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Passing Fancy

It was the bus driver’s fault. He met a woman on the night before the accident. Both he and the woman
had been caught up in the excitement of an imminent love affair. Like small children at Christmas, they
could not wait a decent interval between dates and so their second date was planned for the very next
evening. Driving home from work, he mentally rehearsed different scenarios of the upcoming evening.
He tried to keep his fantasies realistic. He would shower and shave. Put on his good cologne. Tan
pants, khaki sweater. He would pick her up for dinner. A little small talk in the hall as she put the
finishing touches on her outfit and make-up. More small talk in the car. Some jokes, an intellectual
comment or two. Dinner at his favourite Thai restaurant. Back to her place. She would invite him in.
Drinks, music, lights down low. He would make the first move. Kissing her neck, she would gasp with
excitement. Clothes slowing being unbuttoned, unzipped, loosened and removed. No, they would not
go that far on their second date. It would be better if they waited, he would insist on it. He would look
the gentleman and his long term prospects would improve immeasurably. He rewound his fantasy again
and again but every time he replayed the date, they always end up going too far.
Up ahead on the road, another scenario was playing itself out. A green Volvo was hurling down the
highway. The driver was a man in crisis. Earlier that day he had lost his job. Driving home to let his
wife know the bad news, the man was experiencing a myriad of complex emotions. Anger at his boss,
fear of the future, shame for his family and self recrimination for himself. The job was not worth
keeping and was certainly not worth the mental anguish he was experiencing. He would find another job
in due course. A better job. But at the moment he was a middle-aged, balding man that no one wanted.
Although he was not normally given in to emotion, he was crying openly, safe within the confines of his
car where no one could see his weakness. Tears ran down his face, soaking a port wine stain birthmark
high on his right cheek. His vision slightly blurred, the man let the tires on the right side of the Volvo
slipped off the highway on to the soft shoulder, kicking up a storm of pebbles and dust. The man at the
wheel was not worried. He slowed down and moved the car back onto the highway with a sharp jerk of
the wheel.
The bus driver was not paying attention. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the green Volvo swerve in
the right hand lane. Thinking that the car was coming into his lane, the bus driver gave his steering
wheel a sympathetic jerk to the left. This action alone would not have caused an accident:
unfortunately, the bus driver panicked and slammed on the brakes. The bus swerved so badly that it
began to travel sideways down the highway. Momentum carried the bus into oncoming traffic where a
Volkswagen Beetle slammed into the bus’ midsection. The sudden force of the collision caused the bus
to flip over on its side, crushing the VW and its occupant.
The Volvo was well past the site of the accident when the bus rolled over onto the Beetle. The newly
unemployed driver was too preoccupied to notice the carnage he left in his wake.

“How’s it going, dear?” Sarah came upstairs to check on her husband working at his computer.
“Not so good. I’ve just killed a busload of people and an innocent bystander in a Beetle” Ian replied.
“Why would you do that?” asked Sara.
“Just as a joke.”
“How many people were in the bus?”
“I don’t know. I guess the bus was more or less full,” answered Ian, making up his answers as he went

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along.
“Was it a school bus?”
“I think so. No, it was a Church bus, taking people to a religious retreat. They were trying to get closer
to God,” Ian answered mischievously.
“Now you’re just being cruel.”
“That’s not the worst of it. I’ve written myself into a corner.” complained Ian.
“Would you like a cup of tea?” asked Sara.
“That would be nice.”
“Don’t forget, you have a class at six.”
“O.K.” replied Ian.
“And while I’m gone, I want you to save those poor people on the bus.”
Ian followed his wife’s instructions and completed a rewrite in her absence. After a decent interval, she
returned with the afternoon tea.
“Tea time! I made us some banana bread; it’s still warm. How’s the story going?” Sara poured the tea
and added a slice of banana bread to each plate.
“I changed the bus into a truck. I have the truck overturning and spilling its load all over the highway.”
“What is it carrying?”
“Sugar, in your honour.”
“That’s sweet but a little dull. You can do better.”
“How about hogs?” suggested Ian. “It’s a truckload of pigs. The truck overturns and the pigs escape to
wander around the highway.”
“Road hogs! I like it.” Sara quickly developed second thoughts. “Are the pigs injured?” she asked.
“No, they’re fine. They eventually get rounded up and are taken to the slaughter house to be humanly
converted into bacon.”
“Don’t make fun of me. Does the Volkswagen still get crushed?”
“I’m sorry, I have to squash the Bug. It’s just too good to pass up. But the driver doesn’t die, just a
broken bone.”
“Which bone?”
“A little bone. Just her baby toe. She breaks her baby toe . . . off.”
“You’re making fun of me again.” complained Sara.
“I also changed the bus driver. He’s the truck driver now, of course, but now he’s married. He met a
woman the night before and is mentally planning the affair when the accident happens.”
“So he’s a pig,” suggested Sara.
“Right” agreed her husband.
“What about the woman? Is she married?”
“I don’t know.”

