A storyby Scott Spencer
An hour later I was with Sigrid. You know what would be nicest for me? I said to her. I had allowed myself to be seated in a therapeutically designed chair, and now my knees were up as high as my chin. I would have to struggle if I wanted to stand. Sigrid sat across from me. She had a spacious, friendly face, polite, reserved, with little tugs of resignation at the corners of her mouth. Her dark brown hair framed her pale oval face. There was something transparent in her, plain, but a plainness that was alluring, the plainness of something unmarked, undiscovered, a stoical, pioneer plainness. She looked like a woman stuck in a ho-hum job, in a car-rental kiosk or a bank. She was dressed in a dark skirt and a white blouse, as if she had stopped to have sex with me on her way to work.
No, what would be nicest? Was she mocking me? Her voice was foggy, thick. I wasn’t quite sure how I had ended up with her. As soon as the minivan had arrived at the hotel, the men had been shepherded into a conference room on the ground floor of the Royal Reykjavík, a room with a blue and white carpet and dark purple draperies, recessed lighting. A buffet breakfast had been put out for us, and we ate nervously. The women were already there, waiting. At first, I couldn’t tell one from the other; they were all simply beautiful. A basket full of kittens, just as Castle had promised, but most of the men were unexpectedly reticent, diffident. The Metal Men, Webb, and Cobb all gravitated toward a sturdy-looking blonde with bright lips and fingernails, long curling eyelashes, dressed in a silver jumpsuit; she looked as if on the days she wasn’t working as a prostitute she was a superhero. The others seemed to be milling about, as if waiting to be chosen. I had expected it to be like the Oklahoma land grab, yee-haw, hats waving, spurs digging into horseflesh, the native population running for their lives. Instead, the guys circled the buffet table, slowly filling their plates with scrambled eggs and bacon, little triangles of cheese with caraway seeds, tomatoes grilled to black.