HomeFictionTopic Tag Tuesday

Brian's New Day

Brian woke each morning stapled to the ceiling above the coffee machine, which may seem like an inconvenience, but it made it much easier for him to wash his hair before breakfast. After eating two slices of toast and a half-dozen grapefruits, he tucked his jacket under his arm and set out for work.

In his twenties, Brian had worked as an assistant gravestone carver, climbing tall palm trees and talking to small birds while his boss, a cranky old man named Phil, chipped away at marble. That job had not been especially satisfying for Brian, so on his thirtieth birthday, he had applied to become an astronaut, which he felt he was immensely qualified for (on account of climbing things, much like an astronaut climbs into space).

Unfortunately for Brian, President Obama cancelled the space program shortly after he sent in his application, and he was forced to find a new career. Primarily, this involved deep sea diving in the Hudson River in the hopes that someone employing fortuity or gosh-darn luck would happen upon him, ask what he was doing, and offer him the job he always wanted. Not that he knew what that would be. And furthermore, the likelihood of such a person happening upon him as he was deep sea diving was, on the whole, somewhat less than probable. But still, he tried.

On this day, however, Brian was not deep sea diving at all. On this day, he was going to find himself the perfect cherry in the Farmers’ Market down by the docks. He’d had it in his mind since Tuesday: the perfect cherry, round and dark red, a long stem on top, and brilliantly juicy when you bit it. Not that he would. He wanted to cherish it, or perhaps name it Cleo. Cleo was a wonderful name.

Brian arrived at the Market around a quarter to nine, which was when he usually began putting on his flippers, so he found himself preoccupied with his feet. It was because of this preoccupation that he happened to see a pair of beautiful green shoes standing before him, attached to a pair of beautiful long legs, attached (as it happened) to a beautiful, beautiful woman with flowing red hair and a dimple on one cheek, which made him want to try and poke a matching dimple on the other cheek, though he suspected that would be impolite.

Brian strongly disliked beautiful women. The last time he had seen one, he had fallen off a third-story balcony and landed in a tomato plant. He had never liked tomatoes before, but now he was deathly afraid of them. Pizzas made him imagine big, round eyes watching him wherever he went. He rarely spoke to Italians as a result.

This beautiful woman, though, was not attached to a balcony of any description, so he felt he might stow his dislike of her kind briefly, especially since she was smiling at him, and he had a hard remembering what he was trying to accomplish.

“Hello,” she said, and he nearly fell into a tomato plant, balcony or not. “Are you looking for something in particular today?”

He opened his mouth to talk, and then closed it almost immediately. He was fairly certain he wouldn’t be able to arrange his words in a way that made sense, and for some reason, he didn’t want to make a bad impression. Instead of speaking, he pointed a trembling finger at the pile of cherries next to him, and then winced, as if the admission that he was after such a thing was so dark and twisted that he might need to be sent back to the hospital with the nurses that smelled of Tootsie Rolls.

“Cherries, eh?” smiled the woman, and looked across the pile with a choosy eye. She ran a finger over them lightly, and he sucked in a nervous breath. Fruits hated to be touched by bare hands. His grapefruits needed oven mitts, and here she was, molesting them with her greasy pores and—

“Here we go,” she said, picking one up by the stem. It was round, dark red, and the stem between her fingers was long, slender, perfect in every way. Perfect in every possible way. She held it out to him. “This belongs to you,” she said. He reached out with his trembling hands, took the cherry by the stem, too, just below her fingers so that his skin brushed hers ever so slightly, and then took possession of the cherry.

“Thank you,” he said quietly, and her smile got even bigger than before. She winked at him.

“You’re welcome,” she said. “What’s your name?”

“Brian,” he said, and tried smiling, though it only lasted a second. He went back to staring at the cherry, because the cherry was largely disinterested in his day-to-day activities.

“I’m Cleo,” she said, and took a step backward, tucking her hands into her green apron. “I’ll see you around, Brian!”

He watched her go, then watched his cherry, then went to sit in the park for a minute or two. Soon it was time to go in the water, but he didn’t go in the water. And soon it was time to come out of the water, but since he wasn’t in the water, he felt he could skip that, too. And soon it was time to eat his sandwich, with four pickles and two slices of cheese… but all he could see was his cherry, and all he could think about was going back to the Market, and seeing if Cleo could find him another perfect one, just like this one. Just like her.

He stood up quickly, started marching back to his apartment, up the stairs, down the hall, one key, two keys, knock four times (just to be safe) and enter. He put the cherry on the counter next to the coffee machine, hung up his coat, then took it down and ironed it twice, then hung it up again, and sat down at the counter, staring at the cherry.

It was four o’clock, still two hours until dinner, but he was ready to sleep. The sooner he slept, the sooner he would wake up. The sooner he woke up, the sooner he could go back to the Market. The sooner he went back to the Market, the sooner he would see Cleo smile. And get another cherry. And spend another day in the park, on the bench that smelled like German beer and lemonade, and think about all the ways he would tell Cleo how beautiful she was, even if he would never say it aloud, even once.

Brian had a new day, and it was wonderful.

This #1kStory is for Eva ("A day in the life of Brian, a 30 year old man").

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