Busy Monsters

By WILLIAM GIRALDI  |  July 20, 2011

"Oh, shit, sorry," and I hit the button and then jumped out to race around and open the door for her, chivalrous and suave, I thought, something to remember. "Wait here," I told her, "I'm getting our dinner," and I did more racing into the pizzeria.

"Vinny," I said, "how long have I been coming here?"

From behind the counter, next to the one-ton, fifty-year-old oven that was the secret to his ambrosial pies, Vinny said, "Since you a kid, a-maybe like, who knows, a-twenny year."

"That's right, Vin. Twenty years or more. And I need you right now to give birth to a delicious cheese pie, the kind that double-whammies: first the taste buds, then the heart. My nights from now on depend on it. Do you accept this mission? Because, if so, I need this godly pie in, like, five minutes," and I thumbed out the window to Gillian waiting in my Ford hybrid.

"Ahh, okay, Vinny see. You a-got it, Charlie," and he clapped his red-and-white-striped helots into action with a Sicilian tantrum.

Now, imagine this, if you will: me at the pizzeria window looking through my reflection at Gillian, who was at the passenger's window looking through her reflection at me. Get it?

Proust would give you sixty pages about those reflections but this is Connecticut and I've got to move on here.

No beer in a bar, much less sex in my car, but just the two of us perched on the top step outside her one-bedroom prefab townhouse with a cheese pie so succulent it rendered us speechless for minutes at a time. She had said that, lifesaver though I was, if I attempted anything wacky or even suggestively satanic, she'd go succubus on my ass — she had studied ninjutsu and Descartes and knew how one enhances the other — "so don't get snaky," she said — and I warmed with admiration. Here was a gal with gumption, sangfroid, with a Virginia voice that might melt wrought iron. In the driveway slept her yellow Volkswagen Beetle, the face of a whopping flower painted on the hood and testifying to goodness.

We talked and ate till midnight, the familiar chatter about childhood, siblings, and what we would buy if we won the lottery. I said, "I'd donate half the money to the children's hospital and use the other half to build a house with no other houses in view. Privacy matters."

She hinted that she was unmoved by my soppy wish to play Robin Hood for a hospital, and that if I was trying to win her approval with stories of sick kids, the donkey in me could forget it. She said she'd spend all the money on a curvy boat and a team of scientists and fishermen, trying to be the first-ever person to capture a giant squid, which no modern human has ever seen alive but about which tales abound. Astonishing! Gillian collected giant squid curiosa and could hold court with any ocean-loving dweeb in thick glasses.

"It lives," she said. "I know it. Ancient seafarers have seen it and written about it. The problem is, we think it lives at such great depths it's nearly impossible to find. Some carcasses have washed up onshore, but we need it alive. There are only a handful of scientists who have dedicated themselves to finding it. Sadly, the really big funding is scarce for the giant squid."

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