CoffeeBeer >> Warts & All >> Present Tense


Fiona stretches her body languidly on the balcony ledge and takes a deep sniff of the damp city air: she detects garlic, laundry soap, a discarded but still-smoldering cigarette on the wet pavement. It’s Friday night, but somehow this fails to elicit much enthusiasm. Oh, sure, she thinks, it’s been a long, tedious day, and she could use some diversion. But none of the options for this evening sounds enticing. Am I ill, perhaps? No, I really don’t think so. My appetite is fine. No, I’m just weary, weary of the present state of my life, of the day, of tonight.

She watches as a light-colored Ford Escort pulls up across the street in front of the dry cleaners. A man emerges from the driver’s side, followed by a woman who pops energetically from the passenger’s side; then a very tall man unwinds himself from the cramped back seat and out into the street. The three of them head for the video rental shop next door. Fiona watches carefully as each one passes through the glass door and into the shop, the tall man bending just a bit; she watches as the door falls shut, and she watches for a moment longer. Then, satisfied that nothing more is going to happen, she turns her attention to her left shoulder and the thick unkempt blonde hair which covers it.

Oh, dear, she thinks, I haven’t been paying enough attention to myself today; my hair needs washing. Of course, I’ve had absolutely no time all day to think about personal hygiene, what with that staredown with Nickie earlier and then this afternoon’s ordeal. I really didn’t want to cross paths with Nickie today, and I usually give a wide berth to that bitch. But this morning, I don’t know, I guess I just had too much on my mind—between Ellen and Wesley and that injured sparrow on the front porch—and before I knew it, there I was in Nickie’s area. Oh, why do I always do this to myself? It took so long to get out of there—I had to invent all those lame excuses, backing away slowly so she wouldn’t detect just how cowardly I was—but I really did not feel like being attacked by that female again. She’s so vicious and meddlesome and, well, I just can’t understand how Sadie could have stood being friends with her for so long.

And then that tuna I had for lunch—why did I eat so much of it? I had a feeling it was probably too old, but I just went ahead and made a pig of myself, polishing off every last crumb. And did I pay for it? Oh, my god, how I paid for it! Losing it right there, every bite, all over the Wayland’s lawn, while that damn prehistoric mutt of theirs just stood and watched. Thank god I feel okay now; but I think I’d be smart to stick with something light for dinner.

“Fiona!” She looks down from the balcony. There’s a dark figure on the steps below. It’s Tom. “Hey, Fiona! What’re you doing tonight?” “Oh, hi, Tom. Not too much. I was thinking about taking a nap…” “Why don’t you come with me? There’s a party tonight over at the Bins. Ash told me about it. He and Bob and Fritz are going, and Buff and Sheena are supposed to show up. Apparently there’s some tasty fixings—somebody donated a bunch of chicken dinners, hardly touched!”

“Oh, gee, Tom, sounds like fun. But I’m really not up to it tonight—”

“Aw, come outside, Fiona! It’s a gorgeous night. You don’t get out enough.”

Fiona stares at Tom sleepily, her attention suddenly diverted by a large moth which flutters dramatically onto the balcony, performs a couple of sloppy loops in the air, and flattens itself against the glass door, thrashing its wings in noisy spasms.

“Well, if you don’t want to go to the party,” continues Tom in a lower voice, “maybe you and I could, you know, find a dark alley somewhere…”

“I’m sorry, Tom, maybe another night. I really need to take a nap, and wash my hair, and there’s this huge moth up here I should take care of.”

“Oh…well, if you change your mind I’ll be at the Bins, okay? Or if I’m not there, I might go with Fritz to check out that new fish market on Eighth. Or, well, you could ask Ash, because he’ll probably know—”

Fiona rolls her eyes just slightly.

“Thanks, Tom, really. Have fun at the party.”

“Okay, I…” Tom is distracted by something down the street. “I better get going. I think I see Bruno.”

“Well, don’t let him see you! Take care, Tom.”

Tom hurries off in a zigzag down the street, glancing furtively behind him as if he’s being followed. Fiona yawns and stretches. Oh, thank god, she thinks. I really don’t believe I can take Tom tonight. He’s a sweet guy and all, but his romantic moves are so tame, so damn unexciting! And it never fails: just as we start to get intimate, that horrible coughing of his starts. My god, it drives me nuts! He’s got such a problem. He should really pay more attention to what he eats. But will he listen to me? Of course not! Now, Wesley…there was a guy who knew how to treat a woman. I know I shouldn’t dwell on him—it’s been weeks now—but when I think of his touch, the way he’d grab me and bite my neck just so—mmm, I get goose bumps all over! Oh, Wesley, I miss you so much! But would he listen to me when I begged him not to go over to the East Side? No, of course not—he had such a strong will. Has it really only been—what? One or two weeks—since the accident? No wonder I’m feeling so blue…

But Ellen should be here soon. Oh, thank god for Ellen! She’s such a sweetheart, so tender and warm. And she does so much for me, too. I don’t know what it is, but sometimes I think I like Ellen better than Wesley or Tom. Is that possible? But she does have a completely different touch, so gentle and yet so…commanding. Yes, that’s it: she makes me feel secure. And that’s something the guys just can’t do for me.

The moth flogs noisily against the glass in a vain attempt to reach the light inside. Oh, yes, Fiona remembers, the moth! I’d forgotten about it. Perhaps I should --

“Fiona! Are you up there?” It’s Ellen! She’s on the steps looking up. “Hi, Ellen! I’m right here!”

“Hey, girl, I brought us some dinner—scallops from that Mediterranean place. I’ll be right up!”

“Okay, I’ll meet you at the door.” Yes, suddenly Fiona’s evening is falling into place. I don’t want to go anywhere tonight, she thinks. I just want to stay here, have a nice quiet meal with Ellen, maybe wash my hair. And then, if there’s nothing good on TV tonight, maybe Ellen could run over and rent a video. And then we could relax on the couch, just the two of us snuggled so close, me on Ellen’s warm, soft, intoxicatingly scented lap as she strokes me so sensuously. And then maybe I could give my crotch a good licking until I fall into an exquisite sleep…

© 1997 JC Mitchell

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