Dorothy Parker is known as a humorist, and a black-humorist at that; but a few of her short stories are surprisingly touching. I’ve read “The Lovely Leave” (1943) many, many times, and I still enjoy its vignette of a soldier’s wife preparing for her husband’s all-too-brief leave in wartime New York.
When Mimi McVicker learns that her husband Steve will be returning to the city for a mere twenty-four hours, she consoles herself over the time limit of his visit by immersing herself in preparations: buying fresh flowers for the apartment and a new black dress for herself, setting out cocktails for the evening, and—most memorably, for me—replenishing her supplies of fragrance:
The day of the leave was a Saturday. She flushed with gratitude to the army for this coincidence, for after one o’clock, Saturday was her own. She went from her office without stopping for lunch, and bought perfume and toilet water and bath oil. She had a bit of each remaining in bottles on her dressing table and in her bathroom, but it made her feel desired and secure to have rich new stores of them.
Yes, exactly. And what was her signature fragrance? Parker doesn’t tell us, but we can imagine something wonderful and suitable for the occasion.
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