Authors: Ian Cooper
Tags: #romance, #love, #short story, #androgyny, #legs, #light comedy, #ian cooper
Try not to give off bad
He nipped in front and held the door.
They stepped into a heavenly aroma, to one who has had a few
Kim studied the menu, but it was a
Three chili dogs each is
what they agreed on, and they would see what happened after that.
It was less than twenty bucks, they had booths here, very
and Brandon was hungry as hell. The tiles were black and white and
he gave a smile at the sight of the old zinc ceiling panels, all
cut out in a floral scrollwork, and a trio of paddle-bladed fans
going for effect.
For a moment they were kids again, a
kid with a new friend.
The kitchen staff, lined up, about six
of them along the grille, shouted back and forth, as the din and
hum of human conversation in the busy place was considerable. There
were only a couple of people ahead of them waiting for a table in
this popular and low-budget eatery. They stood, holding hands and
swinging their arms slightly to and fro. Brandon grinned slightly
upwards at Kim.
Life was a grand joke all of a sudden.
No matter what happened, or no matter how it all turned out,
Brandon was determined to be nice about it.
anything by it. No,
he had gained…immeasurably. No one owes me a damned thing and
that’s for sure. But I don’t fucking owe them a damned thing
And, he had learned that he might as
least consider having sex with a man!
But it had been two and a
half years after all. People did it in jail all the time—he’d never
not until recently. This was the revelation. It was a kind of
liberation, he supposed. He thrust the question aside.
What’s really important
This is fun. It really is.
Why can’t I fucking find
The thought of Kim;
whipping out a pecker, saying
‘oh, by the
at some psychological moment, only
made him grin harder.
Kim looked over as if sensing his
thoughts, saying nothing, but giving his hand another good
He bit his lip in pure
Just my luck,
It was Monday morning and
Brandon was just sipping his coffee and wrestling with the need to
make some decisions. The term
had always irritated him,
but the fact was he needed something like it. He could either stay
with his present employer, and be laid off four or five times a
year. You never knew for how long. In which case, he’d better
tighten his belt and just lay low, and not let that credit card
balance climb too high.
Or, he could go downtown and look for
a job. Then he could hang out in front of the drugstore.
Or, he could really bite the bullet
and confront some issues, not the least of which was that he was a
grade-ten dropout with no relevant skills in the modern, digitized,
electronic world. He was just some labourer, a guy with big arms
and a strong back and an ability to hang in there when someone else
would give up and look for something easier. That’s how he had
always looked at it. They were the quitters, and he was the real
But then, he’d quit school.
And he’d run into a guy, Terry
Simpson. He was working for some accounting firm, and while the
work sounded awful boring, and you had to wear a shirt and tie and
everything, the money he quoted was downright astounding. He and
Terry used to work on the same paving gang, back when he was with
the labourers local.
It wasn’t all that long ago, when
Terry sort of disappeared off the jobsite, and then when he
reappeared, he was already well into a whole new life.
If he can do it, why can’t I do
Such was his mood when the phone
Please don’t repeat that
How ya’ doing? Nice work,
little buddy. How was she?”
God, I’ll bet she was
So, tell me all about it…” Slam’s breezy assurance was the
last thing he needed.
Honestly, nothing really
happened, Steve. How, ah, so, ah, how did your night
She was all right. That
one could suck a golf ball through a garden hose. But the rest was
no great shakes. Big tits and everything. Let me tell you! I fucked
her tits, old buddy. But she wouldn’t take it up the backside,
which is unfortunate. I don’t know what it is with these people
Brandon could either laugh or cry, and
he decided to laugh because crying was messy and he already had his
good shirt on.
So, what was her name,
anyway? I’ve seen that one around town somewhere, I’ll think of it
in a bit.”
Yeah. Her lucky night
though. Ah…shit. Marianne. Or something like that.”
Brandon wondered if it really did
Put you off, did she?”
Slam sounded pretty smug.
Brandon bit back his
thoughts. He really wasn’t
Kim was a girl, but Slam was the wrong guy to
No, we went and had
something to eat. Then we took a cab and I dropped Kim off.” It was
odd how he so carefully picked his way around the gender issue, but
Slam, oblivious to all but his own precious
, never picked up on
Hmn. So, did you get her
Brandon looked up at the clock,
Ah, yeah. Say, look,
Slam-ster, ah, Buddy-old-pal, I gotta go.”
What? What do you mean,
you got to go? You got her number? Really?” This last with a note
of outright astonishment.
Brandon actually snickered, he didn’t
know he had it in him right now. There was a silence. The Weather
Channel was turned down low and Brandon watched the scroll for
Slam was at work. Brandon could hear
the quiet murmur of voices in the store and an announcement that
someone had left their lights on in the parking lot going out over
the public address system.
