Gillian is asleep, her arm curved round a trimly tapered waist, her hand caressing idly a semi-flaccid penis... which stirs... its accordion folds extending in a hopeful yawn. Her fingers tighten; but this is merely a reflex—Michael's phallus lifts a moment, stiffens with expectation, then wilts in a waning throb as the hand goes limp...
... caressed again, the penis being fondled is dissimilar... still responsive... still swelling under pressure... but proportions are unique. The fingers, too, have undergone a subtle transformation—feminine turned to masculine; Morgan disavows their hold, pretends their furtive grasp belongs to...
... hips adjusted, Michael is perceptibly re-aroused. Gillian, on her side, has drooled a puddle of saliva that collects within the crook of her naked arm below her curls. Her gooey lips, their sideways pucker, prompt the member's owner to infringe... intrude... invade... to disregard her shocked expression (he has jolted her awake), to overrule her look of abject panic... indignation... disappointment... mock acceptance. Thrusts continue, quicken, surge...
... an urgent spurt of semen arcs and plops on Morgan's belly; the hand that has induced it ceases rubbing—save to squeeze, to milk a heavy dollop of the squandered seed, then slacken... acknowledging its last-resort complicity.
"I hate it when they do that!"
"Why? They loved us."
"It's unnerving. One more second's bravo, and I think I might have screamed."
"Stop telling me I'm sick! I'm sick to death of people saying I'm ill!"
Paul and Gillian occupy a corner nook at 'Speare's, having plowed their way through a crush of post-show well-wishers. The drinks they long-ago ordered, at last arrive.
"Wanna run a tab tonight?"
Gillian nods. Paul answers.
"You'll need a ticker tape for me."
The waitress smiles, departs.
"You drink too much."
"And you can't stand applause; we all bear crosses." Paul imbibes, with satisfaction, the first of his Black Russians. More are sure to follow, in celebration. "They stood for one minute and fourteen seconds, after curtain."
"You timed them?"
"Sure. Why not? That's what it's all about."
"I thought 'dollars' was the name of the game."
"That, too. Big bucks are made by big ovations."
"May I quote you?"
"Scoff, my Sweet. They loved us, nevertheless."
Paul downs his drink and signals for another.
Gillian sips her gin in brooding moderation.
Paul regards 'the star' with mute contempt.
Gillian loudly burps; Paul pats her back remedially.
"Still burning it at both ends, dear?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"Your candle. Your amour la wick?" She bites her tongue... "Nice work, if you can get it." ...regretting having mentioned her affair... "Borrowing from Peter to pay..."
"ENOUGH! I didn't agree to have this drink to field your stock of platitudes. If you can't say anything original, Paul, please spare me."
"Well, isn't that the pot calling the kettle black..." (Gillian sighs) "...you, a fellow regurgitator of someone else's lines; original? Actors are a playwright's props and mannequins, nothing more. We're puppets, you and I—move here, move there—controlled by strings. We're mynah birds repeating words by rote, on cue, ad nauseam, night after night after night after tedious night."
"Plays must be performed to bring their author's words to life. Only kindred spirits have the wherewithal for that. Audiences can feel, can understand, can draw conclusions, but not before a given writer's work is recreated—with skill and sensitivity and most-of-all talent. Therein lies your discontent, Paul; art is more than craftsmanship. Art, if it's original, is an outcome...."
"'Art' again! My aching sphincter muscle, you are painfully consistent. Tripe, I say! By artist, you mean self-indulgent whore! An artist is a human being, no better for seeming gifted, who represents our foibles with his chisel, brush, or pen because he shares Mankind's predicament; he is surely not above it. If anything, his insights come from sloshing through the mire—alongside every other schmuck in Creation—all of whom, my Sweet, have feet of clay."
"Is there a Roget's Clich�s you've memorized or something? Knock it off."
"My point remains."
"And is ill-taken."
"Prove it. Whoa, you'd better wait. Your lovers twain have just arrived—in tandem." Morgan, sighting Gillian (as she glances back) heads toward her; Michael, sighting Morgan, veers toward the bar. "Our resident laureate; how timely. Join us, Morgan. Save us. Deliver us from our reverence, our obsequious regard for those too few whose visions are transcendent. (Morgan sits) Lowly are we thespians, in comparison to you poets. Ours is humble deference to your commerce with the clouds, your heady heights reducing us to specks of adoration. Makes me want to fly, myself, but, look; I have no wings. I trust that makes you suitably sympathetic?"
Morgan, normally taciturn in the company of the company, ventures a succinct (if red-faced) reply.
"I'll defer to Icarus."
"Who forgot about the sun, reminding him—and us—of Man's limitations."
Paul depletes his drink by way of punctuation.
Morgan turns to Gillian.
"Things go well, tonight?"
She shrugs. Their waitress interrupts. Morgan orders an orange juice.
"Ah, you put us all to shame, my boy, so pure, so true, so innocent. Wondrous, it must be, indeed, to dwell in the Land of Oz." Paul grins a cryptic grin. "Things did go well tonight; the madding crowd stood!"
"Couldn't help themselves; Hurst hot-wired all the seats."
"I wouldn't put it past him."
"Desperate man, is Gerald Hurst—calm as peptic ulcers." Paul flags down their passing waitress. "Refill, dear heart. Gillian?"
"Another gimlet. Up, please."
"And don't forget that OJ, will you?" Paul, with crude panache, inhales as the barmaid takes her leave. "Do I detect a whiff of sex? Methinks that skirt..." He eyes it. "...harbors, underneath its modest weave, a lustful woof." He sniffs the air again. "Betrayed by pheromones almost palpable. Rumor has it that gal's charms are equal fore and aft. If that's not talent, what else is; to satisfy two, concurrently? Wouldn't you agree, my boy?"
"Paul is in his cups."
"And who asked you? I'm addressing Morgan?" Paul inclines his head, in a woozy arc, from her to him. "Wouldn't you say a female who can service two at once ought qualify for the lofty title 'artist'?"
Gillian, getting edgy, can foresee how innuendo might turn to outright accusation. Why did she confide? Auspiciously, a fan approaches Paul.
"Excuse me. Aren't you Mister Hewitt? I thought you were marvelous tonight! I know that doesn't mean much coming from a perfect stranger but..."
"No, no; you're mistaken. I can see you're not the average theatre-goer. You look closely at things. You're uncommonly perceptive."
"Now you're making fun. I won't bother you any..."
"I am not making fun. Morgan, Gillian, defend me. Am I making fun of this lovely young lady?"
"He's serious, honey. Stroke him; you'll never find a glutton for compliments more sincere." Gillian turns to Morgan. "Ready?"
He nods. She stands.
She leads him by the hand through a throng of overcrowded tables (steering clear of the bar); they slip outside.