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Fiction #463
(published December 3, 2009)
Confession of a Stalker
by Wayne Scheer
I'm a stalker. I realize that puts me somewhere between hit man and divorce lawyer on the food chain, but that's who I am. Oh, I'm other things: a retired accountant, widower, a father of three grown children, grandfather, and lay minister at the First Baptist Church of Nettles, Iowa. But the part of me that you'll want to know about is the stalker. Otherwise I'm as ordinary as an Iowa cornfield, and about as interesting.

I suppose you think I should spend some serious time in therapy. I understand that stalking is a strange retirement hobby. But I'm not ready to stop.

When I was a child I used to follow my older sister. I hadn't perfected my methods yet so it was pretty obvious what I was doing. My family would say I idolized her. When she'd plead, "Make him stop, Mama," my mother would say, "He loves you, Sarah. He just doesn't know how to show it."

What was true then is still true today. I love the people I stalk, but I can't express it. If I walked up to a perfect stranger and confessed my love or admiration, I'd be deemed insane. And dangerous.

So, I stalk them.

What I do is I identify a person I consider interesting, usually a woman. Let's say she's getting her nails done at a salon. I wait outside, probably in my car, reading a newspaper. When she comes out, I make a note of the time and place in my log. Then I follow her until I find out why she spent an hour of her life having someone shape and paint her nails, like they were an artist's canvas. Sometimes, I'll discover a secret rendezvous or an important business meeting or just a relaxing personal ritual experienced like clockwork every two weeks. I stay with the person long enough to satisfy my curiosity. Never longer.

Although I rarely stalk men, I don't think my hobby is sexual. Honestly, the reason I stalk women is simple. If a woman suspects I'm following her, she'd likely run. And I would never continue in pursuit. A man might turn and beat the daylights out of me. My hobby may be weird, but I'm not stupid.

I have another, very important rule. I never interfere in the person's life.

Well, almost never.

Recently, I targeted a female construction worker. What caught my attention was the tool belt she wore over jeans and the way the hammer, dangling at her side, forced her to walk like John Wayne. I admit I worried at first that my attraction to her was indeed, sexual, especially when her shift ended and she got into a car with a fellow worker and they began kissing like two frantic teenagers who'd been apart for the summer.

I followed them to his home—I checked the name on the mailbox and address with the name in the phonebook, which was John Rychek. Her name was Barbara McDowell, by the way. I lucked out. I watched her come out of a drugstore one afternoon and toss a credit card receipt into a trashcan. She missed, and the receipt dropped to the ground. When she was out of sight, I picked it up and read her name. Afterwards, I tore it into pieces and tossed it into the trashcan, so I did my part to protect her identity and keep America beautiful.

Anyway, I discovered that after work, on most evenings, she and John would either stop at a local pub for dinner and drinks or go directly to his place. She stayed there a few hours and had I watched the bedroom windows I'm sure I'd have had ample opportunity to see Barbara without her tool belt. But I would never do that. Instead, I used the time to prepare for my Bible class. Afterwards, John would drive her home, where I discovered, she lived with her elderly mother. Each morning, just after a nurse pulled into the driveway, presumably to tend to the needs of the elderly woman, John would pick up Barbara and drive her to work. I found myself admiring them as a couple.

I had been following them for almost two weeks and each weekday John would drive Barbara back to her house before nine, and the nurse would leave. I don't know what they did on weekends because I spend weekends with my children and grandchildren—another one of my rules.

I had decided to give them one more night before finding another target. Not wanting to intrude on their privacy, I waited for them at Barbara's house.

That's when something unusual happened.

A car I had never seen before pulled up. A man stormed out of the vehicle and pounded on the front door. When the nurse answered, she and the man argued. He pulled her from the house and into his car so quickly I hardly had time to understand what was going on. When I did, I broke my rule about never getting involved and called 9-1-1, describing the event and identifying myself as someone who just happened to be passing by.

That's when I heard a scream from inside. The front door was still open and I saw her mother on the floor. She had apparently fallen and hit her head on a table. I did what I could to calm the elderly woman, and made another 9-1-1 call, this time asking for an ambulance. Meanwhile, a neighbor appeared and she called Barbara's cellphone, a number I didn't have.

Although I didn't want to get involved, I stayed to give the police my statement and make sure they told Barbara her mother had been taken to Nettles General.

Barbara and John got to the hospital in time for Barbara to talk to her mother before she underwent what turned out to be an unsuccessful attempt to save her life. I stayed to pray with them, explaining how fortunate it was that I had been passing by. I can only imagine what Barbara would have felt had she not spent time with her mother before she passed.

So I hope you understand why I have no intention of ending my hobby any time soon.

Besides, I just came across a woman with two young boys and a full-time teaching job at Nettles Community College. I 'm curious how she organizes her day.

Wayne Scheer's short stories have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and a Best of the Net; his collection of flash fiction, Revealing Moments, is available free online.

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