Secrets of the Lottery Winner
CHAPTER 16: THE CLUB
“You’re advancing in the world, Gari.”
You talk beautifully with your mouth stuffed, he thought.
Catherine and he were dining in the Metropolitan Club on the sixty-seventh floor of the Sear’s Tower. They were in the member’s dining room looking north over the city. Though the view was magnificent, she occupied his attention as she devoured a filet mignon. The animal was barely dead and from vengeance stained her teeth red. Gari couldn’t believe with what relish she ate, especially as she appeared quite sophisticated in her severe but finely tailored blue suit, which she wore this evening again. What a carnivore!
He was having the same. However, his was definitely dead, pink inside the way he liked it, and he wasn’t making nearly her progress cleaning his plate. He couldn’t restrain himself from comparing her to his other women. He savored the words for a moment. My women. There was a time when he simply wished for a woman; and then a time when he wished for something on the side; and now here he was with a surfeit. He couldn’t decide whether he was lucky or unlucky, for his circumstances were both wonderfully surreal and fraught with problems.
Catherine sipped her wine and stared at him expectantly. She was waiting for his response. She hadn’t asked him a question, not directly at least. But like Loretta and Emily, she required conversation. She preferred it to be back and forth and an approximately even exchange. He was already behind, she speaking two or three sentences to his one. He wished he could be like the technician in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” just step back, engage the computer, and allow it to take over this conversation.
“I can’t turn around without bumping into a raise or a promotion these days,” he contributed.
Suddenly, she reached across the table, fortunately missing his beer glass, though narrowly, and touched his hand. He wondered if she intended they slip to the privacy of under the table. Based on his experience with her, it was possible. She said, “For luck.” Retracting her hand, she added, “Now with that dose of your luck, imagine how much luckier I’ll be by tomorrow. Maybe I’ll make executive V.P.”
“Maybe,” he said.
They arrived at Union Station an hour before the twelve-thirty departure. They didn’t need another drink but there wasn’t much else to do, except perhaps camp in the Great Hall and watch the derelicts try to settle in for the night and the Metra cops hustle them back onto the streets. But Gari figured Catherine wasn’t the type who enjoyed taking the pulse of Chicago’s low-life; the Metro Deli and Cafe was a better bet with her. She ordered a wine and he a club soda, already sensing potential softness in the equipment due to excessive indulgence at the Metropolitan Club. She didn’t remark about his choice and sipped her wine contentedly. Gari allowed his change, a ten from a twenty, to float on the bar in case a single goblet didn’t measure up to her thirst.
They could see the Great Hall from their stools, and Gari aimed her attention at the seats. “See the first pew there,” he said. “That’s where I confirmed I was a lottery winner. You should have seen me. I howled like a madman.”
“You must have fit right in,” she said.
He regarded her askance. Yes, her tone put him off, as if he was deficient of the acute humor necessary to distinguish between sarcasm and weary late night commentary, and especially the kind additionally burdened and blurred by abundant drink. But upon instantaneous consideration, he discerned the fact he knew nothing of her, just what he’d garnered during two meals, two cab rides, and one bounce on an art restoration table. It was in the realm of possibility this was her manner—a woman of piercing wit. Now that would be a lifetime of trial for some slob.
In serious fashion, she expanded, “The other nuts probably took you for one of them.”
“Yeah, a regular king rat. I suppose I was lucky there wasn’t a cop around. My subjects might have turned me in for disturbing their peace.”
Before they could progress to real zings, it was time to board the Metra to Fox Lake.
Catherine, in her business suit, wore sandal slides, which he’d noticed earlier and registered as sexy: simple to slip off, perfect for rapidly preparing for sex. Though he was the type who would have enjoyed her legs around him and the shoes dangling in the air and occasionally clapping against her bare soles, punctuating his thrusts and drive to plunge deeper and faster. What she wore would probably fall off with her first turn.
