Between bites of her salad, she rattles off all the books she’s been reading for her classes. He stays quiet, sips his candy-flavored cocktail from a fishbowl glass that matches his fishbowl belly. He stares at her. Her lips are much too full, her skirt much too short. It isn’t like how it used to be. Even in the air conditioning, the heat radiating in from the windows is almost unbearable. He sweats through his shirt; his head glistens between the remaining strands of his gray hair.
“Is anything wrong, Grandpa?”
“No, sweetie. It’s just a little hot.”
“No kidding. 118 degrees. It’s insane.”
He laughs. She puts her smooth hand with its carefully manicured nails on top of his old wrinkled one. He tugs it away.
“Okay, something is wrong. Spit it out.”
He doesn’t respond.
“My grandfather, Howie Ryder, at a loss for words? Impossible.”
“Well…just think of how it must look, Suzanna.”
“What do you mean?”
“You know. Ugly fat old man, pretty young lady, alone for dinner. They probably think I’m paying you.”
“I’m just saying. That’s what it might look like.”
“Well, you must be a pretty nice John, buying me fancy dinner.”
“I don’t think it’s all that common, Gramps.”
“How would you know?”
She sits up straighter in her chair and gazes into the murky plum of her wine glass.
Only she would. She would know. He knows she would know because he saw her. Not her, exactly, but he saw her picture on a card. The last time he came to visit.
He was walking from the Monte Carlo to Caesars Palace, and it was hot, and he was surrounded by tourists and those little brown presences who everyone’s ashamed to look directly. They flicked and tapped their cards at him relentlessly; he finally snatched one just to get it out of his face. He tossed it to the sidewalk to be trampled like so many others. When he glanced down, however, he was met not with the face of some nameless slut unworthy of an identity, but with a topless photo of his beautiful granddaughter—the very same granddaughter for whom he’d bought popsicles on Sunday mornings after church, the granddaughter who had always asked him for help with her math homework, the granddaughter he’d vowed to protect when she came to study in Vegas.
This is the other story I wrote during my recent trip to Vegas. Back to the CTA tomorrow. Of course, soon it will be ALL Vegas stories. I move the first week of August. I can't believe it's so soon. I've been trying to figure out how to contain the PTKY stories out there. Here they're (almost) all on the CTA. So maybe I could do the Strip out there? That's probably where the most interesting-looking people would be. I doubt I'll be spending much time there what with all my studies, but I could head there a few times a month, jot down a bunch of character sketches, and write the stories back in my apartment. What do you all think? Any thoughts?