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“The Catskills? What are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about meowing and playing with yarn,” Rita said sarcastically. “What do you think I’m talking about?”
“But why would I want to go there?” asked Joyce.
“Duh—to meet men. Or have you lost interest since yesterday, when you complained to me for an hour about that? You were very eloquent on the topic of craving something big and firm and masculine to grab onto—you know, a hand, or something.”
She winked, which made Joyce shudder. So Joyce avoided Rita’s eye, and feigned a fascination with the newspaper on her lap. “Hmm . . . ‘annual baroque festival and eighteenth-century culinary fair.’”
“Don’t you annual-baroque-festival-and-eighteenth-century-culinary-fair me,” scoffed Rita. “Look, honey, this place has reopened, and they’re doing a ‘Hipster Hanukkah’ thing for couples and singles.” She forced the flyer into the other woman’s palm. “Here, you can use my phone to make your reservation.”
Danny and Liv, owners of the semirefurbished Golden Lake Resort—informally known as the “Golden Latke”—had missed the memo on the transformation of kitsch into cool. They didn’t understand why the retro-chic crowd dug the 1950s watering hole they’d revived. Danny was known to look across the dining room at table after table of thirtysomethings, comprising a sea of hats like his grandparents used to wear, and shake his own bare head. “It’s a whole other generation over there,” he would say to his wife.
But their savvy young tummler, Bernie Schellfisch, had taken on the resort’s marketing duties, on top of fulfilling the traditional combination role of itinerant comic and social director. And Bernie had urged Liv and Danny to court the Gen-X dollar with a semireverent, semi-ironic, entirely self-conscious approach to the Catskill-resort paradigm. He had even made semirefurbished part of the official ad copy.
Thanks to Bernie, the walls were now decorated with glossies of old-time comedians. The entertainment lounge was called the Borscht Tank, and was duly outfitted with beet-red carpeting. The gift shop offered T-shirts that said “COME BACK TO THE CATSKILLS” in large letters, with “Your Supper Is Getting Cold” in smaller type below. Gentle cultural self-satire abounded everywhere, from the “What’s the matter, you didn’t like the other pool?” notice posted at the hotel’s secondary swimming facility, to the menu disclaimer admitting that “we already gave the best piece of chicken to the doctor at the next table.” And though Bernie wasn’t the first promoter to conceive of a Hipster Hanukkah, the event was an important component of his plan for the Golden Latke’s success.
For as long as Dolly and Joe had been together—a decade now, since senior year spring break—it had been a tradition that both of them would finish Hanukkah with whatever they’d started with. Thus, on the first night, Dolly would wrap the Jack Benny DVD and present it to Joe; Joe, meanwhile, would hand over the Woody Allen book, easily recognized through a thin layer of tissue paper. On the second night, Joe would get Woody and Dolly would get Benny. And so on, for eight days. The message? I already have everything I want. Though this was not literally true with respect to movies and books and CDs—which were given, for real, on birthdays—it was true in a more profound sense, particularly with regard to the couple’s partnerhood.
This December, Dolly and Joe were thinking of relocating their private Hanukkah game from White Plains to the Golden Latke. Each of them had a lot of vacation time to use. And they could finance their stay with all the money they’d saved by giving each other the same two gifts, eight nights in a row, for the past nine years.
“The ‘Hipster Hanukkah’ rate is all-inclusive,” Dolly noted. “With the usual fine print, of course.”
“Read me the fine print, Mommy,” kidded Joe. “I love fine print.”
“Don’t call me ‘Mommy,’” his girlfriend retorted, poking his flat tummy.
Dolly leapt on him, tickling, and their travel plans didn’t get finalized until the next day.
“Okay, Dan,” said Bernie. “I think I’ve got an electric menorah in every room.”
“Yes, thank you, Bernie,” said Liv. “I know that schlepping furnishings isn’t technically your responsibility.”
The young man shrugged affably. “That’s all right. It’s a slow day for tummling.”
