Tom was out for his morning walk when he came upon a woman sitting on the brick wall next to the river. It was a bit of a chill and she had rosy cheeks. Her blonde hair was tied back. She wore a brown jacket and a jeans skirt. Her feet were in black boots. He had seen her before but had not spoken. This time was different.
“So you like to fish?” Tom asked Adelaide.
“Yes, I like to fish,” Adelaide said. “It brings back wonderful memories of my dad.”
“Was he a fisherman?”
“He was a wonderful fisherman.” Adelaide threw out her line, then she sat and waited for a fish to bite.
Tom watched the line in the water.
“I’ve never been much for fishing.”
She looked at him and smiled. “Best thing in the world. It’s a great way to think and get clear about priorities.”
“So what is your priorities for the day?” Tom asked.
“I’m going to fish for a couple of hours. Then who knows. I might take some pictures.” She pointed to the camera case on the ground next to her basket. The basket was for the fish. “It’s such a beautiful day.”
“Yes, it is. Well, good day and happy fishing.”
“Oh, but I don’t fish.”
“You said that. But everybody fishes. Even you.”
He gave her a questioning look.
“It’s what we do in life. We fish. Me, I fish for fish. I don’t know what you fish for, but I’m sure you fish.”
“You do have a point there.”
Her voice was soft, almost a whisper. Yet he could hear her plainly.
“I’m Tom, by the way.”
“I’m Adelaide.” She rested the pole on her lap and leaned over and shook his hand.
“I’ve seen you here before.” Tom noticed her long thin hands.
“Yes, you have.”
“Oh, have you been watching me?”
“Not particularly,” Adelaide added. “I have caught a glimpse of you from time to time. You know, watching me. I like that you’ve come by here just to look at me. Don’t know why it took so long for you to stop and talk.”
“I’ve never been good with women.”
“And here you are, talking to me.”
“Yes, here I am, talking to you.”
A fish nibbled at the line. She pulled on the pole and reeled him in slowly. Finally, she pulled him out of the water and held him and undid the hook, then threw him in the basket.
“He’s going to make a good dinner.”
“Yes, he is,” Tom said.
“Would you like to join me? I am a pretty good cook when it comes to fish.”
“You do have a nice smile.”
She laughed. “I do, don’t I?”
“I think I would like to try the fish.”
“Then let me gather up my gear and we’ll go to my place.”
Tom helped her with the gear and carried the basket with the fish.
As they walked, she asked, “So, Tom, what do you do?’
“I’m an engineer.”
“That sounds like interesting work.”
“It is. I test bridges.” He was proud of his work. It kept people safe.
“You must be busy. There are plenty of bridges around here.”
“Oh, yes there are. What do you do?”
“I have affairs with married men.”
Tom was taken aback.
“You’re shocked. I usually get that when I tell people. It’s amazing at parties. But it’s a living.”
They had stopped walking.
“It’s immoral? Yes, it is. But a girl has to make a living. My parents are gone, and I don’t have a husband. So here I am, all alone in the world. Me and my fishing.”
They started walking again.
“And I like nice things,” she continued. “I don’t see people lining up to give me those things. Do you?”
“I’m choosey who I take up with. And I only see them once a week. The rest of the time is mine. Right now I am between. So, I am free until the next man comes along.”
Then Tom realized something. “Am I your next?”
“Oh, no,” she assured him. “You’re not married.”
“Then why are you inviting me home for dinner?”
She stopped and turned and looked at him. “I like you. I knew I would when I first saw you six weeks ago.” She reached up and pushed his white hair out of his face.
She shook her head slightly, then went back to walking. Tom joined her.
“Morality?” she said. “Morality doesn’t put food on the table. Morality doesn’t put a roof over my head.”
“Look, I don’t like to be judged for what I do. I have only one thing the world wants and I am going to make it pay for it. I am not going to be a shop girl and live on subsistence wages. And I don’t see suitors lining up to ask for my hand.”
