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for colloquy. A feeling of downtown bonhomie pervaded the atmosphere. Dorothy covertly listened in on a few conversations.

A short, corpulent, swarthy fellow, whose colorful but somewhat slovenly attire flirted with bohemianism, had buttonholed a tall, thin, taciturn, conservatively dressed towhead and was now forcing him to listen to a bawdy joke. The story, which Dorothy didn’t completely understand, concerned an especially nubile, coquettish, and décolleté young woman who, while sultrily carousing at a Bacchanalian New Year’s Eve fete met an erstwhile uxorious milquetoast, recently cuckolded, who was now an overweening, roistering roué. The listener never actually laughed, but kept rolling his eyes in larger and larger arcs. The story became increasingly salacious as it continued, and Dorothy, feeling embarrassed, walked away before the punch line. Still, from a slight distance, she heard “…so the sister-in-law said, ‘and if you think he’s a misogynist, you should see his cousin Harold!’ ” Then, only the fat one laughed.

Listening now to a group of slatternly women in heavy makeup and tawdry clothes, Dorothy heard another ribald tale, this time scatological in content. Throughout the long story, to the listeners’ delight but Dorothy’s confusion, baby farm animals served metaphorically for a group of Munchkins, the humor deriving from the City dwellers’ unspoken but obvious bias against the appearance of their pint-sized neighbors to the east. For additional comic effect, the speaker bowdlerized this conceit by intentionally omitting the vulgarisms, knowing for a certainty her listeners’ imaginations would accurately fill in the interlarding lacunae. At every expurgation she slowly and deliberately ran her long painted fingernails through her blowzy, dyed hair, giving her audience, all of whom appeared to Dorothy frighteningly consumptive, time to giggle and snort as their imaginations ran wild. Dorothy’s face reddened as the frowzy,jocund women laughingly pointed at her and asked each other who the prissy little stranger was. Our little ingénue, thoroughly discomfited, quickly backed away. Once at a safe distance, she wondered if all the habitués of the Palace hallways were as lewd as the first few she’d encountered. Then again, she thought, maybe those people were merely the city’s riffraff.

Dorothy knew that her Kansas upbringing had been somewhat prim, but she didn’t wish to be thought a prude. At the risk of sullying her character, she decided to listen in on one more conversation, however licentious. Wending her way through the crowd, she soon found herself standing near a distinguished-looking septuagenarian in a well-tailored, green serge suit who at first seemed a gifted and charismatic raconteur. Before him was a sizable group.

He spoke volubly and grandiloquently, using many sesquipedalian words Dorothy had never heard. His animated facial expressions and hand gestures served to emphasize his points. Unable to understand even the gist of his prolix discourse, it occurred to her that this man might be as lascivious as the others, but she couldn’t tell.

With abeyant distrust, she listened for about fifteen minutes to what sounded to her like a skein of unfathomable circumlocution but was in reality

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