Scene: a late afternoon in July. A young couple in patio chairs read beside a pool. Shadows cut into the pool’s bright blues and whites. Playful wind, quiet lapping. The occasional passing of cars.
He. Ah, poolside. It’s hot as hell out here.
She. Honey, please, I’m trying to read.
He. Hey, let’s get a roast chicken for dinner from that Portuguese place.
She. looking up without expression. What place?
He. You know—where that hot Cuban guy flirted with you in Spanish.
She. Cuban guy? What was I wearing?
He. Yellow sundress. March or early April.
She. … Oh, that guy! He was hot.
She. Sure, let’s get a chicken.
He. As long as my stomach is full, I’m the happiest man in the world.
She. Yes, the gourmet in the machine.
He. The key to a man’s heart.
She. I’m gonna go back to reading my magazine.
He. Yeah, sure. Whatcha reading?
She. Maisonneuve. The Poolside Issue.
He. Whoever drew that cover has issues. Totally twisted.
She. Darling, when are you going to stop playing the conservative? You like things twisted.
He. Reading about woolly mammoth hunts in Russia is one thing—that’s a great story, you should read that one—but a dead man floating face down in a pool? Come on. Too much.
She. Oh, I’m sure he’s just holding his breath? (No reply)
Well, did you like the flash fictions?
He. The postcards? Yes. Good bathroom reading.
He. formally. There is no form of compliment higher than to say one has read a writer’s work in the confi nes of a water-closet. Oscar Wilde said that.
She. How inspiring.
He. Or maybe Anaïs Nin. Or I. P. Knightley, the well-known Victorian eccentric.
She. I read an amazing story this morning, a memoir about rowing.
She. No, Competitive rowing, in college. Early mornings on the Allegheny River. Bloody hands. Facing up to one’s obsessions. You should try that sometime.
He. Have you faced yourself yet?
She. No. My inner child is still playing hard to get.
He. Well, when you catch the little Scarlett, tell her she’s a spoiled brat and no, she can’t have a pony.
She. laughing. I’ll pass that along.
He. What else is in the magazine?
She. I just finished this story about an Englishwoman who leaves her husband and moves to Morocco.
He. Really? Why does she leave?
She. He’s a sad sack. Kind of familiar.
He. Very supportive.
(They look at each other. He speaks.)
He. Why don’t we do that?
She. Do what?
He. Move to Morocco.
She. Oh. Why?
He. Why “why”? Why not “why not”?
She. Okay, let’s move to Morocco. And for money …?
He. Teach your inner child how to slave over a hot stove.
She. I see. And what do you do?
He. I read award-winning general-interest quarterlies. Beside the metaphorical pool.
She. Sounds great.
He. See you poolside…
She. Okay then.
(Pause. Shadows fill the water.)
He. Let’s go for a walk. Pick up that chicken for dinner.
She. Only if you hold my hand.
He. Hold fast.