Lorraine wipes the scum from ketchup bottle lips, figures she
may as well dab the oblivious chins of diners who slurp and
gulp from coffee cups and blue plates, their still-hungry eyes
roaming the flirt and flash of Keno boards. She takes her own
sweet finger stroll over a mound of silver dollars left by
a promising man she guessed was in town on business, but hoped
for more than that—from her, he’d squeezed. A lie,
she knew. It was the progressive jackpot winking above the
oversized slot at Caesars that would steal his money and his
One swift pull could spin her onto the other side of this counter.
Out of this steak-special, chicken-fried living into an endless
row of chaise lounges, nugget-colored swimsuits, and fruit-speared
drinks—with those cute, little umbrellas flared to keep
the sun off the occasional fly buzzing close, wanting its share
of her share. A little tipsy, she’d bask in the balm
of zero-factor tanning oil, her fingerprints smearing the plotline
of Jackie Collins’s latest saga. She’d bet in the
flesh she’d looked as smooth and tan as Lucky.
Yes—she snaps, swinging her hip to slam shut the register—to
her fantasy of drinks and fruitless affairs with vacationing
specialists who come to this slippery Strip of paradise for sun,
sex, golf, and blister-packed drug samples. So what if she winds
up loaded, sweltering beside some tropics-replicated pool scene,
submerged in a sweaty malaise, looking ridiculously vulgar. Sporting
a pair of enormous, tortoise-shell sunglasses, and strappy sandals,
her strategically placed thong damp and itching—she’d
still swear it really wasn’t so bad.
Sucking in the steam of percolating coffee, Lorraine shifts into
another muse, Ah, she’d reflect—leaning against
her penthouse balcony to watch yet another day slip into something
more glitzy and uncomfortable, while behind her some proctologist
bends over to tie his canvas shoes—we will eat out—I
think—down the street at Joe’s. He will tell me
again how much he desires me, and I will eye that too familiar
waitress who watches me so plump with envy. Maybe tonight I
will bring her home, seduce her with sweet music and champagne.
Take her with me when I come, hold her close until she goes….
Beneath the heat lamp the bell dings. Lorraine sighs, pulls
her hand from inside her apron pocket, decides it’s just
fool’s gold she’s teasing from a pile of jingling
First published in the anthology Nepotism