Sandra Thompson

To Order Close-Ups

Wild Bananas

Barry picks me up to carry me over the threshold. “Oof,” he says and kicks open the door.

I didn’t think Barry could carry me. He is the smallest man I have ever slept with. He lets me down inside the front hall, then collapses against the wall. His suit is too big for him and he seems to hang there in it.

“Whew,” he says. He looks up past me into the living room. “Hi, Mel. Hi, Patsy.”

A man about Barry’s age, twenty-three, is walking across the living room towards us in his jockey shorts. With him is a woman about the same age wearing a pink peignoir and a chiffon cap that has little bows all over it. She thrusts towards me a bottle of pink champagne. The man Barry called Mel, who is big and burly, envelopes Barry in a bear hug. “Congratulations, Feldman,” he says.

“Yeah, congratulations,” the woman, Patsy, says. She has a sweet smile and resembles a Pekingese.

I look at Barry. Maybe he will tell me who these people are. But he’s talking to Mel.

“Come on in,” Patsy says. “What am I saying. It’s your house. Do you guys want something to eat?” I follow Patsy into the kitchen of Barry’s apartment. She opens the refrigerator door. “We’ve got some leftover tunafish,” she says. “ She takes out a saucer with something yellowish in it and lifts it to her nose. “Yuck. It doesn’t look too good, does it, Mel?”

Mel is at her side, opening a bottle of champagne.

Patsy takes out a half-empty can of Chun King chow mein. “I could heat up some of this,” she says. “Or do you want a piece of pie?” She takes out a half of a store-bought chocolate cream pie with a round indentation on the top where the tunafish saucer has been sitting on it.

“Do you eat this kind of stuff often?” I ask Patsy.

Mel loosens the cork on the champagne. I’ve heard about people getting their eyeballs popped out by flying corks, so I cover my face with my hands. The cork sputters about an inch from Mel’s fist and falls to the floor. He pours champagne into four jelly glasses. The one I get has Archie and Veronica and Betty and Reggie on it. When I was a kid, I identified with Veronica. She was rich and beautiful and she got everything she wanted even though she wasn’t nice like Betty.

“To the Feldmans!” Mel says.

We all take a sip of champagne. It tastes like Lik-m-aid.

“When did you guys get married?” Patsy asks.

“This afternoon,” I say.

“Great,” Mel says. “How about a game of Hearts?”

“Oka-a-y,” Barry says, the last syllable drawled out lazy, the way I like it.

The apartment looks different than it did six weeks ago, the last time I flew down from New York to visit Barry. A card table has been set up in the middle of the living room. Barry and Mel pull the dining-room chairs over to it. Mel starts shuffling a deck of cards.

I take off my shoes and drop them on the carpet. I’ve had them on since the wedding. They are too tight and pinch. My feet show red through my nylons.

“This is our new dining-room table,” Patsy says, patting the top of the card table. “Do you like it?”

“It looks like a card table to me,” I say.

“We got it with the Blue Corn stamps Mel’s mother gave us,” Patsy says.

“Oh,” I say.

“This is all our furniture. Except the bed, but it won’t be delivered until next week.”

“Is it being delivered here?” I ask. I had never seen or heard of Mel or Patsy before tonight.

“Hey, we found an apartment,” Mel says to Barry. “We can move in as soon as the bed is delivered.” He smiles a broad smile and spreads his hands across the air. “So we’ll just be here with you two Feldmans for one more week.”

“How long have you been here?” I ask.

Mel drops his hands and looks at Barry. “Feldman, didn’t you tell your wife we were here?”

I’m staring across the card table at Barry. “I don’t know, baby,” he says. “Didn’t I tell you?”

Patsy smiles a sweet and kind of sad smile at me. “Mel is going to law school with Barry,” she says. She sounds like she’s talking to a child. “They were at the University of Miami together. Barry said we could stay at his place until we found an apartment.” She turns to Barry. “You should have told your wife, Barry.”

“I knew you wouldn’t mind, baby,” Barry says.

Mel deals the cards. He and Patsy and Barry pick up their hands. Mel and Barry pick through their cards without looking up once. My cards lie in an untidy pile on the table in front of me.

“All r-i-i-ght,” Mel says. He looks at me and the ‘right’ fades away. “Feldman,” he says. “Your wife isn’t picking up her cards.”

“I hate Hearts,” I say.

“Feldman, your wife says she hates Hearts.”

Barry looks at me. “You never told me that, baby.”

Barry looks pale and tired. No one made it easy for us to get married. I bring my foot up into my lap and rub the instep where the shoe pinched. The corridor in the Birmingham airport was so long, the little heels of my shoes clickclacking beside Barry’s wing tips, shuffling slightly slew-footed. I wanted to cry out in pain. I deserved to have shoes that fit. It was my wedding day.

“Come on, baby,” Barry says. “Just one game, okay?”

“All right. But I’m not going to try to win.”

We play five games of Hearts. Mel wins three. Barry wins two.

“Let’s go to bed, Mel,” Patsy says. “I’ve got to get up for work tomorrow.”

“A couple more hands,” Mel says and starts dealing.

At midnight, Patsy tugs at Mel’s sleeve. “Mel, come on. I have to be at work at eight tomorrow.”

Mel stands up. “Okay. I win for the night seven to six.” He takes out a pen and writes something on the inside of a matchbook cover. “I’ll just keep a record of the score, and we can continue tomorrow night.” Mel takes a deep breath. “Good night, Feldmans,” he says.

Barry and I pick up our suitcases that are still by the front door where we left them when he carried me inside.

“What are they doing here?” I whisper to Barry.

“I told Mel they could stay here until they found a place.”

“Why?”

“Where else would they stay? They don’t have any money?”

Barry and I knock into each other as we carry our suitcases through the bedroom door.

“Well,” Barry says, flinging his free arm across my shoulder, “let’s see what sex is like now that it’s obligatory.”

Selected Works

Fiction
"Stunning wit and sparkle"
Washington Book Review
"A sad/funny first novel of real pathos and skill." -- Kirkus Reviews
Essay
Column, St. Petersburg Times, July 30, 2005