Sunday, December 30, 2012

She Is Where, Part 25

She was keeping her eyes out for Kevin, Handsome, and the flesh-toned Fiat 500 as she went about Christmas shopping.  The family had decided to have a grab-bag for adult gifts and she'd drawn her nice cousin's husband, a man who lived, breathed, slept, and ate for two things:  his family and woodworking.

"A Dremel tool.   That's the word from the basement.  He wants a Dremel tool," she told her when they spoke on the phone.

"Okay!  That's great!" she said, her life being made easier.  "What's a Dremel tool?"

"Now you want to know too much," the cousin answered.

"Did he say a particular model?" she asked.

"Oh!" she said.  "Something about 12 volts being plenty."

"That's good information.  Do you know where I can get one?" she asked.

"Again, too much," the cousin said, "but I've seen the word Dremel at every major hardware store in town."

"Solid info, thanks," she said.

"Oh!" she said.  "He also used the word 'kit.'"

"Good, great," she said.  "I'll go this weekend.  Care to join me?"

"Oh, sweetie, it's bad enough when I have to go as the dutiful wife.  I get in there and I feel so stupid and inadequate and small.  It's nothing he says or does -- you know he's lovely -- but there's so much stuff in there I don't understand that it's just frustrating to walk through the door," she said.

"I feel the same way so I look for a woman working there because she'll explain it to me and I don't feel like I need to buy a clue, too," I said.

They rang off and she scribbled "Dremel tool" on a piece of paper and put it in her purse, which she picked up along with her keys and decided to just walk to the local super-ultra-mega hardware store that was just four blocks (two blocks of which were parking lot) from her house.

She was thinking about maybe getting a small Christmas tree and lights and some new ornaments and a garland and maybe a new Christmas tree blanket and she thought about it so much that she walked right past the flesh-toned Fiat 500 that was illegally parked in the fire lane by the door.  She was almost run over by the very large man carrying bungee cords and a big Christmas tree.

Then she noticed both.

"Kevin!" she exclaimed.  She'd been practicing saying his name in her head so when she came face to face with him, his name is what came out.

"Oh, hey, hi.  Yeah, the wife sent me for a tree so I'm gonna bungee it to the roof and not drive too fast and hope for the best.  I think it's nice.  How about you?" Kevin asked.

He held the very large tree straight out.  She had to admit, the man could pick a tree.

"Nice tree, Kevin," she said.

"Yeah, thanks.  Nice to see you.  Merry Christmas," said Kevin.

"Happy holidays, Kevin.  Happy new year, too," she said and managed to smile.  "Please excuse me.  I need to buy a Christmas gift."

"You live around here?" Kevin asked.   "I've never seen you here before."

"Sorry, Kevin," she told him.  "I have to run. "

"Yeah, okay, sure.  Nice to see you," she heard him say as she ran into the store.

She went directly to the ladies room where she washed her hands, then her face, then used the facilities, then washed her hands and face again.  Then she looked at how she'd smeared her mascara washing her face and spent another five minutes trying to remove the streaks from her cheeks.  She washed her hands one last time, grabbed a paper towel and opened the restroom door, discarded the paper, and headed for the power tools aisle.

She wasn't watching where she was going and almost knocked over a man carrying many boxes of stringed lights in varying colors, ornaments, and a rope of pine garland around his shoulders like a stole.  People could say he was very handsome.

"Well, Merry Christmas!" said Handsome.  "I can't believe I'm seeing you here of all places!  How are you doing?"

She started crying right there in the store, turned around, and ran back into the women's restroom.  Had she been watching the security camera, she'd have see a handsome man watch her run away, then shrug, pay for his merchandise, go out front where he helped a giant get a big tree to stay on a small car, put his items in the back, then point at the store and look genuinely worried, re-enter the store and approach the security guard, gesturing toward the back of the store.

As she stood in the handicapped stall leaning on the wall and cried from frustration, a female security guard entered the restroom and asked how she was.

"I'll be okay," she said through sniffling.  "I just saw someone I didn't want to see."

"Your friend asked about you.  He told us you were in here and asked us to check to make sure you're okay," said the guard.

"My friend?" she asked.

"The white man.  I guess he's good looking.  Icy eyes, though," advised the guard.

She gasped and cried harder.

"Is he still here?" she asked the guard.

"No.  He and the big guy drove away.  He thanked me and gave me his first name.  He said to tell you Brian hopes you're okay," the guard said.

A puzzle piece willingly falls into place.

"Can I help you?" asked the guard.

"I need a Dremel tool.  Twelve volts.  Comes in a kit," she said, feeling oddly relieved.  "Can you help me get a salesperson?"

She came out of the restroom, washed her hands, dabbed at her eyes, and grinned at the security guard who was clearly puzzled.

"Sorry," she told the security guard.  "It's been a heck of a few weeks.  You know?"

"I know," said the guard.  "Sometimes it comes all in bunches."

"It does," she said, sniffing one last time.  "Merry Christmas."

"Merry Christmas to you," said the guard as they walked out of the restroom toward power tools.  "And have a blessed new year."

She managed another grin as the guard turned her over to a female salesperson.

"This lady needs a kit with a 12-volt Dremel tool.  Maybe like that one I got for Clarence for his birthday," said the guard to the salesperson.   Then to her, "It's got different attachments.  Clarence -- he's my husband -- just loves it."

She hugged the guard who returned her hug.

"There, now.  You just forget the bunches and remember the whole thing.  You're fine," said the guard as the saleslady looked on with a smile.

When the guard walked away, the saleslady said, "They made her and broke mold.  Having her in my life makes me feel like I won a lottery."

She got teary again and the saleslady told her, "Christmastime is too stressful.  It'll be January and we can look forward to icy cold weather that will drive out all the bad thoughts and sour business."

The saleslady placed the Dremel kit in her two hands.

"You can pay up front.  Merry Christmas," said the saleslady who smiled at her.

She smiled back and whispered, "Merry Christmas."

After she paid for the kit, she walked to the door where she was met by the guard again.

"Where's your car?" asked the guard.

"I walked," she told her.

"You live close by then?  Can I call a cab for you?  It's looking like it might snow and that's a nice kit and I want to make sure you get home with it.  Is that okay?" asked the guard.

She nodded and stood with her arms around the kit while the guard made the call.  They waited all of thirty seconds.

The guard helped her into the backseat and said, "Be safe.  Have a blessed holiday."

She waved through the window and told her cabbie her address.  Five minutes later she was home and she gave the driver a huge tip.  A minute after that she was inside her home with the Dremel kit but feeling like she'd just lost her mind.

What the hell was happening?

Sunday, December 23, 2012

She Is Where, Part 24

And then it was Christmas and planning for the annual office party.

Unlike most companies, she worked for a very cheap bunch that never acknowledged the holiday season in any way than to pay them for Christmas Day and January 1st.  They all accepted the stinginess of the company owner and since he and his wife wintered in the South of France, they never had to worry about him strolling in to see how his employees were faring.

They had a sign-up sheet for their party and people brought in their best creations or their favorite store-bought items to share.  It was a nonstop eating festival from the time they came in until the time they went home.  A co-worker made a ham every year and she gave him half the money and that was their contribution.  One year there was ham, Puerto Rican pork, fried chicken, with sides like marinated green beans, guacamole, goat cheese crostini, and tater tot casserole (which was a pound of bacon, a pound of breakfast sausage, cream of celery soup, cream of mushroom soup, cream, and tater tots and tons of tastiness).  Breakfast offered up neighborhood danishes and coffee cakes and mid-afternoon desserts were from supermarket bakeries and home kitchens.  Coffee was kept freshly brewed all day.

The most exciting event of the day was the white elephant.  Everyone brought in something from home that they thought was ghastly, ugly, useless, or just no longer wanted, wrapped it up like it was Christmas (which it was), and it was a valuable gift.  There were people who brought in extra gifts for those who couldn't get it together to find something in their closets or were just too lazy.  She started advising people that they didn't need to bring something in but they would be taking something home.  When someone suggested that sounded like a threat, she replied, "Tee hee."

Some years almost everything was horrible garbage and people were in bad moods.  Some years almost everything was great and no one could believe someone would give up what they did.  There was behind the scenes trading (in case someone got the heart-shaped drinking glasses and really wanted the pink glitter styrofoam skull) and even white elephant remorse like when guy who brought in glass candleholders had to do a six-way trade to get them back.  Whenever someone opened their gift -- you had to sit in a particular chair and unwrap it in front of everyone -- the group applauded and everyone smiled and laughed.

Their manager made candles which she sold at craft fairs on the weekends.  Candles were her passion.  There were crazy shapes and fantastic scents and she packaged up candles with gift cards and client-donated offerings and they all picked those right after the white elephant.  Last year she had gotten a raccoon skull candle; this year she got a set of six navy blue tapers and a Target gift card worth $10.  She held the box of tapers above her head and turned so everyone could see them.  The gift card would fill a prescription the next week.  Everyone always seemed to like what they got.

Right before she was due to leave, her coworker transferred a call to her from her cousin's husband.  She'd almost forgotten she'd asked him for his help.

"Hey, hi," she said.  "Happy holidays."

"Oh, yeah, you, too," he said.  "Listen I have that information you wanted."

"What can you tell me?" she asked, her stomach having flipped.

"His name, his address, his weight, height, age," he said.  "I excavated his drivers license."

She paused.  She thought.  She thought some more.

"Hello?" said her cousin's husband.  "You still there?"

"Once I hear this I can't unhear it," she said.

"Correct," he replied.

"Will you still have the information?" she asked.

"I will," he said.

"Tell me his first name," she said.  "Just his first name."

"Kevin," he advised.

