FICTION: All I Ever Wanted

Winner, 1st Annual V1 Flash Fiction Contest

JoAnna Haugen, illustrated by Mike Jacobsen

    All I ever wanted was an African safari, a handful of red tulips on my birthday and an apartment floor that mopped itself. I was willing to settle for quashed expectations and a boyfriend instead. That’s how I ended up at the speed dating event in the seedy corner pub. White Christmas lights hung around the sticky bar counter in an attempt to put some character into this otherwise creepy gathering of lonely singles.

Ding.

    “Hi, I’m Darren.” He grasped my hand with a death grip, his sweaty palm clinging to mine.

“Julie. Nice to meet you.”

“You’re really pretty. I like pretty girls. Like Carrie Fisher in Star Wars. She was pretty. Do you like Star Wars?” The pocket protector over his breast was jammed with mechanical pencils and a protractor.

“Actually, not really.”

His face fell. “What do you like then?”

“Blended margaritas without salt, spaghetti sauce with the perfect herbs and homemade pierogies overstuffed with veggies and cheese.” He stared at me, uncomprehending. “I love to cook.”

 “I love McDonalds.”

I definitely did not love McDonald’s.

Darren shifted in his chair. “Are you sure you don’t like Star Wars?”

Ding.

“Hey girl. I’m Mark.” His shirt hugged his washboard abs.   

“I’m Julie.”

“That shirt is wicked on you. You work out?”

“Thank you.” I flexed my muscles in display. “I’m a yoga instructor. The side bonus to my job is that I don’t have to go to the gym after work.”

He reached across the table and squeezed my bicep. “That’s awesome. I work out too.”

“Oh yeah?” As if I hadn’t noticed.

“Yeah. I pump iron between my shifts.”

“Where do you work?”

“At a gas station.” He nodded, apparently satisfied by his occupational choice. “It’s only temporary.”

“Temporary until what?”

“I’m going to own my own nightclub.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. I just gotta figure out how I’m gonna get the money. My parents said I gotta move out, which totally sucks. And I gotta get my GED, but after that, I’m gonna own a nightclub. Wicked, huh?”

    So much for washboard abs.

Ding.

    “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Julie. My name is William.”

“Hi William.”

“So is this quite the show or what?” He gestured around the bar at the rows of tables filled with pathetic, awkwardly matched couples like the two of us.

“It is pretty bad that we’re all spending our Friday night looking for a Friday night date,” I admitted.

“Except for that nose of yours, you seem pretty put together. Tell me about yourself.”

How honest to be with a perfect stranger who had insulted my inherited Jewish nose? “Well, I’ve got a boa constrictor. I’ve never been a cat or dog person, which means I eventually have to choose between the man of the hour or Fluffy.”

“Fluffy?”

“My snake.”

William nodded. “I don’t really like snakes.”

“I figured as much. So what brings you here?”

He slid his business card across the table as if on a secret mission and lowered his voice to a whisper. “To be perfectly honest with you, I’m not here to pick up chicks, but you speed dating ladies often feel insecure about your bodies and that’s good for business.”

I glanced at the card. Dr. William Knotts, Plastic Surgeon.

    “Let me know if you ever want to do anything about that nose.”

Ding.

    “Julie.”

“Rick.”

Neither of us smiled.

“Long night?”

He nodded. “Wouldn’t you agree?”

I nodded. “So what’s your story?”

“I’m a freak of nature who owns a floral shop, cleans for fun and flies off to Africa three times a year to visit my father. He owns a safari company,” Rick added as an afterthought.

I said nothing. Rick’s big brown eyes looked into mine, clearly exhausted after this draining night.

    “Listen, Julie, all I ever wanted was the ability to throw together a great meal, learn how to do yoga and be man enough to own a snake. I’m willing to settle for quashed expectations and a girlfriend.”

Ding.
 

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