Barbara Chepaitis
Telling the Old Stories, and Making Up the New Ones
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           Excerpt from The Green Memory of Fear - B.A. Chepaitis

         (In this excerpt, Alex and Jaguar go on their first official date.  As you can imagine, it proceeds in true Jaguar style.)

   "Okay," she said.  "I'm awake."  She sat up, made sure her robe covered what she wanted covered, went to the telecom and pressed the receive button.  Alex's face appeared on screen.

     He scanned her.  "Good nap?" he asked.

     She ruffled her hair further.  "More like adventures in dreamland.  What's up?"

    "We are," he said, "or did you forget?"

    She scanned the back of her eyelids for information.   What she was booked for.  Dinner with Alex.  A date.

     "You forgot, didn't you Jaguar?"  

     "No," she said.  "I just didn't believe you."

     "You thought I was kidding?"


     "Maybe not.  Serious as the plague."

     "Alex, are you sure this is a good idea?"

     "No," he said.  "Not at all.  I'll pick you up in an hour."

     "We're taking your wings?" she asked.

     "Yes," he said, trying to leave no room for discussion.  

     "I don't like wings," she noted.

     He moved his lips away from his teeth in a close approximation of a tolerant smile. "Would you prefer to take your car and meet me at the restaurant?"

     "Yes," she said.  "I would."

     "Right. Then let's.  It's La Loba. In case you forgot.  In an hour."

     "Okay. I might be a little late.  I have to get dressed."

     He looked at the gold bathrobe she was clutching to herself. "That color's nice on you," he suggested.

     She looked down at the robe, then narrowed mischievous eyes at him.  "You'll be sorry for that," she said, and clicked off.


      When she made her way across the restaurant to where Alex sat, he almost forgot to breathe.   She wore silk the way some women wear skin, and the gold of her pantsuit was not far removed in tone or in proximity from her skin.  It deepened the green of her eyes, caught at the gold in her hair, which caught at the air in his throat.  He rose from his chair and gave her the bow she deserved.

     She lifted her gaze and he felt the brush of her thoughts against his.  Just fishing.  Just seeing what was hanging around.  Her mouth twitched into a smile. 

    "I would've worn the robe," she said, "but it was wrinkled because I slept in it.  I haven't slept in this. Yet."

    "Yet," he repeated hopefully, and then walked over to pull her chair out for her, letting his hand rest briefly on her shoulder after she was seated. She didn't shove him away in response, so he advanced to a caress.  

     She opened her menu and said, without raising her head,  "If you air kiss me, I'll kill you."

     "When I kiss you there won't be any air involved,"  he replied as he returned to his chair.

     So far, he thought, so good.  She would keep it light.  Stick to the surface like an Olympic skater.  Probably he'd enjoy it immensely.  By the time the waiter came by and they ordered their tequila and dinner, he knew he was right.  She got the lobster.  He'd seen her eat lobster before.  Predation and sensuality, both at their best.

    "So what do we talk about?" she asked after the first shot of tequila was down,  "First date, right?  Politics are a no-no. Religion's touchy."
    "Maybe we should try sports," Alex suggested.

    "No good.  You’re a Packer Backer.  I favor the Jaguars.  You’ll just get pissed off when I talk about winning."

    “Packers have more experience.  More staying power.  You know that.”

    “And once Jaguar’s latch on, they don’t let go.  Not until they’re dead.”

    “I’m not especially worried about that,” he said.

   Arrival of their dinners interrupted further debate and, eschewing the bib, she cracked a claw and pulled white meat from the shards with her fingers.  She dipped it in butter and licked the meat, the ends of her fingers, her own lips.  Alex felt deep contentment.

   "If sports are out, then what do you suggest?” she asked.

   “We can start with the courtesies.  That outfit looks lovely on you.”

   “Thank you,” she said, and ripped a leg off the lobster, sucked meat from the end of it.

    He leaned an elbow on the table and rested his chin on his hand. "You like lobster, don't you?"   

    She cracked the tail and used her fingers to pull out thick pieces of sweet flesh.  "One man said it made him sick to his stomach to watch me eat it." 

   "Some men," Alex suggested, "have weak stomachs.  Me - I'm just enjoying the show."

   She continued to pursue her pleasure. Talk turned to food and its preparation, meandered from there to good wine, strolled toward music and always stayed on the safest grounds.  Alex didn't mind, as long as the lobster held out.  When it was gone, he sighed, but regained his interest when the waiter brought chocolate mousse, which she savored in small lipfuls sucked from the end of her finger. 

     "Good?" he asked her.

     "Very," she replied.  "But you haven't eaten much.  Not to your liking?"

     He shook his head.  "I'm distracted.”


     He gestured toward the mousse. “The show,” he said.  Then, to his own dismay, he kept talking. “That, and something at work.”

    Jaguar's finger paused in its journey toward her mouth.  "Oh?" she asked.  

    He knew what he was about to say, knew he shouldn’t say it, and said it anyway.  “One of my teacher’s done something out of character,” he said.  “Way out.  I want to know why.”  

    He listened to himself talk with some amazement.  He'd made up his mind not to bring up Dr. Senci.  Apparently some part of him had vetoed his mind. He sincerely hoped it wasn’t the Adept part.  That wouldn’t bode well. 

    “Who?” she asked.

    "My best Teacher. She stays in the field. Never does research."
    "I like her already."

    "I thought you might.  But she requested a research assignment today, gathering preliminary data on an accused pedophile. A Dr. Thomas Senci."

    She finished licking her finger and stared at him. He didn't blame her.  If he had a mirror, he'd stare at himself. 

   “News,” she said, “travels too damn fast. I just punched it in this morning.”

    “Jaguar, I'm your supervisor.  The request came to my office.” 

    “Oh.  Right."

    “So tell me what it's all about.” 

    She smoothed her hair back from her face and looked at him, then past him. They were co-workers again, suddenly and without much elbow-room. 

    “It's about a four week gig, Alex.  I thought the change would be good for me.  Keep me from going stale.”

    He tapped a finger against the table.  “And what if I say no?”

   She gazed down at his hand, pressed a finger against it.  “Will you?” she asked.

    He laid his hand, tense and flat, against the wood of the table.  She continued to press her finger against it.  She was so much better at putting up ‘No Trespassing’ signs than she was at reading them.  

   “I need to know why you want it before I decide,” he said.  “And you don’t take research for fun, Jaguar, so try something else.”

   "You seem to know a lot about me, for a first date.”

   “I’ve had a few years of my own preliminary research. Look, if you want, we can talk about it tomorrow, in my office."

   She sighed and stood up. “Get the bill, and meet me back at my place. I’ll show you.”