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“Does she know the truck driver is married?”
“Uhm . . .“ Ian paused to consider the question. “Sure. Yes, she knows he’s married.”
“So she’s a tramp.”
“No, she’s just confused. She has some personality flaws but she’s a good person. Bad things just seem
to happen to her.”
“Sounds good.” Sara declared. “You better get going if you’re going to make your class on time. I
need the car. Let me drive you.”
“O.K.” agreed her husband.
“How will you get home?”
“I’ll take the bus.”
“I don’t want you taking the bus at night. Call me and I’ll pick you up.”
“Don’t be silly. I’ll take a cab.”
“Alright.” agreed Sara. “But take your umbrella. The radio called for rain.”

Melissa emerged from her bedroom at five in the afternoon to confront the ire of her roommate.
“I just don’t understand how anyone can sleep an entire day away.” It was Lisa’s apartment. She had
taken Melissa in as a roommate and developed some maternal feelings based on her leasehold interest.
“I had a rough night,” explained Melissa.
“I heard. Who’d you sleep with this time?”
“Clyde.”
“And does Clyde belong to these?” Lisa held up Melissa’s toothbrush with a partial bridge hanging off
its end. The bridge had two teeth attached to a flesh coloured plate.
“Yes, those are Clyde’s.” admitted Melissa.
“What are they doing in my bathroom?” asked Lisa.
“He didn’t need them for what he was eating last night.” Melissa giggled as she relieved Lisa of the
toothbrush and false teeth.
“You’re a pig,” Lisa said in disgust. “Is this one married?”
“Yes.”
“You’re both pigs. Why do you insist on sleeping with married men?”
“I don’t care. He’s a nice guy. The single guys are all assholes. You’ve said as much yourself.”
“But that doesn’t give you right to sleep with married men.”
“I’m not like you,” whined Melissa. “I get lonely. I need a man in my bed once in a while.”
“What about his wife? Don’t you have any solidarity to your gender?” asked Lisa.
“That’s between the guy and his wife. There must be some sort of pre-existing problem, and a pretty
serious one, if the guy is willing to jump into my bed.”

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“If there were fewer women like you, guys would have to deal with their problems instead of trying to
screw them away.”
“Don’t start with me. I have to get ready for my class.”
“So you can throw yourself at the teacher?”
“What is your problem?”
“How can you jump to some pretentious professor when you still have the stink of Clyde clinging to
you?”
“I’m just taking a class from Ian, I’m not fucking him.”
“But you’d like to.”
“Listen, I don’t have time for this. I have to get ready for my class.”
“You’re not going to leave me alone with Clyde are you?”
Melissa sighed. “Why not?”
“I rented the room to you, not him. If you go, take him with you.”
“I’ll only be gone for two hours. He won’t even wake up. Give the guy a break and let him sleep. I’ll
come back and make sure he gets out O.K.”
“I’m warning you, if he messes with me, there’ll be trouble.”

