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Authors: Consuelo Saah Baehr

Nothing To Lose (A fat girl novel) (3 page)

BOOK: Nothing To Lose (A fat girl novel)
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By Easter the previous semester, he had had many of them writing credible, selling copy. We don’t just take the money and run. (For a small insurance company stressing personal service.) Hey, shirt. I hear you’re permanently pressed. Wanna prove it? (For a line of men’s shirts.) Plain Jane, the funny-looking dolly you love to love. (For a sensibly homely doll.)

April liked Marty Bell and he liked her. He said her copy was conversational (good), not preachy and static (bad). Toward the middle of the summer session, he asked her to do catalogue copy for a small mail order book his firm put out. There was little creativity involved other than to squeeze merchandise description into the tiny space provided. “It will teach you economy of language,” he told April.

There were thirty listings to a page, selling everything from old-fashioned muslin sheets to toilet paper printed with the Best of the Times Crossword Puzzles. She became a genius at abbreviation.

Children’s all-cotton undershirts. Yr. Choice messg. I’m a good/bad, boy/girl. I’m an angel/stinker. Red on wht.Szs, 3-6x, 2/$8.

Toward the end of the summer, in addition to the hypothetical ads that they all did, April contributed an acceptable headline for one of the agency’s real clients, a sports car manufacturer that was having delivery problems for one of their cars that was in demand. The prettiest thing that ever kept a man waiting. Her headline was considered better than anything the agency had come up with and Marty Bell promised her fifty dollars if she could add some snappy body copy to go under the picture.

By Labor Day, she could see how seriously her life had changed. She had her own apartment, she worked as a freelance copywriter and, as an employee of the New School, she was entitled to get an education at a very reasonable price.

Sometimes she went out for an evening walk through the Village. A breeze circulated up her summer skirt, through her legs and thighs. She’d walk down to Washington Square Park, pretending that Harald was beside her. She looked at everything through his eyes. When she looked out of her apartment window and saw the couples entering the restaurant across the street, she could plainly see herself entering with Harald. He would have his hand on her shoulder as they waited to be seated. He would look into her eyes. As she sat eating her rotisserie chicken and her potato salad, she imagined that he could see her. She put down her fork between bites and chewed softly, hardly moving her lips, and it took her about fifteen minutes to swallow a spoonful of potato salad. She lost another seven pounds. When Harald came back in the fall, she would be ready for him.

Chapter Three

That fall of 1972, Harald’s course had a new title: Profit Opportunities in a Bear Market. Each day April bought a copy of the New York Times and began to read every story on the financial pages. The Schlitz Brewing Company had selected Roy Satchell, the first non-family person, to its presidency. A new fabric, Tanera, had been invented that perfectly matched the graininess, suppleness and look of leather – two footwear companies had placed large orders. Robert C. Hollingsworth, a veteran of both Coke and Pepsi, had brought Crown Cola to unprecedented expansion and profits.

For herself, April had not regained the twenty-seven pounds dropped since the previous fall but neither had she lost the additional thirty that the life insurance charts claimed excessive for her frame. Her clothes were more stylish. Everyone was wearing wide-legged slacks and they happened to be a good choice for her. She splurged on a well-cut tweed jacket and two pairs of lined wool slacks with the new flared leg. She had her ears pierced.

Harald looked around nervously that first night, waiting for latecomers and assessing the count of his new class. She waited for him to notice her and say something.

When he went to open the window, she was certain he had received her message subliminally. Marty Bell had told them about the potency of subliminal conditioning that was now illegal. A man who lives his entire life in the city, playing in the streets and whose only knowledge of a field of grass is Central Park’s Sheep Meadow suddenly buys an expensive tractor. Not only buys it but anticipates a new lifestyle. Starts wearing jeans and sending for seed catalogues. Such was the potency of subliminal suggestion.

