A man in a black wool overcoat stood at an ATM in the lobby of a bank on Broadway. A black and white Shetland collie sat at his right foot. It was after 1 a.m. The man withdrew $100, put the money in a trifold wallet, and returned the wallet to the inside breast pocket of his tuxedo. The man snapped his thumb and middle finger. The dog, ever alert to his master’s movements, walked out of the bank lobby, his head even with the man’s right knee.
Man and dog walked two blocks down Broadway to a produce market. The man purchased a Gala apple and a Bosc pear. The store clerk, a sullen man, put the purchases in a small plastic bag.
—No dog in store.
The man ignored the clerk.
—Every night the same. Next time, no dog in store.
The man turned and left the store, the dog heeled next to his right knee.
The man and dog continued down Broadway. Near the corner of 79th Street, the man stopped. In the window of a women’s boutique, stood five naked, bald mannequins.A lithe, athletic woman, early thirties, was dressing the mannequins. The window display lights were not on. The only light was a bare bulb in a clamp lamp attached to the back of a metal folding chair. The store specialized in women’s dance and exercise wear. It was called Femme Nikki.
Man and dog watched as the window-dresser removed an exercise garment from her body and put it on a mannequin. After she dressed the mannequin, the woman seductively removed another layer of clothing and dressed the next mannequin. When all five mannequins were attired, the woman wore only a scanty white leotard. The striptease took a half hour. At no time did the window dresser make eye contact with the man or the dog. But before she left the window, the woman looked upon her observers, waved, and switched off the light. The dog barked once, jumping against the window. The man snapped his finger and the dog trotted to his post at his master’s right knee.
Two Wives was originally published on Fictionaut in September 2013. It has been significantly rewritten and is included in my collection: Considered Fiction.
Two women sat at a small outside table at a neighborhood restaurant waiting for the same man. The older woman, older by only twenty-four hours, was tall and slender, almost anorexic. She wore a newsboy cap, which covered her thinning short coif. She had large white teeth that were prominent when she laughed, which she did in a theatrical way. She was wearing a blue work shirt, Calvin Klein jeans and Brevitt boots. The combination of tight jeans and heeled boots accentuated her shapely hips and stems.
Her companion, junior to her by twenty-four hours, was a raven-haired beauty with, as they say, good bones and a wineglass figure. Her perfect complexion and classic high-cheek-boned face were framed by a crimson wide-brimmed hat decorated with a feather and a gold butterfly pin. She wore a white ruffled blouse with a straight black skirt. Her ensemble was accessorized by an Hermès scarf and black sling-back heels. Neither woman would ever see fifty again.
The man they were waiting for was the painter, Jack Mahler. Jack had been married to the older woman, his ex-wife, for three years. His current spouse of twenty-five years was the younger woman.
Rash, inspired by the classic Pygmalion myth, is a story of love, revenge, perversion, vanity, and the supernatural. Jack Mahler, a painter and sculptor, befriends Margaux Howland at the local gym. Margaux is in a loveless marriage with a powerful judge, Leland Howland. The judge commissions Jack to make a portrait statue of his wife. Margaux and Jack begin a love affair. When the Judge discovers the affair, he sends Margaux to their Santa Fe home. The gardener at the Santa Fe home, Carlos, is a well-regarded shaman. Observing the unhappy Margaux, Carlos uses his powers to bedevil the judge. He also gives the statue magical properties. The vanity of human behavior clashes with the power of the paranormal as the story unfolds in unexpected ways.
Fifteen years ago, my wife and I watched planes fly into the World Trade Center from our Park Slope, Brooklyn apartment. We spent most of the day assisting refugees from lower Manhattan trudging past our building. The image of people fleeing the collapsing North Tower remained in my head.