"How are your reflexes, son?

"Honestly, sir?"

"Yes, Skip, honestly. Please. Always."


"That's fine."

Jorn had played tour guide to Skip all morning, showing the new employee around the Tower on his first day. The tour had wound itself into the cafeteria, where Jorn had bought Skip a heaping portion of Turkey Chili. Jorn himself was not eating.

One table over, Tim and Ray:

"I should apologize."

"I've eaten with you before. I had no illusions about what was gonna happen here."

"To Clara. I accused that guy she likes of being a breech birth. It's not right."


"His head is weirdly shaped."

"You need to just ask Clara out."

"His head is dented."

"Ask her out."

"I can't."

"Then leave her alone."

"I can't."

Jorn put his hand on Skip's shoulder and leaned them both towards the adjacent table. Jorn angled Skip's shoulders so he was facing Tim:

"Skip, do you remember a dating show called "Entrances and Exits"? Well, Tim and Clara, she works in development, you'll meet her this afternoon, they were both on that show during their college years. You'd gotten recruited at your local mall, is that right?

Yes, good. Now the two of them had each made it through several elimination rounds. They'd answered questions about their hobbies and their…proclivities and they'd been selected by both audience members and fellow contestants as desirable. Finally, they stood alone. Tim had more points so he was offered an option. He could walk out one door with Clara on his arm, a savings bond in his bank account and two passes to a jazz festival in his pocket. Or he could open the Surprise Door.

They had to cut away to commercial and then show highlights from previous episodes because of how long Tim sat in the Decision Chamber. But eventually he emerged, approached Clara and took her hands in his. Then he walked her over to the Exit Door and had to look into her eyes as he closed it in her face.

Tim, I do believe your hand was trembling a bit when you reached for that Surprise Door."

"I learned my lesson. There were snakes behind that door."

"We know, son. We all have the tape."

"I thought Clara was amazing. I still do. But damnit you know what had been behind the Surprise Door the week before…. "

"Oh, we have that tape too."

Ray spooned some of Skip's turkey chili: "You need to let this girl move on. Pull the trigger or leave her be."

Jorn nodded. "Ray has a point. But jealousy is a compliment. It's also honest."

"Babies are honest."

"I'm not a baby. Babies can't close doors."

Tim let his head drop to his chest. Jorn mussed his hair affectionately and then gently pulled his head up until his eyes met Skip's. Jorn then did the same with Ray. They all sat together for a moment. Jorn cleared his throat:

"Tell me again Skip. Tell us all. How are those reflexes?"


1 comment:

S said...

From across the table you lean over and brush my wet hair, rubbing it between your fingers before letting it fall. Earlier we rushed through the rain, smiling, though neither of us held an umbrella. I wonder if you rub other girls that gently.

Today I'm wearing the green sweater you like, the soft one with the alligator. Lint colors my coat green and I pluck out pieces one by one, dead flowers off a tree that once stood proud, beautiful even.

I watch young lovers carve their names into an oak underneath the swooning lamplight, gold and bright, using a rusted key someone has left behind. They are grinning at each other and as I blink, I remind myself that there is a difference between forgetting and leaving behind.

In a few years time, all that will be left are initials a child will later pass his fingers over in search of something else.

I picked up my sweater by accident this morning and thought of you. My smile curved into a rainbow, a hush passing over my lips, stuck for an instant beween pleasure and...what else? What's the word for unsent letters and empty toasts and sighs a moment too long?

You could make it go away with just a brush of your hand, long and lean, or are they hardened to me, too and would feel stiffer somehow. The letter of your first name does not type anymore--I have to hold the key down for it to stay. The cold air on this chilly morning passes without ever getting to you--my smile curves less and less.

The only thing we now share are the stars. I wish further.