26 parts of a Speculative Fiction story by J Lenni Dorner
If I were sober, I could drive away. Somehow, I think my wife has sent this guy with his heavy accent as punishment for napping beside her grave. Again.
“Genuine leather? Cannot be very warm.”
“Full Grain. Genuine is crap.” I pull out my phone to check the time.
The man pets my left arm. “Ah, so it is. Not many wear leather fencing jackets in America, eh?”
I stare at him until he takes a step back. “I have places to be.”
“We all do.” He winks.
I drop the remaining half of my sandwich into the cooler, chug the rest of the water, and toss the bottle into my recycling box. My slamming liftgate is louder than I intended.
“Your black vehicle is called an Escape? How unusual! From what and where do you escape?”
“Listen, I don’t work for Ford. I needed a new truck, this was in my price range, so I bought it. The name wasn’t a factor.” This guy is creeping me out.
He nods. “So sorry. It seemed like a fact of interest, eh? Perhaps not. You have blue in hair.”
“Cake icing.” I reopen my liftgate, grab another baby wipe, and remove blue from auburn.
“Someone smash cake on you? That is odd custom. Waste of food.”
It’s gluing my thick waves together. Even with short hair, this task is impossible. I need a shower.
“No. Look, I have to go.” I close the liftgate again and head toward my driver’s side door.
“Something is on hand.” He touches the back of my left hand. I instinctively curl my fingers, protecting my wedding band from possible thievery.
“Yeah. It’s a tattoo.”
“Very strange. What is these markings?”
I’ve about had it with this guy and his questions. “Who are you?”
“Oh! So sorry. Manners. I am Brydanz Sulguni. I see you from over there.” He points to the sidewalk at the end of the parking area. “Thought to myself, why is such a strong looking fighter out here freezing? Maybe I can help, eh?”
“I’m a dancer, not a fighter. And I’m not freezing or in need of help. Thanks.”
He shakes his head. “You may dance, but you are a fighter. I know one when I see one.” He taps the tattoo on the back of my left hand. “Markings of wins?”
“Sorry to disappoint you. The black capital T with the red circle around it? That’s for the Boston commuter rail red line. Savin Hill is where my family is from. The thirteen little shamrocks around it represent my siblings and myself.”
“This is Philadelphia, city of brotherly love, not Boston The Olde Towne.”
“Both the Cradle of Liberty, like Switzerland.”
Who memorizes all the nicknames of places? This guy is like potato salad sitting out on a hot July afternoon. “Yeah. I moved here from Boston five years ago.”
He runs his finger around the circle of shamrocks on my hand. It’s strange how comfortable this guy is with touching a stranger. Must be a European custom. “Why not all green? Shamrocks grow in grass, no? They should all be like color of your eyes.”
Does he ever run out of questions? “There are five green ones. Two for my older brothers, two for my young brothers, and one for me. The seven white ones with the thin green outline represent my three older and four younger sisters. The orange shamrock is for my brother who died as an infant.”
“All your siblings have this tattoo?”
“No, just some of us. And my dad. I have to go. My kids are waiting.”
“You raise goats?”
“Children. Three girls.” I pause to correct myself, but decide it’s not worth explaining to this guy. “Nice to have met you, Brydanz.”
He reaches to shake my hand. “Good to have met you as well. Three girls? You must have much to arrange for them to marry well, eh?”
“They’re too young to think about marriage.”
And it better stay that way, or I’ll be burying boys in the backyard. Or lesbians, if they go that way. Whatever, it’s still too early. I rub my stomach and excuse myself as belch tasting of stout, cake, and the sandwich fills my mouth. Tastes like regret and sorrow. The guy stares at me as though he’s expecting me to answer a question. Did he ask me something important?
“My job is to get them through high school and into good colleges. Education is key. I really have to be on my way.”
“Dancing pays that well in America?”
“Yeah.” I don’t feel my fiances are his business. My stomach rumbles. I should have finished the sandwich. At least this interrogation has sobered me up.
Brydanz pulls a business card from his jacket. “Here. In case maybe you need more than dancing to send girls to university. Talk it over with family, with wife and parents, when you get home.”
“My parents are still in Boston.” I cram the card into my pant’s pocket.
He nods. “Of course, of course. Savin Hill train stop. Talk to wife about card, eh?”
I look to the graveyard. “Yeah. We’ll talk. Bye.” I get in my truck and drive off.
What is the most unique tattoo you’ve ever come across?
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