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Vicarious Living 

'I cannot remember whether this tale is true or not."

" G.K. Chesterton

I could hear Duffossat slap himself in the face. Again.

'You know my grandma Pixie usta really believe that New Orleans mosquitoes were bigger and bloodier than other mosquitoes. But lots of guys who ought to know these things, guys who've been to junior college, say that mosquitoes are the same all over."

'I dunno," said Yogi. "I think your granny mighta had something there."

'Let's go inside," Duffossat said, brushing some sort of an insect off his mojito. "Girls, there's towels in the bag." I think the girls' names were Ava and Eva. They were twins who were enjoying the pool, and their combined ages did not exceed the total of Yogi's belt size.

Here's the setup. Yogi, Jimmy Chimichanga and I to this Uptown chateau have come, and it is replete with swimming pool and a garden tended by professional pruners. It is owned by Duffossat's sister, who is married to an investor who has invited her on a cruise around the Aegean Islands. Duffossat has a business card that reads "Personal Service," which means he runs errands for old people, and he's housesitting for his sister. He also owes Chimichanga a bunch of money, which is how we all got here.

Our host pardoned himself to take a shower and invited us to snack while he was gone. This was generous or foolish, since each of us was a determined collector of hors d'oeuvres.

So the housekeeper brings out some melted chutney on crackers, and we help ourselves to some Longmorn single-malt Scotch. Quick as a nun's kiss, I had buried the evidence and was back for seconds. "These goods are good," I observed wisely.

'Them chicks by the pool, one keeps calling the other ugly," Yogi said. "Does this make sense for a twin?"

'Chicks are all cuckoo," Chimichanga decided. "I was on one of them credit-card telephone dates the other night, and the chick hung up on me!"

'You are quite the ladies' man," I noted.

'Wow," said Yogi. "You mean you call those numbers? I saw on one of those reality shows that all the chicks on them phones are fat broads with four kids living in a trailer park and chain-smoking Pall Mall Lights."

'Yeah?" challenged Chimichanga. "Since when do reality shows have anything to do with reality?"

'Man, this is outstanding chow," I said, trying to change the subject. "Look at all the cookbooks on the shelf over there. I bet these folks can cook a bit."

'Them books don't mean nothing," corrected Yogi. "All them people who buy Julia's cookbooks or a Viking stove and watch Emeril on TV — do any of those people actually cook? Can anyone actually make a ham-and-cheese omelet? Thousands of bucks in cookbooks to be able to discuss cooking."

Just then Duffossat sauntered back into the room. He was wearing Bruno Magli Manola lace-ups, a cotton shirt by Dolce & Gabbana and a Louis Vuitton silk tie. He lit a Montecristo cigar fresh from Habana, and that helped hide the aroma of half a bottle of Armani "Code."

'Hmmm. You must be almost the exact same size as your brother-in-law," I observed.

'The grub is great," said Yogi, trying to change the subject. "Puts me in mind of the mac "n' cheese at Rocky and Carlo's."

'Rocky and Carlo's is the Brennan's of St. Bernard," said Chimichanga.

Duffossat started telling how he'd had to put his sister's pets in an animal shelter.

'She's got a dog, one of them spaniels — a St. Charles Spaniel, I thought they was named for the avenue, I ain't kidding — name of Rambo. Every coupla hours, he would bark until I put a halter on him and walked him around the block. And she's got a parrot named Rainbow, and he keeps yelling, "Aw, shut up!" at the dog. So Rambo is barking, Rainbow is squawking. So help me God, I had to put "em in a shelter."

You know me; I just have to say something about small animals and those who love them. "Dogs take themselves too seriously, but not as seriously as cats and certainly not as seriously as those who own dogs."

Our host produced a new bottle of B&B and some snifters, and we began sipping. "How'd your brother-in-law make his money?" asked Yogi.

'Oh, his old man owned the second-largest bus company in Pennsylvania."

'Another one of those riches-to-riches stories," quipped Yogi.

'It ain't fair," said Chimichanga. "Sometimes I think there's no justice in this world."

I had to put my two cents in. "There's no fairness in who lives and who dies, and if there's no fairness in that, where can we reasonably expect it?"

'Aw, hell," said Yogi. "I ain't seen no justice around here since Don Corleone died."


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