The Fur (StoryADay Challenge 5/2014)

Nothing feels as good as the sun on my back in Palm Springs. I have been to other desert locations, but Palm Springs is my paradise, where the sky is a bright deep blue, the real color of robin’s eggs. I know that sounds cliche, “robin’s egg blue,” but only the Palm Spring’s sky mimics it perfectly. If I were an artist and wanted to get to know beautiful blue, I’d go to Palm Springs. But I’m just someone from Minnesota with a disability and a doctor who told me I needed to spend some time each winter in Palm Springs. So there I was at The Oasis right across the street from where Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt stay. Somebody told me that he even gets his underwear dry cleaned—“tidy whities.” Like I should care!

I was there for the sunshine—not the “dirt.” But I guess a city that was first populated with Hollywood stars is used to looking for scandal. (Actually this area was first populated by the indigenous people, but they’re not counted. There is a small museum dedicated to them in downtown Palm Springs. It took me about 35 minutes to tour the entire place, including time in the gift shop.) Now I don’t want to sound above the fray here. I did take a bus tour of Hollywood Stars’ homes. My favorites were Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor. I could see John Travolta’s mansion atop a mountain right from my resort.

I spent most of my time by the pool, soaking up the sun or water in the hot tub. Most people were here to find the places to party. Every morning when I came out to the pool, I’d hear snatches of someone’s stories about “last night.” Never failed—somebody else had “one to top that.” Whoever they were, they must be immune to pounding headaches.

Admittedly these people were intriguing—the most intriguing of all was this peroxided woman who wore this leopard coat to every occasion, which included being seen at the pool or in the club house. It was one of those wrap around kind that, I guess, are multifunctional and can double as a pool robe or a wrap for the evening. Talk about fitting a stereotype. It’s like she looked at every Monroe film and Star magazine before her visit. Not that this was her first time, like mine. I heard her constantly giving other vacationers tips on what they just “have to do, dear” during their stay. One day she and I were both getting drinks at the pool bar. Suddenly she turned toward me and said, “Your first time here, dear?” I don’t know if she was doing her Audrey Hepburn imitation or what, but she sounded just like her. Up close I could also smell her heavy perfume that cloyed to my clothes.

“Yes, it is,” I said as I grabbed my lemonade from the bartender.

‘Well, you do plan on driving into Hollywood and Rodeo Drive. Right, dear. You can’t visit Palm Springs and not see Hollywood and Rodeo Drive!”

Yeah, yeah and you can’t be in Paris without taking a trip to Versailles, I know, I thought.

“No, I don’t have a car. I’m just planning on staying here and enjoying the sun,” I responded with a shrug and a smile.

“Well, dear, a car’s no problem. You just rent one.” The hand she used to pick up her drink had a ring on it with a stone so big that it made a rainbow on the counter.

“Oh, well, thanks, but I’m here to rest and recoup—doctor’s orders. I’ve just been taking the bus when I want to go downtown or see the sights.”

Her tortoiseshell sunglasses slipped a little as her head tipped back a bit, “The bus? Aren’t you adventurous! You must get quite a . . . a multicultural experience then. Do you speak Spanish?”

“I don’t, but I haven’t had a problem. I speak English.”

“That’s good, dear. Think about what I said about Hollywood, Rodeo Drive and renting a car. You’ll really love it, dear. Remember it’s a must!” she said as she patted my hand wearing that huge ring. The back of it actually hurt my knuckle when she tapped it.

As she turned away I noticed that her coat hung way down, revealing all of her back. Nice tan.

I saw her almost every day of my two-week stay, but that was the only time we actually talked. However, I couldn’t help but notice her. She didn’t keep her coat on most of the time, although she always had it with her. If she wasn’t wearing it, she had it draped over her arm or her husband was carrying it for her. I saw a number of women in furs when they were going out on the town, but she was the only woman with one at the pool.

A few days before my stay was over and I would have to trade the real mountains surrounding Palm Springs for those of ice and snow in Minnesota, I lay on my regular chaise when a shadow suddenly covered my back. I looked up to see “fur-coat” woman standing there. “Oh, hi!” I said while putting my sunglasses onto the top of my head. I noticed the coat was draped over her arm at the time.

“You know, dear, Richard and I are on our way to Rio now. We were just here for a bit to visit our son. He’s a renowned heart surgeon. Anyway, I’ve noticed you admiring my coat, and I was wondering if you’d like it. I’m not taking it with me. It’s not real, I’m sure you know. But it’s a really good one! I’d never let my real ones get so close to chlorine. I was going to just leave it in my room for the help to grab, but then I thought of you,” she said with a smile lipsticked in vibrant red that accentuated her not-real-white teeth.

She held it out to me like it was the Nobel Peace Prize or something, the perfume aroma emanated from it entombed me.

“Enjoy, dear!” she said as she turned and walked away. She stopped at the pool gate, turned and gave me a finger-wiggle wave and was gone before I could say a thing.

I have no idea how what I would have said, given the chance, or how I would have reacted to her, but two days later when I boarded the plane for Minneapolis, (a place where fur—real or not—is quite useful) the coat wasn’t with me.

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