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En Passant San Francisco,August 1995 Zoe had called his home number, but it was for business ; it turned into a social call after that. She was almost as chipper as the night she gave Rigo his memorial award, and that made Dennis nervous. “Dennis, it’s just incredible.” The words rushed. She had one of those cell phones everybody was getting now, and since she wasn’t good at using it, her words, especially the loud and multisyllabic ones, were fragmented and smeared; of course, who needed the clear articulation of the word incredible? It was more an animal noise than human speech, a goose protecting its young. “The drug company is ending the study!” “That’s great?” he said, also pointless, just the sound of the question mark enough for them both. His head was even shaking “No?” but she couldn’t see that. “Eat a lemon, it’ll sweeten your disposition,” said Zoe. He was ruining her day. He could hear that. “It is 82 83 great, it means the drug works, the drug will keep working for you, and no more sitting around getting blood draws every other day down at the clinic.” It was only twice a month, but her exaggeration’s rationale came through over the static. In his mind, he matched her hyperbole: now I’ll be paying millions of bucks a month for meds I used to get for free. “That’s great,” he said. “We should celebrate! But I think the funeral parlor is booked today. Dennis, you were more fun to talk to when I told you you were positive.” “Well, now what kind of excuse will I have to come talk with you?” The cell phone signal was getting weaker, and sometimes he couldn’t even hear static. He wondered if he was talking to himself. “Are you asking me on a date?” she finally said. “I don’t date anymore.” There was another pause, and he almost hung up and waited for her to redial, but in a last-ditch effort, he said, “Not even boys.” “I heard about that. Rigo told me all about your big God thing.” For a moment, the phone’s signal was perfectly fine, but Dennis paused anyway. “I’m not going to talk about it on a stupid cellular phone,” he said. “I don’t want important things to get eaten up by all your static. We can discuss it on our date.” Maybe the signal had cut out, because she said, “Are you in training to be like one of those superstitious fundamentalists? My static won’t hurt you, Dennis. And: what date?” Rigo had decided to become an artist. It was a natural step after old man makeup: that business dried up quickly. Rigo had had a skinny artist friend who dressed in women’s corsets and fishnet stockings and painted with mascara, eyeliner, lipstick. Dennis had met him at the award party the night he had tested positive. Now he was dead, and Rigo had inherited the art supplies and studio (as he’d inherited all sorts of secondhand items—cars, love letters, dried flowers, other people’s keepsakes; Jimmy said Rigo had five toasters). The artwork was going for skillions of dollars, and people shook their heads—that skinny queen was going to be great, cut down in his prime. What if he had had a chance to really develop? Rigo’s art, on the other hand, was terrible. He’d invited Dennis one morning to his studio, which was the sun room on the back of a sex club; all the other windows in the entire house had been blocked off with black garbage bags. After walking down long hallways of dim bulbs and gloomy Clean Team workers wetvac -ing the carpeting (sex club carpeting!!! Dennis exclaimed within himself), the northern exposure streaming down on Rigo’s gloppy disproportionate depictions of streets and boats and pudenda made Dennis’s eyes dilate. 84 85 “I call this one Night Owl,” Rigo said. “Do you recognize that bus line? The one that runs twenty-four hours?” The muddy colors had more texture than form, layers of pasty paint built up, Braille. Dennis wasn’t a priest yet, so he felt he could lie. “It’s beautiful. But it’s only the back part of the bus. How come only the back part of the bus?” “Crikies, Dennis, I am so glad you asked that! I am so interested in...


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MARC Record
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