Martha worked in a radio-biology lab in Manhattan, and when Larry, her husband of seven years, left her at last for the cause of art, she decided to accept the longstanding invitation from a lab in Los Angeles to visit their operation and talk about her work. She left her Alsatian with someone she knew from her women’s group, packed her suitcase first with clothes she imagined to be appropriate to LA and then with those she imagined to be wildly inappropriate, and after picking up a small lead-lined attaché case of radioactive samples from the lab, she boarded an enormous jet that transported her without the least sensation of motion to Los Angeles.
Katherine, whom she had not seen since college, met her at the airport in a white GTO convertible. They had some trouble recognizing each other at first because in the ten years since their last meeting, Martha had come to pay less attention to her looks and Katherine more, but it was really only an instant of uncertainty, and Katherine had told her to watch for the car. ‘I’ll be wearing a white convertible in my buttonhole’ was actually what she’d said.
They embraced when they met, and Katherine, who was now an actress, cried, proving once again to Martha that you become what you imitate, since Katherine had never before been histrionic in any way. Still, Martha was touched. Then they drove. While they drove they talked, and while they talked they smoked. When they got off the freeway, Katherine took advantage of a traffic light to open her door and empty the car’s ashtray onto the street. Martha, looking out her window, saw that the man in the MG next to them was emptying his ashtray too. He smiled at her and waved.