Here is this week's chapter of my serialized comic novel "Four Bidding For Love."(Those who find absurdist humor and adult situations offensive, please read no further.)
"Let's get your stuff upstairs before you sneeze to death," Robin said, and the two packed the boxes up the flight of steps, wheezing and puffing beneath the loads of smoke-scented clothing, plastic-wrapped magazines, small appliances and his undamaged Tarzan comic books.
"You need to take your shoes off," Robin cautioned as they entered with the first boxes. "She lives Asian-style."
As Ross complied, he set his load down and examined Alexia's long Japanese-style shoe rack in the foyer with disbelief, for there were perhaps three dozen shoes of all types from athletic shoes to an stunning pair of bright-red heels.
While his ex-wife had enjoyed owning shoes, this collection seemed beyond typical, and as he set his battered sneakers aside he asked Robin in a tone of incredulity, "Do most women have 40 pairs of shoes?"
"I'm not an expert, but I would guess this is an above average collection. Why do you ask?"
"Just a bachelor's curiosity," Ross answered, and the two men lugged their boxes to the spare bedroom, where they found orderly stacks of shoeboxes lining one entire wall. As Ross hung his one decent suit in the bedroom's closet he remarked, "Wow, this woman really has a shoe fetish. I've read about this, but. . . . "
The two exited to the living room, and as Ross surveyed the spacious, artfully uncluttered interior of Alexia's well-lit home, Robin cautioned, "As you can see, the owner is tidy, so you have to promise not to move anything. It would be better not to touch anything but dishes in the kitchen. And we need to leave the bathroom spotless."
Ross paused in front of the sleek maple glass-doored cases containing Alexia's 19th century doll collection, and frowned. "Another doll collector," he muttered darkly, and then turned to Robin. "I detest neatnik women like this, but I do know how to keep house."
Recalling Ross's impossibly cluttered cave, Robin replied doubtfully, "I'm sure you do."
"She's probably a fussy hussy, but her place does smell nice," Ross commented. "What is that incense scent? Patchouli?"
Robin shrugged. "Don’t know. Look, I need to get to work."
"Just out of curiosity—what's the owner's name?"
With a look of repressed panic, Robin blurted, "Why do you need to know?"
Ross caught his wild-eyed fear and said, "No reason, just curiosity. Why, is she paranoid about her identity?"
"You could say that," Robin replied carefully. "Just recently she thought an axe murderer was stalking her."
Ross nodded sagely. "I know the type."
"She's actually very pleasant," Robin said somewhat defensively.
Glancing at a neat stack of rust-colored zabuton pillows on the polished hardwood floor, Ross murmured dubiously, "Uh-huh." Turning to Robin with a faintly wolfish grin, Ross added, "Since I'll never meet her, you can tell me truthfully: how old is she, and how would you rate her sexiness?"
Robin blushed warmly and then averted his gaze. "Early 30s, and very high."
"No kidding. Nice rear end, or nice front end?"
"Both," Robin answered, and Ross grew animated. "Now I have to meet her, or at least see her. I have a huge weak spot for sexy neurotics."
"I wouldn't recommend meeting her here," Robin said sharply. "Remember, I promised her I'd give you my place and I'd stay here. She might be upset."
"Oh, right." Ross seemed disappointed, and asked, "So what is her name?"
Anxious not to alert Ross to the fact he would be living in his nemesis's inner sanctum, Robin fastened onto the same ploy he'd used with Alexia. "A.R. She likes to go by her initials."
"There's another sign of hopeless neuroses: she hates her name. But really, there's nothing sexier than a sexy neurotic. They've got this—you know, zing."
Suddenly wary of Ross's keenness to meet Alexia, Robin said, "Just in case things don't work out, I thought it best not to tell her your real name. I told her you go by R.T."
"What do you mean, 'Don't work out?'"
"Well, say she comes home early and kicks you downstairs, and you yell at her or something."
"I see your point,” Ross replied. “Anonymity is always the best policy, and I like the way you handled it. As someone who goes by A.R., she might warm up to R.T." vSeeing that his warning had failed to induce the caution he'd desired—if anything, Ross seemed even keener to meet his neurotic hostess— Robin added, "If the phone rings, don't answer it. Let the service pick it up."
"Naturally," Ross replied affably. "I'm not here." Glancing around, he asked, "Where's the cat?"
"Usually on his pillow in the kitchen. If you don't bother him, he won't bother you. I come in once in the morning and again in the evening to check his water and food."
"I can handle that," Ross offered, and Robin blanched as visions of some new Ross-inspired, cat-centered crisis loomed up in his anxieties. "No, since I promised, I better do it."
Hefting a box of his magazines, Ross grunted, "Suit yourself," and shuffled toward the spare bedroom.
Robin closed the door with an intense foreboding. Though the situation seemed low-risk, a fear that it would somehow blow up in his face took him and he shuddered, thinking, If those two ever meet and discover the identity of the other one, they'll be two beasts at each others' throats—until they remember who put them together. Then, he sighed mournfully, they'll be after me.
To read the previous chapters, visit the "Four Bidding For Love" home page.