Big Blonde Lollipop



Jerome Turken


It was already past nine by the time he finally pulled out of the company parking lot.  When he made the left on Bruckner Boulevard one of those big orange lollipops of a moon came into view directly in front of him, so low in the sky you got the idea you could reach out and touch it.  It appeared again when he hit the FDR Drive, and riding downtown he watched it shift across the sky, floating in and out of his line of vision as he took the curves.  Funny, that’s what he called her too, a big blonde lollipop.

He almost couldn’t believe she was real when he first caught sight of her at that dance.  It was as if some blurred image of an ideal girl that he’d been carrying around in some pocket of his mind like an old photograph since he was thirteen, had come into focus all of a sudden and stepped right out of his head, and there she was, talking, laughing, dancing.  There seemed to be a halo following her as she moved around the floor.  Watching her, he half expected to see right through her, like an apparition in the movies.  He never let her out of his sight for too long but, fool that he was, he never asked her to dance either.  This peacock with a pomp haircomb was sticking to her like a leech.  He seemed to be keeping her entertained—the trace of boredom that he was watching for never came into her face.  It just never seemed right for him to walk over and break in.  That was six, seven weeks ago.  Three times he’d gone back there hoping to run into her again but she never showed up.  That’s what he had in mind for tonight too, but he had to stay late to get some design drawings checked out for the shop tomorrow.

Never seemed right to break in!  So what do you do?  Spend the whole evening sneaking around the place, lurking in corners, just to look at her?  What a dimwit! You should have been aggressive.  Why couldn’t you just walk right over and ask her to dance.  No, you stand there watching and waiting, watching and waiting, for two hours, right up to the end of the last dance.  He even watched them leave together.

What, six, seven weeks?  There were still Christmas decorations up in the place.  Jesus, you watch a girl from a distance for a couple of hours and she’s on your mind morning noon and night for three months?  You can hardly even  remember her face.  Shifting around to be Johnny on the spot just in case she ditched the guy, he’d get close enough to hear her voice.  She wasn’t one of those dry‑mouths, she juiced out her words.  Shoo‑er, that’s how she said sure.  Those lips, what do you call fleshy, pouting lips like that?  Succulent?  Shoo‑er.  What a smile, toothy and big‑mouthed.  When she laughed she had a way of throwing her head back and animating those blonde tresses that knocked him out.  Her face had almost sole occupation of his head for two whole days, then he lost it. Not quite lost it.  He just couldn’t get it back exactly.  She kind of merged into Joan Blondell.

It was bumper to bumper all the way downtown.  Approaching the Catherine Street Exit for the Manhattan Bridge he slowed down and threw his signal light on to get into the right hand lane. The fool behind him kept gesticulating like a maniac.  In his rearview mirror he could see him mouthing, Close it up, come on, close it up, stupid!  The grille of his car wasn’t even visible, that’s how close he was.

The guy she was with looked like one of these conceited clucks.  He wasn’t even that good‑looking. He had beady eyes and a long nose and a little French gigolo-style mustache under it.  Aah, you should have walked right over and asked her to dance, what did you have to lose?  Whenever it comes to a girl you really go for you get paralyzed. Outside after the dance he caught sight of them walking down the street and actually followed, just to keep her in sight that much longer.  She had a lively, lilting step and a little swag of the hips that was nicely accented by the shifting folds in her coat.  What legs.  They weren’t what you’d call dainty; they were more athletic, like a dancer’s.  And she was tall, almost as tall as the guy, and he wasn’t small.  He followed them for three blocks right to the guy’s car, a brand‑new one, and passed them as the guy was helping her in.

On The Bowery waiting for the light to make the turn for the bridge he decided, what the hell.  It was only nine‑thirty.  Grab a quick bite then drop in and take a look, who knows, maybe he’d get lucky.  When the light changed he kept going straight up toward Washington Square.  He found a parking spot right on Waverly Place and started out for Sixth Avenue.

