At odd intervals, never predictable, Marder requested my assistance entertaining certain business associates who required discreet diversion a safe distance away from the city.
I was well compensated. Florrie was not invited. The young women who were invited needed specific instruction of a type that I was particularly skilled at giving. Also, I was good at cards.
These entertainments took place in an enormous picturesque cottage on Manhasset Bay.
I was living a kind of double life. During the day, I functioned flawlessly in the roles Marder had assigned me. Hostess. Confidante. Panderer.
But when I was alone, I thought about Henry Miller. The hours we’d spent in each others’ company had taken on a kind of sunset glow like the final scenes in a book that had yet to be written.
On the last night we spent together before I left for Long Island, Henry Miller turned to me after several rounds of Manhattans and said, “You know the problem with me? I’m always falling in love with women like you.”
He had a deep, gravely voice that would bind him forever to the Brooklyn he talked about so incessantly that you might have thought Brooklyn was a woman he’d slept with and would never, ever get over.
In the mornings while the others slept, I’d walk along the beach. Wandering barefoot through the tidal bars, I’d pick up seashells and fragments of smooth brown seaglass, poke at the purple crabs that clung to the cordgrass tufts as the sea slowly ebbed. I had a decision to make, and it had to do Henry Miller: How much should I let myself to like him? Would I let myself like him?
He had an odd prescience: I had to grant him that. At some point during those mad verbal marathons, he’d actually talked about purple crabs as if defining this present small piece of my future for me: “It’s layered from magma to skyscraper, this earth, this planet. And every layer is balanced on the one that came before it, completely alien—new logics, new rules, new paradigms, new timing. You know the only creatures that can scuttle across each and every layer without losing their balance? Crabs!”
When he laughed, he made a sound like a dog’s bark.
Two days passed. Three days passed.
It didn’t start to get unpleasant until one of the young women developed a greenish discharge from her pussy. She blamed a business associate of Marder’s.
Unpleasantness was subdued but not entirely discharged by an exchange of money.
“Money is completely imaginary”, Henry Miller told me that first night. “The only real thing is art.”
Though the girl who was going to need that arsenic treatment seemed to believe money was real, too.
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