“Good evening, sir! Welcome back! I take it shooting went well?” the usually stuffy maitre d’ fawned over the Great Man.
“Hello, George, good to be back. And you’ll just have to wait to see how shooting went,” the Great Man dodged the question, “And I think I’ll start with caviare tonight, I’m starving, the food in Java was dreadful.”
“Of course, sir, if you’ll follow me¾” the maitre d’ bowed, “Ma’am, you look beautiful tonight!”
The Great Man’s wife smiled, amused; it was George’s standard line. She said,
“Thanks, George. .....Rumor has it that Henri got in some beautiful beef today, let’s follow the caviare with some tartare.”
The maitre d’ nodded and led them into the restaurant’s main room.
The room went silent for just a moment. Everyone stopped to look at the Great Man and his wife progress to their table, the best in the room (the restaurant never ever forgot the tantrum he threw several years ago when the table had not been held for him). Conversation resumed, but he was still the center of attention. He seemed to swell, quite a feat considering his size, as he lumbered across the room (he had never been known for his grace), one huge hand in the small of his wife’s back. He called greetings and comments to various people, his magnificent voice rumbling over the noise.
He looked much the same as always; the only obvious difference being a painful looking sunburn acquired in the south Pacific. He had dark hair slightly threaded with gray, and a face that was curiously babyish, despite the lines around his eyes. He towered over his wife at 6’4”, and even in a custom tailored tuxedo he managed to look rumpled and generally sloppy. Someone once said of him that he looked like an unmade bed, and he did indeed¾a king-sized unmade bed, having recently topped 300 pounds.
Of course, nobody said such things about him now, not even behind his vast back. It wouldn’t be wise to make fun of the most powerful man in Hollywood. After a rocky start in film¾his first movie almost not released because he’d angered a media god, his second almost taken away from him¾he’d regrouped, turning out a masterpiece once a year, and now had his own production company, Mercury in Film. So called to distinguish it from his live theater company, Mercury on the Boards, and Mercury on the Air, a radio company in the beginning which now dominated television. Now that the studio system was dying, and the great stars were panicking for lack of contracts, the Great Man could do more or less whatever he wanted. He always had, but now he could do it with impunity.
He watched a waiter seat his wife, then settled himself in the chair next to her. Another waiter poured a bit of Dom Perignon for him to taste; he approved it and allowed the waiter to pour a full glass for them both. The caviare was set in front of him and he virtually inhaled it. Another waiter appeared and whisked away the platter, and he sat back with a sigh.
“That’s better. Java’s absolutely beautiful, the shooting went magnificently, but I nearly shriveled of deprivation when I wasn’t working,” he groaned.
“Oh yes, you look shriveled. Don’t worry, though, I’ve been working hard too. I’ve been gathering material for a new book, and I have to test it first,” she explained, sipping her champagne.
The Great Man beamed. His wife, besides being beautiful, clever, and ten years his junior, was a food writer. She was a member of the new crop of food professionals; like James Beard and Craig Claiborne and¾what was her name? the very tall woman who had a television show¾Child; yes, Julia Child. Like those people, she was changing the way Americans ate, the way they thought about food. Her personal passion was Italian food; and if she was planning a new cookbook, he would be called upon to sample everything from Northern Italian risottos rich with cream and butter to Roman antipasti of fried vegetables to Sicilian desserts dripping with honey. Not that he was much help to her; he loved it all. But God they had fun in the testing.....
The steak tartare arrived, two pounds of it, with fresh toast points. After the waiter set it before him, his wife ordered escargot for herself. He was halfway through the tartare when it arrived, the snails swimming in garlic and herb scented butter, with a basket of crusty bread.
“Mmm....” he sniffed appreciatively, “that looks awfully good.”
“It is, Henri has a private source for them. I haven’t figured out where, but I will,” she vowed.
They were soon approached by a writer, keen on getting the Great Man to do one of his novels. Everyone knew better than to come near until he’d had at least one course; and waiting until he’d had his first bottle of wine was a good idea, too. But the writer had waited the whole three months the Great Man had been in Java, he couldn’t wait. To his surprise he was invited to sit down and offered a glass from the new bottle of Bordeaux that had just arrived.
