“Well, I didn’t mean to lose my bathing suit in the water! But it was nighttime and there was no one around and I just love skinny dipping. So I slipped out of it and just slung it over the side of the dock, and at some point it fell in. This happened up at my brother and sister-in-law’s cabin up on Lake Burton.
"I was just about to come out of the water, naked or not, when their neighbor Bob chose exactly that moment to turn on the floodlights on his dock across the way, so I was stuck. I couldn’t find my suit in the dark, although I dove down several times and groped in the darkness and mud, undoubtedly mooning Bob every time. And it was about then that I remembered I’d forgotten my towel, too, which hadn’t bothered me much before because it was no big deal to walk back up to the cabin in a wet suit on a warm summer night.”
Dory took another sip of her wine and grinned self-consciously as her friends began to laugh. “So I just stayed in the water, hanging onto the ladder which, wouldn’t you know, faced Bob’s boathouse, until my eight-year-old niece, Rita, came down to tell me dinner was ready.
“‘Honey, go tell Auntie Robby I need a towel, okay?’ I sweetly asked her.
“‘I don’t want to leave you here in the dark,’ she replied. ‘And besides, Robby told me to bring you back.’
“‘No, it’s okay, really, honey, I’m fine. I just need a towel because…well, because I lost my swimsuit in the water and I can’t get out without it.’
“‘No, I don’t want to leave you,’ she replied stubbornly.
“Back and forth we went for a few minutes until I lost my temper. ‘Goddammit, Rita, go tell Robby I need a towel so I can get out of the water and come up.’
“Off she fled, to stay away a long time. I wondered what was taking so long, and later Robby told me that she came back with a very hang-dog expression. “‘What’s the matter, Rita?’ she asked. ‘Where’s Dory?’
“Rita broke out into sniffles. ‘Auntie Dory was mean to me,’ she said. ‘She said a bad word and that she wouldn’t come out of the water until we brought her a towel.’
“Mystified, Robby turned the gas off on the stove, grabbed a towel, and came down to the dock with Rita, who was still in high dudgeon. “‘Oh, thank God,’ I said as she came down the catwalk to the dock.
“‘What on earth is going on? Rita said you were mean to her. Why are you still in the water?’ I rose up a little. ‘Oh! I see!’ she said, starting to smile. ‘Why are you naked?’
“‘Oh, Rita, I’m sorry, honey,’ I said. ‘But I really, really needed a towel and you just weren’t listening to me. I didn’t mean to be mean to you.’ Robby started laughing as she handed the towel down. ‘I can’t wait to hear how you got into this pickle, Dory Martin. I have a feeling you’ve outdone yourself.’
“Thus rescued, we walked back up to the cabin, Rita still flouncing in a little bit of self-justified outrage. Later, she watched a movie while we relaxed on the deck with burgers and vodka gimlets, and I told my tale. Robby laughed and laughed, commenting that at least I would never be accused of being boring.”
“Well, I don’t wonder,” Charlene said. “But that is so typical of you, Dory. They say God takes care of drunks and little children, and you weren’t even drunk at the time, were you? Maybe it’s fools and little children.”
“It should be fools,” Dory said ruefully. “And that wasn’t the only time that happened to me. A couple of years before, I was on another lake boating and decided to skinny dip in broad daylight, since the lake was deserted. Same thing happened, and just as I saw it slip off the side of the boat and go under and I started desperately diving, I heard the brrr of a boat approaching. Luckily, they just went on by. I tell you, I’m hopeless.”
Shaking her fresh shaker of martinis, Jill laughed. “No argument there, Dory girl, but we adore you anyway, or maybe because of it. You seem to meet disasters regularly but manage to go on coasting through life. I don’t think I’d be so lucky,” she commented to nods all around. “I’d probably get busted.”
“Now, who’s done what in the last week?” Charlene demanded. “Share time! With the election, you know, I’m living my life vicariously through you guys, so catch me up.”
“Sure, as long as you share some of your old stories from the claims court.”
“Oh, I’ve had a few good ones. One guy came before me charged with fraud and theft by taking. His name was Coupe de Ville Brown. Guess he had to support the lifestyle that his name demanded.”
“Coupe de Ville!” Jill whooped. “I love it. Okay, let’s see, what’s happened with me. I’ve met someone interesting—but she’s quite young, and I’m sure you’ll meet her soon. I’m not going to say more than that, though. I’ll just let you judge her for yourself.”
“Oh, I’m sure,” Charlene said, teasing. “Since when are you so reticent? Come on, dish, girl. For example, just how young is she, you cougar?”
Jill made a face. “Oh, that horrible term. Makes me sound like a ravenous cat at the least, and maybe a raggedy-coated old tabby to boot. I’m neither, although the idea of being a sleek cat isn’t so bad. Anyway, to answer your impertinent question, my dear, she’s in her thirties.”
She flushed at the predictable round of whistles and shouts that greeted that announcement and said defensively, “Well, what of it? And she’s drop-dead gorgeous to boot, and quite interesting. Enough so that I think I’m going to be exclusive for a while.”
“Uh, yeah, I can imagine she’s interesting,” Charlene deadpanned. “But why would you want to settle down when there are so many fish in the sea?”
