by Sheldon Kranz
"Martha was one of our most
brilliant students." Dorothy looked straight at Joe. "Her
Ph.D. thesis made the others look like ten year old's."
Martha chuckled. "Dottie, do you remember the night I finished it?"
Dorothy laughed. "How we went out and celebrated? Gosh, we had fun."
"Martha's eyes were bright. She looked around for a fresh cigarette.
"Joe," Dorothy said. "Give Martha a cigarette." Joe put down his drink and went
quickly over to the cigarette box. "Please," he said, offering it to
her. "Do have one." Then he put down the box and rapidly took a
cigarette lighter out of his pocket. "And a light," he said,
brightly. Dorothy stared at him.
"Well, Dottie," Martha said.
"Tell me about you two." She settled herself comfortably back in the
corner of the blue sofa.
Dorothy looked away from
Joe. I don't suppose there's much to tell. We're happy. That's about
all." She took Martha's brown hand in hers. "But I want to hear all
about you." She was conscious of Joe watching them.
"I don't suppose there's
much for me to tell, either," Martha said. "Outside of my work."
Joe kept watching them.
Dorothy took her hand out of Martha's and reached for her drink on the
low table in front of her.
"Is the university you are at large?" she asked.
"About six hundred," Martha said. "It's growing every year."
"I'm glad to hear that," Joe
said. "It's a good sign when many people want an education." Martha
smiled at him.
"Tell me," he said. "Do you
find it difficult teaching them history?"
"Why, no," Martha said. "I hadn't noticed."
"I just thought they might have trouble understanding something as
complex as that."
"But why?" Martha asked, mildly.
"Really," Dorothy said. "This sounds like a round table discussion. We ought to let
Martha forget school for awhile."
Martha blew the smoke from
her cigarette slowly upward.
"I'm sorry," Joe said. "I didn't mean to start anything."
"I understand," Martha said. "I understand perfectly."
There was silence. "Will you have another drink?" Joe asked.
"No, thanks," Martha smiled.
"One is enough for me."
The silence hung motionless.
Dorothy smoothed her hair
back with a jerky movement. "I know," she said. "Let's not stay in for
dinner. Let's eat out. We can take Martha to that new place we
discovered last week." She stopped, instantly regretting what she had
Joe took a long swallow of
his drink. "Why don't we stay in," he suggested. "We can have something
cold and then send out later for ice cream."
"But it will be fun going
out," she heard herself say. "More like a celebration."
"I just thought it might be
more pleasant staying here and talking." Joe played with his glass.
"Don't you want to go out?" she demanded.
"What Joe is trying to say,"
Martha said, quietly, "is that it might be embarrassing if we all went
into a restaurant together."
"I only wanted to save us
from any unpleasantness," Joe said.
"I never minded, even at the
university," Dorothy said. "Never."
"Let's be sensible about
this," he said. "They might refuse to serve us."
"If they refuse to serve
us," Dorothy said, in a strange voice, "we can go some place else."
"But we can stay home and
"No," Dorothy said. "No."
"Look," Martha interrupted.
"I won't be staying for dinner. I have another invitation anyway."
"You mustn't leave," Dorothy
said. Joe, tell her to stay." Her voice was shaking.