Gidget’s Smile

Blame my frustration on That Uncertain Feeling. Burgess Meredith asks Merle Oberon who needs a shrink more: the person who has little happiness or the person who has too much? It’s black and white comedy – nothing unusual about that in 1941 – but it’s frustrating because black and white in my book means noir. And there’s nothing funny about noir. Yet …

“What’s bothering you Catherine? You’re like the sea without a breeze.”

Morgan Upton was wearing his commodore’s jacket and white deck shoes. After twelve years of marriage he didn’t expect his wife to put wind in his sails, but felt slighted that she no longer gave him so much as an “ahoy!” when he lounged in his boxers.

I have a noir life, I told my shrink, although Morgan doesn’t look like a noir guy – a Robert Mitchum or a Fred McMurray – so I’m uncertain about what attracted me to him. He’s more like a Rex Harrison or a Van Johnson. He doesn’t understand why I like to spend my Saturday afternoons in the film room when he’s out sailing the 15 foot Gidget’s Smile. My shrink says his boat’s name speaks volumes about our marital difficulties. My shrink may be right. I wanted to name the boat Ebony Eyes.

Morgan brought Catherine a blender bowl of Margaritas and a long stemmed glass into the film room and poured the green concoction into the glass. “For you, my Love. Only poor people cry into beer.”

Noir isn’t tear-jerking melodrama, it’s martini real. Bleak as vodka on the rocks. “Thanks, Dear,” I said because my shrink said happy is as happy does.

“What’s on the marquee today? Another showing of The Lady Vanishes?”

Morgan doesn’t know the difference between British mystery and post-war nihilism. He bought out a salt shaker from this jacket pocket and set it on the table. “For the rim.” He kissed my cheek. A kindergartener’s kiss. The door had closed behind him, and all that was left was a line of light, but I knew he was smiling a cheery California Vitamin D smile. “Anything that could entice me away from the sirens waiting for me just past the jetty?”

Maybe you should show him how pleasurable a femme fatale can be, my shrink said. I guided Morgan’s hand to my breast and searched his mouth for his tongue with mine, glad he’d persuaded me to buy a plushy recliner instead of a red velvet backed antique from the now-defunct Bijou. “Spellbound,” I whispered, and Bergman’s doors began to open one by one.

The sirens were jealous. They watched Morgan cast off from the pier, and hid a swell behind a ruse of sunshine dancing on a calm blue stage . They let him sail past them, then grabbed his spinnaker and pulled him back, crushing Gidget’s Smile on the jagged rocks.

“Did he drown?” I asked through short gasps.

“He was tossed like a corn-hole bean-bag onto the stones,” the Coast Guardsman said.

Morgan lay in a white hospital room disconnected from black artificial life machines. staring at the world with glassy ebony eyes. Catherine went home to her movie room, a long-neck Bud Lite in one hand and a bag of Cheetos in the other. There is such a thing as comedy noir. It’s called irony.

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