"Isn't that Velcro Bandit over there?" They were sitting in the hotel bar.
"Where?" he said. "Who?"
"Velcro Bandit," she said, as if he should know. "The CEO of Citigroup."
"What's a city group?" has asked. Reasonably.
"Maybe it's his great uncle," she said. "I guess Velcro won't be born till 1957."
"Well there you go," he said.
"By the way, welcome back," she said.
"How long was I gone?"
"Seventy-three years," she said.
"Horseshit," he said. "It's not even 1957 yet. You can't fool me."
"You might want to rethink that," she said. "But yeah, it's only been a couple days. Any interesting dreams?"
"I wouldn't call them dreams, exactly, but I had this long stream of consciousness thing going on."
"Yeah. It was like I was in this graduate-level colloquium on Narrative or something. There was a lecturer, or maybe two of them. It was confusing, the perspective kept changing. You know how dreams are."
"Slippery little mothers."
"Right. So somebody was saying that in the contemporary Action-Adventure genre, everything is always linear and purposeful."
"Purpose-driven?" she asked.
"I guess," he said. "Yeah, purpose-driven. Which is why novels like that are so popular. No matter how complicated things get, the hero always knows what to do. There's always The Next Thing."
"Is there always a hero?"
"Usually, yeah. I think."
"How can you tell who it is?"
"What kind of question is that?" he said. "You can always spot the hero at a thousand paces."
"An odd way to put it," she said. "But if you say so."
"And they always have plenty of money," he said, "and never work. Have you noticed that?" He was silent a moment, idly turning the bottle of wine she'd ordered. The label said Chateau Mouton-Rothschild. "Come to think of it, how are we paying for this?"
"I put it on your card," she said.
"The card in your wallet," she said.
"This wouldn't be one of those popular purpose-driven Action-Adventure novels, then, would it?"
He felt himself all over, then withdrew a leather wallet from a back pocket, opened it. There was a credit card that said Citi Chairmansm American Express®. He looked at it, dumbstruck.
"Well there you go," she said. "Hungry?"
"Good," she said. "I also ordered sweetbreads and chanterelles, Chilean sea bass with potato risotto, artichoke and braised oxtail, and breast of duck with foie gras and dates."
"Damn," he said.
"I put it on your card," she said. "See how that works?"
"But the card was in my pocket," he said.
"I have one too," she said. "You should have taken notes in that dream."
"They didn't cover credit cards."
"Did they cover how talking about money is gauche and clueless?"
"Not really," he said. "But wait," he said. "How did I get this card in the first place? I don't remember anything about it."
"The Law of Attraction," she said.
"The Law of Attraction," she repeated. "If you think prosperous thoughts, then prosperous-like things will happen to you."
"...the fuck?" he said.
"Ah, here are the sweetbreads now," she said. "See how this works? Umm, here try. The chanterelles are gorgeous!"
The dinner was indeed superb. Over the duck and sea bass they chatted about art and life and stuff like that.
"When we get to Zürich," she said, "I want you to take me shopping on the Bahnhofstrasse."
He started to answer, but just then the maître d' came over. He bent down and whispered discreetly: "I'm sorry, Sir, but there seems to be a problem with your card."
"A problem?" he said. Stupidly.
"I'm sorry, Sir. They say there is no such account."
"I'm sorry, too," she said. "I guess my prosperous thoughts don't apply to you." She dabbed at her mouth with the linen napkin and dropped it on the table. "I'll see you in Ascona in about a year, then. I figure that's how long you'll be doing dishes here."
"But... but..." he said.
"Live and learn," she said. Then turning to the maître d', "My compliments to the chef."