Sunday, September 3, 2006

Workshop: Last Tuesday

One of the first questions I ask myself when I read fiction, particularly shorts, is “did I enjoy that?” If the answer’s no, I’m going to have to look hard for something that made it worthwhile to read. Luckily, I did enjoy Last Tuesday. There were a few misfires, and I had the overall impression it could have been a bit tighter, but the concept was strong and carried me through nicely. What did I like about the concept? Well, it “sounded” true. This is so elementary, you wouldn’t think you’d need to mention it, yet so many writers do not get that if you are writing realistically, what you write should reflect how our lives are.

The middle-aged lech is very much part of who we are (who I am anyway: I freely confess to ogling chicks on the train, and this story inspired me to imagine a bad outcome for that bad habit). Don’s lech was nicely imagined: banal, reaching for off centre unconvincingly, you could almost feel the bald spot.

I’m not a huge fan of the “twist” in a short story. It’s done to death and far too many stories labour their way to an all too obvious twist just because the author thought they ought to have one. (That’s not to say you oughtn’t ever to write a twist: many of my stories have them. But they ought to be organic; in other words, they should fit the piece, not have the piece fit them.) Perversely, I would have liked a more twisty ending here. I didn’t mind how it was, but I would have liked a smidgen more punch. That’s a minor criticism though. Overall, I thought it was a good attempt. (Although I’m not sure that “voices off” – telephone calls and the like – would have been allowed in the classical play.)


Last Tuesday

I never drive into the City. It’s a madhouse: One-way streets, rude drivers, virtually no parking. And those hills! They’re fun if you’re Steve McQueen.

So we know we’re in San Francisco. I’d have liked “but I’m not” here. The separate sentence is too emphatic.

A minor technical matter: if you use contractions, use them. If you don’t, don’t. Mixing and matching doesn’t work too well. So if you’re writing “There’s…” and “It’s…”, write “I’m”. This is not a hard and fast rule but consistency makes a good impression.

I am not. I happily leave the near-misses, burnt clutch plates


Comma. Use the serial comma, no matter what the rebels say.

and irate pedestrians to others. Thus


Therefore. I know I’m probably in the minority here but I like “therefore” for “because of this” and “thus” for “in this way”. Yes, I know the dictionary allows the former meaning for “thus” but good writers don’t misuse them.

last Tuesday I drove down towards


“toward” is standard in US English.

the Bay Area, took a left turn at Cordelia, allowed the freeway to spit me out into Walnut Creek, and dropped my heap in the parking lot at BART.



I’d advise not overdoing the cutesy shit. I don’t like Don’s allowing the freeway to spit him out. It’s just too cute. Ditto the “heap”. One or other, I could live with. Both are too much.

She was in line at the turnstile.

There’s always a she. It doesn’t matter where I go, everywhere, anywhere, out among the random collections of people that happen to be at any everywhere, there is a she to notice.


I think this is a rather convoluted way to express the notion. Because Don tried too hard, he fucked up. “Any” describes *one* anywhere, not all anywheres, so it’s “the random collection” of people. It would have been neater to write “out among the people randomly collected at any everywhere”, because “random” includes “happen to be” in its meaning.

Even if at first glance there is none, she will be manufactured. It’s in the nature of the beast.


I got what Don meant but on first reading I pictured him with a screwdriver, putting together his chick from parts.


But this one needed no manufacturing. She was an eye-catcher.


Take care not to write too passively. It drains a piece of dynamism, and can make it drag. Here Don could have chosen “She caught the eye”, avoiding the copula. Bear in mind that the verb to be often doesn’t contribute any meaning to a sentence.

Not much over five feet tall, in jeans that hugged her ass and ended in rags at the concrete, shoulders back and confident under white spaghetti straps, a fashionable purse under her arm, a sports cap covering a head without any visible hair.

