(Please click here to read our previous chapter, or go here to return to the beginning of Uncle Buddy’s House™. “A laugh-filled fun-fest for the whole family, depending of course on what kind of family you have.” -- J.J. Hunsecker in The Family Circle.)
“Okay, let’s see --” Buddy got out the old Ronson butane, reached over, and gave her a light. “-- so, uh, you haven’t been talking to Deirdre lately?”
“Oh, sure. Do you want one of these?” She tapped the cigarette box.
“No thanks. Well, you probably know all there is to know then. In fact you probably know more than I do.”
“Well -- when did we last talk?”
“I don’t know. August?”
“Right,” she said. “That sounds right.”
“So I told you about Madge -- Shakira -- and her husband and kid moving in with us.”
“Right. But you didn’t say why.”
“Yeah. ‘Cause I didn’t know. Still don’t really.”
“Well, I just gathered they weren’t getting along too well with the head monk --”
“Shakira was having an affair with the head monk.”
“Yes. And her husband -- Om?”
“That’s right. Om. But I call him Al.”
“Why do you call him Al?”
“’Cause that’s his real name. Albert, Al. I can’t call someone Om.”
“Anyway, Om, or Al, found out about the affair and punched the head monk in the nose, Buddy.”
“And broke it.”
“So the head monk kicked him out of the ashram, and Shakira and the little boy -- Mukund?”
“Mukund, right, I call him Mookie, or Mook.”
“Anyway the head monk told Shakira that she and Mukund could stay but she decided to go with Om. Or Al.”
“Wow. So Deirdre --”
“Told me all this.”
“Nobody tells me nothing.”
“Ha. And how’s it working out with all these people in your house?”
“It’s -- crowded. Liz moved in with Deirdre in Deirdre’s room, and Madge-or-Shakira and Om-or-Al are in Liz’s room. Philip’s still got his room, and Mookie’s in the attic.”
“You’re really sweet, Buddy.”
“Well, what could I do? They had no money, no place to go.”
“No other relatives?”
“Um -- well -- I don’t think either of them has any relatives who have as much space as I do --”
“No other relatives as nice as you are. And you’re not even a relative.”
“Madge is my ex-wife, Philip’s and Liz’s mom. I couldn’t turn them away.”
“Yeah, so how long do you think Shakira and Om and Mukund are going to stay?”
“Well, nobody’s said anything about moving yet.”
“But, it’s okay. Al got a job working in a pottery place and Madge works in a health food store, so, you know, they kick in a little.”
She put out the cigarette in the tin ashtray. With her head lowered she looked at Buddy, and he thought perhaps she was going to say something serious about how she felt about him, or then again maybe she was just going to tell him some more about how great a guy he was.
“Y’know, you’ve lost weight, Buddy.”
“Yeah,” said Buddy, “I did actually. I lost twenty pounds in the two weeks after I got shot.”
“Oh my God, how?”
She leaned forward, her head cocked rigidly to one side.
“I don’t know. Hospital food, enforced deprivation from beer and wine. Pain, painkillers. Then when I started to feel better I just decided to try to keep it off.”
She nudged her chair a few inches closer to Buddy.
“Okay, you have to tell me how you keep it off.”
“Well, first step, you have to get shot.”
“Okay, skip the first step.”
“This is embarrassing, but I hired a personal trainer at the gym for a while.”
“That’s not embarrassing.”
“Yeah, well. So I got in the habit of working out regularly at the gym --”
“I go four times a week usually, plus I swim at home most days.”
“Okay what about diet?”
“Well, I really didn’t change my diet --”
“Um -- wait, drinking is diet, right?”
“Okay, and this was the hard part, really -- I went down to three drinks a day. Usually.”
“Three! That’s a lot!”
“Maybe for you it is.”
“Okay, what else?”
“What about snacks?”
“Well, I’ve never been a big snack eater.”
“What about sugar? Chocolate?”
Buddy soldiered on:
“I lay low on the sugar and chocolate, but there’s not a complete -- interdiction.”
“Well, all right, go on.”
“That’s about it, really.”
“What about red meats and stuff?”
“Oh, right, I try to lay off red meat, beef anyway, but I eat everything else.”
“You mean even starches, pasta, bread? Carbs?”
“Oh, sure, I can’t give that stuff up. And, besides, this really good bakery opened up down Ivar --”
“It’s not fair,” she said.
“What’s not fair?”
“That you can keep off twenty pounds just by swimming a little and going to the gym a few times a week.”
“Well, actually I only kept off around fifteen pounds --”
“That’s a lot! I could never keep off fifteen pounds! I don’t understand! Three drinks a day -- I barely have one a day. It’s not fair. And I exercise like a maniac every day. Every day. I go to dance class, I work out, I walk --”
“You’re not fat.”
“You don’t need to lose weight.”
“Maybe you think so.”
“I know so.”
“Look, Cordelia, you know what? You’re never going to be stick-thin. And you know what else? This is a good thing. You’ve got curves. You look like a woman. You look great. You’ve got Robert Altman wanting you to star in his next picture. I mean, wake the fuck up.” He took a breath. “Not that there’s anything wrong with being fat. It’s just you’re not. So get over it.”
She did that lower-lip biting thing. Her eyes seemed to glaze over for a moment. Then --
“Oh, hey!” she said. “Do you want a drink? I have this.”
She opened a drawer under her make-up table and pulled out a never-opened bottle of eighteen-year-old Elijah Craig.
“Hey, cool, where’d you get that?”
“One of the producers gave it to me opening night. I think he wanted to get in my pants. It didn’t work though. Is it any good?”