Jill snorted. “Oh, yeah? And where would they be? It was different in the roaring days of our youth when there were five lesbian bars in Atlanta for us to choose from. They’re almost all gone now but for Girls Only, and let’s be honest, we’re not as young and thin and therefore simply gaw-jus as we were. Okay, so this city has about five million people in it. Say ten percent are gay—”
“More,” Dory interrupted.
“Well, even so,” Jill said. “So, that’s five hundred thousand people, and say even twenty percent of those are lesbians. That’s a hundred thousand lesbians. And say thirty percent of them are over fifty, which is cutting it a little young, even. That’s, let’s see…”
Putting on her glasses, she pulled up the calculator on her phone. “Oh, duh, of course, that’s thirty thousand lesbians. Wow. Where are they all? We could practically fill a stadium with them, like in the old days when women’s music was thriving and people like Cris Williamson and Meg Christian were recording. No women’s concert or festival is likely to happen now.”
“Ugh, music festivals. Tents in the mud and bare-assed cabins with lumpy beds,” Dory said. “But then there would be bare-assed women, too, not to mention the women—I mean, the music. Maybe not so bad after all.”
Jill mock-glared at her. “So how do we find all these wonderful women, who are probably staying home and only going out to meet with friends like we do?”
Charlene sighed sympathetically. “I know, I know,” she said. “And my history of meetings with people from online sites is littered with uncomfortable moments. Either they posted a picture taken forty pounds or twenty years ago, or both, or they’re just a little weird…or they might be perfectly nice, but it’s just not a match.”
“You’ve gotta kiss a lot of frogs before you find the princess.” Robby nodded in agreement. “But why don’t you try the meet-up groups? They include all kinds of hobbies and interests, and it’s a lot less fraught than a hookup website where everyone knows everyone else is looking for that ‘certain someone.’”
“Well, but I guess it can work, though,” Charlene said. “I remember after my last breakup, I posted clearly that I wasn’t looking for a relationship, just companionship and, if the chemistry was right, maybe some good old-fashioned sex. The responses I got were just as clear, and some were rewarding…”
“You slut,” Dory said fondly.
“Well, what’s the harm?” she said.
“No offense,” Dory hastened to assure her. “I was just teasing you, you know, dear.”
“Well, really,” Charlene insisted, “we are old enough to know what we want, and young enough to reach out and take it—if we’re smart, in my opinion. Who knows how long any of us has, anyway? I’m sixty-nine, although I still don’t believe it, and you’re sixty-three, Robby’s sixty-seven, and Jill’s a young’un at fifty-eight, but still. We’ve gotten to the point in life that we always wished for, with the right to be downright eccentric if we want to. Who’s going to gainsay us?”
“You’re right, of course,” Jill agreed.
“And sometimes it does work, although maybe not in ways you expect,” Robby said, directing a loving look Dory’s way. “Dory and I met the old-fashioned way, face-to-face, at a party in New Orleans over twenty years ago. But I know women who’ve met the love of their life online. You’ve made a number of friends online from people who didn’t share a sexual spark with you, didn’t you, Charlene?”
“Yup, and I love ’em all. Not in the biblical sense, of course. Worse luck. But okay, Dory, dish,” she said. “Past histories can be fun, but what’s happening more recently?”
“Well, you know, even though we’ve been together forever, Robby and I are still learning about each other…”
“Surely not in the biblical sense, as Charlene said?” teased Jill.
“Oh, no, love, we’ve covered the Bible very well and are still studying seriously,” she responded with a grin. “No, I mean as people, individuals. Like last week, I really hurt her feelings with a remark. I was talking about one aspect of what I’d said—how I felt about an acquaintance—but what she heard was that she was failing in comparison. I felt terrible afterward and apologized for being thoughtless. It’s an ongoing adventure.”
“For which I so envy you, girlfriend. To be in love and having hot sex at our age? You are one lucky girl,” Jill said. “I’m happy to have the hot sex, but I miss the ‘in love’ part.”
“I am lucky, I know,” Dory admitted.
“All right, now, y’all, I have a proposal to make that should take all our worries and cares off our minds, at least temporarily,” Robby said. “Are you ready?”
“Good heavens, do tell,” said Jill, refreshing her glass for her second—or was it her third?—martini. “Did you buy us all winning lottery tickets and forget to tell us?”
“Ha! Like that’s an issue for you, Jill,” chided Dory. “Now, I for one would purely love to hear that.”
“No, nothing so amazing, but still pretty wonderful,” Robby replied. “I think we should all go to New Orleans’s French Quarter Festival this year. It’d be nice to get out of Atlanta for a while. It’s April twelfth to the fifteenth and it’s the biggest free music festival in the country. Dory and I used to go all the time—first separately and then together, after we met—and we just loved it. I found a great house that would hold all of us in comfort, for cheap. What do you say?”
“Absolutely, let’s do it,” Dory begged. “You just won’t believe how wonderful New Orleans is. We’ll have such fun!” “
"Sounds good to me,” said Charlene. “Me, too,” echoed Jill. “What’s the house like?”
“Oh, it’s great,” Robby reported. “Three bedrooms and two baths with towering ceilings and windows, a porch and walled backyard with a fountain, and right near the Canal Street cable car stop to take us straight into the French Quarter.”
“Of course,” Robby reassured Jill.
“Then sold!” Jill said, and the friends began plotting their great excursion.