This week’s sentence was taken from Edith Wharton’s ‘The Age of Innocence’.
‘“Tell me what you do all day,” he said, crossing his arms under his tilted-back head, and pushing his hat forward to screen the sun-dazzle.’
Central Park in the early 1960s; no mimes, no joggers, no Goddamned cellphones.
Sunny lunchtime in May.
Light so bright it bleached the sky. So fast it slammed into the lake and exploded on impact.
A million sparkling shards, flickering ricochets burning blind-spots, searing the retinas of anyone foolish enough to look.
Down by the lake: two guys in ties.
One lay back on the grass and breathed deep.
“Tell me what you do all day,” he said, crossing his arms under his tilted-back head, and pushing his hat forward to screen the sun-dazzle.
His companion sat looking the other way, watching office girls in summer frocks flounce through their lunch-break.
Greene peered up at him from under the brim of his fedora.
"I mean other than look at girls."
"I'm a commercial artist."
"No shit?" he paused, "Notwithstanding that, my question remains."
"Notwithstanding? You're kidding! Who says notwithstanding these days?"
"I do. Notwithstanding that, what do you do all day, Mister Commercial Artist?"
"I paint those." he pointed his chin at the groups of girls. "I sit all day at a drawing board and make young housewives' dreams come true."
"Son, you know jack shit about housewives' dreams."
A guilty chuckle.
"Yeah, I know. But somebody's gotta make 'em yearn for that crap."
Greene raised his head.
"Dishwashers? Rotisseries? Laundromats? Who needs a dishwasher? That's what the housewife is for. What's she gonna do after dinner? Come and yak at her husband? Leave the poor guy alone, sweetie. Wash the Goddamned dishes."
Gray shook his head, laughing softly.
"You trying to put me out of a job? The world's changing. Housewives apparently have 'leisure time' now."
"You're scaring me, kid. Cut it out."
Gray's blue eyes met Greene's brown. He smiled.
"So what do you do all day, Mister Mysterious?"
"I'm not a cop, if that's what you're worried about."
Gray looked away, relief falling off him like sweat.
"I'm pleased to hear it. Notwithstanding that, my question remains."
Greene couldn't help but laugh.
"You've got a cheek, kid. I like that."
The younger man grinned at him, raising an eyebrow coquettishly.
"Notwithstanding that …"
"You really wanna know what I do? I hang around the park cruising for queers. What do you think?"
"Well I was kinda wondering."
"I'm a writer."
Gray nodded and shifted towards him, his fingers playing with the grass.
"So, Mister Writer man. I don't see you as a crusading journalist, rousting guys like me for the gutter press. What sort of things do you write?"
"I write short stories."
Gray looked a little disappointed.
"No Great American Novel, then?"
"Not yet. Just little slices of New York life."
Gray gazed at him for a long time.
"So what am I? Research?"
"No, son; you're just a figment of my imagination."
Greene got up and stretched. Alone but for the office girls he tipped his hat to them and strolled off through the trees, disappearing into the dappled shade.