of the late night city
Harry struck a pose and leant in her doorway. He knew his leather Stetson and tight black jeans pulled the chicks. A puff of wind lifted the wispy hair which straggled beneath the brim of his hat. Harry’s life is a Mills & Boon romance. He edits and embellishes each image of himself. He rings Helen, a confidante, every three months. They hang on the phone like a pair of knickers on a line, for hours at a time, until her son asks, “Mum, are you going to get the dinner tonight or tomorrow night?”
Helen wonders whether she’s an agony aunt, substitute mother figure or merely someone who will listen to his tales of infidelity, conquest or disappointment.
Harry has been invited to stay with friends. Arriving at Number 24, he knocks twice. He doesn’t raise his Stetson when Jennie opens the door. Over preceding months, Jennie had posted her poems to him, hoping he’d criticize them and help her publish them in one of the more glamorous journals.
Harry has bought presents for Jennie: a book by her favourite poet, a silk scarf and a hand-carved wooden ring. For her husband Scott, he’s burned a CD of Miles Davis on his computer. Scott is quizzical about the gifts. “What’s this all about, mate?” He raises a neatly curved eyebrow. “Thanks for the CD. I always thought Miles looked cool in those tight leather pants.”
Jennie is a cracker cook. The table is spotless. Harry can see his face in the shining cutlery. He sets the table while Scott is in the garden picking herbs. After dinner Harry helps with the dishes. Scott hides behind his newspaper. “You can stay as long as you like, if you do the washing up every night,” he grins. “I’m going to put on a CD. What do you fancy?” Harry suggests “San Quentin” by Johnny Cash. “Yeh, cool, man.” Harry pours a nightcap for Jennie. “Join me on the terrace,” he says with a wink, “and we’ll watch the sun set on the mountains.”
The following week, Harry rings his friend Helen in New York and surprises her by saying, “Well, it’s goodbye to my Stetson and black jeans, Helen. I’ve dropped them at the op shop.” “Why, Harry. That’s drastic, isn’t it?” Harry grimaces. “Here’s my unexpurgated story, for your ears only.” He relates the tale of the visit to his friend’s house. “You could call it ‘My Visit Unabridged!’ Here’s how it went . . . when the phone rang for Jennie she disappeared inside. Scott quickly took her place beside me. Raising his glass, he gave me a smouldering look, squeezed my thigh and said in a sexy voice. ‘Here’s to us, Harry boy. Let’s live it up, baby. This is our moment in the sun!’”
towards the valley