Born and raised in Finland, Arndt spent the best (if not the longest) part of his life in Madrid, Spain, and just completed his PhD in Philosophy from the University of Zurich, Switzerland. His writing has appeared in Literary Fragments, Kulttuurivihkot (Finland), Southern Cross Review, the EOTU Ezine, Word Riot, and Slow Trains Literary Journal.
"How's that again? Howard...?"
"Mr. Howard Locke." Franklin Thomas cleared his throat uneasily.
"Oh, of course," Daniel bowed slightly. "Mr. Howard Locke, hello. Hel-loe. How's John doing?"
Wallcott, who'd just come up to them, bent forward laughing.
"Yes, well." Mr. Locke, hands on his back, looked straight into the air. "Actually, I hadn't heard that one lately."
"No, no. I'm sure you hadn't," Daniel said. "Noe, noe."
He turned again to Franklin Thomas. "Very nice party. Nice people. What are we celebrating here?"
Franklin Thomas looked around the company, showing signs of some embarrassment.
"Mr. Howard Locke promotes his latest novel, Daniel."
"Oh, indeed? Oeh yes. Yes, I liked the sequence with the gull, Mr. Locke. Or was that Lock-ee, sir?"
Daniel bowed again slightly to the pleasantly gray man dressed in a black Fred Perry shirt and dark blue trousers. Howard Locke still kept his hands behind his back. He didn't drink.
"The sequence with the gull?"
"Yes, exactly. It shows a very vivid feeling for description, I would say. I must admit I find your book...yes, well. Quite charming." Mr. Locke inclined his head a little; Wallcott laughed.
"Excuse me, Franklin. Gentlemen." Daniel passed his eyes around the group. "There's Vivian. I'll see you gentlemen again."
He withdrew towards the exit of the room, across the crowd, bowing slightly, not presenting them his back.
"Danny Wepfer?" Wallcott laughed. "Where does the guy dig up a suit, I hear he's living on the street?"
"Yeah, beats me," Franklin Thomas shook his head.
"I don't know why you invited him at all," Howard Locke said.
"But I didn't. He just insists on turning up, I don't know how he gets the word. I really don't. Anyway, I couldn't leave him out there calling at the door."
"What does he do then lately, Franklin?"
"Oh, nothing now. He had some good pieces before but then he never got them out. He's not the type, you know. Not the one who'd push his way sweeping dead bodies left and right Howard Locke pointed a somber look at Franklin's face although his early stuff did have that certain quality. After that he's done nothing, as far as anybody knows. The business with his wife got to him pretty bad."
"Oh yes. Oh, sure," Wallcott assented with his head. He caught a glimpse of Danny Wepfer's sun-bleached hair in the next room.
Daniel felt he'd need a Dimple, he asked the bartender for one. "Straight," he said. "Or make that two Dimples rather."
"A double, sir?"
"No. Two. Vivian will be here any second, she'll appreciate the gesture. She's been working late, you see."
The bartender reached up and took the bottle from a rack, looking the customer over. He passed the drinks without a word.
"Very good," Daniel thanked him.
Yes, that's perfect, Daniel thought, drifting away from the counter. He'd always liked the taste of Dimple, naturally, it's no secret. And the design of the bottle, he'd always liked that design too; he sucked his upper lip gently, giving his face a thoughtful streak. They'd always had one of those bottles in their house, he remembered.
"Excuse me, sir. Sih. Excuse me." He was addressing a group seemingly absorbed in studying the pictures in a folio size illustrated book... no. Noe, noe. An author's portrait on the back flap of a hard-cover novel; he was rising on his toes to see into their midst. "Sih one of the men forming the group turned a blank face towards Daniel could you direct me to the men's room, sih?"
"It's upstairs," the man told him.
"Well, yes. Of course."
Daniel went up; all the time while he was climbing up the stairs a pretty girl in the small group he'd been addressing held her eyes on him.
"Who on earth was that?" she said.
"No idea. But he was looking for the men's room, as he claimed."
"Let's hope he finds it, poor bastard," somebody laughed, a bit too loud.
"What would anybody do bringing two drinks to the men's room?"
