Exquisite Corpse 2003
May 8, 2012
Tonight is Harold Bloom's night to host the monthly poker game that has been going on for almost twelve years. Harold, tall and lean, with a cowlick like a corn stalk is dreading this night. His anxiety has kept him running to the bathroom enough times to start coke rumors in his office Actually 'coke' jokes - not rumors, for Bloom, as he is called by everyone, is the straightest of the straight, the cleanest of the clean, as well as the most naive. His anxiety is caused by Belle Bloom, his mother.
Belle looks her name. A fiery bottle redhead, barely stretching to five feet. She is compact with a chest that enters a room thirty seconds before the rest of her. "These bosoms are always getting underfoot," Belle laughs. She speaks of her "bosoms" as if they were twin Schnauzers. "You're so lucky to be flat-chested," Belle says to her best friend, Molly, who replies deadpan, "Yes. This is the blessing that made my high school years so memorable."
She doesn't wear all of the Revlon colors at once but gives it a damn good try." Short and to the point," is how Belle describes both her looks and personality --and after saying that, she laughs her throaty smoker's laugh.
Bloom is the only one of his close friends, self-named, "the gang of eight to live at home." They are all in their late thirties-early forties.
Tonight instead of Cheetos, chips, pretzels, pepperoni and beer, the poker group will dine on stuffed cabbage, noodle kugel, brisket, fruit compote, and a nice coffee cake. They will have to stop the game, repair to the dining room, and be served by Belle Bloom, who will pull up a chair and shmooze and pick, while 'the boys' eat.
Bloom will try as usual to wish himself invisible. All of the guys know how Bloom feels, and they do their best to make him feel worse. "We should have all of our games over here, Bloom," Don will always be the one to say.
"Belle," Mirsky says to her throughout the night, "don't leave, stand next to me, you bring me luck. Better yet, come here and sit on my lap."
"Belle, Bloom is so lucky. If I had a mother like you I wouldn't live in my lonely apartment either," Rattner tells her. Rattner does this to Bloom about twice a night at every card game. Bloom and Rattner have been best friends since third grade but Bloom is laying in wait for Rattner.
Except for Bloom, this is everyone's favorite poker night. During the game Belle will walk into the rec room with dishes of pigs in a blanket, pastrami wrapped around a water chestnut and pineapple chunk, trays of soft drinks, (no beer tonight), and generally act like the mistress of ceremonies that she believes she is.
"How about some Montovani on the hi-fi guys," she offers. You call that a hand, Alvey? I call it a foot--toss it in. Mickey, show some balls. With those cards you should bet your shiksa's implants."
And so it goes.
Don't think for a moment that Bloom can't afford to have his own place. He is the CPA for everyone at the table and has his own very successful practice. He also has his own place, a condo penthouse in Dominic Towers.
Bloom is also the accountant for Dominic X. DeLuca, the most successful builder in town. The X stands for the way Dominic signed his name up until ten years ago when, after being a widow for a respectable three years, he married Frangellica Carmella DeLuca, a third cousin, twenty years his junior. She had been on her own since she lost her parents in a car crash in her junior year of high school. She taught him to write his signature, and then went on to teach him to become literate. His success is a story of their success.
She became an 'old world' wife--one who has Dominic's dinner on the table when he gets home from work and lets him act the macho chauvinist role. The problem is that Frangellica can't cook. She tries. She follows recipes and takes advice, but all to no tasteful end. Dominic arranges to have business meetings at dinnertime and often tries to take Frangellica out for dinner--but she insists on cooking for her man. Dominic, not wanting to hurt her feelings, stops for fast food burgers and chicken before he gets home. Then he picks and pushes his food around the plate.
Except for her cooking Frangellica is almost the perfect wife. She does have one tiny little bad habit left over from ninth grade. She craves the stiff one. And everyone but Dominic knows it. Poor Dominic has to beg and plead for action while others have only to crook their finger her way. However, it works for Dominic and Frangellica. The truth is that Dominic probably couldn't handle more action than once every week or two. The screaming, biting, scratching, and incredible passion Frangellica goes through with him lasts and is not merely draining--it's debilitating. Dominic swaggers through his soreness for days after.
Unfortunately, Bloom doesn't get to stay at Dominic Towers often. When he moved there six years ago, both his parents were alive. Bloom worked with his father Morris in the firm. A year later Morris had the "big one" in Bloom's apartment while working on his secretary's ledger. The secretary, Mona, called Bloom and Bloom called the gang of eight and they carried Morris down the stairs and deposited him back in his office before calling an ambulance.
