by Dan Nielsen
Simon Narrow’s First Day
Eyes still half shut, Simon Narrow chose a random packet of instant oatmeal from the assortment box. Cinnamon Apple. Not his favorite, but they all tasted much the same. The microwave was old and slow and required nine extra pressings of the button. While he waited, Simon watched Popeye, the one where Bluto has a Hitler moustache.
Simon showered and shaved. He considered a splash of Old Spice. It was a secret Santa gift from Gwen. There was very little left. He’d save it. He chose a shirt, slacks, tie, socks, and jacket that matched because they were various kinds of green.
An opportunity to earn up to $100,000 a year in his spare time had somehow gotten mixed in with the porn on his computer. For verification that he was actually Simon Narrow he’d provided a copy of his driver’s license, his credit card and social security numbers, and the password for his online banking. The training seminar was at a former Taco Bell. He needed to be there by 9. That gave him time to stop by Gwen’s place and give her the good news. It was Saturday. She’d have off.
This was Simon’s first job since the sexual harassment complaint, which, in his opinion, was all just a big misunderstanding. He’d had a dream. Gwen was in it. She was naked. He’d told her. Fifteen minutes later he was escorted from the building by a security guard.
Gwen Weber was at the kitchen table with her husband Blake. Their son Scotty was in her lap. The doorbell rang.
Blake glanced out the window. He recognized the car in the driveway.
“Goddamn it, Gwen, it’s that sociopath pervert! What the fuck is he doing here?”
“I’ll take care of it, honey. Finish your breakfast. I’ll be back in a second.”
Scotty was on Gwen’s hip as she moved from the kitchen, through the living room, and to the front door. She opened it.
“Hi, Gwen. Is that your baby?”
“Why are you here, Simon? You shouldn’t be here.”
“I have a new job, in case you were wondering. A better job.”
“That’s nice, Simon, but you really should leave.”
“I just wanted to let you know in case you felt bad about getting me fired.”
“You need to leave now, Simon.”
Scotty made a gurgling sound. Simon reached out to pat him on the head. Gwen turned away and, instead of the baby, Simon’s hand patted Gwen’s breast.
“Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry…” Simon repeated, walking backwards, missing the first step, falling hard, and hitting his head with a horrible sound on the cement sidewalk.
Blake heard the crash and ran to the door.
“He touched my tit, but I think it was an accident. Then he fell off the porch.”
“What a dick.”
Scotty gurgled some more and waved his arms. Gwen and Blake stood in silence waiting for the body on their sidewalk to move. Simon had no idea what to do, so he laid there, motionless, with his eyes closed.
“Is he dead?”
“I don’t think so. Maybe. He hit his head pretty hard.”
“Serves him right.”
Gwen’s cellphone was in her jeans pocket. She took it out and dialed a number.
“Who are you calling?”
“What are you going to say?”
Gwen lifted a finger.
“I want to report an accident…there’s a man lying unconscious on my sidewalk…he fell off the porch and hit his head…yes, I know him…no, he isn’t moving.” Gwen looked at her husband. “No, I’d rather not touch him. He’s an intruder.”
Gwen made a face at Blake. Blake made the same face back. Gwen said their address and listened while it was repeated to her. They stood on the porch until they heard the siren. Then they went inside.
Sheila’s Favorite Radio Station
Sheila Bavatsky sat at the kitchen table. Paul lay at her feet. He’d already been out and had his can of Alpo. His Sunday morning was over. Sheila’s had just begun. The radio was tuned to her favorite station, the one where smart people discuss topics. Sheila had no interest in topics, but these smart people did, and she liked to listen.
The coffeemaker went “ding.” Sheila stood up, filled her cup, added non-dairy creamer, and took a sip. She sprayed Pam into a frying pan, set the burner for high, and cracked an egg. It was a double yolk. This meant something. Sheila wasn’t sure what, but it was probably bad. She moved the pan to the sink and turned on the faucet. The sound of cold water on hot metal was loud, but not unpleasant. She switched on the garbage disposal. Paul barked until the noise stopped. Sheila rinsed and dried the now cool pan and returned it to the stove. She sprayed more Pam. She cracked another egg. Another double yolk. Sheila dropped the pan, double yolk and all, into the trash. There was only one egg left. Sheila was afraid of what she might find inside the shell. Her coat was on a hook by the back door. She put it on.
Paul barked when Sheila opened the door, and again when it closed, and yet again when the car started.
Clay Bavatsky was in his basement workshop painting a birdhouse. He did not build birdhouses. He bought them readymade, but unpainted. He painted them blue, like the sky.
Why was Paul barking? Clay stopped painting. Through the window, he saw Sheila’s car backing out of the driveway. Expecting his breakfast to be on the table, Clay went upstairs. There was no sign of breakfast, other than a frying pan handle sticking out of the garbage.
“Paul, where did Sheila go?”
Paul looked up at the sound of his name, but he had no idea where Sheila had gone.
The car radio had a preset-button for Sheila’s favorite station. The same people were still talking, as though nothing had happened.
Sheila had nowhere to go, so she just drove. In the distance, just above the horizon, she saw a tower with a blinking red light on top. Sheila drove toward it until she came to a small, brick building. Big red letters and numbers on the side of the building were the letters and numbers of her favorite radio station. Sheila parked in the lot, got out of the car, and went inside.
A girl sat at a desk.
“Would you like a bumper sticker?”
“Would you like to be on our mailing list?”
The girl handed Sheila a card and a pencil. She filled in her name and address, but not her email. Clay didn’t believe in computers.
The far wall was solid glass. On the other side of the glass, a man and a woman were speaking into microphones. Sheila walked up so close her nose touched. The woman looked at Sheila. Sheila waved. The woman waved back. Then the man looked at Sheila, and he waved, too.
Sheila walked back to her car. She put the bumper sticker into the glove compartment. She still had nowhere to go so she just drove.
Dan Nielsen drinks bourbon and plays ping pong. Old credits include Random House and University of Iowa Press anthologies. Recent work has appeared in, or is scheduled to appear in: Jellyfish Review, The Fem, Semaphore Magazine, Minor Literature[s], Storm Cellar, and Pidgeonholes. Dan has a website: Preponderous