It’s been a while since I dropped a random story. Here’s the catch: I don’t have a lot of time today. So what I’m going to do is scribble for an hour and see what comes of it.
And here we go….
The pigeon outside Hank’s window wouldn’t shut up. The bastard settled there at sunrise, cooing until the alarm clock played static-garbled oldies. It paused long enough to turn around and resumed chatting away to it’s reflection, or whatever the hell birds talk to when they’re all alone.
Better than talking to yourself all the time.
Hank grabbed the book on his nightstand. His fingers slipped off the slick cover. He settled for dumping the hardcover on the wood floor. Thump. The pigeon scurried to the ledge and flew off.
“Coo, coo, motherfucker.” Peace at last.
His neighbor turned on their radio, gifting him with the nerve-grating top forty hits playing in every club, bar, and department store in the United States. Original thought and creativity flew out the window with the digital age. What happened to bands like Queen, Led Zeppelin, and Judas Priest? Hank cringed. His taste in music was as old as his favorite jeans. No wonder he was stuck dating online. One look at his dated clothes, one peek into his CD collection, and women wrote him off as daddy material. Not the sugar kind. He couldn’t afford an extra large coffee by the end of the month, let alone buy a hot young thing whatever she desired.
Rolling out of bed took way too much effort. Monday morning blahs threatened to send him diving under the covers for just another hour. Rhianna sang about work from the neighbor’s. What a great idea. Go to work and get away from the incessant hip-hop droning.
“Next time I move, I’ll make sure a wannabe go-go dancer isn’t in the building.”
Shit. Shower. Shave. Suit-up. Same routine he followed every work day.
Hank dropped a spare shirt and tie in his messenger bag. A date after work on a Monday. He was insane to accept the request. Who in their right mind wanted to do anything except kill a bottle of bourbon after eight mind and ass numbing hours at a desk job? Karen was gorgeous. That was motivation enough. Hank never lied to himself when it came to dating. She was hot. He was as handsome as a canker sore. The date probably came from pity or the vain hope that his personality was better than his face and soft gut.
Apartment door secured, he took a moment to flip the bird at apartment 412. Her music swapped to some house mix with a rhythm to make people shake their ass. He’d seen his neighbor three times in the year he lived there. She had plenty of ass to shake.
Outside, he hailed a cab. It took three frantic arm-waving sessions to catch a cabbie’s eye. Climb in. Hold on. Pray the guy didn’t rear end a school bus or hit a nun in the crosswalk.
The office building was at the north edge of town. Everyone and their ailing granny swore the big money migration would take everyone from downtown to just inside the north-most border in the city. So far it was the one building, a Starbucks, and three mediocre Chinese restaurants. The building was home to six small businesses, each with their own floor. Though only three years old, it had plumbing problems. Toilets ran dry, leaving crap in the bowl. Sinks leaked—they should just run hoses from one to the other, that’d fix the problem. Then there was the elevator only the brave used.
Hank huffed and puffed to the sixth floor. “Eight hours and I’ll see you again, nemesis,” he grumbled as he left the stairwell.
It was more like eight hours and fifteen minutes. There was always that one last caller who couldn’t decide if she wanted to cruise to the Bahamas or one of the trendy Alaskan treks and asked every imaginable question about both. If he had to talk about snow or sand again that night, he’d jump off the roof.
Down, down, down he clomped.
In the lobby, Hank stepped into a corner near the front doors and pulled out his phone. Karen texted while he finished with the last caller.
See you soon. I’m wearing the green dress. 😉
Hank’s hands trembled. His phone slipped. He caught it and jammed it into his coat pocket. She sent a photo of the dress the night before. The front plunged so low, half of each breast showed. He didn’t anticipate her wearing it, thought the picture was to entice him into actually showing up.
He checked the clean shirt and tie in the shiny metal around the support beam to his left. His outfit was nowhere near as enticing.
At least I’ve got a somewhat tolerable personality. If he didn’t hate himself after fifty years, it had to be a sign he wasn’t a bridge troll.
Outside the building, it took another three attempts to flag a cab. Most of the time he swore they didn’t think he really wanted a ride and waved his arms for shits and giggles.
“Seventh and Hamilton, please.”
The driver’s left brow rose, but he put the car in gear and off they drove, leaving the north side in favor of the slowly dwindling downtown area.
Of course the driver took the longest route. Of course he took his sweet time counting out the change. Of course he parked near a damn puddle. Hank still tipped the guy. It would’ve been another ten minutes before he got a car to stop. He didn’t have the patience to wait another ten minutes. Karen was in the dress. That thought alone obliterated his ability to wait for anything.
Mother’s Kitchen sat on one corner at the intersection with a Walgreens, Taco Bell, and Vons. White folk heaven, he called it. They could get good steak, rubbers, food that’ll make you shit water for a week, and overpriced produce. The nearest Starbucks was one block east. Three more were within a mile radius. Everyone under thirty who passed clutched a Frappichino.
Hank played Frogger to cross the busy sidewalk, bumping a teenage guy who couldn’t walk right with his saggy pants around his knees. “Sorry,” Hank said.
Orange is not your color, man. Don’t smack the kid for trying to be a badass. The pep talk didn’t slow his heart rate.
Neither did the blonde woman waving at him through the restaurant’s front window. She beat him to the door, opening it.
“I’m so glad you came.” Karen didn’t waste a moment. She wrapped him in a hug the second she released the door. Her breasts pushed against his chest. He was afraid when they parted, the risqué gown would slip and show nipple. To his surprise, it stayed in place.
They followed the host to their table. Karen ordered drinks. Hank hadn’t found his voice after convincing his dick to calm the fuck down.
“So, uh, you come here a lot?” He draped the napkin on his lap. That’s what people did on dates, right? Pretended they had table manners? At home he ate wherever he happened to be in the apartment when hunger struck.
Karen laughed. “Yes, I do.” She paused and chewed her bottom lip. Miraculously her lipstick didn’t end up on her teeth. The woman was pure magic.
“What’s on your mind?” The way she watched him shifted. He had a feeling their night would end before they finished their salads.
“I don’t want to be rude.”
Hank reached across the table and clasped her hand. “I’m a hard guy to offend. Go for it.”
She chewed her lip again. Deep breath. “Okay. I have to ask . . . Why does that bearded guy have a hand in your back?”
Time’s up! Well, that went weird. How the hell does a puppet end up on a dating site?