It was a big box joint, out on a low overhead stretch of highway. The pink neon sign arching over the entrance to the parking lot read CRYPTS, a division of Marshal Memorial Inc. Below that was a flashing white neon sign reading Drive-Thru. I drove on, and waited in line for the order window. There was only one car ahead of us, a red Cadillac, circa 1975. The driver had been talking into a speaker next to his driver’s side window for several minutes, before two men arrived at the passenger side of the car with a gurney. Opening the car door, they pulled the body of an elderly man out of the car. He wore a rumpled brown suit and only one shoe. The two men placed his body onto the gurney, while the driver watched and waved a slow, sad good-bye. Then the dead old man was wheeled away, as a slot below the speaker spat out a paper tape and credit card that the Cadillac man took, before he drove away.
Gaultier, LisaSophia only owns one pair of shoes. They’re cute, chubby heels, short enough that she can walk all day long relatively painlessly. They’re black, varnished, the kind that attract no attention whatsoever, so it would take you a while to notice. If you meet her in the summer, and you start hanging out, say you take her on a date to the beach, you might notice then, because you’re wearing flip flops (which isn’t a great idea on a first date, your toes aren’t that nice) and she’s stumbling in the sand, tripping, looking quite stupid. It’s alright though because she almost falls and you catch her in your arms like a princess and you both laugh and blush, you say why don’t you take off your shoes and she does, a little self-consciously. Now you feel a little less stupid about your flip flops even if they keep going flip flop. She tells you about being a vet and her scratch and sniff sticker collection, about how in college she auditioned for The Voice but didn’t get picked. By the end of the day you’ve had so much fun her shoes got lost somewhere and you didn’t realise it. You laugh it off and carry her from the beach to the Uber and from the Uber to her apartment, it’s lovely and romantic, you kiss her goodbye and you feel giddy, excited, you think about it at night, but Sophia has no shoes and she’s wondering how she’ll get to work tomorrow.
Since retiring from the San Francisco Probation Department and relocating to Sarasota, Florida, I have been lunching with Roscoe Bennett in a pizzeria on Route 41. We don’t go there for the pizza, which tastes like warmed-up cardboard; we go for the happy hour and a generous choice of beers.
I didn’t know why Reverend Belcher from the Breckinville Church of the Godly called to say he wanted to see me, but I suspected it was nothing good. “We open at 10 a.m.,” I told him. “Why don’t you stop by around 9:00, and we can chat here at the putt putt.”
Characters presented in this story are purely fictional. Any resemblance to humans walking the face of this earth, today or in the past is purely coincidental.
Rain was spattering off the windows like a lunatic’s depiction of the Niagara Falls. Occasionally, the odd drop would be eerily illuminated by a passing headlight. These privileged drops would fade into dull oblivion within seconds, joining the herd of drops that continued to assault the windows like an angry geography teacher with an AK-47.
Wilma sat down at the table.
“You’re a fisherman for fuck sake.”
“I was, I’m retired.”
“That’s beside the point, you know what it’s like about here, you were a fisherman and you always will be!”
“I’ll grab the corn and you grab the potatoes,” Poncho yelled to Julia. Julia was wearing her wedding dress, full train and veil, to save time. She wouldn’t have to change when they returned.
…I always wanted to have a shot at some of that inner dialogue speaking to me.
You know the shit that I’m talking about; the ‘Sex In The City’ voice, ‘True Romance’ and me hearing Alabama, or even I suppose, John-Boy from The ‘Waltons’. Any of them would have done and I wanted it to be from me for me.
It nearly happened. Once.
Locate me in the back row of the church choir. It’s not difficult. Since it’s rehearsal night, there aren’t that many of us, and even fewer if you are looking at the men’s row. That’s me, younger than the geezer profundo over to my left. I’m young enough to be the the son of the forty-something tenor to my right. He sings ahead of the beat. I was pressured to join because I play the piano. Never let them know you can play the piano, by the way—free advice. This is one of my first (respectable) adult activities: the church choir.