So this is Mindy's new flame. His rugged good looks, glued to the perpetual basketball game glowing on the screen above the bar, are the kind that will pinch and squeak like new shoes if he ever happens to smile. Mindy, absent-mindedly stirring a drink, studies the bullish nape of his neck. She must have a bad cold not to smell the deja-vu, the spent sulphur of another match snuffed out before it's even properly lit.  
  Mindy herself I met a couple of husbands and a barbershop quartet of boyfriends ago. She was still Linda then, an ingenue from one of those grainbelt states with an unlikely capital that stumps everyone in trivia games. Her initial stop was Los Angeles. Disenchanted, unable to cope with a town blessed by lovers' lanes wider and busier than the highways back home, longing for a certain coziness, she moved up here.  
  At this stage of her life, a blush could still steal across her cheeks after she blew out the candles and unwrapped birthday presents. She tried to stuff the filmy black peek-a-boo negligee back into its box before anyone could see it. Same with the deluxe vibrator, a gift from her boss, Betty, which came with more attachments than a Cuisinart.


  Her new squeeze, Mac, spins on his stool to gaze out of the plate glass window of the bar. The leaves of the trees along the fence of my neighbor Hank's cow pasture spin like old silver nickels smashed flat on railroad tracks. The sun pours hot ingots of brass into the bright sea out past the bluffs. Mac admires his shiny red sports car, still with the dealer plates. He's parked it across the road so it won't get any dents and dings from tipsy yahoos swinging open the doors of their beaters, backing out of the parking lot like contestants in a cream puff demolition derby.  
  I'm about to give Mindy a secret thumbs-down on her most recent beau when he grunts at her. She opens her purse, ferrets a few fives out of the mess, and tosses them on the bar to cover their tab.  


We've been acquainted since she was Linda, but we didn't become confidantes until she was Cindy. In between Linda and Cindy came the first husband and the double-duty divorce-birthday party, complete with deluxe vibrator. She was calling herself Lindy then. She said it would turn her off to hear her old name from the lips of a fresh lover. On the other hand, she didn't want to throw out the baby with the bath water, so she decided to change her name just one letter at a time. Lindy was an inspired choice. Soured on marriage, she had elected to go it alone, same as her new namesake, famous for crossing the Atlantic solo in the cockpit of the Spirit of Saint Louis.  
  A few weeks go by. I run into Mindy in the supermarket and she tells me Mac has moved in with her. Why waste money paying two rents? was what he said. I also learn that Mac has been promoted to assistant manager of the hardware store.  
  He works such long hours, the poor dear, sighs Mindy, fluttering her blonde eyelashes.  
  Though at one time I would've been happy to join her barbershop quartet, her lacy lashes have long since ceased to tickle my scrotum. This is what allowed me to become a confidante, someone who guesses that long hours means too busy to spend much time with her, too bushed to be much fun in bed, never mind help with dinner or the dishes.  
  But he's taking me out next week. Over the hill, to Ukiah. We're going to spend the whole day together.  
  I hear about the day from Betty, who eventually married Mindy's first husband and became her best friend. Betty says the romantic day was a grand tour of every hardware store in Ukiah. Mac's comparison shopping took so long, all the lovebirds had time for was a run through the car wash and a stop at a burger joint on their way out of town. Mac had tons of paperwork to finish.


  Christmas time comes. Mindy, who's flying back home to visit her family, has a brainstorm. The best present she can give Mac is ten homemade meals. He'll remember her with each bite while she's gone. She cooks the gourmet dinners on the sly and hides them in the freezer. All Mac will have to do is pop them into the microwave.  
  The morning she leaves, Mindy shows him his Christmas present. Mac says he has a great gift for her, too, but she can't have it until she returns. Mindy thinks about Mac the whole time she's away, calls him every night. He says he really misses her something awful. She thinks about the promised present, trying to imagine what it is. If only she could see the box, shake it. Mindy hasn't been on such pins and needles since she was Cindy, about to get a second husband. Or maybe she was Candy then, or Mandy, I can't remember.  


She returns to a pigsty of a place, to slimy plates strewn about the shag carpeting, to rotting blops of veal piccata, car magazines, greasy tools, cheesy socks ripening in the crack of the sofa. Mac hasn't washed a fork. Mindy, furious, turns off the bowling tournament on television and asks about her present. Mac makes excuses, saying he's got this thing about presents, and giving, and obligations, you know, relationship pressures. They make him up-tight. She boots him and his dirty laundry out of her house.  
  What would you have done? she asks me, teary-eyed. He still calls me, wanting to patch it up and move back in.  
  Pretty much the same thing, only sooner. Just to make sure the louse gets the message, I tell her, I'd write screw you, you cheap bastard on a piece of paper. I'd wrap the paper around a brick, tie it with string, and wing it through the windshield of his precious hunk of metal.  
  There ought to be a law, says Mindy the next time I see her.  
  She drove all over town with her note, looking for the flashy red sports car with AWLRITE on its vanity plates. Seconds after the brick shattered the curved glass, a man in his undies came running out of a nearby house, waving his arms and yelling at her, wanting to know what she was doing to his car. His car? She'd never seen this guy before. It was then she learned than Mac, short of cash despite months of sponging off her, had been forced to part with his cherry sports car.


  She swirls the heady, old-vine Zinfandel in her glass to check out the legs, holds it up to the sun, sniffs at the nose. Mindy's come a long way. I'm sure they don't fuss much with wine back in the state with the obscure capital.  
  There really ought to be a law forbidding ex-lovers to sell their vehicles for at least six months. Unless they move somewhere else. Still, it was a great present to myself, even if it did set me back a couple hundred. Way better than any orgasm he ever gave me.