All the flowers are dyin.., p.49
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       All the Flowers Are Dying, p.49

         Part #16 of Matthew Scudder series by Lawrence Block
Page 49


  Louise turned up, to see how I was and to let me know that she was continuing to spend time with David Thompson. “Because I realized I was being an idiot,” she said. “Here’s this really nice guy who’s fun to be with, in and out of bed, and he likes me. And he smokes. And I’m gonna get on my high horse because he’s had a run of bad luck and has to sleep in his car? My God, a few years ago I was getting pig-drunk and puking on my shoes and going home with strangers, and where do I get off looking down on a decent guy like David?”

  It was a lot better between them, she said, now that everything was out in the open, and he didn’t have to keep his guard up, and she could stop worrying that he was hiding something. He wasn’t moving in, they both agreed that wouldn’t be appropriate yet, but at least he could stay over on nights when they went to bed together.

  “Assuming he’s got a good parking place,” Elaine said.

  “And enough cigarettes,” Louise said.

  And I said, “Look, maybe I shouldn’t mention this, but it’s a big thing with you so you probably ought to know. He’s planning on saving money, one way or the other, so that he can afford an apartment. And one thing he intends to do, partly to save money and also for long-term health reasons, involves smoking. ”

  She looked at me. “He’s gonna quit?”

  “That’s what he says. ”

  “Oh,” she said, and thought about it. “Oh, what the hell,” she said. “Nobody’s perfect. ”

  I’m home now, and if I spend most of my time in bed with a book or in a chair in front of the television set, I manage to stay active enough to keep my blood circulating and my doctors happy. More often than not, I’ll join TJ for breakfast at the Morning Star and hear about his adventures in the market. And twice a week I walk the few blocks up Ninth Avenue to St. Paul’s and go to a meeting in the basement. I used a walking stick at first, a splendid one of blackthorn with a great knob to hold on to and a brass ferrule at its tip. Mick had brought it back from Ireland for me, years before I had any use for it. I still use it sometimes, but only when I remember.

  My insides seem to be working reasonably well, although every once in a while something reminds me that I’d had a knife stuck in there not too long ago. But the other night Elaine made a pot of chili, spiced the way I like it, so that it was as much a religious experience as a meal. And I did just fine.

  Three mornings a week, I have a ninety-minute physical therapy session with a resolutely cheerful blonde named Margit, who shows up at the appointed hour with a sack of hand weights and pulleys and other implements of torture. I’m always pleased when she shows up, and even happier when she leaves. I’m making steady progress, she says, which is great to hear. And I’m really doing remarkably well for a man my age, she adds, which isn’t.

  And in a few weeks Elaine and I will be taking a cab to JFK and a plane to Lauderdale, where we’ll get on a ship for a cruise through the West Indies and up the Amazon. Elaine says we won’t have to do anything, we’ll pack and unpack once and just sit back and relax. And eat six times a day, she says, and sit on the deck in the sunshine, and watch pink dolphins in the river and listen to the howler monkeys on its banks.

  “We’ll be fine,” she says, and I think she’s probably right.

  In the meantime, one or the other of us is often to be found standing at the south window, staring off into the distance. I’m not sure what Elaine sees, or even what I myself am trying to glimpse out there. We’re gazing out at the past, perhaps, or into the future. Or, I sometimes think, at the uncertain present.

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