“What about the big menorah in the dining room, Liv?” Danny asked. “Did you find those special candles I like? The ones that don’t blow out?”
“I keep telling you—that’s birthday candles, not Hanukkah candles.”
“He’s not so good with holidays,” Liv intimated to the tummler.
“Why are you pulling off?” Dolly asked. “We’re still two exits away.”
“I want to stick my hand down the back of your pants.” Joe brought the car to a stop, in a conveniently situated no-man’s-land at the bottom of the ramp.
“We’re only ten miles from the resort,” said Dolly. She was, however, undoing her seat belt.
“That’s ten miles too far,” said Joe. His fingers dipped into her waistband.
After checking in, Joyce took a few minutes to get acquainted with her room. She had done a bit of antiquing in her time, and she was amused but also impressed by the harmonious mixture of authentic relics (such as the prewar bedside lamp) and contemporary tributes (such as the neostreamline ice bucket). She had a vague idea that her grandparents used to come to places like this—perhaps even this very hotel—which put a weird, but nice, spin on the situation.
The lobby bar impressed Joyce, too—to the point of overwhelming her, with its orgy of Art Deco mirrors and its dazzling array of seductive bottles.
“Hmm,” she muttered to herself. “Do I want a drink? And what kind of drink? It’s quite a decision.”
“Actually, it’s potentially two decisions.”
She turned to see a waggish, clean-cut man around her age, wearing a lime polo shirt, poised at her elbow.
Bernie continued. “That is, if you decide you want a drink, then you’ve made one decision. But then you still have the decision about what specific drink you want: enter Decision Number Two. On the other hand, if you decide that you don’t want a drink, then, logically, you don’t have to decide what specific drink it is that you don’t want, and so you’ve only had to make one decision after all. Ergo, it could pan out either to one decision or two. Let’s call it a decision and a half. Is that any help?”
“Not as such.” She eyed him dubiously. “Do you work here or something?”
“Yes, I’m Bernie Schellfisch, the tummler.” He extended a hand, which she ignored.
“Tummler.” The hand came home to papa, where it patted papa’s chest with pride. “I’m part entertainer and part activities director. Up to you to find out which part is which,” he concluded.
“My activities don’t need directing,” said Joyce.
“. . . thank you very much,” Bernie added on her behalf, making a prompter’s gesture.
“Your brush-off would have been more effective with an emphatic ‘thank you very much’ at the end of it.”
“Oh,” said Joyce, feeling disoriented. “Maybe next time.”
“Deal,” said Bernie, feeling satisfied. “If you need any more help with that stuff, I give private lessons.”
“I’ll bet you do,” Joyce snorted. She continued to look him over. “Schellfisch, eh? Is that a Jewish name? Kosher Jews don’t eat shellfish, you know.”
“Well, I didn’t invite you to eat me, now, did I? So, yes, I’m Jewish. And, if you must know, schellfisch is German for ‘haddock.’”
“Now, that’s funny.” She tipped him five dollars and made her way toward the bar. Bernie stared at the image of Honest Abe, who returned his gaze impassively, as if to say, “Don’t look at me, pal—she’s not my date. Maybe try Lexy Hamilton.”
Dolly beamed as she and Joe ferried the luggage into their room. “Vacation!” she said with relish.
Joe set the bags down and kissed her ceremoniously. “Happy Hanukkah.”
They turned the lights on and oriented themselves.
“What do you think?” said Dolly. “Is it worth driving into town this evening to explore?”
“We could,” said Joe. “Theoretically, there’s time to do that and get back here before they stop serving dinner.”
“Just the same,” said Dolly, “I’m sort of tired from the trip.”
“Then maybe we should make an early night of it, so we can be fresh tomorrow.”
“Mmm . . . I want to be fresh right now,” she quipped, giving him a squeeze where it counted. She scampered out of his reach and bounced her firm bottom on the almost-as-firm mattress.