She paused again.

"Hello," said her cousin's husband.

"Yes, I'm here.  He didn't look like a Kevin."

"Yeah," said her cousin.  "You expect giants to have different names altogether."

"Like George," she said.

"Or Marcus," he said.

They both paused.

"Andre," they both said, adding, "Jinx!"

"So now you have some information.  Think about how much more you want," he told her.

"Thanks very much for what you did.  It was very nice of you," she said.

"You're welcome," he said.  "So if you see Kevin on the street say, 'Hello, Kevin,' and watch him shit himself."

She smiled and giggled.

"That's probably very good advice," she said.

"Glad you think so," he said.  "Take it."

"Thanks again.  My love to the family," she said.

"I am not telling the family I talked to you today.  This is between us," he told her.

"You are the best," she said.

"Damn right.  Good night," he said and hung up.

Kevin.  Never in a million years would she have thought Kevin.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

She Is Where, Part 23

They had a nice long walk around the neighborhood.   In the mid-afternoon light, they were able to look at and, of course, criticize the Christmas displays that had already made their way to lawns and houses.

"What the heck?" she asked at a home that offered up Santa and his reindeer dashing in the front of a row of yew, a snowman as tall as the two-story house, a jack-in-the-box with the clown out and waving int he breeze, a single giant Rudolph, and an inflatable Nativity scene, complete with camel, three wise men, and an inflatable manger that was empty, awaiting the birth of the inflatable Jesus on Christmas eve.

"It's actually not an inflatable baby," her cousin advised.  "There's one of these in my subdivision and the baby is actually a doll for those who like to add the baby on Christmas Eve.  There was no way to get the baby in there and have him inflate so the company added a doll that was weighted to stay in the manger."

She stopped and looked at the electric cords and how there was no spot left at all for anything else.

"I wonder where that was made," she asked aloud.

"China, of course," said her cousin.  "Subdivision guy is pretty friendly and more than willing to share info.  He keeps hoping someone else will challenge him to a Christmas lawn battle but no one's into it.  The Hindus think it's crazy.  The Muslims think he's crazy and keep to themselves.  The Buddhists keep to themselves, too, and don't say anything about the craziness.  The Christians in the neighborhood are mostly older folks whose kids have moved away so they don't feel compelled to decorate but don't find him particularly addled.  The Jewish families think the Christians who decorate big like that are crazy.  Atheists and agnostics and the generally unobservant?  We're certain he's crazy.  There is a Wican family and she doesn't think he's crazy, just wasteful.  The craziest thing is that he assumes everyone's a Christian."

"I like your neighborhood," she said.  "I like some religious diversity.  We just have Christians of differing varieties.  The next block has the inflatables and lights and giant pines with lights and porches laced with lights and those nets you toss over bushes to make your life easy.  My block does it big or else it's an apartment building.  Next door has ten of those Christmas-tree-shaped spirals of lights and five ropes of lights coming from the roof and a 50-year-old plastic creche."

"I remember that place," said her cousin.  "Don't they also pipe in music for everyone to hear?"

"Yeah," she said.  "Music box Christmas music and what sounds like fifteen harps.  On a steady loop after dark from 5 pm until 9 pm.  Not loud but loud enough.  There used to be an artist across the street -- you know the yellow brick building with the wrought iron fence? -- who decorated during the year with strings of Christmas lights that he must've gotten for nothing the day after Christmas.  He had a light installation covering a wall that's about 20 feet long and eight feet high.  The whole wall!  I saw it once when I was talking on the phone with my lights out and he had his shades open.  Blink blink blink blink blink and every now and then all the lights would catch up to each other and the whole thing blinked."

"Wow, I'd love to have seen that," said her cousin.

"His building was pretty old and his landlord was ancient and forgetful and kind of lax about building maintenance and they had an electrical fire and he moved away," she advised.

"The artist's fault?" asked her cousin.

"No," she answered.  "It was the landlord himself.  He only had one outlet in the whole kitchen and had the refrigerator, toaster, microwave, coffee maker, hot plate, toaster oven, and a blender all hooked into the one outlet with a bunch of extenstion cords.  He didn't even have three-pronged extension cords for the fridge and microwave -- the third prong just hung out, all wild and free."

"Good grief!" exclaimed the cousin.  "But I know that building.  It's still there.   What happened afterward?"

"His daughter got him declared incompetent and since the fire department got there so fast, the damage wasn't too bad.  They were able to fix what needed fixing and rewired everything.  She made her dad come live with her and her family -- I guess they're not all kinds of nuts and get along -- and she rented out that unit for a fuck ton of money," she said.  "I went and looked at it, which made my landlady freak out.  It was lovely but they wanted $600 a month more than I could afford.  When I got home my landlady said, 'Expensive, yes?' and I agreed."

"And you hate moving," said the cousin.

"I really hate moving," she said.

"So how is that job of yours going?" asked the cousin.

"Fine.   The office I'm in is pleasant, my coworkers aren't too nutty, everyone works, and our manager is quite sane," she replied.

"What happened to that other manager?  The guy in the other building?" the cousin asked her.

"Still there," she said.  "But people got sick of working for him and started transferring out.  The clients are mad because they have new people to work with all the time.  He's such a jerk that no one is loyal to him.  They might like the client -- I know I did -- but he's a despot and no one can stand that.  His bosses are not pleased because the client isn't pleased.  He's squirming, I hear."

"Ha," said her nice cousin.  "Serves them right."

They had wound their way around and were back at the host cousin's home.  They walked up the walk to the door.

"Brace yourself," said the nice cousin.

Sometimes in life, a dynamic will change for one reason or another -- your mom gets a job; your neighbor whose kid mowed your lawn and shoveled your walks moves; you take evening classes to learn French -- and nothing is the same again.  Sometimes it's a horrific event but sometimes it's a simple thing that makes everything work out for the best.  She and her cousin experienced just this.

Everyone in the house was laughing and having a good time.  The football game had been turned off and adults and kids were sitting around enjoying themselves, swapping stories and telling corny jokes.  Smiles were from ear to ear and when they walked in, everyone howled with joy.

"Here you are!" screamed her aunt.  "We need you two to tell about the bottle rockets when you were kids."

They swapped a look and her nice cousin sweetly told about their affection for the whiz and the bang and how they especially cherished the 8-ounce Coca-Cola bottle they found in the alley that was perfect launching pad.  She told how they scoured the neighborhood for empty bottles and cans which they would turn in at a recycling center, using the money to buy more bottle rockets.  They had to trust the working older brother of their friend from ballet class, but he never let them down, always giving them change along with their explosives.  They saved the change for more bottle rockets.

At the end of the story, her cousin and aunt leaped to their feet and shouted, "Let's eat!" and they all poured into the dining room.

She never found out what had happened that day, and the Crazy Train found its way back onto its track, but the rest of the day was filled with love, mutual respect, and stories she'd long forgotten that brought tears to her eyes.  She put Handsome and the giant into a cave that day, put a boulder in front of the entrance, and let them suffocate for the rest of the weekend.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

She Is Where, Part 22

She had a dream sitting there in the TV room near the snacks.  In it, she was getting married.  She'd was wearing a cream-colored dress with a full, ballet-length skirt, cream colored flats, and a silk, fitted bodice with long sleeves.  Her hair was in an elaborate updo.  She turned this way and that, looking at herself over her shoulder in the dream, smiling at her image. 

Her two cousins were there, wearing dresses that were best described as "Hooker's Lime Green Dream" with black patent stilettos and her aunt was also there, wearing a witch's pointed hat with a black Chanel-style suit and mid-heel leather pumps.

"Why the hell did it have to be lime?" her less pleasant cousin asked in the dream.  "And it's so short and tight you can almost see the outline of each pubic hair."

"I have to agree," said the nice cousin.  "It's a bit, well, revealing.  You look so pretty and demure and we look like we're going to the reception to earn the rent money."

"And lime," said the unpleasant one.

"I'm digging the lime," said the nice one.  "Very different."

"Is there a reason for this hat?" asked the aunt.  "You know what people are going to say when they see this hat?"

"You chose the hat," she told her aunt in the dream.  "You said, 'Oh, well, look at this cute, different hat.' Then you bought the hat."

"They're going to say I'm a witch!" her aunt said, ignoring what she was saying in the dream.

"Mom" said her daughter.  "I was there.  You picked the hat.  And you said this dress was different and sweet.  The skirt's a belt mom.  It hardly covers my rump."

"Oh," said the dream aunt.  "I thought you meant the dress you'd had one two dresses before this one."

"How would you think that?" asked the nice cousin.

"Honestly," said the aunt.  "What difference does it make?  They're not going to look at either of you or at the bride.  They're all going to be looking at the groom and wondering how the hell she scored someone who looks like him."

"Yeah," said unpleasant cousin.  "They are going to be screaming how they're a facially mixed couple."

"Yeah," said the aunt.  "How did you convince him to marry you?"

They all looked at her in what she knew was supposed to be her special day.  Neither of the cousins had the thighs for this dress.  It turned her stomach in the dream.

There was a knock at the dream door and a male voice on the other side asked if he could come in.  Before she could reply, her aunt answered for them all.

"Might as well come in.  This hat and the bridesmaid dresses have already cursed the occasion," the aunt advised.

Then her aunt spit.

"Spitting on the truth," said her nice cousin.  "No one can say we have class."

The door swung open and the handsome man walked in wearing a beautiful tuxedo.  As soon as he saw the cousins and the aunt, dream handsome started laughing.

"You three look ridiculous!  That's a riot!" howled the handsome man.

After a full minute of laughter where they thought he might fall down and where he actually snorted, he had to add one more thing.

"That lime green is very attractive," he said.

