My wife had just been taken back by a Pain Clinic nurse, who had assured me that the procedure would be on schedule, and they would be back in forty-five minutes or so. Aha, I thought, time enough to write a bit of priceless prose. I wished them well, and retrieved a pen and notebook from my ever ready briefcase.

With main characters already in mind, the time period and motives clearly established, my mind fairly flowed with scintillating sentences.

It was a case that Brandi would have normally rejected. Marital disputes always got messy. Brandi disliked men anyway, leering creatures that they are. She was not averse to attracting their lecherous glances when she was on a case. It seemed to numb their minds even further as she extracted information that they were loath to reveal. This had proved to be a great advantage to the voluptuous private detective in her blossoming career. Subtly concealed bosoms, a nine mm handgun behind her waist, and extensive karate skills had brought to bay more than one stumbling male for her clients or their lawyers.

       Jennifer had overcome Brandi’s reluctance to take the case when she revealed a few recent scars and bruises to Brandi, sobbed about the brutal beatings that her husband, Clint, inflicted on her with no provocation. His favorite weapons were his open palms, which avoided leaving marks, she confided. Perhaps they could get some photos or tapes of the next incident, anything to rid her world of Clint.

      Brandi hated brutal males as much as she hated all the overdue bills in her bottom desk drawer and ——

My first page was only half-filled when a large unsmiling man loomed over me. He never looked at me, but pointed with his closed umbrella at the chair to my right and asked, “Is this seat taken?”

“Been saving it for you,” I joked. He sat, but remained rigidly erect in the chair as he stared straight ahead through the wall of windows opposite us. I wondered why he didn’t like any of the other twenty or more empty chairs around the large room.

As I turned back to my developing story, pen poised, he asked without turning his head, “Got any way to turn that rain off?”

“I don’t have a key, but I’ll ask them at the front desk,” and smiled. He didn’t notice my smile.

“Already asked. They won’t.” At this, I shifted away from him as I considered moving to one of the still available chairs.

Pen back to paper, the words were flowing less smoothly now for perhaps ten labored lines.

Brandi settled on a five hundred dollar retainer, asked for a key to Jen’s apartment, and went through her operating procedures so Jen would know what to expect in the way of cost. “I’ll need a key to your apartment, and a precise schedule pattern of both your and his work day schedules. After you fill out the blanks on data on this interview form, I’ll bug your place and set up my video equipment and show you how to turn it on when your husband, when he, when Clint starts showing signs —–                

          Damn, damn, damn! Uncomfortable with the guy beside me, I stopped and ventured, “Your first visit here? It is for my wife.”

In retrospect, I realize that sounds like a pick-up line at a singles bar, but he never turned his head as he answered, “Seven years now. I’m in for my synthetic morphine shot.”

“Synthetic morphine?”

“Yeah.” There was a condescending tone as though he was talking to the village idiot, “It’s manufactured from chemicals; the real morphine would kill me.” I looked again toward all the empty seats around the waiting room.

“Head on crash on the freeway eight years ago. Both cars doing sixty. It crushed all the vertebra in my neck. ” That answered my wonder about his straight ahead stare.

“Doesn’t sound like much fun.” He didn’t smile at my weak attempt at humor.

“First one back in ’82 was worse. Ran head-on into a logging truck. Broke both my legs. Old cars had that choke in the dashboard. That sucker went right through my kneecap.” I didn’t offer any humorous comment to this.

He stared for a while and muttered, “I hate rain, worse when it’s windy; tears my umbrellas up. This one cost over eighty dollars, and I don’t wanna lose it.”

“Nice one.” I shrugged in my rain jacket with its hood, and said, “I just zip this up and snug it down.”

“Got one of those. Can’t put it on without somebody to help me.” Impatient with my interruption, he went ahead with, “You can lose four or five cheap ones on windy days. Wind catches ‘em. I paid good money for this one and take care of it.”

A nurse came through the door, glanced over to him and said, “Clint. We can go back now.” He lifted himself stiffly and followed her back to his synthetic morphine.

I watched him go, and turned to assume his hundred-yard stare out to the gentle rain dripping down on a hundred cars. How do you turn that stuff off, anyway?

Gus Daum





About degus221

A Kansan who has migrated to Oregon.
This entry was posted in Short Stories and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A CLOSE ENCOUNTER

  1. Ann Douglas says:

    Good one, Gus! Priceless prose…


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