Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Loser

By Bettyann Moore

As the train pulled into the station, Porpoise McAllister knew he was in trouble. He could see them: Melissa (Look, But Don’t Touch) Stufelter and her parents, George and Stephanie, standing outside the depot. George looked stern; Stephanie like she was only vaguely conscious of where she was. Melissa resembled a toadstool with her wide-brimmed hat and her long, cylindrical body clothed in fungus brown, her arms stiffly at her sides. Porpoise imagined her dropping hermaphroditic spores here and there with each movement she made.

He ran his thick fingers through his tangled mass of red hair, leaving traces of a Snickers Bar lunch to mingle with the natural oils. As the train edged nearer to the platform, Porpoise’s mind wandered to the last time he had been with Melissa (Wash Your Hand First) Stufelter. It was just before going off on this trip to Grandmother McAllister’s Transcendental Meditation Workshop and Goose Farm, a combination which had proved near-fatal to Porpoise whose level of concentration – much heightened by Grandma’s protein-packed meals – had caused him to wander unknowingly into a gaggle of geese. The fowl had not achieved Nirvana as Grandmother had hoped and had proceeded to attack the corpulent flesh beneath Porpoise’s short meditation robe, nearly rendering him incapable of the things Melissa (You’ll Have to Marry Me First) Stufelter found hard not to like.

The night before he left, Porpoise realized, Melissa hadn’t fought at all. It had even been her idea to end their date at her father’s place of business instead of their usual spot under the third rose bush in her mother’s haphazard garden. At first he was pleased by this change of scene since it would afford his body time to heal from the thorn wounds that Melissa took such great pleasure in bestowing upon his naked flesh whenever he came too close to entering the seventh heaven he’d often reached alone, but had never entered with another.

As soon as they stepped into her father’s shadowy office, though, Porpoise wished fervently that George were something other than a mortician.

It wasn’t the thought of all those bodies surrounding them, nor was it Melissa’s wild-eyed look that made him nervous, Porpoise reasoned now. No, it was the thought of all those newly-departed, all-seeing souls that caused his skin and muscle to shrivel noticeably. And wasn’t it true that Old Man Peterson’s remains were waiting for burial in the next room? If the rumors were true, Peterson had been the most prodigious lover in town, had, in fact, succumbed to death at the age of 88 only after making three very young women very happy – at the same time. How could Porpoise compete with that? Surely Peterson was hovering over them, giggling at Porpoise’s ineptitude, giving pointers Porpoise wished he could hear and even ogling Melissa’s body – or worse, laughing at it!

With Melissa’s words echoing in his mind about this being a “test” of some gruesome sort, and half a dozen spirits dangling above them, Porpoise fumbled and fought for finesse, then froze when he realized that his Super Flavor Big Bubble Gum had gotten stuck in her hair. She had seemed disappointed, not in the sticky mass they had to finally cut a large chunk of her hair to remove, but that his attempt at ardor had been in vain. She told him, as he stuck the hairy glob in a wrapper as a souvenir of that night, that he would be sorry in a way he could never imagine when he returned from Grandma’s.

Sorry for what?” he wondered as the train screeched to a jerky halt and he saw Melissa lean over to her father and say something to him that made him scowl and her mother look more lost than ever. “Sorry for my attempts at lovemaking, or sorry for my failure?” Surely she and her parents were there for a reason. Would she accuse him of molesting her? Or maybe, he thought with an odd mix of excitement and dread, they were there to welcome him into the family.

He strode down the narrow aisle toward the door, anticipating her open-armed greeting, then stumbled as he stepped on a passenger’s attaché case, causing a sibilant hiss to escape with the air. Yes, he decided, Melissa (Come Here, Big Boy) Stufelter was there with her parents to welcome him into their fold. And what better way to conquer his hungers than within the matrimonial bed? He pictured George and Stephanie with ears cocked for the sounds of a grandchild, grateful that his grandmother’s impertinent geese had missed their mark, though somewhat narrowly.

As he fantasized, the man with the crushed attaché shot him a look and stood up. Porpoise had the fleeting notion that here was a man – rail thin and clad in black – who would probably have no trouble whatsoever making love beneath cackling, over-sexed spirits. The man pushed past Porpoise, through the open door, and straight into Melissa’s waiting arms. George stood off to one side, the scowl transformed into an eager smile. Stephanie, forgotten, tagged behind as they made their way from the platform.

Porpoise’s gaze shifted to his mother, whom he hadn’t noticed before, waiting patiently for her boy to greet her. He executed the last step down, unaware of the pile of dog shit beneath his shoe, thinking Melissa (Not Worth The Trouble) Stufelter had made her point, and shuffled off toward his mother’s car.

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