There’s no good reason to despise “and” before the last in a list! I’m not sure what a “fashionable” purse would be. If you don’t know either, don’t write it. If you do, write what makes it fashionable. Drop a name if that’s what it is, or a short description if it’s that. “Fashionable” says a lot less than “a crocodile-skin purse all the rage among the fast girls on Ninth” or whatever (where Ninth is your entertainment district or society hangout or whatever your placing her as). Write “with no visible hair” or “with no hair visible”. After all, Clint Eastwood played the “Man with no name” not the “Man without any name”.

Worse than any of those sins, this sentence does not have a verb. Whereas above there were fragments that did not demand one, this must have one.


And then she was through and gone up the steps


This is close to a zeugma, and in any case is a solecism. Do not make “was” serve two masters here, where it is passably hard to resolve them as the same part of speech, and one can also become confused by the possibility of “through the steps” because you don’t give anything for her to be “through”. It may seem more cumbersome but it would have been far better to write “Then she was through the turnstile and had gone up the steps.” There’s no “and” here. I don’t always hold fast to the rule that you oughtn’t to begin a sentence with “And” but I don’t see how you’re following on like from like.


and I forgot all about her in the moments that trailed away from the swiftly-averted gaze of an attractive middle-aged woman.


I’m not sure about “trailed away from”. “moments after” seems to say the same thing a little less awkwardly. If you’re wedded to “trailed” though, just use it on its own.

Now here’s a rule that you should follow on every occasion and never ever break: do not hyphenate an “-ly” adverb and the adjective it modifies. Write “swiftly averted” here.

Her shadowed eyes I watched awhile, but they didn’t return.


Hmmm. The problem here is that “Her” seems at first to refer to the bald girl, who was “her” in the previous sentence. I’d prefer a new sentence at “I forgot” and then “woman, whose shadowed eyes I watched awhile, but they didn’t meet mine again/return/whatever”. It makes the second sentence longish but that’s a good tradeoff for the gain in clarity.

The platform was crowded, the tag end of morning rush hour.


This is a bit too elliptical because it says that the platform was the tag end etc. Write “crowded at/in the tag end”.


Late office workers and early shoppers and students, all distinct groups, nothing in common.


Again, do indulge yourself in a verb now and then.

I supposed that if I had to be something, I was a late office worker.


Given that you have categorised the people yourself, there is nothing to compel you to be anything.

I didn’t feel late: I’d hit the road at seven and driven two hours to get here. I had a meeting in the Mission that I could be late for but didn’t want to be, and found myself looking impatiently up the track over my paper coffee cup, just like every other self-important suit in view. Soon the train came round the bend and whined into place. From then it was all a semi-polite push–


I don’t much like dashes. A colon would work here.

a few folks were let out, and the rest of us filed in and spread like germs throughout the compartment.

I had forgotten to stand in line on the platform and was the last one to enter that particular door.

“the last to enter”. “one” is entirely extraneous.


I was greeted by an odd view. As many people as got


“had gotten”

on the train, everyone had a seat.



This sentence reads rather oddly and I would routinely correct it to “Everyone who had gotten on the train had a seat.”


No one was standing but me, and there seemed to be no empty seats.


For reasons I won’t go into, I prefer “it seemed there were no empty seats”.

The odd man out, I felt like an intruder at some private party where no one knew anyone, the loser at musical bench seats.


I liked this idea but I thought it was a bit overwritten. Maybe just “I felt as though I had lost a game of musical chairs”.

But I lurched down the aisle with the lurching train


Staggered/swayed… anything but “lurched”.

and found there were indeed not one but two seats


You could write essays about whether this should be “there was indeed” or “there were indeed”. I prefer the former but YMMV.

as yet unoccupied. One’s mate was filled by an old guy in a Cal sweatshirt, and the other by the bald-headed girl I’d seen downstairs. I sat by her. Which would you?


Which would you what? You cannot elide the verb here because it reads rather awkwardly. “Which would you sit in?/Which would you choose?” Better not to say anything though, because you ought not to assume you are writing for a man. Women also read, so I’m told.