By the time he got home Nigel had managed to regain control of his emotions. He was preparing
himself to give the bad news to his wife but as he approached his house he was surprised to find his
driveway occupied. Three cars were parked in a space usually intended for one. A half dozen more cars
had spilled out of the driveway and were parked in all the available spots around his house. He was
forced to park the Volvo three doors down. Someone better have died, he thought.
The scent of incense greeted Nigel as he entered his house. Thin tuneless sounds of New Age music
drifted out of the living room. Not today, thought Nigel. Not today, of all days. He ventured deeper
into his house to find that a band of middle aged women had taken over his living room. The women
were seated in nine chairs arranged in a circle. Most of the women wore the normal clothing of middle
class women suffering from an excess of affluence and free time. There were, however, two notable
exceptions. One short, wide woman wore a massive white robe and a ridiculous red headdress. In her
lap was a small drum upon which she was pounding with a surprising lack of rhythm. And in the centre
of the circle sat the second exception, Nigel’s wife. She was naked and she was bald. Her hair lay in
clumps around her on the floor. A very large and burley woman was standing over Nigel’s wife,
methodically dipping a long thin needle in ink and piecing the top of her bald head.
“WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE?”
Every woman in the room turned to stare at Nigel, except for his wife who continued to stare into space,
as if in a trance.
“Nigel, what are you doing home?” One of the women came to confront Nigel.
“Shut up Judith. No one is talking to you.” Nigel turned his attention back to his wife. “Alison!
Answer me! What have you done to yourself?”
Judith grabbed Nigel by the arm and began to drag him from the living room. “Nigel, let’s talk in the

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kitchen.”
“Get your hands off me. I’m talking to my wife.”
“I’ll explain everything in the kitchen,” insisted Judith.
“Alright. I’ll go into the kitchen.” Nigel gave one last look at the surreal scene in his living room.
“But when I come back, I want everyone gone. Do you hear me?” He shouted. “Gone or by God, I’ll
throw each and everyone of you out.” And with that he accompanied Judith to the kitchen.

“I’ve read your last assignment. They are very good, by and large, but they are still suffering from the
same old problem.” Ian was interrupted by a rain soaked Melissa entering the classroom. “Good of you
to join us Ms. Parker.”
“Sorry, it’s crazy out there. A truck turned over and the highway is backed up for miles.”
“What was the truck hauling?”
Melissa was taken back by the question. “I, uhm . . . what . . . I don’t know.”
“Did it spill its load?”
“I didn’t notice.”
“O.K. Just take your seat.” Ian continued his lesson. “Your writing is too predictable. Boy meets girl.
Boy loses girl. Boy wins girl back. You can’t always move in a straight line. Sometimes you have to
come at it from a different direction.”
“How do you do that?” asked a student.
“Let’s try a little experiment. Everybody empty your pockets. We’ll have a contest. The person with
the most unexpected thing in their pocket wins.”
“What do we win?” someone shouted.
“Winner gets an A on their next assignment.” There were cheers and jeers in equal numbers. “No
good? How about if I buy the winner a beer?” This time the class was unanimous in its cheers. “That’s
it then. Now empty your pockets. Put everything on your desks.” The class complied with a noticeable
lack of enthusiasm. Ian walked down the aisle examining the objects on his students’ desks. A small
metal clip caught his eye.
“What’s this?” he asked picking up the clip.
“It’s a roach clip,” explained the young man seated at the desk.
“Where’s the roach?”
“I smoked it before class.”
“O.K. The roach clip is in the running.” Ian continued to move up and down the aisles. “Here’s
another classic.” He said picking up a condom. “Is there anything special about the condom?” He
asked the attractive woman who supplied the condom.
“What do you mean?”
“Is it ribbed or flavoured or anything?”
“No. It’s just a regular condom.”
“Very good.” Ian continued to examine the items tendered by the students. Keys, loose change, bus

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passes, lip balm, student cards and wallets were the most common items. Ian stopped to read a Life in
Hell comic one student had clipped out of the newspaper but continued on without a smile or comment.
“What’s this?” Ian stopped at the desk of a very tall, thin young man and picked up a cold piece of
folded dough leaking tomato sauce.
“It’s a slice of pizza.”
“Really?” Ian unfolded the slice revealing pepperoni and mushrooms trapped in congealed cheese.
“I was hungry.” the tall youth explained sheepishly. “I didn’t have time to finish it before class.”
“So you put it in your pocket for later.” Ian was obviously pleased with his discovery. “This is going
to be hard to beat. I think you’ll have a beer to help you wash down that slice. Anyone want to
challenge Mr. Harding for the beer?” Melissa giggled from two seats down. Ian moved to her desk and
picked up two teeth attached to a flesh coloured plate.
“Smile.” he ordered. Melissa complied with another giggle and flashed a dazzling smile at her teacher.
“I assume these teeth are not yours”
“You assume right.”
“How did they come to be in your pocket?”
“That’s a long story.”
“Exactly. This week’s assignment. How did the teeth get into Ms. Parker’s pocket?”

