Peeping out Venetian blinds, iguana eyes appear. Pudgy fingers replace primitive emotion and wave, then vanish. Mrs. Sparks dreads both sides of this door and these days rarely enters. There was a time she enjoyed mixing it up with the guests, to see what would happen next, but now she has Jim Watson's respect for culture. The Coke machine hums and leaks on the indoor-outdoor carpet, the color of a lemon purchased at a fire sale. Dog-eared animal pictures clipped from the newspaper hang on cork board with a shifty-eyed Virgin. A holographic pabulum bubble with a pageboy sits silently so no one will notice her. Her name is Hazel and Hazel scrunches behind a desk, where she's devoid of any apparent business beyond filling ashtrays bearing Pallas Athena beneath a pile of butts. Are you..., she pips and pauses, smashing expectation. This is the expression Hazel normally reserves for schizophrenics returning from shock treatments. She rushes to the restroom to wash her hands and pray for Rich ard Burton.

Groucho Marx beckons me into his private office--private except when Mrs.Sparks wants to fuck, which is as rare as the open-door feeling of childhood. This morning it is an open kitchen door. This morning he knows he has always been who he is today. One doesn't often feel this way...less and less, the farther we grow from childhood. My mother says certain weather conditions can break your heart. Changes in temperature, fog, humidity. Many elements can change your mind, like the sight of a gorilla on a stranger's arm.

On the wall, Starving Artist seascapes made in South Korea at a clip of seven canvases per hour. Pinups of battle-weary chicks cluster around an unframed tank crew wearing gas masks. The brunette is Muriel Sparks. She was going to meet a gunner named O'Gatty and they would dance in the ashes of war. A torrid affair in the ruins of Berlin--a dancer in Bob Hope's chorus line and a decorated man. They didn't meet again for 18 years, the day the poolside picture was snapped.

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