The Great Man’s wife ordered him some escargot while he talked to the writer. He was already looking around for a new project and quite willing to chat with this young man. And he loved an audience of any kind. He started in on the escargot while the writer explained his idea.
And then he lost the thread of conversation as his wife slid her hand onto his massive thigh. He almost choked on a mouthful of butter-soaked bread when she kneaded the flesh gently. He recovered quickly and looked at her. She smiled brightly and purred,
“Welcome home, darling. I missed you.”
He chuckled softly and continued eating with the sense that everything was very right with his world. His wife left her hand in place while the waiter delivered another bottle of wine and she ordered a paté of pork and veal studded with truffles. Given the heavy white damask table cloth, which nearly brushed the floor, no one could see her move it up to stroke his belly where it billowed onto his lap.
The Great Man sipped his wine and turned his attention back to his young supplicant while he waited for the paté. The writer was soon joined by a studio executive whose studio was failing and who hoped to abandon that ship for Mercury’s. The Great Man couldn’t abide him, but he was feeling mellow with the first three courses inside him (not to mention the wine) and looking forward to many more, and he never turned away an audience. The studio executive was invited to sit down.
The writer and the studio executive were soon joined by an actress and a set designer; other directors came and went; costume designers and cinematographers stopped by, paying court. The Great Man controlled it all, like a puppetmaster, pulling a string to make one laugh, another silent with admiration.
And he ate. The paté was followed by a sorbet to cleanse the palate, and then the fish course arrived: two lobsters Thermidor, each weighing 2lbs and bathed in creamy sauce. Then a few roast squabs in a wine sauce with cream, butter, and mushrooms; after that veal stuffed with rice, onions, and mushrooms in a smooth sauce of Swiss cheese.
Some of the people who came to pay their respects decided that his wife must be pretty stupid. She said little except to order for her husband, and she barely looked at anyone else, but watched him intently. There must really be nothing in that pretty brunette head!
They were wrong. It was true that she wasn’t interested enough in Hollywood gossip to join in the conversation, and anyway, she’d much rather listen to her husband talk; no one did it better. But she wasn’t empty-headed. What she was doing in watching him so closely was keeping tabs on what he ate, taking note of what he enjoyed, deciding what he might like next. She noticed that his pace slowed as he finished the veal; he was getting full. He wasn’t ready to stop, but he did need a short break. When the waiter appeared again to clear the veal, she ordered another bottle of wine but not the next course.
She sipped a glass of wine from the new bottle as she watched him perform, being charming and amusing and brilliant for the crowd. He was lounging back in his chair, his bulk overflowing the seat, and the buttons of his tuxedo vest strained under the pressure of his belly now swollen with food. He gestured with his wine glass as talked and laughed. She ignored the other people at the table and concentrated on him, watching his mouth¾rather small, with a slightly pouty lower lip that she loved to nibble on¾as he expounded on filmmaking theory. God but he was beautiful, with those fat cheeks that fit perfectly in her hands when she held his face to kiss him, the chins cascading over his shirt collar. And those broad shoulders, the beginning of the silhouette that eased out into his magnificent paunch, expansive rear, and huge thighs....
She loved him, too, for his appetites. She had never heard of anyone who could eat as much, drink as much, as he could, nor who was so totally unashamed of doing so. She found his excesses heroic. It was said of him that “everything about him was too much”; she agreed and thanked God for it.
“Darling? Have I lost you?” his voice, silky, contented, washed over her.
“Hm?” she was startled out of her reverie to find him grinning at her and the waiter standing beside him.
“I was wondering what you had in mind next,” he prompted gently. The grin was seductive; he knew exactly what she’d had in mind, knew how aroused she got watching him eat.
“Oh--ah, I was thinking you might like Henri’s filets mignons with foie gras, truffles, and madeira sauce. It’s local foie gras, the ducks are raised in the Valley,” she stammered.
