49

Samuel Solomon Blumenthal is an egghead who plays ball, meaning a summa cum laude post-grad who plays shortstop for the UC Berkeley baseball team, meaning a brainy guy who spits, chews huge wads of gum, and pulls at his crotch. It was in his capacity of turning double plays that Sam visited Palo Alto (on the campus of arch rival Stanford) the day he met Joanna Meerschaum (whose identity remains indeterminate) for a game in which he scored two runs, drew a walk, three hits, and an RBI (in a losing effort, alas; Cal was defeated eight runs to six) his batting average of a thousand persisting later that afternoon while flirting in heavy traffic with the aforementioned heavy breather, diverting him from a despondent drive back home to a wood-side inn-motel for a night of such extraordinary passion he has thought of little sinceócompounded by its curious predication on his bearing a striking resemblance to somebody else, provocation enough (one week later) to retrace smitten steps in hopes his lovesick path, with hers, will once more intersect.

Good luck. In a population of thousands (tens of thousands), a large percentage co-eds (if indeed she is a student; the campus-parking windshield sticker he glanced at might have long-since lapsed), his likelihood of finding one uncommonly randy redhead is (on a Sunday morning drive-by basis) slim to none, at best. At worst, the girl will spot him first and have him arrested.

Cruising first the downtown streets, next the shopping mall lot off campus, back downtown again (detesting shopping malls), Sam finally parks his car to walk, to search on foot... electing (after a to-and-fro reconnaissance of Palo Altoís upscale retail strip) to situate himself for a leisurely cup of coffee at a sidewalk cafť. Wanting to be seen as much as wanting to be vigilant (on the off chance someone else will mistake him for his lover-boy look-alike), Sam locks eyes with everyone who passes (regardless of age or gender), feigning recognition to solicit double takes, attracting, in the process, an unexpected overture.

"Hi."

(Knows me or just wants to?)

"Hi."

(Better be polite.)

"May I?"

"Well, Iím half expecting someone."

"Keep you company while youíre waiting?"

"If you like."

"Thanks. Iíll be discreet if... he?"

"She."

"... indeed shows up. Absolutely splendid day. A shame to spend it solo."

(This has gone on far enough.)

"Have you and I ever met?"

"You mean, before? No; not exactly."

"Meaning what, 'exactly'?"

"Oh, oh! Nellyís nervous; my mistake; I have to run. Meant no offence, dear. Off I go. You play a wicked second base, is all I have to say. Ta-ta."

Plopping down a five dollar bill for his un-drunk glass of latte...

"Youíre a baseball fan?"

... the young man promptly stands to beat a quick retreat, abashed by misinterpreting Samís convivial glance.

"Frankly, itís the uniforms; I just love those socks and knickers!"

"Shortstop."

"Pardon me?"

"I play shortstop."

"Donít you stand by second base?"

"I do. But so does the player to my left. Heís called the second baseman."

"Oh. You share second base."

"I guess you could put it that way, yes."

Sam makes a conciliatory gesture with his hand; the young man sits back down.

"Bernard."

"Sam."

"My pleasure, Sam. Are you really waiting for somebody?"

"Iím sitting here in foolhardy expectation that a woman I met last week will just-so-happen by."

"You didnít prearrange to meet her?"

"Would that I could have, Bernard, but I donít know her nameólet alone her cell number."

"'Ships in the night'?"

"Something like that. All I have to go on is that she drives a pink Mercedes."

"Well, there canít be many of those in Palo Alto. Sounds like fun. Sounds like Jo, come to think of it."

"You know a woman who drives a..."

"Pink Mercedes. Yes, indeedy."

"How? I mean, describe her."

"Deep blue eyes, complexion fair, and a crop of madcap curls Iíve labored long and hard to tame but have only managed a modish Oscar Wildness. Flamboyant cut, that is. I do her once a month."

"A redhead?"

"She is presently, though often tires of her natural color."

"Age?"

"Roughly ours."

"Teeth?"

"'Teeth'? Yes, she has teeth."

"I mean, are they...?"

"Lovely smile, now that you mention it."

"Last name?"

"Hm. You have me there, Sam. Pays with cash, not barcode. Handsome tipper. Sexy sort of laugh."

"Married?"

"I think I have to stop, citing stylist-client privilege. Like a priest, we hear confessions from our heads that are best left undisclosed."

"Please?"

"Okay; because itís you. Engaged, if recollection serves. No ring on her fingeróbut a pea in the pod."

"A what?"

"Preggers, Sam. Wasnít showing last time I saw her, but was proudly spouting off. Moms-to-be are brazen little tattletales when snitching on themselves. Joóif sheís your Joóis maybe two, three months puffed up."

Shell-shocked, Sam reviews, replays his memory of the mystery womanís midriff: navel deeply puckered, abdomen slightly plump. Pregnant? Plunged, as into a sitz bath chilled with ice cubes, Sam's ardor goes "glub, glub."

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