M is for … Maniacal Mischief

Hospital food is much better than I remember it as a child, when I was admitted for a burst appendix. Still, I would much rather have been opening up the bookshop on a Tuesday morning.

Yes, Bob struck again. Of course he couldn’t have known that I have an intolerance to pepper when he pepper-sprayed the pages of Jupiter’s manuscript. All I really remember is her using her key to open my apartment door when she heard me choking and banging on the floor with my palm. The next thing I knew I was laying flat, with bright lights and masked faces hovering over me. I panicked momentarily, thinking that I’d been abducted by aliens, until a female voice assured me that I’d just gone into anaphylactic shock but I was okay, thanks to my quick-thinking wife. I’d drifted off into an oblivion, in which Jupiter and I had gotten married, me in my new tux.

My second shock for the evening came when I woke up in a white, sterile room only to have that very same Jupiter to whom I’d been blissfully wedded in my dream, punch me the moment I re-opened my puffy eyes.

“What the hell are you doing reading my manuscript?”

“Bob…”

“And what the hell do you think you’re doing almost dying on me?” She hit me again. “If I hadn’t shown up when I did, you’d be dead! Asshole!”

And then she left.

I was eating my corn flakes and contemplating what I’d managed to read of Jupiter’s novel the next morning when the doctor, a pretty lady named Alicia who was about the same age as me, came in to say I was being released. Ironically, she matched the description of the physician – to a tee – who pronounced Jupiter’s protagonist’s best friend dead in the book.

L is for … Let It Go

I woke up Monday morning with my sheets wrapped around my legs, feeling as though something was different in the world. My day, by lunchtime, confirmed it.

Ticking off the strange occurrences, not necessarily in order, were the absence of Gloria, the waitress with a crush on me, from Al’s Cafe, the phone call I received from Jupiter telling me she was going to stop talking to Bob, and the black feather with a white spine I found at the back door to the bookshop when I opened up, which I could swear came from the Napoleon hat of the stranger, Gollum. The more I thought about Gollum, the more I wondered if he was Bob in a disguise. Had Jupiter not told me she was breaking up with him in a frenzied conversation which included words like “fucker” and phrases like “the opposite of awesomesauce,” I might have mentioned it.

What finally shook me to my soles was the notification on the shop’s WordPress account that “thespawnofsauron” had signed up to follow me. When I clicked on the gravatar associated with the site, there was the Napoleon hat. Featherless.

I was just about to pick up my cell to text Jupiter when she came in through the front door.

“Does Bob have a thing for Lord of the Rings, by any chance?” I asked her before she could say anything.

“Don’t have a clue. But I did find this in my mailbox this morning.” She held up a white envelope with her name written on it in a flourishing cursive of pink ink.

“Is it from Bob?”

“Nope. Gloria.”

“Gloria?” I was a little shocked.

“Yeah. Let me read you the good part.”

“…and so, if it’s not meant to be that Xavier and I should be together for eternity, it’s best you have him to yourself. Be kind to him. Treat him well. Serve his needs and bring him many children…” blah blahblahblah.

“Children? Yeah, let’s do that,” I said and Jupiter gave me the look that told me to shut my trap or else. It didn’t stop my mind from wandering.

Jupiter stuffed the letter back in it’s envelope and shoved it into her oversize purse where I could imagine it being lost to a certain oblivion.

“Why all these questions about Bob?” she asked.

“Oh I dunno. Just the fact that I think he’s stalking me.”

She waved her hand at me. “Pfft. Let it go. I have.”

“You sure we don’t need a restraining order?”

“Nah. He’s harmless.”

“I hope so,” I mumbled under my breath. Jupiter was already on another subject.

“I need to go to the store and buy a pair of white pants for work. I start tomorrow. Wanna come? I can go later.”

“No thanks. I’ve got … stuff to do after work.”

“What?”

“Never mind.”

“Fine. I’m outta here.” She was gone in a flash, saving me from telling her the last, but not the least, weird thing that had happened to me on the most different of Mondays. Beside the feather at the back door had been a package. I was afraid to open it at first, but when I did, I realized that Bob had indeed been there. Inside the package was a hard copy of Jupiter’s manuscript. And I intended to spend the evening reading it.