In my youth I was very shy. Rarely talked to anyone, almost never to anyone I didn’t know, and absolutely never to anyone I didn’t know who was also female and good-looking.


This is a bit too much and I wouldn’t bother with it.

In the two seconds between spying her and sitting next to her I added to my internalized description


“picture”. “internalized description” is painful.

of her that she had a pretty face, beautiful eyes,


and

absolutely no hair on her head


comma

and was not diminutive at all where it really counts.


Not everyone is tit obsessed! I like though that you have painted this picture of a particular kind of guy. Your narrator is a bit of a creep and that makes the denouement work well.


Very good-looking, in other words; and I still winced at ancient memories, so I sat down and said hello.

What middle-aged man striving with the meaning of time, marriage and life would not?


Hmmmm. Well, I wouldn’t. I never talk to people on trains.


It was an expression of hope and hopelessness, all wrapped up into one freely given moment, a moment I expected to use as best I could and then watch drift away never to be seen again.


That’s a bit much for “hello”, frankly.

The last thing I expected was for her to say anything, especially anything such as, I’m fine, thank you, how are you.

She said, “I’m fine, thank you, how are you?”

“Awesome,” I said, more in reaction to the instant than as an accurate expression of truth.

Stop at “I said”. We can figure out why he’s saying it.


“Awesome,” she repeated, and continued to look absently down the length of the railcar. She wasn’t smiling but a neutral contentedness was in her eyes, almost spilled out of them,


Hmmm. I don’t really like this. You’ve had “absently” and now you’re having “neutral contentedness”. It’s all a bit much. Just cut the second sentence.

and I felt completely at ease, or almost completely, as if


“as though”.

A distinction not often observed these days, although it ought to be because it still does work, is between “as if” and “as though”. The former should be used for impossibilities; the latter for likenesses.

For example, “she looked at me as though I was mad” says I resembled someone that was mad. “She looked at me as though she knew me” says that the way she looked at me was the same as the way she would look at me if she knew me. You can see that the usages can overlap here: “she looked at me as though/as if I had a horn growing out of my forehead”. “As if” is more commonly useful in sentences like “As if I would lie to you”, “As if you ever did the washing up”, in which we are not creating similes but describing states impossibly dissimilar from the one at hand.


just this once I was not some creepy older guy, some suspicious middle-aged prowling male, but just a person on the train and accepted as such. I didn’t take this to mean I shouldn’t press my luck.

“Where you headed?”

“Seattle,” she replied.

“This train goes to San Francisco.”

“It also goes to the airport.”

True statement .


Omit this last sentence.

I should have felt stupid.


Comma.

But she laughed. I felt we shared a private joke.


“had shared” reads better because the sharing is done and then there’s that warm feeling afterwards.

“Whatever for?” I asked

“Visit friends. Take some time off.”

“Party.”


Make it a question because even though it’s semirhetorical, that’s how it would come across.


“You got it.”

Her emphasis, and the glance at me, spoke of confidence and certainty. The effect was magnetic.


I think you want “mesmeric”.


“You’re flying up to Seattle just to party?”

“I love that town.”

“Huh.” I was in no position to question her taste.


This, one presumes, is a Frisco in-joke. It’s a bit odd to say you weren’t in a position to question her taste. Why not say “Who was I to question her taste?”, which reads more naturally.


She looked out the window at the sudden rush of noise and darkness that hit when the train dove under the Berkeley Hills.


She did not look at a sudden rush of noise. The sudden rush of noise may have caused her to look.

I looked too and in the reflection stole a glance at the heavenly vista emphasized by the thin straps of her silky camisole. She was really something. I was beginning to think her figure wasn’t just shapely, it was spectacular. Athlete, figure model, exotic dancer – I ticked off the highest compliments a man can give once he’s succumbed to the habit of turning women half his age into objects.


This reads a bit oddly. I’d try to find a better way to express this.

Not that I did that consciously; and if she noticed, she didn’t seem to care.