"Thanks," mumbled the cousins.

"And that hat brings out the real you," he told the aunt.

Dream aunt's mouth went into a line.

In the dream she wasn't horrified that he'd somehow found her and was going to marry her.  She was relieved and pleased that the man she was going to marry was speaking up for her.

His eyes found her in the dream.  He gasped and tears came to his eyes.

"You're beautiful!" he said.  "That dress makes you look like a member of a royal family."

"The royal pains in the ass clan," muttered the aunt.  The unpleasant cousin snickered.

Handsome whipped his head and glared at the aunt.

"My bride has never been married and from this second onward, you are going to make her smile and be glad that you've been invited," he said sternly.  "Or please leave now."

The aunt sputtered.  The cousins looked at the floor.

"I think we understand each other now," said Handsome.  He swept up to her and pulled her close for a kiss.

"See you in a few, honey," and left the room, closing the door behind him.

The nice cousin snickered.

"I'll have none of that," said the aunt.

"Yeah, you will," she and the nice cousin said together.

"JINX!" they cried out and embraced.

She awakened right then with a start.  A team had scored a touchdown and the kicker had gotten the one-point conversion.  People were extremely pleased.  The smell of the roasting turkey wafted into the room.  A lot of snacks had been ingested.

"Hey, Sleeping Beauty," said her nice cousin.  "Want to take a walk?"

She stretched her arms out and then up, first to the right, then back up.

"Sure," she said.  "I had just had a lovely dream."

"Great," said the cousin.  "Lovely dreams are such a relief."

They each got their own coat and put it on.  Her cousin's was lime green wool.

"That's a color you don't usually see in a coat," she told her.

"But it suits me, right?" asked the cousin.

"It sure does," she told her.

"I'm digging the lime.  It's different," her cousin told her.

She shuddered a little at what her cousin had just said.  They walked into the kitchen to say they'd be back pretty quickly, that they were having a walk.

Her aunt was having a cackle over the hat she found in the basement when they were putting away the toys.  It was a pointy witch hat.

"Do I need a cauldron?" she asked and cackled some more.

"No!" she exclaimed and she and the nice cousin walked out into the November air.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

She Is Where, Part 21

In the city where she lived, good street parking was terrible in some areas and easy in others.  If there were more apartment-type buildings on a block or in an area, the parking was pretty ghastly.  Some areas, like her own, featured multi-tenant dwellings on two of the four corners of every block and houses everywhere else.  She was confident that no matter what time she drove off, when she got home there would be parking within a half block of her house.

Her cousin's neighborhood had only single-family dwellings for blocks around and the lots were ample.  In other words, the parking was fantastic.  She always parked in front of the house next door to that of her cousin.  There were metal plates on each window, the hallmark of a house a bank owned that was now abandoned.  The bank had the lawn mowed, leaves all raked up, and the sidewalks kept clear.  The grinning face of a bald, bespectacled, middle-aged realtor smiled at anyone who cared to look at him.  He looked directly at the photographer and his eyes said, "I am a cool guy.  This is just how I make a living."

She parked, took up the cranberry relish, balancing it as she locked the car, and walked carefully to her cousin's house.  The last thing she needed as to trip on a sidewalk crack and have an incident.  Her aunt loved incidents and would share them for years to come.   Her aunt and cousin were unforgivably horrible humans but they were the part of her family and, well, dinner would soon be served.

Her cousin's husband answered the door which was very strange.  He was usually in the back of the house making preparations for those who wanted to watch the Detroit Lions football game.  The house was also eerily quiet.  As she thought about it, there were few cars on the street at all.

"Hi," he said, giving her a perfunctory hug.  "Bet you're wondering what's going on."

"Why so quiet?" she asked.

"Everyone's at K-Mart.  Can you believe it?  They found out K-Mart was open and they all piled into their cars and went to K-Mart for some sale or other.  They left me in charge," he answered.

"Isn't the closest K-Mart by me?" she asked.

"Nah, there's one about a mile closer," he responded.  "Crazy, right?  Well, never mind.  How about a martini?  I'm feeling damn festive and your cousin instructed me to touch nothing except to put your relish in the fridge."

He took the bowl and put it into the refrigerator and turned to look at her.

"A martini sounds good?  I can make you anything.  Bellini?  The champagne can be opened!  I recall you like Cosmos.  What's your poison?" he asked.

"Actually," she said.  "Check this out."

It could not have been better.  K-Mart had saved her from trying to get him alone to ask for his help.  She laid it all out, including how she saw the Fiat on her block that morning -- then reached into her pocket and showed him the piece of paper with the license plate number.

"You know this sounds like nothing good, right?" asked the cousin.

"But it could be perfectly innocent, too, like I am maybe over-reacting and he just wants to meet me, yeah?" she said.

Her cousin paused.  When he spoke again, it was very slowly.

"You know," he stated.  "This sounds like nothing good.  Right?"

He stared into her eyes and she shivered.

"I am trying to think I am over-reacting," she said.

"Well, you keep thinking that and I will look this up when I go back to work on Monday.  I have vacation until then.  Can you stand it until Monday?"

"Yes," she said, shivering again.  "I've waited this long."

"And look at me all rude," he said.  "Give me your coat. I'll put it in the closet while there's room.  When they get back from K-Mart there will be a zillion coats on the bed and you'd need to hire a crew to excavate it.  That's a sharp coat!  Let's keep it nice."

He took her coat and hung it on a solid wooden hangar in the front closet.

"Thanks," she said.  "Really, thanks.  For doing that thing for me.  For keeping my coat nice."  She looked down at her feet, suddenly shy and touched by his caring.  She looked at his face.  "Thanks."

"You're welcome," he said, reaching out and touching her arm lightly.  "Now let's have some beverages and chat about something other weirdness."

"You know I love work stories," she said.

"Hey, how's your job going?  I know you moved to a new location.  How's that going?" he asked.

She told him it was better and he told her about the large cast of characters that come through their office.  Everyone needs identification and eventually, everyone comes to the Secretary of State.  He had been in another traffic accident this week, keeping his record of at least one accident per week while administering driving tests.

"It was a short week and I hoped I wasn't going to have an incident.  Nope, the gentleman sideswiped a car in another lane, removing the mirror on the driver side.  He didn't consider stopping until I made him.  'Why must I stop?  I am not yet licensed.'  Poor dope," he said.

"He's still not licensed, is he?" she inquired.

"No, no, he's not," he answered.  "His uncle taught him to drive.  Spent thirty minutes with him in mall parking lot on a Sunday morning then made him drive on the freeway.  Gave him a book of the rules of the road and told him to read it before the test."

"Do you think he did?  Read it, I mean."

"No, as he doesn't seem to read English.  Poor dope," he said, shaking his head.  "At least he didn't try to bribe me.  Sometimes they try to bribe me.  Poor dope."

Then he changed the subject completely.

"K-Mart!  You should have seen everyone race out of the house and get into their cars.  What the hell is on sale?" he asked.

"I know they had 32-inch hi-def TVs for $88," she offered.

"Those will go to people who were in line for hours before they opened," he said.

"I think pajamas were five bucks.  There were toys and games that had huge discounts," she said.

"That's it," he said.  "You know they love to donate to Toys For Tots.  Now that we solved that mystery, let's have that drink."

"I'm driving so maybe a nice glass of club soda with ice," she said.

"Go crazy, girl.  I'm having a martini with two olives," he said.

Having made the drinks he led her to the back of the house where he continued to set things up for those who might want to watch the came.  He laid out crunchy snacks and stocked a beer cooler with domestic and imported brews.

"You're not a football fan, though," she stated.  "I've never heard you mention football once in all the time I've known you."

"I will tell you straight, I love football.  I make like I don't care to keep peace at home but I love football.  I run a huge pool at a bar I go to after work, so, shhhh, keep it to yourself," he said.  "You told me your secret and I've told you mine.  Let's keep 'em between us."

Just then the K-Mart caravan pulled up out front.  Everyone burst into the house together, her aunt and cousin leading the way with their many bags of toys.

"The big stuff's in the backseat and the trunk, honey," her cousin told her husband.  "Can you please move it all to the basement?"

"Of course I can," he said.  He nodded at her and went to move the bigger toys.

Her cousin and aunt assessed her as she stood drinking her club soda.

"All black," said her aunt.

"So mysterious," said her cousin.

"What are you hiding?" asked her aunt.  "A butt?  A gut?"

Her cousin laughed like a banshee, then her aunt and cousin each embraced her.

"Ha, ha, ha, only fooling," said her cousin.  "You look good."

"Really good," said her aunt.  "Except for what is going on with your hair?"

"Roots-a-rama," said her cousin.

"No," said her aunt, "not roots.  It's just salad hair."

"Salad hair! What do you mean, Mom?"

"Tossed!" shouted her aunt.

They laughed so hard her aunt got tears in her eyes and her cousin snorted.

Family members poured into the house, filing past her giving her a hug or a kiss, as they made their way to the basement with their additions of toys.

Had she realized she would have stopped and gotten toys.  Her toy inadequacy would make her part of an incident which her aunt could one day recount.

"Let me rush to K-Mart, too!" she proclaimed.

"No need," said her other cousin, the one she preferred.  "Give me twenty-five dollars.  When we were shopping I told them I was buying stuff for you, so I did."

She embraced this cousin hard.

"Now stop," said this cousin.  "Today we can be thankful for no incidents."

"We just can't say it so it can be heard," she said.  "Unless we want an incident about the incidents."

They went off to the football room to watch the game.  She didn't care about the Detroit Lions or their opponent or even football but there were snacks and a flickering image from another town.

