Posted on: February 19, 2015
“I needed that,” Jeff said, buttoning his boxer flap.
The woman crawling out from beneath his desk responded with a nod as she returned the hair tie to her wrist. She then fluffed her golden tresses until her previous volume was restored.
“Here,” Jeff said, flopping a wad of twenties on his desk.
“You already paid,” the woman said.
“I know. Consider it a tip.”
“We can’t accept tips.”
“I can keep a secret.”
“Clearly,” the woman said glancing at the family portrait on his desktop.
Jeff covered the screen with a new browser window.
“Take it or leave it,” he said, “I was just being nice.”
The woman grabbed the edge of the top twenty and shook it until the rest of the stack fell to the floor.
“Bus money,” she said, stuffing the bill into her bra.
“Suit yourself,” he said, opening his calendar.
The woman picked up her empty attaché case and headed towards the door.
“Oh, Jen, or whatever you call yourself,” Jeff said, “if anyone asks, you were interviewing me for the paper.”
“Don’t worry, I’ve interviewed plenty of men like you,” she said, exiting without another word.
Jeff minimized the browser once the door was closed. His eyes began to water as he looked into the digital pupils of his wife and children. The door handle began to turn again and he straightened his posture, wiped his face with his sleeve, and reopened his calendar.
“Who was that?” his secretary asked.
“Some reporter from the paper,” he said. “Apparently, I’m more interesting than I thought.”
“I could’ve told you that,” she said, closing the door and walking around his desk. “What’s this,” she asked, picking up the wad of twenties on the ground.
“Oh, must’ve fallen out of my coat,” Jeff said, fighting the urge to stare at the cleavage eclipsing his peripheral vision.
“We can use this tonight,” she said, hopping onto the corner of his desk with a seductive bounce.
“I’ve been meaning to speak to you about that,” Jeff said, eyes fixed on his calendar. “I’m afraid I have to cancel.”
“Oh poo,” she said. “Well, when do you want to reschedule?”
“I knew it,” she said, sliding off his desk with no excess jiggling.
“Cheryl,” Jeff said, grabbing her hand before she could leave. “I’m sorry, but, I just can’t leave my family. Please, be professional about this.”
Cheryl looked down at him, mascara streaking her cheeks, teeth chattering like maracas.
“Don’t worry,” she said, “there will be a very professional resignation letter sitting on your desk first thing tomorrow, ASSHOLE.”
The last word erupted from Cheryl’s lips like thunder, showering Jeff with tears, spit and a mist of eyeliner and lipstick. She stormed back to the door, wiping her face and sniffing back the flood of tears before returning to the lobby.
Jeff minimized the browser and locked eyes with his wife. “We needed that,” he said.
“One for the matinee,” Vicky said, grabbing a twenty from her bra and sliding it through the slot at the bottom of the ticket window.
A gust of wind from the street sent the bill fluttering around the kiosk. The usher grabbed at it like a money booth contestant.
Vicky apologized while taming her wavy blonde hair with the ponytail holder around her wrist.
“Theater three,” the usher said, pushing her change and her ticket stub back through the hole.
Vicky pounced on the bills before they could blow away, crumpling them in her fist until she reached the concession stand.
“I’ll take a small popcorn and a Coke,” she said, scattering the change above the Mike & Ikes and Milk Duds. “Diet. I meant to say Diet.”
The teenager behind the concession stand scoffed and emptied the cup into the trough beneath the sodas. He retraced his steps to the ice bucket, saving precious seconds by skipping the scoop and plunging the cup into the frozen cubes.
“Diet Coke, right?” he said before putting the cup back beneath the drink dispenser.
“Yes, positive,” Vicky said.
He set the Diet Coke nozzle to autofill and fixed her bag of popcorn.
“Butter?” he asked over his shoulder.
“Yes, please.” Vicky answered.
He turned around to make sure she wasn’t kidding
“I know, then why get a Diet Coke, right?” she said.
“I’m not here to judge,” he answered, setting the drink and the glistening bag of cholesterol in front of her. “That’ll be ten fifty.”
She slid him the wrinkled bills and gathered her snacks.
“You gave me too much,” he said, sliding two dollars back on her side of the counter.
“I know, consider it a tip.”
“We’re not allowed to take tips.”
“I can keep a secret.”
The teenager gave in and stuffed the money in his pocket.
“Straws are at the end of the counter,” he said.
“I don’t mix business with pleasure,” she mumbled, heading straight to theater three.
She sat down front and center, getting as close to Hollywood as she could. The lights dimmed and she took a giant swig of her drink, swishing it around her mouth until the carbonation ate away any lingering fluids on her teeth.
“I needed that,” she said.
Frank stopped his wheelchair next to the pet adoption trailer parked in front of Uptown Cinemas and waved a handwritten sign that read, Feed Vets before pets.
“Here,” a woman said, handing him a half-eaten bag of buttered popcorn.
“Gee, thanks,” he said, tossing it over his head into a puppy pen.
The tiny dogs abandoned their chew toys and attacked the puffed treats like Hungry Hungry Hippos.
“Fuck you,” she said, ripping the sign from his hand and flinging it over the trailer.
He laughed until his howls gave way to a hacking cough.
“I needed that,” Frank said, turning to look at the ravenous canines.
He noticed a sign on the cage that said NO POPCORN.
“I can keep a secret,” he said, and rolled off down the sidewalk.
Written by: Mark Killian
Photograph by: Chris Boyles
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
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