“Were you? Really?” he teased.
“Yes, Patrick, I think that’s what we’ll do for the entree,” she said, leaning forward as she did so, ostensibly to emphasize that she was speaking to the waiter.
What she really did was slide her hand up the Great Man’s thigh again, this time gently kneading the roll of stomach fat resting on it, her touch very near the point where his belly overhung his groin. She couldn’t reach that area without betraying her actions, but she knew from his sharp intake of breath that he was getting hard.
“Is that all right with you, darling?” she asked sweetly.
Tease me, will you? All right, fat man, two can play that game! Touché.
He swallowed quickly, hiding his excitement, and said,
“Of course. That sounds wonderful.”
“Good. I know you’ll enjoy it,” she promised, retracting her hand.
She watched him drain his wine, stalling for a moment to compose himself so that no one would guess what he was going through. He allowed the waiter to pour him another glass and fidgeted slightly in his chair. She knew he was trapped. He didn’t need to worry about anyone seeing his arousal if he stood up to go take care of it privately; he was huge enough that his stomach would hide it. But he was already too full to stand up easily, and the friction would be enough to make him embarrass himself in public. He would just have to suffer through it.
He turned his attention back to the group and reasserted his control over it, directing the conversation as it pleased him. If anyone thought about the exchange, they only wondered why she let him stuff himself like that. How could she stand to watch it?
Actually, she couldn’t. It was driving her insane, she was wet with desire. But she had to hold out; she still had the dessert course, fruit, and cheese to go. She considered doing something to end the evening now, feigning sickness or throwing a tantrum, anything, so she could get him alone. But then he wouldn’t be so drunk with food and alcohol he could barely make it from the table out to the car; she wouldn’t be able to enjoy the spectacle of him collapsing on the bed, drained from the effort of moving his overstuffed body that far; and she wouldn’t have the joy of stripping him and having her “evil, depraved way” (as he liked to put it, intoning the phrase melodramatically) with him. She would just have to be patient....
He licked a drop of madeira sauce from his upper lip and she nearly came in her panties. She wondered what would happen if she started screaming in the middle of a restaurant crowded with everyone who was anyone in Hollywood....
She didn’t scream. She endured the wonderful torture as he worked his way through the filet, then a French strawberry shortcake soaked in rum; she held out through the cheese platter and the fruit. She even managed to keep her composure while he drank a bottle of Calvados and smoked several Cuban Cohibas. But as the last drop of apple brandy disappeared, her patience ran out. She made a show of checking her diamond-studded Bulova watch and gasped,
“Oh, I had no idea it was so late! And I have an article due for Life magazine!”
It was a lame excuse and she didn’t care. Enough was enough. She’d been without him for three months, she couldn’t take any more!
“Darling, I’m sorry, I had no idea....we’ll call you a cab¾” the Great Man had been absorbed in a story he’d been telling, and did not catch the look on her face.
“It’s probably too late to get a cab at this hour, don’t you think?” she countered, widening her eyes slightly. Come on, Genius, catch on!
He wasn’t called a genius for nothing. He caught her drift.
“¾Ah, well, it seems I’ll have to escort Cinderella home,” he commented to the table at large, “The tyranny of the deadline, she’ll turn into a pumpkin mousse if she doesn’t get the article in!”
Everyone laughed dutifully, but they were disappointed that the spell was broken. You could easily sit all night listening to him....He used the edge of the table as leverage to get to his feet, grunting softly with the effort. His wife tucked her arm into his, the better to give a small tug when he paused to toss off one more quoteable line. He bade the table good night and led her out of the restaurant.
The Cadillac lurched as he lowered himself into the back seat. She let him close the door and give directions to the driver, then punched the button that raised the smoked glass divide between the front seat and back. It was barely up before she was on her knees between his legs, fumbling with the catch on his tuxedo trousers.
She got it open, slid down the zipper, and reached hungrily for the rolls of fat inside. She kissed them, pressing her face into his flesh, then lifted them and worked her way down. He buried his hands in her hair as she reached his groin.....
It was good to be home....