A Life Lived

She started with a salty goodbye. A sayonara of oceanic proportions, in which ships sank and seashells shattered.

And around she went in the arena of ago, an archipelago amass in aromatic ages.

Until at last she settled, safe within the enclosure of a promised land of epic proportions.

And there she landed a lover, who loved her lonely ass.

Years yonder, she yearns for her yesteryear land.

For her lover forgot, and found a flagrant floozy to fuck.

So she dreams, and connects her current conditions, completely crushed

By sorrowful sayonaras, and restless regrets.

K is for … Knock Knock

After a pleasant Saturday morning breakfast at Al’s Cafe, Jupiter and I opened up the shop together for what might be the last time. Her new job at the gym was due to start soon, and being new, she figured she’d probably be asked to work weekends.

I was standing behind the counter, organizing the cash in the register when my first customer came in. This town is pretty small, and most of my early morning clientele are regulars, so I was surprised to see a stranger. Strange didn’t even start to cover it.

I’m pretty tall, so most people are shorter than me, but this guy was tiny. What he was missing in height, he made up for in girth. Wearing a long black rain coat, a fake moustache and topped off with a black Napoleon hat, complete with a feather, he reminded me of a bowling ball with style. I was going to say hello and ask him if I could help him, but the moment he stepped in the door he turned to peer at the shelves as though he was extremely near-sighted. I decided to leave him be.

I watched peripherally as he sidled slowly towards the counter, keeping myself busy behind it. It took the stranger about three minutes to make it up the short aisle. He turned abruptly to me and grinned in what was almost a grimace as his eyes traveled up my chest to my face.

“Knock knock,” he whined in a voice that resembled Gollum’s in the movie.

“Who’s …there?”

“I’m watching you.”

“I’m watching you …who?”

Just then, from behind me Jupiter called to ask if I’d remembered to buy cream for coffee. I turned to answer her that no, I’d forgotten and I glanced back just in time to catch a glimpse of Gollum disappearing out the door in a flurry of flapping black rain coat.

“That was weird,” I mumbled as Jupiter came out of the back room with her suitcase/purse over her shoulder.

“What was?”

I wasn’t sure she’d believe me, even if I could describe what had just happened, so I dismissed it.

“Oh, by the way, I went to check out tuxes last night.”

“And?”

“They’re pretty expensive to rent.”

Gloria, the waitress from Al’s came in and wiggled her fingers at me, tittering as she always did under her other hand. I waved back. Jupiter looked at me and smiled. She loved teasing me over the other woman, who she wickedly dubbed “my biggest fan.”

“So what will you do then?”

“I think I might just buy one.”

“You are going to be the most handsome man at the wedding, you know that?” Jupiter reached out to touch my hand. Gloria fled.

“Oops! Shit. Sorry.”

I glared at Jupiter. “You did that on purpose!”

“Maybe a little. I’m going out to get cream.”

It was a while before I thought about Gollum again.

J is for … Joy…

On the second read-through of Bob’s poem to Jupiter I forced my mouth closed. I was still shaking my head when Jupiter bounded through the front door.

“What’s up?” She was smiling.

“Just reading Bob’s poem.”

“Really? He wrote three. Is it the funny one?”

“I think so.” It was short, so I thought I’d read it out loud:

Jupiter jetliner

you are the planet I prefer

I want to circumnavigate you

like your rings

one day I’ll give you

another ring

Joy…

Joy…

Joy…

Reading it aloud was even funnier. I choked on my laugh when I looked up from the screen to see Jupiter standing across the counter with a scowl. If that didn’t say everything, the hand on her hip did.

“That was the serious one,” she said with a straight face.

“C’mon Jupiter, you have to be joking.”

“The funny one was a limerick.”

I scratched my head and looked down at the counter for the words I wanted to get out of my mouth. They weren’t there; I’d have to wing it.

“We’ve got to talk about Bob.”

“What about him? He read my manuscript by the way. He thinks it’s awesome.”

“He’s just trying to get into your pants.”

“You’re just jealous.”

