Mr Quinn are you just pleased to see me...?
They should call it the Geriatric States of America or maybe I’m
in the wrong mall - the one for the grey dollar - Macy’s on Route
6 somewhere on the Mass/Rhode Island border.
Outside the mall's chilly air-conditioned corridors, the monsoon season
continues unabated; lukewarm rain falling in sheets, turning the parking
lot into a large, square lake. Inside, the entire senior population of
Bristol county is eating at Dunkin Do'nuts or shopping for leisure wear,
because in America, federal law seems to require that everyone, even those
over seventy, must wear shorts.
Ageing cellulite, bony knees and varicose veins do not 'work' with shorts,
and that's just the men. The women wear short socks with pom poms and
jogging shoes although most of them can only walk with the help of aluminium
frames, let alone run.
Thank goodness Marisel, the Philippina woman who cooks for us in the summer,
still owns a dress. She's also fully ambulatory and pulling me behind
her as she wades through the store in her squelching sneakers.
'You have bad shits?' she asks.
I'm confused. Marisel hasn't poisoned us yet and as far as I know my intestines
are in good working order.
'Bad shits? They have white sale - very nice bad shits. Nice towels too.'
Marisel sometimes gets her vowels mixed up which with my own Scottish
accent makes our conversations very interesting.
'You git bad shits in thir!' she prods me in the direction of Household
Linen and goes off to buy herself a do'nut.
The store is almost deserted but for two elderly women, both wearing tea
shirts emblazoned with pictures of their dogs. The saleswoman, who must
also be nearing retirement age judging by the liver spots on the back
of her hands, rings up my purchase and asks me if I want to open a charge
'No thanks, I’m just visiting.'
'Oh - you’re on vacation?'
'Yes, from London.'
'Ooh, London, England?' says the owner of Tammy - a cocker spaniel, 'Say,
don't you guys have a bunch of wonderful churches over there?'
I agree, although this isn't the most obvious description of Notting Hill.
Maybe she’s thinking of London, Tuscany.
'So how are you enjoying your visit?' asks Princess - the white, hairy
mutt. 'You must be real excited to be here.' she congratulates me, as
if London was some hick town half-way to California, the long way round,
and Route 6 the last stop before Las Vegas
I glance around the empty sales floor. 'Well you know, it’s sort
of quiet and peaceful, but we like it. My voice echoes through the 40%
final clearance racks.
Princess laughs and digs Tammy roughly in the place that her ribs would
be if not buried under a padded, surgical corset. 'Quiet! Honey - I’m
from the mid-west,' she says, 'and I gotta tell you - compared to that,
this place is really jumping.'
'Are you staying in town?' asks Tammy, and I tell her that we have a house
out on the point.
'Oh Gee - have you seen Anthony Quinn yet?' she simpers.
It seems everybody in a fifty mile radius seems to know that Anthony Quinn
has bought a place nearby. He's become such a locally owned celebrity
that he has his own individual category in the video store. Horror, comedy
and smack in the middle of the floor 'Anthony Quinn Movies'.
'Actually, yes, I drove past him yesterday, He was out riding a bike with
his kids.' I reply.
The two women start talking about his divorce which has been widely reported
in all the newspapers and I begin edging away.
'Goodness he was handsome when he was young.' says Princess, 'I remember
seeing him in Ice Cold in Alex.'
'Quail, dear. That's the other one - Anthony Quail. He's dead.'
'Oh gee - well Quinn must be getting old too - what is he - eighty?' They
turn to me for confirmation. I shrug.
'Sure - he's a real old guy now.' says Tammy, shaking her jowls.
This strikes me as the pot calling the kettle stainless-steel but it was
a comment I had mistakenly made myself the previous night when our neighbours
came over for dinner.
Age is relative when one guest is hitting eighty and another a Korean
War veteran. But we all make mistakes - the veteran's wife, a well-preserved
septuagenarian with front teeth like two sugar puffs, called me Elizabeth
The guest on my right had the kind of unpronounceable surname that women
marry to get rid of but Mrs Veteran managed to remember who he was - maybe
being his Jackie O’s brother helps to cement these things in your
Mr Veteran was wearing a soup-stained tie and had a drawling, gruff American
accent. For a while I thought he was just clearing his throat between
courses until I realised he was talking to me.
'So have you run in to your new neighbour?' he asked. Yep - it's Anthony
Quinn time again folks.
'Yes,' I said 'I saw him with his kids out on the street.'
'They say he eats in town all the time,' said Mrs V, 'Have you met her
- it seems she's only in her early thirties.'
'It's hard to imagine what a woman that age would see in such an old man.'
I continued. 'I mean, he was riding his bicycle up hill when I drove past
so he's obviously fit, but he's still very old. He looks like a tortoise.
He's got to be - what eighty? He's ancient!'
My voice trailed off awkwardly as the guests round the table fell silent,
broken only by the noise of my husband repeatedly kicking my leg under
the table. He began making cut-throat signs with his knife.
'Oh well, of course these days age is nothing.' I tried to recover. 'And
he has two such little babies so obviously he's still - em vigorous.'
'And he's rich, even after that settlement to his first wife,' volunteered
Just then Marisel who was ferrying bowls of clam chowder from the buffet
to the table spoke up.
'Viry big dick.' she said emphatically with the air of one who is a connoisseur
of such things.
Everyone looked at her, open mouthed, allowing us the chance to admire
their cosmetic dentistry.
'Viry nice house he has over thir - Anthony Quinn. Many bedrooms. Viry
big dick with a pool.'
Mr Veteran, who it appears, knows a little about real estate agreed that
the house did indeed have an impressive sun deck and luxury swimming pool
but I'm not so sure if that's enough of an attraction when marrying an
older man. Maybe we heard right the first time.