"No, silly. Forget it," I tell her. "I'll make them. Thanks."
"I'll do it," she says.
"No. No," I say, waving her off. "Be a doll and just get me a Perrier, okay?"
"You look nice today," she says before leaving.
She's right, but I'm not saying anything - just staring across the office at the George Stubbs painting that hangs on the wall, wondering if I should move it, thinking maybe it's too close to the Aiwa AM/FM stereo receiver and the dual cassette recorder and the semiautomatic belt-drive turntable, the graphic equalizer, the matching bookshelf speakers, all in twilight blue to match the color scheme of the office. The Stubbs painting should probably go over the life-size Doberman that's in the corner ($700 at Beauty and the Beast in Trump Tower) or maybe it would look better over the Pacrizinni antique table that sits next to the Doberman. I get up and move all these sporting magazines from the forties - they cost me thirty bucks apiece - that I bought at Funchies, Bunkers, Gaks and Gleeks, and then I lift the Stubbs painting off the wall and balance it on the table then sit back at my desk and fiddle with the pencils I keep in a vintage German beer stein I got from Man-tiques. The Stubbs looks good in either place. A reproduction Black Forest umbrella stand ($675 at Hubert des Forges) sits in an other corner without, I'm just noticing, any umbrellas in it.
I put a Paul Butterfield tape in the cassette player, sit back at the desk and flip through last week's Sports Illustrated, but can't concentrate. I keep thinking about that damn tanning bed Van Patten has and I'm moved to pick up the phone and buzz jean.
"Yes?" she answers.
"Jean. Listen, keep your eyes open for a tanning bed, okay?"
"What?" she asks - incredulously, I'm sure, but she's still probably smiling.
"You know. A tanning bed," I repeat casually. "For a... tan."
"Okay..., " she says hesitantly. "Anything else?"
"And, oh shit, yeah. Remind me to return the videotapes I rented last night back to the store." I start to open and close the sterling silver cigar holder that sits by the phone.
"Anything else?" she asks, and then, flirtatiously, "How about that Perrier?"
"Yeah. That sounds good. And Jean?"
"Yes," she says, and I'm relieved by her patience.
"You don't think I'm crazy?" I ask. "I mean for wanting a tanning bed?"
There's a pause and then, "Well, it is a little unusual," she admits, and I can tell she is choosing her words very carefully. "But no, of course not. I mean how else are you going to keep up that devilishly handsome skin tone?"
"Good girl," I say before hanging up. I have a great secretary.
She comes into the office five minutes later with the Perrier, a wedge of lime and the Ransom file, which she did not need to bring, and I am vaguely touched by her almost total devotion to me. I can't help but be flattered.
"You have a table at Camols at twelve-thirty," she announces as she pours the Perrier into a glass tumbler. "Nonsmoking section."
"Don't wear that outfit again," I say, looking her over quickly. "Thanks for the Ransom file."
"Um..." She stalls, about to hand me the Perrier, and asks, "What? I didn't hear you," before setting the drink on my desk.
"I said," and I repeat myself calmly, grinning, "do not wear that outfit again. Wear a dress. A skirt or something."
She stands there only a little stunned, and after she looks down at herself, she smiles like some kind of cretin. "You don't like this, I take it," she says humbly.
"Come on," I say, sipping my Perrier. "You're prettier than that."
'Thanks, Patrick," she says sarcastically, though I bet tomorrow she'll be wearing a dress. The phone on her desk rings. I tell her I'm not here. She turns to leave.
"And high heels," I mention. "I like high heels."
She shakes her head good-naturedly as she exits, shutting my door behind her. I take out a Panasonic pocket watch with a three-inch diagonal color TV and an AM/FM radio and try to find something to watch, hopefully Jeopardy!, before turning to my computer terminal.
The health club I belong to, Xclusive, is private and located four blocks from my apartment on the Upper West Side. In the two years since I signed up as a member, it has been remodeled three times and though they carry the latest weight machines (Nautilus, Universal, Keiser) they have a vast array of free weights which I like to use also. The club has ten courts for tennis and racquetball, aerobics classes, four aerobic dance studios, two swimming pools, Lifecycles, a Gravitron machine, rowing machines, treadmills, cross-country skiing machines, one-on-one training, cardiovascular evaluations, personalized programs, massage, sauna and steam rooms, a sun deck, tanning booths and a cafe with a juice bar, all of it designed by J. J. Vogel, who designed the new Norman Prager club, Petty's. Membership runs five thousand dollars annually.