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I love him regardless, Monica managed to reply, calmly reaching for a mint.
Because himself deaf, agreed Ursula.
I love my husband, notwithstanding himself hearing, insisted Janice.
Thought myself too, Ursula frowned. But that book said 99 percent, makes me wonder.
Believe book? cried Janice in astonishment.
Psychologist wrote, protested Ursula.
Ph.D.! laughed Professor Stumpt. Wish people read and believe my book about pennies.
Psychologist himself deaf? Hearing? inquired Monica.
Book says nothing. Probably hearing. But Ph.D.—
Ph.D. nothing! Not impress me! Janice announced hotly. My husband wonderful, no-matter hearing. I cherish him!
My husband too, Ursula agreed, but 99 percent!
Ninety-nine percent absurd, invented number!
Can’t fool statistics—
Psychologists themselves confused, divorce, divorce, suicide, alcoholism—
Mortima’s eyes narrowed. She remembered the secret hidden in her bosom, her plan to catch Lyson at some secret she knew he would succumb into her power to keep quiet.
That book itself true science! Research! Serious! Ursula protested.
Myself counsel deaf all day, every-day, Charity cut in. Noticed myself that most percentage marriage trouble truly between male, female. Women suffer too-much frustration, no-matter deaf, hearing. Men too-much macho!
Doctor Stumpt laughed and said, his signs alive with irony, Men truly bigheaded. Won’t listen to me, think my book frivolous, not worth reading!
Lyson agrees with you, Mary said dryly. Kind-of. His own—She began a cranking motion around an ear but caught herself.
Gene Owles, whispered Janice to Monica, her hands low and out of sight. But Mortima was all-seeing and saw all.
Darling, giggled Monica. See him?
Janice took a quick look around and met the stare from Mortima. She dropped her hands lower and made a remark out of Mortima’s sight that tickled Monica very much.
Gene Owles! That old satyr with the rear half of a horse and the devil’s smirk out front. Everyone knew about him. Broken hearts dumped in gutters drowning in rivers of tears. No shame, no wife to amuse, no more morals than a dog and proud of it, too. Mortima well knew about him. He never so much as gave her tail a sniff, let alone deign to look at her. Quite beyond the power of her wagging fingers.
Mortima shivered with excitement. At long last a topic teetering on the edge of scandal, grabbing the attention of everyone—how many here have known him?—now all eyes are upon the one who is speaking of him. The conversation was so hot and riveting, her opportunity finally arrived, the kind that does not arise when conversation is dull and eyes are casting about. And Mary’s were on her whenever possible but just now, finally, were chasing Gene Owles’s name flying on fingertips about the room. Lyson’s door is where the action is. Mortima knew, just knew, where pay dirt could be found. She slipped out of her chair and, despite her bulk and laboring buttocks, glided on tiny steps behind the chair to the door. Her dark dress melted into the shadows at the edge of the room, masking trembling fingers that drew from her bosom the key, and before anyone noticed the empty chair, she was in the den.