When Bloom told his mother of his father's passing she blurted out, "Thank god I put out clean underwear this morning." When Morris' possessions were returned to Belle along with his clothes there was no underwear. Mona was given a large bonus and a ticket to Phoenix to start her new life. Months later Bloom found his father's boxers under Bloom's bed. Unable to throw them away, he had them laundered--with heavy starch--and now keeps them folded in his underwear drawer.
Bloom moved back in with Belle during the shiva period, and every time he attempted to go back to his condo she would do the guilt thing; so finally he agreed to stay with her for six months. That was a year and a half ago.
Bloom's place doesn't go unused--that's what friends are for. Rattner and his wife fight ferociously, and he usually spends at least one night a week there. Mirsky spends his "business trips" there. His wife, Elaine, who happens to be Bloom's cousin, is none the wiser, or she wasn't until three "trips" ago when she was driving by Dominic Towers and saw Bloom's light on. She called Bloom's apartment when she got home and recognized her husband's assistant's voice, put two and two together, and since then her life has changed. She said nothing to Mirsky, but now when he is in Dominic Towers, some stud is in Elaine Mirsky.
On Wednesdays the gang gets together en masse for lunch, and every Friday they meet for happy hour. Each Wednesday seven of the eight get there before Bloom and plan their torments and share the reactions.
"Last weekend," Mickey says, "Bloom was on this blind date with Alvey's cousin in from Long Island and they had plans for dinner at Generos. I called Belle and asked her what she was doing and asked her to join us for a bite."
"What about your wife?" Ben asked.
"The great thing is that her father was in for a visit, so we all went and got a table at Generos. The table happened to be across the room from Bloom."
Alvey continued, "My cousin said that she had never been out with someone who spent so much time sweating and looking across the room instead of at her. The fact is she's a real looker and knows it, and she couldn't figure out who was better looking behind her, so she kept turning around only to see this "old dolled up red head who kept winking and waving at her."
This was not just a series of boys will be boys pranks that the guys played on Bloom. It was a calculated effort to keep him out of his condo so they could use it. It had become communal, and even Bloom came to realize that, and checked in with the gang before scheduling a rare night of his own there.
There's an old saying: You have to watch the quiet ones. Bloom was a quiet one, but no one was watching as he became involved with Mrs. Dominic. It was a dangerous involvement to say the least. Dominic's temper was as renowned as Bloom's skill with numbers. That element of danger combined with Frangellica's wild sexual abandonment drove Bloom to the brink. As for Frangellica, she realized that she would have to scale down her activity after almost getting caught twice by Dominic. People talked, but she knew that no one would have the nerve to say anything to Dominic. She had to settle on one lover. Bloom filled the bill. For now anyway.
When Belle opened the door she knew right away that it was Dominic DeLuca standing, smiling on her stoop.
"Mrs. Bloom?" Dominic asked.
"Maybe Sophia Loren you expected when you rang my bell?" she replied, smiling coquettishly. Dominic's thick black hair, streaked with silver, and his chiseled good looks rattled Belle momentarily.
Dominic didn't have any trouble taking all of Belle in quickly. After she said it, he thought that ringing her bell would undoubtedly do the same for him, but he was too much the gentleman to respond. "I told Bloom that I would drop this tax information off for him. He told me to leave it here since it was closer for me than his office. I hope I'm not disturbing you."
"Come in, come in," Belle said, taking Dominic's arm. "And call me Belle. Everyone does. Listen, Dominic, come into the kitchen and talk. I'm cooking a few things for the boy's poker game tonight and I have to stir and turn and stir."
Dominic didn't need anything more than the smells to prod him into the kitchen.
"Coffee?" Belle asked.
"Well," Dominic said wanting to get back to work but unable to leave the foreign smells attacking his adrenal glands. "If it's no bother."
"Bother shmother," Belle laughed. "I need someone to test out this new coffee cake recipe--and you're the guinea pig." "Whoops," Belle thought.
"Oops," Dominic thought, and repeated, "If it's no bother."
Dominic left after trying the noodle kugel, stuffed cabbage, brisket and some of the appetizers. He didn't want to go home to Frangellica, and Belle didn't want to let him go. They talked as Belle kept feeding him. There was no lull in either the conversation or the food. It turned out they were the same age and Dominic's first wife was also a redhead. Belle watched Dominic eat with the same gusto as her late husband. She felt like a woman again.