“You can afford to fly all that way just to party?” I asked.

“I’m pretty lucky,” she said. I thought, okay, rich parents. That’s what I thought I should think. But that isn’t what I really thought. My mind was already turned, and I was pondering the nature of the party and of her friends in Seattle, and just what it was she did for a living that gave her so much free time and spending money.

“I guess so. Good friends in Seattle, huh?”

“Actually,” she said, “I have friends all over the place. I like having friends to visit. Keeps me from getting bored.”

“And you can just fly there. Huh. That’s pretty cool.”

“Yeah,” she said, not quite with a laugh.


That’s a bit too omniscient for this narrator.


“I have a good job. I’m real lucky. It pays pretty well.”

“Huh,” I said again, not so incredulously. “What do you do … if you don’t mind me asking.”

“Actually, I go to Cal. Just finished summer school. I’m gonna blow off some steam.”



Did she just go to Cal for summer school? Or does she go to Cal? It wasn’t clear and the rest of it didn’t make it any clearer. I think the whole studying thing was a poor fit for what followed, and you only popped it in to help push the hooker line. Find another way would be favourite for me.


I had her story all sewn up. Something among the oldest professions – dancing, high-priced call-girl


No hyphen.

, whatever – and she was lovin’ it.


Yuk. Imperialist Yankee dog.

She had the confidence, the attitude seen as high self-esteem by men and as quite the opposite by women much of the time.

I’m not sure that a/ I know what you’re talking about and b/ women do think that.


I imagined her friend in Seattle to be some geek millionaire, her other friends in – who knows? – San Diego, Phoenix, the party towns of the West

Are they party towns? Really?

all more of the same. And going to Cal? Sure, why not.


Question, so question mark.

No shortage of college girls in the game – no shortage of players going to school. For one thing, they don’t need classes scheduled at night.

What the hell happened to your hair? I wanted to ask. The first thought to mind was some freak gave her an extra grand to let him shave her head. What the hell, she could always get a wig. But I didn’t ask. Rude I am not.


Don’t do this. Unless you have good reason, and you rarely will, do not invert sentences, particularly not Yoda style. Write in the most straightforward manner, unless you have good reason to diverge from it. It is not a mark of good writing to get fancy.


I didn’t think repeating a question she evaded was rude, however, so I tried again.

“What kind of job? I mean, what’s your major?”

Accustomed to my own clumsiness, I almost asked What’s your sign? to establish the humor but I didn’t think she’d get it. She answered both questions anyway.

“Business. I manage an office in Pleasant Hill. Some day I will own my own business.


But you’ve just told us she’s a student. You kill your denouement because the reader is stuck on this and can’t move on to “hang on, if she manages an office, she can’t be a hooker…”

Anyway, businesswomen don’t manage offices. Office managers do. If she is a manager, she can “run” an office or “head” an office or be the boss at an office.


Meanwhile, my boss, he treats me really well. He trusts me, lets me go away if the office is running well, nothing big coming up. I know I’m really lucky to be able to fly around like this.”

“Huh. Okay. Office.”

She wasn’t giving up the truth, not to me. And why should she? I was just another slob on the commuter train. She was out of my price range and she knew it. As if I knew what my price range was. But I could dream, I could dream of anything while chatting pleasantly with a bald-headed beauty who got inexplicably sexier by the minute.

The train exited the tunnel, added and subtracted a few passengers at the stations in Oakland, and rushed again towards the darkness under the Bay. Just as we dropped down and in, her cell phone peeped once and then stopped.

“Such bad timing,” I said. She grunted and closed her eyes. Her lashes were long and even.

Tunnel lights flashed by at sixty miles per hour. People read, people stared, people waited. I tried to breathe in her atmosphere but it was no go. I speculated. Three hundred an hour? Five? Full days only at three grand per plus travel? Would I pay for that? Would I, if the money really didn’t mean anything?


This question doesn’t really make sense because if the money didn’t mean anything, the question would not be whether you’d pay this or that amount, but only whether you’d pay.