The admissions table had already been put away so he hung his coat in a rack in the foyer and walked in.  He almost walked into her!  She was standing just inside the doorway in a group of two girls and four guys, one of whom had his hand on her back.  How could he have forgotten that face?  He took a stool at the soft drink bar on the other side of the doorway and dropped a quarter into a money bowl and poured himself a glass of punch.  Her hair was pinned up this time, with little wispy bangs fringed on her forehead.  She was wearing a light blue velvet dress that was tight from the waste up.  The other girl was almost a head shorter and was dressed in black, including her stockings.  Her skirt was almost ankle length, and strings upon strings of colored beads covered her chest.  The blonde’s eyes were wandering beyond the group to other parts of the room, and more than once met his, he was sure of it. Was that a hint of a smile in her face?  Try me, maybe?  Or just a bit of girlish vanity at scoring up another admirer?

The next record was a slow one and the guy asked her to dance.  He was a bit of a character.  He did it very formally, rigid as a toy soldier, holding his hand out and bowing slightly.  How connected is she to him?  Look at the way he keeps leaning to her neck and whispering in her ear.  What’s he telling her, how gorgeous she is?  When the dance ended the guy kept his hand on her back as if he were afraid she would escape. At their place she picked her handbag off a chair and said something to the guy, and then she was walking in his direction, toward the entry.  It looked as though she were walking across a stage followed by a spotlight, that’s how much of a standout she was.  As she passed she gave him a little glance, and there was that problem smile again.  And then she was through the doorway.  Clod!  He lets her go right by. He watched her walk past the coat rack, probably to the ladies room.  Would she leave afterward?  Maybe she was just walking away from the guy.  But he was standing there waiting like he expected her to come right back.

With one eye on the coat rack in case she was leaving, he waited for her to return.  Should he be cute?  Excuse me, where were you the night of the murder?  Pardon me, did you happen to see a penguin walking around out there?  No, keep it simple.  Just go over and ask her to dance.  If she’s leaving introduce yourself.  Just be straightforward.  You were watching her, would she like to have a cup of coffee, or something.  If she’s not receptive go home and go to sleep.

She was gone almost ten minutes—he timed her.  When she finally re‑appeared in the entry he slid off the stool to intercept her without even knowing what was going to come out of his mouth beyond excuse me or hello. But then she dumbfounded him by walking right over to him.  It was like being approached by a glowing chandelier.

“Excuse me,” she said, reaching for a punch glass, her soft, fleshy arm right under his nose.  “Is there a charge for this?”

He pointed to the money bowl.  “Twenty‑five cents.”

She put her glass down and was about to open her handbag.  He reached into his pocket for a quarter and dropped it into the money bowl.  “My treat,” he said.

“Oh, thank you.”

The guy she walked away from was still there, glaring at them.

“My name is Lou, he said.”

“Aline,” she said.  She filled a glass and took a sip of the punch, then they looked at each other.  They started speaking at the same time.

“Do you—”

How often—”

Each waited for the other to continue, then she broke into a wide open smile that dazzled away his shyness or nervousness or whatever it was.  She made two fists and tapped her head with one and his nose with the other.

“That’s what we used to do in camp.” she said, “when two girls either said the same word at the same time, or started talking at the same time.”

The guy finally walked over.  He was wearing a black velvet jacket with a huge collar and a vest that had a dark oriental design.  His shirt had dark red and purple stripes.  He took her right around the waist and tried to nudge her toward the dance floor.

“Shall we dance?” he said.

She freed herself with a little twirl that flared out her dress.  “Oh, I’m sorry, I can’t,” she said.  “I have this dance with Lou.”  She turned to him.  “Just let me take a few more sips of this punch, will you?”

It was like getting possession of the whole sun.  The guy stood there for about five seconds with his brows raised in counterfeit surprise, his arm still bowed out like he was giving her a waiting period to come back to him.  Then he clicked his heels and bowed curtly and did a military about‑face and marched away.

“That guy has a screw loose, if you ask me,” Aline said. “You know what they call him?  The Prince of Wales.”

“The Prince of Wales?” he said.  “Why?”

She threw her head back and laughed.  “It seems his father owns this restaurant in Queens called George V.  Did you ever hear anything like that in all your life?”

“You’re pulling my leg.”

“No, it’s the truth,” she said and started giggling.

“That is funny,” he said.  “Shall we dance?”


Dancing, she freely lent herself to his embrace.  What an armful.  Tall and somewhat buxom, the feel of her body brushing his and the supple definition of the small of her back practically mesmerized him.  He was enjoying her whole presence.  The fine curve of her jaw and her neck, the way it arched from her chin.  The hairline at the back of her neck with its little straggling blonde hairs.  And her smell, it was different, just a hint of, what?  Not perfume, more like incense with the nice, natural scent of girl body coming through.

