Glen Pourciau ~ Three Shorts


Not look­ing for trou­ble, I avoid­ed an encounter with my for­mer friend, who shall remain name­less because nam­ing him would seem too much like con­tact. Taking walks helped clear my head, but see­ing Nameless (NL) on one of my favorite side­walks threat­ened to lim­it that advan­tage for me. I began to think of the side­walk where I saw him (and nar­row­ly escaped being seen by him) and the side­walks con­nect­ed to it as off lim­its. As a fur­ther pre­cau­tion, I did not step foot on side­walks par­al­lel to those con­nect­ed side­walks or to cross the streets between those side­walks, though mak­ing those restric­tions pro­voked me to won­der where else NL might turn up and whether it was real­is­tic to think I could pre­dict his where­abouts. Would I be bet­ter off not walk­ing in areas famil­iar to me or any­where in town? I con­sid­ered dri­ving to sur­round­ing towns to take walks, but it angered me to think of let­ting him chase me that far, though stay­ing in town did not leave me at ease. Only a few weeks before, I’d entered a pop­u­lar café and seen NL sit­ting at a table with a for­mer boss of mine. When our eyes met he stopped speak­ing. My for­mer boss slow­ly turned his head and stared. I turned and left, embar­rassed to be open­ly tak­ing flight from them, and I imag­ined NL speak­ing the dis­parag­ing nick­name he uses to refer to me. I tried with­out suc­cess to stop my thoughts, the nick­name fol­low­ing me down the side­walk and around the cor­ner and anoth­er cor­ner to a dif­fer­ent place, where I could eat lunch and pre­tend to be at peace. I sat there for a moment and then stood and head­ed home to make myself a sandwich.

I con­tin­ued to go for walks, dri­ving short dis­tances and try­ing routes in dif­fer­ent neigh­bor­hoods, enjoy­ing the NL-free envi­ron­ment. Of course I couldn’t be sure at the gro­cery store or oth­er pub­lic places that he wouldn’t unex­pect­ed­ly appear, but as time passed his image seemed more distant.

About a month after catch­ing sight of NL on the side­walk I entered the library to browse for some­thing to read. Standing in the same spot at the new-book shelf where I’d pic­tured myself stand­ing, I saw NL, head down, fin­ger mov­ing down a page, as if look­ing for a par­tic­u­lar word or phrase. Could he have heard my foot­steps on the car­pet? He looked over his shoul­der. He turned, his mouth open­ing, a sneer com­ing on as he huffed out some air. Was he think­ing of shout­ing the nick­name at me? I’d stopped in my tracks. I wasn’t going a step clos­er, yet the idea of flee­ing dis­gust­ed me. Would he come toward me and sniff at my face? Why didn’t he ignore me? I went to the peri­od­i­cals area and flipped through a mag­a­zine, but I couldn’t stay with­in eye­shot of him.

I was out the door and on the side­walk before I knew it, angered by my sense of vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty, glanc­ing at each car near­ing me from behind. I could return to the library lat­er or the fol­low­ing day or I could go back and plant my feet next to his at the new-book shelf if that’s where he still stood. Why con­front him? Why agi­tate myself fur­ther? Could I imag­ine him say­ing any­thing I want­ed to hear? I kept walk­ing, the image of his eyes on me lin­ger­ing, sink­ing in, his sneer ris­ing as he thought of the nickname.



Louise and I were at a restau­rant with Duke and Emily, in the process of catch­ing up. We’d tak­en a trip to California since we’d seen them, and before that Duke had tak­en a trip to England with a choir group. Emily had decid­ed not to make the trip with him. Louise was telling them about a 37-acre gar­den we’d vis­it­ed in Santa Barbara, rec­om­mend­ing they go there. Duke took the oppor­tu­ni­ty to segue into his adven­ture at Kew Gardens with his friend and fel­low choir mem­ber, Becky, who, he told us, was a horticulturist.

Is this the sto­ry of your lost phone?” I asked.

Duke stared at me, anger ris­ing. “You’ve heard it?”

I said we’d played canas­ta with John and Phyllis just before our trip. Phyllis asked if we’d heard you lost your iPhone at Kew Gardens. We said no, we hadn’t spo­ken to you since you got back. John then filled us in.

I can’t remem­ber all the details,” I admitted.

Duke bris­tled.

I can’t believe he told my story.”

Try to calm down,” Emily said. “Do you know how many times I’ve heard this sto­ry?” she asked us.

Our serv­er appeared, but Duke waved him off.

He then stretched his hands out in front of him and began. He and Becky had been walk­ing for almost two hours in Kew Gardens, which is 300 acres, he said. It was a fif­teen-minute walk to their next area of inter­est, so they sat on a bench to rest. When they were ready they got going, noth­ing trou­bling them, and halfway into their walk Becky’s phone rang. She saw it was their friend John. She answered and John said he’d got­ten a call from four American col­lege stu­dents who’d found an iPhone on a bench in Kew Gardens. Though the phone was locked they knew they could ask Siri to make a call. They agreed on the name John because it was a com­mon name. It also hap­pened to be the name of Duke’s best friend. John took in the infor­ma­tion and worked out a plan. He knew Duke was in England with Becky, so he called her. She put her phone on speak­er so Duke could hear. John texted Becky the phone num­ber of one of the stu­dents. She called, and they set up a meet­ing to return Duke’s phone.