As soon as she settled into the chair, she fell asleep.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sunday, November 11, 2012

She Is Where, Part 20

No matter what she wore, be it suit or frock or jeans and a shirt, her cousin and aunt would both find something wrong with it.

"That dress is for a wedding," her cousin stated.

"If you're the bride," said the aunt about a particularly nice dress she'd put on.

"Why are you so dressed up?" they'd ask if she wore a suit.  "Trying to make everyone feel small?"

She never made anyone feel small.  Her aunt and cousin had both been jealous of her since she was born because her cousin was no longer the special, first child and because her parents no longer babysat her cousin and showered attention on her.  Her own parents still included her in the family as if she were their own but the cousin, even as a small child, had gotten used to two sets of parents, three if her grandparents could be included.  When her own parents had died within a few days of each other -- one succumbing to cancer, the other to a broken heart -- she found out her aunt and cousin loved nothing more than to continue hanging onto their grudges, their meanness, their pettiness, their jealousy.

"Jeans?  Really?" her aunt asked her.  "It's Thanksgiving, not Halloween."

So she selected something like she'd wear to work -- a black sweater, black pants, black shoes, only small earrings to accessorize.  Once she put her new coat over the ensemble she knew she'd look like a million bucks.

She could never precisely see what her cousin's husband saw in her cousin.  He was your standard issue nice, normal guy.  He wasn't petty, he encouraged harmony with the aunt and cousin, and he always remembered her birthday.  Of course, he could be talking up a storm of smack behind her back but his eyes and smile were genuine and warm so she doubted it.  They'd been high school sweethearts, the cousin and her husband, and he'd been quite the bad boy back then but a bad boy with a good heart.  She wondered if her cousin was disappointed that he still worked for the Secretary of State in the motor vehicle division but her cousin gave no indication of her displeasure about it.  They had two children immediately after getting married and the kids were now off on their own -- making their way in the world and proud of it.  The kids -- a boy and a girl -- favored their dad.

It was a 30-minute drive to her cousin's home, still in the city but in a remote neighborhood that required taking surface streets to reach.  She left exactly a half hour before she was supposed to go, putting the relish in a box in the trunk so it wouldn't slide all over the place and wouldn't go flying in the interior if she stopped short.

Some of the things she saw as she drove:  a large house being decorated for Christmas; three grocery stores; two Target stores; a Wal-Mart with a small line for the doorbuster that would take place that night; a huge turkey made of chicken wire and covered in lights the colors of a fall harvest; and a giant driving a flesh-toned Fiat 500, with handsome man in the passenger seat.  They did not see her.

She was convinced that she had to be hallucinating.  Those two together?  Randomly?  In some neighborhood?  She was seeing things.  That had to be it.  Things like that don't happen.

Except they do.

Years before she was out in the suburbs and made a wrong turn.  She realized where she'd gone off track, saw where she was, and decided to take a nearby road that went from the suburbs into the city.  It was a Sunday evening and there were few cars on this stretch of asphalt.  She sat in the left-turn lane, waiting for the light to change so she could head home and a car drove up next to hers and stopped for the light.  She glanced at the driver.  It was a woman from her office with whom she was friendly.  They both laughed and pointed and smiled.  The woman indicated her husband and he leaned forward and smiled and waved.  The light changed and they waved good-bye to each other.

Things like that don't happen unless they do.

She drove a little faster than she preferred just to get off the streets and be somewhere in a crowd of people.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

She Is Where, Part 19

After the shower, she dried off, removed the shower cap, turned on the TV, and had a nap on her bed.  She awoke to full blown Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Years ago, she had a friend who was in the parade, attached to a float starring the late Shari Lewis, the creator of Lambchop and Charley Horse.  The people walking were all dressed a la Raggedy Ann and when they got to Macy's at 34th Street, Shari Lewis sang a song and they all danced around.  When it was over, her friend almost got separated from the rest of the Raggedy Anns except Shari Lewis came to her defense calling out, "Wait!  She's with us!"  Now whenever she happened upon the parade, she thought of her friend who now lived in Florida.

She sat bolt upright in bed.  She needed another pair of ears and her friend might be willing to hear.  She put on her robe and slippers and entered the speed dial for her friend.

As she usually did, her friend answered calling her by name.

"I am right about to start making dinner," her friend told her.  "But here's someone who wants to talk to you."

The next voice she heard was her friend's husband.  Her friend's husband was a no-nonsense kind of guy.  She got on great with him.

"What's going on?" asked the husband.

"Well," she paused.  "Check this out and tell me what you think."

And she told him.  She spilled everything to him.  The giant.  How handsome this man was.  The trip to Mount Prospect.  The Fiat.  The waitress in the restaurant.  The coat.  The car at the store.  The car by her house.

"This could be nothing," he said.  "Or it could be some weird psycho shit.  Damn.  I was thinking coincidence for the sightings.  I was thinking just a guy who was messing with your head at first.  But this could be some weird psycho shit.  Or it could just be some guy who thinks you're interesting and wants to spend more time with you."

She paused.  And thought.

"Then why not just say that he think I'm interesting and he doesn't know why I always run from him when he's just trying to be nice.  Why won't he tell me what he does for a living?"

"Because it's probably the weird psycho shit," he said.  "Frankly, I don't know.  What does your friend Lee say about it?"

"I haven't told him.  I haven't been able to put it into words to tell him."

"But you told me.  That's a great compliment.  Thank you," he said.  "Lee might have a different perspective."

"Lee has a hard time keeping things to himself.  He doesn't mean to spill information but he can't help himself.  It's just how he is.  But you're right.  He might have a different perspective," she said.

"I've not met him, I've only heard you talk about him, but he seems sensible," said the husband.

She just had to call Lee and tell him what had happened.  She was a little ashamed of herself.   He was a dear friend of hers and she hadn't confided in him about something that was bothering her so much.  He usually could sum up the situation in a sentence.  She promised herself that she would tell him.

"So what about the giant?" she asked.

"Honestly," said the husband,  "I think he really is just a guy who is nice and doesn't think this guy's a psycho.  You try not to categorize your friends as nut jobs because then you have to make excuses for the insanity.  Or he does know he's off but doesn't think he's dangerous.  If he thinks he is dangerous, then he can't justify having this friend who makes him look cool because he has a friend who is so incredibly handsome.  You know?"

"So he likes having such a handsome friend because people think differently about him?  He believes they think he's way hipper than he imagines himself to be?  Is that right?"

"Yes," said the husband.  "That's my theory.  Now you have to do me a favor."

"Sure," she said.

"Stay the fuck away from this fucker and the goddamn giant.  The handsome fucker is probably dangerous and the giant doesn't know yet.  It's just a feeling.  I'm not sure.  But don't let them get too close," he advised.

Her stomach flopped over.

"And now your old best pal needs my help in the kitchen so I have to go.  You call me the next time you see something.  Call me on my cell.  I know you have the number.  Just call me.  I'll tell your pal what's up and that I said to call me.  You have to swear.  I want to hear about this fucker" he said.

"You're making me all scared again," she said.

"Good," he said.  "Fear makes us pay attention.  Happy Thanksgiving."

He hung up.  Out on the street she heard someone's car alarm go on and not go off.

She peeked between the blinds and saw a family of four trying to load into a car as the father hit various buttons on the car remote.  It finally stopped whining and they were all smiling and laughing.  They really didn't have a care in the world.  Seeing their ease made her feel better and she went into the bedroom and got ready to go to her cousin's for dinner.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

She Is Where, Part 18

The alarm clock rang right at 6:00 a.m., as she'd asked it to do.  She further requested that it give her 9 minutes more of sleep.  She made this request four times and then admitting that the cranberry relish wouldn't make itself -- year after year it had refused to do so -- she staggered to the bathroom and turned the shower on to warm up the water.

She lived in an older building with an older landlady with a total denial method of setting things like thermostats properly, or even fixing things, as in "That window is broken!  There is jagged glass and rain and snow can get in!  Here is a board that fits in the hole!  There is jagged glass but rain and snow can't get in as well!  Is it really broken?  Oh, look!  A leaf has landed on the grass and I must pick it up!"  Ten minutes usually did it for warming up the water and a year was about the right time for external repairs.

Her landlady only hired people she knew and trusted but it was even better if she could wait for her cousin to visit from Europe.  He was very clever with his mind and his hands but sometimes he was delayed by surgery or visiting his daughter in California instead or not wanting to come to America during an election year.  There was a plumber the landlady liked but he was always in the most desperate of straits and had to be tracked down via friends of friends of ex-girlfriends.  The preferred electrician was very talented, not licensed, and weighed in excess of 400 pounds.  He, too, fell on hard times when his roommate decided to get married and move and he was forced to give up his apartment and, at the age of 45, move in with his parents.  He promptly fell ill and then seemed to disappear.  The parents weren't known to friends of friends and he had no ex-girlfriends.

The water heater had been installed by an old boyfriend with whom she didn't get on at all but he always cut her a deal on parts and labor and then gave her a warranty for both.  He was mostly responsive but as with most repairs in the building, things were not quite right.

People asked why should put up with it but it was for the same reason the other three tenants did:  the rent was price 33% under the market price including heat.  It was the bargain of the century and it was amazing what people would do for a bargain.

The shower was ready to go.  She did her normal routine and was ready to go including makeup within 15 minutes of leaving the shower.  She put a shower cap on her head, put on sweatpants and a t-shirt, slipper on her feet, and went into the kitchen to create the relish.  After thirty minutes, the relish was ready in her late mother's favorite crystal serving bowl, plastic wrap pulled tight across the top.  It was not even 8 o'clock.

