He reached New Texas City at midnight.
He halted before the Deluxe Beauty Salon, yelling.
He expected her to rush out, all perfume, all laughter.
“She’s asleep.” He walked to the door. “Here I am!” he called. “Hello, Genevieve!”
The town lay in double moonlit silence. Somewhere a wind flapped a canvas awning.
He swung the glass door wide and stepped in.
“Hey!” He laughed uneasily. “Don’t hide! I know you’re here!”
He searched every booth.
He found a tiny handkerchief on the floor. It smelled so good he almost lost his balance. “Genevieve,” he said.
He drove the car through the empty streets but saw nothing. “If this is a practical joke … ”
He slowed the car. “Wait a minute. We were cut off. Maybe she drove to Marlin Village while I was driving here! She probably took the old Sea Road. We missed each other during the day. How’d she know I’d come get her? I didn’t say I would. And she was so afraid when the phone died that she rushed to Marlin Village to find me! And here I am, by God, what a fool I am!”
Giving the horn a blow, he shot out of town.
He drove all night. He thought, What if she isn’t in Marlin Village waiting, when I arrive?
He wouldn’t think of that. She must be there. And he would run up and hold her and perhaps even kiss her, once, on the lips.
Genevieve, sweet Genevieve, he whistled, stepping it up to one hundred miles an hour.
Marlin Village was quiet at dawn. Yellow lights were still burning in several stores, and a juke box that had played steadily for one hundred hours finally, with a crackle of electricity, ceased, making the silence complete. The sun warmed the streets and warmed the cold and vacant sky.
Walter turned down Main Street, the car lights still on, honking the horn a double toot, six times at one corner, six times at another. He peered at the store names. His face was white and tired, and his hands slid on the sweaty steering wheel.
“Genevieve!” he called in the empty street.
The door to a beauty salon opened.
“Genevieve!” He stopped the car.
Genevieve Selsor stood in the open door of the salon as he ran across the street. A box of cream chocolates lay open in her arms. Her fingers, cuddling it, were plump and pallid. Her face, as he stepped into the light, was round and thick, and her eyes were like two immense eggs stuck into a white mess of bread dough. Her legs were as big around as the stumps of trees, and she moved with an ungainly shuffle. Her hair was an indiscriminate shade of brown that had been made and remade, it appeared, as a nest for birds. She had no lips at all and compensated this by stenciling on a large red, greasy mouth that now popped open in delight, now shut in sudden alarm. She had plucked her brows to thin antenna lines.
Walter stopped. His smile dissolved. He stood looking at her.
She dropped her candy box to the sidewalk.
“Are you—Genevieve Selsor?” His ears rang.
“Are you Walter Griff?” she asked.
“Gripp,” she corrected herself.
“How do you do,” he said with a restrained voice.
“How do you do.” She shook his hand.
Her fingers were sticky with chocolate.
“Well,” said Walter Gripp.
“What?” asked Genevieve Selsor.
“I just said, ‘Well,’” said Walter.
It was nine o’clock at night. They had spent the day picnicking, and for supper he had prepared a filet mignon which she didn’t like because it was too rare, so he broiled it some more and it was too much broiled or fried or something. He laughed and said, “We’ll see a movie!” She said okay and put her chocolaty fingers on his elbow. But all she wanted to see was a fifty-year-old film of Clark Gable. “Doesn’t he just kill you?” She giggled. “Doesn’t he kill you, now?” The film ended. “Run it off again,” she commanded. “Again?” he asked. “Again,” she said. And when he returned she snuggled up and put her paws all over him. “You’re not quite what I expected, but you’re nice,” she admitted. “Thanks,” he said, swallowing. “Oh, that Gable,” she said, and pinched his leg. “Ouch,” he said.