Polk, my accountant, calls. It's a panic-call. I must meet him at The Barbary now. Since I made good with Polk (see 'Valentine's Day Polk', 'The Neverending Polk', 'The Frycroft Street Operation') I've been eager to continue the payments on positive relations. He's my accountant. He can make deductions appear. I tell him I'll be there no later than soon.

Polk is thirty-five years old, short, with the physique of a minor geometric postulate. He is a devoted accountant with a loyal clientele. And he's been looking for Mrs. Polk since he walked out of Oliver Stone's JFK.

"A single bullet. Killed Kennedy. I do not want to be. Single no more."

None of us understood the connection. But we respected his right to make it. Since that moment he has pursued the Single Wife Theory.

At the Barbary I'm seated beside Polk. Polk is seated beside me. We are both seated in front of an attractive brunette. "Hi, I'm Mona." Whose name is Mona. "Hi, I'm Mona."

Polk is on a date with Mona and used his one lifeline to bring me in. In advance of the date they negotiated one lifeline each just in case. Polk was in a just in case situation.

"Polk. What do you need? What can I do?"

"Take my place."

"Not sure I understand. You want me-"

"Take my place."

"To replace you on the date?"

Polk nods.

"But why? She's attractive, seems like a decent person."

"Not for me."


"Finished with your lifeline consultation, Polk?" Mona says

"Yes. I must go. To the bathroom." Polk picks up his jacket and leaves in the opposite direction from the bathroom. We watch him go out the front doors.

"He's not coming back is he?" Mona says.


"So you're his date-replacement?"


"I need to call my lifeline." She gets on her phone and says something to somebody."He'll be here soon," she says. "Okay." But really I'm feeling a bit hurt. She didn't even give me a chance. My first date-replacement gig. Cut short. Not the way this country was built. Date-replacement gigs going long...that's the backbone of this nation.

"So Mona. What do you do?" 

"Can't talk until lifeline gets here. It's the rules."

Polk owes me. Next tax season he better come up with some creative new deductions starting with this date. Hmm, wine's tasty. This knife is kinda cool...I wonder how many people were using this knife when their partner said, "It's over. I'm seeing somebody else. Please return my coffee pods."

Mona and I sit across from each other like we're two candidates for the same job. A plain looking doughy man comes up to Mona. They kiss.

"This is my boyfriend Charlie. He's my lifeline." Mona says.


"You got it." Charlie says with the mien of a vacuum cleaner salesman.

"You know she's on a date, right?" I remind him.

"Absolutely. We figure... only way to improve our relationship is to practice in other relationships while we're in our relatonship. Mona's involved with three other men right now. You would be four. What she learns from those relationships she brings back to our relationship. Same the other way. It's all about the learning. The growing. The getting better. At us." He and Mona shared a smile.

"Three other guys?"

"It's exhausting but at the same time rewarding. For instance, I got into a fight with boyfriend number two, Jalala, about listening. I didn't think Jalala was a careful considerate listener. He thought I talked too much nonesuch...he called it nonesuch...that I should get to the point  quicker. Charlie agreed. So now I get to the point quicker. Charlie sent Jalala a thank you fruit basket but the guards took all the fruit. "


"Jalala is in prison doing a life sentence for killing his second wife."

"Let me guess, she talked too much." I say.

"How did you know?"

"Lucky guess," I say.

"Mona called I knew she'd hooked a live one. Mona's got good instincts."

"How did you know Polk would call his lifeline?"

"I told him to," Mona says.

"How'd you know it'd be me?"

"I did my research." Mona smiles in a way that makes me think of the girl in The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo. I hope she doesn't use the word cunnilingus in any context.

"I gotta call my lifeline," I say.

Ten uncomfortable minutes later Violet shows up. She sizes up the situation and characters.

"Listen you creeps, I'm taking my friend out. Don't even think of following." She fake lunges causing them to clutch each other like in the middle of a gale.

At the bar later I ask Violet if she wants to know the details. She shoots me a look like I just insulted her grandmother's afgan, takes a swig from a glass of Jack and says,


Like I expected.