youâd never get here.â She had on a skin-tight black jumpsuit and a huge gold necklace that came halfway down her chest and clanked noisily.
âCome meet Josh. Heâs dying to meet you. Iâve told him all about you two.â She took me by the hand and dragged me into the fray. I grabbed Alâs hand and brought her along with me. If she thought she was going to escape at this stage of the game, she had another think coming.
My mother told me to check out the decor. She likes to know about colors of slipcovers, walls, rugs, et cetera. The room was so crowded it was hard to see much. I noticed an old woman with white skin and bright red hair, holding an unlit cigarette in a long holder and waving her long-nailed hands around. Others moved in what seemed like slow motion, laughing, talking, drinking, flicking ashes into the potted palms.
âJosh, darling! Did I promise you some lovely girls?â Sparkyâs mom sounded positively joyous. âDonât say I never do anything for you. Here they are.â
âTa dah,â I heard Al whisper.
Josh reclined in a big chair, his legs draped over the arm. The first thing I noticed was his high-heeled cowboy boots. They were dark red, the color of old blood, and beautiful. He wore chinos and a button-down shirt. He didnât get up, only lifted a hand in greeting.
âHey,â he said. âHave a seat.â
âIâm thirsty,â Al said.
âOf course youâre thirsty,â Sparkyâs mom said, as if weâd traveled mile after dusty mile to reach this place. âCome with me and Iâll show you where the refreshments are. Donât go away, darling,â she said to Josh, who looked as if he might fall asleep.
âHeâs so shy,â Sparkyâs mom said as we plunged through the crowd. âBe nice to him, will you? He needs attention, friends, love.â
âWho doesnât?â Al muttered under her breath.
âJust help yourselves,â Sparkyâs mom said. Then she turned to speak to someone and drifted out of sight.
âHow tall is he?â Al asked me.
âIn or out of his boots?â I said. âHave a shooter of Coke. You need sweetening.â
Al and I picked. We ate stuffed mushrooms, nachos, and cruditÃ©s, which is French for carrot sticks.
âMaybe we better go back and talk to him,â I said after a while.
âHeck with that,â Al said. âLet him come and talk to us. Listen,â she said, frowning, âI have a hunch the guy might be a midget. I knew I shouldâve checked out how tall he was before I got suckered into this mess.â
âDonât be such a pill,â I told her. âItâs a party. Smile. Act as if youâre enjoying yourself.â
When we got back to where Josh had been, he was gone.
âMaybe someone kidnapped him,â Al said, noticeably brightening.
âYou wish,â I said.
âHey.â The call came from a nearby couch.
âRats,â Al said.
Josh had a friend with him. He had big chipmunk cheeks and aviator glasses and wore a vest.
âHe must be your date,â Al said, grinning for the first time.
We didnât know where else to go, so we walked over.
âThis is Mark,â Josh performed the introductions. âHeâs my best buddy.â
The four of us chatted up a storm.
âSo whatâs new in the Big Apple?â Mark said.
âWhere are you guys from?â Al asked.
âCincinnati,â Mark said.
âWhat do you do for kicks in Cincinnati?â Al said.
âWe mostly hang out at the mall,â Mark said. Josh may have fallen asleep by then, for all we knew. He sure wasnât talking.
âLots of action going on at the mall.â Mark smiled slyly.
âGive me a for instance,â Al said.
âOh,â Mark said, surprised. âThe usual. You know. Dates, dances, flicks, video games.â