SUPPER’S READY

Hard boiled egg whites, cottage cheese, skim milk. Day 1. Brian sighed.

Boiled rice, a mozzarella slice, lactose-free milk. Day 2. Brian cried.

Yogurt, tofu, almond milk. Day 3. Brian died … just a little. 

After receiving the diagnosis “ULCER”, Brian’s wife Ali had been lovingly, carefully packing his lunch. “This must be her White Period”, he thought, wistfully. 

Coworkers averted their eyes as they passed Brian’s cubicle on their way to lunch. Gone were the cheerful calls “C’mon, Brian! We’re going to Smokin’ Joe’s Hot Wings for lunch!” or “Salsa and nachos in the break room, guys!” Oh, the humanity! 

Brian’s computer *pinged*. An email from Ali: “Hi, hon. Hope you’re having a great day. Did you find the Maalox I put in your backpack? We’re having something special for dinner tonight … poached chicken, brown rice and garbanzo beans … hope you’re hungry! Love ya, babe! xo”  

“Ah, Ali’s Beige Period.” Brian stared blankly at the computer screen. “I wonder how many beige foods there are … oatmeal, boiled potatoes, matzoh….” 

Brian put his head in his hands, a solitary tear falling through his fingers onto his khakis. Slowly the wet spot morphed into the shape of a slice of pizza. “What the … ?!” Incredulous, Brian blinked and wiped his eyes. “What’s happening to me?!” Images of devilish cramp-inducing, bowel-seizing delicacies danced ‘round his head … jalapeño poppers, tacos, barbecued ribs.

“The dreaded hunger hallucinations!” Sweating, Brian texted Ali. “Babe. Last minute meeting. Sorry, I’m gonna miss dinner. Love ya!”  

Brian lied. 

Grabbing the bottle of Maalox and a Little Caesars menu from his desk drawer, Brian bolted from his cubicle, giddy as a new dad at the birth of his son. 

“Outta my way, boys, outta my way!!”

And out he ran, laughing and joyfully shouting, “Jalapeño-effing-poppers, baby!!” 

NAR © 2017

CHANCE ENCOUNTER

Waves of glorious flaxen hair rippled down her back, swaying and bouncing with every high-heeled, leggy stride she took.

Never one to shy away from attention, especially that of the male population, she confidently waltzed down Fifth Avenue toward Saks, stunning in red Manolo’s and a parchment white dress. 

Admiring looks didn’t intimidate her; quite the contrary. They titillated her, challenged her to be more daring and quite a bit risqué. It was all a game and she loved to play.

As she strolled the avenue, stopping to look in this window or that one, she noticed the reflection of a man leaning drowsily against a parked car. Accustomed to men looking her way, she thought nothing of it at first but found herself glancing at the reflection once again. Sliding her Ray Bans a little down her nose, she gave this mystery man’s image a furtive peek. Intriguing. 

Repositioning her glasses, she continued window shopping, collecting all the longing glances cast her way and storing them in her bag like so many colorful Easter eggs. Every so often she’d linger at a quaint little shop or gallery, acutely aware of her mystery man shadowing her along the way. Now this is getting interesting. Slowly she removed her shades and gave his reflection a long look. 

Why not? Slipping her sunglasses on, she turned around to a vision that caught her breath … from head to toe the epitome of elegance and charm. Black hair, tanned skin, charcoal grey pinstripe suit, crisp white shirt, black and silver Art Deco tie and Italian shoes … not black but the exact color of his suit. Nice touch.

She smiled. He smiled. She turned slightly, continuing on her way, no longer with a mysterious shadow – now with a companion to wherever. 

Every man wanted her. Every man wanted to be him.

NAR © 2017

BLINDSIDED

Hard to imagine life without her. When the hell did everything start to unravel?

Now he sat alone in the shell of their apartment, baseball game on the tv playing for no one, nursing his second Dewars. Once upon a time this place was alive with people enjoying one of their famous dinner parties. When he closed his eyes he could hear their friends discussing politics, movies, the crazy tenants on the 2nd  floor … and the sound of her spirited laugh when someone told a dirty joke. 

They were the perfect couple, the envy of all their friends. Theirs was an easy, comfortable marriage – viewing a gallery in SoHo, cycling through Central Park, steamy showers after Saturday morning love-making. They were in sync in their choices of restaurants, paint colors and the biggest decision of all … neither one wanted kids. 

He sat there, head in hands while a thousand thoughts went through his mind. When did he begin having second thoughts? Was it the weekend in Maine spent visiting his sister after the birth of her first baby? Was it watching the kids in the playground across the street? All he could remember was the night he whispered in her ear that he wanted to have a baby. 

She was blindsided. What? No! He was just named partner at Goldman Sachs. She was food editor for Connoisseur magazine. Life is perfect. They had an agreement, dammit! Would she just consider thinking about it? No! How could he spring this on her now? 

Weeks, months went by. She remained adamant, distant. Then one day he came home after work and she was gone. 

Here he sat, alone with his Dewars, ballgame long over, fingering his wedding band, staring at divorce papers. 

It couldn’t have happened to a more perfect couple.

NAR © 2017

JUST THIS ONE

“Impressive collection you have here” said Jackson to the owner of the record store.

“Feel free to look around” came a voice from somewhere behind a stack of boxes.

Jackson browsed the tiny cubby of a store, appropriately named “The Inner Sleeve”, looking for nothing in particular. 

“Psst. Down here,” whispered a battered box stashed in the corner. Jackson crouched down to wipe the dust off a yellowed label.

SIDNEY BECHET” 

Feeling a jolt shoot straight to his heart, fingers racing through musty LPs, suddenly there it was- “Les Annees Bechet”, #1: “Petite Fleur”.

“I’ll be damned”, whispered Jackson. No longer was he in “The Inner Sleeve”. It was Paris, 1982 in that enchanting café … what was the name?

Café de la Paix. Yes, that was it!” he recalled. And then, in a barely perceptible hush, “Lisette”.

Slumping back against the wall, Jackson clasped the precious vinyl against his chest, caressed it lovingly with the same fingers that raced through the box just seconds before. The same fingers that released Lisette’s raven hair from its ‘pince à cheveax’ and showered it across her porcelain shoulders. The same fingers that traced her face as gently as butterfly wings – ‘ailes de papillons’ – from her widows peak to her crystal blue eyes, her nose, her blushed lips. “Just this one time” thought Jackson. Just once before returning to his insanely mundane existence in Stamford, Connecticut. Oh, for just one more taste of Lisette.

Slowly Jackson stood, a sadness like none other enveloping him. He suddenly realized he had been crying. He wound his way through the maze of boxes overflowing with records that were meaningless to him. He had found what he didn’t know he was looking for.

“All done, sir?” the clerk asked. 

“Yes, thanks”, Jackson replied. “Just this. Just this one.”

NAR © 2017