Dominic found excuses to drop by Bloom's house every week or so and one afternoon Dominic's testosterone, bursting from the chicken soup smells, caused him to drop to one knee and confess to Belle Bloom that he was in love with her and, he, "may god forgive me," had never cheated on either of his wives before but, "I can't get you out of my mind and I must make love to you." He was ready to continue the confession when Belle unbuttoned her blouse and the twin schnauzers popped out. Dominic took her right then and there in the kitchen. This was not a wham bammer but an explosion of love that had been kept cooped up by both of them for months. After the compulsory floor exercises, Dominic on top, then Belle, they moved on to the freestyle. Belle bent over the kitchen table with her back to Dominic, then he turned Belle over and she wrapped her dangling legs around him as they continued. They ended the set with Belle straddling Dominic while he was seated on a kitchen chair, his face pulled deep and hard into Belle's chest, and Belle finally collapsed atop Dominic. Dominic gently slid off the chair on to the floor, still inside Belle, and finished what he had started.
When Belle, snuggled into Dominic's arms, could finally speak, she said, "Will you be bringing any more of your papers here for Harold?"
"Chggrphmm," Dominic replied, which is what the words, "chicken soup" sound like when your mouth is filled with Schnauzer.
Dominic finally got up and gathered his clothes and went off to the bathroom to dress. Belle wearing only a bib apron ladled out a large bowl of chicken soup for Dominic. As an afterthought she dipped her fingers into the pot and dabbed a bit of soup behind each ear and two dabs on her throat. Dominic smiled when he saw her spilling out of the apron and smiled again when he saw the bowl of chicken soup on the table. He walked over to Belle and gave her a quick kiss and a long hug and got hard again when the smell of her "perfume" reached him. Looking back at the bowl of soup he led Belle to her bedroom for a repeat performance.
Bloom noticed a difference in his mother. She daydreamed more and nagged him less. She even suggested that maybe it was time for him to go back to his condo. Bloom consulted with the gang of eight and told them to wrap up their "affairs" at his condo and they came back to him with a demand for a ninety-day notice. They negotiated down to sixty days.
Belle, in heat, after all the lean years, couldn't have Dominic always parked in front of her house, so she scheduled some time at Bloom's condo under the pretense of the doctor ordering her to take afternoon rests in a place different from her own home. This way, he said, according to Belle, she wouldn't think of her problems and would be able to relax and her blood pressure would go down. How could Bloom deny his mother her health? He fit her into the schedule with the gang of eight and only Mirsky had to adjust his time frame. And no one thought it strange that Dominic's car was often at Dominic Towers. Belle told Bloom that they would probably have to extend the sixty days for his scheduled move-out. Bloom, feeling that there was something fishy going on, asked to speak with her doctor, but Belle said no, citing executive privilege.
The schedule was getting complicated, so Bloom drew one up and passed it around to all the concerned parties, well almost all. Rattner got Monday night and Thursday noon. Ben wanted Saturday morning, late. Mirsky wanted a lot but settled for noon on Friday and Monday. Bloom reserved Saturday from noon until Sunday noon, so Ben had to be out by eleven forty-five. Belle got Tuesday and Thursday from two to four.
There was a message from Dominic waiting for Bloom-an urgent message. Meet me at my boat dock today at noon. I'll be waiting. Bloom went weak-kneed knowing that the jig was up between Mrs. Dominic and him. The dock. Cement shoes. An anchor with the chain wrapped around his neck. Davie Jones locker. Jimmie Hoffa. How the hell did Dominic find out, he asked himself. Did his wife talk in her sleep? Did Dominick beat her? Oh shit, thought Bloom. I've got to go face the music but I know one thing for sure. I'm going to lie my ass off.
"Bloom," Dominic said, "good to see you could make it. Come onto the boat." Dominic wasn't smiling but he didn't sound angry - he sounded a little nervous.
"What's so important that we couldn't talk in the office, Dominic?" Bloom asked.
"Certain things, man to man things, call for some extra privacy. Know what I mean, Bloom?"
"Sure. Maybe. I don't know. What do you mean?"
"Have a drink. What'11 it be?" Dominic the host asked.
"Nothing for me, thanks. I have to get back to the office soon," Bloom said.
"A drink. This discussion calls for a drink. If you don't pick I'll give you a glass of grappa and then you'll be sorry."
"How about a beer? And why should this discussion call for a drink?"
Dominic handed Bloom a long neck Bud and sat on the couch and motioned for Bloom to join him. Reluctantly Bloom sat.
"This is a difficult conversation, Bloom," Dominic began. "You know that men have certain urges and these urges can't always be satisfied with their own wife or girlfriend, right?"