“But they would.”
“I’m a poor girl. And this is who I am. Now do you want your morality or do you want to spend the rest of the day with me. We’ll have our fish and who knows, you might just get lucky.” She turned and walked through the gate of a small cottage.
“I want the fish.”
“I thought you would, Thomas.” She unlocked the door of her basement apartment and went inside. “You don’t mind if I call you Thomas. You look more like a Thomas than a Tom.”
Tom followed her inside.
She sat her basket down and pulled off her jacket. She looked him in the eyes, then she patted his cheeks affectionately. “Now let’s have that fish.”
When they finished the fish, Adelaide poured Tom a glass of wine, then herself. They drank the wine in silence until they had almost finished the bottle. Sitting across from him, she looked straight into his eyes and asked, “Would you marry me even though I slept with married men?”
He choked on the wine but managed not to spew it onto her. “That’s a very personal question.”
She laughed. “Don’t you think a wife should have a career?”
Tom was beginning to break out in a bit of a sweat. He felt like he was being run over by a truck and he didn’t like it. For him, women had always been hard to figure out. And Adelaide was a total sphinx. He stood up. Woozy from the wine, he sat back down.
“I have to go, Adelaide. I really do.”
Adelaide was having none of that. “You can’t go, Thomas.”
“Why can’t I?”
“We still have to finish the wine. I have a second bottle.”
“I’ve had enough wine. Thank you very much.”
“Then don’t you want to make love to me?”
Again Tom tried to stand up. This time he made it. “I’ve got to go.”
He went for the door. Adelaide stepped in front of him.
“Please don’t go, Thomas. Please don’t go.” There were tears in her eyes. “I lied.”
That stopped Tom. “You lied?”
“I don’t sleep with married men. I don’t sleep with single men either.”
Tom walked over to the sofa and dropped on to it. “I don’t understand.”
She plopped down on the floor in front of him. “I wanted to make sure.”
“Make sure of what?”
“I wanted to make sure that you wouldn’t leave me if I fell in love with you. I’m sorry I lied.”
“Why would I leave you?”
“Once you found out what I really do.”
Tom asked, “Why would I do that? I came this far, didn’t I?”
“Yes, you did, Thomas.”
“You don’t sleep with married men?”
“I do not. I would never do that.”
“Just what do you do? Invite men to your apartment, then murder them for their money. In that case, you’ve chosen the wrong man. I don’t make that much money. I work for the city and they don’t pay well.”
“No, silly, I don’t murder anyone. Never have and never will.”
“Well, that is a relief.” Tom’s body slumped. He let his concern go off into thin air. “Just what do you do?”
“I’m a clown.”
“You’re a clown?
“Yes, I’m a clown.”
Tom started to laugh. He went into an uncontrollable laughter. For five minutes, he couldn’t stop himself. Finally, he stopped. “You Are A Clown?”
Adelaide was crying. She looked up at him with her soft green eyes. “I knew that was going to be your reaction. Every man I’ve been interested. They just laugh. Now, you. It’s hopeless.
Tom jumped up and went over and plopped down beside her and said, “No. You’re wrong. I’m glad you’re a clown. I love clowns.”
“Yes. Some of my favorite people are clowns.”
Adelaide threw her arms around Tom and kissed him. Then she said, “I was so afraid. I figured you would be so relieved I wasn’t a…You know what I mean. That you would accept me as a clown.”
“Now, let me get this straight. You have one of those honkers of a nose and you have the big feet?”
“Yes. I do.” She jumped up and ran into her bedroom and brought back her nose and her big feet and her clown costume for Tom to see.
He looked at her costume and her big feet and her nose. She honked it for him.
Tom stood up and went over to Adelaide. “I have a secret.”
Adelaide drew back. She didn’t like secrets. Unlesss she was the one with the secret.
Tom said, “I work Wednesday evenings as a clown.”