is in a special mood, she stretches out on the couch and coaxes pleasant reminiscences; she invokes the past and distorts it a bit. A favorite with her is the night they first met in that awful New Year’s party in SoHo four years ago. She says Marcus fell in love the minute he heard they were neighbors. She says he somehow sensed that she would insist on keeping her own apartment. And he, already well‑rehearsed, says, No, au contraire. In those distant days, when he celebrated his freedom every night of the week, he would slowly retreat the minute he learned that the woman he’d been speaking with lived within a 40‑block radius from his refuge on Tenth Street. No, he says. What attracted him to her was the yellow sofa.

 

Oh, yes. Gina laughs as if she’s hearing this for the first time. The yellow sofa.

 

He first saw her thighs, one long, sheer‑stockinged thigh crossed over the other under the black mini‑dress. She sat on a bright yellow sofa, more on her side than on her behind, her body twisted to face the man she talked with.

 

Marcus had installed himself in a chair and gulped down his whisky, hoping to get drunk before midnight. Sadly he noted that, excepting Oscar, he knew no one in the huge loft; that he, the only guest who understood nothing and cared only peripherally about fashion or design, would have little to say to whomever he might engage in conversation. He scrutinized the men who, both in style and fabric, were as extravagantly clad as the women. No wonder, he consoled himself, that he felt out of place in his old‑fashioned wool trousers and dark pullover.

 

And then he saw her—first her legs, then her face. By that time, he now thinks, he was pretty far-gone. He muttered, soundlessly, “It takes guts to sit on such a yellow sofa.” He considered getting up to look for Oscar and ask to be introduced to Long Legs, but then questioned the wisdom of such a move, telling himself he’d never get his chair back, it would be snatched as soon as he stood up. But he stood up all the same and went to her directly, like a somnambulist, the floor dancing before his eyes. And just as he was making his way to her, all around him the countdown chant to midnight began, and he, his ears ringing, still concentrating on her thighs as his final destination, stepped on her foot, and she looked up, her face contorted in anger and pain, and he, stepping backward, lost his footing and reached for support, while she, instinctively, reached up and held him, and he remembers thinking, God, she is strong.

 

Then they all kissed and hugged, and he stood there, an island of confusion, and watched Long Legs kiss the man on the sofa. She kissed him on the cheek, he noted, not on the lips. Then she stood up from the sofa and kissed him too, and as he felt the imprint of her full lips on his cheek near the temple, he thought, She’s as tall as I. This will take some adjusting to.

 

As it turns out, Oscar, who writes about fashion, has known Gina for quite some time. How come you never introduced her to me? Marcus asks one night and Oscar shrugs. I’m not in the matchmaking business. Besides, she and I aren’t close, we just move in the same circles. A few nights later, lying in bed after their first lovemaking, Gina suddenly turns to him and says, Oscar is gay, right? I don’t know, Marcus says, a bit annoyed at the question. What do you mean you don’t know? I thought you were best friends. We are, Marcus says, but we’ve never talked about it. Why not? Gina asks. Because. Marcus says. If he’d wanted to talk about it, he would have. But, Gina pushes on. Aren’t you curious? Don’t you want to know? No. Marcus’s irritation level rises. I don’t care. End of discussion, all right? All right, no need to get so upset, Gina says and jabs him in the ribs.

 

Looking back, he is amazed that he’d allowed himself to employ such a raw, heated tone with her. Now, tamed and domesticated, he’d never dare.

 

Gina. Gina Bloch. Her sorrowful mouth. Her long, slender figure. The short hair, parted in the middle and falling to her ears. A face, he thinks, that is easy to draw, lending itself perfectly to the lines of a box: the straight line of the forehead, the short line to the cheekbone, the slightly angular line of the jaw, the square chin.

 

The round head he likes to cap in his hand, the long delicate throat. The very mobile dark eyes.

 

Here she comes. He hears the key turn in the lock. Even with locks, he reflects, Gina is uncompromising. As if a key, once held in her hand, should open all doors. He goes into the bedroom where, he knows, Gina would be changing into a T-shirt and sweat pants, but, to his surprise, Gina is spread-eagled on the bed, fully clothed. He admires the plethora of multi-layered fabrics and soft hues, conceived and designed by the one and only Gina Bloch. He admires in particular the long velvety scarf, dark on the outside, bluish on the inside.

 

“Well, well,” he says, bending down to kiss her.

 

“Unlace my shoes, please. I can’t move.”

 

“Of course.”

 

“I work too hard.” Gina stretches and yawns. “Five new orders came in today.”

 

“Good.”

 

“I don’t know,” she says. “I’ll have to expand, hire another seamstress.” She smiles contentedly. “Will you run my bath and make dinner? I stopped at the butcher’s, you’ll find lamb chops on the counter.”

 

He has taken off her shoes, and is now unbuttoning her wool pants, anticipating the exhilarating sight of her white tummy, her white thighs. “Anything else?”

 

Gina laughs. “Yes. You can pour me a brandy and bring it in while I bathe.”

 

 

 

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