Violet Dollop had never been the sort of woman who had made much use of housekeeping hints or cooking tips by professionals, whether Martha Stewart’s or the ones in the Food & Drink magazines published by the LCBO.  Now, suddenly, she was assiduously buying Martha Stewart cookbooks and respectfully downloading Martha’s emails, as well as collecting and filing Food and Drink issues every time she saw them in the store. 
     Lately, there wasn’t a time when, as Tom left to get some beer or a bottle of wine, Violet wouldn’t sing out from the kitchen, “Don’t forget to see if they have a new Food & Drink!”  He always did forget.  Which annoyed her considerably because they only printed so many copies and they went fast and when they were gone they were gone.
     “I think it’s just a quarterly,” she said to Tom.
     “What is?”
     “Food and Drink.”
     Tom had no idea what she was talking about.
     “The food magazine I ask you to pick up at the LCBO.”
     “Ah,” said Tom.
     “So that’s why you have to pick one up as soon as they come in.”
     “Sure,” said Tom. “I can see that.”
     Violet knew perfectly well Tom hadn’t followed any of what she’d said.
     “You can see what?” she asked him.
     “About the LCBO,” Tom replied.
     Violet went back to her sewing room.

     Mayor Cass Tamburlaine was pacing his vast, softly carpeted floor of his office.  His Isolation tank sat heavily in the middle of the room like a hippopotamus in a tropical river.  He gazed at it for a moment or two and then called Joy Pommery, his sometime mistress.  Her phone rang softly—three times.  On the fourth ring she picked up.
     “Why Cass, how nice to hear from you.  And it’s not even three in the morning!”
    “Yeh.  What are you doing?”
     “Well, actually, dear, I’m with a client.”  Joy was a psychotherapist with an electronics company located, for the time being, out near the airport.
     “When will you be through?”
     “In a couple of hours.  Why?”
     “I’ve been getting more death threats in the mail.”
     “More of those pretty ones—the Old Master paintings?”
     “I don’t find them so goddam pretty.”
     “I suppose not.”
    “Listen, remember your friend, the fashion-model-detective?”
     “Coal Blackstone.”
     “Yeh.  Can you get hold of her again for me?
     “Don’t you have her number?”
     “I dunno, I must have thrown it out.  I’d really like to talk to her.”
     Joy tells him the number again.
     “Write it down somewhere where you won’t lose it.”
     “I have.”
     “Were did you write it?”
     There was a breathy pause.
     “On my thigh,” he told her. “I wrote it on my thigh.”
     “Oh Cass, “laughed Joy, “are you naked in the office again?

     Michael finally bid farewell to Bliss Carmen and her painter and short-order-cook boyfriend, Homer Rubik, and making way back out onto the fire escape outside of Homer’s unwholesome, maliferous studio, gratefully took a big lungful of clean air.  Bliss had followed him outside.
     “So whatdyathink, Zorba?  Isn’t he great?”
     “Well, he certainly can draw and paint.  He’s skilful.”
     “Fuckin’ right!” boomed Bliss.  “But is he a great artist?”
     “Well, not yet of course.  Why,” Michael asked her, “are you in a hurry?”
     “Yeh, a big hurry!”
     “How come?”
     “I’m not getting any younger,” Bliss told him.  “Homer neither.”
     Michael was puzzled. 
     “What do you have…some cutoff date by which Homer should be famous?”
     Famous and,” Bliss added—rather coyly, Michael thought—“wealthy.”
     “I see.”
     “You think he has the stuff?” Bliss persisted.
     “I don’t know.”
     “Well he better,” Bliss muttered darkly.

     May sat in the bookstore, hoping that, on such a wet, sleety afternoon, nobody would come in.  She had the store all to herself this afternoon.  She was sitting at the desk, her copy of John Cowper Powys’s Wolf Solent open in front of her.  She was sipping from a glass of hot green tea.  It was cool in the store and the steam was rising from the glass.
     “A species of deep, lethargic numbness to everything except the immediate suggestion of his voice and touch seemed to have taken possession of her”, she read.  “His arm round her. Her cream-coloured cloak hanging loose, her cheeks pale, she let herself be led across the intervening tract of grass to the open door of the little shed….”
     “A little shed,” she mused aloud.  “A sweet little shed where I could go with Michael.  Across an intervening tract of grass.  A cream-coloured cloak….” 
     Just then the bell over the door jangled and a tall, elderly man entered the store.  He smiled at her.  She attempted to smile back pleasantly.
     “Do you by any chance have books by Alice Munro?” he asked her.
     “Many” she said, getting up to lead him to the Canadian fiction section. 
     After a little while, he came to the desk with three or four volumes of Munro’s short stories.
     “And what are you reading?” he asked her pleasantly.
     “Michael” she said absently.

     Coal Blackstone lay happily exhausted in the arms of her favourite photographer and part-time lover, Lincoln Ford.  She looked very white, Linc thought, against the black sheets.  White, almost to the point of iridescence.  Abalone shell.
     “Beautiful,” Linc whispered in her ear, repositioning a damp wisp of her jet-black hair that had ended up glued to her cheek.  “You’re exquisite.”
     “Oh I bet you say that to all the high-fashion models you’ve just had meaningful congress with,” Coal laughed, toying ineffectually with the rivulet of curly black hair that meandered down Linc’s stomach.
     “Sure, all the time,” Linc smirked, “but…well, I don’t often use the word ‘irridescent’.”
     “What do you mean? You didn’t use it with me either.”
     “I didn’t?”
     “That’s funny.  I was thinking it.   I was also thinking ‘Abalone shell’.”
     “You were?  That’s nice.  You didn’t say that either.”
     “I guess I figured they were sort of fancy-dancy ways of describing you, and that they might sound a bit silly.  I wouldn’t want you laughing at me!”
     “Not in bed anyhow,” smiled Coal. 
     “That’s right,” he said, deftly clasping her left knee.
     “You planning on moving your hand up or down?” she asked him winsomely.
     “I hadn’t decided yet,” Linc told her.  “Geez, how much planning do you think I actually put into our times together?  Being in bed with you isn’t like taking your photograph, you know.”
     “No?” Coal giggled.  “I thought it was all love love love, no matter what you were doing!”
     Linc scowled.
     “You keep talking like that and I’m going to take back my Abalone shell,” he said.