She knew with a cool, distant reasonableness that if life were completely predictable, Harald would marry someone like Faye Dunaway. She was not that someone; yet the depth of her emotion was so strong, it was inconceivable that it wasn’t motivated by a larger force that would sooner or later, bring about its own reward. She felt there was a great power in human will and it would work that way for her.

It happened in late November. Not in a way she could have anticipated but it didn’t matter. Dr. Leopold Sanders, who had written a book called The Subconscious Equivalent, came to class as a guest lecturer to share his theory that the correct mental attitude was necessary for financial success. After the lecture, he invited them to partake of a mini version of the expensive weekend program given around the country. He called it a biofeed-in. The class agreed to convene at his apartment on Riverside Drive the following week.

The next seven days were unseasonably cold with temperatures never rising above thirty degrees. April arrived late and found a sign on Dr. Sander’s door: Remove Shoes Before Entering. She peeled off her boots and walked in feeling silly. The crowd inside was sitting in a circle on the floor of a room devoid of conventional furniture. At one end, a long pipe rack held coats. At the opposite end, there was a huge copper cymbal hanging sideways from a stand, obviously meant to be struck with the drumstick Dr. Sanders had in his hand. Harald was standing against one wall, the only guest not seated.

“Everyone please get into a comfortable position,” said Dr. Sanders. “Close your eyes and when we strike the plate count each reverberation. As you count, imagine you are going deeper and deeper into your subconscious. I will give you instructions.” The room quieted. After a significant pause, Dr. Sanders began speaking again. “Relax, breathe in deeply…breathe out. Let us begin.” He gave the plate a strong whack and the loud initial response grew fainter and fainter. April forgot to count and found herself longing to open her eyes and look at Harald. She peered through her lashes and saw him picking his way through the bodies to the coat rack and then the door. She rose immediately and followed him out. The people in the room remained still, a look of desperate concentration on their faces.

April looked for her boots with exaggerated concern, afraid to look up. Harald took his shoes and sat against one wall to put them on. She sat on the floor opposite him.

“Did you hear the reverberations?” she asked wryly when they were safely past the door.

“Huh?…yes. That’s not for me,” he said quickly as if he had a handy list of what was for him and what was not. “You going downtown?”

“Yes.”

“Want a ride?”

“Okay.”

They traversed the park and headed south on Fifth Avenue to 57th Street. “He actually charges a thousand dollars for a week-end of that,” said Harald.

“Awful. What a quack.” She wished Leopold Sanders many years of financial success. “I can’t believe it.”

“It’s true. Want to have a cup of coffee?”

“Okay.”

He parked on 55th Street and steered her back to 57th to the Mayfair Coffee Shop. The wind was so strong; she had to struggle to stay by his side. When they slid into a booth, her knees brushed against his and her body reacted with amazing speed. She realized at the same time that she knew very little about him. He had told them he wasn’t really a stockbroker. He was a stock specialist but she had no idea what that meant.

“Are you a lawyer?” she asked as they waited for the waitress.

“No.” He seemed surprised. “I studied to be a lawyer though and my father’s a judge. Why’d you ask? Do I look like a lawyer?”

“You look responsible and sure of yourself and…a criminal would do well to have you represent him.” Upon saying this she had the infantile fantasy of being the criminal and having him defend her and fall in love with her for her crime, not despite it. She fantasized that the crime would stimulate him sexually.

He smiled a radiant smile. “I’m a stock specialist.”

“You don’t buy and sell stocks for people?”

“I buy and sell only two stocks.” He went on to say that he had started out to be a lawyer like his father but a summer job in a brokerage firm had given him a taste of a life he liked better. Now he was a floor specialist for two large publicly traded companies on the New York Exchange. When he explained what he did it sounded dishonest. He bought his stocks when they were going down so the price remained firm and attracted outside buying. When the price was bid up, he sold his shares at a profit and shorted additional shares (which meant he made money if the price went down which it did, of course, leaving recent buyers holding a loss.)

