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The Nightgown - Page 7

The actor responded with an ingratiating smile and a little shake of his head. "You're a lucky man," was the message he seemed to be sending, "to have a woman like that in your life."

"I agree," said Solomon. "And I'm so thrilled that you and I are doing this. It's worked out exactly the way I'd planned."

The actor smiled again and nodded humbly, as if satisfied he was doing a good job.

Solomon glanced up at the kitchen clock and was surprised, alarmed actually, to see how much time had gone by. He felt he'd barely cleared his throat. And yet he'd eaten up a good slice of the session. He could ask for another hour, of course, maybe a half-hour, assuming the actor didn't have to attend a rehearsal or something. But this would seriously strain his budget. So he decided to cram as much nagging conflict as possible into what was left of the session.

As if he'd read Solomon's thoughts, the actor, too, glanced at the clock. He did a little roll of one hand as if to say, "Might as well get on with it."

In a great rush, Solomon tackled his loss of tenure, his daughter's arrest for shoplifting, a bitter argument with his oldest friend, an EKG that had frightened two nurses. The actor tried to keep up the pace with nods of understanding, flat-out chin strokes, encouraging grins, and an occasional frown, albeit a sympathetic one. But, finally, he held up his hand. He'd had enough. When he spoke, for the first time, his voice was soft and modulated, but it might as well have been a clap of thunder.

"I have to stop you here. We're almost out of time. How can I help you? What do you want from me?"

"Exactly what you've been doing. And I was hoping we'd get back to my mother. I believe it's germane."

He paused a moment to make sure the actor was familiar with the word.

The actor grinned, nodded.

Somewhat reassured, Solomon pressed on. "She was awfully smart, but she didn't know what to do with herself. Once a year, she'd make a big deal over painting our tiny apartment in the Bronx. She was 10 times smarter than my father, who worked in the garment district, and she clearly should've been the one who was out in the field while he stayed home. But that would've been emasculating, or so said the culture. So she stayed in the apartment and brooded.

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