I guessed that was the best situation for all. The paying man (or woman, or couple, whoever) cares only about the illusion of love and not the money


It’s quite sweet that you so closely associate love and sex, but I don’t think anyone kids themselves about prostitutes quite that much.


; and the young woman conquering her way across the world cares only about the money and not the illusion of love.


It simply doesn’t enter the equation for a prostitute.

Bully for them all. How shallow. How empty. In this odd disconnected moment under the Bay, how damned enviable.

The train slowed and stopped. Not my station. Hordes of others stood and left. Her cell peeped again and startled her awake.

“Yes, this is Allie. Fine. On my way. What? What?”

A conscious blanket of annoyance almost smothered the alarm in her voice.

“Fuck that. They signed last week. Yes they did. What do you mean, not authorized? Fuck that!”

Now I was alarmed. She was pissed. I didn’t want her pissed.

“Listen, that’s their gaw damn problem. I was there, that prick Adamson, he signed the contract. I don’t give a shit if he wasn’t authorized. Fuck that. Oldest trick in the book. Yeah, I’ll wait.”

The train pulled out of the station. She looked at me.

“You’re not insurance, are you?” I shook my head. “Good. I hate those – what? I’ll be at Montgomery in a couple minutes, why? Oh, not a fucking chance! I have a plane to catch!”

Her eyes narrowed. I hoped she’d never look at me that way.


Well, she’s not all that likely ever to look at you again, so you need to find another way to phrase this: “I was glad not to be on the end of that look” maybe.


“Oh the fuck right. Maybe … yeah … you’re right, if I go in there in my vacation clothes and loaded for bear, they’ll get the point. Oh, I’ll make sure they get the fucking point. What’s the address again?”

She closed her phone, wrote something down and looked at me again. “How very convenient. The bastards trying to rook us out of a D&O contract are right up the street here.”


I don’t know what a D&O contract is. It might have been good, although a bit cheesy, to make our boy part of the firm that has aroused her fury.


The train slowed again, and stopped. I got out of the way.

“They’re gonna wish they weren’t. It was a pleasure, mister.” She rose out of her seat and her smile for me was as sweet as any I could wish for. God, she was a beaut, even with, especially with, the glint of battle in her eye.

“Pleasure’s all mine,” I said, and watched her walk away. The pleasure of that study truly was all mine. Would I pay three hundred? Five? Yes, I thought, yes I would.


Well, wouldn’t we all, were we geek millionaires?


I repost the whole story below. The copyright remains with the author, whose moral right to be identified as the author I affirm by attaching his name.

Last Tuesday

I never drive into the City. It’s a madhouse: One-way streets, rude drivers, virtually no parking. And those hills! They’re fun if you’re Steve McQueen. I am not. I happily leave the near-misses, burnt clutch plates and irate pedestrians to others. Thus, last Tuesday I drove down towards the Bay Area, took a left turn at Cordelia, allowed the freeway to spit me out into Walnut Creek, and dropped my heap in the parking lot at BART.

She was in line at the turnstile.

There’s always a she. It doesn’t matter where I go, everywhere, anywhere, out among the random collections of people that happen to be at any everywhere, there is a she to notice. Even if at first glance there is none, she will be manufactured. It’s in the nature of the beast.

But this one needed no manufacturing. She was an eye-catcher. Not much over five feet tall, in jeans that hugged her ass and ended in rags at the concrete, shoulders back and confident under white spaghetti straps, a fashionable purse under her arm, a sports cap covering a head without any visible hair. And then she was through and gone up the steps, and I forgot all about her in the moments that trailed away from the swiftly-averted gaze of an attractive middle-aged woman. Her shadowed eyes I watched awhile, but they didn’t return.