Brandon grinned in spite of
There was a disbelieving
Well, if you’re going to
be that way…wait a minute, here comes that asshole Stanley. I got
to go. I’ll catch you on the flip side.”
They both hung up on the same
The cheerful interlude was
Am I really serious then?
Some other line of work.
If that was the case, it was time to
hit the showers.
The week went fast enough. Brandon
went downtown several times, searching on the computers in the
employment centre, and saw plenty of jobs that he didn’t want. He
was already making more money than a lot of them paid, all
entry-level jobs with some surprising skill
He didn’t know how to
operate a turret lathe or a plasma cutter, so that let a lot of the
higher-paying jobs out. He also noted that not too many places
wanted phone calls, and very few mentioned application forms. It’s
not that he hadn’t always hated them anyways, but. Everyone wanted
a resume, and after two and a half years, he didn’t even know where
for a copy
of his old one.
Brandon fired up the old desktop he
kept in the second bedroom. He lived on the third floor of a
walk-up, and if the noise he got was any indication, especially
paydays, cheque-days and weekends, he didn’t even want to know what
it was like on the first and second floors. Any deep penetrating
thud that occurred seemed to travel from one end of the building to
the other in an instant. No one knew how to close a door around
there. It must invariably be slammed. Kids roamed the halls and
dogs barked for hours on end, when left on the balcony so they
wouldn’t shit in the house when the owners were out drinking…an old
and familiar story.
It was a tenement in
sense of the
Brandon went online, a
monthly charge he could hardly justify by its actual
and learned anew how
to make up a resume. It was deflating because the only thing he
really had to put on there was a job he was anxious to quit. What
if an employer called his employer for a reference? Or was that an
irrational fear. He’d once spent a lot more time on the computer,
it seemed ages ago now.
Prior to that job, he’d been on
welfare for five months, prior to that, he’d been on unemployment
insurance for six months; the short period of his previous work not
qualifying him for full benefits.
But the point was, what to
put on it? Like,
It had to have some kind of positive
spin, and his job, while specialized, operating a metal shaping
press-punch making brass and copper tubes and fittings for the auto
industry, really didn’t correspond to too much of anything else
that was going on in town.
In a larger city, maybe, but Checker
Brothers was a bit of an incongruity. It was the only automotive
supplier left locally. This accounted also for the spotty work
opportunities—suppliers in smaller centres were basically just kept
on the dole by an industry that saw a turnaround just around the
corner. They were merely maintaining that production capacity for
In other words, he had better get out
before they closed the plant down for good.
He was surprised by this revelation,
but when he thought it over, it made a lot of sense.
What the fuck do I know about the
Quite a lot, as it turns
When his phone rang, early
Thursday evening, he was hardly thinking of Kim, although he had
been thinking of…
he, she or it,
off and on, all week long.
The odd-ball grin was quickly wiped
off his face when he realized who it was.
The funny thing was, he had Kim’s
number too. He wondered if he ever would have found the
Not that he didn’t want to…or did
Yup. What’s up, Kim?” His
mind went into overdrive.
You could pop the question. It might
be easier when you’re not eye-to-eye, the trouble was that he could
see too many negatives implied there—no woman would be happy being
asked if she was a girl, right? That’s not very flattering—and she
seemed, if nothing else, kind of flat-chested. Surely this would be
cause for some insecurities, for the world was what it
Half the chicks in town seemed to have
implants these days.
Nor would a guy be pleased,
intent on stalking some big hunk of man-flesh…
that sounded stupid even to me.
He’d give anything to know without
hurting someone’s feelings.
But Kim was very tall, too. Kim had
those long, slightly-shamed silences, when Kim just looked at you,
and seemed so vulnerable and shy. She was a big girl in a petite
world. Surely that affected her vision of herself.
He and Slam had both read the book on
how to pick up chicks. One of the possibilities mentioned was that
you might end up with a pretty good girlfriend—if you weren’t
That one always got him in the guts
for some reason.
Yeah, fuck, I’ll take the worst-case
scenario. Don’t mind me, guys—just leave me here to a fucking fate
worse than death. You guys go on without me…
You’re a better man than
I, Gunga Din.
The trouble was that he’d loved his
last girlfriend a little too much. In some ways. Maybe he still
did, he certainly missed her sometimes.
He missed her a lot.
But Kim was a possibility.
He hadn’t even
one of those in a very long time.
It’s not something I can
Brandon liked what he saw. Kim had
some attractive qualities.
He kept wanting to
God, if only I knew for sure. Even
then I would probably ruin it. He was in the process of doing that
anyway, if he didn’t think of something to say very