Beacon for the Metaphorical Penis is a serial flash fiction post thing I started writing last year. My intention was to post a new chapter every week, but–surprise!– I really suck at planning.
It had been several weeks and still Dee was jobless. Her best friend, Layla, was convinced Dee was doing something wrong. The other day, when Dee dropped by her house for a visit, the two friends were standing in the kitchen as Layla leaned against the counter, beer in hand, grilling Dee.
“You complain about not finding a job, but are you really looking? Because there are jobs out there. I know a guy who works with Steve. He’s a teacher, looking for an aide.”
Dee knew who she was talking about. Well, sort of. She’d never met the drama teacher, Mr. Collins, but she’d heard about him plenty. Layla had asked about setting Dee up with the guy.
“I want a job like the one I used to have. In publishing.” Dee tipped her beer glass up, downing the last few gulps.
Layla waved her hand dismissively at Dee. “I’m trying to help. Not set you up. Although, if I were single….” She didn’t finish, but changed the subject. “I want you to come out with me tonight.”
Layla opened the refrigerator. Pulling out two more bottles of Blue Moon she answered in a deep, television narrator-type voice. “Jimmy’s Pizza is proudly hosting The Corporate Games.”
Dee laughed. “What?”
Layla popped the top off the first bottle and began refilling her friends glass. “Steve and I got invited to the school’s annual game night. Basically, it’s a bunch of high school staffers acting like teenagers. They separate the staff into teams of three or four and all of them have to play Guitar Hero.”
Dee laughed again. “No. I’m not doing that.”
Layla shook her head. “I don’t expect you to. I’m not doing it either. But it’s a chance to hang out and eat free pizza, courtesy Los Angeles Unified. And we get to watch all the teachers make fools of themselves.”
Dee thought about it while sipping at her beer.
“Alright. I’ll go,” she consented, with one condition. “But just to watch.”
Jimmy’s Pizza was not easy to find. Even Google was getting it wrong. The kind voice of the GPS kept telling Dee to go into a Denny’s parking lot. She drove around the block a few times before finally spotting the small, short sign half-hidden by an overgrown Oleander shrub. Apparently, Jimmy was quite confident in his pizza making capabilities and didn’t need to worry about minor things like foot traffic and street visibility. The place was small, with low ceilings and was located right behind the Denny’s restaurant.
The front door opened into the alley. The parking was non-existent. The outside lights were flickering and Dee was sure she saw a group of teenagers drinking at the corner.
The pizza had better be worth it. Dee thought, stealing into a compact space on the corner across from the restaurant.
When Dee opened the front door, there was row after row of long family-style tables in a long room. The center of the long room, was a tall projector and screen. And a Playstation. Dee noted a small group of people in brightly colored punk-rock wigs fiddling around with wires and instrument shaped controllers as she got in line to place her order.
Just before her turn at the window, Dee heard her name being called. It was Layla. She was waving from the end of a long table across the room, near the bar. Dee could see Layla pointing to a large pizza in the middle of her table.
The pizza is free, Dee remembered and set off for the table.
The two friends stuffed their faces and people-watched as the semi-empty restaurant filled up. Dee caught echoes of conversations from all over the room. It seemed every teacher from nearly every high school in the area was present. There were History teachers discussing their political affiliations, several English teachers talking about Romeo and Juliet—which film version they preferred to show once the class was done reading the play—and several other conversations which had nothing at all to do with school or work. The one Dee honed in on was taking place behind her. It was the voices of two men standing nearby. Their hushed tones indicated they were having a private conversation, but rather than deterring Dee’s interest, it piqued.
“… and I can’t figure out why.”
“Wait. You mean she left? Like, for good?”
A pregnant pause had Dee holding her breath, wondering if the responder had nodded his head—yes, or shook it—no.
“Three weeks ago.”
So it was a yes. Someone—a woman—left one of the men who were standing behind her.
“She must have said something—gave some indication. Wives don’t just leave without a reason.”
Dee’s heart thrummed wildly. His marriage ended? How devastating. She shouldn’t be listening. She knew that. But she couldn’t stop herself. Obscene curiosity was one of her many flaws. Hearing other peoples stories made her want to write her own. She lived for that inspiration.
“She did. Give a reason.” The tone of this stranger’s voice was so soft, so poignant, it made her bones ache.
“Are you going to tell me what it was?” The second man asked, obviously just as nosey as Dee herself—only difference being, he had a right to be. He was the one being confided in.
“No.” Sort of.
There was some mumbling, some shuffling and Dee realized that the pair behind her was moving. As she turned her head, she noticed that she’d been leaning far over; an unconscious effort to hear the strangers conversing.
She was the reason they were leaving.
Lifting her gaze, Dee only saw their backs. Even so, she noted that one of the men was clearly older than the other—having thinning grey hair. And the younger man had longer hair, probably down to his shoulders, she assumed but couldn’t be sure since it was pulled back into a low ponytail.