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Fiction #227
(published May 19, 2005)
A Genuine Obstickle
by M. Kendra O'Neal
They done told me to be on the lookout for a blue '78 Oldsmobile, but I ain't sure if I'm to stand on the back steps or the front door of this here place. Cars is whizzing by on two roads, and so I run back and forth, trying to keep tabs on what's riding and what ain't. It being hot as hell, my legs are soon to give out, and I don't know if I can keep my end of the bargain.

Being dependable used to mean something to me, back when I was paid decent, and people took the time to spell out what they meant. Now people just scream gibberish from their little cell phones, and you try to call back, and their voice mail box is always stuffed full. You can't even leave a message asking for help of no kind.

So here I sit, in this trash-filled kitchen, trying hard to do my job, knowing I can't do nothing right, scared I'll get my neck snapped as soon as I raise my head to look for that car that ain't there.

My road's been so full of potholes— my own personal road that is — that I wonder if this might be a set-up. I'm thinking that real good now, 'cause I'm looking down the road, and I see a banged-up '78 blue Toyota and a good-looking woman coming my way. Her mascara is all smeared and running down her face like she's been crying, and I know from all them country music tunes that she just wants a strong shoulder to lay her pretty head down on. Them tunes don't ever end right for the man. No siree bob, they don't.

I am knowing right here and now that I am facing an ob-stickle as they like to say in my business, but I open the screen door wide anyhow. "How you doing, ma'am?"

She looks up at me with big old blue eyes, smiling at me like I was twenty years younger and still good looking. "You got any cigs on you, hon?"

I don't know what to say now, seeing as how I don't have any cigs. Don't smoke, no siree. Then again, maybe it's some code word, like on television, and maybe I'm supposed to cough up the right answer— somehow.

I always have trouble with the how of things; always have, even since I was a little boy. I have loads of stories about how fucked up I've always been and would start into a tale, but this good-looking woman has just bent over to tie her shoelaces which don't need tying, and in fact I notice right away that she don't have no shoe laces at all. Then I see them over-big, unnatural jugs spill out that little tank top, and I try to look away, but she smiles real slow and don't even really bother to put them back inside, where they might be safe from a lonely old man who ain't got nothing better to do than be run around town by boys always getting into trouble with their fists.

"I ain't got no cigarettes, ma'am. I'm real sorry about that, I am." My hands is sweaty, and I ain't good for nothing now. I can't even hold the lighter, or wonder why she asked me for cigs when she's got a pocketbook full.

She looks me over good. There's nothing there to see though, but look she does, staring at my eggshell head, my pooching gut, and all them damned age spots that don't wash out, no matter how hard I scrub with all that damned useless lotion at the drugstore on the corner. It's lousy being an old man in a neighborhood full of no-account punks always following you home from the grocery store, forever asking you to do a little something for them. Like them country tunes, it don't ever end good. They like to promise to jump on you and take away your Social Security money if you don't do what they say.

So I sit here looking at this curvaceous woman, and suddenly my old legs don't ache so. She motions toward the door, telling me, "Let's go on inside, hon, where it's cool," and my old rebel legs follow along, watching her switch a right comely behind back and forth, like one of them hip-no-tists with one of them watches swaying back and forth until you ready to do anything they say. When I start to close the door behind us, I look back and almost see that '78 Oldsmobile speeding by. I think of the cell phone in my pocket that they give me for the job, and I almost pick it up and keep my end of the bargain, but a she-devil touches my arm. I slam the door hard, forgetting all about business and the usual way of doing things.

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