"Here it comes," Bloom thought taking a large swig.
"Are you with me so far?"
"Oh sure," Bloom said.
"Here's the bottom line. It's Frangellica."
Bloom jumped up.
"Want another beer?" Dominic asked.
"Nnno," stuttered Bloom.
"Sit down then. I'm not finished with you. I love Frangellica, but lately my circumstances have changed. There's something going on in my marriage and you are the one I have to come to. Understand?"
Bloom knew he was going to die. He just didn't want to suffer.
"Understand? I asked you, Bloom. Understand?"
"I'm not sure," said Bloom.
"If I have to draw you a picture then I will," said Dominic. "You are still living with your mother, right? You got a girlfriend?"
"Yes, and kind of."
"OK. So you know a little something about needing privacy, right?"
"OK, Bloom. I'm getting a little boffing on the side. What Frangellica doesn't know
won't hurt her. Kapeche?"
"Oh. Sure. Kapeche."
"I know that you let your friends use your apartment for their little get togethers and I'd like to get in on the action. I'll pay for my time and I'll try to work my schedule around what's going on. What do you say?"
"You called this meeting to ask if you can use my apartment to cheat on your wife?"
"Hey, Bloom. That's harsh. Don't judge lest ye be judged. OK?"
"Dominic," Bloom laughed, "I wasn't judging you. You took me by surprise and now I'm trying to figure out how to get you into the rotation. Tell me what days are your first and second choices and I'll go back to my office and work on the schedule." Bloom felt like voiding and doing a cartwheel.
Dominic ended up with two afternoons a week, which just happened to coincide with the ending of Belle's allotted time. Bloom, on the other hand, was eternally grateful for knowing where Dominic was for at least four hours a week so he could be fearless with Frangellica. He certainly couldn't share the information with her though. Bloom wondered if he could steal some time from his buddies Rattner and Mirsky and give Dominic a little more quality time with his bimbo.
Dominic was relieved when Bloom left. Relieved that Bloom didn't ask and obviously didn't suspect that his "on the side" was none other than Bloom's mother. It wasn't that he was afraid of Bloom as much as he was afraid of how much Bloom knew about his finances. Dominic poured himself a glass of grappa and called Belle to tell her the good news.
Bloom met Elaine Mirsky coming out of his apartment a few minutes before noon on Sunday. She had her back to him and was calling to someone inside the apartment. "Same time next week, lover. MMMM!" She turned around and was looking at Bloom's open mouth when Ben came out of the apartment.
"We've got to talk," Elaine said to Bloom.
"It's not what you think, Bloom," said Ben.
"Don't be an ass, Ben," said Elaine.
Bloom heard the elevator start down and as quickly as possible he shepherded Elaine and Ben to the stairwell and said, "My lips are sealed." He closed the stairwell door just as Frangellica walked out of the elevator and into the apartment.
Four months later Bloom's schedule was almost worthless. People were trading time spots and he had to threaten Ben with a suspension if Ben wasn't out of the building and off the block by eleven-thirty on Bloom's mornings.
Tax season for Bloom, as for every other accountant, was crazy. Thinking he had to get away and be alone for a little while, he checked the schedule first thing one morning and saw that there was an afternoon break. He took it. Grabbing a book, salami and provolone grinder, and two bottles of sarsaparilla he drove to Dominic Towers. He had no reason to knock so he opened the door. There stood Belle, Schnauzers and all, wrapped in Saran Wrap with a smile a foot wide which diminished when it registered that it was her son standing in front of her.
Bloom, dumbstruck, dropped his packages and backed quickly out of the apartment as the elevator door opened. Dominic, a bouquet of flowers in hand, was pushed back into the elevator by Bloom. "Bad timing, Dominic," Bloom said. "I just walked in on someone."
Dominic, momentarily confused, shrugged and handed the flowers to Bloom, and they exited together on the first floor. As they were heading to the main door Frangellica walked in. Bloom said, "Frangellica, nice to see you," and handed her the flowers. He walked out waving to Dominic as he went.
Frangellica, thinking quickly, took Dominic's arm and said, "I saw your car and thought we might have lunch." Before Dominic could answer, Belle came out of the elevator wearing a long rain coat, nodded her hellos at both and shuffled slowly by them, making crinkling sounds as she went.
Dominic, thinking, "What the hell," led Frangellica to the elevator and up to Bloom's apartment where Frangellica, true to form, made him go through his usual begging foreplay before allowing him to take her into Bloom's bedroom.