Keeping Them Happy Ch. 9

You will find a link to the next chapter at the end of this one. To return to Chapter 1, where Mason first meets Officer Borst, click here, which also will take you to a list of links to any other chapter.

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They took the Cadillac, driving first to a place several miles out in the suburbs. It had a country-rock band and on Friday nights was usually populated by frenetic commuters. Mason had told Gail that he and George were taking a kind of boys night out, which did not seem to please her. Mason enjoyed the live music and found several girls willing to dance with him, but he had little interest in extending a relationship with any of them outside of the bar. One of them, whom Mason thought had been alone, was awaited at her table by a mean looking boyfriend who had apparently only been in the rest room when Mason asked her to dance. When the music stopped and Mason saw her date glaring at him, he thanked her and stepped away.

George eventually found two girls he persuaded to join them at their table. One of the girls was loud, the other was overweight and patronizing. George and Mason took turns dancing with each of them and Mason decided that he disliked both equally. The loud one, who also smoked brown cigarettes, did not smile at all and looked only at other people while Mason danced with her. Her remarks while they were seated at a table were primarily sarcastic comments that she probably intended to be funny, but only the other girl laughed. That other girl danced close to Mason, pressing her breasts against him and whispering in his ear that he was a very good dancer and other similar intimacies. When he sat down, Mason had the feeling that his ear was damp, but he resisted the urge to wipe it with his handkerchief.

Later the girls went to the restroom together, and when they returned they found a fresh pitcher of beer on their table but the two men were gone. They assumed at first that the men had also gone to the restroom, since they didn’t see them anywhere else. After a while the fat girl remarked, “I think we’ve been stood up.”

“Mother fuckers,” the other one said, and then refilled their glasses from the pitcher.

At that moment the Coupe de Ville was racing back toward the downtown area and another bar.

They parked about two blocks from Harry’s Crayfish House. A back wheel of the Cadillac rested on the curb. George had backed into the Volvo behind them several times while trying to park, but neither of the two men bothered to check for damage. They stood side-by-side in the nearby doorway of a tailor’s shop as two yellow streams trickled between their feet and down the slope of the sidewalk to the gutter. When they were finished, George punched Mason on the shoulder and they shadow boxed as they made their way to the entrance to Harry’s.

It was crowded in Harry’s. There was no place to dance, no live music, but people didn’t come there for that. With all the mystery of lemmings running over a cliff, self-styled sophisticates had begun to congregate in Harry’s after work several years earlier; and they had continued to come there in increasing numbers until Harry’s had gotten the reputation of being the most popular singles bar in the metropolitan area. The patrons were well dressed, no jeans or flannel shirts, and some looked as though they had not yet changed out of their office clothes, even though it was about midnight when George and Mason arrived. Contrary to the enthusiasm of the customers at the country-rock bar they had left, the prevailing attitude here was arrogant boredom.

Mason did not really like the place much. It exuded the atmosphere of a traffic accident or an impending decapitation, but he went occasionally because it was the easiest place he knew to meet women. He had never brought Gail there.

“What’s going on in the back room?” George asked and immediately picked up his drink and headed that way, Mason following. The back room was used during the day and early evening as a dining area but usually was closed off at nine pm. They could see that the lights were on and that people were milling around with drinks in their hands. At the doorway a young man in a dark suit blocked their way and asked if they were part of the wedding party.

Ignoring the question, George continued scanning the crowd ahead. “Oh yeah,” Mason answered over George’s shoulder. The door attendant looked with doubt at Mason’s brightly patterned ski sweater, which Mason, who had no interest in skiing, had gotten cheap from a client who was clearing last year’s stock.

George broke off momentarily from his surveillance and gripped the young man’s hand. “This is really good, you being here like this. I’m George Shindler the dentist and I intend to see that the bride’s father hears about the good job you’re doing.”

“Do you know Mr. Jenkins?” the young man asked.

George pulled him a little closer. “Don’t tell anyone, because he’s a little vain, but those are caps on his front teeth.”

The young man didn’t seem to know what George was talking about.

“Listen, can we get you anything from the bar?” Mason asked as he pushed past. The young man didn’t try to stop them.