He sensed he was arousing himself. He got himself under control and thought more and differently about those shoes. The damned things screamed presence, demanded attention, and would have captured it, if, unluckily, anybody had been in the station. It was twelve-fifteen and anybody he knew would certainly have been home hours earlier on a Monday night. For this he was grateful as he did not cherish being an attraction. As he’d learned in L.A., you simply never knew and the damnedest surprises could be awaiting you.
At her direction, they boarded the bi-level coach behind the engine. In it, they climbed the narrow stairs to the upper deck. They sat in the middle seats that paralleled the atrium, giving them a view of the lower level. He looked around. With five minutes to departure, the coach was empty. And when that time had expired and the engine jerked the coach forward and started squealing down the tracks into the midnight world, still nobody had entered the coach.
The coach remained theirs alone as the train lumbered and wagged into the open air. The view from up top was spectacular. They looked back on the city from the fork of the Chicago River, down the waterway through the canyon of towers, all ablaze for no reason except perhaps to accommodate the cleaning crews that crawled through them in the night. Even the drawbridges winked light at them. She slipped her arm in his and sighed softly. He figured the city lighted itself just to create a romantic panache for lovers, as well as for those like Catherine and him who were playing in the lower bases of romance.
As they approached Western Avenue, the conductor strolled into the coach and as if he’d forgotten he wasn’t on the five o’clock, yelled, “Tickets. Tickee, tickee, tickees.”
He stopped below them and Catherine said, “Hi, Jimmy.”
Jimmy replied, “Hey, Cat, long time no see. Keeping late hours again?”
Gari dug for his wallet and paid their fares, plus a couple of bucks more because he hadn’t purchased the tickets in the station, which seemed to irritate him more than he thought it should.
Jimmy lingered for chitchat and Gari couldn’t contain the speculation that began frying his brain and raising his temperature like successive lightening strikes. It was apparent they were familiar. But how familiar? What he knew of Catherine, he guessed very, intimate actually. For all he knew, Jimmy was the president of this Conductor’s Club he was about to join. Maybe he’d initiated Catherine. But maybe her trips back and forth on the train were innocent. No, not Catherine’s trips. A woman like her, she had to live in the city. Why would she be on the Fox Lake train except for an event like what he anticipated?
Jimmy was burly, taller than Gari at over six feet. He was a guy who defined barrel-chested. He owned eighteen-inch arms, huge hunks of steely meat. His belly was flat, as if he was the city’s crunch king moonlighting. His thighs strained his pants. Jimmy wasn’t the kind of guy Gari would want to excite, unless he was aching for a week’s rest in the hospital.
He wondered where President Jimmy conducted Club business. Probably in this very coach, in these very seats that would work as a narrow bed.
Jimmy wore a cap with a metal placard over the bill proclaiming “Conductor.” His short-sleeve shirt stretched in the chest and arms, testing the polyester material’s tensile strength. Keys dangled from his belt and he was armed with a single-hole puncher in a holster like a weapon. When he moved, which he was doing chatting up Catherine, he rattled.
Gary wondered if Jimmy clanged and banged and chimed when he welcomed Catherine into the Conductor’s Club. Where up top did Jimmy usher her into membership? On the very seats on which he and Catherine rested? He saw big Jimmy lying her down across four individual seats. It was night and Jimmy reflected in the windows as he undid his big locomotive belt buckle and slid down his blue polyester regulation pants, and with them his chiming keys and his holstered hole puncher. She was before him, very pretty in blue and white, hiking her skirt as Jimmy’s big hands worked off her red thong. Gari smiled as he generously gave big Jimmy credit for not inserting his fingers into Catherine. After all, back and forth, here and there on the train, with passengers from everywhere, with passengers who practiced excellent to miserable hygiene, who knew what crud had set up housekeeping under his nails, which Gari observed where long and surprisingly well tended, maybe manicured judging from their trimness and the manner in which they reflected the white light of the overhead florescent lamps. Big Jimmy mounted her and began grinding, starting slowly and increasing his thrusting as she groaned—Catherine was a noisy lover, if Gari remembered correctly, unlike Emily who whimpered girlishly, and Loretta who enjoyed a good chat and who he imagined could easily conduct a phone conversation while being pumped. As they went at it on these very seats, on which Gari now shifted with uncomfortable excitement, Jimmy and his equipment crashed like cymbals at the end of a vigorous piece of music, ever increasing in tempo and volume until they climbed to an ear piercing conclusion, and then fell into dead silence.
