the dread jasper mccarthy was surrounded by three or four people helping him after his coughing fit. had he fallen to the floor? she couldn't tell.
here was the chance to get up and out the back door without jasper seeing her.
it looked like closing time anyway.
if she could stand up and move her legs.
her great plan of getting hyacinth drunk enough to let something slip about stanley slade - or maybe something, anything, newsworthy slip out - had not worked out very well.
hyacinth was drunk all right - at this point she looked ready to pass out -
but flossie was even drunker. and hyacinth, when she hadn't been pouring the drinks down her throat- and at least she had paid for all the rounds after the first one which had been on the federal-democrat - had not let anything out of her mouth except chit-chat at first and gibberish later.
flossie took a deep breath. she would give it the old college try and stand up.
but could she leave poor hyacinth all alone like this? hyacinth was her best friend!
flossie should at least make sure hyacinth was conscious before abandoning her.
"hey," flossie said.
"hey, hyacinth!" she repeated.
"huh?" hyacinth finally answered.
"are you awake?"
"off course. what shelf would i be but a flake."
"i have to go now . it's closing time."
"yeah. closing time."
"but i love you. you're my best friend."
"i love you, too."
"friends forever. because we know the score."
hyacinth nodded. "the score. on a far distant shore."
"sisters. because we know the score. not like those stupid men."
"stupid men can't count to ten," hyacinth agreed.
"it's closing time, " flossie repeated. "i have to go file my story."
"story. time. at the new york times, " hyacinth agreed.
"no, no, not the new york times. the federal-democrat."
"these are the times - the times - these are the slimes that slice the limes- "
"i have to go now. will you be all right?"
"that drop the dimes on unspeakable crimes."
"you'll be all right. whats-his-name - the elevator operator - he's over there." flossie stood up. "and the bartender. they'll help you."
hyacinth nodded. "lemons go over the cliff. whether you slice them or not."
flossie got her coat on. "even though they're stupid men." buttoning the coat - forget it. "who don't know anything."
"you got that right," hyacinth agreed.
"you'll be all right."
"sure i will. this is my home."
"that's right, it is." it was. flossie felt this was a great revelation. she felt better already. she got her purse on her shoulder.
"good-bye. catch you later."
"home is where the heart is," said hyacinth. "where the stupid men are. like that jerk stanley." she put her hand to her mouth. "oops - shouldn't have said that."
hyacinth looked around.
but flossie was gone.
a couple of cabs went by but flossie didn't hail them. she decided to walk over to the office, to clear her head a little bit.
she had told hyacinth she was going to file a story.
that was a good question.
she thought of going back to the automat for a cup of coffee. but she didn't want to circle all the way back around the block.
there were a couple of little coffee shops on the way to seventh avenue that would be open.
she might grab a cup there.
seated near the door, in his "disguise" of a shave and a haircut and a new suit, stan slade sipped his cup of coffee, as cosette and jake conferred with lullaby lewinsky at the other end of the automat.
he was starving. after two cups of coffee he had a dollar and ninety cents left from the two dollars he had bummed from mortimer.
did he want to spend seventy-five cents of it on a "special"? he would rather save it in case he suddenly needed to grab a cab.
he hadn't really eaten anything now for about forty hours - since lunch time at the big house, because he had called sick that night - it seemed like a month ago - as part of his escape.
he couldn't stop thinking about the meal hyacinth had ordered - the chicken a la king, the beef wellington, the oysters rockefeller, the asparagus vinaigrette …
where was it now? was it still sitting up in hyacinth's suite, getting cold and greasy under the silver covers?
right now some chipped beef and mashed potatoes from the prison chow line would look pretty good…
where was hyacinth?
he decided to spend ten cents on a cream puff. or maybe a piece of cheesecake.
cream puff or cheesecake?
he was raising the cup to his lips and he almost spilled some. i got to be more alert, he thought. am i falling asleep here?
the only other person left in the place besides himself and jake and cosette and lullaby - and the change girl - was a derelict looking woman in an overcoat three tables down. a cat was sitting on the chair across from her and it turned and followed the woman's gaze to stan.
"yes, miss? what can i do for you?" his voice sounded too loud in the almost empty automat.