“I’m curious,” he said.  “What were you talking about when you were dancing with that guy?  What was he whispering in you ear?”

“Oh, he kept trying to convince me to go spelunking with him.”

“What’s spelunking?  It sounds like a nonsense word.”

“Cave exploring,” she said, giving him a playful tap in the back.  “Look it up.  He was trying to get me to spend a weekend spelunking some cave in Pennsylvania.  He went on and on.  Did you know that a stalagmite is one of those icicle‑looking things growing down from the ceiling, and a stalactite is one growing up from the floor of a cave?  Or is it the other way around?  I kept telling him that spelunking was definitely not for me, but that guy just doesn’t know when to stop.  All evening he’s been driving me out of my mind with his stalagmites and stalactites.  He’s graduating the dental school this year.  While we’re on the subject, what do you do?”

“I’m an engineer.”

“Oh, an engineer.  Ahem, ahem.”

He mimicked her.  “Ahem, ahem.  What’s that for?”

“Engineers are supposed to be pretty bright.”

“That’s not so.  There are plenty of dumb engineers.  I’m not one of them, of course.  How about you?  You go to NYU?”

“Nope. Barnard.”

“Aha, nothing but the best.  Freshman?”


“What are you studying?”


“What do you mean, like art history, the philosophy of art?”

“That’s probably what it boils down to.  What they were trying to do and their progress in technique and all that.  But I paint too.”

“You’re an artist?”

“Well, let’s just say I do some painting.  You just don’t go around calling yourself an artist.  I’m probably not very talented but I enjoy it, so I’ll just keep it up and see where it goes.  In all probability I’ll end up teaching art in the public schools like everyone else.  I wouldn’t mind that.  I enjoy working with kids.  I’ve already done a few months of student teaching.”

The dance ended

“Let’s find someplace to sit down,” she said.  “I’m kind of tired.  I was up half the night studying for a couple of exams.”

He led her to some empty chairs at the side of the room. “Would you like another glass of punch?” he said.

“No, thanks.”

“Well, how about the moon, then.  It’s one of those big orange lollipops.”

“The moon?  My‑oh‑my, he’s offering me the moon.  How are you going to get it out of the sky?”

“Easy.  Just reach up and take it into both my hands like a great big honeydew melon hanging in a tree and pluck it right out.”

“Uh‑huh.  But I already have three orange moons in my collection.  What would I do with another one?”

“Oh I’m sure you can fit it in somewhere.”  He tried to come up with something to keep the orange moon going but nothing smart would come to him.  “I’d like to take a look at some of your painting,” he said instead.  “Is that possible?”

That problem smile came into her face again, except now it didn’t seem to be a problem anymore.  It was just one of her smiles.  “There’s really nothing special about them.  I’ve done a few things that may be pretty fair, but I’d be kidding myself if I considered them anything more than student stuff.”

“I’d like to take a look at them anyway.  I’m serious.  Just to see what they look like.  I got the feeling that anything that came out of you can’t be too bad.”

“My my, you flatter me.”

“I’m just saying what I feel.  Where do you paint?”

“At home right now.  But my friend, Lorraine shares a studio with some people and I’m thinking of going in with them. She sculpts.”  She looked around the room.  “I think she already left.  She met someone she liked—the one who was with me when you were looking at us.  The girl with the beads.”

“You noticed me looking at you?”

“Of course.”

“Now I’m the one who’s flattered.  And I’d like to see your paintings more than ever.”

“I’ll tell you what.  If you’d really like to see some real paintings, I’m going to the Metropolitan Sunday.  Maybe you’d like to come along.  They have a great Renaissance exhibit.”

“As a matter of fact I would like to come along,” he said.

“But I have to warn you,” she said.  “It’ll take up the whole afternoon and I’ll be taking notes for a paper I have to write.”

“Well, in that case I’d still like to come along.”

“So it’s a date,” she said.  “I’ll meet you right in front at eleven.”

“I can pick you up.”

“All right.”  She took a pen and a small pad from her handbag.  “Do you want to take my phone number too just in case something comes up?”

“Oh, nothing’ll come up, but it can’t do any harm to take your phone number anyway.  Look, the evening here is just about over.  Would you like to drop in someplace for a cocktail or something?  Some pizza?”

