I’m seventy-odd years old and know nothing about ladies of the evening. I’ve heard some of them have hearts of gold.
I didn’t recognize the stylish young woman knocking on my hotel room door as a sex trade worker.
It was my second night at the Ritz — I call all hotels I’ve stayed at since Inez died the Ritz because doing so tickles me.
The knock came after I returned from the ice machine. I lodged the ice bucket alongside the TV and peered through the peephole.
An attractive young woman wearing a dressy coat with a piece of luggage parked beside her, peered back.
Inez would want me to be polite so I opened the door.
The woman waved a key-card. “Doesn’t work. I saw you enter your room. I thought you might let me leave my luggage with you while I go down to the desk for a new card.”
“Bring it in.”
The woman entered and tapped down the bag’s telescopic handle.
“Katrina.” She offered a hand with at least one ring on each finger.
I glanced at her other hand. It too was decorated with gems and jingly-bobs. Foolishly — Inez would have smacked me — I looked at her feet thinking, rings on her fingers, bells on her toes…
If Katrina wore bells they were hidden inside sleek high-heeled boots.
“I’ll phone the desk for you.”
“Thanks. My cell is dead.” Katrina patted a coat pocket as confirmation.
“Can I get you a drink?” I pointed to the ice bucket, not the bottle of Grey Goose on the dresser. In my head Inez said, “Sy, you’re stund as a stump.”
“Okay,” Katrina said. “Do you have tonic water?”
Fetching tonic from the minibar, I mixed two drinks. I handed Katrina hers, took mine and leaned my arse on the window ledge.
“What brings you to our foggy city?”
Before Katrina could reply, Inez said, “Sy, my love, you’ve always been a brilliant conversationalist.”
“Ah, the convention?”
“Yes, the convention.” She smiled like Mona Lisa.
At that point Inez should have smacked me. Sy, my stump-stund love, why do you think a young thing like that is coming to Town for a convention?
“Every Ritz is blocked during convention season.”
Katrina peeped over the rim of her Goose and tonic. “Any special reason you’re here, Silas?”
“Been staying at one Ritz or another since Inez died. Sold off everything and decided to spend the rest of my time living at a Ritz.”
“Inez, your wife.” Again, Katrina smiled like Mona.
I suppose Katrina imagined what Inez might say if she knew who I was helping at that evening’s Ritz.
I picked up the phone. “I’ll call the desk.”
“No rush.” Katrina toasted with the Goose and tonic then laid it aside. Next she shrugged her shoulders and removed her coat revealing a shimmery blouse — silk, perhaps, what did I know?
Katrina offered Mona’s smile. She’d caught me staring. Inez would have caught me too and elbowed my ribs.
I sipped my drink. “Any kin in Newfoundland?”
“No kin.” She sat in a chair and crossed her legs from left to right.
“A stranger then.”
A moment passed. “Do you find it lonely, Silas?”
“Lonely enough. But moving from Ritz to Ritz keeps me occupied.”
After she crossed her legs from right to left, I sat in the chair opposite Katrina’s knees.
“What do you do for entertainment?” The Da Vinci smile coincided with Katrina’s question.
“I read.” I indicated a novel open on the bed.
“Reading helps you sleep?”
I thought Katrina was the smilingest young woman I’d ever met.
“Yes, well… it helps me nod off.”
“Ever have any company, Silas? Family? Friends? Companions?”
Katrina brushed an invisible crumb off her frilly front.
“Seldom. I move around too much.”
“Ever wish for company?”
Sy! Was that Inez?
“It was kind of you to help.” Katrina hooked one arm over the back of the chair and shifted her hips to a more comfortable position.
“Anyone would have.”
“Not everyone. Some men are more demanding.”
Sy, open your eyes.
“They are, Silas.”
I felt like I was doing something Inez might not approve of. But I was seventy-odd years old. And Inez was dead. What wrong could I do?
Sy, take a good look at that woman. She’s more than meets your silly old eyes.
Katrina moved to the window and looked out at the fog-shrouded lights.
When she crossed the room Katrina reminded me of the half-naked women on the paperback copy of Kurt Vonnegut’s The Sirens of Titan.
Where did that image come from?
Katrina tapped a fingernail on the window. “Nice to stay inside away from the fog.”
Then it dawned on me. I gulped the dregs of my Goose and tonic.
Katrina studied my reflection in the window.
“You’ve just figured me out, Silas.” Katrina chuckled like Mona unable to stifle her mirth.
“You’re… ah… ah… working the convention.” I sounded like a nincompoop.
“To state it a bit indelicately.” Mona’s smile was back in place.
“You’re a gentleman, Silas.”
“Would you like me to stay? I can skip one convention night.”
I listened for Inez. She didn’t say a thing.
“We can have another Goose and tonic.” I hoped my smile was sophisticated.
“I’ll call for a key-card later.”
“Excellent.” I wondered if the ice bucket still held some solid cubes. I wondered how to be suave.
Katrina lifted her coat from the chair and hung it in the closet. Then she sat on the bed and pulled down the zippers of her sleek leather boots.
My arthritic fingers slopped my drink.
The foggy evening at the Ritz passed.
Harold N. Walters is a dinosaur. He lives Happily Ever After in Dunville, Newfoundland — the only Canadian province with its own time zone. How cool is that?