"Bob Levey speaking."

"Levey, I sure hope you honor Blue Cross, or at least American Express. Because I need a shrink session on your couch, and I need it right now."

"Sports fans, I do believe a miracle is occurring before my very ears. I do believe that on the other end of this phone is the one and only Marvelous Mike, my old and true buddy, my number one main man, the Justice Department's greatest lawyer, the man who is unluckier in love than Elizabeth Taylor. But now, fans, he's calling to say . . . . "

"That I bombed out again. Because I didn't have to."

"Mikey, you're talking in riddles, boy! You bombed out because you didn't have to? What kind of logic is that? Something you heard from some human relations expert on a talk show? I haven't heard anything that confusing since you tried to call a double reverse in the old college touch football league."

"Levey, what I'm trying to tell you is that she wanted to get married, and all of a sudden I got cold feet."

"So give them a chance to thaw out."

"I didn't. I wouldn't. I couldn't. Settle down? Me? It was getting to the point where I was going to have to do it. So I voted for the door."

"Mikey, I'm amazed at you. Here you are, one of the best guys in Washington. Your car is paid for. You wash behind your ears. You can talk to a woman about something beside IRAs and slam dunks. And you had the woman you wanted! Cheryl was dynamite. For a change, you told me so before I told you so. You were with her for more than a year. How could this happen?"

"Man, you sure know how to shrink a guy, don't you? That's the right question, all right."

"Scribes know everything. Stop stalling and tell me what happened."

"She said the relationship was drifting. She said we had to make a commitment to each other. She said she was 34 years old, and she wanted to have children. I told her she sounded like something out of Washingtonian magazine, and that's when she did it."

"Did what?"

"Threw a Washingtonian magazine at me."

"She hit you?"

"Hey, man, I don't know about your reflexes, but Mikey is still ready to go nine innings. I got my arm up in time to block it."

"But that didn't solve the real problem, did it?"

"Of course not. Oh, I apologized and everything, and she forgave me -- eventually. But then we took a long ride in the country to talk it over, and . . . . "

"And?"

"Well, I said I thought it would be better if we split up. That way, she'd have a chance to meet the right father for her children, and to meet a man who was more reliable than I am, who was more positive about marriage instead of treating it like a whack of castor oil."

"Mikey, that's the same worn-out line you used to use in the dorm. 'Don't pick me as your bridge partner. I'll only hold you back.' When everybody knew you were twice as good a player as anybody else. Don't you know everybody can see through that kind of posturing? Especially a woman who has been around the battlefields of Washington for awhile."

"Levey, I don't know why I do it. If anyone ever did that in court, and I was the attorney for the other side, I'd be all over him in a second. Sure, it's transparent. But it was the first thing that came to mind. I think I just want to pursue, and be pursued. That never loses its fascination. But catching and being caught sounds like bread and water."

"What am I going to do with you, man? Aren't you getting a little old for singles bars and the mouthwatering cousin of some other lawyer in your office?"

"Probably. But there's another choice. Abstinence. Makes the heart grow fonder, you know."

"You never were too good at getting cliches right. Hmmmmm. Might be worth a try. I can really see it: Mikey chases the Yuppie dream for a while, solo. Buys himself a BMW and glares haughtily at people when he stops for red lights. Loses himself in racquetball. Starts drinking Campari and soda. Buys a condo on Connecticut Avenue and spends every Saturday morning calculating how much it's worth. Yeah, I can see that just fine."

"But won't I get lonely? I mean, all that stuff sounds fine. But it's a lot better when you share that BMW with someone else, isn't it?"

"Buddy boy, you don't need me. You just shrank yourself. Do yourself a favor. Call Cheryl right this minute and give it another try. Tell her you've been thinking about it and you deserved to catch that Washingtonian right in the chops. Tell her that racquetball and condo prices just don't make it next to Ms. Right. And Mikey?"

"Yeah?"

"Let me know how it goes. I'm with you, slick."

"Thanks, champ. I will. Happy Campari!"