It’s amaz­ing you got the thing back,” Louise said. “So many things had to go right.”

Duke had pulled out the phone, mut­ter­ing as his fin­ger tapped its screen.

Please stop,” Emily said.

I texted John,” he said. “I told him I found out he stole my sto­ry. He knows how much I like to tell stories.”

How is the sto­ry yours?” I asked.

It’s about my phone. That sto­ry is mine.”

It’s not as if you can’t tell it,” Louise said.

Duke sti­fled a curse as he looked at the phone.

John says he thinks it’s his story.”

He’s teas­ing you,” I said. “He doesn’t think it belongs to him.”

How do you know what he thinks?”

It’s a sto­ry of sev­er­al peo­ple help­ing you get your phone back. You’re the guy who left it on a bench. Maybe I agree with him.”

Watch your­self,” Duke warned me.

Emily shook her head.

The serv­er inter­rupt­ed us. Louise and I leaned back. Duke and Emily did not.

The sub­ject changed but not for Duke, who kept mouthing words to himself.

Later, we won­dered if Emily was still hear­ing it and what would make him stop.



My next-door neigh­bors keep their garage door open for hours at a time, some­times all day. The emp­ty space left by their car expos­es their freez­er and a wide assort­ment of tools. I learned at an ear­ly age not to leave the garage door open, because it would tempt peo­ple inclined to steal to walk straight in and help them­selves. My neigh­bors don’t con­sid­er that they could be attract­ing thieves who would prey not just on them but any­one who’s left their garage door up for a few min­utes. I don’t know them well and can’t imag­ine what they could be think­ing. I won­der how many oth­er peo­ple with­in eye­shot are annoyed by this habit.

Returning from a trip to the den­tist, I can’t get my mind off the open door, and in the alley as I approach, sure enough, the emp­ty space gapes at me. Fed up, I pull my car into their garage next to their oth­er car, address­ing them in my head. I turn off the engine, try­ing to decide through the cloud of my agi­ta­tion if they can pos­si­bly fail to com­pre­hend my mes­sage. I get out, trem­bling, some inter­nal whis­per urg­ing me to get back in the car and dri­ve it into my garage. I look around the alley, see no one watch­ing, and I go through my back gate, into the house, and wait to hear from them. Am I wrong? I ask myself. Is it wrong if I put an end to the problem?

Three hours go by before I see their car parked in front of their house. Yet, I hear noth­ing from them. I ven­ture out the back door with my car key and see their garage door is down. What are they imply­ing? I return to my house, pace, phone in hand. I don’t call them. I wait. Night falls. I watch TV in bed, the image of my car in their garage pre­oc­cu­py­ing me and lat­er inter­fer­ing with my sleep.

Morning, still no word. Their car is no longer parked in front. When I check, their garage door is closed. I need the car so I call them. I get a record­ing and leave a mes­sage. An hour pass­es and I send a text. Eventually a text buzzes my phone. They’re out of town for a long week­end, they say. I ask them about my car. I’m the one who left it in their garage, they answer, and they can’t be held respon­si­ble for that or for mak­ing them­selves avail­able when­ev­er I want their garage door raised. Am I hap­py it’s closed? they ask me. I don’t like their atti­tude. I send a text accus­ing them of hold­ing my car hostage. Use a ride-hail­ing ser­vice until we get back, they reply. They also thank me for not tak­ing any meat from their freezer.

Are they real­ly out of town or just get­ting even? That night, a cou­ple of lights are on inside their house. Are the lights meant to mis­lead bur­glars? Are they now sud­den­ly con­cerned about becom­ing theft victims?

In the morn­ing I see their news­pa­per on the side­walk when I go out to pick up mine. After I eat my cere­al the paper is not there. I walk out my back gate for a look at their garage door. Their car is parked in my dri­ve­way, par­al­lel to my garage door. I curse them. I rush inside and send a text. As you know, I tell them, you’re at home. May I have my car back now?

Soon, their car is parked in front of their house. I receive a text. One issue they have with my car’s intru­sion, they write, is that I’ll blame them if some­thing goes wrong with it, such as a coolant leak, for exam­ple. They lied about being out of town. Would they dam­age my car and then deny it? Do they want to make me fear them? Another text fol­lows, this one telling me their garage door is open. I get myself out there and raise my garage door. In their garage, I walk all the way around my car, check­ing the body and tires. I get down on all fours and stick my head under it, look­ing for leaks. Nothing seems amiss. I start the car, park it in my garage, and low­er the door.

Two hours lat­er, I notice their car is not parked in front. I go out to the alley. Their garage door is still open, the space emp­ty, just as I left it.


Glen Pourciau’s third sto­ry col­lec­tion, Getaway, was pub­lished by Four Way Books. His sto­ries have been pub­lished by AGNI Online, Green Mountains Review, New England Review, The Paris Review, Post Road, Witness, and others.