The platform was crowded, the tag end of morning rush hour. Late office workers and early shoppers and students, all distinct groups, nothing in common. I supposed that if I had to be something, I was a late office worker. I didn’t feel late: I’d hit the road at seven and driven two hours to get here. I had a meeting in the Mission that I could be late for but didn’t want to be, and found myself looking impatiently up the track over my paper coffee cup, just like every other self-important suit in view. Soon the train came round the bend and whined into place. From then it was all a semi-polite push– a few folks were let out, and the rest of us filed in and spread like germs throughout the compartment.

I had forgotten to stand in line on the platform and was the last one to enter that particular door. I was greeted by an odd view. As many people as got on the train, everyone had a seat. No one was standing but me, and there seemed to be no empty seats. The odd man out, I felt like an intruder at some private party where no one knew anyone, the loser at musical bench seats. But I lurched down the aisle with the lurching train and found there were indeed not one but two seats as yet unoccupied. One’s mate was filled by an old guy in a Cal sweatshirt, and the other by the bald-headed girl I’d seen downstairs. I sat by her. Which would you?

In my youth I was very shy. Rarely talked to anyone, almost never to anyone I didn’t know, and absolutely never to anyone I didn’t know who was also female and good-looking. In the two seconds between spying her and sitting next to her I added to my internalized description of her that she had a pretty face, beautiful eyes, absolutely no hair on her head and was not diminutive at all where it really counts. Very good-looking, in other words; and I still winced at ancient memories, so I sat down and said hello.

What middle-aged man striving with the meaning of time, marriage and life would not? It was an expression of hope and hopelessness, all wrapped up into one freely given moment, a moment I expected to use as best I could and then watch drift away never to be seen again. The last thing I expected was for her to say anything, especially anything such as, I’m fine, thank you, how are you.

She said, “I’m fine, thank you, how are you?”

“Awesome,” I said, more in reaction to the instant than as an accurate expression of truth.

“Awesome,” she repeated, and continued to look absently down the length of the railcar. She wasn’t smiling but a neutral contentedness was in her eyes, almost spilled out of them, and I felt completely at ease, or almost completely, as if just this once I was not some creepy older guy, some suspicious middle-aged prowling male, but just a person on the train and accepted as such. I didn’t take this to mean I shouldn’t press my luck.

“Where you headed?”

“Seattle,” she replied.

“This train goes to San Francisco.”

“It also goes to the airport.”

True statement . I should have felt stupid. But she laughed. I felt we shared a private joke.

“Whatever for?” I asked

“Visit friends. Take some time off.”

“Party.”

“You got it.”

Her emphasis, and the glance at me, spoke of confidence and certainty. The effect was magnetic.

“You’re flying up to Seattle just to party?”

“I love that town.”

“Huh.” I was in no position to question her taste.

She looked out the window at the sudden rush of noise and darkness that hit when the train dove under the Berkeley Hills. I looked too and in the reflection stole a glance at the heavenly vista emphasized by the thin straps of her silky camisole. She was really something. I was beginning to think her figure wasn’t just shapely, it was spectacular. Athlete, figure model, exotic dancer – I ticked off the highest compliments a man can give once he’s succumbed to the habit of turning women half his age into objects. Not that I did that consciously; and if she noticed, she didn’t seem to care.

“You can afford to fly all that way just to party?” I asked.

“I’m pretty lucky,” she said. I thought, okay, rich parents. That’s what I thought I should think. But that isn’t what I really thought. My mind was already turned, and I was pondering the nature of the party and of her friends in Seattle, and just what it was she did for a living that gave her so much free time and spending money.

“I guess so. Good friends in Seattle, huh?”

“Actually,” she said, “I have friends all over the place. I like having friends to visit. Keeps me from getting bored.”

“And you can just fly there. Huh. That’s pretty cool.”

“Yeah,” she said, not quite with a laugh. “I have a good job. I’m real lucky. It pays pretty well.”

“Huh,” I said again, not so incredulously. “What do you do … if you don’t mind me asking.”

“Actually, I go to Cal. Just finished summer school. I’m gonna blow off some steam.”

