Lew and Pru on Holiday

(#4 in a series)

Lew sat in his hotel room, half-turned in the window box, one leg propped up on a chair and the other kicking idly at a chair-leg, looking out the window occasionally. Nothing was happening outside, just as nothing had been happening the last few times he'd checked. He looked at the copy of Lady Chatterley's Lover lying on the bed and sighed. It appeared that Pru really was going to be gone for a couple of weeks. She wasn't going to be around for him to give the book to. He might as well read it.

He picked it up and disconsolately turned to the first page and started to read. The silence started to weigh on him. By a few chapters in, he decided that talking to himself was better than nothing. "Gosh!" he said at one scene. "Wow, that's really sexy!" he added loyally. He tried to feel corrupted. This book was really rather a yawner, wasn't it? He looked out the window again. No zombie invasions, not even someone formed by lightning from the swamp or something ... and no Pru. The book slipped unheeded to fall to the carpet.

He wondered if perhaps he should go out, try to pick up a woman, bring her back. It shouldn't be too difficult. He imagined various women, ending with the showgirl on that last trip, that time they'd gone to the circus, the trip that Pru had said she'd wanted to take a holiday after. He sighed again; this was no good. He jumped up and started to pace. He'd been such a fool. Pru was -- well, whenever she was around, it was like whole factories of fireworks going off at once, like a mad mesmerist pulling glorious flowers out of the air, like spaceships crashing. He frowned -- wait, those spaceships hadn't actually crashed, had they? They were the ones with different-aged twins getting out, and really they'd just landed -- but whatever. He paced more rapidly. God, how wonderful Pru had looked when she'd faced down that lion. And now she'd said that maybe they needed some time apart. To his alarm he found himself starting to cry. Oh, this would never do; Pru could never like a man who cried. Positive action, that's what was needed. He wiped his face off with his hands. It was time to get Pru a different kind of gift. And if she wouldn't accept it, he'd cheerfully go and throw himself off a tall building. No, that was stupid; he wouldn't do that. Maybe he'd take up drinking. He found his step and rushed outside, determined.

Pru was sitting at a desk in the rented manor house, writing an article of literary criticism in progress: "Theories of the Picaresque as a Model for Formalist Analysis of Obscene, Disgusting Works." How Lew had smiled when he'd seen it; he'd said that she'd have to change the end of the title if she wanted to get it published, and perhaps she would, but for now it stayed. She thought about Lew's smile for a little while, and smiled herself, then got herself back to it.

A little while later she stopped writing, stretching her fingers to uncramp them. It was too bad that Lew had never given her a copy of Tropic of Capricorn -- not that she liked the degraded filth that the man wrote about, but he could certainly write, and it would interesting to check her thesis -- could she hint to him, maybe? No, probably not... this place was such a bore. And it came with a groundskeeper who was the worst bore of all, always mooning around after her. Didn't he have anything to do?

Not that she had anything to do, really, since the bequest, but hadn't she and Lew, oddly enough, managed to save hundreds of lives by now? That was work, she supposed -- although Lew sometimes talked up his supposed low, working origins, saying proudly that that was why he was such a crude person, even though she knew full well that they'd both grown up middle class. She laughed, thinking about it; the foolish things he did were somehow part of why she loved him. Wait, what was that? She shook her head to clear it; maybe she was just missing her friend. "Gosh," she said experimentally. Suddenly she wondered whether he was with a woman. Well, of course he probably was. There were drops of water landing on her written pages; was the roof leaking? No, she was crying. Oh, she was such a fool. Of course she loved him. She pictured his laughing face, the whole jaunty stance of his body, just after they'd defeated the Evil Consequentialist -- a saintly Tibetan monk whose thoughts and actions were impeccably virtuous but who always ended up somehow harming people -- Lew had distracted him while she sneaked up from behind and knocked him out by hitting him over the head with a hardbound English translation of Therese Philosope. How Lew had looked then! How could she possibly not have seen that she loved him?

Determined, she got up and wiped her eyes and hurriedly scooped up her papers. She wasn't going to sit around sobbing. She was going back to Lew -- who knows what corruption he was getting up to -- well, she could be his friend if nothing else. She almost started crying again, thinking of that, and made herself stop. She marched right out to the car and prepared to drive away. "I'm leaving. I won't be back," she yelled to the groundskeeper. "But tha hut's rented for twa weeks! Ye've only been twa days!" he said in that horrible fake accent they must have told him to put on. "I don't care!" she yelled back, and drove away.

She arrived at the hotel where Lew had said he'd be staying, and had a horrible moment as she approached his room. What if someone was with him? But she nerved herself up and knocked at the door. He answered it quickly, looking a bit haggard. "Pru!" he said, his face lighting up. "Lew!" she said, laughing in pleasure and relief to see him. What was he doing now? He was kneeling, getting some kind of small box -- did it contain some kind of miniature medieval erotic text he was going to give her? "Pru, I love you," he said simply, "will you marry me?" "Oh, of course, Lew. Yes. I mean of course," she said, stunned. He got up slowly -- the foolish man was looking nervous again -- she supposed that it was acceptable for fiances to embrace -- then she was in his arms. They kissed, and she somehow had gotten her hand under his shirt and against his chest, and if the carpet had caught on fire at that moment she wouldn't have been surprised.

They slowly stepped back from their kiss, both looking a little frightened. "I guess you'll want a really big wedding, all done up right," said Lew, blushing. She made a noncommittal sound. She had to face up to it now. After marriage came the marriage bed. Her mother had never given her that particular talk. What would she do -- Lew must be so experienced -- she looked around and saw the copy of Lady Chatterley's Lover. What had been said about it? Oh yes, a book 'written by a man with a diseased mind and a soul so black that he would obscure even the darkness of hell!' "Did you get that for me?" she asked a bit wildly. "You want it now? Um, sure," Lew said, and handed it to her. As the book touched her hand, she felt an odd sudden glow all through her and a bright light of inspiration. Of course she knew what to do! Married people must do all those things -- why, she knew quite a few things they could do. Dozens. "Lew, I think simplicity is a virtue in these ceremonies, don't you?" she said. He looked at her and nodded; all of a sudden she looked almost, well, fierce. "I think we should find a justice of the peace and get married right away. I wish to be your lawfully wedded wife as soon as possible. Urgently." He smiled and said "Whatever you want, Pru," and she hurried him out the door.

When he carried her back over the threshold, she was holding him as tightly as he held her, and he looked at her hotly but with a trace of nerves still on his face. "Do you think that a marriage license issued by a philosophical zombie justice of the peace is really valid?" he asked, "I mean, he filled out and stamped it and everything, but he did it without conscious experience, qualia, or sentience..." "Valid enough," she said with a low laugh. She tripped him somehow, and they both fell to the carpet. She pushed the door closed with her foot. And that was the last anyone saw of them for the rest of the two weeks, except for the people delivering food, who said that it was a chore passing everything around the door but at least the tips were optimal.

2009 Rich Puchalsky

(#4 in a series) E-mail: rpuchalsky1@gmail.com

Last modified: January 1, 2015