He joined her on the bed. “You smell fresh, that’s for sure.” He sniffed the base of her neck, then her cleavage, where he paused to nibble the ripe skin. “I could inhale your scent all night.”
Her legs were sleek in her black trousers, and she scissored them provocatively apart as she reclined. Joe took the hint, plunging his nose into the warmth between her thighs. “Yes,” he mumbled, “all night.”
Dolly had been horny since he’d tickled her ass crack in the car, and she was getting even wetter now—she could feel her moisture soaking her cotton underwear and wetting the crotch of the slacks. She was literally exuding arousal for him, bringing her love juices right to his nostrils.
Her boyfriend’s nose poked her swollen flesh through the damp slacks, until she clamored for something more: “Damn, Joey, get these pants off my heinie.”
“You sure you don’t want to drive into town?” he teased, his hand pressing gently on her mound.
“Take these pants down and fuck me, Joseph. Now.”
“I’ll see what I can do,” he said, reaching for her zipper.
Right after breakfast on the third day of Hanukkah, Bernie crossed paths with Joyce, in a corridor just off the hotel’s sprawling lobby.
“Good morning. Where are you off to?” he inquired.
“Oh, good morning, Mr. Tummler. I’m on my way to the exercise room.”
“No you’re not.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that you’re proceeding in the wrong direction.” He cocked his head toward the opposite end of the corridor. “Follow me.”
“Can’t we just walk side by side?” asked Joyce.
“Suit yourself. I was giving you a chance to watch my behind.”
“Thanks. I’ll wait till the movie comes out.”
“Don’t say I never offered. Now, let’s go. I can’t spend all day socializing with the guests. I have a job to do.”
“I thought socializing with the guests was your job.”
“Oh, yeah. I forgot.” He leaned against a vending machine, which appeared to Joyce to have been put there for this very purpose by an uncredited stage crew. “So, whom do you like for the Super Bowl?”
“Let’s go,” she echoed. She began walking down the corridor, knowing he’d follow his audience. “‘Whom,’ he says.” Joyce savored the word with irony. “Just what I need, a tummler who says whom.” Then she smiled, at the thought that maybe it really was what she needed.
“Our little Julie’s becoming such a young lady,” Liv told Danny while they tidied up the kitchen. “Momma says she keeps mistaking her for me when she answers the phone, she’s getting so grown up.”
“Did it occur to you that maybe you’re just getting more adolescent?” He winked at her.
“Very funny, buster. Careful, or this carafe of ice water might spill over your head.”
Dan shrugged. “Yeah, that would be one way of proving you’re not adolescent.”
Liv got that look in her eye, and relinquished the carafe. “Come here, mister.”
A grin slowly spread across her husband’s face. “Now? It’s almost checkout time.”
“Yep—and I want to check you out.”
Danny met her at the sink. He pecked her on the ear. “You taste good.”
“I kiss good, too.” She demonstrated.
Danny reached around and squeezed her skirted derriere, and Liv pressed her pelvis against his erection.
“I wonder if we can get a room in this place,” joked Danny.
“Who needs a room? Speaking for myself, I have everything I need right here.” She patted the front of his trousers.
“What if the staff walks in?”
“They’ll walk out again, once they see my bare tuches.”
“Don’t count on it. I wouldn’t walk out on your bare tuches.”
“You had better not. Now, speaking of the staff . . .” She unzipped his fly.
Danny explored under Liv’s corduroy skirt, feeling for her lace.
“If it’s my panties you’re looking for, you’ll have to look in the dresser.” Just as she said it, his fingers touched tender, moist lips, where a gusset usually would have been.
“Never mind. I think I’ve found something better.”
Liv hissed with sexual tension when a fingertip entered her. Fragrant fluid trickled onto Danny’s hand.
“My darling,” he said sweetly.
Livvy tingled even more with the arrival of Dan’s second finger, and she scrambled to release his cock from his pants. Though she wasn’t ready to deprive herself of his adoring digits, she wanted the major organ to be standing by.
