Roger Camp is the author of three photography books including the award-winning Butterflies in Flight, Thames & Hudson, 2002 and Heat, Charta, Milano, 2008. His work has appeared in numerous journals including The New England Review, New York Quarterly, and the Vassar Review. His work is represented by the Robin Rice Gallery, NYC.
His co-workers lounged against the building, drinking coffee and smoking before punching in for the early shift. The elbow nudging began as he got out of the truck, walked to the driver’s side window, and kissed his wife goodbye. He sensed the men’s envy as he watched her drive away, and could just make out the familiar, mocking whispers of pussy-whipped, on ashort leash, and under her thumb before he turned and the smirks quickly vanished.
They never said anything to his face, the chicken-shits. Must have been something about the way he carried himself or the old knife scar bisecting his right cheek that quelled even bigger men’s voices. But he’d seen their stares when she brought him his lunch every day, wearing those short-shorts and bare-midriff blouses, the way conversations halted and sandwiches stopped midway to mouths when she shook out her blonde curls.
He knew they wondered how somebody who looked like him had gotten someone who looked like her. Hell, he wondered himself. So, if she liked taking him to work, bringing his lunch, and picking him up at the end of his shift, he didn’t complain. A short leash anchored both ends.
Bob Strother’s work has been published internationally and adapted for film. A three-time pushcart Prize nominee, Strother has four novels and a short story collection in print, as well as several magazine articles.
The social club is a cross between a coffeehouse and a hotel lobby, with chic décor and trendy chairs. The woman I’m meeting is a potential client. She works in real estate development and I work in communications. I’m optimistic.
I’m dressed in a jacket and skirt, tall boots. She wears a yellow sweater that complements her dark skin. Her hair sits in an elaborate, braided crown on the top of her head. I perch on my chair, uncomfortable in its faux-schoolroom design of wobbly metal legs and a carved wooden seat.
As she details her history, I listen, but I split my attention. I face her, but I have an imaginary satellite pointed to my right, angled at the corner of the room, attempting to beam in every word. That’s where I spotted him as soon as I entered. The woman across from him is much younger.
“I really think I need to lose another ten pounds, to be perfectly honest,” he says, and I cringe, remembering him saying the same to me, fishing for compliments. He is handsome and charming as ever. Now she’s laughing at something else he’s said. I feel a pang of stale jealousy, faint, like a water ring left on a table.
I shut down the mental satellite and force my whole attention back to my meeting. I ask two questions and note her answers. She’s telling me her vision for the city, and it’s interesting. I take a sip of coffee while she accepts a fresh pot of tea from a waitress. Over her shoulder, out the window, I see snow begin to fall. It’s March, too late for snow to be welcome, but it’s pretty.
I feel lips against my cheek before I can register what’s happening.
“Hello,” he says. “I just had to say hi.” I am stunned.
“Hello,” I say. Then he walks back to his table, without greeting my companion.
I blink at her, wide-eyed. She stares back at me. She is tall and strong. She is independent. She is a business owner. A man has just kissed me in public without my permission. In front of her. I am mortified. On her face, I see understanding. It has happened to her, too.
An audio clip plays in my mind:
“Trump: I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.
Bush: Whatever you want.
Trump: Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.”
Our meeting ends and when I rise from the table, I turn to the left and do not look at the corner of the room. We walk down the stairs and out into the snow, making promises to follow up, to see each other again soon.
Marijean Oldham is a public relations consultant and writer. Her essays and short fiction have appeared in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature and the Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review. In 2018, Marijean authored the book 100 Things to Do In Charlottesville Before You Die, Second Edition (2018 Reedy Press). In her spare time, Marijean bakes pies competitively.
Featuring: Issue 97, published January 2021, features works of poetry, flash fiction, short nonfiction, and photography by Elison Alcovendaz, Philip Arnold, Michael Aro, Alice J Becker, Eric Blanchard, Charlie Brice, Lawrence Bridges, Mark Burke, Annie Elizabeth, Adam Coulter, Steven Deutsch, John Dorroh, Connor Doyle, Theo Greenblatt, Oz Hardwick, Charles Holdefer, Jeanne Julian, J.S. Kierland, Jennifer Taeyoung Kim, Min Kuk Kim, Mary Hills Kuck, Rachel Laverdiere, Richard LeBlond, Charlotte Lee, Harry Longstreet, Alice Lowe, Sean Murphy, Martha Nance, Robert Nisbet, Renee Ozburn, Virginia Watts, Andy Posner, Claire Scott, Greg Sendi, Dave Sims, Charles Springer, Tony Tracy, Gene Twaronite, Lee Varon, Viviane Vives, Sally Zakariya.
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