“All bourbon is good, but I suspect this one is really good.”
“Goody goody then.”
She pulled off two of the pink plastic cups from the stack on the table and set them up.
“Here, let me,” said Buddy, and he took the bottle and started removing the seal.
“Should we add water?” asked Cordelia.
“Just a drop,” said Buddy.
He uncorked the bottle and poured out a couple. She ripped the plastic cap off of the full bottle of Evian, backhanded the cap against the outside of the wastebasket, and then carefully added one drop of water to each cup.
“Okay,” said Buddy.
“Here’s mud in your eye,” said Cordelia, and she drank hers down at a gulp. Buddy swirled his, sniffed it, then sipped it, while Cordelia waved her hand at her gasping mouth.
“Oh my God, should I have sipped it?”
“Yeah, but don’t worry about it.”
Waving her hand at her mouth.
“Drink some water,” said Buddy.
She lifted up the Evian bottle and drank four big gulps out of it. After a brief hyperventilation exercise she returned abruptly to normal for her and said:
“So, Deirdre’s fine?”
“Baby, I’m sure you know infinitely more about her life than I do.”
“How about Liz?”
“Liz is great. Writing her memoirs --”
“Cool. And Philip?”
“He’s good, working for me, helping me write this new script. He got me to read Dostoyevsky, believe it or not --”
“Oh, your cat, your cute cat, how is she?”
“Ming? She’s, uh, she’s --”
“And how’s Marjorie?”
“Fine,” said Buddy. “Great. Super.”
Cordelia put her hand over her mouth and, sliding her face slowly side to side, said:
“Are you still seeing her?”
Buddy put his hand over his own mouth and fake-whispered:
“It’s part of my job to see her. She’s my publicist.”
She lowered her hand.
“Jerk, you know what I mean.”
“Yeah, sorry, no, we’re not boning any more.”
“Oh really why?”
“Well, she found a new, uh, extracurricular activity.”
“What? Who? When?”
“It was like September, she dumped me like a hot potato for some twenty-four-year-old teen heartthrob.”
“Well, that’s how he makes a living. He’s on that TV show, what’s it called --”
“I wouldn’t know it, Buddy, I don’t watch TV. So,” she said.
“Have you been seeing anyone else?”
“Believe it or not, no.”
“Oh. Really. I thought you were supposed to be such a big lady’s man.”
“Oh yeah, that’s me.”
“So why no ladies?”
“I don’t know. But. Y’know, I’ve discovered something about not being involved with a woman. It was something that I guess it was hard for me to discover before because I’ve practically always been involved with a woman. Or women.”
“Or a hundred women.”
“I’ve discovered that being celibate is very -- restful.”
“Yeah,” said Buddy.
“Yeah.” (Although, truth be told, sitting here talking with and looking at Cordelia sitting there wide-eyed in her slip: restful be damned.) “And how about you, baby?” he asked.
“What about me?”
“Your love life. What about that guy you told me all about last time we talked.”
“Yeah, the guy you were all --”
“I wasn’t all --”
“Well, you sounded pretty all the last time we talked on the phone.”
“Wait, who was this, the actor guy?”
“Yeah, the actor guy.”
“Oh, him. I was over him in a week.”
“Did you stop calling me because of him?”
“Uh, no --”
“Well, y’know, you talked about that dude for like an hour.”
“Oh. Was I boring?”
“Everybody is boring when they talk about someone they’re stuck on.”
“Well, he wasn’t worth talking about for an hour, I’ll tell you that. A minute maybe. I thought you meant this other guy.”
“Oh, another guy.”
“Yeah, I met him right after the first guy. A doctor. La de da --”
“Yeah, so --”
“So what’s up with this other guy?”
“I don’t want to talk about him, Buddy. Okay?”
“But let me just ask you something.”
“Just ask you.”
“Fire when ready.”
“Is it normal -- no, maybe that’s not the right word -- is it nice, to, to only want a woman to, oh, God, I can’t even say
She put her hands over her face.
“Well, you don’t have to say it if you’re uncomfortable --”
She put her hands down.
“Well, maybe I won’t. But, you know, here’s the thing --” She leaned forward, and Buddy got a glimpse of cleavage, and, just like in the good old days, he tried not to look -- “you know I’m trying, I mean I have been trying -- I mean, I was ready to, to, for once, try to have like a real adult, you know, sexual relationship -- you know, I mean, I was ready to give that a try -- and I was attracted, and I thought he was attracted to me -- but --”
“Look, Cordelia, it didn’t work out with this dude, right? Ben Casey?”
“Bachelor number two. Dr. Kildare.”
“You’re strange, Buddy. But, no, it didn’t work out, and it was all because he turned out to be such a weirdo, weirdo, I don’t know -- pervert weirdo --”
“So, okay, chalk it up to experience. There’ll be plenty more dudes down the road.”
She turned her gaze to the floor and Buddy sipped the last of his excellent whiskey. Then:
“Buddy,” she said.
She looked up.
“When is your train?”
“There’s trains all day. We have time for a nice lunch.”
“Okay.” She stood up, took off the bathrobe. She had on the ivory-colored slip she’d worn in the play. She dropped the robe over her chair. “Let me get dressed and we’ll go have lunch. Turn around.”
“I’ve seen you undressed, baby.”
“I know. Now turn around.”
“Okay, but one thing first.”
The slip had white lace trim at the bodice and hem. Buddy reached over and put his empty plastic cup on the table.
“Come sit on my lap.”
(Please click here for the thrilling final episode of Uncle Buddy’s House.)
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