Victoria’s Bath

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Written by Larry Lefkowitz. For more Jewrotica writing by Larry, check out In Victoria’s Bed and Vashti to her Diary. “In Victoria’s Bed” is an excerpt from Larry Lefkowitz’s novel “The Novel, Kunzman, the Novel!” available as an ebook and in print from and other distributors. Also available, from Amazon Books, is his humorous fantasy and science fiction anthology, “Laughing into the Fourth Dimension.”

Rated PG-13

We find Kunzman in Victoria’s bath. Since he began working on her late husband’s book, he had “carte blanche” (in Victoria’s words) to her apartment, subject to the condition that he always telephone prior to coming. She turned down his suggestion that she give him a duplicate key.

Entering the apartment, Kunzman looked for her first of all in the salon (a new sofa, or perhaps a couch, whose opulent, filigreed upholstery, even taken in at a cursory glance, got on his nerves. Not so much Fen Shi as Late Darius. He could picture his ex-wife Nitza shaking her head at it – or laughing), then in the kitchen (not yet given Victoria’s ‘golden touch’; he winced at the prospect of imitation gold faucets, reminding him of the lion-mouthed spout, probably lead, of a fountain seen in Pompei), then in the bedroom (his imagination wasn’t up to it’s possible decor or maybe it was stifled by his fear of not finding her in it’s central furnishing alone). No Victoria.

Entering the bathroom, he found his naiad in her bubbled bath, naked as Venus emerging from the foamy waves in Botticelli’s painting. Victoria was lying, her upper body above the water, her arms crossed in front of her chest in the style of Egyptian pharaohs depicted in temple paintings.

Kunzman stared at her blankly. She raised her hands and shook them like a belly dancer (or maybe Salome in her famous dance). “Queen of the Bathtub,” she announced in good spirits.

He didn’t know what was expected of him.

She told him. “Come join me,” she said in a voluptuous whisper, extending her arms toward him in invitation. She wore her cat-that-stole-the-cream smile. Her eyes bore into him with Kama Sutra seductiveness.

“Get undressed?” he inquired of her.

She lowered her arms in exasperation (he strove not to stare at her breasts) “People usually do before they enter the bath.”

It dawned on him that she wasn’t interested in his cleanliness.

“It’s not my style,” he informed her. It wasn’t.

She glowered at him. “You and Nitza never . . .?”

Nu, and her and Lieberman in the bath tub. Kunzman shut his mind to the thought.

Her invasion of his privacy rankled. Kunzman said nothing. His saying nothing in turn rankled her.

“How about on the threshing house floor?” she taunted. He felt like the Golem of Prague confronted by Abishag or Jezabel.

Kunzman decided retreat the prudent course given Victoria’s mood. As he left the bathroom pursued by his inamorata’s heaped horrifics:”zeide, schlemiel, schlimazel” followed by “Ikh hob dikh in bod” (To hell with you) — once again, the diva-dame in one of her groyser kundes (big stick) moods; Diotoma, Socrates’s love-instructress, had become Xanthippe, Socrates’s shrewish wife, Yiddish curses having replaced Greek ones. He feared being struck by an object from her Venetian glass collection, perhaps the kitsch (in his eyes) dolphin which lay on a glass shelf in arm’s reach of the bathtub. Why, Kunzman reflected, couldn’t I have a mistress like that of Herzog in Bellow’s (eponymous) novel who is kind and beautiful and has a religion of sex which she believes can cure Herzog’s ailments? Yet he knew by now that such a mistress’s cure, however kind and well-intended, might only add to his own ailments. He retreated from the wrath of the caldarium to the inner sanctum of the scriptorium, having considered but immediately rejected taking a parting shot at Victoria, like the Parthians who fired arrows over their shoulder while retreating from battle. He recalled that Victoria said to him once, “You always seem as if you are looking for an escape route.” This remark had struck him as uncharacteristically astute. It, or his present predicament, conjured up before his eyes Cigoli’s painting “Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife’ together with the biblical inspiration for it: And she caught him by his robe saying, “lie with me” and he left his garment in her hand, and fled. He wondered if his passivity was not a goad to Victoria. As the poet Zelda put it:

When I see how complacent you are
Something inside me runs wild.

Safely in his work-room, he began turning over one by one the items of Lieberman’s corpus, so insulted and incensed that he paid no attention to what was written on them. The imagined picture of Victoria and Lieberman naked in the bath pursued him.

After some minutes Victoria’s voce di gola voice, softer, called him. The softness decided him despite his knowledge that when Victoria was being overly sweet a threat hung in the air; Kunzman had always been a patsy for softness, for heindelach. He put aside his being miffed, his being the klutz, his hors de combat status and, returning to the bathroom, entered.

She was still in the bathtub, looking like nothing so much as a pouting seal whose ball had fallen from its nose during a performance. “Come on, Kunzman, let go of your poor-little-boy mood. I only wanted to surprise you,” she purred honey-voiced. “Give me a hug.”

Kunzman redux. He complied, despite thoroughly soaking his shirt and pants in the process; as he did so, he wondered if he wasn’t but a trampist on the consciousness of others.

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