Danny groaned while she fondled him, and his fingers danced within her, making her buttocks squirm and her knees quiver. Finally, she withdrew his hand from her pussy. She kissed his fingers, individually, the dry ones as well as the wet ones.
He hoisted her, and she enfolded him in her legs and sank onto his pole. She jiggled in his arms as he gradually filled her.
Up and down she rode. Her bosom scraped against his chest while he scratched trails of lewd pleasure inside her. Her hands clasped his big, bony shoulders, and her head lolled in ecstasy. Danny roared when Liv moaned, and she screamed when he roared. His thumbs dug affectionately into her soft ass flesh.
Joyce looked around the noisy luncheon room, recently renamed the “Pumpernickelodeon,” where a capacity crowd had obliged her to share a table with Bernie. “Is this your whole life?”
“Not quite,” said Bernie. “You see, I’m writing a book, in my spare time.”
“Ah, so you are the intellectual type. What’s it about?”
“I promised myself I wouldn’t talk about it until it was finished. Not to anyone.”
“I guess that’s reasonable.” She wasn’t convinced.
“Of course it’s reasonable. But try explaining that to my mother.” He put down his fork, fumbled in his shirt pocket, and presented a business card to Joyce. “You can usually reach her at home, but her cell number is on the back.”
“You really are a card,” pronounced Joyce, her eyes only rolling a little bit.
“No, I’m a tummler. That’s a card. And if you can’t tell the difference . . . well, like I said, I give private lessons.”
Just then, a stray potato pancake, having evidently escaped from the teetering tray of an unseen waiter, flew past them like a frisbee and came to rest at the edge of their table.
“Man, these open kitchens are murder,” Bernie commented.
“Let me guess,” said Joe. “Is it a Jack Benny DVD?”
“Happy fifth night of Hanukkah.”
“I love you.”
“I love you.”
“I wonder if the various nights have names,” said Joe.
“Maybe we could name them after the Marx Brothers,” said Dolly.
“But that would leave three nights unaccounted for—even if you included Zeppo and Gummo.”
“It would be a start, at least. How about the Marxes plus another old-movie team—like the Ritz Brothers, for instance?”
“The Ritz Brothers? Never heard of them.”
“Sure you have. The last three nights of Hanukkah are named after them.”
Bernie tried to take it easy on Joyce the following day. He didn’t want to give her more than her fair share of harassment, unless he was certain it would be welcomed.
But she approached him that evening, holding the remains of a cocktail in one hand and an entertainment schedule in the other.
“Excuse me,” she said unnecessarily, as she already had the tummler’s complete attention. “I thought the website said something about a Hanukkah murder mystery.”
Bernie coughed discreetly. “Yes, well, that was on the schedule . . . but after the dress rehearsal it was removed, due to a misunderstanding.”
“Yes. We’d been under the impression that the play was going to be good.”
“Oh,” said Joyce, turning the sheet of paper over and over in her hands, as though she hoped the event might reappear.
“The Hanukkah musical is still on, however. And I have to tell you, that show is terrific!”
“I hate musicals.”
“So do I. Listen, can I buy you a refill on what’s left of that cocktail?”
She gave him another dubious look. It was a type of Hanukkah gift that Bernie was not only getting used to, but growing to like. “Don’t you have other guests to pest—um, I mean, to entertain?”
He glanced at his watch. “Nah, I’ll be going off duty in a few minutes, when the show starts.”
“And what are you like when you’re off duty?” The hint of a mischievous smile crept onto her face.
“One way to find out.” He gestured in the direction of the bar.
“What if I don’t care for it?” Joyce teased.
“Then you’ll still have plenty of time to reconsider the musical. The goddam thing lasts three hours.”
“I’m sure they won’t want me coming in late.”
“Are you kidding? They require a constant supply of fresh blood, to replace all the audience members who have fallen asleep. Not to mention the actors.”
