Virtually every New Yorker believes that the worse the weather, the harder it is to get a cab. Tonight was bitter cold, and the only taxis Esther saw had their “Off Duty” signs lit. She had just about decided to walk the two long blocks to the subway station when she heard a car horn honking.
The driver pulled over to the curb and rolled down his window. He looked familiar.
“Esther, right? You were at the party.”
“It’s me, Artie Finger. I’m a friend of the lady who gave the party.”
“OK.” She wondered who would ever want to be named Artie Finger?
“Look, if you’re going downtown, I can give you a lift. I’m headed back to Brooklyn.”
Oh, why not? It would be a lot better than waiting on a deserted subway platform.
He reached over, pushed open the door, and she climbed in. She thanked him for giving her the ride.
It was such a relief to get into a warm car. He had the heat turned up full blast. She leaned back and closed her eyes. After just a few seconds it hit her – that godawful smell! What was it? Rotten eggs? A dead fish? Whatever it was, she began to debate which was worse – the smell inside the car or the bitter cold outside?
Luckily it wasn’t too far to where she lived. Obviously she couldn’t just hold her breath. Maybe she could breathe through her mouth. Then she began to wonder how Artie Finger could stand the smell.
Seemingly completely unaware, he was making small talk. She tried not to listen, but she did need to be polite. Fortunately, when he asked a question, it required just a simple yes or no. He was quite content to do all the talking.
Mercifully, they soon pulled up in front of her building just as she felt a wave of nausea coming on. As she reached for the door, he leaned over to kiss her. That’s when she discovered the source of that smell.
Esther managed to extract herself from the car, but not before his lips brushed against hers. She slammed the door shut and he pulled away. Had he checked his rearview mirror, he might have seen her doubled over, puking her guts out all over the sidewalk.
She then felt much better. She got out her key, let herself in, and trudged up the four flights to her apartment. Her roommate was away for the weekend, so she had the place to herself. She stripped off her clothes, leaving them all over the floor, and took a nice long warm shower. As she was getting into bed, Esther knew that first thing in the morning, she would take her clothes to the cleaners.
When she woke up, the sunlight was streaming in. Before she was out of bed, Esther was thinking about the strange dream she had had. She was in a TV commercial – with Artie Finger.
Esther: (holding her nose) You have bad breath!
Artie: I do?
Esther: Listen sewer mouth, You need to spray this into your mouth. (She hands him the spray.)
Artie accepts the spray from her, and after Esther leaves he vigorously sprays his mouth. In the next scene, he is surrounded by a group of beautiful and adoring young women.
From time to time through the rest of the day, Esther would smile as she remembered her dream. She was smiling when she went to bed that night. Soon she was dreaming. She and Artie Finger were in another commercial.
Esther: (holding her nose) You have B.O.!
Artie: B.O? What’s B.O.?
Esther: B.O. stands for body odor, you moron! (She hands him a large canister.) Here, use this!
After she leaves, he pulls off his shirt and sprays himself liberally under each arm, and then works his way down his torso. Then he loosens his belt and aims the spray down his pants.
The next morning, Esther began to seriously consider a career change. Perhaps there was a future on Madison Avenue making bad breath and B.O. spray commercials. She certainly had the requisite life experience.
Once she began receiving huge residual checks, she would get her own apartment. This place was just too damn small! That’s why she and her roommate, Arlene, scrupulously honored one basic rule: no sleepovers! Not that either of them had had all that many “hot dates.”
Since tomorrow was a workday, she went to bed well before midnight. Just as she was falling asleep, she wondered why Arlene hadn’t gotten home yet. Her last conscious thought was that maybe Arlene had gotten lucky.
The next thing she knew, Esther felt herself being shaken awake. She heard Arlene’s frightened voice. “Esther, wake up! Wake up!”
“What? What is it?” The light was hurting her eyes.
“Esther, I just got home! While I was coming up the stairs, I heard you. You were screaming! I was terrified!”
“Is that why you’re holding your pepper spray?”
“God only knows what could have been happening to you!”
“Arlene, you say I was actually screaming? That I was screaming in my sleep?”
“I even heard you yell something like, ‘Stay away from me!’ You must have been having a terrible dream! Can you remember anything?”
Esther broke into a big grin. Soon she was laughing. Arlene stared at her, and then she started to giggle. “Esther, can you let me in on the joke, so I’ll know why I’m laughing?”
“OK, let me start from the beginning. You know that I was going to Heidi’s party, right?”
“So there was this guy there who gave me a ride home.”
“What was his name?”
“Would you believe his name was Artie Finger?”
“Oh my God! You mean Halitosis Hal? He’s disgusting!”
“Now you tell me!”
“So what happened with him?”
Esther told her the whole story, even the strange dreams she had had.
“So on Friday night you dreamed that the two of you starred in a breath spray commercial. And then on Saturday night, you were in a B.O. commercial.”
“There’s more, Arlene.”
“What do you mean?”
“Tonight, just before you woke me up, when you heard me screaming?”
“What was it? What was so frightening?”
“I was making another commercial with Artie Finger.”
“Yeah, what was it for this time?”
Bio: A recovering economics professor, Steve Slavin earns a living writing math and economics books.