Minimum Age

Every time someone asks Sam to guess his or her age, he guesses either 28 or 32. Most of the people who ask him are between 25 and 40, so he knows he is safe. Except for that one time a particularly perky senior citizen jogged over to where he sat on a park bench enjoying a tuna wrap (so good! they must use a special sort of mayo! or maybe it’s just that the tuna is albacore?) and, still jogging in place, demanded, in a sweet sing-song voice barely compromised by the exertion of the exercise, “Guess my age!” If he hadn’t been in such a good mood because of his sandwich and the sunshine, he would’ve been tempted to say, “68” with the benefit of an ellipsis or question mark, but thanks to the tuna and the temperature, he offered, “54” with a solid period.
So now he’s at a party, and he’s not having the best of times. He’d been led to believe there would be “people you’ll like, I guarantee it!” by the friend throwing the party. The friend was wrong, and for this misjudgment he is now regarding his friend with a bit of surly reserve and a tinge of loathing.
A chunky girl with too many curls and bangles is attempting to flit about the room but succeeds in only thudding. Not because of her poundage, but because of her pounding down one too many drinks. She settles on the arm of a chair close to where Sam is sitting, picking Brazil nuts out of a bowl and hiding them under the cushions of the loveseat where he sits alone.
“Weeeee!” the girl says, kicking up her legs, trying without success to balance on the arm of the chair. Her too shiny eyes land on Sam.
“I am sooooo drunk!” she says with a curly giggle, leaning forward to pluck an almond from the bowl in Sam’s hands.
“OK,” he says.
“Weeeee!” she says. “I love almonds! Nuts for the nuts! I’m nuts about nuts!”
Sam puts the bowl on the table.
“Guess my age!” she says in a voice bubbling into baby-talk. “Nick said you’re vewy good at it.”
This one will be easy. She clearly wants to be told “21”, whatever her age is. She’s no older than 27. Sam jams another Brazil nut under the seat cushion, stares into her shiny eyes, and, says, “36.” Period.
“What?” she says, no longer kicking her legs.
“I said 36,” Sam says. “You are definitely 36.”
The party stops for a split second. Just like the moment before it pours and you find yourself wishing you’d brought your umbrella. Is she going to … cry?
“Oh, I just love you!” she says, raising her glass in the air to toast Sam. “Thirty-six! Wow! He thinks I’m 36! Yay! Weeeee!”
“How old are you, Charla?” someone faceless asks.
“I’m 24!” she says. She gets up from the arm of the chair and flops onto the loveseat next to Sam. “I just love you! Thirty-six! Wow! Guess my weight now!”
“Ninety-two pounds,” he says, and leaves the party in search of a tuna wrap.