I fold the paper, waiting at the diner. Sip my water, check my phone for the time. The guy is late: my date, who I met online. I look out the window: the moon like clumps.
The paper has a picture of a guy wanted for killing someone in the tropics. The guy in the paper is bald with big eyebrows and a pug nose. I fold the paper into a plane. The lipstick-ed waitress brings me coffee, asks if I want more.
“Not yet,” I say. “I’m waiting for my boyfriend.”
I only talked to the guy I’m meeting once, while discussing arrangements. We exchanged a few emails, mostly him telling me how he specializes in catnip, adding herbs that are supposed to cure ailments: hairballs, overactive bladders, biting behaviors, things like that. He has five cats. He seems more attentive than most guys I date. In his picture he’s red-haired, bearded, skinny. Cute. His name is Charlie.
I wear an orange sweater, my hair in a bun. That’s how I told him he could find me.
I hear plates banging around in the kitchen. A man sits at the counter, sipping something. A woman and a babbling baby sit in the booth across. Other than that, the place is pretty empty. It smells like bacon.
A man enters, making the bell ring. He approaches me, asks if I am Stormy. “I’m Stormy,” I say.
My name is really Elle.
He sits, says his name is Charlie. He looks nothing like his online picture: pointy-chinned and small-mouthed, big dark brows. I say, “Are you sure?”
He says he is. His voice is high-pitched and he has a Jersey accent. The more I look at him, the more I notice he looks like the wanted man on the flier. The fliers are everywhere. I unfold my airplane to sneak another look.
He asks if I’m hungry. I tell him I am starving.
The waitress comes to ask what we want. She writes on her tablet, chewing her gum. I get tomato soup and he orders tuna.
When the waitress leaves, I ask Charlie if he’s been anywhere warm recently. He says no. He says he’s from Jersey.
He has a nice smile. His nose isn’t as pugged at the man in his profile. He looks kind of cat-like, his ears pointy, his tongue long. He licks his lips a lot.
He makes a sound like a purr.
Another man enters, then another. They look alike, like Charlie. They sit at the counter. Fill the booths. They all wear vests and Wranglers. Stray animal hairs stick to their backs and arms and middles.
I ask Charlie who he is.
He narrows his eyes. He sticks his tongue out.
I laugh at him and I hiss.
Kim Chinquee’s new book, Snowdog, from which this work is taken is available from Ravenna Press in January 2021. She is also the author of the collections Oh Baby, Pretty, Pistol, Veer, Shot Girls, and Wetsuit. Her work has appeared in hundreds of journals and anthologies including NOON, Denver Quarterly, Conjunctions, The Nation, Ploughshares, Fiction, New Micro: Exceptionally Short Fiction, Notre Dame Review, the Pushcart Prize anthologies, and others. She is an editor at New World Writing, associate professor and co-director of the Writing Major at SUNY-Buffalo State, and she serves as AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) Northeast Regional Chair and as a member of the AWP Board of Directors.