I T ALL BEGAN INNOCENTLY enough; I wanted to get laid. So when Candy and Ralph said we were invited to a party over in Dunewood I said fine, wait while I change. Ralph said, "There'll be some singles there," and Candy stuck her tongue out at me behind Ralph's back.
I put on white slacks and a pink shirt and we headed barefoot down Central Walk toward Dunewood. Fire Island, two P.M. , Sunday, August fourth. Sun straight up in a cloudless sky, air hot and smelling of ocean, rows of little houses lined up along the boardwalks stretching across the island from bay to beach. Children were everywhere, on bicycles and on foot, running wild because Fire Island doesn't permit any automobiles.
All the houses in Dunewood look alike, except for the colors. The one we wanted was up near the beach, and the music could be heard three blocks away. The owner had built an extralarge deck on the back of his place so he could tell it from all the others, and it was full of people dancing and drinking and shouting at each other over the music. Suntanned women in bikinis and big dark glasses dancing to rock music; how they moved it all around. "I guess I'll go get acquainted," I said.
"Do have a wonderful time," Candy said. Couldn't Ralph hear the spite in her voice, couldn't he figure out what was going on? (Or what had been going on, until he'd stopped going to the office.)
Apparently not. His face stayed as open and unsuspecting as a girls' choir in bandit territory. Giving me a grin and a friendly poke in the arm, he said, "Go get 'em, Art." He envied me my bachelor's access to women, the poor schnook; I wondered if he'd still envy me if he knew my main access the last six months had been to his wife.
What Ralph didn't know couldn't hurt me. "Bye-bye," I said, and drifted away from the happy couple, off to find a substitute for Candy. I do have a sweet tooth.
The place to meet women is by the liquor. Whoever my host might be, he was no piker; gin, vodka, rum, and enough tonic to float a loan. The table was already a sticky mass of mangled lemon parts, but who cared? Not me. "Thank God," I said to the big-titted brunette beside me. "No sangria."
Her sunglasses left just enough of her face exposed to show me she was grinning. "Picky, aren't you?" she said.
"Absolutely. And I pick you. Let's dance."
So we danced for a while. Her bikini was dark blue and her flesh was tanned the color of brandy. Perspiration trickled down from her throat, sun-glistening lines leading down into the soft cleft between her breasts, and I wanted to taste her. Salt is always welcome after too many sweets.
There were brief pauses between tunes, longer pauses between LPs. In one of those longer waits she put a warm damp hand on my forearm and said, "Listen, man, why don't we lie this one out?"
"Sure," I said. "You had enough?"
"I haven't had this much exercise," she said, "since my pony ran away."
So we walked over to the railing as the music started again, and she said, "Be a hero, will you? Get us a couple drinks."
"Sure. What's yours?"
"Vodka," she said.
"Ice and a glass and a big wet kiss," she said.
I went away to the liquor and almost didn't go back, because women who talk that strong in front almost never follow through; it's the quiet ones that mean business. On the other hand, a girl drinking vodka straight was a very hopeful sign. Also, nobody really appealing was at the bar when I got there, so I made myself a rum and tonic, and filled another plastic glass with vodka and ice, and went back to the girl in the dark blue bikini. How different things would have been if some other piece had attracted my attention right then.
But none did, and my first choice was still alone at the rail. I gave her the glass and stood picking at my wet shirt. Now that I wasn't dancing, I coul