“Thanks, but I’m not supposed to have anything to drink while I’m working.”

“We’ll bring you something,” George said, genuinely moved by the young man’s naivete. He crowded up to the free bar and ordered a bourbon and coke because he thought the young man’s tastes would probably run in that direction. He also asked for a coffee cup, poured the drink into that and left the empty glass on the bar. He gave the puzzled young man the cup and hurried back to Mason, who had already made a few hesitant remarks to two attractive girls who were outfitted alike in simple dresses made of a pink shiny material, both of them adorned with wilting corsages. Their names were Michele and Clarista and they appeared to be in their early twenties.

“You girls sisters?” Mason asked.

The girls exchanged puzzled looks. “Sisters?”

“You’re dressed alike.”

Both women laughed. Mason felt reassured by his belief that they were about as drunk as he and George.

“We’re not sisters,” Michele said. Clarista added, “We’re friends of Yvonne’s. We were her bridesmaids. Didn’t you guys see us at the wedding?”

“Of course,” George said. “I remember now. You were the bridesmaids, weren’t you?”

Michele rolled her eyes. “That’s what she just said.”

Clarista thumped on George’s chest with her forefinger. “I bet you guys didn’t even go to the wedding, did you?”

“We were a little late,” Mason said.

“So, friends of which side, bride or groom?” Clarista asked, drawing a little closer.

George and Mason looked at each other, not wanting to give contradictory answers.

“Neither,” Michele said. “I can tell. You’re too old to be friends of the bride or groom and too young to be friends of their parents. Right?”

George and Mason both laughed and mumbled denials.

“If you weren’t talking to us right now,” Michele said, “somebody would probably ask you to leave. They’re that kind of people.” Mason looked around and decided she was right.

“In that case,” George said, “I’d better get a couple more drinks now before anything unfortunate happens.” He hurried off to the bar.

“Don’t get me wrong,” Michele explained. “We really like Yvonne. We went to school together and everything. But the guy she married is kind of a… I don’t know. How should I put it? Kind of a jerk.” She made a face and looked to Clarista for support.

“And so are both sets of parents,” Clarista added. “The parents are paying for all this.” She waved an arm at the crowd in the room. “I think it must be some kind of family shared disorder. They’re all the type who want to be sure they get their money’s worth.” Michele looked at her and nodded affirmatively.

George returned with four drinks nestled snugly between his hands and let the other three help themselves. A bond had been made.

“You guys married or what?” Clarista asked.

“Nope,” George answered, hedging a little on his own current status.

“But you have been,” Michele said.

“Hasn’t everybody?” Mason observed.

“Well, I haven’t,” Michele said proudly. Clarista didn’t say anything and instead looked off toward another part of the room.

George maneuvered to transport the party onto friendlier territory. “Since none of us is married, why don’t we all go someplace else where we can sit down and talk about it.” Mason didn’t say anything, but Michele, the more reticent of the two, was becoming more attractive by the minute, partly because he thought she was directing more than half of her attention toward him.

They talked about it more, the girls demanding a respectable amount of convincing before they agreed, and then they settled on the Dabney Hotel, a distinguished older hotel with a small, comfortable piano bar.

Mason asked, “Aren’t you girls supposed to stick around to throw rice or something?”

The two women looked at each other, shrugged, and decided to sneak out. They had arrived in Michele’s car and insisted on taking it, so Mason and George reluctantly said they would meet them there. On the way, the two men agreed they would wait no more than fifteen minutes for the women to arrive before they needed to acknowledge that this time it was they who had been stood up. It proved to be an unnecessary precaution. The girls showed up right after them. They slipped into the booth and out of their coats. Mason noticed that they had disposed of their limp corsages somewhere along the way.

The lights were low and the piano music was soft and slow. Most tables were taken, but there were only about a half dozen of them and there were no more than two people sitting at any of them. Mason and George had seized the only booth in the place. At the piano bar, another couple had draped themselves across the edge of the piano and alternately gazed dreamily at each other or at the piano player.

