They were sitting at the table, Harry sipping his coffee and watching Marilyn eat like it was the first time in a week. She was wearing a light blue robe and the wide collar turned up to frame her face. She needed a hair cut and styling, a manicure and probably a pedicure, but she was fundamentally a very pretty woman. Not exactly what he’d call beautiful, but quite attractive. He suspected she knew and could use her attractiveness.
After her second helping of eggs and the last of the bacon and toast, she leaned back and stretched her feet out, wiggling her toes. Harry felt they were wiggling at him. “Now what?”, she asked. “Is this where the quid pro quo kicks in? You got me cleaned up and fed. What do you want from me?”
Harry ignored the question. “You know art?”, he asked.
Marilyn shrugged. “Another life. It doesn’t matter now.”
“Would you want that life back?” Harry asked
“Never! At least not the last 30 of it.” She smiled at some memory and said, “The early years when I lived in the Village and Paris and Rome – that I miss.” She studied him speculatively. “You want to support a starving artist?”
“It’s none of my business, but what happened?” Harry asked.
“Shit happened. A particular shit named Andre Mackler”.
“I’ve heard of him. Vaguely recall some scandal – fraud, absconded with funds. Don’t remember the details. “
“He was a high end lawyer and investment guru. He looted his clients’ estates and investments and ran away to Brazil. Now I think he’s somewhere in Croatia or maybe it’s the Caribbean. I don’t know. Or care. What I do know is he left me to face the consequences.”
She looked at him. “Thirty years ago I still had my looks.” She flashed him a smile. “Maybe not Marilyn Monroe, but still good. I had a name as an up-and-coming artist and art curator. I could talk the language of all his filthy-rich clients. So he made me his trophy wife.”
“Living the high life and all of as sudden the bottom dropped out. Surely you weren’t held responsible for his debts.”
She snorted. “No, not for the stolen money. But they took everything except my clothes. My car, my jewelry, even some of my own artwork that was in the houses. I had nothing. And when the word got out, people treated me like dirt, like I must have known and been party to all his schemes. People I thought were my friends cut me dead. One offered me a secretarial job – provided he got a daily blowjob. I told him I’d rather live on the streets.”
Harry thought for awhile. “Tell me, if you could go back to being an artist, would you? Could you?”
Marilyn looked hard at him. “I might try. The artist crowd isn’t so judgmental, and I could be happy painting and sculpting again. But I’d still have to deal with the pricks who buy the paintings and that whole class. What pisses me off most about them is that they are so busy screwing each other and the rest of the country, they’re worse than Andre was. He stole from the millionaires and billionaires. Most of them steal from the poor people and the middle class. They do it in business, in politics, in religion – you name it, wherever money and power reach, they’re there, getting their pound of flesh. And the money and power reach pretty much everywhere, these days.”
“A succinct social and political commentary”, Harry remarked. “And pretty much on the mark. But you’ll never get most people to see it that way. The upper class is at war with everyone else, but we don’t fight back because we don’t understand it’s a class war. We like to pretend there are no classes in America, despite the evidence to the contrary.”
Marilyn smiled. “And what class do you consider yourself? This place isn’t exactly a hovel. How many peons did you have to pee on to be able to afford this house?”
Harry had been expecting the question. “I grew up rural, working class. Did manage to finish college because it was quite cheap or even free in some places. I started a software and consulting company fifty years ago. It was quite successful. I didn’t have peons. My employees were well paid, good benefits. Once they demonstrated their competence, I gave each of them a piece of the company. By the time a good buyout offer came by, there were 36 of us and I only owned about 30% of the company. The employees owned the rest. They voted to accept the buyout. We all took their money and ran. The buyers ended up owning a corporation with a great reputation but no employees.”
Marilyn leaned back and roared with laughter. “Marvelous! And what did the buyers have to say?”
Harry shrugged. “Wasn’t’ much they could do. Not my fault they were too tight to hire a good lawyer when it came time to draw up the takeover contract. With judicious investments, I’ve done pretty much what I pleased for the last thirty years.”
“And what have you done for the last thirty years?”, she asked, rather softly.
He smiled. “Spent a lot of my time trying to help people who need help. Some charities are okay and do good work, but I like to get more personal.”
“Like with me.”
“Like with you.”
“My name isn’t Marilyn Monroe”, she said. “It’s Helen.”
“Hello Harry whover-you-are.”
“McOliver,” he said. “Harry McOliver. And even if your name isn’t really Marilyn Monroe…”
“You’re still a damn fine looking woman.”
And the doorbell rang.