Zombie post while I am in NYC!
Usually I am all in favor of casting against type, but I draw the line when it comes to Meg Ryan as a brilliant heart surgeon (City of Angels), a boxing manager (Against the Ropes), or a math whiz who happens to be the niece of Albert Einstein (I.Q.). Not that a woman can’t be smart and successful in a man’s world if she happens to be tooth-achingly cute, spunky and blonde with perfectly wavy honey-gold highlights. It’s a logical possibility, right? But Meg is one of those actresses we love best when her appearance matches the role. I liked her in Sleepless in Seattle and French Kiss. And I loved her co-stars.
I have almost given up on romantic comedies. These days, they tend to be poorly written, unfunny, crude, and utterly lacking in sexual chemistry. What has happened to the brilliant rom-coms of yesteryear, Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, Doris Day and Rock Hudson, Cary Grant and Anyone? (Sigh.) Meg Ryan made some of the last good ones, but they were pale shadows of their predecessors.
25. Risky Business
On Wednesday evening, Ellen called Tina to check on her. “How have you been getting along, since the… the event?” she asked.
“Okay. I’ve not been sleeping well,” said Tina. “But I’m not changing my mind about reporting it, if that’s what you’re up to.”
“No, no! I only want to make sure you’re okay. I feel a certain responsibility, you know. It happened at my place, and I keep thinking that maybe I could have prevented it.”
“No. It wasn’t your fault. It’s his fault, and the more I think about this, the more angry I get. Ellen, I feel as though I’ve been living in some bad dream, ever since Bryan died— trying to drown my sorrows in alcohol and sex. But when this happened, it woke me up. I could end up going down a very bad road, and I don’t want that for myself.”
“So what will you do?”
“I’m going to give myself a one-drink limit, for starters, and I’m seeing a therapist. But there’s more. I’d like to have a committed relationship again.”
“Does that mean you’ll quit the group?”
“I don’t know,” replied Tina. “Not immediately. But once we figure out who did this, I’ll be able to put it behind me. I’ll be ready to get on with my life.”
“I’m glad.” After a moment, Ellen went on, “Emily says we should set up a sting, to see if the rapist will try it again. Is that idea okay with you? I know you don’t hold me responsible, but I want to volunteer.”
“It’s probably our best shot,” said Tina. “But are you sure about this? What if something goes wrong?”
“It won’t,” said Ellen, sounding more optimistic than she felt. “You’ll all be there.”
“Thanks. This means a lot to me.”
Thursday evening was devoted to a special meeting at Kim’s place to discuss strategy. The women ordered Spicy Green Beans and General Tso’s chicken from a neighborhood place, and Ellen brought a big bowl of her own Szechuan noodle salad with peanuts and shredded vegetables. Emily supplied a couple of six-packs of Tsingtao beer.
“All right, ladies,” began Kim. “Ellen says she’s willing. Are there any other volunteers?” The room was silent as they all looked around the table.
“What if he… the rapist, I mean… what if he’s not interested in me?” asked Ellen, her face reddening. “After all, I don’t have Tina’s, um, measurements.”
“That’s not how rapists think,” said Kim. “Opportunity creates a thief. Most rapists aren’t focused on how a particular woman looks. Instead, they see a chance to steal a copulation and they take it. Now, where should we set it up? We can’t have it at Ellen’s.”
“Why not?” asked Val. “Her place has the best floorplan for a sting.”
“Duh, Val!” Emily’s tone was sarcastic. “Ellen can’t very well be the host. I suppose you’d be just fine with everyone partying on at your place after you passed out?”
“Actually, I’d be cool with it,” snapped Val. “I don’t know why you all took off after I cut my hand that time. I had way too much food left over.”
Emily smiled sweetly. “The sight of all that blood didn’t do much for my appetite. And Gerry the Drummer could hardly get out of there fast enough. After we revived him, that is. I was searching your medicine cabinet for smelling salts.” As Val glared at her, a babble arose over the etiquette of dealing with an incapacitated host.
“I have a setup that would work,” Tina piped up, and they all fell silent. “I haven’t invited anyone before, for personal reasons. But I have a house in Upper Darby. There’s a living room on one side, where I could set out the food, and on the other side of the kitchen are the bath and bedrooms.”
“So if someone excused himself to use the bathroom, he could slip into a bedroom without being seen,” said Emily. “That’s perfect. Don’t worry, Ellen. We’ll be there for you.” Ellen smiled a little tremulously at Emily. If this worked, it would be worth the anxiety it was causing her. The General Tso’s chicken was already congealing in her stomach like a lump of lead.
Tina said, “I have a guest room right across from the bath, and Ellen can crash there. Someone’s got to hide in there with her, to make sure she’s safe, and confront him, if he tries anything.”
“I’ll do it,” said Emily. “I’ll pretend I’m not going to come. You can say I caught the norovirus.”
“It’s settled, then,” said Kim. “A week from from Friday. And that brings us to tomorrow night at Cooper’s Cavern. I suggest that we pay special attention to Jaime, Hector and Hugh. Flirt with them. Get them worked up, but leave them burning for next week.
“We’ll need some excuse to avoid hooking up,” said Emily. “I know! What if we get to talking about movies, and then decide to leave in a group to watch something— some movie that men would hate. What do men really hate?”
“Romantic comedies,” said Val. “Maybe a Meg Ryan film festival featuring You’ve Got Mail, and that awful one where she played a brain surgeon.” This drew an objection from Tina, whose favorite movie was You’ve Got Mail. “Charlie liked it too. He told me so.”
“Okay, then anything with a bridal theme. Bridezillas. Bride Wars, My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Runaway Bride,” suggested Emily.
“God yes, those make me want to vomit,” said Kim. “Some of you can use that excuse and the rest can say you’re going to get up early for a Bikram yoga session at sunrise.”
Val looked a little crestfallen. “So none of us gets to have sex tomorrow night?”
Emily relented and gave her a sympathetic look. “Gerry the Drummer’s been ruled out. If he stops by, you can go home with him.”
Val brightened. “And Angus is in the clear. He’s always after you these days. Have you told him about your spanking fetish?”
“Not yet.” Emily scowled; Ellen knew she disliked the term fetish. Before Val could respond, she said “Hey, Kim, didn’t some fortune cookies come with our order?”
Kim pointed to the brown delivery bag. Inside was a packet of individually wrapped cookies, which Emily distributed. “Okay, remember to add ‘in bed’ to your fortune. Tina, what does yours say?”
“You are well equipped for success… in bed!” Tina giggled and turned to Ellen. “You next.”
“A new wardrobe will bring joy to your life.” Ellen raised an eyebrow. “I guess I’m overdue for a trip to Victoria’s Secret.”
Val cracked open her cookie and smilingly read, “A powerful new position awaits you… in bed.” This drew whistles and cheers.
“An extra hand is always appreciated,” read Kim.
Finally it was Emily’s turn. She was holding her slip in her hand, eyes closed. Now she opened it and read, “Your dearest wish will come true.”
Copyright 2016 by Linnet Moss
Notes: The screwball element of the story is growing stronger now, as the women set up a “sting.” Clearly their knowledge of entrapping criminals is based on extensive viewing of Robert Redford and Paul Newman films. Well, you can’t argue with their taste.
The Fortune Cookie Game is something I learned about only a few years ago. I don’t know whether you have it in other countries, but it gives a bit of extra savor to a Chinese restaurant meal. And the cookies are very good with tea.