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Ambushed, by Anne DuBose Joslin

Fantasia in C Minor, Opus 64, by Zona Douthit

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“Hello, may I please speak to Greta Orbach?” he says.

It is a soft, West Texas accent, the Yes-Ma’am-No-Sir-16-ounce-
steak-We-Shall-Gather-At-The-River-Southern-Baptist kind. Over the telephone, I can picture the sun-etched wrinkles around his eyes and his worn cowboy boots. I have no idea who is on the other end, but I want to bake him an apple pie while wearing a negligee right now.

“This is she,” I say, trying to sound like a fertile compost of Scarlett O’Hara and Carly Simon.

“This is Tommy Lee Jones. I read the short story you wrote for Esquire about uh… you know, fantasizing about me.” He is shy and vulnerable and rugged and testosterone-rich at the same time.

“Oh, come on. Who is this really? Did Jeanne put you up to this?”

No, no, I wouldn’t say that. He would want to know who Jeanne is, and it’s kind of sarcastic anyway. Let’s just settle for chit-chat in which I say things to make him realize how witty and well-read I am: like a quote from Sartre — in French — until he gets to the part where he says, “Look, I’m in San Francisco making a new movie, and I was wondering if you’d like to have dinner tonight.”


Eastern Yacht Sales

Meadow View Imports

Newport Art Museum

“I know a tavern on the Embarcadero, Pier 28, the non-tourist side of town.” I’m hoping he thinks I live in a loft in The City, not subUrbia. Oh hell, he called me. Damned new area code, damned fax machines, damned cell phones. Maybe I can lead him to believe I live in Berkeley, not Walnut Creek. I laugh insouciantly, “It’s a dive, but they do great calamari, and nobody is sober enough to recognize you,” I say, hoping there will be paparazzi.

His next words, spoken in front of the silk brocade love seat in his suite at the Four Seasons, are, “You’re the woman I’ve been looking for all my life.” The Vivaldi secretly singing from hidden Bose speakers crescendos as he takes a bottle of Veuve Cliqot from the silver ice bucket and leads me into the bedroom. Of course, I’m twenty-five pounds thinner, but then, if I sold stories to Esquire, I would be.

And not champagne, I’d wake up at 3 a.m. with a headache.

“The location shoot’s over tomorrow,” he says as he brushes his lips across the top of my head. It is dawn in Baghdad by the Bay. I run my hand through his chest hair and slide my leg over his. The 800-percale Egyptian cotton sheets feel like a baby’s touch against my bare (and thirty pounds lighter) body. “I can’t leave without you. Come with me. Marry me,” he pleads.

“Let’s not ruin what we have with commitments. Why do we need to get married?” I say, knowing I’m breaking his heart. In the background, Whitney Houston is singing, “And I-ah-I-ah-I will always love you-ou-ou.”

Who am I kidding? He lives in Texas. That’s a community property state. Never mind. I have my Microsoft stock I bought in ’86. I can afford to love him for his soul. Also, it’d be Dolly Parton’s version of the song.

Then Tom Hanks says, “And the winner for outstanding actor is Tommy Lee Jones.”

The cameras capture him kissing me. I’m wearing a size-eight, gold — no, coral — silk gown, cut on the bias, but not bare shoulders. I don’t have nice shoulders. Long sleeves, draped neckline. Around my neck is the diamond and platinum necklace Tommy Lee gave me in the limo on the way to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

“And finally, I want to thank Greta Orbach, without whose support and wisdom I could never have done this role — not to mention her screenplay.” The audience laughs, and I clasp my own Oscar. Back up. “Not to mention her brilliant screenplay.”

In the rack above my head, I find a ten month old New Yorker and skim all the cartoons. There’s no clock in the room — like Vegas, so you’re not supposed to think about how much of your life is being wasted. And my legs are cold. Damn gown.

“Mom? Laura and I want you to come and live with us.” David’s smile still melts my heart just the way it did when he was a baby. “The new house in Santa Barbara has a guest cottage. It wouldn’t seem like a home without you there.”

“Oh, Darling, I can’t butt into your life.” At sixty, I still walk three miles a day and for some reason no longer need arch supports.

“We insist,” Laura, my beautiful, intelligent, kind daughter-in-law says. “We want the children to know you and love you like we do.”

“Well, the light in Santa Barbara is wonderful. I could paint there as well as in San Francisco.”

“I’ll build a studio just for you.” David hugs me. Being a software mogul — no, financier — he can afford it.

“You could read to the children and bake cookies to your heart’s content,” Laura coos.

It’s the week before Christmas. I’m in a thousand square foot kitchen overlooking the sapphire Pacific. Frank Sinatra is crooning “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” Three grandchildren — the girl named for me — hang off tall stools with red and green icing on their fingers and faces and elbows. The baby looks just like the one I once had so many Christmases ago.

How could David ever have a Christmas without me? Tears sting my eyes. Don’t go there, Greta. I blot my eyes on the hem of the gown and leave behind mascara smears. Serves them right for making me wait so long. They probably boil these things anyway.

Peace Corps at forty-seven? Wait, forty-nine, then David’ll be in college. I wonder if the ABA will still be looking for people to go to Bosnia or Kazakstan to rewrite the criminal code? Neither outfit wants a divorce lawyer, I suppose. Tibetan nun? Face it, Greta, you don’t have what it takes for Calcutta. Are Buddhist nuns celibate? Divorced, middle-aged divorce lawyers are. What would be so different?

The thin, god-like air of Tibet, dirt floored, daub and wattle hut — no, stone; what was I thinking? — meditating three times a day, subsisting off cheese made from the milk of direct descendents of Noah’s goats, teaching children in felt boots to read Beatrix Potter.

“Ms. Orbach?” The doctor knocks, opens the door, and speaks at the same instant. He reaches between his legs and pulls a little rolling stool under himself just as he sits down. This guy seems so efficient, and yet he’s running forty-five minutes late.

“Sorry I’m running late.”

No he’s not.

“The test results were inconclusive.” He’s very busy reading my chart. “I’m going to send you out for a CT scan, and we might have to do a biopsy, depending on what we find.”

He doesn’t waste words, and yet he’s running forty-five minutes late.

“The nurse will schedule the CT scan for you.”

Not his nurse? Not my nurse? The nurse.

“There’s no point in worrying too much until…”

Tommy Lee wraps his arms around me. We melt into a soul-searching kiss. We’re on a ridge overlooking his Texas ranch. The wind is blowing all the way from Saskatchewan, but I’m not cold because Tommy Lee is holding me inside his sheepskin jacket.


God Bless America© 2003 Timshel Literature