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Manhattan Transfer

with a slanting look at the woman next him. She was putting dabs of butter on bits of bread and popping them into her mouth, muttering all the while:

"I can only eat the merest snack, only the merest snack."

"That dont keep you from drinkin Mary does it?"

She let out a cackling laugh and tapped him on the shoulder with her closed fan, "O Lord, you're a card, you are."

"Allume moi ça, sporca madonna," hissed the old waiter in Emile's ear.

When he lit the lamps under the two chafing dishes on the serving table a smell of hot sherry and cream and lobster began to seep into the room. The air was hot, full of tinkle and perfume and smoke. After he had helped serve the lobster Newburg and refilled the glasses Emile leaned against the wall and ran his hand over his wet hair. His eyes slid along the plump shoulders of the woman in front of him and down the powdered back to where a tiny silver hook had come undone under the lace rushing. The baldheaded man next to her had his leg locked with hers. She was young, Emile's age, and kept looking up into the man's face with moist parted lips. It made Emile dizzy, but he couldn't stop looking.

"But what's happened to the fair Fifi?" creaked the man with the diamond stud through a mouthful of lobster. "I suppose that she made such a hit again this evening that our simple little party dont appeal to her."

"It's enough to turn any girl's head."

"Well she'll get the surprise of her young life if she expected us to wait. Haw, haw, haw," laughed the man with the diamond stud. "I never waited for anybody in my life and I'm not going to begin now."

Down the table the moonfaced man had pushed back his plate and was playing with the bracelet on the wrist of the woman beside him. "You're the perfect Gibson girl tonight, Olga."

"I'm sitting for my portrait now," she said holding up her goblet against the light.

"To Gibson?"