The Don Quixote Piece
The pounding of the keys died.
Jacob sat stone-like, frozen with dread, his fingers hovering over the typewriter.
And he heard it again.
That sibilant muttering beyond the door, the door he could not see. Then came the door key turning. Then came the door opening. Then came his pounding, pounding at the keys again of the typewriter keys. Feverishly Jacob pounded them. He felt the sweat bead across his brow. He felt the words gush from him like bloodgush, and gush, and gush, but meaninglessly, but ineffectually. Senseless words, they were. Inefficacious ones. Pointless. For,
"Honey," rose Beth's voice from below. "Honey," said she from the stage of the small wooden theater that was their home. "Look who's come back so soon."
And the key pounding died.
And Jacob sat stone-like, frozen with dread, knowing he had to respond, knowing it irrational now to hope they might not see him there sitting, knowing it unreasonable now to hope they might ignore him there working and continue with their twitterings and dance gossip and entrance and settlement, knowing it hopeless now to hope he might be freed somehow of this arrival, of this test. For,
"Look who's come back so soon," Beth had just said.
And Jacob assented. He looked up from the typewriter. He looked down across the wooden dining area, across the wooden living area, into the well of the wooden theater that was their home. There, at center stage, stood Beth. Next to her posed Lucia the French girl.
"Come give Lucia a kiss," Beth commanded.
And Jacob's cheeks reddened. And Jacob's heart grew into his throat. And Jacob felt vertiginous and he stood and he was an automaton going to its death.
"She's already seen the piece," Beth said animatedly. "I did a walk through for her at this morning's rehearsal."
Jacob took Lucia the French girl's warm hand in his. Jacob leaned into Lucia the French girl's lithe form. Jacob kissed Lucia the French girl on her soft cheek and felt her warm peck on his own. She smelled to him faintly of apples.
"Strange that you were gone only a week," Jacob said to Lucia.
"Yes, my Jacob, and what an ugly flight it is," she replied from behind a mysterious smile. "I do not like very much that flight. It is necessary that you take better care of your ballerina so that she does not injure herself so."
"She will tell you that no one massages her feet the way I do."
"Will? Already she has told me this, my dear. She has been very explicit on this point, in fact. But it seems that this talent of your hands has failed her on this occasion."
"As they say," and Jacob glanced away at the cliche, letting its ambiguity hang. "One is only human."
"Well," said Lucia the French girl, and now she gazed directly into Jacob's steady eyes.
Always in the moments before an encounter with Lucia Jacob was a quivering gelatin. But always, once faced with the crisis of her presence, he firmed. He became stone solid. Jacob impressed himself with this quick turnaround, with his feigned sangfroid.
Lucia the French girl squeezed his hand. "Well, my pretty eyes, it is possible that I will have to demand your services in my turn."
And the wink and the flirtation was so overt that it could not be serious. Jacob cocked his head. He released Lucia's fingers and moved to slip his arm around Beth's tiny waist. Beth allowed this. Beth draped her thin wrist and elbow over his shoulders and gave him a long meaningful kiss on the cheekbone.
"Excuse me," she begged.
Jacob stood silently then as he watched Beth glide across the wooden floor of the living area, as he watched Beth step down off that wooden floor of the living area. He watched Beth shift through the bathroom doorway. He watched a shaft of light then fall from that bathroom doorway. He watched then--for a long time--that shaft of bathroom light. But at last, ultimately, politeness refused Jacob's further temporizing. Jacob turned to Lucia the French girl.
Lucia's eyes gleamed hypnotic, green. Lucia's countenance, classically oval, shined from behind strawberry blonde curls. Lucia's lips were swollen, inviting.
And Jacob saw then that Lucia the French girl had been watching him--critically. And Jacob saw then that Lucia the French girl had been scrutinizing him. And Jacob felt suddenly compromised.
She said carefully to him, "My Jacob," lightly laying her hand on his bicep, "And how was for you the writing this week?"
And Jacob tingled in his fingertips.
He did not answer.
He adroitly changed the subject.