What follows is a selection from The Sacred Lost Tomes of The Ryan, the brief and terrible history of which is glossed over here and here. “Porcelain Strawberry” is the second piece of short fiction I can recall having ever written, not including whatever crap I may or may not have been churning out in my adolescence, and will be presented here in several parts over the next few days. It was initially written for an assignment in a creative writing class at the University of New Mexico, and was influenced and informed by Nicholson Baker’s novella The Mezzanine. But I won’t tell you HOW…that’s for you to discover, intrepid reader! Go here to read Part I. BEHOLD, Part II, below:
I’m sitting in my bedroom a few days later, staring at the blank wall and trying not to think, when the phone rings. It takes me a minute to retrieve myself from the mountains and valleys of cracked paint before I can answer it. I’m delighted to hear her delicate voice on the other end.
“Hey, it’s me! Listen, this new piece I’m working on is driving me absolutely mad, and I really could use some normal human time. What do you say we get that cup of coffee? I know a great place. They have this cinnamon and cherry mix, you wouldn’t think it would be good, but just wait until you try it!” I wrinkle my nose at the thought of cherries, but accept her invitation anyway. Maybe it won’t be so bad.
The directions to her place are simple and I have no trouble finding it, but I circle around the block a few times anyways to kill time, not wanting to appear too eager. Finally I feel that it’s been long enough, and pull up to her apartment, a duplex with a small, yellowing lawn nearly overrun by ragweed and dandelions. As I walk towards the caged front door, I notice a dead sparrow lying at the edge of the walkway, its eye sockets seeming to stare at me regardless of their hollowness. There are bite marks around the head and wings, and I hope the cat belongs to the neighbors.
“Hey there, pretty lady,” I say with a hint of absurdity when she opens to door. She smiles, apparently satisfied with my meager attempt at humor, and grabs a woven green handbag before stepping out and shutting the door behind her.
“So, how have you been?” I ask, bringing up my hand to fiddle with a loose button on the western-style black shirt she is wearing over a deep purple tank top. I’m dismayed to find what appears to be a clump of shed cat hair clinging to the shirt, and brush it away, wiping my hand on my faded denim jeans and trying not to appear too disgusted. I think she’s saying something about the painting she’s been struggling with, but I’m too preoccupied with the thought of the cat to pay attention. We begin down the walkway, and I move my hand to the small of her back, letting it rest there lightly.
“Better now, though,” she replies, crossing her arms and leaning into me. “I’m going crazy spending all my time in that cramped apartment breathing paint fumes. It’s good to have someone to take a break with.” I ever-so-slightly tighten my grip around her and lead her to my truck, a beat-up brown Toyota that I can’t help but apologize for.
“Don’t be silly,” she says, jabbing me playfully in the ribs with her elbow. “I’m not the kind of girl who cares about nice cars and money.” I smile down at her, catching the scent of strawberries and cream as my nose brushes past her hair.
“Mmm, you smell delicious,” I say, and she smiles, cuddling underneath my arm. For a fleeting moment I can’t believe how easy this has been, and a slight twinge of anxiety begins to creep up inside of me, one of those “too-good-to-be” sensations. I also can’t help but think about other guys she might have been with – is she so trusting and open with every jerk-off who approaches her? The feeling of anxiety begins to turn into resentment, but I quickly push it down, suffocating it.
At the coffee shop I let her order for me, forgoing my usual bitter, black coffee in favor of the cherry-cinnamon concoction she so highly recommends. She asks for them grandé with a double shot of espresso, and once served we sit at a tiny table for two in the corner near a bookshelf, under a large print of Dali’s La Persistenza della Memoria. She catches me studying the minute details of the painting, and asks what I think of it. This reveals that we hold a shared fascination for his work, and I discover that she owns a print of my favorite Dali painting, Idylle Atomique et Uranique Melancolique. We are oblivious to the endless stream of self-important art neuveux intellectuals entering and leaving the café as we sit together in our own little world.
To be continued…
© Ryan Scott Sanders and Dharma and Belligerence: Mad Rants from a Free-Range Buddhist Hooligan, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Ryan Scott Sanders and Dharma and Belligerence: Mad Rants from a Free-Range Buddhist Hooligan with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.