Zygmunt Frankel

SHORT STORIES


REMEMBRANCE OF THINGS PAST

The thought that one should not hop lightly into bed with a beautiful woman whose regular boyfriend is pathologically jealous, carries a gun, and has a key to her apartment, was in the minds of all of us who escorted Alex in his coffin to his premature grave. Bernie, the jealous boyfriend, was already under arrest, having given himself up and confessed everything - and more - right after the shooting. Sylvie, the cause of it all, wearing black but no veil, trailed at the end of the procession, looking very sad and tragic, pretending not to notice dirty looks from Alex's widow, and enjoying her sudden fame to the hilt. Her pictures had already appeared in the papers. We would have given a lot to see Bernie's face, after he had confessed to killing both Alex and her, seeing her walk, hale and hearty, into the police station to give evidence. Bernie's version had been - de mortuis nil nisi bene - that Alex had bravely tried to screen her with his naked body when Bernie walked into the bedroom on the crepe soles of his alligator shoes and, seeing what was going on, opened fire. Bernie had bought his pistol, a beautiful silver-plated .22 automatic, because it was the smallest, flattest, and lightest of all the models they showed him at the shop and it wouldn't pull his smart suits out of shape when carried in the pocket, and also because it was one of the most expensive ones. Bernie never tired of boasting that he always bought the best that money could buy. He was not the type to research the power and penetration of little .22 bullets fired from a short barrel as compared to more businesslike calibers. He must have read books and watched movies without noticing that Colt .45s were usually chosen for a proper job.
Sylvie told the police and the press that she fainted when Alex's naked body collapsed on top of her, but confessed to me in intimate and frank circumstances the night after the funeral that she simply played possum while Bernie emptied the magazine into Alex, who obligingly stopped all the bullets, before turning on his heel to give himself up, confident that everyone in the line of fire has been eliminated.
Walking next to Sylvie and supporting her elbow from time to time, I was sorry for Alex and angry with Bernie, but also elated; unless Sylvia went back on her promise, it was my turn now. She had often told me, after the brief hug and a friendly kiss she occasionally allowed me, that were it not for Bernie and Alex she would gladly give herself to me, and was now going to be taken at her word.
It had to be done without delay because her brand-new fame and the pictures in the papers were bound to send droves of suitors, richer and more handsome than me, pantingly beat a path to her door, taking her away from old friends.
It worked; Sylvia always kept her word. I shall never forget our first night together, after the funeral. Let psychologists work out what a combination of tragic death and sudden fame can do to a woman who was not an icicle before either, combined with a long pent-up passion on the part of someone like me. I have never spent a night like this with any other woman, before or since, and am cherishing the memory like a shining jewel in a box of cheap imitations, and shall die the richer for it.
Time passes. As I expected, Sylvie had a succession of lovers including two television personalities, one pop singer, and a man with a yacht. She is now married to a university professor, and they have two lovely children. She is a great hostess, studies something easy and fashionable at the university herself, has a mink coat, gives parties, and when she laughs she makes her mouth into an "O" to delay wrinkles. Sic transit gloria mundi.

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1997 Zygmunt Frankel - All Rights Reserved.
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