“The only other sound’s the sweep / of easy wind and downy flake,” wrote Robert Frost. Here: the fridge, the pigeons, the garbage trucks, a barking dog, my downstairs neighbors’ new Casio electric piano, and my tinnitus. “Tinnitus miracle,” the internet told me just now when I asked it how to spell “tinnitus.” Anyway here’s the nineteenth of fifty-two weekly very short stories I am publishing here on this site.
Also I am happy to report that Leonardo Moro is publishing one of these stories a week on the excellent Italian literary blog Brown Bunny.
Yours in gratitude,
Lonnie saw her in the morning when he walked out of his apartment building and hated the way she was holding her phone as she got into the cab. She didn’t even hail the cab, she just opened its door and stepped into it after it had stopped at the light, as if her thinking about needing a cab caused it to appear, and the phone in the hand because she was probably willing a wealthy friend or relative to call her on it, once she was inside the cab being whisked to her cucumber facial spa treatment and could answer without straining. She was wearing a white form-fitting dress of course. Next time Lonnie saw her was a month later in the business district where he worked, several miles from his home. This time he just had to say something. He moved in front of her on the sidewalk—not too close, he didn’t want to be menacing, he just wanted to mess up her day a little bit, thereby correcting an imbalance in the universe. “Why do you even wear those?” he said, pointing to the black lace half-gloves or whatever they were that didn’t cover her fingers and went halfway up her forearms. “And don’t tell me for warmth, it’s not even cold out. They’re ridiculous and pretentious. What are they supposed to be, a fashion statement?” He hadn’t meant to say that much but all the while she was standing there looking at him mildly and he felt he needed to keep talking until he got what he wanted. “Apparently,” she said, “they are a fashion provocation, provoking your fashion question. I bought them yesterday. I know it’s too warm to wear them but I really needed a little bit of fun.” Lonnie could still win this. “And why do you just walk around with that phone like some fungus growing out of your palm?” “Oh, well, my mother’s dying and I asked the hospice people to call me when it looks like the end is coming so I can get there in time to see her off and let her know as she leaves this world that she is loved.” “Is she rich?” Lonnie couldn’t believe he had just said that, he’d gone too far. “I wish she were, for her sake and mine,” the woman said, still regarding him in a friendly way, “because then she wouldn’t have had such a hard life and I’d be able to stop taking the verbal abuse that comes with my alimony payments. Of course what I really need to do is become financially self-sufficient. I keep getting involved with these older rich men who turn out not to be so nice. I’m working on this.” “My God,” Lonnie said, sick to his stomach, “I’m like your ex-husband only not even remotely rich.” “You’re nothing like him. Much younger. And so lonely.” “Why are you being nice to me?” “I don’t know, it’s a thing I do, it gets me into some interesting situations, maybe I ought to work on that as well.” “No,” Lonnie said, “it’s so refreshing!” Tears came to his eyes. She said, “You know, I’ve seen you around the neighborhood, and not only are you wearing a dreadful outfit now, but you have one on every time. Could I please take you clothes shopping right now?” “I’ve only got an hour for lunch.” “Can you call in and make it an hour and a half?” “Okay.” She enfolded her arm around his and he hated her again for a second—just taking his arm as if she knew he wanted her to, which he did. He was now the one with the messed up day, because as they strolled arm in arm toward some clothing store that would no doubt be incomprehensible to him, he wanted her to love him as he was dying, and even as he was alive.