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Книга The Deep Blue Good-Bye. Содержание - Doce

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She was Lois, years ago, and in a different social strata. She was wasted on the lout dullness of sideburned Pete. She was fresh and fragile and vulnerable. She was the obvious victim, and once he had the quartet where they could not escape him, it would require no great effort to turn the other three into accomplices. They were coarsened already. They would help Junior Allen teach their funny clown-girl the facts of life, help him take her down into a nightmare where, finally, her clowning would do her no good at all.

We drank. His young pals called him Dads and patronized him. He grinned and grinned. Deeleen teased him. Corry kidded him. Pete ignored him. Junior Allen grinned and grinned and grinned. But some instinct made him wary of me. I would look toward him and see those little blue eyes studying me over that wide smile. He was a big old tom watching benignly as the mice cavorted. He didn’t want another cat at the party. There wasn’t enough for two.

But I did find out what I wanted to know. Pete said, in answer to a question by Patty, that they would leave as soon as Junior Allen had some work done on the boat. They would move their gear aboard and go down to Miami where the work was to be done, and cross over to Bimini from there. The cruise would last a week or ten days. Dads was paying all expenses. Dads was a live one. Patty would tell her people she was visiting a friend, a girl who lived in Jacksonville. Dads said they’d probably be leaving Tuesday or Wednesday. Don’t bring along a lot of stuff. We’ll be roughing it, kids.

We ate Barney’s fish sandwiches. We switched to beer. In the late afternoon the group split up. Pete took Patty home. Dads and Dee stayed aboard. I went up to the apartment with Corry. They were dingy rooms, small, high-ceilinged, too many layers of paint on the walls, the rugs dusty, the cheap furniture stained and scarred, the utilities primitive. She had spent the last hour back in the sun. She was dazed with sun and beer. She opened us two fresh beers and then went off to take a shower. She gave me a book to look at. It was a thick portfolio of eight-by-ten glamor shots of her, girlie shots, nude and semi-nude studies, with tricky lighting effects.

She had been a couple of years younger, I suspected, when they had been taken. Some were quite attractive, some were remarkably tasteless, and the balance were perfectly standard-the tawny back-lighted bulge of breasts and buttocks, and the standardized glowing wet-mouthed smile of enticement. She said the photographer friend had sold quite a lot of them to magazines. I could believe her.

The figure was standard adequate and so was the photographic technique. After I had finished the book and long after the shower had stopped, I heard her calling me in a small voice. I went to the bedroom. She had pulled the yellow shades down, making a dim golden light in the shabby room. She lay naked on the bed with a black towel across her loins. “Hello there, darling,” she said. She wore the same smile as in the photographs, but drowsier.

“Hello yourself.”

Wrestler’s jaw, sleepy green eyes, huge smooth brown thighs. She yawned and said, “Less have a li’l love and a li’l nap, sweetie.”

“Let me borrow a shower first.”

“Sure. Sure, you go ‘head. But hurry it up. I’m in such a wonnerful mood, lover.”

I went into the bathroom. It was a morass of stale towels and sour swim suits, fetid and perfume-sweet, soapy and damp. It astonished me not to find moss on the walls, mushrooms in the corners, ferns behind the john. The stream of water was feeble and tepid. I made the shower last a long long time. I used the least damp towel I could find. I opened the bathroom door with great care, and as I had hoped and expected, she was making a regular little snare-drum snore, saying “Paah” with each exhalation.

I dressed stealthily, tiptoed to the bed, removed the black towel and tossed it into the bathroom. I put my empty beer can on the floor next to hers. In the living room I found a post card and a pencil stub. I wrote, “Corry, sweet: Even when you’re half asleep, you’re marvelous. I’ll be in touch, honey.” I put it on the bed on the far side of her and tiptoed out, grinning like an idiot. Or like Dads.

But the grin had the feel of a suture. These are the little losers in the bunny derby, but they lose on a different route than the Mariannes, or the ones you see in the supermarket on the nights when they double the green stamps, coming in junk cars, plodding the bright aisles, snarling at their cross sleepy kids. Deeleen and Corry save wistfulness for thoughts of the key clubs. They could be the centerfold in anybody’s sex book. You have to stay with the kicks. Age twenty and age twenty-one. The cats always show up. The phone always rings. Friends have friends. It isn’t like anything was going to wear out, man. It isn’t like they were going to stop having conventions.

And you get a little tired or a little smashed or a little bored, so you throw a big fast busy fake and it is over in nothing at all. And learn the ways to work them for the little gifts here and there. Like maybe a cruise. Or the rent. Or a couple beach outfits by Cole. Friendship gifts. Not like you were really working at it. The ones work at it, there is always some character taking the money, and there can be police trouble and all that. You work waitress once in a while. The rest of it is dates, really. One date at a time. And some laughs, and if you’re short, he can loan you. And other numbers to call when there’s a whole bunch of guys.

This is the queasy shadowland, and they don’t even work hard at that because they have never learned to work at anything. They turn sloppy, and when the youngness is gone, there isn’t much left. Just the dead eyes and the small meaty skills and the feeling their luck went bad sometime, when they weren’t watching. Fifteen to twenty-five is the span, and they age quickly and badly. These are the bunnies who never find a burrow.

I got back to Lois in the hot blue dusk and she was extraordinarily docile. She wore a little navy blue dress with a starched white collar, and she had her dark hair flattened to severity. She gave the impression she was dedicating her life to sobriety and good works.

I forgave her all indiscretions, and her dark eyes glowed.

After dinner I told her about the cruise. I told her what I planned to do. We went over the plans, amending them, tightening them here and there. We did not talk of the end of it, even though the end was implicit in the things that had to happen before the end.

She kissed me a good night with quick cool lips, a dark glance that swiveled demurely away.

In my bed I thought of the brutal leathery hands of Junior Allen. Behind the agreeable grin he was as uncompromising as a hammer. Beast in his grin-mask. A clever, twisted thing, hunting for that perversion of innocence, the horrification of gentleness which would feed his own emptiness.

And I began thinking of that gentleness nearby. I computed the distance with care. Twenty-one feet, perhaps, from bed corner to bed corner. Would it not be good for her spirit, her morale, to be desired? Left alone, would she become dubious of her own time of a gentle aggression? And would not her fastidious litheness take away the heavy taste of the fleshy girls in the Citrus Inn? McGee, the Perfidious. Rationalizer. Womanizer. Gonadal argumentation. Go to sleep.

Was she on her left side? Her right We? Was she wakeful too? Were her eyes open in the same darkness, listening to the same whispery drone of the air conditioning? Was she wondering why I did not desire her?

Go to sleep, McGee, for God’s sake. You want a permanent dependent?

I sat up. My heart was bumping and my breath was shallow. I went in there moving as silently as a drift of smoke. She would be sleeping. I would turn right around and glide away from there.

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