Play Nice

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[This is where the summary would go if I'd bothered to write one.]

« LeavingStiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers »

With my right hand I tuck my hair behind my ear. It immediately springs back into my face. I place my hand beneath my thigh to stop it from reaching for the hair again.

My tongue slowly passes over my dry lips as I open my eyes wide and nod. He doesn’t look up. The stack of papers on the desk rustle, moved by the slight breeze coming from the open window.

I turn my gaze to the empty street. Across from the office is a small mom and pop shop. I doubt they call it that. In fact, I know they do not because the words ‘convenience store’ are written on the glass in what appears to be fake snow.

The words mom and pop shop, having been cordially invited into my head, now decide to throw themselves a party. Together they form the world’s smallest conga line, but what they lack in size they make up for in spirit.

“Mom and pop shop, ay!” My tense shoulders move slightly to the beat. Images of dancers kicking up their well toned heels, of ruffled skirts sent flying, appear in my head.

I bite my lips and turn my gaze back to the man. He is watching me. My shoulders freeze, the words scatter like roaches who feel the light shining on them.

I press my body down hard on my hands, the rough denim hurting my sunburned skin. I know that the slight weave will leave a print that will take long minutes to fade away.

“Have you read these papers?” he asks. His voice is gravelly, curt, stingy, as if he realizes how precious words can be. But I doubt he knows. He strikes me as the sort of man who squanders his words. For a brief moment I pity him and wish to take him in my arms.

I want to place my lips near his ear and tell him the tale of how the story came to be. Take him back to the days when letters had yet to realize that alone they were weak, but together they could tear a heart in two and cause joy so glorious it outshone the sun. I want to tell him this as my right hand strokes his hair and my left hand sits on his chest, feeling his heart beating, waiting for the moment realization hits and it begins to race.

“Well?” he said impatiently.

One word chases the pity away.

I breathe in, clear my throat and speak my first word in more than an hour. “No.”

“You realize that not reading these documents is a very foolish thing to do,” he asks and answers in the same breath.

He stares at me, I at him. Behind me the clock ticks off the seconds. He blinks first and turns his gaze to his watch, though I know the clock is clearly visible to him.

“Should I go?” I ask.

I need to use the bathroom.


The bus ride to his office had taken 83 minutes, almost 84 if I round up, but that would be cheating. I was fine until the 66 minute when the bus slammed into what I could only assume was a very large pothole. I lurched forward. Sitting back I suddenly felt the incredible desire to pee. I cringed and corrected myself. Urinate. Use the restroom. I wrapped my lips around each new word.

I look to my left at the old woman sitting in the aisle seat. “She must be dead,” I thought. “Rigor mortis has set in. That’s why she didn’t budge an inch when the bus lurched.” I stood up gingerly, afraid. My bladder screamed in protest. I breathed through my mouth, trying to walk quickly, yet with the smallest strides possible.

Arriving at the back of the bus, I reach for the door handle and pulled. I groaned and snatched my hand away upon meeting resistance. I expected my actions to be met with an angry rebuke.

It was only when I heard nothing coming from the stall that I saw the small, ripped piece of paper taped to the door. ” .. t of Order”

I inhaled sharply and tears sprung to my eyes. I jiggled the handle hoping it would give. I would go in the sink if need be. But someone had anticipated my evil intentions. The door refused to budge.

I exhaled deeply, making room in my body for that which I could not expel as easily. Squaring my shoulders I inched my way back to my seat.

“It’s broken,” the dead woman quietly said, not bothering to open her eyes.

“Yes,” I said, sinking down into my seat.


He clears his throat, sharply. That he can say so much without uttering a word interests me. I blink, raise my body just slightly and let my hands spring free. The blood rushing to the fingertips displaces the signals my bladder has been sending to my brain for more minutes than I care to calculate.

“I’d rather you didn’t leave,’ he says. “But I have a call to make, so why don’t you wait outside until I call you back in.”

“And the restroom is ...?” I ask as my body begins to rise from the chair.


I freeze in mid-air, my thighs shaking.


He reaches for the cream, boxy touch-tone phone. With the receiver he vaguely motions toward the window. “The convenience store will let you use theirs,” he mumbles as he flips the pages of his address book.

I look toward the store, quickly calculating the distance between his office and the front door. Realizing relief is imminent, the revelers come out from their hiding places.

“Mom and pop shop, ole!”

“Ole,” I whisper, as my hands rub up and down my thighs.


“Nothing. I’ll be right back.”

“Yeah, yeah,” he says. Already I sense that I’ve been forgotten.

I walk out of the office with a spring in my step and a smile on my face. Misguided, perhaps, but necessary.

The door tinkles as I enter and I can’t help but giggle.

The boy behind the counter looks up expectantly. His smile falters when I ask, “Bathroom?”

That way, his hand gestures.

My hand remembers past disappointments as it reaches for the doorknob, but this time it is met with success. I step inside, lock the door, unbutton my pants and pull them down.

Such was the relief I feel that I forget to count, remembering only after a dozen or so seconds have passed. I begin at 16. 17, 18, 19, ... 25, 26, ... 30, 31,  3- Nope. 31 it is. Not as long as I would have thought. I clean myself up and straighten my clothes.

Back in the office I discover he is not yet ready for me. I sit down in the waiting room and close my eyes.

From somewhere comes the sound of a seconds hand inching along the hour. I let my empty body dictate where my mind goes. From deep within a thought forms. Pity has sown a seed it seems. As I begin to consider the possibilities I hear my name being called. My eyes open to see him standing in the doorway. I rise and walk toward him, watching his chest move as he breathes in and out.

He steps aside and as I pass him, I feel the heat of his breath on my cheek. As I sit down I notice that he has taken off his watch and placed it flush with the edge of the desk. He sits down, pushes the stack of papers forward and smiles.

I blink.

He stares at me, I at him. I blink again and look away.

“Things don’t look as bad as I’d thought,” he tells me.



The hands of the clock behind me slide heavily into place. Six, I think. I wait for his gaze to lower. For him to realize he does not have his watch on. He looks instead at me.

“Should we start with page one?”

I breathe in deeply.

“Yes,” I say.

Published 02/01/05 in Writing • | Views: 2713 times | Print

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