Ms. Caroline

April 5, 2008
By Phoebe Nir, New York, NY

Ms. Caroline Altman-Dreyfus-Steinman-Haltenberg-Smith-Green-Brown stood, scowling heavily, in the terminal of JFK. To her constant chagrin, her uber-hyphenated surname was not a sign of royalty, but in fact, merely a vestigial remnant of her five other marriages. Tapping her boot impatiently, she glanced at her vintage-style Rolex, a gift from her now estranged parents. As she recalled the day she received it, several years ago, her scowl became more pronounced. She had been ‘celebrating’ her 29th birthday at her parents’ palatial Texan Manse. “It’s pretty, isn’t it, dear?” drawled her mother. “Of course, it wouldn’t be too safe around babies; too many cute little parts! If you had a baby, Caroline, of course we would get you a new Rolex!” Caroline smiled coldly. Her mother had been a beauty queen, “Ms. Ala-bimbo,” as Caroline liked to refer to her, and had married her father, (recently proclaimed one of TIME Magazine’s “Top 100 Millionaires Who Are Killing the Planet) when she was very young. What separated her parents, in Caroline’s mind, was 20 years and about 200 IQ points, but other than that, they were interchangeable: Mr. and Mrs. Altman were too obsessed with wrinkles, grandchildren, anti-gun control, and Jesus, for Caroline’s taste. She had moved to New York, partially, to upset them. When Caroline went to the Fashion Institute of Technology, she did it with the intention of meeting rich men and climbing the social ladder, but it still gave her tremendous pleasure to picture her parents imagining “Caroline In New York,” hanging out with gays, having abortions, and (shudder!) riding in that dirty underground type thing. Actually, Caroline didn’t really derive tremendous pleasure from bothering her parents… She didn’t really derive tremendous pleasure from anything, because she believed in goals, not ‘indulgences.’ (Despite that principal, she ‘indulged’ herself quite a bit.) However, she occasionally would drunkenly declare that she was an “anti-Kant,” saying that every other moron on the island could go around looking for kicks, but when all their charms were gone, where would they be? Caroline thought that a woman’s best strategy was to secure money for herself, by any means necessary. She viewed herself as a feminist, and yet she detested every woman she had ever met, especially her friends.
“Mrs. Brown?” came a tentative voice over her shoulder, shaking her out of her reverie. “Sorry I’m late, traffic was crazy.” She turned to the slightly younger man behind her, and observed that he had nice arms, but a haircut fit for a homeless person. She acknowledged him by extending her manicured had and snatching the granny smith apple he was about to bite into. She gestured imperiously to her Louis Vuitton luggage set, and as she stalked towards the exit, she gracefully dropped the apple in a trash can. Caroline loved her Louis Vuitton suitcases, because they did a quite fabulous job at displaying that Caroline was well off. She used the term “well off” as a euphemism for “rich,” because “well off” left room for liking or pitying Caroline, which meant that people might buy her gifts. Caroline like diamonds the best, but anything would do. (Well, of course, not anything.)
Having exited the terminal, Caroline allowed the flushed and flustered driver to open the door of her town car, and entered, elegantly trailing her ankle. She allowed herself a playful smile as she recalled the past weekend. She had told her latest, and soon to be ‘late’, husband, Jim Brown, that she would be going to a fashion show in Paris, but of course, she had been taking a weekend trip with her boyfriend, Christopher. He was a little old for her, but she liked him fine, and she loved his money. All of the sudden, she heard her cell phone ring, (the dum-de-dum that came programmed in the phone; customized rings were tacky, and revealed too much.) She picked it up with a crisp, “Caroline Brown,” though she could barely conceal her smile; she thought she knew what was coming. “Mrs. Brown, this is the Chief of Police, Richard Taylor,” came a gruff, confident voice. “I regret to say that I have some terrible news. This afternoon, your husband was found dead in your apartment.”
Caroline’s eyes gleamed. How to do this? “Oh!” she gasped. No, too breathy. “Oh!” she said again. “However did this happen?” When she had first moved to New York, she tried desperately to lose her southern accent, but she found it advantageous at times like these. And plus, it made her seem dumber, and more innocent, which was good, because Caroline was getting older. “We’re not quite sure, but rest assured that we will investigate further.”
“Thank you so much, officer,” said Caroline, closing her phone. She grinned broadly, thinking, “Caroline gets what Caroline wants.” If she were going to marry Christopher, then the ‘boyfriend’ position would soon be vacant. And she liked the sound of this Richard person.
On the other line, Richard Taylor, Chief of Police, hung up his phone. Poor, poor Caroline. He really pitied her, though he also admired her for her strength. Maybe he would get her a gift. He would like to get her diamonds the best, but anything would do. Well, of course, not anything.

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