“Doesn’t the government care?” was her first question.

“The government? I can assure you I’m not the only person doing it. That’s the way the whole thing works. Floor specialists protect the market from it’s own unruly swings. It’s the best way we have for providing for a tidy exchange.”

Tidy? Tidily crooked! Still she was relieved the outcome was in his favor. They would be crooks together. “What are your two special stocks? Would they be ones I know?”

“What stocks do you know?” Now he was teasing her.

“I know IBM and General Motors.” A gun to her head wouldn’t have produced any other names, including the companies in which her own money was invested.

He grunted. “I’m the floor specialist for ICN Corporation and Lonny Foods.” This was as much as he cared to divulge. “What do you do when you’re not in my class?” She could see he had decided to find out about her. He was going to file her away in his brain bank.

“I sort of have a job writing advertising copy.”

“Oh…?”

“Well, it’s not regular. I’m a freelancer. And.…, “ she sighed deeply, “I’ve been reading the financial pages.” She said this as if she had done it to please him.

“And what have you learned?”

“Yesterday, I read that the short sellers despaired of pushing gold down any further. I could picture that very clearly. These earnest men pushing with all their might but to no avail – tears streaming down their grimy faces.” Her voice grew soft. Her longing flowed out to him like vapor.

“They could have been crying,” he said soberly. “There’s more crying than anyone would guess.”

“Really?”

“Yes.”

“Do you ever cry?” She felt momentarily powerful; as if she could ask him anything and he would answer.

“There’s no reason. I pay attention and do okay.”

“You’ve never had a loss that brought you to tears?

“One.”

It was a woman, she was certain. She must have died. How else would he ever lose anyone?

As they walked to his car, the wind was raw and he pulled her protectively to him, his arm around her shoulders. Before they could cross, however, the street was a live with a motorcycle escort surrounding a limousine.

“That’s probably Dobrynin,” he said, “coming from Lincoln Center. He went to the ballet.”

“Did you see the headline in the Daily News? ‘Our top cop tells off Dobrynin.’ His bodyguards wouldn’t let the New York cops near him and our cops got miffed. Why do we always end up sounding so childish?”

“Exactly!” His voice was excited, as if her astuteness had resolved a nagging problem. She could feel him re-computing her appeal as they walked along. He stopped at a kiosk, bought the Daily News, read the headline she had spoken of, turned to the story inside, reading quickly, and they threw the paper away. He held her hand for the rest of the walk to his car.

When they reached her building it looked dirtier and shabbier than she remembered. She saw it through his eyes and was ashamed. He was hesitant to leave her on the street. “Is this your building?”

“Yes.”

“You’re on the top?”

“The middle.” She didn’t move away from him. “Leopold Sanders is still whacking his shield, I bet.”

“We won’t be laughing when they make fortunes.”

“Yes. They’re all in a trance now…” she said wistfully, “learning how to be rich.”

“Sorry you didn’t stay?”

“Oh, no. How could I be? It’s silly.” She looked at him anxiously to see if this is what he wanted to hear.

“Of course. Well…”

“Well…: She was staring at his lips, trembling with the need to touch them, to caress his face, to put her cheeks against his chest. She couldn’t move. He took her face into both his hands and kissed her forehead. She moved upward, tilting her chin and then he put his mouth to hers. It was a sweet brush followed by slight pressure from her side. It seemed such a frail place to touch. Lips trying to fit themselves to other lips. If she had allowed herself, she would have embraced him tightly and kissed him much harder but she didn’t want him to think she was crazy.

“I’ll wait till you’re in,” he said softly.

“Thank you. I’ll call out from the window.”

She walked up the stairs in a daze of excitement and love. The steps were shifting sand. Nothing seemed real. The apartment door was ajar but even this didn’t register in that moment of total excitement. Then she saw it all.

BOOK: Nothing To Lose (A fat girl novel)
2.2Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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