The weatherperson had said partly cloudly but she peeked around the closed blinds to see what was going on in the world.  The was a high cloud cover, the sky a pale gray.  The street was predictably empty due to the early hour on a holiday.  Not even the dog owners were trotting their pets.  Lawns were a shade of frosted green.  The trees had lost all their foliage.  There was a flesh-toned Fiat 500 parked about half a block down.

All her nerves were in her stomach and she raced to the bathroom and released them.  She cleaned herself off, washing her hands especially vigorously, and then went and looked out the window anew.

There was no flesh-toned Fiat 500.  The was a small spot where it had been and a young woman she knew lived about halfway up the block who owned a black standard poodle -- named Fifi -- was walking toward her building.  She grabbed her keys and raced outside.

"Good morning!" she said to the woman.  "Hello, Fifi," she said looking into the dog's eyes and spoke as if the dog were a baby.

"Hi," said the woman.  "Happy Thanksgiving!"

"Woof!" said Fifi, who sat right down as if trying to listen to what she had to say.  Fifi always did this when she spoke to them.  She'd never considered getting a dog but might make an exception for Fifi.

"I saw you came from over there," gesturing in the direction of where the car had been parked.  "Did you see a giant get into a Fiat 500?"

"Fiat 500?  What's that look like?" asked the woman.

"It was small and flesh-toned.  It was parked where that space is."  She pointed back to the spot.  "See?"

The young woman turned and looked squinting.  Fifi stood and looked as well.

"Oh, yeah, but it wasn't a giant.  It was probably the handsomest man I've ever seen who wasn't a male model," the young woman advised.  "He smiled at me and nodded his head.  Fifi didn't seem to like him very much but he doesn't care for most strange men."

She stood still and looked at the young woman.

"Are you okay?" the young woman asked.  "You just turned all white."

Fifi licked her hand.

"Do you know that man?" the young woman asked.  Fifi sat down and waited for her answer.

"I used to know that man," she lied.  "I didn't think I'd ever see him in this neighborhood."

"This neighborhood has gotten very trendy and very chic," said the young woman.  "Don't be surprised at all who shows up.  We kind of got in on the ground floor."

"Oh, I rent," she said.  Fifi whined as if to say she was throwing away good money.

"Never mind, Fifi," she said to the dog.  "It's not your business."

"Woof," said Fifi and he jumped and pranced around then stepped to the grass and did a massive amount of dog business.

"Woof," he said to his owner when he was done.

"Good boy," she said, picking it all up with a plastic bag.  "Have a good holiday," the young woman said to her.

"You, too," she said, the handsome man at the back of her mind.

"By the way," said the young woman quietly, "I didn't see where he came from otherwise I'd tell you."

She grinned back at the young woman.

"Thanks.  I appreciate that," said told her.  "Bye, Fifi."

Fifi was already wanting to have at the squirrel that was prancing near the alley and was standing at attention.

"Let's go, Fifi," said the woman and they walked away.

She ran back into the apartment and released more nerves, scrubbing her hands and face afterward.  She also realized she'd gotten quite cold standing outside for her investigatory work.  Her teeth were chattering.  Thinking a hot shower would warm her up, she turned it on and was waiting another three minutes for it to get hot again.  She'd been standing outside wearing the shower cap she'd worn to make the relish making her blush.

She admitted to herself that she was probably as close as she'd ever been to going a little crazy.  She took off all her clothing but not the shower cap and had a quick shower.  She felt warmer but knew that without concerted effort, her teeth would again start chattering.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

She Is Where, Part 17

She started spinning around in the parking lot, trying to spot the Giant, but the Giant was just not there.  She walked over to where she'd seen his car and it was still there.   This realization made her stomach do flips.

What if he'd seen her and was following her?  How could he do that and not be seen?  He's a giant.

What if he had a camera set up and was watching her that way?  Except where would the camera be?

What if the camera were the store camera and he had hacked into the store's computer so he could spy on her that way?  Really?  Just to watch her?  On a grocery store camera?  The giant wouldn't do that, she decided, but Handsome would.  Even if she didn't really know him, she thought that much about him was true.

She spun around the opposite way, now looking for Handsome.  She spun around the other way and spotted a taxi dropping someone off to get their groceries.  They went out the right door and she she went in the left.

"I hope you're free," she said, trying to be breezy.

"Yes, sure, why not," said the driver.   "Where are you going?"

"Well," she said, making the word into two syllables, "I'd would like to see a bit of this neighborhood.  Can you make some rights and lefts?"

The driver looked at her in the rear view mirror.

"Are you stalking someone, Missus?  If you are stalking someone then I am not to be interested," the driver advised.

Bingo! she thought.

"Someone is stalking me," she said.  "And I want to throw him off the scent."

He looked at her some more and she met his gaze as he looked at her in the mirror.

"Okay.  Where are we to go?" he asked.

They left the parking lot and she asked the driver to just please make lefts and rights and get away from this store and maybe they wouldn't be followed.

"Not to worry.  I have training to know when being followed," he said.

She didn't know if it was just a guy trying her impress her or a guy wishing this fact were so or a guy who was telling her the truth.

"Great!" she exclaimed, not wishing to offend any of those guys.  "I leave it to you."

A ten-minute cab ride stretched to 25 minutes including a jog through an alley and onto and then off of the freeway.  She still had the driver drop her off two blocks from her residence and tipped him lavishly.  He handed her a business card.

"If you are seeking to get a ride, you are please to call me," he said.  "I am glad to drive you."

"Thanks and have a happy Thanksgiving," she said, tucking the card into her bag.

"My wife is making the turkey.  She makes every year for family and it is good," he told her.  "My wife is American from Dearborn.  In Michigan.  Near Detroit."

A zillion questions came to mind, which was very usual for her -- where did they meet, how long had they been married, did they have kids, how often did they visit Dearborn, had he lived in Detroit  -- but she just wanted to get home and think.

"Enjoy yourself, sir."  She smiled and exited the cab and he drove off.

She walked briskly to her apartment building, a woman who looked like she might be slightly unbalanced.  The put her keys on the table near the door and hung up her coat in the closet by the door, putting the hat on the shelf.  She washed her hands and dried them on the old kitchen towel.  She took the entire shopping bag of groceries and put it in the top shelf of the refrigerator without bothering to empty it.  She took off her shoes and looked to see if anyone had left a telephone message but it said "0."

Going into her handbag, she found the card the cab driver had given her and attached it to her fridge with a magnet in the shape of a horse head.  She picked up a pen and put the date on it, so she'd remember when she got it, just in case she wanted to go somewhere and didn't want to be followed.  The card said:

Mr. M's Expert Driving.
Going There?
I'll Get You There!
Mr. M, Professional Driver.

The way Mr. M drove made her believe he really did have training in that area.

In the bathroom, she scrubbed off her eye makeup with baby shampoo and then washed her face with a beauty bar.  She brushed her teeth for two minutes with an electric toothbrush, then flossed.  She always took off all her eye makeup at night and brushed and flossed.  Her world could go as crazy as can be but she was confident that if it all did, her gums would not bleed.

The next day she'd see her cousin's husband.  She'd also see their children, her aunt and uncle, her other aunt and uncle and their children -- her other cousins -- whom, truth be told, she got on with better than the cousin whose husband she needed to chat with but none of them worked for the Secretary of State's office.  Her cousin, the hostess of the dinner, seemed to generally disapprove of anything she'd ever done in her life, but she got on fine with the husband and their kids.  All she needed was 15 minutes to share the story she'd been practicing for days, honing the finer points of the tale, that now culminated in a drive just a little while ago through an alley to make certain of a clean getaway.

She went to bed early, exhausted from the evening's events, setting her alarm clock for an early hour to make the cranberry relish.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

She Is Where, Part 16

The time up until Thanksgiving went a lot faster than she thought it would.  She managed to find a handbag online that was just what she'd been thinking about that offered free returns in case it wasn't what she really wanted.  It complemented the coat and cost less than what she'd budgeted.

Everyone at work made a big fuss over her new coat.

"Wow," said her manager.  "You look like you have a serious job instead of here, ha ha."

"Ha ha," said her coworkers as seriously as they were able because they all knew they were some of the scruffiest dresser in the world.  They saw their clients every few years and dressed as best they were able then, spending any clothing budget for groceries, rent, and the occasional trip somewhere.

"I'm going to San Francisco," said a guy who wore pants so old they had a shine to them who liked to spend on two things -- trips and whores.

"Did I tell you?" asked the middle-aged account supervisor.  "I'm spending Thanksgiving in Phoenix?  Got a package deal with my son including turkey dinner, breakfast every morning, and car rental."

"I can hardly wait!" exclaimed the woman with whom she shared a pod.  "I'm going to London, then taking Eurostar to Paris, then having a week at the Pullman Hotel by the Eiffel Tower."

They rarely bought new things and wondered how she could buy a new coat and bag.  They didn't notice that she rarely took trips and looked much more pulled together than everyone else.

Mostly, in the days leading up to the holiday, she stayed away from the part of downtown where she'd seen Handsome and the Giant, following the usual routes to lunch and home until the holiday came, taking cabs to meet friends for dinner.  She took a cab when she went back to the dermatologist to have the stitches from the biopsy removed, even though it was a favorite walk of hers.

"Safety first," she said out loud as she gave a cabbie the fare and a generous tip.

"Sanjit," said the cabbie.  "It's pronounced "san" like San Francisco and "jeet" like a Jeep car.  Sanjit," said the cabbie.

"Okay, Sanjit," she said.  "Thanks."

Sanjit didn't need to know the extent of her paranoia.

"All clear," said the dermatologist and had one of her many residents remove the stitches.  "Come back in a year unless you see something questionable."

"Happy Thanksgiving," she said to the dermatologist and the residents.

