John sat in front of his computer and adjusted the microphone in front of his mouth. "I met Marcia on a Tuesday in June," he told his voice recognition software program, which typed the words onto the screen for him. "Strike that. I met Marcia at a Halloween party in October."
"Honey, I'm coming up." Marcia climbed the short flight of stairs to John's library, and ignored the stacks of books partially blocking the entrance. Why the man had to own so many books was beyond her. She pushed back her Trane ballcap to peer down at him. "Want me to grill some lamb tonight?"
John's expression turned as pained as his bad knee felt. "Sure, that'll be fine. If I'm not down put mine on a covered plate in the microwave."
"But last night you said you were going vegan because you're too fat," Marcia reminded him.
"Then forget what I said and eat mine and yours, and I'll have a salad later." John saw his words show up on the screen and ordered the VRS to turn off the microphone. He would have done it belatedly, but he felt an unexpected, deep and abiding aversion to using the adverb.
Marcia, having snared his attention, was in no hurry to leave. "You sure about that?"
"Sweetheart," John said, resisting an urge to drag her downstairs and have sex with her on the back of his Harley, "we agreed that two to four p.m. on Saturdays is my working time. Working time is alone time."
"Uh-huh." Marcia leaned over his shoulder to read the screen. "And you're working on catching that diamond-snitching demon, or does this just look like you're writing your weblog to lull him into a false sense of security?"
"My weblog is part of my work, and a very good ruse to keep the demon guessing. Like my quilting, for example." John beamed at her. "Did you see the new one? I'm basting it on the diningroom table."
Marcia ran a hand through her short gray hair, which had receded several inches. "I thought my hair was brown, and that thing on the table was a new tablecloth."
"What?" John favored his good knee as he got out of the chair. "How can you mistake a quilt for a tablecloth?"
"I don't know, but the kids are eating pizza on it." Marcia belatedly recalled that she and John had no children, and then kicked herself for using belatedly. "The kids from next door, I mean."
"Oh, honey." John sighed. "I can't bleach that top, not with all the crimson and pine patchwork in it. I'll never get the sauce stains out of that white polished cotton in the sashing, not even if I use my Tide pen." He felt confused by some of his words. "What's sashing?"
Marcia shrugged. "Something you put around the waist of a dress. And when did we start feeding the kids next door pizza?" When John didn't answer, she glanced up. "Temperance? We're a little lost here. What happened to the diamond, and the diamond-thieving demon, and the library downstairs with the pukey green wall paper?"
"That wallpaper was a lovely sage green," John said, sniffing. "Actually, now that you mention it, I'm rather puzzled about that Trane hat you're wearing. And why you're grilling, of all things. You couldn't boil water in Chapter Three." He lifted his gaze. "Are you revising the story again, All-Knowing and All-Seeing One?"
"Well, sort of," Temperance the Story Goddess answered in her disembodied fashion. "I went to a writing workshop yesterday. The speaker said I have to endow you both with aspects of my life, personality and of those I love in order to lend more authenticity to the story. You know, write what I know. And not to use any adverbs. Adverbs suck."
"I see." John looked down at his short, wide feet. "Would that be the reason I'm wearing pink bunny slippers?"
Marcia scratched the bristles on her chin. "And why I have a five o'clock shadow, and this unbelievably strong urge to go and change the oil on John's pickup truck? The unbelievably is an adjective, by the way."
"Truck?" John yelped. "What happened to my Beemer?"
"It turned into the truck about an hour ago," Marcia said. "About the same time the story got really dull, you became a writer and I starting acquiring some very odd gender characteristics." She suppressed a small belch and scratched her tummy. "Temp, you gotta do something about this before I start peeing standing up."
"Like give us back all the exciting parts of the story," John added.
Lightning struck an oak tree outside the house. "Are you saying that my realism, my authenticity, and my guy and I are boring?"
John looked at Marcia, who nodded. They both answered with, "Yep."
"I damn it. I knew that workshop was nothing but baloney." The loft vanished, along with John's aches and pains and Marcia's ballcap and body hair. The two found themselves back in the library, surrounded by the familiar hideousness of the wallpaper and antique furnishings that Temperance could never afford. On John's desk sat the black velvet pouch containing the mystic rhinestone.
Marcia folded her arms. "Temperance."
On John's desk appeared another black velvet pouch, this one containing the mystic diamond.
John eyed his handmade Italian leather shoes which, while more exciting and exotic, would never be as comfortable as the bunny slippers he had loved and lost. "So I take it we're not belatedly having unbelievably good sex on the back of the motorcycle, then?"