From the story When Murray Met Helen

January 16th was one of those days when the arctic cold that had descended upon Milwaukee took a bite out of any one who stepped outside. As she got off the bus and walked briskly to her job interview, Helen noticed that people coming out of coffee shops, or ducking out doors for a smoke, were wincing at the sky as if God were reverting to the Old Testament.

The interview hadn’t gone that well. It wasn’t that Helen didn’t want to go back to work. She did. She’d had good experiences as a paralegal, but she was also wary about going to work for just another misogynistic trophy hunter. It was a standard part of her interviews to gently lay out how she expected to be treated in exchange for her loyalty. But today it had come off to the interviewer–a somewhat anxious, balding, and sniffling securities lawyer in his mid-forties–as though she should be giving him more of the benefit of her doubts.

“That’s very forthright and candid of you Ms. Morris,” he’d replied. “There are times when I deeply appreciate that in a colleague.”

From which she could subtract, through his tone, that this was not one of those times.

It hadn’t helped matters that she and Rick had quarreled the night before. Things had started well enough when he showed up with a jaunty smile, a bottle of Kahlua, and a DVD. Shakespeare in Love, he figured, was just one of those films you’d rather enjoy with your lover than with the guys at the firehouse. So it surprised him when Helen pronounced it dreadful, worse even than The English Patient.

In ways that indicated that he either felt too strongly about the film, or that he’d had too much Kahlua, Rick began to lay out his thesis for why Shakespeare in Love was among the best movies of the ’90s, and how Judi Dench’s performance, alone, could be received with pleasure comparable to sexual satisfaction.

“Oh, now I get it,” Helen said, “you’re just all excited that Gwenyth Paltrow got undressed.”

Rick was so flustered he could only stammer.

“Aha! I’m right!” she said, piling it on. “I know how men think. I’ve broken the code.”

It was a silly argument, but the upshot was that he was so tongue-tied that he grabbed what was left of the Kahlua and left, depriving both of them of the warmth they would have otherwise enjoyed that night against the January chill.

Helen awoke the next morning to the sound of a muffled banging on her door. Once she realized where the noise was coming from and what it was about, she hoped and expected to open the door and find Rick.

Instead, she opened the door to find Renard and Harry Michaels, with grim smiles, cold feet, and a dolly loaded with the first two of Murray’s crates

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