Sex In The Afternoon

by Willard Manus

Linda! The very thought of her name put a charge into Irwin Farber’s battery.

They’d met at the bullfights. He was sitting in the “Sol” section of the arena, surrounded by thousands of swarthy guys in moustaches and sombreros, when she appeared in the entranceway. This achingly beautiful girl with long strawberry-blonde hair, stood blinking in the sunlight, looking round for her seat.

Then she headed his way, checking her ticket as she drew closer. And the next thing he knew, she was sitting down beside him. Fate had brought her to him. This golden girl, the girl of his dreams, had materialized right before his eyes!

She was pleased to discover that he was a fellow American. Before long, they were chatting and laughing animatedly.

The connection between them deepened as the bullfights commenced. Having spent six months in Mexico–-and read Hemingway’s “Death in the Afternoon”–-Irwin could pretend to be an expert, explain what the passes and rituals meant. And as the cheers, shouts and music rang out and the sun poured down on them, he knew from the look in her eyes that they were going to sleep together that night. Flushed with a wave of love and warmth, he felt a rare sense of happiness.

Things went so well that she agreed to give up her hotel and move in with him. They’d been together for a week now, here in his rooftop shack, which was the cheapest room in his boardinghouse, seven bucks a night with breakfast included.

They’d got along well despite the small size of the shack, which was normally occupied by the criada, the maid. But he’d made a deal with Mrs Mulligan, the stout, red-faced American woman who owned the boardinghouse along with her Mexican husband. He’d agreed to rent the shack for a year in return for a minimal charge.

Irwin had come to like it up here, where despite the heat and lack of running water he’d made a home for himself. Clad in shorts, flip-flops and a faded NY Giants baseball cap, he had the whole rooftop for himself. He’d sit down at a table, unpack his Royal portable, and spend the mornings working on his novel. It didn’t matter that he had to climb down a ladder every time he needed to take a piss. He felt free up here, free to do as he damn pleased, with no one to complain about the noise his typewriter made.

Fortunately, Linda was okay with all of that. She found the rooftop, the isolation, the primitiveness, to be romantic in a Bohemian kind of way, something out of an Italian opera.

She slept late most days, then heated up a pot of coffee and walked naked to where he was working, handed him a cup and kissed him. Then she climbed into a hammock and lay in the shade sipping her brew and reading one of the novels he’d brought with him to Mexico City, “Germinal” by Emile Zola. It pleased him just to know that she was nearby.

Later, when the sun moved overhead and the tar paper beneath their feet began to get sticky, she’d go to him, take him by the hand and lead him to the shack, where they’d make love, sweating profusely while Miles Davis’ “Sketches of Spain” played on his record-player.

Then one morning she put on a dress and went off to American Express to pick up her mail. When she returned a few hours later, she looked upset. When he asked what was wrong, she gave a heavy sigh and said, “It’s time for me to leave.”

It was like being hit in the head by an errant fastball. Stunned, dizzied, Irwin fought to get his equilibrium back. Finally he managed to question her.

“I need to get back to work,” was her response.

“Wait a minute. I thought you had quit your job back in New York and were happy to do nothing for a while.”

“All that’s changed now.”

“How come?”

She fell silent, bit her lip, then cried out. “Shit, why does life have to be so fucking difficult?”

He waited her to explain. It took her some time to finally blurt out the truth. “I’m a call girl, an expensive call girl.”

Irwin’s throat grew tight; he felt sick to his stomach again. Then he managed to stand and walk around shakily. “I don’t get it,” he said. “If you’re this big-time hooker, what in hell are you doing up here with me?”

“It’s been a good place to hide out.”

“From what?”

She sat looking grim and glum. Then she confided that she’d been part of a stable of New York call-girls working for a guy named Mickey Jellicoe. He was a rich boy; his family manufactured most of the toilet bowls in the USA. He dipped into his trust fund and used the money to become a pimp.

“Why would he do such a stupid thing?”

“For the kicks,” Linda replied. “He gets off supplying his rich pals with beautiful young women.”

“How long did you work for him?”

“Nearly three years.”

“And you were okay with that?”

“Are you kidding? I averaged a thousand bucks a night.” She paused, then said, “Then Mickey got busted. It was a big scandal, in all the newspapers.”

“Sorry. I’ve been out of the loop, living here in Mexico City.”

