My entry to round one of the 2018 NYC Midnight Flash Fiction contest:

“Dick?” he said.

“Yep. Dick,” she replied.

“Dick. Van. Dyke?”

“There’s no other Dick like him.”

“C’mon. You can pick anyone.”

“I understand the rules to your dopey game,” Lindsay said, as she leaned against his Nissan LEAF.

Taran threw his arms up in the air. “Harry Styles. Bruno Mars. Bieber…?”

“Ooh, gross. I’m sticking with Dick. The man can dance.”

She sighed and shifted her weight, and her tote bag, to her right hip. A swimmer, Lindsay was tall and leggy. Her broad, strong shoulders were the extent of her curves. The straps of her dress revealed deep tan lines. Her eyes were hidden by black Ray-Bans. For mid-March it was a scorching 93 degrees.

Tired of waiting, she added, “Besides, this is juvenile.”

“Juvenile? It’s revelatory. Don’t you want to hear mine?” Taran said.

“Not really,” Lindsay said. She studied the movements of an inflatable red air dancer popping and thrusting in front of an auto garage across the street. “What I do want to know is why I’m standing at a charging station in Tucson when we should be driving to Picacho Peak. We’re late and I don’t want to miss my brother’s…gig.” Lindsay struggled with words to describe her brother’s plunge into the fringe as a rabid Civil War reenactor.

Taran ran his fingers through his hair. Lindsay admired his hands. Muscular, articulate, they were the hands of an accomplished saxophonist. Throughout Tucson he had a loyal following—an unusual mix of grad students and blue-collar types who showed up regularly, paid the cover charge, and consumed enormous quantities of beer.

“Should be about fifteen, twenty minutes tops,” he said after a quick glance at his watch. He looked down and caught sight of her tote bag. She clasped the handles with both hands, and he noticed two grommets and a saucer-shaped Master Lock tightly securing her bag.

“Wow. That’s quite a lock. Must be valuables in there.”

“Not really. I just like locks.”

“C’mon. No one puts a lock like that on their bag if there’s not something valuable in there.”

She tightened her knuckles around the handles. “Well. I do. And there’s nothing valuable in here whatsoever.”

“Let me see,” Taran said. He reached for the bag.

Lindsay pulled it away from him. “I’ll recite a list of the contents of my bag, but I’m not going to unlock it.”

“Then why lock it?”

“What does it matter?”

Lindsay thought she would have better success negotiating with the air dancer across the street.

“Can I guess what’s inside?”

“No need to guess. I just said I’d tell you what’s inside. You don’t need to see it.”

“This is no fun.”

“You’re right. It’s not. I don’t understand why you didn’t charge your car last night.”

Taran pouted and shrugged. “I had a gig.”

“My brother’s going to be so upset if we miss this,” she said. She decided a long steady arc of pacing in front of Taran would let her see how much he actually cared if they were late.

Lindsay had no desire to watch her brother and his gangly friends run around the Sonoran Desert dressed up in period clothes to reenact a senseless battle; however, she did not want Taran to know that.

Taran intervened. “We’ll make it. I had no idea the Civil War had reached so far west.”

“It did. Just ask my brother,” she said. “He’ll tell you all about it. Everything.”

Lindsay needed to understand how a man responded to all situations, whether they be mundane, painful, or angst-ridden. A good first date should include a handful of awkward moments, like biting into a grape and getting part of the stem. How did a man respond to situations like that? Silence? Anger? Laughter? Look for the response to tell the future.

Getting to know someone required more than a determination of which celebrities you’d allow your significant other to sleep with, if only hypothetical. Lindsay was now circling around the Nissan.

“How can I make this up to you?” Taran asked.

“Play me a song,” she said.

“A song would perk you up?” he said.

“If you’re playing it, it might.”

Lindsay noticed the red air dancer was half deflated and bent over. It looked like it was groping the sole palm tree in the garage’s parking lot.

Taran clicked his key fob and the hatchback released. He quickly assembled his silver tenor sax and began to warm up.

Lindsay had Tucson’s top sax player warming up to play just for her. As she watched his fingers work the keys, her mind wandered. Her senses tuned in to the warmth of the notes he played, and she forgot all about the red air dancer humping the palm tree.

“What would you like to hear?” he asked.

“Huh?” she said, caught off guard.

“Is there a particular song you’d like to hear? I’m not used to busking…at least not at a charging station,” he said.

“Anything,” Lindsay blurted.

A grin broke across his face. “Tell you what—if you like what I play, will you let me see what’s in your purse?”

“No,” Lindsay said, giggling. “But I’ll tell you what’s in my purse.”

“Okay, it was worth a try.” Taran closed his eyes. His fingers took their places on the keys, and as his mouth touched the mouthpiece, Lindsay interrupted.

“Don’t play anything too catchy…or too poppy. Something dark and soulful. Like the solo from Pink Floyd’s “Money”…only not that.”

“Anything else?”

“Nope,” Lindsay said. She leaned over and set her bag down between her legs.

Taran followed her motion down and back up. He hadn’t noticed how well her dress’ fabric fit her body. He nodded and began to play.

Lindsay perched her sunglasses on her head and watched Taran play. A grin crossed her face.

“A flashlight…Kleenex,” she said.

His dimples grew.

Lindsay continued. “My wallet, bug spray, breath mints, and Astroglide…”


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