Chapter 1: The Alley View Grill
Part 8: So Many Ideas in Such a Small Thing
YOU CAN READ
and Belinda leave the restaurant, walk to the end of the alley, and turn
toward Matthew’s apartment, which is only two blocks away. Matthew
says, “The most incredible thing happened when I was coming out of the
men’s room. That woman who was sitting at the next table, the redhead,
was on the phone—”
“Oh, I know,” says Belinda. “She was on the phone when I came out of the ladies’ room, and I think she must have been talking to the Chinese girl’s parents. She was saying ‘Mrs. Chu’—”
Before they are halfway up the block, they are startled by the sound of screeching tires. They turn to see a black Toyota come to a halt at an angle to the alley. A young Chinese man leaps out and rushes into the restaurant.
“Her brother,” says Matthew.
An older man gets out, then a young woman, and then an older woman, helped from the car by the young woman.
“Her parents. And a sister, I guess,” says Belinda.
“The redhead told them that the girl killed herself,” says Matthew, watching the wretched trio. “There, in the restaurant.”
“Oh, my God.”
“Let’s get out of here.”
“She was jealous,” says Belinda after a moment.
“Oh, I’m sure of it,” says Matthew. “She wanted that little blonde.”
“She was a beauty,” says Belinda.
WHEN THEY ARRIVE at Matthew’s, Belinda goes into the living room, and
Matthew goes into the kitchen to fix himself a drink. Belinda rarely
wants one after dinner.
12/6—OPENED WALL, NO APPARANT ODOR, PULLED CARPET BACK, NO ODOR“Yeah. Well, not the first one. The guy from the construction company—my fellow vice-president—wrote that. You see he misspelled apparent. I figured that if he wrote right on the wall like that he must intend to have it painted, so now I just write on the wall, too.”
He returns to the kitchen, pours himself some cognac, pours Belinda a lemon-flavored water, though he knows she won’t drink it, takes a condom from a carton in the drawer where he keeps coupons, rubber bands, pencils, and other odds and ends, puts the drinks and the condom on a black plastic tray, and carries the tray to the living room. Belinda has picked out a compact disc and put it on the player. She’s stretched out on the sofa.
“What did you think?” she asks.
“I liked it. I even felt comfortable there, odd as that sounds. Well, almost comfortable.”
“We were the oldest people there, I think.”
“No, we weren’t, not at all. You’re letting your feelings blind you. I checked everyone out, and there were several people older than we are. They were just wearing young disguises.”
“Really? Where do they get those disguises? I’d like one for myself.”
Matthew puts his hand on her breast, caresses it, lightly, affectionately. Belinda stretches luxuriously. “Let me have a sip of that,” she says.
“It gives you a headache,” Matthew cautions.
“A whole glass does, but a sip won’t bother me.”
He tips her head up and brings the snifter to her lips, wets them with cognac. She licks her lips, savors the flavor. Matthew sets the snifter down. Belinda gets up and slips her shoes off and puts them under one of the chrome tables, takes her blouse off, folds it, and hangs it over the back of a chrome chair. Matthew hangs his jacket on the back of another chrome chair, removes his tie and drapes it over the jacket, removes his shirt, folds it, and sets it on the seat of the chair. Belinda removes her bra and hangs it over the arm of her chair, takes her skirt off, folds it, and drapes it over the seat of the chair, pulls her panty hose off and tosses them under the chrome table, onto her shoes.
“Floor or couch?” she asks.
“Floor, unless you prefer the couch.”
“No, the floor is fine.”
“I’m sure.” She settles onto the floor. “Come on.”
Matthew pulls his briefs off and drops them onto his shoes. He tears the condom wrapper open, removes the condom, and rolls it down over his penis.
