I was dressing for a date in my apartment, a one-room-plus-kitchenette that barely contained the old grand piano I lived with. The apartment's main appeal was its price and its proximity to my shop--sixty-nine steps if you used all back entrances. On the radio, the closing music of the talk show Love Junkies swelled.
"Chemistry shmemistry," said Dr. Cookie Lahven, the host. Her magnolia-blossom voice took on a slightly manic edge as she raced against her own closing music. "You wanna get laid, go for chemistry. You want the long haul, the ring on your finger, go for character. The whole trick to keeping the guy is finding the right guy in the first place. How? Honey, I could write a book. I am writing a book. How to Avoid Getting Dumped All the Time, hitting the stands next Valentine's Day, and-"
My phone rang. I turned off the radio, feeling the thrill I always get when I hear a reference to myself on the air. I was the research for How to Avoid Getting Dumped All the Time. Well, me and fourteen other women across the United States. We were the Dating Project.
"Hello?" I said, but there was silence on the other end of the phone. "P.B.?"
A guttural noise answered me. It could have been the growl of an animal. It could have been phlegm.
I felt a sudden, inexplicable chill. As though a flame had been extinguished. "P.B.?"
Click. Silence. Dial tone.
Excerpted from Dating Dead Men by Harley Jane Kozak Copyright© 2004 by Harley Jane Kozak. Excerpted by permission of Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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