Between Two Dives

It felt as if this review wrote itself on my behalf…

GIGOLO AND GIGOLETTE by W. Somerset Maugham

Quote from this story:
“It was certainly an odd pair. They were sitting by themselves
at a small table. They were very old. The man was big and stout
with a mass of white hair, great bushy white eyebrows and an
enormous white mustache. He looked like the late King Humbert
of Italy, but much more like a king. He sat bolt upright. He wore
full evening dress, with a white tie and a collar that has been out
of fashion for hard on thirty years. His companion was a little old
lady in a black satin ball dress, cut very low and tight at the waist.
Round her neck were several chains of coloured beads. She wore
what was obviously a wig, and a very ill-fitting one at that; it was
very elaborate, all curls and sausages, and raven black. She was
outrageously made up, bright blue under the eyes and on the eye-
lids, the eyebrows heavily black, a great patch of very pink rouge
on each cheek and the lips a livid scarlet. The skin hung loosely on
her face in deep wrinkles. She had large bold eyes, and they darted
eagerly from table to table. She was taking everything in, and
every other minute called the old man’s attention to someone or
other. The appearance of the couple was so fantastic in that fash-
ionable crowd, the men in dinner jackets, the women in thin, pale-
colored frocks, that many eyes were turned on them. The staring
did not seem to incommode the old lady. When she felt certain
persons were looking at her she raised her eyebrows archly, smiled
and rolled her eyes. She seemed on the point of acknowledging

That is the core of this story, but a story that is otherwise not about them; the story itself is actually about a different couple, the eponymous couple, in a Casino on the French Riviera, many many years before Coronavirus hit the planet, she, to attract diners and gamblers, by diving from a great height into a shallow petrol-lit tank. Twice a night. Daredevil stunt. Tempting at least a broken back by this personal closing of the distance between her and death, in each of her sudden spurts downward. Yes, twice a night. She suddenly loses her nerve between the two dives. Threatening a return to the more lowly paid job, for the couple, of physically attritional marathon-dancing…
And that’s where we must leave this story, before it ends. Between one dive and the next.

From my review here:

Artwork above by Camille Gabrielle for the chapbook ‘The Weirdmonger’s Tales’ (Wyrd Press 1994)

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