She was chuckling openly now, with no pretense of merely tolerating him. “A minute ago, you said the show was terrific.”
“No, I said I had to tell you it was terrific. The owners here draw up a pretty tough contract. Fortunately, the contract doesn’t preclude my undercutting that statement with subsequent remarks of my own choosing.”
She clutched his arm quite naturally as he escorted her, still laughing, toward the drinks.
“I thought you wanted a drink,” giggled Dolly.
“I am drinking,” said Joe.
After making another tour of her pussy lips with his tongue, he flicked the tip against her clit, then lapped up a fresh serving of liquid. “And I see the bar hasn’t closed yet.”
Dolly tried to answer, but both her wit and her voice were failing under the deluge of euphoria. “Guh,” was all she managed, while her hips enacted a writhing ritual and her succulent cunt trembled astride Joe’s mouth. She was going to come. She was going to come. She was . . . coming.
From the inside, the semienclosed lobby bar was comfortable and cheery. Joyce was glad she wasn’t stuck in an auditorium with some overbearing theatrical production.
“So, about this book you’re writing . . .”
“I suppose you’re going to keep asking me about it until I tell you.”
“Bernie, I hope you aren’t one of those people who think that all women are nosy, prying, overly curious creatures, simply by virtue of their sex.”
“Of course not. What a stupid generalization.”
“Pleased to hear you say it,” said Joyce. “And yet, by the same token, there’s no reason a woman—or man—can’t be a nosy, prying, overly curious creature. And if you don’t believe me, I’ll introduce you to my friend Rita sometime. But Rita’s not here at the moment, and I’ll do in a pinch. So, about this book you’re writing . . .”
“Hey,” said Bernie shrewdly, lowering his voice to a conspiratorial rumble. “See that couple who just walked in?” His eyebrows indicated Joe and Dolly. “The management had to move them to a sparsely populated wing because of their, uh, enthusiasm in the small hours of the night. Apparently the small hours are big with them.”
“I could use some of that sort of enthusiasm myself,” Joyce blurted, before she knew what she was saying. She would have felt embarrassed, but Bernie was too quick to give her the chance.
“Shush! Not so loud. A line’s going to form, and I don’t handle competition well.”
Heat radiated from her neck, and then from her chest. “You’ve clocked out, Bernie. Stop tummling, already.”
“I’m not tummling. I’m flirting. And if you can’t tell the difference—”
“I know, I know . . . private lessons.”
A pocket of silence enveloped their table, as they both sipped irrelevantly from their drinks.
Bernie’s voice was gentle when he recommenced the dialogue. “Speaking of private: I really shouldn’t kiss you in public, given that I work here.”
He did it anyway. It lasted a long time, and each second was drenched in a luscious sensuality.
Joyce felt like a different person when she emerged at the other end. She swallowed hard.
“I agree, Bernie. You should have waited until we were upstairs.”
She polished off her cocktail in one lusty gulp, then rose to her feet.
Their route to the elevator took them past the discotheque, outside of which loitered a pair of human-being-sized, human-being-filled dreidels. Their enormous stems were crowned with glittering fedoras, and they were busy distributing neon bracelets to guests.
“You wouldn’t believe the trouble I had finding waitresses willing to do that,” Bernie explained to his companion.
“I haven’t been with a man in a while,” Joyce confessed just inside the door to her room.
“Don’t worry,” said Bernie. “It’s like riding a—er, it’s okay.”
Joyce giggled, sounding tipsier than she was. “How do you expect me to stay in the mood if you’re constantly making me laugh?”
“Making you laugh is precisely how I’m hoping to keep you in the mood.”
She became conscious of a tickle between her legs, and of the pressure of her sensitized nipples against her bra. Perhaps the tummler knew what he was doing, she reflected.
Usually just being kissed made her nervous, but now she was taking the initiative and kissing him. Kissing him hard. She was uncharacteristically relaxed.
“Most of these rooms come with a bed,” said Bernie.
