Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world . . . but if you watch the skies for long enough, I reflected, sooner or later an attractive new planet will swim into your ken. Bogart would have known the feeling; tall and willowy, she was the kind of woman who made you suspect that testosterone deficiency was yet another illusory drug company construct rather than a real disease.
“You requested a second opinion on Mrs Magee and her arthritis,” she said, lips pouting in a way I was pretty sure they didn’t teach in rheumatology school.
“Let’s drive, baby,” I said.
Leaving town, I saw three thugs harassing an old lady in a wheelchair. I chased them away, giving one a good clip on the ear.
“Pour encourager les autres,” I explained, in my best Serge Gainsbourg.
“Vous parlez Français?” she said, Jane Birkin metaphorically riding up on a scooter, Red Riding Hood ready for her sexual awakening.
“Un petit peu,” I said modestly.
We were driving along a sun dappled country road past genetically modified cows, when I braked suddenly; before she could protest I was already returning to the car, cradling a tiny kitten in my arms.
“The poor thing was abandoned in the middle of the road,” I said, wrapping the kitten in a blanket improvised from an obsolete swine flu protective suit (we have only thousands left), “but I know a little gal who lost a puppy a few weeks ago; she’ll give her a good home.”
At the house (luckily Mrs Magee’s buxom niece Sally was not around; that could have been awkward—I hate women fighting over me) she confirmed my diagnosis. “Your doctor was right,” she said, “nothing functional or airy fairy here, definitely a case of systemic lupus erythematosus!”
“Isn’t he always,” said Mrs Magee, handing over her protection money. I palmed the cash and slipped her some antibiotics.
On the way back I stopped, taking out my mandolin and a hamper full of smoked salmon and champagne. “Had we but all the earth and time / Then Lady, coyness were no crime,” I whispered. Her lips tasted of oranges and wine, and we made love on a bed of autumn leaves and magic mushrooms, her soft cries of ecstasy counterpointed by the hungry mewing of the kitten.
“My firm-buttocked Achilles,” she murmured throatily, “Will I see you tonight?”
“I never plan that far ahead,” I said.
“What kind of man are you?” she wondered.
“A man like any other,” I said, Narcissus now rampant, “only more so.”