“Either one would put me right to sleep.  I think I can go for some espresso, though.  But only if you take me home afterward.  It’ll be pretty late.”

“Now you’re making it awfully difficult for me,” he said. “Let me think it over.  All right, I thought it over.  I’ll take you home afterward.”

“So it’s a deal,” she said.  “How about Figaro?  They have some fantastic cheese pastry.  You’ve been there, haven’t you?”

“As a matter of fact I haven’t.  But I sure can go for some fantastic cheese pastry.”


She was giving him the business.  She went to meet another guy.  What else was going on with that telephone call?  Hello one day, good‑bye the next. It’s her world, that little girl. Don’t bother, I’ll just take the subway.  What is it, she didn’t want him to see the guy?  Or maybe she didn’t want the guy to see him. Don’t bother.  Then that little kiss, that peck; she must give them out like gum drops. On the cheek this time—he lost ground.  Her instructions: call her Wednesday. With that smile of hers, that cryptic little smile.  She skips down the steps leaving him standing there alone on Lexington Avenue and 86th Street whistling Dixie.  Five o’clock on a Sunday.  She should have told him beforehand.  He could have made other plans.  She was obligated to tell him beforehand.

Aah, it was common courtesy, plain common courtesy.  I mean, what’s the matter, she couldn’t have arranged to spend some time with me after the museum?  Doesn’t she know the meaning of courtesy?

That’s right, get crazy.  Climb all over the girl, go ahead, pick her to pieces.  First of all she said it was for the museum, didn’t she?  Who mentioned anything about afterward?  Obligated!  Prior notice!  You know her two days and you’re laying down the law, Casanova?  The said girl will be pleased to inform you that the aforementioned meeting is for the museum and the museum only and is not to be construed in any other way by the party of the first part.  Idiot!  What’s the matter, it’s beyond comprehension she that she already had a date for the evening?  You should be flattered that she saw her trip to the museum as a way to fit you in.  And that alone crap, you could have made other plans.  What plans?  The movies watching a picture with a box of popcorn?  Prowling around Washington Square for three hours looking for leg shows?  Aah, what are you getting convulsions about?  You’re going wacky  over a girl you know for two days and spent maybe a total of seven hours with?  Do you think you’re going to walk into the girl’s life and take her by storm, just like that? With her looks you think she’s going to drop everything and fall into your arms?  You got started with her, didn’t you?  What you have to do right now is just relax, go slow and let things develop.  Call her Wednesday, see how it goes.

But he had to say, it was a little strange.  She makes a phone call and all of a sudden she’s transformed.  She’s stiff, cold as the walls.  She gets academic on him, formal.  Explaining those last ten paintings to him like an instructor.  All the rapport he had going with her gone now, disappeared right into thin air.

That big blonde lollipop was a little strange altogether.  When she opened the door in the morning he almost didn’t recognize her.  He thought it was her oversized kid sister for a minute.  White knee socks and a black skirt and a starched white blouse.  Her hair tied back with a pink ribbon and a big, toothy smile on her face.  Hello!  And flat shoes, dancing slippers they looked like.  Did you have breakfast? She invited him in and introduced him to her folks and her older sister, who was half a head shorter that her.  Eager, without hesitation, without awkwardness.  This is Lou, like he’s special, like she’d been telling them about him a while, and now here he was in person.  How about some French toast and coffee?  Alive, all femininity.  Sugar and cream?  Maple syrup?  And he’s studying her, trying to match up this version of her with the one he took home from the dance Friday night.  She was wearing no makeup this time, and her features were a little less defined, a little thicker.  Like a big blonde fifteen year old girl busting into sexuality.  Her skirt was short enough to reveal her plumpish knees and the taut dimples behind them.  As she moved around the kitchen he could hardly keep his eyes off the show of bare flesh between the tops of her socks and the hem of her skirt; it had a raw, youngish quality that excited him.

