For several days after receiving Madeleine's postcard (says Warren), I couldn't sleep. I tried to erase her memory by the usual methods, but found that even two portions of Bisque Crèmeuse de Homard et Choux Fleur au Curry were powerless to diminish my longing.
I drove all the way to her place of work and paced the sidewalk until a representative of the local constabulary accused me of being a potential threat to the community. There comes to many a man a moment when he realizes there exits only one woman for him, and if that woman does not return his attentions he has no option but to resign himself to a life of misery. I therefore mailed applications to monasteries of various persuasions as well as to a six-year, all-male expedition to Antarctica. Regrettably, I was found lacking physically for the latter and spiritually for the former.
Two months later I had lost all hope for life and nearly four and a half pounds. Then it happened -- one chilly rain-filled evening when I returned from work planning to dine on a cold can of kidney beans salted only by my tears. I received a palpable shock when, among all the unwanted items in my mailbox, I discovered a letter addressed in a hand I immediately recognized as that of Madeleine. I tore open the envelope and read aloud to the emptiness of my lonely apartment.
Dear Warren (wrote Madeleine), I hope you will bear through the inordinate length of this correspondence as my narrative might have some bearing upon your own life. At the very least it might enlighten you as to the consequences of the random application of untested chemistry.
As you know, I immediately secured employment as a coiffeuse extraordinaire. Although this was the fulfillment of a long time dream, I found it somehow intellectually lacking. To amuse myself while executing my daily duties, I developed formulae for such things as calculating the number of hairs on a customer's head in relation to his or her age, head shape, and temperament, and the probability of times the word "like" would be uttered by my co-workers in relation to their highest academic grade completed, the day of the week, and their most recent sexual activity.
One day an astonishingly attractive man entered the salon requesting a simple trim. Seeing his a corduroy sport coat with leather elbow patches, the unlit pipe he clenched between his teeth, and the four-inch thick book he grasped with his weak, overly manicured hands, I deduced he was a scholar.
My hands trembled when I placed the apron around his neck. For weeks, my romantic fantasies had involved wild, uninhibited passion with a man whose IQ was over 140.
"You don't mind if I read while you work?" he asked with a smile that shot through my heart like pulmonary resuscitation.
I assured him it would not interfere, but my attention was constantly drawn to the material that lay open in his lap. Finally, I could resist no longer.
"Pardon me, sir," I said. "Is that by any chance a book on anomalous covalent bonding in positron emission deterioration?"
He looked up -- a move that nearly caused me to shave the top two millimeters from his left ear. "Why, yes it is," he said with not a little surprise. He turned the book to the cover. It was entitled Anomalous Covalent Bonding in Positron Emission Deterioration by Dr. Eunice Barfelmeyer.
I cleared my throat. I'm not the sort of girl who can make easy conversation with a stranger and, never having had the pleasure of attending an institution of higher learning beyond Mr. Bruce's School Cosmetology, I was unfamiliar with the protocol of addressing a man of learning. "A-are you a professor?" I stammered.
He offered his delicate hand. "Richard Head, Ph.D.," he said. "Head of my class in high school, head of my class at Harvard, and now head of the Department of Chemistry at Ivy University. I'm curious, Miss ... ah ... "
"Well, Madeleine, I'm curious why you were so interested in my reading material. Do you know anything about chemistry?"
"Not a thing, Professor," I confessed. "But I was wondering if that little "y" in the formula on the top of page 318 ... "
"Yes. That's the coefficient. It means ... "
"Well, if that funny looking "f" ... "
"That stands for "function," which is a term in something called calculus..."
"As I said, I don't know the first thing about chemistry, Professor, but it seems to me that if you use that formula to modify the number underneath the little line..."
" ... then the multiplication by the coefficient on page 312 would negate the function as defined on page 318 and the result would be a non-real integer."
