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The List

“The Browns show up so early and stay so late that I’m wondering if we don’t want to put different times on their invitation,” Vicky said.

“On just the Brown’s invitation?” Kenneth asked.

“Yes. My father was notoriously late to dinner parties, so people always told him everything started half an hour earlier than it really did.”

“I guess I see the point. Did you put Margot down?”


“Yes. She’s always come.”

“But she’s had such a tragic year.”

“Exactly,” Kenneth said. “It would be good for her to get out.”

“It might be good for her, but it would be bad for the party. She’d be the elephant in the room.”

“O.K. It was just a thought. What about the Fensterhoffs?”

“What do you mean by what about them?” Vicky asked looking up from the list.

“They seemed to have a really good time last year. That’s all.”

“Listen, I’m really sorry about that.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Oh. It was nothing. Jacob just had a few drinks and he was…”

“…flirting with you?” Kenneth chuckled. “I noticed. I’m sure you put him in his place.”

“Well, no. Not really. That would have been mean.”

“You don’t seem to mind putting anyone else in their place.”

“It’s just that Jacob and I go way back…”

“What exactly do you mean?”

“It’s really nothing. I thought you knew. We used to date in college.”

“You did?” Kenneth said. “I never knew. Is there some reason you never told me?”

Vicky thought for a moment. “I guess I never mentioned it because it was so long ago and it wasn’t a big deal.”

“Oh,” he said. “Does Emma know?”

“No. I mean I doubt she does.”

“Right,” Kenneth said, almost to himself. “I suppose it really is ancient history.”


“I have to admit, though, that it’s kind of strange to find this out now. Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I did tell you.”

“Yes, just now, and sort of by accident. How long did you two date?”

“Not long. Two years.”

“Two years? What do you mean, not long, two years?” He paused. “You didn’t have sex with him, did you?”

“Kenneth, I mean. . . . really….”

“Oh, God. That means you did.”

“Well, it was a long time ago–before I knew you.”

“I can’t believe we’ve been friends with these people, had them in our house and now I find out that you two . . . . We can’t have them over.”

“It was years and years ago.”

“I don’t care. I don’t want him in our house.”

“Kenneth, if you’re going to forbid me for having any of the men I was romantically involved with over to the house…”

“What? Do you mean there are more men you’ve been with that we’ve invited to our house?”

“Well, I mean….”

“Great. What should I do? Ask you to draw a line through everyone on the list that you’ve slept with?”

“Sure, Kenneth. If it will make you feel better, I’ll do just that. Never mind that all of this happened before I met you. ”

“All of this? What do you mean all of this?”

“All of nothing,” she said studying the legal pad.

He watched her go through the list, wincing every time her pen touched page.

“See,” she finally said. “You’re making a big fuss out of nothing.”

Kenneth’s eyes ransacked the page. “You drew a line through four names. What are you saying?”

“I’m saying that when I was young and single, I had a few sexual relationships with men.”

“Right. . . . but . . . ”

“Now that I’m thinking about it,” she added, “you’d better put a question mark next to Peter Howell. I actually don’t remember if we did.”

“You don’t remember?”

“It was so long ago. I remember that he took me to dinner up at Blue Rock and then we went for a drive up Lookout Mountain, but I don’t remember if we ended up actually…”

“How many dates did you have with him?”

“Just one.”

“One? Only one date?”

“Yes. I mean, we were young, and he was very attractive, I just don’t remember if we actually . . . . Why?”

“You made me wait for five months, before you would sleep with me. We were twenty-six. That’s young. I guess you didn’t find me anywhere near as attractive as Peter Howell.”

“Of course I did. I married you, and I haven’t been with–or wanted to be with–anyone else in fifteen years. Can’t we please just drop this? It really is getting silly.”

“I suppose so,” he said. “I know it was a long time ago. I honestly didn’t think you got around that much, that’s all.”

“I didn’t get around that much. Maybe a baker’s dozen.”

“What? You mean there were more?”

“A few more, yes,” she said. “But then, for that matter I know I wasn’t your first.”

