nine               

            'Til death do us part.

            Zachary stares at the ceiling of his bedroom, hands locked behind his head. He cannot fall asleep.

             "Why, Mister Squire, you know what people call you? The Bachelor King. I do declare, it simply brings to mind the naughtiest of notions. I had to promise all my girlfriends I would not receive your call without a chaperon. Some more tea? You have us mystified, Zachary Squire, positively mystified. Aren't you ashamed? Here we sit in our drab, drab drawing rooms, waiting for country suitors to come and bore us gals to tears with the price of cotton, and all this time Mister Zachary Squire, the Bachelor King, lives right next door and never comes a-courting... runs off to Charleston to some house of ill-repute, no doubt, instead. You see? The wicked tales people tell? Just because you're rich and young and easy-on-the-eye?"

 

            "Hello, handsome. THIS ONE'S MINE. Yo'all come to Lulu, darlin'. Everything you're lookin' for, find right here."

            And so I did. They make you want them—women dothe way they flaunt their charms, their bodiesthough they're talkative. Don't much listen, but I do admit I look. I like their mouths, the way they're shaped, despite the constant gush of chitchat. Lulu's always gushing chitchat. But her mouth is nice. Her lips. Not quite as full, of course, as Beulah's; hers are nigger-lips—huge and spongy—lips that kiss your cheek like a poultice, cure what ails you, soothe, relieve... whereas Felicia's lips are stingy, by comparison, thin as a chicken's.

            Zachary leans toward the bedside lamp and extinguishes its flame.

            Dimensions in between—if they'd hush up—would be ideal.