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George Ferryman - 6

[This is part of a longer story. See other installments: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5]

Friday, November 3 (continued)

George walked the line between ocean and beach where the sand was packed flat. His Hawaiian shirt was mostly open, held together by the bottom two buttons, chest warmed by the setting sun. George pressed his thumb into his sternum and watched the skin turn from white to light pink. It was a trick taught to him by his Grandmother when checking for sunburn. “All good,” he confirmed.

It was Friday night, and the bars along the beach were in full swing. Bongos and ukuleles at the surfer bar, karaoke at the resort further down. “Tall and tan and young and lovely…” The familiar lyrics of “The Girl from Ipanema” wafted down the beach. “That guy’s not the worst karaoke singer I’ve heard,” George proclaimed. He joined a small crowd gathered on the beach below and clapped as the final notes were sung, “...and when she passes he smiles/but she doesn’t see/no she doesn’t see.”

He ambled up to the bar and ordered an Absolut with a splash of cranberry. It was the only alcoholic drink he could stomach. Unfortunately, the only things he’d inherited from his dad were his dark hair and pale skin; no iron Irish stomach for him. He swiveled around on the stool to face the dance floor. The band was playing some uptempo beats and the floor was packed with vacationers doing what George referred to as “drunk dancing.” Lots of shimmying with arms up, snaking around like Medusa’s hair.

From his vantage point, George could see most of the dance floor. The crowd was made up of the usual people: doe-eyed couples, desperate mid-lifers, and balding virgins, but then he caught sight of someone else. In the middle of the floor, shoeless and wild, was a woman who looked vaguely familiar. His eyes zeroed in as he watched her move with the beat, her dark hair falling forward over her face and whipping back as her delicate neck craned around. Her hands wafted through the air, fluttering like the wings of a dove. She was fascinating, and without realizing it George found himself moving through the crowd to get a closer look.

As he reached the edge of the dance floor, the song ended. A man who George recognized as the Ipanema singer reached his hand out for the woman and drew her to him. George saw her face clearly now, her dark eyes and red lips, cheeks flushed with the effort of her movements. But still, he couldn’t quite place her. He watched as the two embraced and the man went in for a kiss. At the last second, the woman’s head turned – offering her cheek instead – and her eyes locked on George. A look of recognition turned into bewilderment before she was swept away in a sea of dancers.


Once at her door, Marilyn kissed Herman lightly on the cheek and sent him on his way. She knew he wanted to come into her room for a “nightcap,” but she needed some time to process. Who the hell was that man on the dance floor? He looked familiar, but in a hazy way, like a driver you see through a rainy windshield.

Her mind shuffled through the files in her memory. A work associate? She’d had plenty of jobs in her lifetime, most of which only lasted a few months, so maybe he was someone she once worked with? Or perhaps he was a regular at Bagel Buns. Did he get a toasted sesame bagel with veggie cream cheese every Sunday like she did?

“Wracking your brains” was a familiar phrase, but this was the first time Marilyn really felt what that meant. It was as though she were dragging a metal rake across the meaty flesh of her brain, hoping to dig up a pottery shard that would help identify Mr. Mysterious. The harder she tried, the more frustrated she became. Eventually, she started questioning whether or not she had made the whole thing up. She might have convinced herself of this except for one thing: She was certain he had recognized her too.


Saturday, November 4

“Good afternoon Mrs. Ferryman,” the waiter bubbled as he poured water into her goblet.

“Good afternoon,” Jane replied curtly, “Someone is joining me today. Please bring another place setting and a bottle of Chardonnay.”

“Yes ma’am.”

Monica was late.

Jane pulled out a compact mirror, checked her lips and made a mental note not to buy cheap lipstick again as she dabbed her napkin on the Persian Pink glob that had collected in the corner of her mouth. As she rummaged through her purse for a tube more suitable, Monica arrived.

