Gary Glasscack boasted that he had the largest collection of pornography in all of Giza, New Mexico. He bragged about it any chance he could. He especially liked to bring it up in conversation with young female interns at the Giza Revealer newspaper where he worked. He always found a way to slip it into casual conversation in the breakroom while unwrapping the sandwich his wife had put together for him every morning.
Gary feigned a hopeless sigh as Lyla VanFly from Bend, Oregon sat at one of the plastic tables sipping a soda and nibbling on slices of cheese like a mouse as she stared into her phone.
“Ham and Swiss on rye, again,” he said, looking down at it, shaking his head. He snuck a glance at her. “That woman loves to fill me with rye bread. Does anyone even eat rye bread anymore?”
Gary waited for a reaction.
She eventually looked up at him, adjusted her glasses, crinkled her nose, and brushed her straight brown hair away from her eyes.
“I’m sorry. What?”
“Rye bread. My wife keeps feeding me rye bread. Do you like rye bread?”
“I don’t think I ever had it. I’m not much of a bread eater. Carbs are the devil, you know.”
Gary sat down at the table with her and dropped his sandwich in disgust.
“Am I really supposed to eat that?” he asked, palms out and pointing with the tips of his fingers.
She looked over, annoyed that he was invading her personal space. His hands looked weird. They were thin, and bony, and old, too old for the rest of him. “Why don’t you just tell her you don’t like rye bread?”
“I don’t want to hurt her feelings.” He chuckled. “But then again, I do.”
“I guess you could just throw it out and go get something else, right?”
“I suppose I could, but that would be wasteful. I couldn’t live with that kind of guilt.”
He stared deeply into her freckled and somewhat damaged-by-life-at-a young-age face.
“I’m Gary Glasscack by the way, advertising copy writer and business promotion guru. Welcome to our little newspaper. How do you like it so far?”
His name. She was weirded out but smiled politely. “Nice to meet you. I’m Lyla. Lyla VanFly. It’s good so far. Just trying to find my way around.”
“Well, if there is anything you need, don’t hesitate to ask. I’ve been around for quite some time now. Just ask Gary, and I’ll be able to help you out. With anything.” He winked at her. “And it’s German.”
“You gave me a look when I told you my name. It’s a German name.”
“Thanks for the clarification.”
Gary sighed again. “Well, I guess I should go ahead and eat this. You don’t mind if I sit here with you, do you?”
She did mind, but she didn’t want to come across as rude or spoiled or uptight. Thunder clambered outside.
Gary’s head oddly swirled around like a cat’s following a bird with its eyes. “Sounds like a storm is brewing.”
“I didn’t think it rained much in the desert,” she said.
Gary took a bite of his ham and Swiss on rye and nodded his head.
“That’s a popular misconception, but you would be surprised at what goes on around here,” he said with food mashing in his mouth.
Gary took another bite and as he loudly chomped on the sandwich like an animal he stared at Lyla VanFly longingly.
“Just between you and me,” he leaned in, looking around and almost whispering. “I have one of the biggest collections of pornography in all of Giza.”
He took another bite of his sandwich and winked at her again.
“Excuse me, what did you say?” Lyla stammered, suddenly becoming extremely uncomfortable, yet strangely intrigued, for Lyla VanFly was a girl of the world and was totally on board with new, absurd, and experimental experiences.
“Do you have something against pornography?” Gary asked. “I assure you it is very tasteful.”
“Why are you telling me this? Or rather, do you really think it’s okay to be telling me this? I barely know you.”
Gary picked up a potato chip and pushed it into his mouth. He took a sip of diet soda, being that he was a pervert who cared about not getting too overly loaded with sugar.
“Giza can be a lonely place. I’m just saying that a young woman such as yourself may need a sexual outlet at some point.”
Lyla leaned back in her chair, somewhat shocked. “I really don’t think that is any of your business — or at all appropriate for the workplace.” But deep down inside, she kind of liked the inappropriateness.
Gary smiled, oblivious to his behavior.
“You’re not in Oregon anymore, dear. What was it? Bend Over? This is the middle of nowhere. It’s a forgotten place. Heck, you could even say it’s a place that doesn’t even really exist.”
“It’s real as any other place in the world. And it’s Bend, not Bend Over.”
Gary exhaled and wrapped up the remaining ham and Swiss on rye in its wax paper.
“Look, all I am saying is, if you would like to come over one night, maybe have dinner with the wife and I and I could show you a few things. I’m not going to hurt you if that’s what you think.”
“What kind of things?”
“Just some pictures. Maybe we could watch a movie together.”
“And what would your wife think of that?”
Gary scoffed at that remark.
“My wife and I have an understanding.” He leaned in closer to her again. “In fact, we haven’t had any sexual relations in several years. She finds it off putting.”
Disgusted, Lyla started to get up, but Gary reached out and took a hold of her wrist.
Lyla jerked away. “What are you doing? This is not okay. None of what you are saying to me is okay.”
But then again, somehow it was. For Lyla was a deviant and mysterious free spirit hiding in the shadows, a curious young woman who rebelled against normalcy. She ached to be cool, different, and even weird. And she presently found herself in a very weird situation.
Gary sensed her low tolerance for male piggishness and got nervous.
“I’m sorry. Forgive me. I just wanted to be friends. I was just trying to be friendly. Welcoming, you know? Like I said, Giza can be a lonely, debilitating place.”
“I would appreciate it if you would just keep your distance,” Lyla said with authority. “I wouldn’t want any of this to affect either one of our jobs.”
Thunder banged outside, lights flickered, and Lyla VanFly left the break room and went to her desk in the cackling and bustling newsroom to work on an article about killer bees for the next day’s edition.