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Exquisite Corpse
Issue 8A Journal of Letters and Life

Three Profiles
by Hariette Surovell
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Interracial Couple

On the bedroom wall of their Soho loft hung two wooden plaques. One read "Spirit of Leo" and the other, "Spirit of Gemini". The Gemini plaque was inscribed with the information that, among three other signs, Geminis are compatible with Leos; vice-versa for the Leo plaque. When you read this, you thought how fitting it was, how they did indeed seem to mesh in many ways, this former model from Pittsburgh, this Black jazz bass player. She was older than he was, and he liked the fact that she took good care of him in her slow, meticulous way. She was a pro vegetarian cook, but, as he told friends, "no rocket scientist". She was always a hard worker, though, and he admired that. When he was between gigs, she worked part-time in bakeries and in record stores, and she did so uncomplainingly. Too old to model, she was still a tall, sexy redhead, like a girl out of his childhood fantasies, and she liked to act out sexual fantasies, too. When he went on tour, he promised to be faithful, and he meant to be. But the other dudes would have thought that he was pussy-whipped, and besides, those German girls, those German girls! One was named Greta and she played electric violin. Back home, he confessed to his wife, and she accepted all. Why didn't she give him an argument, the dumb-ass bitch, he thought. That night in bed she told him she was pregnant.
     Their son was named Eric, but the Gemini called him "Little Man". He liked to swing him over his shoulders. "Little Man" had his musical genes; he was always drumming with silverware. A phonecall one day from the Gemini's manager--his band had been offered a six-month tour. Greta travelled with them. When he returned, he told the Leo he needed a woman with talent. Little Man was only one and a half years old, he hardly knew his father, so a divorce shouldn't really affect him, the Gemini rationalized.
     The Leo found herself another Gemini--a Black homicide detective who loved children.
     "I've always heard that cops have the best drugs." she told him when they met, and he proceeded to prove the truth of that rumor for years. She kept the plaques up on the bedroom wall. The cop also sometimes got annoyed with her big, passive, cow-like blue eyes, which accepted anything, which endured anything, but he didn't leave her. After all, she was a hot sexy redhead, and she took real good care of him, real good care of him.


He was a delicate old man with feathery white hair, and even though he was Jewish, he'd spent the last 17 years living in a YMCA in New Orleans. He liked living there, he had his friends, all retired gentlemen like himself, all good poker players. At this point, he could outguess their moves. But then he had a stroke, and after he recovered, his daughter was worried that he might have another one, and she wanted him living near her. Her lawyer husband bought him a co-op studio on West 90th Street in New York City. There was only one other senior citizen in the building, a Mrs. Wilensky. She was a kind-hearted lady, hard-of-hearing, not too bright. Sometimes they went to Riverside Park together. His daughter lived in Maspeth, Long Island. Every weekend his son-in-law picked him up in his maroon Cadillac Seville and silently drove him out to their house for dinner.
     The old man had three grand-daughters. They were plump, sulky teenagers who seemed to always be polishing their fingernails. His daughter had to reprimand them to say hello to their grandfather. "Get off our cases!" they'd whine.
     When it was Marcy's birthday, Grandpa brought her a blouse he'd purchased in K-Mart: white rayon with lace at the collar.
      "Here, darling, much joy to you," he said.
     "Ooh, tack-y!" Marcy replied, her expression even more sour than usual.
     The next day Grandpa went to the park with Mrs. Wilensky. "Did you have a good weekend?" he asked, when they were positioned comfortably on a bench with cans of grape soda.
     "Yes, it is the spring season," she said, nodding happily.
     Grandpa opened up his New York Post. On page four, there was a photo of a dark-haired local college girl. She had been abducted while waiting for a taxi in her hometown on spring break, then raped and stabbed to death by unknown asssailants.
     "Why are you crying? What is it, my darling?" Mrs. Wilensky asked, putting a protective arm around his shoulders. The sun burned into her astigmatic eyes like ammonia.
     "Such a beautiful girl. What a world. Those animals," Grandpa replied, shaking all over.

Island of Tropical Breezes

Yesterday, on the N train, a man sat down next to me who looked as if he were singularly trying to atone for the bad image created by this year's Puerto Rican Day Parade. Middle-aged, he was a genial sort, albeit, as Chris Rock would say, "a crazy Puerto Rican". He was wearing a Puerto Rican flag shirt, with a Miss America-type sash with a rubber frog pasted onto it. He even had a Puerto Rican pride wristband.
      I asked him why he was wearing a frog.
      He explained to me about the singing frogs in Puerto Rico, who can only exist in that climate ("Always the hurricanes blowing...") and whose females incessantly call out for sex to the males.
      "10,000 of them, everywhere you go, all night long, it's more noisier than Yonkee Stadium."
      This gave me some insight into the behavior of my cousin Lois. She had married a guy making mega-bucks in the rag trade and they began hating each other mere minutes after exchanging vows. He was as mellow as the average Canadian, she was more tightly-wound than an Internet stock trader. Anyway, they bought a crib on 79 between Park and Lex, and furnished it in exquisite taste--every ottoman cost $5K. Since they were miserable and it was the 80's, it all went up their noses. She called me up once, asking, as all my female cousins do, "How do I have an orgasm?" "How the fuck should I know???!!! Get a vibrator!" has been my consistent reply. Then she visited her father in his vacation cottage in Puerto Rico. There she met a local fisherman, moved to his one-room shack with no plumbing or electricity, and is now blissfully re-married (and, presumably, Big-O'ing) with two children.
      Next time I get one of those cousinly calls (just because my middle name is Ruth, does this make me Dr. Ruth?) I'll advise, "Why not take a vacation to San Juan ("I know a boat you can get on") and listen to 10,000 horned toads?"


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