“What are you doing home so early?”


“I don’t have to explain myself to you. It’s my house and I’ll come home whenever I please. What
have you done to Alison?” Nigel’s port wine stain turned a deeper shade of burgundy whenever he was
angry. It now glowed like a beacon.
“I haven’t done anything to her. She is in the middle of a cleansing ceremony.”
“And what are you cleansing her of? Me?”
“Alison is entering a higher plane.”
“Judith, you have to stop filling her head with this crap. Alison is vulnerable.”
“That’s why she needs our help.”
“What have you gotten her to do?”
“I don’t control her and neither do you.”
“What has she done?”
“Nothing. She’s shaved her hair off to symbolize her rebirth.”
“And the tattoo?”
“You won’t be able to see it after her hair grows back.”
“Then why do it?”
“Alison will know it’s there.”
“I’ve had it with you and your group. I want you to stay away from Alison. Clear out and don’t come

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back.”
“You can’t run her life. I’ll see Alison whenever she needs me.”
“Well, I need Alison right now so get out.”
“I can’t do that. The ceremony’s not over.”
“Make it over. I need to talk to my wife.”
“Have you seen her? She can’t help you in the state she’s in. Give her a chance to come down. Come
back at your regular time and everything will be back to normal.”
“I doubt it.”
“Please come back after six.”

Clyde emerged from Melissa’s room at 7:00 pm.


“Where Melissa?” he asked Lisa who was sitting on the couch.
“She’s at her class.” Lisa turned to look at Clyde. “You fucking pig! How dare you walk around my
apartment in your underwear? This is not some cheap whorehouse. This is where I live. Put your pants
on!”
“In just a minute, sweetcheeks, I have to pee.” Clyde crossed the hall and disappeared into the
bathroom. Lisa followed the sounds of Clyde’s absolutions from behind the closed door. The click of
the toilet seat being raised. Clyde’s water hitting the bowl. The roar of the flush. Lisa noted that Clyde
neglected to wash his hands.
“Get dressed and get out.” Lisa ordered as Clyde came out of the bathroom.
“Where’s my plate?”
“What?”
“My plate. My teeth. My false teeth. Where are they?”
“How should I know?”
“I can’t go out without my teeth. Look at me.” Clyde smiled revealing a huge gap where his two front
teeth should be. The sight made Lisa lower her estimate of Clyde’s already low IQ by another 15
points.
“I don’t care what you look like. Put your pants on and go home to your wife.”
“I’ll put my pants on but I think I’ll wait here for Melissa. Besides, my wife is a thousand miles away.”
Clyde informed her with a licentious, toothless grin.
“So you wait until she’s out of town before you start fucking around. That’s very decent of you,” said
Lisa sarcastically.
“No, I’m the one out of town. I’m an asphalt cowboy,” he announced proudly. Lisa stared at him
blankly. “I’m a truck driver,” he explained. “I wander the wild black top.”
“What a load of macho bull shit.” was Lisa’s only comment.
Clyde went back into the bedroom to get dressed. “When are you expecting Melissa to come home?”
He called out from the bedroom.

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“Not for another hour.”
Fully dressed, Clyde sat opposite Lisa on the couch. They sat silently, Lisa trying to read her book,
Clyde trying to read Lisa. Finally, Lisa could take no more. “Stop looking at me.”
“Why do you hate me?” Clyde asked.
“Because you cheat on your wife.”
“If she doesn’t mind, why should you?”
“She knows?”
“No, she doesn’t know. But she wouldn’t mind even if she did know.”
“So, you’re a cheat and a liar.”
“I think you kind of dig me.” suggested Clyde.
“Please!” said Lisa in disgust.
“Why don’t we move this conversation into your bedroom?”
Lisa stood up, walked over to Clyde and slapped him full in the face. Clyde replied by punching Lisa in
the stomach.

