Authors: Andy Schell
Tags: #General, #Fiction
The Married man by Andy Schell
MEET HARRY FORO…
One of the esteemed Kansas Fords, he’s glibly traded a BMW and Ivy League education for a beat-up Volkswagen, a flight attendant’s wings … and the freedom to live life on his terms. Evading disgruntled creditors and doling out packaged peanuts to harried fliers isn’t exactly liberating, but the disinherited blue blood has other things on his mind: like landing a red-blooded man who can make him forget about the millions he’d inherit if he brought home a bride before his next birthday…
ENTER AMITY STONE…
Harry never expected his soulmate to come packaged as a sassy, irreverent, ravishing blonde … woman! With a bravado bigger than her beauty queen hair and a Texas drawl as thick as her mascara, Harry’s new roommate has him captivated… if not converted. Why not marry the willing, wonderful Amity and collect his fortune?
Now that Harry’s about to march down the aisle, his worries are over, right? Wrong! Temptation arrives in the muscular form of tall, dark, and handsome Ilicolo Feragamo, and lust quickly turns to love. Now, as the Big DayAand Big BucksAIoom before him, Harry finds himself facing a provocative dilemma that proves the road to happily-ever-after is anything but straight and narrow!
KENSINGTON BOOKS are published by
Kensington Publishing Corp.
850 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10022
Copyright 2000 by Andy Schell
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written consent of the Publisher, excepting brief quotes used in reviews.
Kensington and the K logo Reg. U.S. Pat. & TM Off.
Library of Congress Card Catalogue Number: 99067617
First Printing: May, 2000
Printed in the United States of America
For Jonathan and Maria… and Madalyn too.
How many heterosexuals work as airline stewards?” my mother asks me. I’m in the Kansas City International Airport, and a man’s voice is blasting over the loudspeaker, announcing my departure to Dallas. I can hardly hear my mother in the waxy receiver of the pay phone. “It’s Donald who’s wondering. He’s concerned you’re in the wrong environment to fulfill your father’s wishes.”
I cut her off. “Mom, they’re announcing my flight. I’ll call you from Dallas.”
“This is the year!” she says, instead of goodbye.
Hanging up the phone, I ask aloud, “For what?”
I skulk down the aisle, throw my suitcase into the overhead bin, and collapse into a passenger seat. I’ve only been flying for three months, but it already seems rote probably because I don’t really want to be a flight attendant. When I was a boy my father always told me that I would attend law school and that I would graduate first in my class, and I believed him. How did I end up becoming a flight attendant? Well, after things turned to shit with my father, I figured out the job he would least likely approve of and then applied. It was my way of getting back at him for reneging on all his promises. I’ve always reacted to my father in one way or another.
First, I opted out of prep school and demanded I be allowed to attend public high school with the real kids. And when Dad took away my Flat convertible, after I told the family I was gay, I hustled up enough bucks to buy a used VW bug. No one in my family had ever driven a used car, let alone one with an Amnesty International sticker on the bumper, and my mother was so appalled she wouldn’t let me park it in the driveway. Nor had anyone in my family attended a state university. But what was I supposed to do? It would have been awfully difficult to pony up tuition to a private university on student loans. So while my brother, Winston, was sent to Northwestern for his MBA, all expenses paid . and no one can rack up expenses like Winston I left college to pass out plastic trays of warmed-over Salisbury steak at 30,000 feet.
Today I’m a passenger. Looking out the window to the frozen tundra that surrounds the Kansas City Airport, I think of the slightly warmer environs of my destination. The balmy temperatures of Texas may make it bearable for me to live on the street in the event I don’t find an apartment, make a life, gather food, get laid. It’s only the first month of 1984, but something tells me this is going to be a long year.
