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"So he wasn't exactly Mr. Right?"

"Isn't that a contradiction in terms?" says Misty, who's been calling herself Dusty for some weeks now. "There's no such thing as the right man. Some are just wronger than others."

Usually she changes a letter in her name at the end of a romance, so she won't have to hear her old name on a new lover's lips. As a matter of fact, a recent, rather complicated amour prompted her to make a double switch in the lineup of letters. But after her latest fling--Misty is definitely going to take a mulligan on this one.

It started at the highbrow Mendocino Music Festival, inside the circus tent out on the windswept bluffs. Though she would choose the Rolling Stones over Rachmaninoff any day, Misty was convinced she needed to change her venues and tactics, to lower her voice and the hem of her skirt. She was weary of men with more knots in their shoelaces than buttons left on their shirts. A trustfunder would be welcome, an entrepreneur, or some semi-conductor savant with a megabucks job and a table at an exclusive French restaurant.

A likely blip appeared on her feminine radar screen during the overture to "La Traviata," a fortyish fellow with a rugged profile, his lantern jaw clean-shaven, a hint of gray at his temples. On either side of him was an empty seat, and Misty, determined to occupy one of them for the finale, spent the ensuing pair of operatic acts devising a foolproof plan to place herself in the blip's path during the intermission. Near the concession stand where they sold local wines would be best.

She trained her baby blues on him and asked which chardonnay he recommended.

He picked one highly touted for its oaky nose, described as toasty, jammy, with a hint of citrus. They toasted the toasty wine, and the music. Fog rolled in over the bluff. Chadwick's friends called him Chad. He wore no rings. A pickup loaded with yahoos roared off from a parking place in front of Dick's bar on Main Street, and ushers tinkled little bells to announce the resumption of musical festivities.

While Violetta sacrificed herself for the sake of her lover, Misty, on a previously empty seat, edged closer to Chad. Thighs touched. Eyes traded nuances. Finally, the ecstatic heroine tunefully expired from the ravages of tuberculosis, and the audience rose in applause. The key to Chad's bed-and-breakfast bungalow clinked against his BMW keys as he and Misty stood clapping.

"Oops," grinned a barefoot Chad the next morning.

The empty champagne bottle he'd kicked rolled across the Persian carpet and clunked to a halt against a walnut suitcase stand. A leather luggage tag with a San Francisco address was attached to the handle of the suitcase resting on the stand. An invitation to follow the suitcase to its home came not long after the clunk, while Chad crooned Alfredo's soulful aria about undies for leechays and soaped Misty's breasts, bobbing in the cascades from the pulsating showerhead.

"Sculptor is about the last thing I would've guessed," says Misty. "Talk about wasting a swing."

The spacious South of Market loft was filled with sculpted frogs. There were big, marble frogs and frogs fashioned from papier-mâché, little silver frogs, bronze frogs with a green patina, iron frogs, chiseled frogs, and speckled frogs. Most sat quietly hunkered down on their powerful hind legs, but some were captured in the act of leaping from a lily pad, or filling lungs for a night-rending blast. All the frogs, regardless of their magnitude, were equipped with an enormous, erect phallus.

"People probably buy them for hat racks or towel holders, to store rings and bracelets and other jewelry," conjectures Misty.

She was a bit unnerved by the forest of froggy phalli her first night at Chad's place, the long shadows they cast on the walls, pinkish in the throbbing neon glow of the city. But she got used to them after a couple days. And then Chad hauled out the meatball suits.

Made from fluffy, brown yarn attached to a perfectly round, lightweight wire frame, they were designed to be worn by the chorus in an updated version of an Aristophanes comedy. The play's avant-garde director, an old college chum of Chad, had naturally approached the famous frogmeister for help with costumes. Although initially reluctant to replace Aristophanes' ribbiting amphibians with ribbiting meatballs, he had eventually fallen in love with the concept, the unexpected quality of it, the utter absurdity. To drive home the absurdity, Chad had attached a very human and very large phallus to each meatball.

It was his idea to wear the outfits to the first dress rehearsal at the cozy experimental theater only a few blocks away. He pooh-poohed her reservations. She didn't need thespian training. The meatballs were just bit parts. All she had to do was caper about and croak when nudged.

"So there we are, a pair of meatballs walking down Howard Street, waving our pizzles in the air. We don't want to let them drag along the sidewalk and get dirty. When we hear the siren."

Two young cops jumped out of the cruiser that screeched to a halt at the curb. A fine, golden down glistened on their fresh pink cheeks. They looked like door-to-door evangelists in blue suits, except they were packing pistols instead of Bibles and didn't wear the loud, striped ties favored by evangelists. They ordered Chad and Misty to hold it right where they were. The cops wanted to cuff them, but the way their arms stuck out from the sides of the costumes made that impossible. Attempts to load them uncuffed into the back seat of the prowl car failed. The doors were too narrow to admit the meatballs. The officers, correctly surmising that the meatballs were in the raw inside, radioed for a paddy wagon.

Hoots and jeers rang out from the gathering crowd as the two miscreants with their phony phalli were prodded into the back of the Black Maria. Not wishing to dent the costumes for "The Frogs," Chad and Misty stood up for the ride over the city's hills to the central station on Vallejo Street, next door to what used to be the Keystone Korner nightclub.

"You know," says Misty, "with men, it's like buying houses that have been on the market for a while. Either the plumbing or the wiring is shot, or sure to go soon."

After being herded into a low chamber lit by hesitant fluorescent bulbs, they stood in line, flanked by the arresting officers, and waited to be booked. Every pair of eyes was on them, except those of the sergeant in charge. He sat hunched over his desk, scratching entries onto official forms, scribbling down notes, shuffling rap sheets. He wrote with all the gusto of a delinquent chalking "I will not throw spitballs in class" onto the board a hundred times. Occasionally he repeated a word or phrase--an address, the spelling of a name, or some term like breaking and entering, solicitation, assault two, forgery, armed robbery. He never looked up at an offender. His voice was a bored growl, edged with weary sarcasm.

"Lewd and obscene behavior in public," he repeated after the arresting officers when it was Chad and Misty's turn. "Twirling ten-foot penises in the air along Howard."

At that last phrase, he finally looked up. A rosy flush stole over his jowls. His features slowly composed themselves into a scowl. His flabby lips trembled as he hesitated a moment, in search of the proper nouns and expletives.

"Rookies," he managed to hiss, almost silently, as if the word would contaminate the station if he said it any louder.

There was a low wheeze, like the sound of air escaping from a balloon with a loose knot. Then the air wheezed back into the balloon. Misty could've told him what was about to sputter out of him next. Wasn't it perfectly obvious?

"Get those friggin' meatballs out of here!"

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