Skolnik Page 5
     Charlie had had a rough spot when the commissions weren't coming in and for a while they'd had to get by on what the wife was making, which wasn't much, and Charlie cursed all the dentists in the world and all the automobile distributors in the world who kept raking it in and living off the fat of the land. That was the spell when he got cynical and took to muttering under his breath when he saw the fat cats and fast talkers on TV. "Did you say something, hon?" his wife would purr. Despite being a tiny woman with veiny arms and legs, she was a real southern belle, wrapped in a cocoon of sugary sweetness like cotton candy. They sat in TV chairs side by side with just a little table between them where they kept the snacks. The kids sat on the sofa and kept the snacks in their lap.
     Joe's brother lent him some money to tide him over and he got an apartment in a three-story walkup in a rundown neighborhood full of empty buildings and

abandoned warehouses. He tried to get a job bagging in the supermarket but they didn't give it to him because he looked too fat to work with the public so he ended up doing janitorial work in a ballbearing factory for a cleaning service. Every Sunday he had dinner with his brother and his family. His sister-in-law tried to cheer him up because he looked so depressed and told him all kinds of amusing stories about her clients in the beauty parlor where she worked as a manicurist. Joe wasn't amused. The clients reminded him of his ex-wife, who'd had red hair and red toenails and kept her bra on when they made love.
     Tens of millions of Americans entered the contest, maybe even a hundred, maybe more. The organizers were pleased. The sponsor was pleased. The President was pleased. "This is what makes America great," he said between foreign policy speeches. "It makes me proud to be an American to know that anyone can win millions and millions of dollars and the woman of his choice. That was