PART 3 – Thelma’s Drinking

“Clive, what the hell you mean, it’s got to be Clyde, I’m tellin’ you definitely. It’s Clyde,” Rafe pronounced,

“Rafe, I do think you might admit that my own daughter knows the name of her fiancé better than you do.”

“Hell she do, you don’t know, he could be shittin’ her. It’s Clyde.”

Rafe, Ginny and Thelma were bound together by dreams, by the concentrations and obsessions of the gambler. Rarely did their conversation include anything external to those dreams.

“It is Clive Huntley, I’m telling you.”

“It sounds like a name out of a play,” Ginny muttered as she looked at the next day’s racing form. “You know, ‘bring me my whiskey and soda, Clive.'”

“It’s Clyde,” Rafe insisted.

“Rafe, I’m going to hit you in a minute,” Thelma said angrily, as she took a big gulp of Jack Daniel’s.

“Bring me my whiskey and soda, Clyde,” Rafe said, looking down at several names he had circled in the paper.

“That does it, that really takes it. It’s bad enough that she’s marrying this guy, and now you keep saying he’s Clyde. What if I said your name was Rade instead of Rafe?”

“It’s not, it’s Rave.”

“Oh Christ,” Thelma yelled. “First I’m listening to poetry about penises, then I’m talking to a deranged black man about names. Do I need this?”

Thelma walked a bit shakily up the steps to Clive’s apartment, one of those Berkeley places she considered picturesque, with plants and trees twining around the top step. She had cut down on her alcohol consumption that day, knowing that she should be somewhat more in charge of herself. Thelma always looked a bit wispy and startled, but this evening her blonde-grey hair curled neatly around her face. She had on her best lilac dress. Lilac, the color of the soul, she thought as she had fastened the small buttons down the back.

It was a three-room apartment, and as Thelma entered, she glanced at a life-sized poster of a man with mustache, cap, and a generally gloomy visage. Mr. and Mrs. Huntley were already there. They rose graciously. Thelma lurched towards them out of nervousness and shook their hands rather harder than she should have, then backed down onto a chair.

“What would you like to drink, Mother Ryan,” Clive asked with a too cheerful smile.
Thelma was so startled by the Mother bit that she giggled, imagining herself on a broomstick.

“What are you having?” Thelma asked as if she barely touched the stuff.

“White wine, that is, I think we are,” and Clive looked around at everyone for confirmation. They all nodded.

“That’ll be fine for me too, then.” Goddamn, she thought. I should have known it, white wine drinkers.

The conversation had been interrupted by her arrival, and now Joanna started it up again, something about political systems and their relationship to ideology. Thelma now had a good chance to check out the Huntleys. The Mister was a bit portly, with grey hair and grey suit, altogether grey, period. Mrs. Huntley was something else again, short, not attractive, not colorful, unsmiling – she did have a small lump of a stomach that bulged just beneath the top band of her navy blue wool dress. Thelma hated stomachs like that and had often wondered what it would be like to carry around something bulgy like that up front. But then she couldn’t hate her for her stomach, could she?

Another glass of wine was poured. Joanna was smiling at her, and once again Thelma vowed that she would not go over the edge – no going over the edge, no sir.

“The state of modern criticism, I’m talking now about hermeneutics, Marxist criticism, deconstruction – it’s very healthy, active, a major contribution to the dialectic of modern thought,” Clive intoned solemnly. Thelma stared at a white, hairy mole on the left side of his chin. What a pasty little man, with short, stubby fingers that looked like a baby’s.

Mr. and Mrs. Huntley seemed to know what he was talking about and nodded. Joanna was in the kitchen, and wonderful warm, meaty smells were coming out through the door. Thelma looked around. The room was completely surrounded by bookshelves lined with books. Every book appeared to be arranged alphabetically. She glanced down at a shelf of records near her chair – all in order there too. For a moment, Thelma was stricken with a weird sort of awe.

Join us tomorrow for Part 4 of Anne’s story.

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