They all mumbled back some greeting or other.  She left their offices and took a taxi to the subway, overtipping per usual.

Instead of going home, she went to the supermarket and got the ingredients for her cranberry relish.  She got the recipe from the NPR website years before and made it on the outside chance people would enjoy it.  It was a big success.  Family members requested she made it every year since.  She was a decent cook for herself but struggled with what to bring for family dinners.  Everyone knew it and kindly let her do the one thing she was able to do.  It was easily assembled the morning of the holiday.

As she entered the parking lot of the supermarket -- not the closest to her home but the most convenient as far as public transportation went -- she spotted a small flesh-toned Fiat 500 in on of the spots.  She'd looked at the license number on her phone so many times that she'd memorized the number.  She walked right up to the car and looked at the plates.

"My life so sucks," she said aloud and quickly turned around to make sure no one had heard her.  People were heading into the store but no one heard her speak.

She considered just walking back and forth on the sidewalk by the store, pretending to be waiting for someone, until she saw him leave but decided to just go in and look for him.  He was a giant.  He was easy to spot.

Except she never spotted him.  She went through the store grabbing the items for cranberry relish and dropping them in her basket.  The lines were long with last-minute shoppers and he wasn't in one of the lines.  She tried to be nonchalant in line but was sweating profusely from the top of her head and her stomach was releasing butterflies.  She closed her eyes and breathed deeply, moved forward in line, eventually paid for her items.  He wasn't in the store that she could see.

She hoped like hell he hadn't spotted her.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

She Is Where, Part 15

The dermatologist surprised her by doing a biopsy on one questionable tag, freezing off three mole-like things, and taking sterile scissors to several actual skintags.

"Your insurance won't cover the cost of the ones I can snip off.  Are you sure you wish me to proceed?" asked her dermatologist.  She was originally from England and very proper.  The doctor was quite fond of being very proper and very English.  She'd been in the States for 30 years and had not lost a bit of her accent.

"That's fine," she said.  "I'm feeling flush."

"That's $17.50 each," the doctor advised.

"Fine.  Still feeling flush," she said.

The doctor applied the local anesthesia and proceed to snip, cut, and sew.

"I didn't think there'd be stitches," she told the doctor.

"I wanted to make sure I had plenty for the biopsy," informed the physician.  "Keep it covered with an adhesive bandage and try to not get it wet.  Come back in two weeks and we'll remove the stitches."

She didn't ask if she would have a scar because the doctor would say, "Do as you're told and you'll have a good result."  She'd asked this doctor questions like this before.

She needed to acquire some waterproof bandages before going home.  Some cartoon bandage or other, she thought.  Keeping the wound dry meant no makeup for two weeks which gave her the pleasure of sleeping ten minutes later in the morning.  It was almost Thanksgiving, a time for celebrations with family and her family didn't care what she looked like as long as she was clean.  Cartoon bandages and no makeup?  The little cousins, nieces, and nephews loved those and got excited when an adult sported them.  The notion made her smile as she entered the store.

She headed for the back of the store where they kept the vast selection of bandages.  Her preference, of course, was to have something made in the USA.  Of course, the best cartoon bandages were made in Brazil, Canada, Egypt, or China.  She could have solid colors that were made in Minnesota.  A coworker had bacon strip bandages once but the coworker was sketchy about where those were purchased.  She sucked it up and decided Sponge Bob would delight kids and make adults question her sanity, both things resulting in more smiles.

At home that night, she carefully cleaned off the area of the wounds and as she stared at herself in the bathroom mirror, thought back to her weird day.  The giant driving the tiny Fiat 500.  Handsome finding her in the restaurant and then trying to buy her a coat.  The picture of the license plate.

Handsome didn't know she had the photo of the license plate.  The giant and Handsome didn't know she'd taken a picture; they'd seen her but not her with her phone, taking the shot.

She walked over to the couch and sat down.  She stared at the floor for at least ten minutes as visions of "What the fuck?" ran through her head.

She finally got up and went to her purse and saw she'd missed a text from Lee asking where they were going to meet and another two asking where she was.  There was a text from her cousin advising the time for Thanksgiving the next week and to let her know if she was going to bring a guest.  Her cousin knew she never brought a guest even when there was a significant other in her life but always asked because it was nice to ask.   She texted back the info to Lee and her thanks to her cousin and looked at the picture of the license plate.

It was a clear picture of the plate, the stickers, the license plate frame that proclaimed "Water for my horses and whiskey for my men."  It was not a vanity plate and the number was not one to be easily remembered.  And here it was. 

Her cousin's husband worked for the Secretary of State's office and he might tell her how to get the name of the person associated with the plate.  She looked up their number on the phone and hit send but disconnected before it completed.  Requesting information like this would take some thought because there would be questions from the husband  -- "Why do you want to know?  Were you in an accident with this person?  How do you know this person?  HOW do you know this person?  What are you doing to do with the information?" -- and she had to think how she would answer before she asked.

She walked over to the shopping back with the new coat, took it out of the bag, gave it a shake, admired it at arms' length, unbuttoned it, and put it on.  She stood in front of the full-length mirror in her hall and admired herself.  She looked like 50%-off of a million bucks which was really damn fine.  She twirled this way and that and decided that her own parents might not recognize her in this coat.  She pulled out box containing a hat she'd bought on sale at the end of the previous winter and put it on.  Even she was impressed with how good she looked, stitches on her face and all. 

Still wearing the coat and hat, she sat down on the couch and turned on the TV.  What the hell was she going to tell her cousin's husband?  She felt like a light went on inside her head.  She sat bolt upright.  The idea was so crazy that he probably wouldn't want her to give more information or even hear the story again.  She was going to tell him the truth.

She stood up, took off the coat and hat and put them in the closet.  She really looked forward to Thanksgiving and was humming around her apartment all the way until she got into bed for the night.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

She Is Where, Part 14

The rooftop restaurant was on the 8th floor, added when the store wanted to impress the hell out of everyone by building something closer to heaven than any other eating establishment in the region.  Now, ho hum, the 8th floor, but it would take a while to ride slowly down on the escalator. 

When she got to the 7th floor, she realized the handsome man had not asked about the picture she took with her phone.  She popped the phone open and sent it to her email address.  Phone-to-email texts weren't included in her cheap data plan.

"Worth it," she said aloud.  No one else was on the escalator so she didn't have to make a sweet, purse-lipped face that said, "Oops, ya caught me talking to myself," even though she was pretty sure everyone talked to themself at one time or another and those who didn't had lots of people around all the time or were solidly nuts, so into their own heads that dynamite could not have gotten them out.

At the 6th floor, she thought maybe the giant saw her do take the picture and didn't word it correctly.  He didn't add that she was taking a picture of the back of the car, he just said advised that she was behind the car and Handsome bounded out of the car in pursuit.  Or Handsome didn't wait for Giant to complete his thought.  When he got back to the car, he probably would finish it and Handsome would come looking again.

This put her into a cold sweat and her stomach turned over a couple of times.  At the 5th floor, she left the escalator and ran past shoes to the restroom to wash her face and compose herself taking five minutes, which was five minutes more than she had wanted to spend composing herself.  She walked briskly back to the escalator and started walking down.

Coats were on the 4th floor and had been placed right by the escalators so everyone could see the value, the selection, the colors and styles.  She stopped and then walked toward them from the escalator.  She noticed two things:  a black, full-length wool coat in a reefer style with oversized lapels, large buttons, and a walking slit in the back and the sign above it that said 50% off, today only.

It was like a vacuum was sucking her over to the rack but the next thing she realized was when she was standing in front of a mirror, the coat looking excellent on her.  It was a perfect fit and she had a coupon in ther handbag for an additional $10 off.  She spun a little.  She twirled the opposite way.  She looked to admire herself again and saw Handsome in the background looking this way and that, like for a missing person.

She considered ditching the coat and racing out but this was a bargain that made her look slim and more fashionable than normal.  She quietly gathered up her things including the heavy plastic hangar the coat came on and went to the escalator, riding up one floor to women's shoes. 

"I am looking for my husband," she lied to the cashier.  "He said he was going to try to find me some new pumps and I don't see him.  Do you mind if I just pay you for this?"

"Well," said the cashier, "we're on commission and the coat salespeople really hate this."

"Oh," she said, crestfallen.  "I don't want to upset the applecart."

"Yeah, sorry, but they get a little annoyed," the cashier countered but added, "Unless you can tell me who was waiting on you.  I can call down there and get their number."

"Wow, thanks, I think her name was either Mary or Jo," she lied some more.  "Not young."

"Older lady?  Steel-gray hair?  Wearing a suit?" the cashier asked.

She had fleetingly seen a lady with gray hair in a red suit helping a tourist couple get the woman a jacket.

"Yes, that's her," she said.

"Mary Jo.  She's been here for eons.  Let me see if she'll answer," as she picked up the phone and dialed four numbers.

Seriously, this woman should have just told me to walk back down there and pay for it on 4 but she knew the store had a customer-is-mostly-right-except-when-the-customer-is-not-right policy and she didn't want to push it but if she had to, she would.  Besides, the action was in coats today and not shoes so she had time.

"Mary Jo?  It's Kylie in Shoes.  Say, I have a lady up here who has a coat she'd like to pay for up here.  Can you please give me your employee code and you'll get credit?"  The cashier listened.  She didn't move her pen to write down any numbers.  Kylie looked at her and started speaking again.  "Yes, that's right.  Uh huh.  Yes.  I'll tell her.  Thanks, Mary Jo."

She hung up the phone.

"Mary Jo said your husband's down there and looking for you," said Kylie.

She paused and tried to not look panicky.

"So you can't ring up my coat?" she asked.

