5 SEP 06
Editors Note: Thanks again to my old friends (and new fans) for reading my short story Fairbanks, in the online magazine Truckin’ (if you haven't read it already, please check it out before proceeding). Not to be outdone, my wonderful wife was inspired to write the story from Leopard Lady’s perspective. I feel compelled to say that my wife actually likes me, but, well… read the story.
I can’t believe I have another late shift this week. I feel like killing Debbie. Her boyfriend Mutt is taking her out to celebrate their half-year anniversary. Its six frickin’ months. Who celebrates six frickin’ months? Although with Debbie’s track record, it’s probably better. She’ll be screwing his brother before they hit a year. Enjoy it while it lasts, Mutt.
I’m pasting the 25% off stickers on the newest stack of hardbacks when he walks in. I can tell he’s not from around here. If he were from here, he’d be home trying to black out the windows so he could go to bed like a normal person, instead of walking around the bookstore at 11 p.m. Plus he’s wearing some logo golf shirt and shorts, and these goofy sandal things that look like his mom just bought them for him for school. I can’t tell how old he is by just glancing at him, but when he walks under the doorway, the lights catch a few silver strands, so I figure he’s gotta be older than me. That and the dorky old-guy golf clothes.
Still, he’s not bad looking. Clearly military or corporate dude, based on the haircut. Ears are a little big, but he has these chocolate eyes with big dark lashes. He smiles at another customer, and it’s one that a girl could look at for a while, if she didn’t have anything better to do. If she was into dorky old guys in golf clothes.
Gotta do a book cruise. You can tell so much about these guys by the books they read. The Purpose Driven Life? Religious zealot, treats his wife like property, has a huge porn collection. Freakanomics? Boring. Water for Elephants? Listens to NPR, wears hemp clothing, might be gay. Any biography of one of the Bushes? Republican. Say no more.
So cute dorky guy wanders over to fiction. Here’s where you really gotta be careful. Grisham? Probably smart, but boring and way behind the times. Dan Brown? Clearly one of the herd (and saw the movie before reading the book). George R.R. Martin? Appreciates good fiction, but probably played too much Dungeons and Dragons and didn’t have too many girlfriends as a teenager.
I’m carrying an armful of books to make it look like I have a purpose. He’s pausing at “B”. Nice behind, even in the dorky golf shorts. He’s looking at Brown . . . oh God . . . I can hear the rest of the flock bleating . . . wait. Bukowski. Bukowski? Not your everyday, pick it up at the airport read. Ok, maybe he’s not a total loser. “Hmmmm.”
Did I say that out loud? He starts, like I’ve spoken to him, but keeps his head down in the copy of Pulp he’s picked up. I try to casually glance at more of what he’s reading, but I gotta move on. I think he knows I was checking him out. Back to the 25% stickers.
He wanders up a few minutes later with a book in hand and gets in line. After I ring up some old lady who couldn’t find her discount card, he steps up to the register and flops the book up in front of me. Big smile. Nice eyes.
I look down. “Stephen King?” I ask, incredulously. My father reads King. He also wears Aqua Velva and has a Members Only jacket. Cute dorky guy just headed further down the dorky spectrum.
Nice eyes narrow. Smile wavers, but then its back. “Excuse me?” he replies, a little edge to his voice.
“I’m sorry. I just…” He’s dorky, but he is cute. I look down at the register while I try to think of how to carefully remove my foot from my mouth before he notices.
“Wait. You just what?” he asks.
“It’s just. . . . I saw you looking at the Bukowski.” It comes out fast.
“Yes. And…?” He’s waiting.
Time for clever reply. “Well,” I paused, “I guess I had bigger hopes for you.” I lower my head, but look back up at him, waiting. Hoping he’ll laugh and say something witty. Or even sarcastic. I could do cute and sarcastic.
He stares at me. He’s trying to look me in the eye, but his eyes are wandering. It’s the leopard tattoo. Guys can’t not look at the tattoo; ergo, guys cannot help follow the tattoo down into my cleavage. By now I’m certain he’s noticed the nipple rings. They all eventually do. He looks up, his face a blank. He smiles. It’s a pleasant smile, but not as cute now. Almost like his mom told him to smile. Then he starts to giggle.
“What?” I smile at him, but I’m starting to think there is something wrong with him.
“Nothing.” He quickly replies. A pause. “I was just thinking about a quote from one of Bukowski’s books.”
“The one about boring people?” I ask. “Boring damned people. All over the earth. Propagating more boring damned people. What a horror show.”
He stares blankly at me. Clearly not the quote he was thinking of.
He pauses. Eyes darting. “Actually, it’s the one about sex.” he says.
“Hmmm.” Figures. Men. They’re all bastards. He can’t give me two seconds of clever. King. Sex. Should have known. Probably is waiting for the Bush bio to go on sale.
“That will be $14.99 for your King,” I say. End of conversation. What a putz.