The telephone rings. Zelda Fitzgerald thrusts herself from her armchair to answer it, nudging the table next to her and spilling her fourth pink gin of the day. It is 9:22am.
She knows it’s Francis. She’s been waiting for his call.
“Hello? The voice on the other end declares tinnily, “ Zelda, can you hear me?”
“Yeeeeah, I can hear ya…” Zelda says, the gin liberating her Alabama drawl.
“How you doing over there?” she manages, one eye partially closed.
Zelda was vaguely aware that Fitzgerald was staying with one of his Princeton chums after a class reunion at the university.
“Yeah, yeah, it’s going great here. I’m thinking of staying over at Biffy’s a couple more days. Is that OK?”
Without waiting for a reply, F. Scott barrels on,
“Listen Zelda, my love, I’ve only got Biffy’s typewriter over here and the ribbon’s just busted. Could you write something down for me?”
“Sure, honey,” Zelda slurs into the receiver, tongue on her cheek as her chubby fingers wiggle grotesquely in the pen pot before eventually retrieving one.
“Okay, honey, goffforrit…” she dribbles, pen poised over the baise of the telephone table.
“Okay, here it is… “In a real dark night of the soul, it is always three o’clock in the morning, day after day.”
“Whaaat?! Honey, the connection’s terrible, say it again, will ya?”
The line is crackling like an empty pack of Luckies.
At this point, the free hand she’s using to support herself slips from the edge of the table and she just manages to stop herself from falling over, skilfully using her forehead and the nearest available wall to save her embarrassment.
She looks round sternly at the empty drawing room, challenging the furniture to make comment.
“Hello, Zelda, did ya get that?”
“Not quite, honey, just s-say it one more time, the line’s really bad.”
“Chrissakes woman, will you just listen for once? This is really important and Biffy and I are gagging for a martini. You ready?”
“Yeesssh…” she replies, twirling the pen between her fingers to facilitate the more traditional nib-down approach.
“In a real dark night of the soul, it is always three o’clock in the morning, day after day.”
The static on the line becomes so loud, Zelda holds the telephone away from her ear. By the time the static has passed, all that can be heard is the dialing tone.
Zelda, benefiting from her self-imposed best-of-three rule, finally returns the receiver to the cradle and looks down at the table.
She stares, baffled, at the sentence she has scribbled directly onto the green felt of the table top.
“Inner ear star light often sold, kisses honestly a cloth into mourning, stay outta jail?”
“Sheesh,” she turns and addresses the furniture again, “it sure ain’t one of his best.”