When Michele and Clarista sat down they fitted themselves together to the end of the wrap-around booth. They remained that way only briefly, until George made his first visit to the men’s room, at about the same time that the first round of drinks arrived. When George came back, he sat on the other side of the two women, sandwiching them in between him and Mason. Everyone scooted around in the booth, Mason next to Michele, George next to Clarista, who commented that it was “real cozy” in a way that sounded like a complaint, so Mason moved over a little provide more room. But when he did that, Michele moved with him.

Conversation consisted largely of questions, Mason and George trying to act interested, the girls enjoying the novelty of being with two “experienced, older men.” They all became progressively more intoxicated, and Mason began to hope that the women would not pass out. After the second round of drinks arrived, Mason felt Michele’s knee deliberately rubbing against his. When he got up to go to the men’s room he had to leave the table in a semi-crouch, trying to discreetly rearrange his pants and shorts to accommodate his evident arousal. When he came back they were talking about Clarista’s apartment complex and the “rec room” with its giant-screen projection TV.

“And it’s got a sauna and whirlpool thing,” she added.

“Let’s go,” Mason said, nearly falling back into the booth as he tried to sit down. His left hand unerringly situated itself on Michele’s thigh, where he let it remain.

Clarista said “huh?” in response to Mason’s suggestion, while George got a fiendish smile she did not notice. Michele agreed at once. “What a good idea,” she said. “I don’t think I could drink anymore anyway.”

Clarista hesitated. “I don’t know. It’s so late.”

Mason looked at his watch but couldn’t make out what it said. The women weren’t wearing watches and George said time wasn’t important. “This is a rare evening,” he said, “four of us brought together by a wedding, and we’re so great together. Tomorrow the moment will be gone and we may never be able to regain it. We owe it to ourselves to stretch it out as long as we can.” He put his arm around Clarista’s shoulders. Mason wondered for a moment if George was ever troubled by his insincerity.

“OK,” Clarista said. She looked around, beaming at their evident approval.

Again they took both cars, but George followed Michele’s car closely because neither he nor Mason had paid much attention to Clarista’s complicated explanation of the route to her apartment. Clarista waved to them through the back window of Michele’s car as Michele narrowly missed sideswiping an underpass abutment.

The apartment complex was big, relatively new and designed in a consciously interrupted configuration, presumably intended to make it look modern. When Mason and George approached the two women in the parking lot, the women were laughing so hard that they held onto each other’s shoulders.

“What’s so funny?” Mason asked a bit defensively but ready to join in.

Between laughs Michele said, “Clarista just wanted to know why you had such a big car.” Clarista broke into another laughing fit.

George answered. “And you told her it was because I was looking for a little girl with a big garage.”

At this the two girls laughed even harder, leaving Mason tugging his earlobe and wondering why he was there. They started to go to Clarista’s apartment, but Mason said that he wanted to see the sauna and whirlpool first.

As the apartment complex evolved into a kind of maze, Clarista put her finger to her lips. “OK, you guys. You’ve got to be quiet. I think everybody’s asleep.” In fact, as they made their way through the passages, turning and intersecting, they did not see another human being. From behind one door came the sound of music and laughter. Mason put his ear against the wood briefly before Michele grabbed his arm and pulled him away.

They paused at a wall of glass, beyond which was situated a sauna and whirlpool but no humans. Mason remarked, “Looks like a good way to discourage any public intimacies. Unless you didn’t mind an audience of gawkers pressed up against the glass.”

“Fantastic,” George said. He took hold of Clarista’s elbow and asked her, “Do you have any beer?” They continued down the passageway.

Clarista opened her apartment with a key and switched on a light. It was a barren little place, sparsely furnished and hardly bigger than a closet, but the two men both made complimentary remarks about it. Clarista immediately got four cans of beer out of the refrigerator and passed them around. Being in the apartment and no longer moving toward some poorly defined goal made them all slightly nervous. Under the bright kitchen light, they leaned against the counters in a corner.

With nothing but the sound of swallowing in the room, George was first to speak again. “Let’s do it. I want to get into that whirlpool.”

“I’ve got to get out of this dress,” Clarista said, ignoring George’s remark. She and Michele were still wearing their maids-of-honor outfits. Clarista’s had already gotten soiled in a few places from earlier drink spills. “I don’t know,” she said, “I guess I don’t want it to get completely ruined. Who knows when I might need it again.”

