The Rock

A Story

by Ann Beattie

When Jenla said she needed a ride to Miami, I told her to talk to The Boyfriends. Almost every night you could find them clustered in various kitchens while the party was going on around the pool or on the terrace, trading gossip about why so-and-so was really there without her husband; gathering information about the cutest doctors to see for allergies and Botox; rolling their eyes about their older companion’s eccentricities.

From time to time they’d stroll through the party and stand politely at their mate’s side for a while—or wander away, if that seemed better—and every so often one would dive into the pool to be a little provocative and get some fun going, though more often they stayed out of things. They were there to listen to the caterer’s instructions when food was dropped off (“This with this. Okay.”) and to transfer any food on a plastic platter to one that was silver, or perhaps Italian pottery. Though other people usually cleaned up afterward, they’d still hang around because there would be much more to discuss, and—occasionally Vogueing, or a bit numb-tongued from drink—the names and ideas thrown out for discussion earlier would settle into that night’s mosaic of how the world was. There was some intrigue, but for the most part they were about the same age, almost equally attractive (though differing in type), and they ranged from good to excellent in terms of how to keep a low profile and still make a party work. If someone was needed for valet parking, one of them would get right on it. If people came dressed more informally than expected, they’d immediately dress down, themselves, jokingly tucking their ties in their pockets like tropical handkerchiefs.

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