Glen Pourciau ~ Three Fictions

Crosswalk

I nev­er see her any­more, but I remem­ber what she said.  We were near the end of our sec­ond date, stand­ing at a cross­walk.  On our first date, we’d been on our best behav­ior, so I’d post­poned any con­clu­sions.  We’d both been divorced for over a year.  According to Jill, the friend who got us togeth­er, she’d giv­en up pray­ing soon after her divorce.  Early in the first date she told me I resem­bled her hus­band, and on the sec­ond date she eyed me as if I might be him in dis­guise.  She didn’t refer to him as her ex-hus­band, which wor­ried me.

When we stopped at the cross­walk she pushed the call but­ton sev­er­al times, glar­ing at the red man, want­i­ng him to van­ish.  She punched the but­ton again.  An aging pick­up truck approached, and as it neared us the dri­ver gunned its engine, cre­at­ing a jolt­ing rack­et and fumes.

Jerk,” she snapped.  “You know he did that because of us.”

You think he did it on pur­pose?”

I know he did,” she answered.  “I would.”

OVERHEAR

I’m in ear­ly, and I hear my part­ner on the phone behind her closed door.  She’s talk­ing about me and my wife.

He’s fat, slug­gish, and his skin is greasy.

He car­ries a faint smell around with him wher­ev­er he goes.  His wife is bor­ing and stu­pid and seems to have no con­cep­tion of how oth­ers see her.  And how can she bring her­self to choke down that odor of his?  I’m stumped on whether to renew the lease.  Except for my dis­gust, everything’s fine.  We get along well enough.”

I’m squea­mish won­der­ing who she’s talk­ing to and whether she says these things to many oth­er peo­ple.  I retreat into my office, close my door and call my lawyer, Rudy.  Without rais­ing my voice I fill him in.  He lis­tens and then tells me his per­spec­tive.

I think you’re lucky.  How many peo­ple receive the gift of know­ing exact­ly what anoth­er per­son thinks of them?  You can now bet­ter under­stand every word she says to you and every action she takes.  Be pre­pared to deal with her assertive­ly, but I would advise against let­ting this rev­e­la­tion dis­rupt you.  There is noth­ing unusu­al in what you’ve heard.  Don’t you think dis­re­spect­ful things about peo­ple you basi­cal­ly respect?  In many ways, peo­ple are wired to get on one another’s nerves, and soci­ety is based on the premise that we remain civ­il and make the best of our prox­im­i­ty to oth­ers.  As before, I sug­gest you renew your lease and con­tin­ue your part­ner­ship with Dr. Slipper.”

I thank him for calm­ing me down, but after I get off the phone, my chest heaves and I sup­press an urge to mut­ter.

I hear her door open and her foot­steps com­ing my way.  She sees me as she pass­es, eyes me, steps toward me, then hes­i­tates.

I didn’t know you’d–”

Can she read my face?

I’ve been want­i­ng to tell you some­thing,” I say.  “I’m tired of you ambush­ing me.”

Her face shifts to a ques­tion­ing look.  What a hyp­ocrite.

You’re always com­ing at me with some issue, in my face, no hel­lo, no grace, just blurt­ing out whatever’s both­er­ing you at the moment.  I’d like you to tone it down.”

Noted,” she says.  She moves clos­er.  “You’ve been con­sid­er­ing the lease?”

I nod.  Can she smell me?

So have I,” she says.  “I still like the space.”

I’m ready to renew.  I just want­ed to be up front with you.  That’s a con­cern I’ve had for a while now.  Best to let you know.”

I appre­ci­ate it.”

She stud­ies my face, try­ing not to show it.

Looking for some­thing?” I ask, her over­heard words speak­ing to me.  Does she hear them?

Nothing,” she replies.

CAP

A man I knew only in pass­ing stopped at my table.

You know I come here, don’t you?  Are you copy­ing me?”

He grabbed my beer and took a drink.

This tastes like spit.  Next time tell them not to over­cook the fries.  I wouldn’t put those things in my mouth.”

He plunked the beer down and snatched my cap from the table­top, a flat cap I’d worn for years.  He put it on his head and wait­ed for me to react.  I eyed my cap, kept my hands still.

Edie will dump you.  You’re no match for her.  She’ll leave you at the curb.”

She doesn’t need to dump me,” I said.  “We’re not a cou­ple.”

We were.  I know her.  She’s bound to be tired of you already.”

He looked straight into my eyes, mak­ing no move to return my cap.  He walked away, out the door.  I fol­lowed, caught up, stood in front of him.

I’m hav­ing a prob­lem,” he said.  “Your body is in my path.”

I stayed there.

What do you think’s going to hap­pen?” he asked.  “You think you’re tak­ing my cap?”

My cap.”

Mine now.  It fits per­fect­ly.  Don’t make me hurt you.”

He raised his eye­brows, dar­ing me.  I imag­ined knock­ing the cap off, scuf­fling, wrestling him down, heads pound­ing on con­crete.  I walked past him.

He threw the cap at me.  It hit me in the back of the head and fell to the side­walk.

It has an odor,” he said.

~

Glen Pourciau’s sec­ond col­lec­tion of sto­ries, View, was pub­lished in March by Four Way Books.  His first sto­ry col­lec­tion, Invite, won the 2008 Iowa Short Fiction Award.  His sto­ries have been pub­lished by New World Writing, Mississippi Review, AGNI Online, Antioch Review, Epoch, New England Review, Paris Review and oth­ers.