“What can I get you?”


“Here’s my address and car keys. I plan to get drunk. See that I get home safely.”
“Tough day?”
“Yeah, tough day.”
“Want to talk about it?”
“No.”
“What are you drinking?”

“I’ll be home a little late. I promised to buy a student a drink.”


“Male or female?”
“What?”
“The student. Is the student male or female?”
“Female.”
“Is she pretty?”
“Very.”
“Should I be jealous?”
“Yes.” teased Ian.
“I read some more of your story.”
“What do you think?”

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“I don’t like the tattoo. It’s too over the top.”
“O.K. No tattoo.”
“And there is no way that a middle aged woman would get naked in front of her friends. That’s a guy
thing.”
“Not even if it was part of a New Age ritual?”
“There is no way she would take her clothes off.”
“O.K. She keeps her clothes on.”
“Come home soon. The weather is terrible.”
“I might as well stay for a while. I won’t be able to get a cab in this rain, anyway.”
“Just be careful.”
“O.K. Don’t worry.”
Ian returned to their table after only a few minutes absence.
“How’s your wife?” asked Melissa
“Actually, the purpose of the call was to inform her of my state of well being rather than to enquire
about hers. But thanks for asking.”
“You’re a good husband, aren’t you?”
“Define good.”
“Sounds like next week’s assignment.”
“Not a bad idea. Thanks for the idea.”
“I’ve been well paid.” Melissa raised her glass at Ian in a pantomime toast. They drank in silence for a
few moments. “Do you often go out with your students?”
“Whenever it seems appropriate.”
“How about when it’s inappropriate?”
“It’s never inappropriate. That’s the advantage of teaching adults.”
“I can think of something inappropriate.”
“I didn’t issue a challenge.”
“Why not? Afraid you’ll lose?”
“I won’t lose.”
“Why not?”
“Let’s not play this game. Your feelings are apt to get hurt.”
“Don’t you think I’m pretty?”
“Yes, you’re very pretty.”
“Then what’s the problem?”
“You’re too young.”
“I don’t believe you.”

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“Why not?”
“After a woman comes of age, there’s no such thing as too young. If the younger woman is agreeable,
the relationship has a way of happening. Trust me, I’m experienced in this sort of thing.”
“I’m married.”
“That doesn’t matter to me.”
“But it matters to me.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“You don’t believe in much, do you?”
“If marriage was an issue, it would have been your first and only excuse.”
“You should try working these types of observations into your writing.”
“Yes teacher” Melissa replied sarcastically. “Now why aren’t you interested in me?”
“You’re really determined to do this?”
“Yes.”
“Do you want me to hurt your feelings?”
“I can take it. Tell me why.”
“I don’t think you’re a very good writer.”
“Ouch.”

“Oh my God! Lisa, what’s wrong?” said Melissa to Lisa who was laying in a fetal position on the
couch, clutching her abdomen.
“Where have you been? You should have been home an hour ago,” snapped Lisa.
“I made a quick stop. What happened? Where’s Clyde?”
“He left right after he punched me in the stomach.”
“He did what?”
“Punched me.”
“Why did he do that? Did you have a fight?”
“There was no fight. He wanted to fuck me. I said no, so he assaulted me. I was just waiting for you to
come back so that we could go down to the police station and have that fucker charged with assault and
attempted rape.”
“I don’t believe it,” said Melissa in amazement.
“Are you calling me a liar?”
“No, I just find the whole thing very strange.”
“I’ll tell you what. Pack your bags and get out. Get out right now. Tonight. I don’t want you living
here anymore.”
“Tonight? Where would I go?”

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“Why don’t you crawl into bed with Clyde and his poor wife, you slut!”
“Take it easy Lisa, can’t we work this out?”
“Don’t patronize me. Get out. Get out this minute. You can send someone to pick up your things
tomorrow.”
“But . . .”
“Get out. GET OUT! GET OUT!!” Screamed Lisa.

“How did your date go?” asked Sarah.


