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The Nightgown - Page 8

But each morning, after she'd a cup of coffee, she'd hail a cab on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx and tell the driver to just drive, it didn't matter where. And she'd talk for about an hour—essentially what we're doing. Then she'd come home feeling better, even looking refreshed. All this, first thing in the morning, and she hadn't even gotten out of her nightgown. . . ."

"Her nightgown. . . ." the actor said, thoughtfully.

"That's what I said. Her nightgown. What point are you making?"

The actor did a modest shrug. "It was just a thought."

Solomon reflected for a moment.

"Oh, I see what you're getting at. Why didn't she get dressed? She did more than talk in that cab. Is that what you're saying? If so, that's really a low blow. Completely beneath you, actually."

Unsettled, Solomon took a moment to pull himself together.

"I'll concede she was a little flirtatious. There was one time in Miami when I was 12 years old, and I walked in on her and the hotel manager. Who knows what they were up to. Come to think of it, there was something about a comedian in Monticello. It was probably nothing. The same thing with the insurance man. But first thing in the morning? In her nightgown? In the back seat? My mother? Mom, who spit blood when she had me? Made believe she was chewing food when I chewed, as if to make sure I didn't choke. Stayed up all night, putting hot compresses on my foot when there was a suspicion that it might be gangrenous—all the while patient, mumbling to herself, 'This is my lot. What did I expect? I'm a mother.' Gave up theater tickets to a Broadway show that night. Handed them to the doorman. A hit musical. And what do you do, hustler? Goniff. You just throw her under a bridge, nightgown at her neck, legs splayed, rolling around in the grass with a strange cabdriver, while my poor father goes blind sewing shoulder pads on Seventh Avenue."

Near tears from that last image, Solomon got to his feet. Only the knee kept him from leaping over the coffee table to get his hands on the man.

"I have to give you credit. You're some sonofabitch! Why I ever trusted you I'll never know. You're not getting the other $500."

"You go too far, sir," said the actor, suddenly out of character, taking on a role he'd played in a Restoration comedy.

"Not another dime," said Solomon, starting for the door. He stopped and called back. "You're a lousy actor, too. I can see why you're working in toilets. And I guarantee you this," Solomon added, with a theatrical flourish of his own. "You'll never make it to Broadway."

Bruce Jay Friedman, a novelist, screenwriter, and playwright, has written short stories for magazines like Esquire and The New Yorker, one of which became the basis for the film The Heartbreak Kid. He also wrote the screenplay for Splash, which garnered an Academy Award nomination and the New York Film Critics Circle Award. His most recent book is Three Balconies: Stories and a Novella. Tell us what you think about this article by logging in and using the comment section below.

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