Gwendolyn, or Shame Intruding Briefly on Guilt

WHEN A SLINKY WOMAN came over to our table and said, “So is this the last gasp?” the fat guy called Howie stood up to say there was a place up the hill where we could get a drink. I got up too, assuming everybody at the table would want to come. But no one moved except JoEllen, the grim-faced Southerner who’d been sitting next to me.

JoEllen fell in behind me, and Howie and the slinky woman, so now I was climbing a dark road with three strangers, searching for a bar. “We’ll be there any moment if we keep walking this quickly,” Howie said, although really we were walking slowly because of the slinky woman, Gwendolyn.

I devised a series of explanations for how she walked. Theory #1: she was a very drunk woman walking uphill. Theory #2: she was a woman in high heels walking uphill. Theory #3: she was a very drunk woman in high heels walking uphill. Theory #4: while the first three theories were all true, there was also something in Gwendolyn that was more fundamentally unbalanced. Theory #5: by grabbing hold of first Howie, then me, then Howie again, then me again, for support, she was making herself the focus of our attention.

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