"Sorry, no.  Mary Jo said your husband had out a roll of cash and wanted to pay for it right then but she told him we need the SKU number on the coat," Kylie advised.  "It's just down the escalator and around the corner."

"I would rather pay for it myself.  He's been a little too indulgent with me lately and I want to get something out of my own bank account," she lied to Kylie.  "It's a matter of pride," she added as she tilted her head and grinned, her mouth dry from fright.

"I can understand that," said Kylie.  "To heck with it.  I'll take the heat if someone gets mad."

Kylie took the pricing gun and rang up the coat, took her cash -- Handsome had taught her this fundamental lesson -- and coupon and folded the coat up and apologized for having to put it into a boot bag.

"The nice hanging bags are in the coat department," said Kylie.  "I am sorry I have to fold it up."

"You did a beautiful job, Kylie." she said.  "Thanks for your efforts.  I can wear my coat and hold my head high."

She grabbed the bag -- really quite heavy as it was a lot of fabric -- and quickly made her way to the elevator.  Hoping for the best, she pushed the down button and it came quickly.  Amazingly, no one was on it.  Again, hoping for the best, she pushed 1 and the doors slid shut.  The stars aligned perfectly and it went straight down to the first floor.  She walked briskly to the exit and when the chilly fall air hit her face, she let out a gasp.

"Woof!" it sounded like she said.  She regained her composure, hailed a cab, and told the driver the address of her dermatologist.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

She Is Where, Part 13

The rooftop restaurant was stuffed with patrons at almost every table, even though it was past lunchtime.  There were windows on three sides, giving a great view of what must have been a view of the skyline at one point, but the surrounding area had been built much higher so now one had a choice of which building to look into.  The furnishings were very fine, seeming to be imported from Europe but, in reality, some fine examples of North Carolina furniture artistry.  The fabrics were lovely chintz, exploding florals like an eruption at a botanical garden had spewed the flower all the way downtown.  Tourists loved the place for its of-another-era style, and old ladies, gay couples, and nostalgic locals felt the same way.  Personally, she didn't like the place.   It was stuffy and the uniforms on the staff never seemed be quite clean enough.  It suggested the company knew it was going to close sometime soon and these uniforms would have to do until then.

She chose a table by the eastern windows.  Once she was having a late afternoon snack on a Saturday with her sister and since it was early in the year, it was dark outside and the lights were on in the offices across the way.  When she glanced over she saw a man and woman kissing passionately.

"Oh," she nonchalantly said to her sister.  "Looky there," she said, tipping her in head in the direction of the lovers, wishing to be cool and not look there again.

"OH!" said her sister with great excitement and then,  "Looky again."

The couple's clothes were coming off and she and her sister were treated to two people of middle age and questionable physical shape about to share something special on the desk.

"Check!" they called out simultaneously and laughed like they were insane.

This was the same view but today's light of day wasn't affording her a view into those offices but it didn't stop her from scanning anyway.  She wanted to smile and that would do it.

"Can I get you anything?" asked the voice.

She answered before she could look at the voice, still looking at the building.

"Yes, might I have some hot tea, please?"

"I'll treat if I can join you," said the voice.

She snapped her head to see the handsome man pull out the chair across from her and sit down.

"Why did you leave that other building?  I looked for you and waited around and never saw you again."

"I got transferred to another office."

"Your idea or that manager who hated you?" he asked.

She was being very calm, much calmer than she thought she could be.

"It was the idea of his boss' boss.  They needed someone with my skill set and it worked out great," she said.  "Everything is better.  My new boss is quite sane."

"Interesting," he said.  "You would have loved working for me."

"Doing what?" she asked.  "And why does the giant drive such a puny car?"

"The giant!  That still kills me.  He liked it, too," he said.

"What was the job?" she asked.

His eyes went into slits and he leaned forward and opened his mouth to speak.

"Sorry to keep you folks waiting.  What can I get you today?" asked the pleasant and not young waitress.  There was an old tomato-sauce stain on her right hip.

"I would love some hot tea," she said.  "And an extra pot of hot water, please."

If she couldn't have a weapon, some thrown hot water just might save her.

"Nothing for me, doll," said the handsome man.  "I have to go."

He stood up and took his wallet from his jacket pocket, pulling out a ten dollar bill.

"This will take care of my friend and something for your trouble, okay?" and handed the waitress the money.

"Do you need change, sir?" she asked from habit, knowing that he didn't.

"Don't hurt my feelings, doll," he said and smiled his handsome man smile.

Before he turned to go he leaned into the table and said to her, "We'll be in touch."

"In touch how?" she hissed.  "Why?  To do what?"

He smiled his smile again and then his eyes got cold and hard.

"Me to know, you to find out," he answered.  Then he turned and walked quickly to the elevator which one of the suburban types was happy to hold for a handsome guy in an expensive suit.

The tea came almost instantly, the waitress efficiently presenting the two pots of water, the napkin and flatware, and the little silver tray with the sweeteners, milk, and lemon.

"Is that your boyfriend?" the waitress asked.

"No," she replied.

"Your husband?" she queried.

"Not that either.  Not my boss, my coworker, my associate, my friend, my cousin, brother, or son.  I don't know who the hell that is.  He just keeps turning up and talking to me."

There she had said it.

"Have you ever seen him before?" she asked the waitress.

"No, I can't say that I have," she answered.  "He looks good but his eyes were very cold.  I didn't want to say anything in case you were close."

They stared at each other.

"He thought he was being warm and generous," said the waitress, "but he was just being generous.  That kind of generosity doesn't mean a thing."

She stared at the waitress and got tears in her eyes, something that happened when someone so completely spoke the truth.  The waitress saw her eyes were filled with tears.

"You forget it," said the waitress.  "Just go about your business.  You're okay."

The waitress walked away from her and she put each teabag into each pot of water.  She put some milk into the cup which cooled the tea so she could drink it quickly.  She took the napkin and dabbed at her eyes, sopping up tears and some of her favorite drugstore mascara.  She was no longer in the mood for a handbag and didn't want to stand and try on coats.  She didn't much want to be perused and snipped up by a dermatologist but she'd waited a few weeks for the appointment and didn't want to miss the opportunity.  She drank down several cups of tea, left another couple of bucks for the waitress, and headed to the elevator.  If someone saw her coming, they didn't try to hold the door for her so she decided to take the escalator all the way down.  As she slowly descended she thought if she got a glimpse of the coats then she might change her mind and get something in spite of her feeling of dread.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

She Is Where, Part 12

Of course, she should have just ignored him, walking with the crowd and acting like she'd not seen him but she still would have gone into this building with the two side entrances.

Which to take?

"Screw it," she said aloud, but no one gave her a second look because it's a city, people are crazy in cities, and no one wants to get involved with crazy as it might be contagious.  She turned around and went out the front door and continued up the street to store with the nice handbags which she'd peruse before going to look at the coats in the other store.  It was two blocks and she knew the giant was long gone or would be by the time he got done dealing with one-way streets going the wrong way and nonexistant alleys.

The giant might have been long gone but it was getting toward the end of the year and everyone wanted to use up their remaining personal and vacation time.  She found herself sharing the sidewalk with her soon-to-be-former boss.

"Well, fancy meeting you here," he said.

She looked at him and was about to say something clever like "Uh huh," or "Yeah," but instead let out a giant belch.  From the depths of she knew not where -- although her lunchtime jumbo hot dog with raw onions, fries, pickle wedge, and a giant Diet Coke might have had something to do with it -- and she had the good sense to look embarrassed, which she was.  She managed a small grin and took a tissue from her left pocket, always keeping a tissue in her left pocket, and dabbed at the corners of her mouth and then used it to blow her nose in earnest.  She stuffed the tissue back in the left pocket and tipped her head to the left, grinning insincerely.

"Oh my goodness," he said.  "You don't seem well.  Are you on the way to the doctor?"

It wasn't a lie.  Her new manager knew she precisely where she was going and approved.

"I look forward to seeing your new things," said the woman manager.  "I just love new coats and a handbag you like is so important."

She had a handbag obsession so a new one wasn't so much important as feeding the addiction.

"If I am successful I will wear them both tomorrow," she said.

"Good luck with the dermatologist.  I hope they don't have to carve you up.  My husband goes regularly for carving.  His doctor is an absolute artist," the manager told her.

She knew it was nothing serious and told the lady manager this.

"But you never know," the woman said, "so if you need to recover tomorrow, I'm good with it.  You've got lots of time left and overtime, too, that you can tap into."

The woman manager was terrific and sane, generous and thoughtful toward her employees.  Every day was Christmas in comparison to her former situation which was now sharing the sidewalk with her.

"I am on the way to the doctor but I need to make a stop first," she said although it was none of his damn business.

"I'm on my way to the doctor, too," he said.  "I have something mysterious on foot and I need to have it looked at before I go home for the holiday."

"So you're going to the ..." she started.

"Dermatologist," he said. "Yeah."

He told her where and it was in another part of town, near his apartment.  She'd always gone to physicians downtown because, while inconvenient, they were much better doctors.

"I think I need to duck into that store over there and use their restroom and maybe get a bottle of water in their food court," she said.

"That's a good idea," he said.  "I have to get a bus.  I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving," he said, sounding like he meant it.

"And you," she said.  She did not mean it.  She almost hoped his giblets were rancid.

"Yeah, going to see my mother," he said.

"Ah," she said.  "Bye for now," and she turned and walked purposefully away from him.

She walked with her head down thinking it had really been old home week for people she'd not wanted to see and when she looked up she almost ran into someone.  His topcoat was the most beautiful wool she'd ever seen and his haircut was perfect.  He was the handsomest nonactor she'd ever seen and he was just as handsome as the last time she'd seen him in Mount Prospect.