He examined page 318, then 312, then 318 once again. "Good Lord," he said. "I must inform Professor Barfelmeyer of her mistake. This might change the entire field of non-nutritive food engineering. And you, Madeleine -- and I say this in the most complementary way -- are nothing more than a simple-minded, uneducated hairdresser?"
I admit that his remark brought a blush of shame to my cheeks, already flushed with romantic exhilaration. I haltingly explained how, even though I enjoyed styling hair, I kept my mind occupied by various methods, which I described.
"Madeleine,"' he said with a look of admiration for my intelligence I daresay I received from a potential suitor for the first time in my life, "you are the most extraordinary woman I have ever met. You must consent to having dinner with me tonight or I shall begin to weep uncontrollably."
I told him it would be my pleasure, and so the arrangements were made. At eight precisely he arrived at my door in a dashing mauve three-piece suit and matching faux alligator dress shoes. His hair, of course, was coiffed impeccably, which I say in all modesty.
"Madeleine," he said, bowing. "You have me at a disadvantage tonight since, even before I learn more about you, I have lost my heart to you. Never has Divine Wisdom cast such a wealth of intelligence in a vault of such pulchritude. Long have I sought a woman whose mind could keep pace with my own peerless prowess. Now I have found her at last in the form of the most lovely of all God's creatures."
And the evening went on from there, Richard growing more and more poetic until the waiter looked at me from across the room, pointed at my date, and made small circles around his ears. But I considered the server rude and ignorant, such was the intensity of my infatuation with the eminent Professor Head.
At the end of the meal, across a shared plate of Chocolat du Marnier Suprema, he took my hand. "Madeleine, I can't bear to wait. I want to marry you -- tonight. Let's go -- nay, haste -- to Las Vegas and be man and wife before the sun rises again on us. Together we will spend our days discussing the non-molecular bonding properties of saline atoms suspended in nucleic solutions."
"Oh, Richard!" I whispered, barely able to speak.
"Call me Dick," he said. "And soon you'll be proud to call yourself my wife -- Mrs. Dick Head."
I don't know if it was the overpriced champagne that Richard -- Dick -- kept pouring, but I lost all track of time. In a flurry of passion, anticipation, and the reassurance that a man at last was interested in me for my mind, I climbed into Dick's silver Volvo XC90 and we drove into the night. I have no idea how much later it was, hours or days, but at last we exited the highway into a neon world of flash and glitter.
"My dearest, darling Dick," I said. "I can't help but notice we've already passed three All-night Wedding Parlors."
He reached into the glove box and withdrew his pipe, from which he inhaled a non-existent puff. "Ah, ma petite, as their name implies, those establishments are open all night. As there are still several hours until sunrise, I suggest we first amuse ourselves at one of the endless casinos that lie before us. And, pulling into the entrance to Ghenghis Khan's Boudoir, a massive structure in the shape of the Mongolian despot in his underpants, Dick explained the rudiments of a game he called "blackjack."
We soon found ourselves seated in red velvet chairs surrounding a red velvet table being dealt cards by a man in a red velvet suit. "A simple matter, my sweetest," Dick whispered. "All you need to do is watch a few hands, keep track of which cards appear, and calculate the probability of getting as close as possible to twenty-one. When the odds are good, we bet. If not, we don't. With your superior intellect, it should be no problem."
Nor was it. In the space of twenty minutes, we had won $10,000 in chips, something which Dick insisted could be exchanged for legal tender. I was ecstatic. Prior to that moment, I was the sort of girl who considered a five-dollar tip to be a significant step toward her retirement.
"Oh, Love of my Life," I said. "I believe all that champagne has resulted in a call of nature. Will you wait just a moment while I go and powder my nose."
"Huh? Oh, yeah. Sure, sure, anything for you, ma petite chou chou." I kissed the top of his beautiful head while he ran his fingers through the pile of chips.