“So sorry I’m late,” she said, breathless and frazzled. She hooked her Louis Vuitton bag on the back of the chair, and slid her slender legs below the table. Tennis and yoga kept her body strong and supple, belying her 45 years. Only her hands revealed the truth, though she religiously used lemon juice to fade the age spots and self-tanner to make them less noticeable. “Have you heard from George?”

“No,” Jane replied, “I was hoping you had.”

“Not a peep. I swung by the rental the other day but his car wasn’t in the lot. I think he might have left town.”

Jane nodded. The thought had crossed her mind as well.

“I do have some news to share… But you’re not going to be happy.”

The waiter appeared with another place setting and the wine, pouring generous glasses for the two women.

“Just in time,” Jane said, taking a healthy sip, “go ahead.”

“George cashed the settlement check.” Monica braced herself for Jane’s reaction. Her soon-to-be-ex-mother-in-law was well-known for her explosive reactions, and Monica had been on the receiving end more than once in the 20-plus years she’d known her.

“Dammit!” Jane yelled, loud enough for the couple at the next table to shoot daggers at them. “I knew the little shit was up to something. How in the hell did he cash it? We put holds on all of his accounts.”

“I don’t know,” Monica sighed, “somehow he got around it.”

“Well that’s great. Just great. He could probably live a whole year on that money, he’s such a penny pincher. Little shit. What are his monthly expenses anyway? Driving that crappy 15-year old car, and renting out a room. For what? $50 a week? I’ll bet he doesn’t spend more than $400 a month total. Jesus, he could probably live FIVE years on $25k.”

Jane’s voice increased in volume as she worked out the math, ratcheting herself up until the veins in her neck looked like super-highways on a topographical map. Grey-blue beneath the surface of thinning skin.

Monica glanced around the half-empty restaurant, relieved that they scheduled their meeting at 2:00, long after the lunch crowd dispersed. Jane was often agitated when talking about her son, but the older she got, the less she cared about maintaining any kind of decorum in public spaces.

“Listen Jane,” Monica said quietly, afraid to poke the bear, “I think I should drop the suit. Maybe George and I can come to an agree–”

“Absolutely NOT!” Jane cut her off. “No. I am NOT letting him off that easily.” And with that, she tucked her purse under her arm, stood up, and left the table.

Monica sighed and pulled out her wallet to pay for the wine. She motioned for the waiter to take her Amex while she downed her glass, poured herself another and finished that too. By the time the waiter came back with her card and a pen, the bottle was nearly empty.

Once home, Monica changed into loungewear and slippers and twisted her blond hair into a messy bun. She eyed the slip of paper on the kitchen island. Derrick 555-145-6980. Derrick wasn’t the first Uber driver to share his number with her, “And he won’t be the last,” she thought as she tossed the paper in the trash.

The buzz from the afternoon wine was starting to wear off, so Monica poured herself a scotch and sat on the sofa. She propped herself up with a goose down pillow and pulled a cashmere throw over her lap. A neutral color palette and Scandinavian furnishings filled the apartment, offering a sense of calm. Natural light fell softly on the exposed brick wall opposite her as she sipped her numbing beverage.

She replayed the conversation with Jane, wondering how a woman could be so bitter towards her own flesh and blood. It was a complicated relationship – Jane’s and George’s – and Monica was successful in keeping a safe distance from it for years. But recent events had played out in a way she never expected, and her carefully crafted boundaries surrounding Jane gave way like the South Fork Dam in 1889.

Monica thought about tackling the next chapter of the John Grisham paperback she bought as a beach read, but her eyes were heavy. Soon she would fall asleep, dreaming of George in his rented room on the other side of the city, wondering if he would ever forgive her.

[Read next installment here.]

2 commentaires

11 juin 2023

So many great descriptive phrases. I especially love this—“It was as though she were dragging a metal rake across the meaty flesh of her brain, hoping to dig up a pottery shard that would help identify Mr. Mysterious.”

11 juin 2023
En réponse à

Thank you!

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