A WEEK AFTER LIZ LEFT, Matthew decided that he might as well go out and try his luck at finding solace between the legs of other women; at once the question arose, at first only hypothetically, whether he ought to use condoms. He was, at that time, afraid of getting herpes, but it seemed awfully timid to be afraid of herpes, and he didn’t want to admit to the fear. Then along came AIDS, and in a way AIDS has really been a godsend to Matthew. Now that so many people are afraid of death by sex, he can use a condom without feeling like a coward, and he can avoid herpes. He has never brought this matter up with Belinda. The first time they made love, he didn’t use a condom. He had a lot on his mind, and he tried to concentrate exclusively on the pleasure of the moment, but he couldn’t help himself—he worried a bit; even his sexual fantasies include periods of concern about disease. For her part, Belinda had a fleeting fear of pregnancy, but they were both so surprised and happy to find themselves making love to each other that they didn’t want to spoil it. The second time, Matthew used a condom. He didn’t say anything about it; he just put it on. He’s sure they both feel much more secure this way, and he suspects—in his case he’s certain—that there’s an element of excitement introduced by the condom, because it implies that Belinda isn’t Matthew’s only lover, thereby making him seem a little more interesting, a man who has sexual adventures. It makes him feel virile, too, since he might, of course, be using the condom to protect Belinda from an unwanted pregnancy, though he suspects, and has some reason to believe, that there’s little danger of that. He also supposes that the condom is an emblem of his affection for Belinda, his concern for her well-being, since her assumption must be, if she has inferred properly from the implication in his wearing the thing, that it is she who must be protected from the possible consequences of his adventures. He also feels that if Liz should come back, if she could be persuaded to come back, he could offer these condoms as evidence of his essential loyalty, a distance that he kept between himself and Belinda. All these thoughts and feelings reside in a condom, so many ideas in such a small thing.
WHEN THEY'RE FINISHED, they lie for a while on their backs, looking
at the night sky through the skylights. They hold hands, but otherwise
their bodies do not touch. After a while Belinda asks, “What time
IN THE NIGHT, he’s awakened by sounds from his neighbor’s apartment. A thumping and knocking drag him out of sleep, and when he’s awake he hears cries, four sharp cries. He has heard these cries before, just this way. He can’t tell whether the guy is having a nightmare or an orgasm. He listens for a while, but after the four cries there’s nothing more, and Matthew still can’t tell what inspired them. He goes back to sleep.
HE HAS A DREAM in which he and Belinda are picnicking in a pretty spot,
in a woods somewhere, their blanket spread out in a mossy glade, a brook
flowing nearby, just the sort of idyllic spot one always hopes to find
for a picnic. In the glade the sun is shining bright and strong,
but woods and shadows surround them. Then, all at once, but without
any sense of suddenness, in that unannounced, unheralded way that people
arrive in dreams, no snapping twigs, no rustling branches, another woman
is with them, and she sits down on their blanket as if they had invited
Here are a couple of swell ideas from Eric Kraft's vivacious publicist, Candi Lee Manning:
Tip the author.
You can toss a little something Kraft's way through the Amazon.com Honor System or PayPal.
We'll send you notifications of site updates, new serials, and Eric Kraft's public lectures and readings. Just fill in this form and click the send-it button.
Reservations Recommended is published in paperback by Picador, a division of St. Martin’s Press, at $12.00.
You should be able to find Reservations Recommendedat your local bookstore, but you can also order it by phone from:
Bookbound at 1-800-959-7323You can order it on the Web from
Copyright © 1990 by Eric Kraft
Reservations Recommended is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, dialogues, settings, and businesses portrayed in it are products of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
First published by Crown Publishers, Inc., 201 East 50th Street, New York, New York 10022. Member of the Crown Publishing Group.
Now available in paperback from Picador USA, a division of St. Martin’s Press.
For information about publication rights outside the U. S. A., audio rights, serial rights, screen rights, and so on, e-mail Alec “Nick” Rafter, the author’s earnest agent.
The illustration at the top of the page is an adaptation of an illustration by Stewart Rouse that first appeared on the cover of the August 1931 issue of Modern Mechanics and Inventions. The boy at the controls of the aerocycle doesn’t particularly resemble Peter Leroy—except, perhaps, for the smile.