The bark and shriek of a domestic dispute slipped in from the street, through a window at the front of the store opened a crack to let in gusts of cool air. The shop was frequently sweltering, as the condos upstairs were overrun with the elderly. In particular there seemed to be a surfeit of septuagenarian divorcees in greasy fur coats succumbing to mange, always flaunting their grandfathered-in kitty cats (pets were no longer allowed), and constantly complaining to maintenance of the cold. Because of the onion-thin skin of this slow parade of battleaxes, Plum and Peach sweltered in the winter months.
"Ooh, it looks like an ugly one," Peach said, walking to the front to watch the couple pass. She stood at the door on tiptoes to see over the blue-finned, red-nippled mermaid (reading Colette) painted on the glass.
"An ugly what?" Plum said. She walked to the window seat and raised a slat of the blinds. "An ugly husband? An ugly wife?"
"An ugly fight. Look how he's getting in her face like that."
"But she can't just walk away, can she?" Plum murmured. "Is he going to slug her? Should we call the police?"
"No, he won't slug her," Peach said. "At least not until they get home. Then bap, a knuckle sandwich."
"But maybe not," Plum said. "Maybe things are different when they're at home. In the dark of their kennel. At home, they just break open a bottle of us-against-the-world and anesthetize. Maybe it's only when they're out in the city, faced with everything they don't got, that they turn on each other."
After a silence, Peach said, "What am I doing, Plum?"
"That little lover's tango got you thinking," Plum said, sitting on the cushions of the window seat, drawing her knees up, putting her arms around them. "It's like a metaphor. For your affair."
"Oh, stop," Peach said. She sat next to Plum. Peach's skin was all goose-bumpy, and Plum reached over to rub some warmth into her arms. "Everything can be a metaphor for an affair," Peach said. "Because, our feelings for other people, that's all anybody's ever really thinking about, at any given minute, isn't it? Am I happy alone? Am I happy married? Am I having enough sex? Am I having too much? Is he unhappier than I am?"