“Come here,” George said, nodding commandingly to the space in front of him. She looked at him but remained leaning against a counter.


He nodded again. Michele, standing next to Mason, looked from George to Clarista and back. Mason slipped his hand around Michele’s waist and she looked up at him with bleary eyes, so he kissed her. Their tongues danced over and under each other and his hand gravitated to her breast, soft and warm. She scratched on his neck and on up into his hair. When they broke apart, George and Clarista were doing the same thing, except that George was unzipping the back of Clarista’s dress. She stepped back, let it fall from her shoulders to the floor and lifted her feet delicately out of it. She put her hand to her mouth and giggled at Michele. “We can’t wear these dresses into the whirlpool,” she said. Then she pulled her pantyhose off, leaving only a bra and panties.

George needed no encouragement. He pulled off his shoes, unbuttoned his shirt and dropped his pants as though it were part of a fire drill. In their underwear, George and Clarista embraced again. Michele looked at Mason. Mason, not wanting to be offensively presumptive, scratched the top of his head and struggled to get the silly expression off his face. Michele was uncertain, so he took hold of her again, kissed her deeply and listened to the sound of her zipper as his fingers guided it down her back. When they parted, the dress glided to the floor.

At some point, Mason was overcome with a feeling of detachment, the same feeling he imagined murderers had while they were committing some terrible act, watching themselves doing it, the machine of their body working automatically, muscles tensing and relaxing, the beautiful unpredictability of total freedom from restraint. He could feel her tongue, could identify the way it moved, much as a doctor might palpate a suspicious organ, could feel the substance of her breast, not just the sexuality, and even could feel the stretch of his body’s own response. If he had been asked, he would have attributed this state of mind to excessive drinking. Since nobody asked, he didn’t say anything.

I will go where this takes me, Mason’s brain told him, because there is no equally compelling reason not to. I am curious. I have an obligation to her to fulfill her expectations of her appeal to a man. I am a man; and I must be what she expects a man to be. To be less would be a fraud.

Mason did not exactly think those particular thoughts, but as he also stripped down they were woven within the substance of what motivated him.

George opened the door and stepped out onto the concrete walk. He immediately came back in and shut the door again, hugging himself. “Jesus, it’s cold out there.”

Clarista brought blankets, one for each couple. Draped like displaced peasants, they ventured out. The bulky four-legged mass of the George and Clarista blanket swept through the passageway ahead of Mason and Michele, passing thickly curtained windows, rooms darkened on common secrets that interested no one. The passage angled, descended a few steps, veered off again. Mason stopped to take a drink of the beer he had brought and then paused for Michele, who had reached for the can and then tipped it up and swallowed with the same display of urgency Mason had shown.

“That was good,” she said and handed the empty can back to him.

He put the can on a window sill, snugged the blanket like a tent around the two of them and kissed her again. She pressed tightly against him and ran her hands up and down his back and under the back waistband of his shorts. He managed to get hold of both ends of the blanket with one hand and re-positioned the other hand back on her breasts. She began to moan softly. He dropped his hand to the waistband of her panties, then edged it slowly down inside them, sensitive to the wiriness of her pubic hair and liking the contrast between its harshness and the softness of the fabric over it. He hesitated a few seconds, providing her an opportunity to stop him. When she did not he moved his hand further down inside the panties, his fingers searching for treasure.

She shifted her position, leaning back slightly against the wall. “Shall we?” she asked.

He didn’t really know. She was nearly young enough to be his daughter, and he had a kind of commitment to Gail, which had not entered his thoughts that evening until that particular moment. It was countered by his recognition that opportunities like what he expected to materialize in the next few moments occurred less often as he got older. This might be the last one. It was easiest, he thought, to maintain a distance and just let events advance on their own, seeking their own resolution at their own speed. Some things, he concluded, did not benefit from rational justification.

He was startled when her fingers unexpectedly latched onto him.

“You OK,” she asked.

“Oh yeah.”

“You’re so big.”

He didn’t answer, not finding anything that needed to be said. He was operating on a pure sensory level, even for a few moments imagining that he was floating above them watching his own behavior. He did not approve or disapprove. He only experienced.