It was all too much for her and she bent over and threw up, pulling the tissue from her left pocket and wiping at the emissions around her mouth.

"Let me give you this bottle of water," a woman with a high voice said.

She straightened to take it, happy that she'd barfed on no one's shoes.  Mrs. High Voice pulled a bag of air temperature water from her bag and gave it to her.

"Are you okay?" she squeakily asked.

She walked over to the curb, opened the bottle, rinsed the water around her mouth and spit it into the street, something she repeated two more times as the woman watched.  She took the rest of the water and poured it over what happened to break it up.

"Here, let me tell the guard to send someone out with some litter," said Mrs. High Voice, and ran into the building entrance by the accident point.

She didn't want to leave without saying thank you so she just looked at the door.  She was too afraid to look to see if the handsome man was still there but finally mustered up all her courage and scanned the area.  He was at the corner, getting into a flesh-toned Fiat 500.  She gasped.

"The guard's coming out with something," said Mrs. High Voice.  "Now can I help you get somewhere."

She was beginning to lose her desire to get that handbag and winter coat.

"First, thank you.  You have been so kind.  Second, I think I'm just going to go into that store and sit in their restaurant and get some hot tea," she told the woman.  And also a handbag, she thought.

"I can walk you over," the lady offered.  She thought that voice might drive her crazy but it probably drove the woman crazy, too.

"If I inconvenience you further, I will be embarrassed," she told the lady.

"Then I wish you a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving," the lady told her.

"I wish you the same," she said.

"There is much to be thankful for," said Mrs. High Voice.

"Barfing on the street isn't one of them," she told her.

Mrs. High Voice smiled.

"True enough," she replied, turned and walked away.

Hot tea sounded like a great idea.  And a black and white calfskin hide crossbody hobo with an outside pocket sounded good, too.  She headed up the street and took out her cell phone to send Lee a text about meeting for coffee on the weekend.  At the corner, just a few feet up from the light, the flesh-toned Fiat 500 sat with the blinkers going, two men inside who seemed to be chatting and looking in the rear and side view mirrors.  She changed the mode of the phone to camera, walked boldly to the back of the car, took a picture of the license plate and did something she'd not done since she was 26:  She ran.  It was more like a weird, lumbering gait, like something you'd see when the colossally unfit tried to get somewhere fast which is pretty much what this was.  If they'd seen her take the picture -- the giant and the handsome man -- she didn't know.  She burst into the store and headed to the rooftop restaurant.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

She Is Where, Part 11

Because she'd neglected to buy a train ticket ahead of time in Mount Prospect, she had to pay a penalty along with the price of ticket.  Like the handsome man, her almost boss, she paid cash.  She stared out the window all the way back into town and because it was a non-rush hour, it was as local as local could be, stopping in places where sometimes no one got on or off, giving her a lot of time for staring and heavy-duty thinking.

When the train pulled into the station, she had already decided that the first thing to do would be to find Mr. King and tell him what happened.  In his former career, Mr. King was a military policeman in the Army and he was very good at scoping people out.  He'd once told her he made a particular loop of the public area's of the building looking at everything that needed to be seen so if she went in the area where he walked, he would eventually come by.  Fortunately, it didn't take long.

"Hey, stranger," he said.  "I thought you went off on the train with those two gentlemen."

"I did," she said, trying to sound calm.  "But now I'm back and I've got questions."

"Go ahead and ask," he said.

"Have you ever seen those two men before?"

He thought for a minute, pursing his lips and squinting his eyes, but never taking his eyes off her.

"No, I never have," he replied.  "That one man was immense with kind eyes.   That other one, the handsome one, he knows he's handsome and his eyes were cold and they tried to be sincere, but he's not a sincere person."

"You got all that from a handshake and a look in the eyes?" she asked.

"You know it's been my job since I was eighteen years old," he said.  "You know I like the work."

She sighed and hunched a little.

"I know, Mr. King," she said.  "You just confirmed half of what I thought."

"Half?" he asked.

"I thought the giant was probably cold, too," she advised.

"No, I don't think so.  The big guy is way too scattered to be a criminal," Mr. King stated.  "He might be able to rip a phone book in half, though, but the phone book would have to be provoking him."  He paused.  "There was another question?"

"Yes," she said.  "Do you have tapes of the public areas?"

"I will neither confirm nor deny that," he told her, pulling out a notebook.  "I am making note of today's date and your name and I am writing handsome man and big guy.  Just in case."

"You know my name?" she asked.

"If I don't know your name -- and I know your name -- then I know how to get your name.  So don't you worry.  Do you want to tell me why I should be concerned?  Just the facts, now."

She told him what happened as succinctly as she could.

"Sounds like a bullshitter, pardon my French.  Weird.  I didn't think he was a killer.  The big guy?  Nothing criminal there.  The thing in the tiny bag?  There probably was a thing in it.  The big guy is not a moron.  Good thing you ditched them," he assessed.

"Good thing I didn't get pushed in front of the train," she said flatly.

"He wasn't going to do that.  Too many witnesses.  That's a busy area.  He wouldn't have been able to make a clean getaway," Mr. King said.

She breathed a sigh of genuine relief.

"But," said Mr. King, "I'll keep an eye out for them and if I see them, I'll watch them."

"Thanks, Mr. King," she said.

"You know I watch out for tenants," he said with a smile.

Since fate and the 11:19 had delivered her back to her place of business, she decided to go upstairs and face the situation head on.  In her case, that meant ignoring it and hoping for the best.

"Oh, you're here," said her manager with his usual lack of enthusiasm for her.  "Betsy wanted to see you but I told her you called in sick.  Her jaw dropped when I told her.  I guess you might swing by her office before you start work."

From his expression of smug self-satisfaction, she could tell he was hoping she was in serious trouble.  Betsy was the office vice president and usually only saw people to deal them a harsh blow.  He always forgot that she and Betsy had worked together at another job and had been friends for 21 years, something she never flaunted to anyone.  She told him okay, got up, and walked over to Betsy's office on the other side of the building.

Betsy was surprised to see her.

"Oh!  I was told you were sick," Betsy said.

"I thought I was too, but I guess it was just a short bug," she advised.

"Good, listen, I am hoping you can do something for me.  You know they just started up that new office on the other side of the river, right?  Well, they did a lousy job of hiring and they need someone with your skillset.  Would you mind going over there and helping them out for a few weeks?"

She looked at Betsy as if she were seven years old and it was Christmas morning.

"Yes," I said.  "Do you want me to go next week?"

"No," she said, "I want you to go there now.  And if you like it and they like you, then maybe you can stay there.  They really had no idea what they were doing when they hired the crew they have."

She had applied to work at that location but had been refused with a letter that stated there were too many solid applicants.  What had happened was that they'd hired everyone who had worked together in another office that had closed.  They worked well together but the new office gave challenges they'd never dealt with and they were failing pretty miserably.  She, on the other hand, had vast experience working with everything.

"Take just what you need for the next few weeks and if you stay, you can come over here and pack up everything and we'll send it over," Betsy said.

She walked back to her desk, said a vague farewell -- "I'm off to work on the other side of the river." -- and took her two favorite pens, her work binder, coffee cup, and leather coaster with the deep coffee stains.   Her manager glowered at her and she grinned sarcastically at him.  She turned and walked over and told Lee to stand up so she could give him a hug, whispered what happened in his ear, making him squeal "Boo Boo!" in her ear with delight.

"Call me tonight," said Lee.

"I will, Boo," and she ran out the door, down the street, and over the river, where the new office really did need her and she ended up transferring.

She called Lee and told him about what had happened -- no doctor and keep it to yourself for a change -- after Lee had gone up to the office.  He attributed the handsome man's reaction to being a handsome man.

"Handsome men aren't often refused," he said.  "Who would turn him down?  How handsome was he?"

"He was the handsomest man I've ever seen in my life," she said.  "He was movie star handsome."

"Yeah, no one ever tells him no," said Lee.

"Boo, why didn't he tell me his name, his business name, anything tangible?"

"Handsome men don't have to," he said.  "Or don't feel like they have to."  After a pause.  "How handsome?"

"Boo Boo, are you going to be dreaming of how handsome and touching yourself?" she asked.

"Stop it!  I don't touch myself when I think of handsome men."

"Liar!" she said.

"I have to know how handsome first," he countered.  Then they both laughed a particularly loud laugh they both only used when together and she changed the subject to the new job.

Days passed, and months, and Halloween came and her new manager had a Talk Like Bela Lugosi Day and gave out prizes for the best Lugosi, male and female.

"Costumes are intimidating," the new manager said,  "but accents are just stupid fun."

They were still waiting to get final approval for her to work in that office permanently but until that happened she refused to go to the old office and get what was left of her things.  She took a different mode of transportation to work and never had reason to go to the train station, eventually putting the handsome man and the giant into a remote corner of her brain.

Thanksgiving was the next week and she took an afternoon off to go buy a new winter coat and visit her dermatologist about a particularly ugly skin tag on her neck.  She had time and decided to walk, talking a route that would take her to look at handbags before she got the coat.

She was waiting for a light to change when she saw the giant stuffed into a flesh-toned Fiat 500.  The back seat looked like it had been removed to accommodate the front seat being customized back further.  Her eyes were like saucers and she hoped he didn't see her.

But of course he did and he honked and waved.

"Hey," he yelled as he rolled down the window, looking stern.  "Where you working now?"

"A different office," she said, the crowd pushing around her.  "Sorry, I have to go," she told him, her mouth dry from fear, and she joined the crowd crossing the street, ducking into a building that she knew had two side entrances.

She hadn't thought to get his license number.