Umar removed a framed photo of two nudes and a playful German Shepherd
from his living room wall and replaced it with a portrait of Lacie’s
great aunt Clothilda. The true semblance of his first wife’s great
aunt was of less concern than the small inheritance that, upon Clothilda’s
death, enabled Lacie to purchase wall-to-wall carpeting, pursue her
interest in electrolosis and good dining, and dabble in amateur theater.
Umar dabbled in the stock market and, unbeknownst to his depilated
wife, deposited an inconclusive but significant amount of cash into
an undisclosed account somewhere off the coast of Majorca or, possibly,
Madagascar. Umar’s regard for geography and marital relations were
marked with the same lack of interest in spite of the acquisition
of a handstitched leather almanac for Lacie’s well-crafted coffee
table and several well-endowed harlotts for Umar (all named Doris).
Subsequently, when great aunt Clothilda’s funds ran
dry, Lacie packed a dozen bottles of dramamine and joined a second-rate
touring company of West Side Story. A poorly choreographed stage fight
on a raked stage in downtown Chicago closed the production after three
weeks on the road when two supporting actors sustained bodily injury;
one, seriously. Lacie moved into the poorly lit waiting room of an
inner city hospital while a team of foreign medical graduates tried,
ineffectually, to re-attach the severed thumb and forefinger responsible
for the tour’s cancellation and Lacie’s multiple pleasure. Two weeks
later, Lacy and her eight-fingered chorus boy checked into a second-rate
hotel on the outskirts of town and experimented all night. The next
morning Lacie retained a lawyer, registered at an escort service that
boasted visiting dignitaries, tenured professors and professional
wrestlers, and filed for a divorce. She informed Umar of her intentions
in increments via several long-winded phone conversations. After the
fifth collect call, he refused to accept the charges. He never heard
from her again.
Umar, playing the spurned lover, retired great aunt Clothilda to
the back of his bedroom closet, and attempted to scare Lacie’s beloved
pet, Pussy, to death with practical jokes that ended with boo or gotcha.
On similar occasions, he spiked the cat’s water bowl with gin, singed
a whisker with a joint, and smothered her face between thick thighs
and dimpled cheeks taunting, Here, Pussy. Here, Pussy. This depraved
diversion ended abruptly with a life-threatening arterial fibrillation.
Five days later, Umar was released from the hospital with three
prescriptions and a warning from his cardiologist. He went home, ordered
steamed vegetables with baby corn and, for Pussy, baby shrimp Szechuan
style, and determined, from that day forward, to endow himself with
the disposition of Lacie’s loyal, stoic and somewhat stupid feline.
With the assistance of a personal accountant, a personal trainer
and a personal physician, Umar did, indeed, reinvent himself. Before
his three-month check-up and, coincidentally, on his thirtieth birthday,
Umar attended the gala opening of the refurbished doctor's lounge
and adjoining bathroom and, linking arms with the hospital's C.E.O.,
accepted accolations for his generous tax-deductible gift. Umar trembled
with pride and the last stage of drug withdrawal.
That night, Umar and Pussy continued the celebration at home with
broiled flounder stuffed with crabmeat followed by a video (Lady and
the Tramp). Over bowls of warm milk, the benefactor described the
order of events and the anatomy of the female guests, a collection
of aging debutants and former nurses who married well, sporting heavy
ankles, French manicures and over-insured jewelry. Three pairs of
memorable breasts with forgettable faces belonged to step-daughters
and second wives of mid-life crisises. Umar made a decision: he would
Over the next six months, Umar did just that. His
generosity extended to insolvent opera companies, public libraries,
a mayoral candidate, and a few starving artists. The philanthropist's
interest in Negro musicians increased with the introduction to Rufus
Scott and, of greater significance, the jazz musician's sister. Umar
had never, in his former or latter circles, experienced the physical
transformation that threatened to bring him to his knees at the sight
of Ida Scott. Perhaps a year of self-imposed celibacy also contributed
to his state of semi-consciousness, illustrated further by Umar’s
incapacity to speak above a whisper or spread pate on a caraway seeded
biscuit. Still, by the end of the evening, he had gathered his wits
sufficiently enough to exchange phone numbers, astrological signs
and favorite restaurants with the chocolate-colored siren. Traumatized
for a second time by Ida’s refusal to allow Umar to escort her home,
he extended an invitation to join him on the following evening for
the preview of La Traviata. Umar’s dogged persistence overpowered
Ida’s reluctance. She accepted his proposal and, for undisclosed reasons,
agreed to meet him for a drink at his home. “At seven o'clock,” she
repeated for Umar’s sake. The smitten man’s eyes glistened with tears
The next twenty-four hours filled Umar with apprehension and the
desire to urinate constantly. Pussy watched his frenzied activities
with feigned indifference from her favorite cushion. Umar vacuumed
the carpet, sprayed with disinfectant, and rearranged the liquor cabinet.
He stacked the paraphenalia of his former life into an empty kitchen
cupboard: a bong, hand-cuffs, a box of Lacie’s tampons and, lastly,
the menage a trois from his living room wall.
The doorbell rang. Umar, startled, leaped into the
air and landed with one foot in Pussy’s waterbowl. "I'm coming!"
he called out, and immediately regretted the phrase. Hastily, Umar
toweled off his shoe and raced to the door.
“Hello,” said Ida, extending her hand to her host. “Am I too early?”
“Oh, no,” managed Umar. “Please come in. Come in.”
He placed his fingers at Ida's elbow and guided her into the living
room. “We haven’t entertained in a long time,” he said.
Ida raised her eyebrows. “We?” she asked.
Umar blushed and pointed at Pussy. “Me and ...” He cleared a significant
frog from his throat. “and Penelope.”
“Oh!” exclaimed Ida. “She’s adorable!”
While Ida fussed over Penelope A.K.A. Pussy, Umar focused on Ida.
Even an objective eye could not resist the same conclusion: she looked
Ida’s black crepe camisole with lace straps revealed
her baby-soft chocolate-milk shoulders. A small black satin bow draped
down the side and drew attention to Ida's small breasts; not too perky,
not low-slung, not to be ignored. The bottom quarter of her outfit
was also black satin and cut on a bias so that it draped beautifully.
Separating the crepe from the satin was the most elegant row of subtle
black flowers and beads. A low-heeled pair of black suede pumps with
a generous water spot on the arch of her right shoe completed the
outfit and placed Ida at approximately five feet eight inches. Umar
had the sudden urge to remove Ida’s footwear, wrestle her to the couch
and bite her breasts.
“Who is that woman?”repeated Ida.
Umar jumped. “Excuse me?”
Ida and her nipples pointed to the oil of Lacie’s
great aunt Clothilda. “Who is that handsome woman, Umar?”
Umar stared at the portrait. His heart raced in his chest. His lower
jaw quivered. He cocked his head to the side, spilling tears down
“That's my mama,” he whispered. Umar visibly flinched.
“That’s my mama.”
Ida hesitated. In the next moment she was at Umar’s side. She pressed
her small breasts again his solid frame and cradled him in her arms.
Slowly, she drew him to the couch.