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  • Idyllic Little Bali
  • Lori Ostlund (bio)

Calvin goes first, telling them about the time he was in Florida and decided to attend a Beach Boys concert, not really knowing anything about the Beach Boys except that they played music for basking in the sun to, which—Calvin being from Michigan—might explain why he knew so little about them. He hitched a ride up to Fort Lauderdale, which was where the concert was being held, with a guy in a convertible who dropped him off right at the stadium, and it wasn’t until the band came on stage hours later that he realized the convertible guy, the guy with whom he’d scored the ride, was actually one of the Beach Boys, the drummer, whose name he couldn’t recall.

This is exactly how Calvin tells the story, his clauses like tired acrobats that can’t quite stick their landings, and though the others at the table have known Calvin only a day, they are disappointed. Joe goes next, then Martin, and after them Noreen and Sylvie begin a long story about their first date, on which they went to a rundown bar on the west side of Albuquerque, the kind of place, Sylvie explains, where Hispanic butch-femme couples show up in wedding gear on Saturday nights to hold their receptions, the butches playing pool in their tuxedos, the femmes taking over the bathrooms, where, in a never-ending cycle, they fix their makeup and cry with happiness.

“So,” Sylvie says in a voice thick with drama. “There we are on our first date, and Noreen invites this woman Deb to play pool with us.”

Noreen cuts in, explaining that this Deb woman had actually struck up a conversation with her while Sylvie was off in the bathroom. She describes Deb as a massive-thighed Amazon who raised horses and engaged in competitive weightlifting, details that, in her mind, make clear that Deb had posed no threat to their date. She even tells them how Deb, who was wearing shorts, had [End Page 5] said, “Go ahead. Feel it,” flexing her very large thigh for Noreen, and how she, Noreen, had of course refused.

“I didn’t even know her,” she reports earnestly. “So why would I feel her thigh?” She actually seems to be soliciting their input, though it is not clear whether she is seeking plausible reasons that she (or anyone in that position) might have opted to feel the thigh or their approval for not having done so.

“It’s irrelevant anyway,” announces Sylvie, but Noreen doesn’t reply because she is thinking about Deb’s thigh, about the way that Deb had first extended her foot delicately, like someone testing the water in a pool, but then had ground her toes hard into the floor, making the leg muscles leap to the surface. There is absolutely nothing sexual about the memory. On the contrary, the thigh had been far too large, too freakish, to find appealing. Noreen had felt the way she did the first time that she saw the penis of an aroused farm animal, fascinated and repulsed, actually unable to look away, but with no sense that what she was seeing had anything to do with her.

“She gave me the creeps. Immediately,” continues Sylvie, by way of letting these relative strangers know that her instincts are keener than Noreen’s. “But Noreen invited her to play pool with us, so what could I say? Then, halfway through the game, this really blonde, granola-y type walks in and sits down at the bar. She’s watching us play, so finally I go over and invite her to join the next game, and it turns out that she’s Australian.” She pauses as though she has revealed something significant.

“Olivia Newton-John?” suggests Calvin dryly, and the others laugh because, boring Beach Boys story aside, Calvin is funny.

“What?” says Sylvie nervously, bewildered by the laughter but still joining in, assuming that if others are laughing, then something must be funny. Perhaps because they have spent so much time around strangers on this trip, Noreen has begun to notice just how often...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1542-426X
Print ISSN
0032-6682
Pages
pp. 5-19
Launched on MUSE
2009-06-25
Open Access
No
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