His hand remembered how to unfastened a bra. Through his younger years he had done it many times, using a one-handed manipulation, reaching around to a girl’s back. Michele let her bra fall to the concrete walkway. He tried to pull down her panties with one hand, still trying to hold the blanket around them with the other, but it proved to be such an awkward, belabored task that she hunched down, removed the panties herself and then also pulled down his shorts. They pressed together for awhile. He heard her say a few words, sounds that his mind did not interpret. He bent his legs slightly and then came up inside her. She gasped and clung to him.

She wrapped one leg around him and squirmed as though she wanted to climb up over him. He became impatient with the blanket, was no longer committed to trying to stay warm and modest, so he let it drop. He grabbed her under the buttocks, hoisted her slightly, and she immediately scissored her legs around his waist and locked them in back. They were portable with one set of walking legs. They left behind the blanket and the clothes they had shed, and he was so enthused at the spontaneity of their act that he wanted to carry her around and show her to all the silent people behind the apartment doors.

He wanted them to see what he, a lawyer and college professor, could still do.

He marched down the passage, still linked to her, both of them laughing loudly between her gasps and moans. He was impressed with himself and wanted others to know about it.

“What are you doing!” she cried out, obviously not expecting an answer. Her words echoed around the maze of apartments, which remained quiet and dark.

George and Clarista had kept walking when Mason and Michele had stopped, and now they were gone. The passageways split and merged in patterns that made no sense to Mason. He had no idea of which direction went either toward the whirlpool or the apartment, but he continued to walk only because it was a denial of his childhood, his parents, his ex-wives, his children, his bosses, any authority, to be walking around an unfamiliar apartment complex in the forbidden hours of the morning, stark naked, engaged in mobile sex with a girl whose last name he did not know.

A door ahead of them opened. A young man poked his head out, looked the wrong way, then turned and looked then at them approaching. He squinted and stretched out his neck like a concerned turtle, before pulling it back in again, ready to slam the door but still fixated on them as they passed.

Mason said “Hello” and tipped his head. Michele was preoccupied in biting Mason’s neck. The young man did not reply. Mason heard the door close behind him.

He wanted to set her down, partly because he was becoming tired of carrying her but also because he wanted sex in the usual way. He realized there was no place along the pathways and corridors that would accommodate them. But as he turned another corner he saw the glass walls of the whirlpool ahead, which he almost did not recognize because someone had turned off the lights inside. He stopped, bracing Michele against a wall. She cooed “Oh yes, yes, yes” or something similar that did not fully register with him.

Mason was undecided. He wanted desperately to lay hr down and pump into her until his own juices flowed. He knew that the whirlpool would be warm, and that George and Clarista probably were inside. Although he knew that George would not be concerned if Mason walked in while still engaged in an act of traveling coitus, Mason wondered if the girls might not become offended. As a cold breeze puffed on his back he re-settled Michele, who now hung away from his chest, arms straight out, hands joined behind his neck, her head swinging free, breasts pointing deliciously toward his mouth.

At the entrance to the whirlpool room, he backed against the door, pushing it open and then turning to bring in the still languid form of Michele. The pool was just ahead, small for comfort, not big enough for swimming. The jets were noisily stirring it up, and Mason could barely distinguish in the darkness the shapes of two people sitting to chest depth on the opposite side. He slipped into the pool and gratefully released his hold on Michele.

“Ooooh, where are we?” Michele asked.

He didn’t answer. He was busy arranging her, floating her with a hand under the small of her back, another under her head. The water was approximately the right depth for him to be able to stand with his own feet on the bottom and still thrust into her, which he began to do vigorously, ignoring the occasional water-swept brush of legs belonging to the other couple. Michele began to moan in earnest. Mason struggled to keep her head above water. He didn’t want to accidentally drown her at the moment of ultimate satisfaction.

The water slapped like a tide between them. “Yes, yes,” she pleaded. “I’m coming. I’m coming.” Who was calling her, he wondered. I am

The water thrashed to a fury. She grabbed his shoulders. He stiffened and released, then again, standing in a biotic pool of his own essence, seminal fluid lapping all around them. She went limp.

