This evening, while it’s quiet in the bungalow, even her old sidekick Bimbo nowhere in sight, gone back East to be with his grandkids, Betty Boop will read the paper. She’s been waiting decades for this.

She puts her leather Keds up on the coffee table and turns to page one. No, she will not slither into the seam of her Castro Convertible and scream for help until a passing team of lumberjacks heeds her call. And no, though her fingers are beginning to grow itchy with idleness, she will not tear the front section into a bouquet, nor will she produce pinking shears from that secret place behind her back and snip snip snip the social page into a gown and no, an orchestra of mice hidden outside in the holly bush will not play Mendelsohn as she walks down the aisle to her coat closet.

Tonight, though the living/dining room grows dim and still, she will not lay the foreign news on the floor like a carpet, sit herself down and let it transport her to a foreign land, say a foggy little village somewhere with a nice army base, a PX with a squeaky door just waiting to be wedged open by a sequined red mule, size 1 AAA, giving the merest hint of the gem of a gam it’s connected to.

When she gets hungry, she will walk, not bop, into the kitchen and fix herself a Spanish omelet, but she will not summon all the Cubans in L.A. to mambo to the tune of the margarine popping in the pan. They won’t raise her on their shoulders till she emerges up on the roof, the belle of Burbank shimmying on the shingles, with dips and searchlights and fireworks and a Cuban at the end of each hand should she reach for one.

No, she will eat her omelet and perhaps a Hershey bar, and then she will water her geraniums, which will grow slow and steady as proper geraniums should. They will not develop arms and legs, nor turn suddenly bloodthirsty for damsels. No, Betty Boop has nowhere to run to tonight.

She has no need to light the makeup mirror, starch her hair, powder her nostrils, lacquer her rosebud lips. She’ll not lace herself into a corset, though her midriff is adrift, feeling for the old hug of whale bone on Betty bone. Her feet are forever tilted for pumps with the arc of tiny sliding boards, but tonight they will rest in the soft Keds. No silk stockings to smooth her custardy thighs. No garter belts.

Tonight, in her warm-up suit, she won’t chill with the northerly Pacific breezes on her neck, her arms, her teasing bazooms blushing behind their little bodice masks, nor feel the southerly breezes wafting up from below, goosebumps on her whole patootie. No, her costumes are packed in the trunk, tiny truncated dresses, cut to the pupic, as her Uncle Miltie used to say, but hefty with bugle beads, sequins, bangles, spangles, and red, red, red.

And should she decide to take a bath tonight, she’ll exhale deeply, repeatedly, till every bubble pops. When the water whirlpools, she’ll hang on to the handrails, not ride the wake to the drain and disappear into a netherworld down below, a thrilling land ruled by demonic mold spores.

In bed in her p.j.’s, Betty Boop will read a mystery for a while, turn out the light and drift off to sleep.

But in her dreams, with Bimbo by her side, Betty Boop is all eyes. There’s no telling
what may happen next, and to it all, Betty Boop says yes, yes, a thousand times yes.

— Michele Herman