“It wasn’t a date and I’m afraid it didn’t go too well. She wanted more than just a drink and wouldn’t
take no for an answer.”
“You can be so cruel.”
“Hey, you’re supposed to me on my side.”
“I wasn’t taking sides. It was just an observation.”
“She was interesting though. I think I’ll work her into my story.”
“You get out of those wet things. I’ll put the kettle on.”

“I didn’t expect to see you back so soon,” said the bartender.


“I didn’t expect to be back so soon,” replied Melissa dejectedly.
“What’ll you have?”
“Whatever will get me the drunkest; fast and cheap.”
“Try the house wine. Red or white?”
“White, I plan on puking later and I don’t want to leave a stain.”
“Glass or carafe?”
“Bottle.”
“Do you want to order something to eat? Pizza Pockets are new on the menu.”
“Please!” said Melissa in disgust. “I’d like to puke on an empty stomach.”
“I guess things didn’t work out too good with that guy you were in here with,” the bartender said as he
opened the wine.
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“There’s a lot of that going around,” said the bartender
“You ought to know,” replied Melissa, bitterly.
The bartender knew he had out stayed his welcome and left without saying another word. Melissa
began to drink her wine. She was determined to get her life in order. This would not be another
unfulfilled resolution. Tonight she would make a list. It would be her blueprint for a new life. She
finished her first glass of wine and rooted around her purse for a piece of paper and a pen.

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Melissa’s Blueprint.
She headed up the piece of paper with the title, She paused to
pour herself another glass of wine and examine her handy work. Condensation from the bottle of wine
had stained the top right corner of her paper. She sipped her wine and began to compose her list.
1. Find a place to sleep tonight
2. Find a new apartment
3. Call up Clyde and find out what happened with Lisa
She took another wine break. The list already looked overwhelming. Not only that, but she realized
that her blueprint for change was already compromised. She drew a neat line through item 3, poured
another glass of wine and continued to work on her list.
1. Find a place to sleep tonight
2. Find a new apartment
3. Call up Clyde and find out what happened with Lisa
3. Find a new boyfriend
Qualifications: i) NOT MARRIED !!
ii) Age 25 to 30
iii) Must have a job
4. Get married
5. Have children
No good. Melissa realized that she had composed her mother’s list. She finished another glass of wine
and tried again.
1. Find a place to sleep tonight.
2. Find a new apartment
3. Call up Clyde and find out what happened with Lisa
3. Find a new boyfriend
Qualifications: i) NOT MARRIED !!
ii) Age 25 to 30
iii) Must have a job
4. Get married
5. Have children
3. Finish writing assignment
4. Graduate

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5. Get a good job
6. Contribute to RRSP
1. Retire
Now she had written her father’s list! She drank the last of her wine. She tore up her list and started
fresh:
1. Lists are for losers
“Hey bartender! Don’t you have anything with a little more kick?”
“What’ll you have?”
“How about a vodka shooter?”
“You got it.”
Melissa looked around the bar for the first time. Not a bad place. Dark oak lined both the bar and
walls. The crowd was a little sedate tonight. Mainly middle-aged guys drinking beer. One sad looking
guy looked like he was crying into his beer. A port wine stain birthmark looked like a bloody tear on his
cheek. Melissa returned to her list.
2. When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose.
The bartender returned with her shooter. “I’m invisible now, I’ve got not secrets . . . to
conceeeeeeeeal.” She sang in a voice that betrayed her intoxication. The sad looking drinker looked up
from his beer. He stared blankly at Lisa. Lisa interpreted direct eye contact as a challenge and glared
back at the drunk. In truth, the man’s refusal to avert his eyes was more the result of optical apathy
rather than intentional confrontation. Nevertheless, Lisa was moved to action.
“How does it feel?” she sang. Her antagonist remained silent.
“HOW DOES IT FEEL?” she sang louder. “To be on your own. With no direction home.” Still no
reply. “Hello, is there anyone home?” she asked sarcastically.
“Are you talking to me?” the man asked.
“You’re supposed to answer, ‘Like a rolling stone.’”
“Pardon me?”
“Bob Dylan? Like a rolling stone? What’s the matter with you?”
The man seemed to come out her stupor. “Sorry, I was somewhere else.”
This small sign of humanity precipitated an abrupt change in Melissa’s attitude. She moved a little
closer to the sad little man. She looked at him for the first time. He was probably in his forty’s but his
depressing manner made him seem at least ten years older. His hair was so thin as to be virtually
transparent on top of his sweating skull. Middle-aged spread had hit his midriff, leaving him a little
flabby around the edges. Melissa noted the wedding ring on his left hand. Despite his flaws, Melissa
had already drank him handsome.
“Let me show you something.” Melissa reached into her pocket a pulled out a partial bridge. She
slapped the teeth onto the bar. “See these teeth? Because of these teeth, I don’t have a place to sleep
tonight.”

