(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The unnamed protagonist is a thirty-eight-year-old California woman who is divorced and raising a young daughter, has been a recovering alcoholic for five months, and is currently seeing an analyst. As she walks across a parking lot in West Hollywood one day on her way to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, she is accosted by a short, fat, pale man with bad teeth who introduces himself as Lenny. He invites her for coffee, inquires about her life, and tells her that he will show her the other side and give her the ride of her life. She turns him down.

The next day, Lenny is at the narrator’s noon Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and has brought the narrator a bouquet of roses. Again he invites her out, and again she refuses, but Lenny persists. After watching her for two weeks, he knows every move that she makes. Lenny calls it “recon,” the kind of reconnaissance he used to do in Vietnam, and promises to tell her some tall tales from the Mekong Delta. She again cuts him off, but later, sitting in her car, she notices the sky in a different way. It is China blue, and Lenny’s talk of Asia has given her exotic fantasies of emperors and concubines.

At her meeting the following day, she finds herself looking for Lenny. Sure enough, he is there, holding two cups of coffee as though awaiting her arrival, and he seems younger and tanner than she remembers. Walking out later, she looks at her watch, but Lenny admonishes her, and makes her take it off and give it to him. Time is not important, he says; besides, he will give her something better, a Rolex. He claims to have a drawerful of them, along with a bundle of cash in a safe-deposit box. He offers to take her for a ride around the block on his motorcycle and extends his hand. She takes it and fantasizes once again about blue Asian skies and China seas.

Over the next week, the narrator tries to avoid Lenny. She changes the times and locations of her meetings, but she trembles when she thinks of him and is irresistibly drawn back to the earlier meeting place. She finds him sitting on the front steps...

(The entire section is 850 words.)