“Let’s go see.” She took his hand, and they drifted into the room proper.
“Looks like a bed,” he acknowledged. “But maybe we’d better try it out, just to make sure.”
She observed how graceful his movements were as he navigated their bodies from a standing position on the floor to an intimate sitting situation on the bed. Yes, thought Joyce, clowns were graceful, when you saw through the buffoonery to the artistry and rhythm behind their craft.
Her appreciation for the comedian deepened when he started stroking one side of her torso, while cupping the opposite breast with a nurturing hand. She couldn’t recall the last time she’d felt this good.
“Go slow,” she murmured.
“How could I rush something like this?” he replied.
He massaged her breast, through her clothing, for six or seven minutes—shaping the flesh, rubbing the bra-cuddled nipple, and interjecting soft, fabric kisses from time to time. Warmth and pleasure converged for Joyce, making her breast the center of the universe. She was so focused—and so paradoxically calm, despite her growing sexual excitation—that she scarcely noticed the intensifying dampness in her panties.
She meant to take only her blouse off, for the moment . . . but her hands seemed to override her, progressing immediately from the buttons on her top to the zipper on her capri pants, which purred when she pulled it downward. Soon Joyce was sprawling in lilac bra and panties for a man she’d met only a few days before, and feeling glorious in her near-nakedness.
She wanted Bernie to kiss her all over. And she was pleased to find that he did not need to hear this request out loud, in order to begin acting on it.
It delighted her that he was still dressed. She savored being exposed, while seeing him still clothed for work, the impish activities director in a lime-green polo shirt.
Lime met lilac as Bernie cloaked Joyce’s body with his own, kissing her shoulders, her tummy, and her neck . . . then, one story down, her knees, her ankles, and her thighs. Joyce’s left hand migrated into her panties, where it told her pussy what a nice time she was having. Sex was better than she’d remembered.
She felt like a delicious fruit when Bernie peeled her dainty lingerie off her. Yes, she emphasized to herself, with a touch of surprise: she felt delicious.
“You’re delicious,” Bernie echoed.
He didn’t look bad himself, as he stripped for her. His physique was more wiry than she’d realized, and she noted to herself that comedians were akin to athletes, in a strange way. Joyce felt spoiled, having fallen for a guy’s personality and then getting a yummy body into the bargain. With an attentive eye, she scanned the elegant pattern of muscles.
But it didn’t take long for her gaze to get diverted by the sight of Bernie’s dignified erection, struggling inside his last remaining article of apparel. She had sat up to watch him undress, and now she leaned forward to claim him.
“Give me that,” she said.
The tummler appeared to have run out of wisecracks, and his only answer was to help Joyce yank his black briefs down. Ten seconds and one condom later, the connection was made.
And now, Bernie was making Joyce laugh again—not with comedy, but with sensation. Giggles of pure physical delight rippled through her with each of his thrusts, while his forefinger discharged pulses of joy onto her tingling button. The titillating stimulation inside her spread in all directions, and she became a tableau of wetness and laughter. She was out of control, and impossibly happy. And when the pleasure reached its saturation point, she felt that she could float on the ecstasy forever.
For an instant, she didn’t register that the blissful equilibrium had given way and the postcard-perfect orgasm had begun. But in a moment, her eruption consumed her. As her lungs sang in animal climax, she watched the electric menorah blur like a spinning dreidel.
“That young girl from White Plains told me that she and her boyfriend give each other the same presents every night,” said Liv.
“That’s cute,” Danny said with sincerity. “I wonder what else they’re giving each other every night.”
“We have the answer to that one. We needed to move them, remember?”
“Sure, we have a general answer. But I was wondering about the specifics.”
Liv put down the serving platter she’d been drying. “I’ll show you specifics. At your convenience, boychik.” She swatted him on the ass and exited toward their suite.
“You know,” Danny said to himself as he hung up his apron, “this Hanukkah thing could catch on.”