“You promised me a naked hot young man, and you’d better deliver on that promise, Mr. Clean.”
Gerald Wright wasn’t quite sure he’d really heard that. Did the sweet old lady who wore sequined white tennis shoes that matched her pink cardigan really say—
“I didn’t pay $149 for this art class to play with pears and apples and make ashtrays out of clay. I want some man candy to ogle.”
Oh yeah. Heard it loud and clear.
Gerald Wright looked up slowly from his clipboard, eyelids in place, eyeballs doing the work as he met the steely glare of a woman old enough to have voted for Roosevelt.
Maybe even Theodore Roosevelt.
“Class doesn’t start for five minutes, ma’am. Cool your jets.” He took a good look at her. He’d seen holy men in Afghanistan with fewer wrinkles. Eyes sunken deep into weathered flesh, she had a twisted, puckered mouth, moved with slow intent, and wore a pink t-shirt with white lettering across the chest that said, “My Breasts Used To Be This High.”
Without thinking, he looked down and saw that along the hemline the shirt said, “Ha! Made You Look.”
“I haven’t had to cool my jets in forty years. My jet hormones left along with all my tight skin,” she said, jiggling her arms. The woman had batwings.
Gerald nearly ducked.
“Agnes!” Another older woman appeared behind the old lady, hobbling on a metallic walker with yellow tennis balls covering the front two posts. She wore a blonde wig with feathered hair. Gerald tried not to do a double take, because the wig looked exactly like hair from that old ‘70s show, Charlie’s Angels. Bright red lipstick completed the look.
“Quit pestering the nice young man.” She stopped and gave Gerald a once over. “You look like Kojak.”
Agnes blinked hard. With no eyelashes, she looked like a baby bird. A very wrinkled, ornery baby bird with a mouth like a sailor. “He doesn’t look like Kojak! Get with the program, Corrine. Kojak sucked on a lollipop. This one looks like that other bald actor.”
Gerald ran a palm against his shaved head and tried not to groan. He searched the class list. Yup. There they were: Agnes Duchamp and Corrine Morris.
And the magic words: Paid. In. Full.
It was going to be a long eight weeks.
“What other bald actor?” Corrine asked, squinting. She flashed Gerald a great big flirty smile, so full of life he couldn’t help but smile back.
“You know. The one in that movie about the boy who saw dead people.”
“The two of them at the pottery wheel, having sex?”
“The one who was the captain of that new Star Trek show?”
“Agnes, I don’t have all day to sit here playing Celebrity Alzheimer’s with you. Which bald actor does this art teacher—what’s your name?” Corrine pursed her lips as she asked the unexpected question, making Gerald sigh.
“Gerald. Gerald Wright.”
“Gerald!” Agnes laughed. “What kind of name is that for a bald sculptor? Sounds like an accountant.”
“Don’t blame me, ma’am. My parents picked it.”
“They must be wildcats. What’d they name your sister? Iphigenia?”
He opened his mouth to defend Victoria, his BASE-jumping, outdoor-survivalist-instructor little sis, but stopped himself.
“Like you should talk, Agnes,” Corrine snapped, pointing at her friend. “People with old lady names shouldn’t cast stones.”
Agnes scowled, layers of skin folding in on each other, like origami. “What actor does he look like?” Agnes demanded of her friend, who reached up to her ear and fiddled with her earring, giving Gerald another bright smile he couldn’t help but return.
“What?” Corrine asked Agnes sweetly.
“What actor does Gerald the Accountant look like?”
“What?” Corrine began moving like a turtle on speed toward the front of the room. A bumper sticker wrapped around one of the posts of her walker said, I Brake for Naked Hitchhikers with Guitars.
“Damn it, Corrine, you turned off your hearing aid again, didn’t you?”
“What?” Corrine winked at him.
He was starting to like her.
“You’re lucky you’re still recovering from that surgery, Corrine, or I’d punch you.”
“You punch me, and I won’t share my lorazepam with you for those long weekends when your son-in-law comes to visit. You know. The one who wants to put you in a home?”
Agnes shut up.
As the two old ladies took their places in the front row, at the table directly before the model’s platform, Gerald greeted incoming students. So many new faces. He was lucky to get eight students per class, but tonight’s roster showed twenty-seven.
The new marketing intern in the office was doing a bang-up job.
Woman after woman, most of them over fifty, began to assemble, buzzing with excitement, taking their places at the carefully spaced tables in the room.
“Gerald!” Stacy, one of the other interns in the art center’s office, waved to him from the doorway. “You need more chairs? We have some walk-ins.”
“Walk-ins? We never have walk-ins.” Gerald strode across the room as the women in the front row hissed at each other under their breath, some kind of argument brewing.
“We do today!” Stacy had a high, squeaky voice when she was excited, a mouth full of braces, and more freckles than common sense. She was a good kid, twirling her blonde ponytail, eyes wide with an eagerness to please. “I think the total will come close to thirty.”