NEWS ITEM: After selling 10 million copies worldwide, “Bridges of Madison County” finally falls off the New York Times best-seller list, ending a near-record 162-week run.

MADISON COUNTY, Iowa — She looked at him long and hard, and he looked at her. From across the kitchen, they were locked into each other’s souls, solidly, intimately. When she breathed, she could smell him, and her nostrils quivered with his manhood.

“I want to make love,” she whispered.

He grinned. Through his blue work shirt his taut muscles rolled like thunder. He was the shaman. She was his muse. He grabbed the salt shaker from the wooden table.

“Want to try it . . . pretzel style?” he said.

Francesca blushed, the blush of a schoolgirl. For these blissful four days
— it felt like 162 weeks — she had been filled by him, this handsome stranger, Robert Kincaid, photographer-writer from Bellingham, Wash., who drove an old truck named Harry. She bathed in his love, like soft oil from the hands of a god.

He was a god. How else could she explain it? He was the lion, and she was the cub. He was the eagle, she was the chick. He was the cow, she was the . .
. well, you get the idea.

“Yes,” she said softly. “Pretzel style. I’ve always wanted . . . but I never–“

“Shhh,” he said, putting a finger to his lips. Since that fateful moment four days ago — it felt like 162 weeks — they had made love everywhere, in the den, in the barn, in his knapsack.

Now he stirred again, another slow tango, he moved toward her —

Rrrring.

She let it ring, not wanting the mood to end. “Oh, Robert Kincaid!” she wanted to cry out. “You are the moon, I am the stars, you are–“

Rrrring.

“Go ahead,” he whispered, “answer it.”

She lifted the phone. “Yes? . . . oh, God . . .”

He stared at her. She dropped the phone.

“The . . . best-seller’s list,” she choked, “We’re . . . off.” The cold facts The words hit him like an arrow through the heart. He stumbled backward and had to grab to keep from falling. His hand struck something and it fell and shattered.

“You klutz,” Francesca said.

“What?”

“You can’t move without knocking something over. That was my husband’s favorite bowling trophy. Man, is he gonna be steamed!”

She inhaled, her nostrils filling with his manhood. “By the way,” she said,
“how about taking a shower?”

He blinked. Before him was no longer a goddess, but a middle-aged housewife in the same blue dress she’d been wearing since they met. “Don’t you own any other clothes?” he asked. “Like something from this century?”

“Oh, listen to Mr. Fashion Plate.”

“Hey, I’m not the one cheating on my husband.”

“Well, thank God we used protection. Lord knows where you’ve been before me.”

He sighed. She sighed. He was the bow, she was the quiver, but now they felt like an arrow stuck in mud. He went to the window. He looked out longingly, at the flat green landscape, the low branches, the Dairy Queen.

“My God,” he said, “I’m in . . . Iowa.” The money game She stared at him, hoping to see her shaman. But all she saw was a broken-down photographer with no health insurance.

He stared at her, longing for his angel. Instead, he remembered that her meat loaf gave him heartburn.

“Uh, I gotta be going,” he said.

“So soon?” she said.

“I’ll leave in the morning.”

“Maybe this afternoon would be better. Less traffic.

“You’re right. Less traffic.”

“I’ll go with you, to the edge of town.”

They drove in silence to the bridge where they fell in love — and ran smack into 300 cars, all tourists from out of state. A police officer leaned in the window. “Sorry folks. You’ll have to detour. There’s five weddings scheduled for this bridge today.”

“Five weddings?”

“Ever since that dang book came out. You might want to grab some coffee at the Bridges of Madison County Cafe. I hear it’s about to close. They got the Bridges of Madison County T-shirts there, reduced to half-price. And the Bridges of Madison County CD, they’re selling that for a buck.”

Francesca and Robert drove to the edge of town. She got out of the car.

“Well, see, ya, adulteress,” he said.

“Not if I see you first.”

“Slut.”

“Loser.”

And off he drove, into the dying sunset. He was the oatmeal and she was the lump. It’s funny, Francesca thought, how love changes when it isn’t a best-seller, and she vowed that next time she would hold out for Mel Gibson.

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