A Perfect Waste Of Human Hearts
“If they ever autopsy you,” he says, “they’ll find ‘after all I did for you’ engraved on your tongue.”
His latest File Clerk Barbie, whose lipstick reddens his chin, gasps. We continue to ignore her.
“Stop the waterworks,” he tells me. “Crying leaves me cold.”
I stalk from his office. My tears feel viscous, more like blood than saltwater.
Stilletos click-click after me. A hand touches my elbow.
It’s Barbie, her vapid, kiss-me face altered into Outraged Sisterhood.
“He looks so harmless and pink and flirty,” she says.
“Who knew he was … like some ancient Spaniard or something? Like a human sacrifice or something.”
“That was Aztecs. It was the Spaniards they did it to.”
“Whatever. My god, he cut your heart out!”
“Finally. Good riddance to it.”
She giggles, a sound like a feathered serpent. I wipe my face, heedless of the black and purple smears I no doubt leave across my temples.
We carve him up between us over mugs of bitter chocolate. He is, we decide, a perfect waste of human hearts.
The Principle of the Thing
Carol logs off the ‘net. “If you’re single,” she says, “your parents decide.”
Gene stops snapping his fingers to the Duke Ellington MP3, his improvised scat lyrics dying on his lips.
*Yesterday, for the first time since Carol moved in with Gene, Carol’s mom called her. It was supposedly for lunch, supposedly to make peace after the Big Fight. Carol knew better; she knew it would be another attack on her lifestyle.
It began well, though, with Mom giving Gene a big hug and giving him some leads on bookings for his jazz combo. She invited him to lunch, but he had just crawled out of bed to say hello and planned to crawl back in as soon as she left. Carol expected her mother to make a stink about that, but Mom just said she understood, that she had worked nights at a mold and tool shop, and scat-singing in jazz clubs was “the same thing, only different.”
Not a word was said about Carol and Gene’s living arrangements, not then, not during lunch, not on the journey back to the apartment.
“The way people drive these days!” Mom said, as they passed a fender-bender. “You’re taking your life in your hands to get on the road. If I’m ever in an accident, I’ve got it all arranged. They’re going to have me hooked up to so much gear, I’ll look like the backside of a computer. Got some insurance that covers that. I’ve got a policy on you, too.”
“Not me. I just want to go.”
Carol’s mom laughed.
“I mean it. Gene and I have discussed it. Neither of us is to put the other one on life-support.”
“What’s Gene got to do with it?”
Mom patted her hand and smiled.
*Now Carol stares at her monitor. “If it came to it, she wouldn’t…. Not against my wishes….”
“Mine would,” says Gene. He drifts over to stand behind her, reading the words on the screen.
*Carol’s mother squeals her congratulations when the kids call the next day to tell her they tied the knot at the courthouse. She makes arrangements to pick them up and take them to the Indian restaurant for a celebration dinner.
After she hangs up, she cannot resist one small chocolate of victory. She looks into the mirror and toasts her grinning face with the morsel. “Mr. Motivation,” she tells herself, “is our friend.”
Without A Hitch
I’m tooling along, making good time, loose and relaxed for the first time in days. It’s coming on dusk when I see the guy walking backward, his nose poking through a mat of hair like a misplaced thumb in a torn glove. He’s in jeans and a t-shirt, colorless in the dusk. His eyes gleam hopefully in my headlights. He grins, and his teeth glisten.
He must be nuts, wanting somebody to pick him up after today’s news. I pass him reluctantly. I really hate to just leave him. I haven’t seen any traffic either way since I turned onto this road, and chances are nobody else has seen him and nobody else will see him.
Ah, well, can’t be helped. I lower my face as I pass, adjusting the radio to catch the evening report. It’s a repeat of the afternoon – nothing new.
I decide to get some drive-through dinner. With a big enough go-cup of strong coffee, I can stay on the road all night. I want to put some distance between myself and the one they haven’t found yet.
I hate this dead end job. One more stop, one more box, then I send a tiny lead express package to my brain. ‘Tis the season.
The old lady is on the porch before I set my brake. She’s wearing a flower-patterned housedress like I remember my great-granny wearing. I didn’t know they made those things any more. She’s wearing those slippers that have a fuzzy sole and a wide fluffy strap across the arch. Her feet are boney, her toes twisted.
Come on, I think, I want to get this over with.
As if to oblige me, she moves faster than I expected. She reaches for the package I hold, but I put my clipboard into her hands.
She signs, then waves the board over her head. She dances on the gravel, grey braids flopping, house shoes flapping.
“It came! It came! Just in time!”
A man about my age steps onto the porch.
“Can you get it, Momma? Need help?”
She trades me clipboard for box and winks at me with shiny old eyes. “Never you mind. Just never you mind.”
The man chuckles. “I never saw a thing. I’m still taking a nap.” He calls, “Merry Christmas!” to me and goes back inside.
My day ends with a beer, not a bullet. I’m looking forward to tomorrow, and another bulging sleigh.