Her folks kept popping in.  Jack!  Jack! Where’s daddy?  Did he go yet?  It looks like you’re going to have a beautiful day.  Add milk and Uncle Ben’s rice to the list, Jack.  And Jack: Engineer?  Good school.  Hard course.  The stationary business could use a good engineer.  I got some ideas—maybe we can bounce them around one of these days.  I think my tires need some air.  Lily, where’s my white sun cap?  Where you left it.  On the floor in the downstairs bathroom.  Don’t forget, you have to cut that branch today, Jack.  It’s scraping the roof already.  Oh, Jack!  Jack!  One more thing!  Did you leave yet, Jack?  Did daddy leave yet?  Add butter to the list, a half a pound.  Okay, boss.  He has that self‑satisfied look on his face, like the country’s been pretty good to him, like a patriot who just finished a good meal.  He probably votes Republican.  He likes white.  White shirt, white pants, white shoes, white cap.  Maybe he’s a polo player.

It was like he started the day off with one girl and ended it with another.  When they left the house in the morning she took his arm without hesitation.  She really seemed happy to be with him.  Going down the walk to his car she held herself so close that they were bumping sides.  He was never more sure of a girl in his life.  With knee socks and pink ribbon.  A cute, well developed fifteen year old girl on her way to school with a briefcase.  She sat very close to him driving to the museum.  She bounced right over when she got in and stayed there the whole ride.  It was all chatting and laughing, joking around.  Comfortable.  Life was beautiful, that’s just how he felt.

What were they chatting about on the way?  Nothing much. Light stuff.  The weather, vacations.  She’s going to Mexico for a couple of weeks after school is over.  She’s got some smile, big and open.  When they got there he found a parking space on 83rd and Madison, and walking to the museum she took his arm again.  He had the feeling that if he took her around she wouldn’t have minded.

Oh, no.  No, no, this is my treat, I invited you.  She paid the admission. She sat down on a bench at the side and patted it for him to sit down beside her.  She put on a pair of metal frame glasses that she took from her briefcase and got busy with three pens of different colors marking off the exhibit guide, popping her blown‑out cheek with one of them, figuring out the best sequence to look at her twenty required paintings.  After a while: All right, let’s start.

She becomes the smart little college girl on him, the nineteen year old intellectual.  But seriously, she really was glad he was getting into it because the Renaissance was her all‑time favorite period.  It means rebirth, isn’t that beautiful?  The humanism of the classics … get in touch with everyday experience … went back to human concerns … Good and Evil …  Right and Wrong …  The Divine.  She did her homework.  She’s an expert on the Renaissance from one to twenty.  Curious about natural phenomena. Why things happen.  Great scientific discoveries.  So enthusiastic, so genuine, so knowledgeable, so full of conviction.

Now comes number nine with the two plump naked women.  Oh, how beautiful! She’d been looking at that dinky page‑size plate in her book for a whole semester and there it is, the original! Giorgione’s Fete Champetre.  Rustic Holiday.  Look at those warm colors.  Giorgione painted it around fifteen something, near the end of his life.  His short life.  He was only 33 when he died, you know.  This little girl is lecturing him around the naked women.  She’s trying to keep a straight face, but just enough tease creeps in to give you ideas.  She’s dallying with him now around those two naked girls, trying to talk so matter‑of‑factly. She’s above nakedness, see, going on with her notice the design … makes a triangle … lines of trees converging on the figures, pointing to them, notice?  Scholarly, with her notebook and her clipboard and her three pens.  She’s enlarging his mind.

Who needs lines of trees to point to skin?  Plumped out to two voluptuous, naked girls, each with a bit of drapery wound around their legs, lounging around with two guys in a tree‑shaded nook in a pasture.  That’s the one she picks to spend the most time on, talking around the nakedness, playing with him now, knowing where his thinking is and him only guessing where hers are.  Like she’s one up on him, you see what’s going on there?  Taking it exactly where and how far she wants it to go.  She’s being coy, that’s the word he was looking for.  Did she know she had that look on her face, that … what was it, that half smile, that look of amusement?  Who knows with these college broads, all the different ways they find to tickle themselves.  And all the while she’s educating him on Renaissance painting, see.  They fool around with you and stop you cold at the same time.  They have the knack.  And him, it’s like he’s mingling in a crowd. There’s her, there’s him, there’s the two naked girls, there’s the two dressed guys, there’s the shepherd and the sheep.  And then there’s Giorgione.  He’s competing with this Giorgione.  A nineteen year old college girl who looks an overdeveloped fifteen doing a number on him with nakedness.  Beauty and mood.  Form and color.  Courage to innovate.  Titian was influenced by him, you know.  And he’s saying to himself, how is she going to handle the two naked girls?  Notice the gesture of the figures, the rounded volumes of the two women?  That’s how she handles it, she tickles around with the rounded volumes of the two women.  Right out of a book.  One front, the other rear, together the complete woman.  What an artistic device.  This Giorgione, incidentally, was a very sensuous guy, a great lover.  The study of the nude, the complete physical woman.  So how far could it have been from her mind that he wouldn’t mind studying her nude, her complete physical woman, you understand?  That’s what’s going on there.  He was aware of her rounded volumes, and she knew he was aware of them, and he knew that she knew he was aware of them, and she knew that he knew that she knew he was aware of them.  It was one of those things.