"Yes, what? You tell me that, Annah."
"Was Howard Locke actually stationed in Beijing? That's what it says right here," another man who'd joined the group wondered.
"Well, stationed. From what I know he was employed there at the Embassy some time. These spy freaks people love inventing things about themselves."
"Oh, honey," Daniel said, upstairs. "Be a dear, honey, hon-ney, and hold these drinks for me while I..." It was a woman with black hair, around forty and very, ver-ry beautiful, tight-fitting evening gown which let the outlines of her legs stand out deliciously.
"... Only one second while I hurry to the john."
When he returned a woman in an evening gown so tight it showed the flat of the triangle high between her thighs deliciously through the glossed fabric smiled at him, holding two drinks. Daniel smiled back -why now, hel-loe!- and went downstairs; he felt he'd need a Dimple now. He asked the bartender for one. Hadn't they always had a fine bottle of Dimple in their house, mainly because of its design? Although of course he'd always liked the taste as well, it's no secret.
"A Dimple? One or two?" the barman asked him, with a smile.
"One," Daniel said.
"What about your wife then, sir? Won't she be having one as well?"
"Vivian? That's right, she will. Do you mind much, Bub, if I sit down a while and wait for her?"
The barman looked him in the face, what's with this character, he thought. Daniel's gaze had frozen on him.
"It's a bar, that's what we're here for I suppose," he shrugged.
"You're not married then yourself I'd think, or are you?"
"What makes you think I'm not married? Of course I'm married. Sure I am."
"Is your wife always on time?"
The barman stopped drying a tumbler he had picked out of the sink. "Okay, sir. No," he smiled again.
Daniel tasted his Dimple, he found it very good indeed.
"You know," Daniel said, turning an open face towards the bartender. "We're waiting for good news, it should arrive now any day. The kind of news that in the end makes all the difference. We'll have that news confirmed and then we'll dance, the three of us together."
"The three of you?"
"My wife, myself and Catcher, no one else allowed. That's how it goes, you get good news and then you dance spontaneously."
He'd had that nightmare again lately, he wondered why it still hung with him. They're waiting for the news (waiting... waiting... ) and when it comes it's always bad. Bad news, always bad news; they wait and wait and wait: once it's a book, once it's a job, but every time the news is bad. He's the bearer of bad news, he has to clench his teeth and tell her sorry, Viv, I'm really sorry and he knows instead of dancing what she'll do is cry. God, how it wears him out to see her cry. How it can hurt. They'll never get the chance to dance, the three of them, they only wait although in time they know it's hopeless, all the news he gets is bad. He really wished she'd come already, what the hell was keeping her?
"There she is."
Daniel got up. "Thanks, Bub," he said. "Thanks very much for bearing with me."
The barman watched him with surprise: Between forty and fifty years of age, very good looking in a kind of hardened way, no fat but tall and slim, a tan you're used to see on fishermen and bums. He might be under forty really, that strain hidden in his eyes made him look older. Competent looking yes, the mark of strong decisions in his moves.
What's with the 'Bub,' the barman wondered to himself, that didn't fit.
Up on the stage Franklin Thomas hosted a live broadcast talk show with Howard Locke. Mr. Locke made a short speech, very relaxed, and answered questions; Franklin Thomas' questions, questions from the audience. Daniel joined in and clapped his hands politely as they finished. What about that Dimple, Bub, he felt he'd need a Dimple now. Hadn't they had a bottle always in their house, for the design? He really wished his wife would come, what the hell kept her?
"Come on, Danny. I'll drop you off somewhere." That's Wallcott shuffling up to him, hands in the pockets of his slacks. "Where are you headed?"
"There's Vivian. Hey, thanks, Wallcott. I think we'll rather walk."
He opened way between the groups still crowding in the outer room. How he could use that Dimple now, damn it. And, yes. And dance. Viv and him and the Catcher, nobody else allowed.
"Hey, listen. Wally."
"What?" Wallcott turned, jerking his chin questioningly.
"The weather's great, so we'll just walk. Thanks anyway, okay?"
"Sure," Wallcott said. "Where's he going?" he asked Franklin Thomas.
"Yeah, where? How should I know?"