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Flash Fiction Friday: Re-post Part 4

Beacon for the Metaphorical Penis: Part 4

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.”

“Where?”

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.

 “When?”

“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.

And then Dee had a sudden hunch that she knew that long-haired stranger, een though she’d never seen his face.

#FlashFiction Repost Part 3

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A Beacon for the Metaphorical Penis

3.
Dee often felt sorry for people that had to sit beside her in traffic. She liked her coffee strong and her music loud. She also liked to sing along and would often nod unashamedly at the unfortunates stuck beside her as they rolled up their car windows.
She loved her little Jetta. The sound system came stock with the car which was, by far, the nicest and most dependable model she ever owned. It was also her first brand new car. She’d made the down payment with last years’ Christmas bonus from her former employer.
Stopped at one of LA’s many traffic lights, Dee sang at top of her lungs, idly wondering how delinquent her payments could get before the dealership sent out the repo-men.
It was still Friday and with her clothes smelling Tide-fresh, Dee felt invigorated on her way to the local grocery store.
As she drifted through the crowded parking lot, a compact space near the front of the store opened up. Dee hooked the wheel left and snagged it. On her way inside, she noted the spot was also close to two Basket Return stalls and smiled at the small stroke of luck.
Inside the store, Dee pushed her cart, feeling dazed by the ridiculous amount of devilish makeup and costumes that cluttered the stores usually neat aisles. But it wasn’t long before her drifting gaze came to stop on the enormous display of Halloween candies.
No, she told herself and moved on.
Dee didn’t need much. Just odds and ends and she was running low on Cup ‘O’ Noodles. She didn’t need candy. There were never trick-or-treaters in her building.
Standing in the slow check-out line, Dee stared at her microwave food products. She was going to get high cholesterol if she didn’t start eating better. And she wanted sugar. Badly. But it made her lazy and Dee had too much to do. As the conveyor belt rolled forward, her sugar craving grew ravenous. Turning to her right, Dee searched the small display of candy bars. They had Reeses. Well, the holiday version shaped like pumpkins.
Dee turned to the check-out clerk mindlessly swiping her items. “Excuse me. Do you have the regular peanut butter cups?”
“There should be a box of them on the third shelf.” The girl gestured to the very spot where the pumpkin shaped confections rested.
Dee smiled. “I don’t mean the jack-o-lanterns. I’m looking for the standard, round cups.”
The clerk’s forehead crumpled. Dee was not surprised. No one understood her aversion.
“I need the flat, even cups. Those lumpy pumpkin things don’t taste the same. The mound-shape throws off the chocolate to peanut butter ratio.” Dee didn’t indulge her sugar addiction as often as she used to. When she did, though, she had to get what she wanted or the splurge was pointless.
All her items were scanned. And still, the check-out girl just stared at her. “I don’t understand. Aren’t they the same chocolate and peanut butter?”
Dee could see that the line behind her had doubled in size. “Yes. They are.” She dug into her wallet. “But they don’t taste the same. I need even distribution. The peanut butter in the holiday shape is too thick. I prefer the regular cups. Do you have any of those?”
Dee noticed more than a few wry smiles on the faces of surrounding customers. Every time she explained this eccentricity of hers, people shook their heads as if it were unbelievable. It wasn’t as if she was asking the Reeses’ company to separate the peanut butter and chocolate, she simply wanted some consistency.
The checker shook her head and took Dee’s payment. “If you don’t see them over there, then we don’t have them. Sorry.”
Dee pushed her basket out to the parking lot, still craving sugar. Her car cheerily chirped when she pressed the key fob. If Dee hadn’t been so hangry, she might have smiled.
After placing her bags in the car, Dee found herself in the middle of another conundrum. Her car was in the exact middle space between two basket returns. And Dee could not decide which one was closest.

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This is a Larry David moment, Dee thought, laughing to herself. It was the type of simple issue that the brilliant writer Larry David — co-creator of Seinfeld which birthed the terms ‘close-talker’, ‘man-hands,’ and ‘chat-and-cut,’ — might write about. The type of silly social awkwardness that made Dee laugh her ass off. She was tempted to take the time to count the steps between the car and return stall.
“This one’s closer.”
Dee turned in the direction of the voice and was dumbstruck. Parked just beside her Jetta, was a king cab pickup; white with barrels of paint and ladders strewn in the back. There was a man standing behind it. He looked to be Dee’s age, with soft brown hair that hung smoothly to the tops of his shoulders and big blue eyes.
“What?” Dee managed to ask, taken aback by the striking masculinity staring back at her.
“This cart return,” he pointed to the right, “is closer than that one.” He shook his head almost like he was embarrassed and Dee nearly fainted.
Damn. He was pretty. Masculine, but beautiful. Like Brad Pitt in Thelma and Louise pretty.
He was Jared Leto pretty.
And he was talking to Dee.
“I’m sorry. It’s just… you looked like you couldn’t decide. I figured since most people don’t bother to return the baskets in the first place, that you were probably looking for the most efficient way—” He shut his mouth and walked towards her, reaching.
Dee’s heart sputtered to a stop and picked up again, double-time as Mister Gorgeous came within striking distance. Then he was inches away, passing a hand in front of her. Dee took a deep breath. Oh, he smelled better than he looked.
How the hell is that possible?
“I’ll just take this for you.” He smiled. And she stopped breathing. “You have a nice day.”
She watched him walk through the parking lot, taking her empty basket with him into the store