When they had finished he didn’t know at first what to do with her. He felt certain she would sink to the bottom if he released his hold on her. The pool room was warm and the floor was covered with one of those stiff carpets that were supposed to be water proof. He lifted Michele out of the pool and laid her on the carpet. There was a smile on her face; at least that’s what he thought he could see in the little bit of light spilling in from the corridor. When he set her down his hand brushed against something that he recognized as a towel. He spread it over her and slipped back into the whirlpool, suddenly feeling weakened from carrying her weight so long and by the overwhelming warmth and massage of the circulating water. He even experienced a briefly passing concern that he might have a heart attack.

Mason’s eyes snapped open. He had momentarily been on the verge of nirvana, until he realized with absolute certainty that, first, the couple across from him in the pool was not George and Clarista; and second, they were staring at him. The water was still slapping around the edges of the pool from the disturbance he and Michele had created.

“Hope we didn’t bother you,” the male said. Mason listened intently for the sound of threat. He heard a slight quaver that sounded more like fear. Perhaps it was an example of a new forgiving morality – never condemn a stranger.

“You guys live here too?” the girl asked.

Mason couldn’t make out their faces. Maybe they couldn’t see him either.

“Uh, is that your towel?” he asked.

“Yeah, but it’s OK,” the male said. Then his female partner added, “We weren’t using it.”

“Mason, who is that?” Michele was sitting up, clutching the towel.

“It’s OK,” the other female said, full of nervous reassurance. “My name’s Gayla. And this is Dean.” What did these people think Mason might do that caused them to try to create some familiarity. Dick and Jane, he thought.

“Mason?” Michele said.

Still standing in the pool, Mason released his bladder, pleased as a male cat that he had marked his territory, more pleased that their new friends, Dean and Gayla, were sitting in it. He stepped out, not concerned that there was nothing available to cover his nakedness.

He helped Michele up from the carpet. Instinctively she held the towel up in front of herself for a moment. Then with disdain for it and its owner, and influenced by Mason’s brazen nakedness, she tossed the towel into a corner.

“Nice to meet you folks,” Mason said pleasantly, acting as the Recreation Director. “Don’t stay in too long. Your skin will start to pucker.”

He followed Michele through the door to the cold air outside and they both burst into laughter.

“It’s really cold out here,” he said. “Do you know the way to Clarista’s apartment?”

“What about the blanket and our clothes?”

“We’ll never find them. Let’s just get back to the apartment before we freeze.”

“Come on.” She led him, but without touching. That part was finished. On the way back they came across the things they had dropped along the way. The clothing was too cold to put on, so they just pulled the blanket around their shoulders and continued on, shoulder to shoulder, carrying the their garments.

The door was unlocked. There was a light on somewhere in the back of the apartment that dimly lit the front portion, were George and Clarista sat waiting on the floor, still in their underwear, drinking more beer, apparently engaged in nothing more sensual than conversation. As soon as he closed the door, Mason sneezed.

From that point on, Mason’s attention was concentrated on leaving. The talk in the room was oddly hushed after their earlier exuberance and it was clear to all that the evening was over. Mason let Michele gather the blanket around her shoulders, leaving him fully exposed. He took his clothes into the bathroom and got dressed, not just the underwear but all the way. When he emerged he saw that Michele had borrowed one of Clarista’s robes. She gave him a quick smile as she carried her clothing into the bathroom. When she emerged, Clarista and then George followed the same program, going individually into the bathroom and coming out looking sheepish but fully clothed. Clarista told the two men that Michele would be staying the night, which suggested that it was time for the men to leave.

Back in the Cadillac, headed for home again, George explained how Clarista reminded him of a girl he had once met on an airplane. Mason closed his eyes and sensed the light cinnamon taste of Michele, still lingering in his mouth. How do these things happen, he wondered. He thought of Gail and felt guilty, recognizing a familiar but seldom considered conflict between uncommitted, self-indulgent, quick satisfaction and the possible enduring tranquility that he associated with mutual commitment and the companionship that was supposed to grow between two committed lovers. Was it a myth? He was not willing to acknowledge that, and he thought it might not be worth the effort needed to fit it to a particular relationship. Not Gail. At least not at this moment. And certainly not Michele.

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