“No. But I can count the women I’ve been with on…well… a little more than one hand.”

“Was it for lack of trying?”

“Absolutely not.”

“Well then, Kenneth, to put this into perspective, I’m sure that you wanted to sleep with more people than I ever wanted to.”

“Right,” he said. “Like you aren’t at parties or in your car downtown during rush hour, or maybe at the store, looking around and thinking about who you would like to sleep with.”

“I’m not! Why? Are you?”

“Well…a little…” I mean, I have. Sometimes. Here and there.”

“Are you saying that there are women on our list that you’ve fantasized about?”

“I’m a guy. Of course I’ve had a fleeting thought or two.”

“I don’t mean a fleeting thought,” she said. “I mean an all-out sexual fantasy. Have you entertained those sorts of thoughts with any of the people on our holiday guest list?”

“Well… uh. . . kind of. . . .”

“I can’t believe this,” she said. “Here I was going around like a chump with hors d’oeuvres trays thinking we were hosting a nice holiday party, and meanwhile you were lurking around, thinking God knows what about our guests.”

“You weren’t?”


“Well…I mean it’s not like I was thinking that about everybody or like I was walking around thinking that all the time.”

“Here,” she said handing him a pen. “Just for the Hell of it, put a check mark next to the names of all of the women you’ve had a fantasy about.”

“Are you sure you want me to do this?”

“Yes, absolutely,” she said. “I’ll be fine with it. I’m just curious. I just want to know.”

“What qualifies as a fantasy?”

“Something more elaborate than a fleeting thought. Something detailed and sexual that…. Oh Christ, Kenneth, I’m not going to come out and say it.”

“Give me a minute…”

She watched him without blinking.

“Here,” he finally said.

Her lips moved as she counted. “Nine names? You’re sick. You are really sick.”

“I’m a guy.” Kenneth had never used this defense before.

“Wait,” she said. “You don’t have a check-mark next to Ingrid. She’s gorgeous. I mean, she’s by far the most beautiful woman we know …”

“She’s pretty. But she doesn’t do anything for me.”

“But you have a check-mark next to Lilly Contapolous? She looks like a potato in an Angelina Jolie wig.”

“There’s something about her. . . .”

“And Nora? You’ve imagined having sex with Nora? I was in water aerobics with her. You should see her in the locker room. The minute she takes off her bra . . . .”

“Please. Stop.”

“And Lorraine Drexler? She’s at least eighty years old. “

“Yes, but …I don’t know…she just seems like she’d lose control and get really wild and there’d be nothing I could do about it…”

“I think I’m going to be sick. You’ve not only had sexual fantasies about nine of our guests; you picked some of the strangest ones.”

“I did not. Those women are plenty attractive. There are lots of women I find plenty attractive that you would never suspect…”

“What are you saying?”

“I’m saying,” he said, “that fantasies are fantasies. They just happen. They don’t mean anything.”

“Well,” she said, “they mean we’ve just cut out a big chunk out of our guest list.”

“You aren’t going to invite those women to our party because I’ve had fantasies about them?”

“Not if we’re not inviting the men I’ve slept with.”

“Well. . . . Do you still want to sleep with them?”

“No. I really don’t think about it. I honestly don’t,” she said. “Would you really sleep with those women if you had the chance?”

Kenneth paused. “Are you asking in the literal sense or in the hypothetical sense, like, say, if you were dead?”

“I mean literally.”

“Literally? . . . .No. I honestly wouldn’t because I know that if it were to happen in real life, it wouldn’t be that great; I mean it never is.”

“What do you mean it never is?” she gasped. “You waited for me for five months. I suppose you had fantasies about it the entire time and then when we finally had sex, it was just a big let-down?”

“No. . . . Of course not.”

After an agonizing silence he gently asked, “Vicky, Love. . . . Do you want to send out e-invitations or should we go with snail mail?”


Caroline Zarlengo Sposto is the poetry editor of Humor in America.

Read more stories by Caroline Sposto


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