It couldn't have been five minutes later, as I was leaving the final fifty yards of the palatial Ladies Room, that I heard Dick's voice. He was standing behind a paper maché replica of The Massacre of Constantinople speaking into a cell phone. "Mummsy, it's me, Dickie. Yes, I'm in Vegas with the idiot savant. We've already won ten Gs and she's still getting the hang of the game. What? No, of course not. You know they'd kick you and me both out of the social register if I married a dame who cuts hair."
"Oh, man! That was cruel," says the young man in the red polo shirt. "I had a professor in college just like that. He flunked me just because ... "
"So Madeleine learned her lesson, I suppose," says the man in the black sports jacket. "That brains aren't everything."
"Precisely," says Warren. "Madeline took the professor's chips and distributed them equitably to a group of senior citizens who were playing slot machines. Then she made an anonymous call to the Las Vegas police department informing them that if they searched the glove box of a silver Volvo XC90 parked in the lot at Ghengis Khan's Boudoir, they would find the bag of marijuana and a vial of cocaine belonging to the eminent professor Richard Head, Ph.D. I believe the man lost his academic position and now washes windshields for a dollar at busy intersections near the campus."
"So what happened to Madeleine?" asks the man in the black sports coat.
Warren sighs and readjusts his belt. "She said that on the long bus ride home she had time to think and realized I was the only man who had ever respected her for who she was and, even though I would never be her intellectual equal, she had brains enough for the two of us."
The man in the blue sweater grimaces and runs his fingers through his hair. "Christ Almighty, Borman! You've told some loopy stories before, but this time you've really outdone yourself. Are you trying to tell us that a young, gorgeous, brilliant stripper came back to you begging?"
"I certainly would hesitate to call it begging. I'd prefer to say the young lady had an epiphany."
"Epiphany? Is that some sort of fit?" asks the young man in the red polo shirt.
"Yeah," says the man in the blue sweater. "She'd have to have had a fit to want to date Borman. So tell us how she dumped you, Warren. And make it snappy. I want to get home before my toddler graduates high school."
"I'm very pleased to tell you gentlemen," says Warren stifling a smile, "Madeleine and I were married a year ago this March. I don't wear a ring because of a rare skin allergy."
"Well, how 'bout that?" says the man in the black sport coat as he offers his hand across the table. "Belated congratulations, old pal. I had no idea."
The man in the blue sweater swats his dinner companion across the head with an open hand. "You had no idea because none of this is true. Borman's just bullshitting us so he can make me pay for his dinner. Of course the girl dumped him -- if there ever was a Madeleine in the first place. Can't you guys tell a lie when you hear one. Sheesh!"
"Oh, Warren!" All four heads turn at the sound of a melodious feminine voice. Entering the restaurant is a stunning young woman whose perfect figure is interrupted only by a prominent bulge in her midsection. She glides across the room and takes Warren's hand. "Are you ready to go, darling?"
"Certainly, my dear," he says. "How was your shopping?"
"Superb. We finally have everything we need for the nursery. I'm ready for our trip."
The man in the blue sweater tries to talk but isn't able to move his mouth. Instead, the man in the black sport coat asks, "You're going on a trip?"
"Yes," says Warren. "Madeleine and I are going to make one last visit to Atlantic City before Warren, Jr. is born."
Madeleine steps behind Warren and caresses his chest with her delicate hands. "We always have such a wonderful time together, no matter where we are," she says, her deep eyes gleaming with delight. "Or how much we win."
Warren gathers the four dinner receipts. "I believe these are yours," he says, placing them in the limp hand of the man in the blue sweater. "And I think you might want to make your introduction soon to the young lady in the fishnet stockings." From beneath his napkin Warren withdraws the small bottle of tranquilizers "You might want to fortify yourself with a few of these. She seems to be involved in an intimate discussion with that stocky gentleman in the motorcycle jacket."
The man in the blue sweater is motionless except for a slight quivering in his lower jaw.
"I only hope," Warren says turning to the young man in the red polo shirt, "that you and the waitress will be as happy as Madeleine and me."