I open the January in-flight magazine and do what all flight attendants at the airline do: go to the Flight Attendant of the Month page though we call it Slut of the Month, since the rumor is that you have to fuck the big, sweaty, redneck Manager of Flight Crews in order to be chosen. No guy has made it. There, on the page, in her sexy little stewardess uniform, is a Texas babe with thick blond hair and a hey-big-spender look on her face. Her name is Amity Stone, and the copy says that she likes “eating barbecue, riding horses, and searching the Texas sky for an occasional falling star.” Please. I picture her eating a hunk of barbecued Appaloosa while getting hit on the head with a meteor.
“Are you laughing at me?” a female voice with a Texas accent as thick as a jungle asks.
I wipe the grin off my face, look up, and there she is: Amity Stone, Slut of the Month. Her hand is resting on my seat back, and her head is cocked. Her perfume is heavy and her makeup is artfully applied. She’s more beautiful than the likeness in the magazine she actually looks like a young Grace Kelly. I’m intimidated. Not because she’s beautiful, women don’t affect me that way …… but because I can tell she’s incredibly confident, and with my ego freshly smashed, I’m not. “Not at you,” I say.
Her blue eyes highlight me like spotlights. “Then what, Bubba?”
I realize that Bubba is a salutation, like sir, or mister, or creep. “It’s your bio,” I say, trying to get out of this. “I like it.”
She bends down, knees together, and quietly decrees, “I heave at the smell of barbecue, and the only time I rode a horse it made my little Lady so sore I had to cancel all my dates for a week, and the only star I want to catch is Richard Gere. Capiche, Bubba?”
“Hey, I’m just jealous,” I stammer, laughing it off, “because they’ll never pick me.”
“You’re one of us a flight attendant?”
“That’s great!” Grite.t She says it as if she has just won a hundred dollars. Not a thousand or a million, but a hundred. It is the perfect amount of enthusiasm to bestow upon a stranger. “Jacqueline,” she calls to her coworker. “Jackie!”
Jacqueline looks up the aisle like a giraffe scouting the horizon. She’s so tall she nearly has to slump from hitting her head on the low ceiling of the DC-9 jet.
“He’s a flight attendant for us,” Amity happily explains. Jacqueline approaches us, a model sauntering down a catwalk, neither smiling nor frowning. Just vacant. Like a wall somebody forgot to paint. Her face is long, angular, odd. Her copper hair is beautiful, and she has freckles on her face and hands. “Oh, that’s good, I guess. Do you
like it?” Her Texas accent is almost Califor “Sure,” I crow, trying to look confident. I’ll like it a lot more now that I won’t be commuting from Kansas, where men are men, and sheep are women.”
Amity runs her unclad ring finger over her bottom lip. “Kansas boys are cute. Those sheep ought to consider themselves lucky.”
“My boyfriend just dumped me,” I say, envisioning a voodoo doll of Matthew with pins stuck in its eyes. “Kansas guys aren’t that cute.”
She smiles, as if we’re old friends. “It’s his loss. Don’t worry. There are plenty of men in this world, and you’ve picked the perfect career to meet them all.”
I return the smile. Offer a handshake. “I’m Harry.”
She shakes. “I’m hairy too, but I drop into the spa for a bikini wax.”
“Harry Ford.” I laugh.
“My mom drove a Ford,” Jacqueline says, coming to life. “For a long time. She drove a Ford that was green. It was this big old green station wagon thing. I’m pretty sure it was a Ford. Green. Yeah, I think it was a green Ford.” She flips her hair with her hand, turns, and heads back up the aisle, shutting the overhead bins as she goes.
“Green Ford,” I chant mystically.
Amity smiles with Southern sarcasm. “She just got out of an institution.” We hear the thud of the front door being shut, and the engines begin to spool. “I’m Amity Stone, but I guess you know that, because I’m the Slut of the Month! It’s such a pleasure meeting you, Harry.” Hay-ree. “I hope we get to fly together sometime.” Some Tom. She follows Jacqueline to the front of the plane, leaving behind her perfume, heavy and full of spice, to soak my face.
