Hello readers. In addition to poetry, I love writing fiction! Each month I will write a form of fiction, thusly named because of its brevity. Each story will have a Topeka connection. All characters and situations will be fictitious, but I'll include real Topeka locations. Enjoy and be generous with feedback!
Gail sat on a downtown bench while she dispassionately finished what was left of her lunch. She decided her last fork full of lettuce had surely put her over the recommended lifetime intake of all things green. Her phone vibrated as she tossed food wrappers in a nearby trash receptacle. It was her doctor’s office calling. She let it go to voicemail. It was the second call of the day from them. She wasn’t ready to speak with them. It wasn’t that she thought they’d give biopsy results to her over the phone. She wasn’t even ready to to take a call to make an appointment to hear the results. She could call them back when she returned to her office or leave early and call them from home. No one besides her health care providers knew about the massdiscovered on a mammogram several weeks prior. She had known she was BRACA positive for two years and there was no sense worrying everyone about the lump if it was nothing.
“Mind if I sit here?” She looked up from her phone to see man standing a few feet away eyeing the space on the bench beside her. She glanced around to see there was another empty bench nearby. She kept her face neutral but did an internal roll of her eyes in the moments before she answered.
He was disheveled with a large backpack and two smaller bags slug over his shoulder. She wanted to say "No" to him but her Midwest manners overruled that.
“Sure,” she said, scooting closer to her edge of the bench and ever so subtlety tightening the hold on her purse. She angled her body away from him so she didnt appear to want to talk
He grinned, “Thank you.” He sat down with a pronounced groan and put his bags on the sidewalk in front of him.
“Sorry for being so noisy. It’s my knees. He began to rub them both. “They are both running close to E as far as cartilage goes.” He leaned against the back of the bench and slowly straightened his legs.
Gail nodded and made what she hoped was a sympathetic-sounding grunt. She wasn’t certain how to respond, but didn’t want to give him the idea she wanted to engage with him in any way.
Undaunted, he continued, “My name is Luke. I’m a poet –and now you know it.” He laughed at himself.
She manage a tight smile and, “That’s nice.”
Her plan was to stay there for only long enoughfor him not to assume she was leaving because of him. It was almost time for her to get back to work anyway. She began to countdown in her head. From the looks of him she had assumed he would smell. He did have an odor, but it was not a bad one. He smelled like travel.
She forced a semi-smile as he continued to chuckle heartily. He laughed easily and Gee quickly deduced he liked to talk too. He began a monologue explaining to her he was a “troubadour slash poet.” He followed by naming all the places he’d been with his poetry.
“I even did a readingin a jail cell once in Tempe, Arizona— after I was arrested for loitering. The authorities there clearly couldn’t tell the difference between loitering and spoken word.” He chortled and continued his one-sided conversation while Gail nodded intermittently. She liked his voice and imagined she might even enjoy listening to his poetry under different circumstances. But her current circumstances called for all her attention to focus on the tender, sutured incision on her left breast. He droned on for several minutes.
She listened while he told of open mics in coffeeshops, on street corners, in taverns. Mostly busking, he explained --reading for donations. He'd had a dog, Toby, up until threemonths ago when the “old rascal finally gave up the ghost.”
He looked down at his shoes when he said, “Losing him was like losing a member of my family, Man
Out of the corner of her eye Gail saw him drop his head. He looked away and became quiet.
She was just about to leave when her phone vibrated again. She looked at the screen and tensed.
The man noticed the quiet buzz of her phone too. He rose and hoisted his bags back on his shoulder.
“Thanks for letting me ramble on, Ma’am.” He began to walk away before she could respond. After a few steps, he slowed and turned back towards her.
“Go ahead and answer your phone,” he said. “Your tumor, it’s my favorite Bingo call, it's B-9.”
Startled, she looked at his departing back and stuttered, “Wait, how do you—“ But he kept walking away, gaining speed, as fast as his remaining cartilage allowed.