France, she had come to America as a widow shortly after the war ended;her husband had been killed three days before the guns went silent. Oneday, alone with her in my grandmother’s shop—Dominique was foldingsilk panties, I was sitting on a stool in front of the counter, watching her —she told me she despaired of ever finding another man as wonderful asher husband had been. “I ‘ave been spoil’,
she said. Iadored her French accent. I told her that I, too, had suffered losses in mylife. And so, like cautious strangers fearful of allowing even our
to meet, we’d skirted the possibilities inherent in our chance proximity.But now—her smile.The Brothers Three was very crowded tonight. Lots of smoke andlaughter and the sound of a four-piece band coming from the other room.Piano, drums, alto saxophone, and trumpet. There was a dance floor inthe other room. I wondered if I should ask Dominique to dance. I hadnever danced with her. I tried to remember when last I’d danced withanyone.I’d been limping, yes. And a French girl whispered in my ear—thiswas after I’d got out of the hospital, it was shortly after the armistice wassigned—a French girl whispered to me in Paris that she found a man witha slight limp very sexy.
“Je trouve tres seduisante,”
She had nice
but I’m not sure I believedher. I think she was just being kind to an American doughboy who’d gotshot in the foot during the fighting around the Bois des Loges on a badday in November. I found that somewhat humiliating, getting shot in thefoot. It did not seem very heroic, getting shot in the foot. I no longer limped, but I still had the feeling that some people thought I’d shot
the goddamn foot. To get out of the 78th Division or something. As if such a thought had ever crossed my mind.Dominique kept smiling at me.Boozily.I figured she’d had too much coffee.She was wearing basic black tonight. A simple black satin, narrowin silhouette, bare of back, its neckline square and adorned with pearls, itswaistline low, its hemline falling to mid-thigh where a three-inch expanseof white flesh separated the dress from the rolled tops of her blond silk stockings. She was smoking. As were Vinnie and my grandmother.