“Winging It,” by Virginia Revel

Dec 20th, 2018 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

“My husband is a great collector,” said Kit, stirring her drink with one fingertip and smiling up at the CEO.

“Is that so? What do you collect, Avery?” The CEO glanced at Tom and then returned to a furtive study of Kit’s cleavage.

Tom, who did not collect anything, felt a stab of alarm. Kit was bright-eyed and becomingly flushed, but instinct told him that she might be in one of her moods. He drew breath and was about to answer ‘stamps’—a safe choice, he thought—when he heard Kitty say, “My husband collects swizzle sticks.”

“Is that a fact?” said the CEO, and Ted Jarvis of Solomon, Jarvis, and Holmes, who was standing beside him, snickered.

“I only have about fifty of them,”said Tom deprecatingly. “Not what you could call a collection of more than minor importance. But as… er… artifacts of popular culture, they are transformative in a certain …uh…sociological context.”

“Trendy, eh?” laughed the CEO.

Tom tried to edge closer to Kit, but Jarvis was in his way. Kit hadn’t wanted to come to this party, hadn’t wanted him to try for the job in the first place. She saw his future in civil liberties litigation or pro bono work for environmental causes. “You’re selling out,” she had told him. “Already!”

Tom knew that with two hundred thousand dollars of student loans outstanding, he couldn’t afford to begin his law career defending owls and salamanders. Later, he would do that, if she wished. He would do almost anything she wished, for she was his darling, and good to him. All the same, he had had a lot of trouble persuading her to come here, to dress appropriately, to put on shoes. She hated shoes. Now she was wearing ballet slippers—not appropriate, but better than the thong sandals she had threatened to draw on her bare feet with magic marker.

For the first hour of the party she had stood with the other women and said little; Tom, glancing over now and then, had sensed aggression building up in her. He had also noted that she was drinking cocktails. For someone who usually didn’t drink anything stronger than rose hip tea, this might be a bad idea. Now he leaned across Jarvis to get a closer look at his wife. Her blue eyes were unfocused and her upper lip shone with tiny beads of perspiration. She wasn’t sabotaging him on purpose, he realized. She was drunk. She was seriously—though charmingly—sozzled.

“About these swizzle sticks, Avery,” began Jarvis, sipping his own drink and too obviously trying not to grin.

“Not as interesting as my collection of Hellenistic coins,” said Tom promptly. “I have at least one than can be safely dated to the lifetime of Alexander. Herakles in a lion skin cap on one side. Zeus with an eagle on the other.”

“Remarkable,” said the CEO. He was still ogling Kit, and she smiled up at him seraphically.

“They’re still being found, you know. Not many in Greek Macedonia any more, but a few caches have come to light in Anatolia….” Tom chugged the rest of his Perrier and stepped away so he could put down his empty glass. His invention was running thin. He had chosen to talk about Hellenistic coins because they were not as ludicrous as swizzle sticks, but he did not know much about them, and he knew nothing about Anatolia.

He was rusty at this sort of thing. Back when he was an undergraduate and unwisely majoring in English literature, he and Kit had gone to other parties where, after a certain amount of wine had been consumed, someone would produce the innards of a coffee percolator and challenge those present to ‘interpret’ them. Tom had excelled at this. “The obvious circularity suggests both inescapable repetition and the Egyptian god Aten, the disk of the sun…” He could go on and on, building momentum with every word. Now his head was full of patent law and civil procedure.

He returned to the group to hear Kit say loudly, “My husband is also a notable sportsman.” She almost said “shportsman,” but not quite.

He got beside her and slipped an arm around her shoulders. She leaned into him and he braced himself unobtrusively against her weight.

“Oh, yes,” he said. “I like to—”

“Fish,” concluded Kit triumphantly. This was not what Tom had been going to say. “Offshore. For sharks.”

“Oh, ho!” chortled the CEO. “You’ll need two hundred pound test line for that!”

“And a bit of chain, sir,” said Tom, smiling.

“Dangerous, I’ll bet.”

“Yes. We always keep a gun on board just in case. And we cut off the head right away.”

Kit was becoming heavier in the circle of his arm. Tom knew that time was running out fast. “Will you excuse us, sir?”he said, and drew his wife away from the CEO, Jarvis, and the others. They threaded their way through chattering groups of party goers, heading for a window. Perhaps if Kit got a little fresh air…. But there was a sofa,momentarily untenanted, in their way, and Kit made a move toward it.

“I need to take a nap,” she said.

“No, Kit!” whispered Tom urgently. “Not yet! Try not to take a nap yet! I’ve got to get our coats.”

“I can nap in my coat.”

“Yes, yes. In the car. In the car in your coat.”

“All right.”

In the front hall they came upon Mrs. CEO, flashing with diamonds and very gracious. Tom thanked her for the lovely evening. It had been a privilege for him to meet the men he hoped would be his future colleagues. If he was fortunate enough to get the job, he would relish the challenge. Such a pity they had to leave early, but at this season there was always fog on the parkway after dark. Yes, they would be careful. Certainly they would.

Kit seemed to have regained her balance a little, so Tom risked leaving her with Mrs. CEO for the moment it took him to get their coats from the hired cloakroom attendant.  He threw Kit’s over her shoulders, knowing she wouldn’t be able to find the sleeves. She was saying thank you to Mrs. CEO, and she repeated the words with increasing fervor at each step she took toward the door. Her hands sketched lovely gestures, and she looked soulful, like the mad Ophelia. In another minute she would start on “Good night, sweet ladies. Goodnight, good night…”

“Thank God,” said Tom as the door closed behind them.

“I love you,” said Kit, putting one arm around his neck and pulling at the knot of his tie with her other hand.

“Not yet,” said Tom. “Don’t love me yet. Love me in the car if you have to.” “All right,” murmured Kit, and kissed him. Tom patted her shoulder and tried to steer her toward the car, but she wouldn’t let him go, and he couldn’t see very far while they were kissing.  He took along sidestep and pulled her with him. Still kissing, they shuffled crabwise down the steps, across the driveway, and, finally, off into the night.


Virginia Revel was born in the U.S.but has lived in Europe for many years. She writes speeches and diplomatic correspondence for a living and fiction for fun. She rides, paints, and watches fish in the Schoenbrunn aquarium. One of her pieces will appear presently on Literally Stories.

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