by Mat Twassel
The man walked into the card and gift shop just before lunch time. A set of bells over the door jingled brightly, and the college girl behind the counter looked up. The man appeared both rugged and soft—he might have been thirty-five, he might have been forty-eight. One couldn't tell from his clothing whether he was a minister or a mountain-climber. The college girl lowered her eyes to the stenographer's notebook on her lap.
In the rear of the store an old man and an old woman stood in an aisle of cards. "This one is just incredulous, don't you think?" the old woman said to the old man.
The college girl shook her head slightly from side to side. Her long hair swayed slowly against her face.
The man who could have been a minister or a mountain-climber looked at the rack of magazines and newspapers near the front window. He swiveled the rack, just a tentative twist, and the metal squeaked. The man immediately stopped. The college girl was looking at him. She had full lips, a long yet sensuous face, and eyes which seemed to be asking a stern question.
"Um, do you have any maps?" the man said.
"Maps?" the girl said.
"Of around here?" the man said. He had a ruddy complexion, or else he was blushing.
Just then the rain started, a vigorous rain. The man looked out at the street.
"I knew this was going to happen," the old woman said from the back of the store. She had the loud voice of a jungle bird. "Didn't I tell you?"
"It's not supposed to rain here this time of year," the old man said. "It was sunny only a moment ago."
"It's still sunny," the woman said. "On top of the clouds. Ha ha."
"I guess I'd better hurry up and buy my umbrella," the woman continued. "Before they run out."
The college girl made a downward pecking motion with her forefinger. Not sure what she meant, the man took a few steps towards the counter. Just in front of it he noticed an umbrella stand. The quiver contained two umbrellas, each with a sticker on the end of its handle.
The man pulled an umbrella from the quiver. "How come these are so cheap?" he asked the girl behind the counter.
"Forty-seven cents?" the man pointed to the sticker on the handle.
"Oh," said the college girl. "Those are forty-seven dollars. For a moment I thought you were being... rude."
"Forty-seven seems kind of high," the man said.
"Well, we don't get a lot of rain around here," the girl said.
"Go ahead, ask him." It was the voice of the old woman.
"Excuse me, sir," the old man said. "Are you planning on purchasing that umbrella?"
The man turned to the old couple. "I, uh...."
"Yes," said the college girl.
"He means the one in the basket," the old woman said.
"Both of them," the girl said.
"But surely he doesn't need two?" the old woman said.
"Gifts," the college girl said.
"Gifts?" the old woman repeated.
"Yes," the college girl said. "Umbrellas make very nice gifts. And these in particular." She spoke to the man. "Feel how smooth the skin is. And how stiff and heavy the handle. If you hand those to me I'll have them wrapped in a jiffy."
"But it's raining," the old woman said. "We'll get wet."
"I could give you a large bag," the college girl said.
"No, we'll just wait it out," the old woman said.
The old couple retreated to the rear of the shop, and the man handed the umbrellas over the counter to the college girl. "I don't think that I can buy both umbrellas," he whispered.
"Why not?" the college girl said. "Don't you like them?"
"It's not that."
"A wonderful souvenir of your stay in the desert, don't you think?"
"I just don't have that much money on me."
"What if they were 47 cents?"
"Are they 47 cents?"
"They might be."
"I guess I have that much." The man dug into the front pocket of his pants and pulled out a curled dollar."
"Perfect," the girl said. "I just know you're going to love these umbrellas."
The girl stepped off the stool to take the dollar. The man noticed that she was tall and slim but shapely in her tight jeans and thin blouse, not skinny at all. Carefully she put the stenographer's notebook on the counter. Using both hands, she wiggled the dollar into the front pocket of her pants.
"I don't do everything for a reason," the girl said, "but I did put my notebook face down on purpose—do you want to know why?"
"So I wouldn't read what you've written?"
"Exacto-mundo," the girl said. "But I'll tell you what it is. It's a poem."
"Oh," said the man.
"You don't like poetry?"
"It's not that," the man said.
"It's not?" the girl said.
"No," the man said.
"Then what is it?"
"I don't know," the man said.
"I'll tell you what it is," the girl said. "It's a poem about my boy friend's cock."
The girl tilted her head and smiled slightly. "Would you like to read it?"
"I thought you said...."
"I didn't say I was going to let you read it," the girl said. "I just asked if you wanted to."
"I don't know, I... I suppose," the man said.
"Do you know what incredulous means?"
"I think so."
"Good. What I really wonder about, though, is what you think about my poem—your thoughts about it without having read a single word of it—knowing only that it's about my boy friend's cock."
The girl paused for a moment, but the man didn't say anything.
"Do you think that it might be about the way his cock feels when it's in my pussy?"
The girl let the silence stand there. Rain sounds burned the roof. The girl's eyes, soft but insistent, waited. Finally the man said "I guess that could be one thing."
"Oh? What might be another thing?"
"One thing leads to another.... That sort of thing."
"I don't know," the man said. His hands opened.
"Let me give you a hint. Let's see.... Would it help you to know my boy friend's name? Multiple choice: Tom, Dick, or Harry. But really it's none of those, it's Dave. Don't you think Dave is a good name for a boy friend's cock? I mean a boy friend?"
The man opened his hands again, a small shrug.
"Forget about the poem for a moment," the girl said. "I mean for all you know it could be a shopping list. Do you like my belt?"
The man looked at the belt. The end of it dangled across the front of the college girl's pants. "It's a little long, isn't it?"
The girl laughed. "You noticed that! You're an observant guy. Yeah, I like that, and I like the way it hangs down. It was Dave's and he's bigger than me around the middle. A 34 I think. Anyway I made him give me the belt before he left and he had to put a hole in it for me. Here, I'll show you." The girl unbuckled the belt and pulled it off.
"There," she said, "That's my hole." She covered the hole with her forefinger. "Kind of cute isn't it? Would you like to touch my hole?"
The man swallowed.
"I really like this belt a lot," the girl said. "For one thing, feel how soft it is? Stiff and soft at the same time. I like that kind of duality, don't you? And for another thing—well, it was Dave's, and no, he didn't whip me with it. Were you thinking that? Were you thinking that maybe this discoloration here at the end was from my blood or something like that? I could understand if you had those kinds of thoughts, but these aren't blood stains. See, what I do, now that Dave's away for awhile, when I'm lonely I just kind of tuck the end down into me, and oh yeah, you know...."
The girl held the belt out as of she were showing off a pet snake before bringing it back nearly to her breasts. "If you sniff it real close you can probably smell me on it, that mixed with the leather smell." She started to bring the end of the belt towards her nose, but then she stopped. "That's what I was writing the poem about, Dave's belt. The kick line is what's holding his pants up now. Anyway, here are your umbrellas, though I see the rain has let up, and we don't have any maps—try the gas station at the end of the next block. Take care now." She started to hand the bag of umbrellas over the counter.
"Oh, wait a sec, let me throw this in." Deftly the girl let the belt slide into the bag.
"There you are," the girl said. She tilted her head to give the man a brilliant smile. The man held the package tentatively, as if it were a baby.
Once out in the street, it looked like he didn't know quite which way to go.