“Nice seeing ya, Cat,” said Jimmy, double rapping the foundation of the up top. “Got to collect tickets.”
Swaying in time to the rock of the train, Jimmy disappeared into the vestibule that divided the back and front sections of the coach.
“Good friends?” asked Gari, the words raw with irritation.
Seeing he was disturbed, she said, “Jimmy and I grew up together in Wheaton. I hadn’t seen him for years. Then when I returned from college, he was the conductor on the line running to Wheaton. I lived at home with my parents until I got a place in town.”
“Oh,” said Gari, betraying the fact he wasn’t entirely sure she’d answered his implied question.
She shook her head and tossed a coy smile at him. “Mr. Garibaldi, I believe you’re jealous.”
“Me. I was just … you know … maybe a little.”
As punctuation to the short-circuiting of his pique, the coach jerked to a stop and they docked at Western Avenue. Gari cupped a hand and peered at the platform. It was empty, actually desolate with used newspapers and candy wrappers swirling in eddies, the kind of place nobody with an ounce of sense would lounge at midnight.
Catherine pulled him away from the window. She turned him to get a straight shot at his mouth and kissed him, quickly. “Jimmy will be through in a minute,” she said, sitting back.
In seconds was the truth, for as she settled, Jimmy shouldered through the doors and into the coach.
“You guys see anybody come through here?”
“At midnight? Are you serious, Jimmy?” chuckled Catherine.
Jimmy clucked and shot them a finger pistol. “Got you covered,” he said, winking. “I think I’ll lock up just in case. See you two in Fox Lake.”
As the vestibule doors closed, Catherine stood, lolling in rhythm with the train’s bounding. She stretched left and right and up and down and Gari, already excited by his Jimmy and Cat scenario, repressed the urge to grab her. He restrained himself only because he enjoyed the undulation of her body, the slow and easy bounce of her breasts, and his memory of her well-exercised stomach rippling again in his new vision, and he didn’t want to stop her. What he held back was the desire to pull her down immediately, and stretch her over the seats and climb on board.
For a minute, she tormented him exquisitely until he feared the evening—at least the first half—would be lost as his desire to have her was quickly advancing beyond his ability to control his passion. Fortunately, she was a woman of impeccable sensitivity and timing. She stopped just shy of launching him into release. She bent to him straight from the hips and glided her mouth lightly over his, the kiss less than a touch, a brush like the fluttered wash of hummingbird wings. On the way down and up, her blouse, still as crisp as when the evening began, sagged to gravity and afforded him a view of her breasts and the valley between them, and in those seconds he thought for sure the evening would conclude.
But he was strong and it progressed. Her breath floated around and caressed his lips and spread over his face; it was soft and grape sweet and enticing and increased the difficulty of holding himself back. She further challenged his restrain by withdrawing from him, standing erect, and inching her skirt higher and higher until he saw her crimson thong, so thin it tapered to no more than string where it snuggled between her thighs, yet sufficiently substantial up top that he noted its delicate lattice design and, once focused, through it her blond hair.
She commanded him with suggestive rolls of her hips, smoothly, carefully and nicely finessed invitations. He knew exactly what she wanted. He leaned forward, grasped the thong on each side, and slowly pulled it down, down to her ankles, holding it until she stepped out of it, one foot at a time, deliberately, as if stepping out of a thong required a PhD in physics, bending her right knee and then her left, treating him to a pretty slow-motion tableau.