Does she really hope we fly together sometime? God, I’d like to latch on to her right now. This is just what I need to get my life started, a girl f-rend who can make me laugh. My training classmates and I were schooled in the fine art of stewardessing in Dallas, but
after graduating we were supposed to scatter across the country to fulfill our initial one-year assignments. My domicile choices in order of preference were New York, Los Angeles, Honolulu, Bos ton, Chicago, and Dallas. I was one of only three class members assigned to Dallas. But I have no one there to call a friend, since I immediately moved back to Kansas to live with Matthew. But now I’m bound for Big D, where people eat fried vegetables, wear snakeskin boots, and diphthongize the word couch. And treat Northerners like enemies in the Civil War.
Could Amity be one of those rare Southerners who would want to hang out with a Yankee? I can’t believe I told her, “I’m just jealous …” How losery. Matthew crushed my confidence when he told me I’d become stagnant, shallow, not interested in personal growth. Considering I lacked the funds for a higher education, I thought my choice to become a flight attendant was an acceptable diversion, even if passing out oily little pillows to people who sleep upright isn’t what I intend to do for the rest of my life. I thought being a flight attendant gave a certain working-class cachet to a gay guy in his early twenties, but Matthew likened it to becoming a hairdresser or an interior decorator. And of course, my brother, Winston, gave me all kinds of shit. When I pointed out that, unlike him, Mom and Dad had cut me off, and that by working for an airline I could still afford to fly to Paris, he said, “Yes, but it’s standby.”
As the plane taxis out for takeoff, I watch Amity and Jacqueline in the aisle demonstrating the emergency equipment while the other flight attendant dishes out all that industry speak: “At this time …” and “In the unlikely event of …” and “For your own comfort and safety…” It didn’t take me long to realize that it’s all a crock that won’t help you in any way when the plane slams into a mountain at five hundred miles an hour. But Jacqueline looks as if she’s hearing it for the first time and it actually means something. She concentrates on every word, straining to follow along. When she
/IIU y drops her demonstration oxygen mask from the ceiling a little too early, she lets it dangle there awhile, while the speaking flight attendant catches up.
Amity, on the other hand, looks like one of those models on The Price Is Right, all smiles and perfect timing as she demonstrates the seat belt, safety card, and oxygen mask as if they’re exciting prizes won by all.
During the flight, I study Amity further, watch her movements. She seems to serve every drink, offer each bag of peanuts, and answer any question as if she were starring in a film based on her life. I would love to be that confident. That steady. In my college days, I was. It’s only been a few months since I left campus life, but something’s happened to me. It’s as if I can’t adjust to the world outside school. I’m no longer the jester in the theater department (with law school out of my means, I opted to use my oratory skills on the stage) but the loser in the life department. I miss the security of university life. I miss my old friends. And most confusing of all, I miss my father.
“What’s the matter, Harry?” Amity and Jacqueline are standing over me in the aisle, the drink cart between them. I’m not full-on crying, with sobs or anything, but the tears are flowing steadily down my face. I look up, don’t answer, because the lump in my throat feels like a new tennis ball. Amity abandons the cart and sits beside me. “What is it?”
I swallow the fuzzy ball. “I was just thinking about my dad,” I tell her. “He passed away recently.”
“Jackie,” Amity says, looking up at Jacqueline, “you’re going to have to drive that thing by yourself. I need to talk to Harry.”
“Nu-uh,” Jacqueline protests, “you’re not doing this to me again. Nu-uh.”
“No, Amity, forget it.” Jacqueline then looks at me. “She’s
always doing this. She stops and talks to guys all the time and leaves me serving the drinks. Forget it.”
“Come on,” I say, wiping my eyes, prodding Amity to stand and step into the aisle. I follow her and squeeze between the beverage cart and the seats to replace Jacqueline. “We’ll take over,” I offer.
“Cool.” Jacqueline takes off her wings and hands them to me, then disappears to the back galley.
I pin the wings on my street clothes. Amity and I look at each other, then turn to our respective passengers. “Would you like something to drink?” Then back to each other. “He was a surgeon,” I tell her, using tongs to put ice into the plastic cup. I accidentally spill a couple of cubes.