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“Am I supposed to guess how a set of debentures cost you your bed?”
“If you’d like,” replied Melissa coyly. She stealthy moved to occupy the empty stool beside her new
friend.
“If it’s all the same to you, I’d rather not.”
“What’s the matter with you? Don’t you like girls? Is this a gay bar? Is that what’s wrong with all the
guys in here?”
“No offence, I’m just not in the mood. Any other day I would have been happy to flirt with you but
I’ve had a tough day. I came in here drink in peace. So if you don’t mind . . . ”
Melissa signed deeply. “I give up. The gods must be angry tonight.” Melissa sat quietly, finger
Clyde’s teeth. After a few minutes, her fidgeting became more creative. She balanced the dentures on
the rim of her glass so that the teeth appeared to be trying to drink out of the near empty glass. Despite
his best intention, the sad man who had previous shunned Melissa was watching with fascination as she
folded a cocktail napkin into a tiny hat. She balanced the hat precariously on top of the grinning teeth.
Melissa waved down the bartender. “Another drink for me and my toothy friend.” she said, pointing to
the dentures. “Do you happen to have a cigarette?” she asked sliding a loonie across the bar. The
bartender exchanged a cigarette for the dollar. Melissa wedged the cigarette between the glass and the
teeth. The end resulted looked like a demented Cheshire cat with bad habits.
Melissa’s drink arrived. “Cheers.” she said to the smiling glass. She began to have an imaginary
conversation with her creation. “Do you come here often? . . . Neither do I. Nice place but the guys
are a little fruity. So, what do you do for a living? . . . Really? Sounds like fascinating work.” She
quickly tired of her pantomime and went back to staring into space.
“Listen, I’m sorry if I was rude before.” The man sitting next to Melissa had come back to life.
“That’s O.K. The way things are going today, I was lucky you didn’t shoot me. Listen, I’m bored.
Let’s talk. I promise not to flirt or come on to you.”
“Deal.”
“What do you want to talk about?” asked Melissa.
“Hey, you’re the one that wanted to talk, you pick the topic.”
“What do you do?” asked Melissa innocently.
“Wrong topic.”
Melissa tried again. “O.K., tell me about your day.”
“Try again.” suggested the man.
“Why?”
“It’s too personal.”
“What’s too personal?”
“My day. Everything that happened to me today is too personal.”
“You’re not making this any easier.” Melissa sighed. “Can I talk about myself?”
“Sure.
“Can it be personal?” asked Melissa.

Passing Fancy Page: 14


“It can be personal but not sexual.”
“Another challenge. O.K. how about this, I only have nine toes.”
“And how is that divided up between your two feet?”
“Five on the right and four on the left.”
“Were you born that way?”
“No. I had to have it amputated when I was twelve. Actually, it’s not that interesting a story. I stubbed
it somehow and it got infected. I didn’t take care of it and the infection spread and started to
overwhelm my body’s defenses. I almost died. They had to amputate the toe to save my life.”
“Which toe was it?”
“The baby toe.”
“You’re right. That wasn’t a very interesting a story.”
“But it was personal. I’ve always been a little sensitive about having nine toes. I never go to the beach
or wear sandals. I always wear slippers at night. Even some of my lovers haven’t notice the missing
toe.”
“You managed to bring the conversation back to sex.”
“Right. No sex. That’s good advice. I’m going to put that on my list.” Melissa’s list was still sitting
on top of the bar. She took a moment to add ‘ No Sex!!!’ as item 3. “Now you know something
about me but I still don’t know anything about you. Fair’s fair. You have to give me something. Do
you have a name?”
“Nigel.”
“I assume you’re not missing any body parts, Nigel.”
“Not so as you’d notice.”
“Throw me a bone here. You can at least tell me what do you do for a living?”
“No work.”
“Do you mean that you don’t want to talk about work or that you have no work?”
“Both.”
“Unemployment is nothing to be ashamed of. I don’t have a job and I’m not embarrassed.”
“With all due respect, I think there’s a world of difference between you and I. I have a wife and a child
to feed and keep clothed. A house and car to maintain and insure. Phone bills, cable bills, hydro bills,
property taxes, veterinarian bills, and now that I lost my insurance benefits I have to add dental bills,
prescription drugs, medical insurance and life insurance bills. I have a mortgage to pay. And the bank
is so unreasonable. They want a payment every single month regardless if I happen to be working or
not. I need to bring in $4,000 a month, after tax just to pay my overhead. $4,000 a month, every
month. What do you need to make to pay for your basic food and shelter.”
“I don’t know. Maybe $800.”
“A month!”
“Yeah, approximately.”