I had her story all sewn up. Something among the oldest professions – dancing, high-priced call-girl, whatever – and she was lovin’ it. She had the confidence, the attitude seen as high self-esteem by men and as quite the opposite by women much of the time. I imagined her friend in Seattle to be some geek millionaire, her other friends in – who knows? – San Diego, Phoenix, the party towns of the West, all more of the same. And going to Cal? Sure, why not. No shortage of college girls in the game – no shortage of players going to school. For one thing, they don’t need classes scheduled at night.

What the hell happened to your hair? I wanted to ask. The first thought to mind was some freak gave her an extra grand to let him shave her head. What the hell, she could always get a wig. But I didn’t ask. Rude I am not. I didn’t think repeating a question she evaded was rude, however, so I tried again.

“What kind of job? I mean, what’s your major?”

Accustomed to my own clumsiness, I almost asked What’s your sign? to establish the humor but I didn’t think she’d get it. She answered both questions anyway.

“Business. I manage an office in Pleasant Hill. Some day I will own my own business. Meanwhile, my boss, he treats me really well. He trusts me, lets me go away if the office is running well, nothing big coming up. I know I’m really lucky to be able to fly around like this.”

“Huh. Okay. Office.”

She wasn’t giving up the truth, not to me. And why should she? I was just another slob on the commuter train. She was out of my price range and she knew it. As if I knew what my price range was. But I could dream, I could dream of anything while chatting pleasantly with a bald-headed beauty who got inexplicably sexier by the minute.

The train exited the tunnel, added and subtracted a few passengers at the stations in Oakland, and rushed again towards the darkness under the Bay. Just as we dropped down and in, her cell phone peeped once and then stopped.

“Such bad timing,” I said. She grunted and closed her eyes. Her lashes were long and even.

Tunnel lights flashed by at sixty miles per hour. People read, people stared, people waited. I tried to breathe in her atmosphere but it was no go. I speculated. Three hundred an hour? Five? Full days only at three grand per plus travel? Would I pay for that? Would I, if the money really didn’t mean anything? I guessed that was the best situation for all. The paying man (or woman, or couple, whoever) cares only about the illusion of love and not the money; and the young woman conquering her way across the world cares only about the money and not the illusion of love. Bully for them all. How shallow. How empty. In this odd disconnected moment under the Bay, how damned enviable.

The train slowed and stopped. Not my station. Hordes of others stood and left. Her cell peeped again and startled her awake.

“Yes, this is Allie. Fine. On my way. What? What?”

A conscious blanket of annoyance almost smothered the alarm in her voice.

“Fuck that. They signed last week. Yes they did. What do you mean, not authorized? Fuck that!”

Now I was alarmed. She was pissed. I didn’t want her pissed.

“Listen, that’s their gaw damn problem. I was there, that prick Adamson, he signed the contract. I don’t give a shit if he wasn’t authorized. Fuck that. Oldest trick in the book. Yeah, I’ll wait.”

The train pulled out of the station. She looked at me.

“You’re not insurance, are you?” I shook my head. “Good. I hate those – what? I’ll be at Montgomery in a couple minutes, why? Oh, not a fucking chance! I have a plane to catch!”

Her eyes narrowed. I hoped she’d never look at me that way.

“Oh the fuck right. Maybe … yeah … you’re right, if I go in there in my vacation clothes and loaded for bear, they’ll get the point. Oh, I’ll make sure they get the fucking point. What’s the address again?”

She closed her phone, wrote something down and looked at me again. “How very convenient. The bastards trying to rook us out of a D&O contract are right up the street here.”

The train slowed again, and stopped. I got out of the way.

“They’re gonna wish they weren’t. It was a pleasure, mister.” She rose out of her seat and her smile for me was as sweet as any I could wish for. God, she was a beaut, even with, especially with, the glint of battle in her eye.

“Pleasure’s all mine,” I said, and watched her walk away. The pleasure of that study truly was all mine. Would I pay three hundred? Five? Yes, I thought, yes I would.

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