“The guy’s a flake!” I was getting pissed off and close to telling her how naive she was being.  I had to change the subject before I did.

“Show me your manuscript. Let me read it.”

“I can’t.”

“What do you mean you can’t? I’m your best friend.”

“I want to wait until it’s published before you read it. Then you won’t be able to make me change it.”

“Why would I want you to change it?”

“Because. I can’t tell you.”

I closed my laptop and turned toward the back room in exasperation. Jupiter followed me.

“Xav?” It was her pleading voice. I have a hard time resisting her pleading voice and she knows it.

“What do you want?” I busied myself with the coffeemaker, pouring enough water in for Jupiter as well. She never says no to coffee.

“I need a favour.”

“If it’s got anything to do with helping you out with Bob, the answer’s no.”

“It doesn’t.”

I looked up and she went on. “I need a date to go to my cousin’s wedding at the end of the month.”

“Why aren’t you taking Bob?” My mouth seriously gets ahead of my brain sometimes.

“He had a bad experience with a wedding once.”

I raised one eyebrow. “How the hell do you have a bad experience with a wedding?”

“What does it matter?” She yelled, surprising me. “Do you want to go or not?”

“Sure! Sure I’ll go. I’ll rent a tux even.”

“Thanks.” She smiled for the first time since she walked in and I relaxed. “I’ve gotta go.” She headed for the front of the store and I dropped the spoon into the tin of coffee.

“Don’t you want a coffee?”

“Nope, gotta run.”

She bounded back out of the shop, leaving me in the wake of wondering where Bob had taken my Jupiter when he dropped this imposter in her place. One thing was for sure. I had to get my hands on that manuscript.

 

 

I is for … Ingenuity

Sweating profusely, Bob rolled off his stationary bike and stepped on the scale. Fifteen down and only a hundred pounds to go. His idea had gone just as planned: set up a Skype date with Jupiter for last night and then say his cam crapped out. Ingenious.

They’d talked, they’d flirted, they’d even had a little phone sex. It would be enough to keep him going for a while.

Bob’s second biggest job, other than losing weight, was going to be getting rid of the best friend: that Xavier guy. According to Jupiter, he owned a bookshop.

Time to don a disguise and pay the prick a visit, Bob thought.

H is for … Harry the Horrible

Harry is bad enough when I’m not hung over. When he ducked through the door of the bookshop this morning, my headache turned from bad to humdinger.

“How are you doing, Harry?” I tried not to moan.

“It’s my birthday. Got my book in yet?” His thundering voice resounded in my head, threatening to blow it to smithereens. I think Harry was a Viking in another life. Or maybe even in this one.

“Happy birthday,” I said as he splayed his giant hands on my counter. I ducked down to retrieve his book–”The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh”–from underneath, just in time to see Jupiter stop at the door with her hand poised to take the handle, glance inside, and hurry back from whence she came.

“Yep,” Harry roared, “buying a book for my cousin’s half-brother’s step-son, even though it’s my own birthday. But what’s a guy to do?”

“That’s very generous of you.”

I rang in the sale and slipped the book into a bag while I waited for the big guy to fumble with the credit card machine.

“Have a nice day!” Handing him the bag, I hoped he’d get the hint. No such luck.

“Where’s that little fiance of yours?”

Harry had a crush on Jupiter, so I’d come to her rescue and told him we were a couple. It was the least I could do. The first time he encountered her, I’d watched in horror as he’d taken her in his arms and hugged her so tight that I thought her eyes would pop out. Since my heroic announcement, he hadn’t touched her.

“She’s out registering for new dishes or some wifey thing. You know women.”

Harry’s booming laughter sent my hair flying back. “You got that right, my friend. Well, gotta go.”

“Enjoy your birthday, Harry.”

“Oh, I will.” He reached one of his paws over the counter and slapped me on the shoulder. I almost blacked out. I watched him duck back out the door and silently prayed for the ringing of the bells to stop.

Jupiter’s whisper came from behind me. “Is he gone?”

“Yeah.”

“That was a close one. Thanks Xav.”

“For what?”

“For the wifey thing.”

She stood on her toes and gave me a peck on the cheek. I’m so grateful for Harry.