Aah, get out of here.  Maybe she wasn’t just tricking around.  Maybe she was giving you a signal, getting a little risqué and waiting for you to take the gambit.  Didn’t you notice that little smile playing in her eyes, working around the corners of her mouth?  Maybe it was a case of her finally getting merry and you getting paralyzed.

She poked her number nine notes with the last period. Lunch time!  In the cafeteria she put her brief case on a chair and took some change from her purse.  She had to make a phone call, she’ll be right back.  Would he get the food?  The omelet and a cup of coffee would be enough for her.  Milk and one sugar, not too much milk.  She walked across the floor to the phones and made the fatal phone call.  At the counter getting the food he kept glancing at her.  It wasn’t your usual phone call.  It was lively—she even stamped her foot at one point.  It was like she was arguing with someone, or trying to convince someone of something, or vice versa.  Something unusual was going on.  He watched her walk back to the table with her knee socks.  What is it?  She looked disturbed as hell.  She just barely managed some smiling when she finally returned, but it was like smiles activated by a switch.  On, off.  On, off.  Is your omelet cold?  That’s all right, it’s warm enough.

What that phone call did to her.  Let’s get going, it’s getting late.  Stiff now.  Abrupt, mechanical.  Did she get bad news?  What?  She makes a phone call and whsst! a different girl.  He loses her.  He’s an encumbrance now, tailing along.  Even her voice didn’t sound the same, her mouth lost all the juice.  Curt. Is there something wrong?  Oh, it’s nothing.  Was he enjoying the exhibit?  Or was he bored?

Where did she get bored from?  Well, she thought his eyes were beginning to look a little droopy.  Droopy?  He was a little tired maybe, he admitted it, but certainly not bored.  He remarked how attractive she looked explaining those paintings, how enthusiastic. In fact he got so involved with her that it was hard to pay attention to what she was saying.  That wasn’t flattery; he meant it.  How did she answer?  Oh, well!  Thank you.  Why are you smiling? Was he smiling?  He didn’t realize it.

Come on, they’d better get going, she said.  There wasn’t much time and she had to get those last ten paintings in.  She put her glasses back on and out came her notebook and three pens.  Presto! a nineteen year old school teacher again.  With knee socks.

All the way from ten to twenty he was thinking: a good Italian meal at the Savoia, with half a bottle of wine—loosen her up a little, loosen them both up a little, relax them—then a walk around Washington Square Park, or something.  How about … but before the words were even out of his mouth something in her face, something in her eyes telegraphed her answer.  She was sorry, she couldn’t.  She had to meet someone downtown, a friend.  Come on, walk her to the subway.  At the subway entrance he took her hand. Call me, she said before he could ask her out again.  Call her.  Her smile didn’t have that nice spontaneous tang that it had when he picked her up in the morning.  It was formal, a smile for the occasion of parting, a good‑bye smile.  The way she withdrew her hand, like she was liberating herself, altogether crumbled what was left of his expectations.  Call her Wednesday.  Final, confident.  And then she’s receding down the steps.  He called down to her: Aah, come on, I’ll drive you there.  Don’t bother again.  You really don’t have to.  The subway was a good chance to read over her notes.

What a letdown.  A girl you go for saying good‑bye and taking the subway to meet another guy.  He should have held on to her hand a while, maybe …  Aah, what was he supposed to do, keep her captive?  Call her.  She’ll be home Wednesday.  Around eight‑thirty, nine.

Did it have to be a guy?  Maybe it was one of her friends.  One of her friends would get her all upset like that, stupid?  This big blonde lollipop is going to give you a run for your money.