Passing Fancy Page: 15


“Imagine living on $800 a month,” said Nigel to no one in particular “$4,000 just buys me the basic
necessities of life. How am I going to pay for my son’s camp? I am supposed to tell him that Dad can’t
afford to send him to camp this year? Am I supposed to send him to a charity camp?’
“Take it easy. You’re going to give yourself an ulcer,” warned Melissa. “How long have you been
unemployed?”
Nigel looked at his watch. “Nine hours and twenty minutes.”
“You lost your job today!” exclaimed Melissa.
Nigel just nodded his head.
“Well, no wonder you’re so up tight. I think you should have another drink.” Melissa caught the
bartender’s eye and held up the two finger signal for another round of drinks. “What did your wife
say?” she asked innocently.
Nigel reverted to his annoying habit of staring into space. “Let me guess,” said Melissa. “You haven’t
told her yet’”
Nigel let a long sigh escape his body. His head suddenly seemed to heavy a burden for his neck to bear.
He slumped forward, resting his head in his left hand. The bartender picked this moment to return with
a beer and another shot. He scrutinized Nigel closely wondering briefly if he was incurring any liability
for himself and the bar by serving Nigel another drink.
“There’s no one to tell.” Nigel said, tears welling up in his eyes. “She can’t be there for me right now.
And there doesn’t seems to be anything that I can do to help her.”
Melissa watched Nigel fall apart before her eyes. She was struck dumb by the strength of Nigel’s
emotions. They sat silently for a short time, Melissa sipping her drink, Nigel staring off into space. “I
haven’t even had time to grieve for my lost job. I don’t know where I’m going to find the strength to
cope with her problems right now.”
“One thing’s for sure.” replied Melissa, taking the bulls by the horns. “You’re not going to find it
inside that bottle of beer. Let’s pull ourselves together. Can you go home?”
Nigel sat unmoving, tears building up in his eyes. Melissa continued. “I’ve got no place to sleep
tonight and it looks like you’re in the same boat. Let’s get a hotel room. Nothing improper, one with
two twin beds. We’ll sleep in our clothes and except for the hangovers, I’ll bet everything will look
more manageable in the morning. I’ll even help you with your resume. I’m a creative writer you
know.” she said with a grin.
Nigel struggled to get to his feet. “Bartender, please call me a cab.” He turned to Melissa. “You’re
very kind but I think it’s better if I go home.”
“It wasn’t an offer of sex,” said Melissa defensively.
“I know. But we come from two different worlds. Under normal circumstances, we should never even
have met. I think I have enough complications in my life right now.”
Nigel paid his bill and left the bar on unsteady feet.
Melissa slumped forward letting her head fall to the bar. “A drink. I need a drink!” she yelled, her
voice muffled by her hair cascading over her face and the bar.
“I can’t serve you another drink,” replied the bartender. “You can’t even lift your head off the bar.”
“O.K then.” said Melissa. “Then give me a haircut.”

Passing Fancy Page: 16


“Well, what do you think?” asked Ian.
“It’s alright,” replied Sara hesitantly. “But it ends kind of abruptly.”

Passing Fancy Page: 17

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