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9:14 ELIZABETH / G. VV. Hawkes 1 HADN'T SEEN HER in fifteen years and the first thing I said when she sat down was, "Jesus, what's happened to you?" and the first thing from her was, "Can't you tell a girl she looks nice?" "You look swell," I said, "but what happened?" "Marriage." I knew that. I'd gotten half a dozen postcards from her that had traveled across whole continents, and each one made that long trip just to introduce another husband. Her sort of semaphore, I finally figured out. "And now?" I asked. She waved a bare left hand. "Single." I've got to think she'll stay that way. Of course, I can remember the girl. I can still see in her the slim, freckled, near-woman, and I can see her leaping in her short pleated skirt in front of the bleachers, and I can see her curled up in the right seat of my car with the snow melting on the windshield, but nobody else could see that, now. The waiter came over. It was a good restaurant (the best around), where they don't interrupt a conversation, even if nobody's saying anything; he stood quietly until I was willing to notice him. "Want a drink, Lizzie?" "Southern Comfort and Pepsi," she said to me. It made my stomach twist, but I relayed the order to the waiter as if he were deaf to women. "Tequila, neat," I told him. He went away. "Who taught you to drink?" I asked. "You did," she said. "Not like that, I didn't." "Yes, like that. You always told me to experiment." She gave me a coy look. "At least, I think that was the line you used." She brushed imaginary crumbs from the tablecloth. "Nobody calls me Lizzie anymore." "Don't you like it?" She shook her head. "I never did." "I've called you Lizzie since gradeschool. Or sooner." The Missouri Review ยท 232 "I've never liked it, though. Not even then. Ifs always sounded reptilian." "What do I call you, then?" "Elizabeth," she said. "The whole thing?" "Elizabeth." She gave it four syllables. After a minute she said, "And what about you?" "My name doesn't change." Jack is Jack. "I meant the drink," she said. "Straight tequila isn't any sort of civilized drink." "Millions of people drink it." "Nobody does." "I know a dozen Mexicans that'll take your hand off at the elbow to get the bottle," I said. "To make margueritas," she said. "Or sunrises." I tried to stop the laugh and sprayed it out my nose. I could see them: sweaty, dirty, dressed in brown rags, huddled in a little square of shade out in one of the desert states, with nothing around but snakes and rocks and gila monsters, reaching to plug a blender into a wall socket and asking who had the ice. "Yeah, well, I've learned to take it that way," I said. "It goes down like oil." She shuddered, which is what I'd wanted to see. The waiter, when he brought the drinks, didn't seem revolted at all. He set them down and went away again. He was a damned good waiter, and I was going to tip him. She sipped hers, and I took a warm mouthful of mine. "How have you been, Jack?" she asked, trying to start again. I thought about how to best answer that. "Interrupted," I finally said. "How's that?" "Every time I had a good thing going, I'd get another postcard." "Those were from me," she said. "I know it. They all said you were getting married. Six times, Lizzie?" I knocked back the rest of the drink. I was going to sip it, but what the hell. "One of them had a picture of a bridge in New England somewhere, in the Fall. It looked depressing as hell. I guess thafs the guy you stayed with the longest." "I don't remember which one that was," she said, frowning. "It was the second one," I said. "Peter." "I don't know about that, I just know it was the second...


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