And there he was, holding the bag, bewildered as to what to do with … well he couldn’t call it underwear. Still riveted to her every move, the red thing burning in his hand, he knew he wasn’t returning the it to her. Instead he shoved it in the inside pocket of his suit jacket as she reached forward and guided him back with a finger, which for an instant became the whole world of his attention: her nail was manicured and coated with clear polish and mirrored the white coach light; the short nail was honed to a bowed point like the arch top of a church door jamb; her flesh was smooth, lightly tanned and cast with a sheen. In the line of this little finger, this one extended digit, he was swelling until it took every residual reserve of his will to remain inside his pants; and she gave him every reason to believe doing so would be his most important accomplishment of the day, the week, from the day in the Great Hall when he became legend as a madman.
She withdrew her finger after she had him where she wanted him; but she wasn’t finished subjecting him to pleasant torture. She took the very same finger and slid it up her thigh. His eyes fasten on it and tracked its ascent, up between her legs, where it vanished for a second. When it reappeared, it glistened anew and brighter, coated with a fragrance he could smell from back against the window. She touched him with the finger above his lips and drew a line right and then left, tracing a fine moustache on him and filling his nostrils with her scent, pungent in sharp, delirious contrast to the frangipani she wore.
With her elixir on him and in him, his brain burned and the sharp lines and the echoing hollowness of the Metra coach softened. Maybe he was no longer on the train lumbering to Fox Lake. He could have been in the city, in the Ritz, in a room with turned down lights, head against a window overlooking the town and the lake, on a satin sofa, with a mirror on the far wall in his view, and in it reflected … El Dorado. He could have been, because he couldn’t say if this was truth or illusion, not then.
She retracted her finger and bent over him, affording him another view of her breasts suspended against the drape of her blouse, still starched, a testament to her launderer—anything to forestall a premature explosion—and now coated with a fine glossy film of moisture. She pushed her lips against his and bore down, urging his lips apart with hers until she could insert her tongue, entwine his around it. With him pinned against the window, she straddled him, but didn’t come down on him; rather, she suspended herself above him, genitals over genitals. She reached down and commenced unfastening his pants. Then Jimmy’s voice blared over the intercom loud and fuzzy, yelping, “Healy. The next stop will be Healy. Only the last two cars open at Healy.”
“Don’t worry. Jimmy’s only opening two cars. Besides, nobody’s on the train on a Monday at midnight.”
He wanted to correct her, to say they were on the train; and to say you told Jimmy about this; and to say who else knows what’s we’re doing in this car; and to ask if afterwards Jimmy and his fellow conductors would hold a ceremony welcoming him into their Club; and to ask how many of them besides Jimmy—for Gari had no doubt about the old childhood friend—had had Catherine, just like him on the midnight milk run?
But then she had slid his pants and his underwear—his were the real thing, Fruit of the Loom—over his hips, past his ass, by his tumescent prick, fast approaching his knees on their way to the oblivion of his ankles. This entire time, which had seemed like years and years to him, but which had been mere seconds, she’d been wrapping her tongue around his and resting from the entwining by probing the hinter regions of his mouth, deep in the back where she nearly triggered Gari’s powerful gag reflect—doctors merely waved depressors under his nose and he choked. He fought to emit what was on his mind, what had struggled ahead of the really important stuff, such as her scent, her mouth, her breasts, and the impending instant when she would settle on him, that first glide into moist slick warmth: “I’ve got a condom in my pocket.”
She pulled slightly away from him, screwed her eyes like she was astride a lunatic—and he was bona fides in that department, wasn’t he?—and whispered, the words damp and with erotic drama and urgency: “Fuck the condom! I’m your banker.” She lowered herself onto him and the really nice thing about joining the Conductor’s Club was Metra did the work for him.