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Before the Literary Bar

On the fifth day Bobby said to me, “You want to get married?”


“Well, I’ll get married.”

“Let’s,” I said.

“We can’t,” he said. “I’m married already,” and he bit me on the lip. I flung him off. “You said you were divorced.”

“She won’t give it.”

His wife was living with Rod. Rod, he told me, had killed the dog and then stole the collar. Of course, that diamond collar had used to belong to Bobby’s wife, except that Bobby had taken it back from her the day they broke up and put it on the dog.

“Rod is away now,” he said, “on location in Utah. Let’s go over and visit my old lady.”

“And tell her you want a divorce?”

He squeezed my arm so hard I could feel the bruise instantly. “No,” he said, “we’ll finish her off like the dog.”

What I couldn’t believe was the excitement it gave me. I was nearer to myself than I ever wanted to be. I saw inside myself to the other soul, the one that never spoke. It was ready to think of murder. In truth, my headache went away.

“Let’s drive up to her house,” he said. “I’ll do it and you watch. Then we’ll come back here. If we stick together, nobody can prove a thing. We can say we were in bed.”

I could see us looking at each other forever, one year into the next. I could see my pictures in the newspapers. STARLET QUESTIONED IN MURDER CASE. The pictures would be printed in all the newspapers over the world. A candle could burn in a dark church at such a thought. The idea that everyone would talk of me was beautiful. Killing Bobby’s wife felt almost comfortable. Maybe if I hadn’t seen Romulus with that funny expression on his face where he was dead but still seemed to be learning to sit on his paws, maybe if I hadn’t seen something in that animal lying there so calmly after his throat was cut, I might have worried about Bobby’s wife, but now I just felt as if it was all fair somehow. Maybe Bobby would even let me keep my baby. I remember thinking of how I felt when I first saw my face on film in Scudda-Hoo! Scudda-Hay! and decided I was very interesting, except I had what you might call a space in my expression. There was something in me that didn’t show itself to others. Like: I’m ready to commit murder.

We got into Bobby’s car and drove across Bel Air into Beverly Hills, and in one of the houses off Rodeo Drive was where she lived. It was dark, and there were no cars outside, and the garage was locked, so Bobby and I went to the back of the house. He found the wire to the burglar alarm and cut it and cracked the latch on the window. There we were standing in her kitchen. He looked in the rack for the carving knife and found one. Then we went up the stairs to her bedroom. I remember it was on the side that would have a view of the hills above Beverly Hills, and all the while he was doing this, despite the benzedrine, I never felt more calm as if, ha ha, I was on This is Your Life, and they were talking about me looking for the woman’s door. I even held Bobby’s hand, the one that did not have the knife.

There was no lock to the master bedroom. By the light of the street lamps coming through the window, we could see that there was also no woman in the bed. The house was empty. We went through every room, but it was empty. Bobby’s wife must have gone on location with Rod.

We went home. Before the night was over, Bobby beat me up, or at least he started to, but he was too drunk to catch me. I was awful sick of sex. I grabbed up my clothes and ran out the door and had the luck to find a taxi on those lonely streets and went home to Hollywood. I didn’t even cry in the back seat. It just occurred to me that Bobby didn’t even know my phone number or address, or even my last name, just my first, and maybe he would never try to find me, and he never did.

Two days later, I had the abortion. Whenever I looked into my mirror now in my apartment in the Waldorf Towers, on the 37th floor, I could still see how something ended in me that day, I don’t know what, but it is still in my expression.

PROSECUTOR: Mr. Mailer, concerning these last two excerpts, what percentage of fact and fiction would you estimate are there?

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