SEXY STRANGER #3 (out of print)
A Man Without Binos
J. HOWARD ZERINGUE
His sultry brown eyes oozed machismo. The bottom rail of his cape hung just above mid-cheek of his pert, well-steppersized buttocks. From my window sill across the street, with curtains tightly drawn, I was able to enjoy an hour of his superhero physique. At 30x magnification he was perfect.
Two months have passed since I was caught. He was there for me long before Shandra ever entered my life, but when we argued that day, she judged me, and took herself and my binoculars away. She went directly over to his place and told him about me. He has since brought his curtain to a final close.
Now I see the two of them leaving his building together, his muscular torso compacted into shirts like the ones she had bought for me. Her car remains parked in the street, only now it's on his side. No goodbyes. I can only ponder if he wears that cape for her.
Bread and Water
She always saves the heels of the bread. She keeps them in a brown paper grocery bag in her pantry. When the bag's half-full, she goes to the duck pond. She throws the hard heels out into the water, then jumps in after them. The park ranger writes her a ticket, again, but she can't help herself. She thinks, in a past life, she was married to a mallard. She's not sure yet, which one. But she'll find him. She stops at the market, on her way home, dripping green water and tiny sticks onto the tile, and buys more bread.
He looked like a clown who worked construction. His hair under his hardhat was frizzled blond, and he wore a greasepaint smile on his straight face. He carried a toolbox and caught the bus downtown every morning as if for work. But downtown he stood on street corners all day, toolbox in hand, idle.
The bus riders called him Bozo, and whispered he had a mean streak. He boarded late and had to stand. He held a pole and stared straight ahead, not speaking to anyone.
One morning his toolbox flew open and real tools spilled out on the floor. Bozo went on his hands and knees to retrieve them, pushing feet and legs out of his way. No “excuse me” but just rude pushing of men and women both. The tools were spread out all over and Bozo shoved many, annoying them.
Bozo was on all fours by the side door, still gathering sockets, when the bus made its first stop downtown. A huge man who’d had enough gave Bozo a kick on his rump that sent him flying headfirst out the door. Some passengers were stunned, others laughed. Then the man threw the toolbox, which Bozo had dropped as he went flying, out the door too. At that everyone laughed. Bozo was such a clown!
The Internet stretched before me, a fantasy world of soundbites and flash animation. My entire body flushed with blood and my hand trembled as I pressed return and immersed myself in electronic mail. "Debbie- Re: Dinner and a movie." My pulse quickened. Debbie! Sweet Debbie! My dreams are fevered nightly with the knowledge of your smile. Sweating with anticipation, I clicked. "FREE PORN!" Damn! Fooled again. Third time this week. Oh, Debbie, so sweet and cruel, how you mock me! I haven't written an e-mail in nine months, the "Re:" should've tipped me off. Plus I only know one girl, and her name is Carla. It says so on her name tag, right under "Texaco." I don't think she even has my e-mail. I should give it to her. Is that my toe?
Madness seeps in through a tear in the curtain. I like the way it bleeds so I feed the wound. The atmosphere turns soft as a pillow, and I can swing and hurt nothing but dead feathers.
Telephones do not follow people down the street. She was rational enough to realize that, and yet the previous two times she had glanced over her shoulder, Sandra was sure that a phone was what she saw clamoring down the street behind her. Somehow, not of science nor physics, but of some cruel magic worked by her bitterest of enemies, the demonic device was stalking her down Fifth.
She had looked back the first time when she heard the familiar three tones, followed by the eerie, recorded voice of an operator insisting that she please hang up and try again. What she, and apparently only she, saw was a huge black telephone with gold trim, a hand crank, and built-in mouthpiece, much like the phones that hung on the walls of old saloons. Looking back again, the phone had become a more recent model with an answering machine, limping as it struggled against the trailing power cord.
Quite possibly she would have been able to ignore the shape-shifting monstrosity if it hadn't started ringing. The battery-generated trill filled her eardrums and pushed aside every last thought in her brain save one: Run!