She nodded understandingly, then continued, “I didn’t want to get named in the scandal. So I took off for Mexico before the cops could find me and arrest me.”

“If you’re a fugitive, why do you want to go back to New York?”

“There was a letter at Amex from a friend of mine. The trial ended a week ago. Mickey was found guilty of pandering and sentenced to prison. End of case.”

“Are you sure it’s safe for you to return?”

She nodded.

“What’ll you do when you’re back in New York?”

“I’ll start working again, of course.”

“But Jellicoe is in jail. How will you manage?”

“I started hustling when I was eighteen. I built up a clientele. It won’t be hard for me to get back in the game again.”

He gave a pained sigh. “This is just about the worst fucking thing that’s ever happened to me.” Then he got up and crossed to the ice chest for a couple of beers, asking, “Why’d you wait all this time to level with me?”

“I didn’t want to hurt you.”

“That’s not much of an excuse.”

“I also didn’t think things between us would get that serious.”

“What do you mean? I told you from day one that I was in love with you.”

“Lots of men have said that to me. I’ve learned not to put much trust in remarks like that.”

“Those men were your clients. I’m different. I’m your boyfriend, not one of your johns.”

“That’s true. We do have something special here.”

“Then how in hell can you even think of leaving?”

Tears appeared in her eyes. “Please, Irwin–-don’t get mad at me.”

He drank long and hard. “Sorry. But I simply don’t understand why you’re willing to go back on the hustle.”

“It’s the life I’ve chosen for myself.”

“Come on. You’re a smart girl. There are plenty of other things you could do.”

“Name one.”

“You could become a model.”

“Pose all day with a shit-eating grin on my face? No thanks.”

“Okay then–-an actress.”

“I can’t act. I don’t want to act.”

“You’d rather peddle your ass for a living?”

“Five more years. That’s all I need. Five more years and I’ll be able to quit the game for good.”

He drained the last of his beer, then put the bottle down and asked, “I don’t get it. How’s it possible that my Corn Goddess turned out to be a hooker?”

“What did you just call me?”

“A hooker.”

“Before that.”

“Corn Goddess.”


“You’re my fantasy girl, Linda. I’ve got to cop to it. You’re the girl who has lived in my head ever since I was a kid on the Bronx streets.”

She frowned. “How could I possibly live up to your expectations? No woman could.”

“But you already have, that’s the point. You’re everything I want in a woman.”

He reached out and took her by the hand.

“Please don’t leave me.”

“I’m sorry, but–-“

”We’ve had a great week, you said it yourself, how happy you were.”

“It’s the truth. But the fairy tale is over. Cinderella needs to get back to the kitchen.”

“No, goddammit, no!” He took hold of her, tightly, desperately. “You can’t leave, you can’t!”

“Irwin, let go of me. You’re hurting me!”

“No, dammit. No!”

She broke free, hauled off and slapped him.

He fell back into a chair. “I’m sorry,” he groaned finally. “I’m acting like a real asshole.”

They sat silently for a long while. Then Irwin said, “ Think objectively for a minute. You’re in a risky business. You know that better than I do. You flirt with danger all the time: disease–-“

”I’m careful.”


She reached into her handbag and pulled out a small pistol.

“I’m prepared for that as well.”

“Jesus,” he cried out. “I don’t believe this!”

“Meet a working-girl’s best friend,” Linda said.

“Put that thing away, will you?”

She set the pistol down on the table.

“Have you ever used it?” he asked.

“Only once. I didn’t need to pull the trigger, just pointed it at the john. He almost shit his pants.”

“What happens if you’re in trouble and can’t reach your ‘best friend’ in time?”

“It hasn’t happened yet.”

“But it could happen, right?”

“Five more years, Irwin. That’s all I need. Five more years.”

Silence again. He looked at her, so lovely and alluring with all that golden hair cascading down her back.

Then he picked up the pistol and shouted, “If you leave me, I’ll shoot myself, I swear it, I’ll kill myself!”

She reached out.

“Oh Jesus, oh God! Give me that gun, Irwin, give it to me!”


He put the pistol to his head. She screamed, “Put it down, goddammit!”

Finally, he obeyed. He slowly put the pistol down on the table. They sat staring at each other for the longest time, not saying a word. Tears streamed down her face.