DINNER WITH LENNY BEAR
(published previously in the October 2002 issue of E2K as well as in the fall 2003 issue of the small circulation print publication, The Listening Eye.)
By Rebecca Marshall-Courtois
Monica has set her up with some winners over the past year, but this guy takes the prize. Since cocktails, Jennifer hasn't been able to keep her eyes off the crop of pubic-like hair sticking out of Lenny's shirt collar. Is this what Monica meant by "teddy-bear charm"?
Since Tony packed up his SUV with their dishes, the Lazy Boy, and the VCR a year ago, Jennifer hasn't been able to bring herself to replace any of theseitems nor the man who disappeared with them.
Jennifer stamps a print of her right thumb on the butter knife, studies it against the candle light and then rubs it off until the silver looks polished again. From time to time, she lends an ear to Lenny who is still pursuing his synopsis of the Julia Roberts movie he saw last weekend. Jennifer fears his version will be longer than the screen version.
"She's my favorite actress," he repeats, again.
Jennifer smiles, making sure she keeps her lips sealed, rather than flash him a mouthful of white teeth.
Lenny's game-show-host enthusiasm makes the crystal tremble and sing on the place settings around the room. She can feel the waiter's presence behind her and, during Lenny's brief pauses, she hears him yawn. She turned around a few times to catch him, bow tie as crooked as his moustache, eyeing his watch and probably wondering if he'll make it home in time for the late movie. Will she?
"Ain't it great being out on a Monday night? Ya get the whole joint to yourself!"
Jennifer shrugs and nods simultaneously, compromising between agreeable and smug. She tries to picture Tony across from her, wearing that loveable cocky grin of his. But Tony wouldn't come to a place like this, and defiantly not on a Monday in October. No, he's perched in his Lazy Boy, yelling at the Giants. His new blond is playing cheerleader for him and fetching him beer and pizza. Maybe she's feeding him a slice right now, alternating bites with kisses or sitting, topless on his lap. Jennifer hopes that the Raiders will score and that the bimbo will get her nipple bitten off.
Her thoughts are interrupted when a door opens to let out a burst of clanking pots and pans. It flaps quiet again. Anxious steps approach. At least, she thinks, I'll have something to do now.
"The snapper is for--?" the waiter asks.
"The lady," Lenny says, adding a little wink and click of his tongue in her direction.
Lenny is served a scorched slab of flesh that has bled onto a mound of French fries. He makes a bib out of his linen napkin, arms himself with silver weaponry, and pauses to grin at her before he stabs and saws. Mouth gnawing and dripping, he switches subjects from Julia to her.
"Monica told me you was the quiet type."
"Monica didn't tell me very much about you," she confesses. Not enough, anyway, she gulps down with the rest of the wine in her glass. Lenny pours her another and embarks on a comparative analysis of Julia's earlier films with her more recent ones. The meal comes to an end, but Lenny's speech doesn't.
"You go to the movies a lot, don't you?" Jennifer interrupts him.
"Nah! I hate going out alone. I bought myself a DVD for Christmas. Hooked it up to my speakers and it's just like the real thing, only ya can jump back in a second when ya don't catch somethin' or hit the pause when ya want to grab a snack."
And fast-forward when you can't stand anymore, Jennifer thinks, wishing she had a remote control to shut Lenny off.
The waiter clears the plates. "Dessert?"
Lenny nods in Jennifer's direction and raises his eyebrows.
"No thanks," she says.
"Not for me," Jennifer says.
"The check, then," Lenny tells the waiter. "Where was I? Oh yeah, the DVD. Great system. You got one?"
Jennifer shakes her head. "I prefer the real thing, buttered popcorn and sticky seats,--." But she hasn't been to a movie since high school.
"And Twizlers," he adds melancholically.
She imagines Lenny with a red stick dangling from his lips and she laughs.
"I buy them by the 12 ounce bagful," he confesses. Lenny tosses his napkin onto the table and sighs. They listen to the dishes being discarded in the kitchen and wait for the check. He clears his throat and says, "Wouldn't it be neat if ya could control your life like ya can a DVD? Jump past all those lonely nights, hit the pause once in a while when ya get stressed out, or zip back to better days, again and again?"
Jennifer watches his brown eyes grow glassy, vulnerable. And she suddenly realizes what Monica meant by teddy bear charm. She pushes her glass aside, fearing she might have overdone the wine. Better days, she thinks. Monday night football and pizza? Being shoved aside after each commercial break? She wishes that she did have the remote control of her life, so that she could jump back and start this date over. There is something about Lenny that she's failed to see the first time through. She smiles, teeth and all.
A former New Yorker, I moved to France fourteen years ago to marry my boss and live in his home town of Buxerolles in the southwest. My fiction has appeared in a number of print and online publications, including Thought Magazine (where one of my stories won second place in their bi-annual contest), Literary Potpourri, Freefall, flasquake and Smokelong Quarterly.
I'm teaching English at the University of Poitiers Medical School while completing a doctorate in literature, revising a novel and raising three daughters. It is my belief that people don't get bored, just lazy.