If I could have sunk any lower, my butt would have been dragging like the anchor on a sinking ship. Through the pall of gloom that surrounded me like a gang of loan sharks on payday, I sensed rather than saw that I was missing something. There was something there, something just beyond the edge of the waiting scaffold, something that had flown by me like a snake with wings. Then…I had it. “What about the bet?”

“What?”

“You said you lost a bet.”

“Now don’t try to change the subject, Ponsie. I want to know everything. You and Mike. Give, son, or I’ll pull my skirt down.”

I sighed. In this mood, Carolyn was not to be trifled with. She smelled dirt, and with Carolyn, that’s like waving a fat haddock in front of a seal that hasn’t eaten in a month – you will hand it over or suffer a bitten ankle for an appetizer.

In any case, her threat was enough. The thought of being denied the sight of her streamlined thighs for the remainder of this endless drive – the only possible source of pure, guiltless, adolescent joy one could hope to be exposed to (as it were) on this senseless trip up the Amazon in a leaky boat with the nearest crocodile repellent three countries over – was enough to send my reticence into Sleeping Beauty mode for the duration.

“Do you mind if I tell you over dinner?” I had spotted a gleaming silver cylinder ahead with an enormous sign proclaiming with eloquent simplicity, “EATS!” I hadn’t realized until then how hungry I was.

She wrinkled her nose and I had to suppress an urge to hit it with a steam iron. “A diner, Ponsie? Really? Pickled bread and fatted calf without the calf?”

“They’re quaint,” I huffed. “Anyway, no matter how bad it is, it has to be better than the Legal Eagle and you pay big bucks to eat there. I could take you to a garbage dump if you insist on a similar quality of comestible. Pickled bread would be a step up.”

“Can’t we wait? At least until we can find a place that doesn’t feed the roaches to maintain its rustic atmosphere?”

“No we can’t. I’m starving and I suspect this may be my last meal free of interference from gorillas in orange flight suits named Bubba and One-Eye that isn’t served from a bubbling cauldron of bat’s wings and skunk testicles, and tossed into my rusty bowl with the rancid tongue of a lice-ridden ox.”

And I turned her down....“What if I undid the top two buttons of my blouse?” she purred, tickling them with the ends of her fingers as if they were keys on a particularly seductive piano.

“No!” I squeaked, casting a sidelong glance at the fingers dancing around the area that would be affected.

She jiggled them. “Three,” she moaned.

“NO!”

“What if I let you undo them?”

This was more than human flesh could bear. “Keep your mind on the key-lime pie,” I growled under my breath, and pulled into the parking lot.

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