Thursday, March 17, 2005

What She Offered by Thomas H. Cook

“What She Offered” by Thomas H. Cook, Dangerous Women Edited by Otto Penzler, Mysterious Press, Trade Paperback, $13.95

The main character in this offering is a moderately successful writer of noir fiction. The story opens with him living his normal life, confusing that with the lives his characters live. He mopes through the New York bar scene sure that he knows things that the people around him, loving, fighting, working through their lives, don’t.

He tells this story to a friend of his, how he met a dangerous woman. This woman came into the bar he frequents dressed elegantly all in black unrelieved except for a simple string of pearls. He notices her, and she him. She sends him a note: “I know what you know about life.”

This starts a short exchange of note-writing that ends with them talking. She knows who he is, has read his books. She wants to commit suicide, thinks it is the only thing to do for people that feel as she does, and as she believes he does. But she doesn’t want to do it alone. She wants him to fall in love with her. There isn’t time to do it the old-fashioned way, so she wants to skip the courtship and start with a roll in the hay. He is intrigued, so he goes home with her.

There he learns about her husband, as plain as she is beautiful. He has been dead three years, and was the love of her life. He suffered greatly from cancer, so greatly that ultimately she euthanized him with a pillow. Now it’s time to end her suffering.

They have sex, and she goes to get the pills. They continue to talk, and she tells him a truth that changes his whole view of his life, what he thought he knew better than everyone else in the world.

The story is well worth reading in spite of one quibble I have. When they arrive at her apartment, they have a drink then get undressed and get into bed. Remember, this is a very beautiful woman. They get into bed, naked, and lie there talking for a while before they begin doing what they got in bed to do. I’m sorry, but, speaking as a guy, there would have been no talking before the sex. Think about it. Here is a guy that has been lured to a beautiful stranger’s apartment for the express purpose of having sex and, incidentally, committing suicide, though he really doesn’t believe that part. He’s been drinking all evening, though not heavily, he had another drink at her apartment, and they have just undressed in front of each other and climbed into bed. There would have been NO TALKING!

In short, in spite of that one quibble, a good story.