After gathering his meager belongings from his locker at the Neptune Pop-In Shop Food Market for the very last time, Truman went outside and retrieved his childish bicycle from where it was attached to the OUT OF ORDER kiddie horse ride.
He didn’t want to ride it, instead he just pushed it as he walked. He was too dejected to enjoy the lullaby roll. He went along the cliche American main drag that catered to interstate travelers with its overplayed fast-food joints and gross hotels. He crossed over near the lemon-yellow Super 8. He kept walking north, past dirty fields, abandoned retail spaces, broken down houses and discarded furniture on the curb.
Puffed-up traffic headed toward I-80 and out of town was whizzing by on his right and every once in a while, a car packed with bastards would honk at him or throw food or empty beer cans at him as they passed. Truman let it all bounce off, like he always did. He didn’t care. He felt he deserved to be pummeled with the worst that life had to offer. Part of him wanted to step out into traffic so he could be run down, smashed, squashed, pressed into the pavement like repeatedly run over roadkill.
The sun was beginning to fall toward its daily stupor when he finally arrived home. He let his bike tumble to the ground, and he went inside. He closed all the curtains and turned on a few lights. He went into the bathroom and studied the empty tub as he urinated in the toilet with the lobster seat cover. He decided against taking a bath and instead put his lobster pajamas on right over his dirty skin. He went to the kitchen and fetched out an old phonebook from a bookcase he had there. He opened it to the B section and ran his finger down the page until he found her.
His fingers worked the dial of his red plastic table phone shaped like a lobster, the headset being a claw.
“Hello, is this Maggie?” Truman shamefully squeaked.
“Yes, who is calling please?”
“It’s me, Truman Humboldt, from the chicken plant.”
“Truman? How did you get my number?”
“It’s in the phonebook.”
“Phonebook? You still use a phonebook?”
“Yeah… You obviously still use an old-time phone because you answered,” Truman snipped.
“Oh. Yeah. I’m not up on modern technology. I like the classic things in life. So much simpler… But why are you calling? What is it can I do for you? Is this some sort of an emergency? Are you having a personal crisis, Truman?”
“Oh, dear Maggie. I had a very horrible and bad day and was wondering if you’d like to come over and talk. I have some feelings I need to disperse.”
“Truman, you know I can’t do that. It’s very unprofessional. Why don’t you stop by my office tomorrow and we can set up an appointment?”
“Are you sure you don’t want to come over? Or maybe I can come to your house if you don’t feel like coming out into the world to befriend someone in need.”
“No, Truman, you can’t be doing this. You can’t be calling me. You can’t come to my house. I could lose my job. You could lose your job. It’s unethical and against the rules of my profession.”
“I don’t really care about losing my job anymore,” Truman said. “I’m on the brink of catastrophe. I just want to see you. You’re so fetching, and I had such a miserable day. I need to be held.”
“I’m sorry Truman. That’s just not possible. I have to go now. Goodbye.”
Maggie Barrymore hung up on him.
“Froot Loops! Froot Loops! Froot Loops!” Truman screamed, and he tore the connective wire from the wall and threw the phone against the kitchen floor with monstrous and barbaric force. It made a hollow dinging clang as it bounced oddly across the linoleum that was patterned with lobsters and ships and cold ocean water and waves.
Truman called in sick to the chicken plant the next morning and then rode his crappy kiddie bike to the local car rental office and rented a car. He threw the bike into the trunk and drove to Clover, the next town over where they had a bicycle shop, and he traded his ride in for something more manly.
He stopped at a bar in Clover and had a few lonely drinks. It was dim and smoky, and the people were mostly quiet and hunched over in despair. No one talked to him. He didn’t care because he was too busy daydreaming about Maggie Barrymore and how she rejected him. His foolish heart hurt. He wanted to win her love. He paid his tab and drove back to Neptune.
It was near 5 in the p.m., and Truman was parked outside the chicken plant main office waiting for Maggie Barrymore to emerge. When she finally did come out, Truman’s heart thumped, and he got all shimmery in his hungry stomach. He watched her closely as she strolled through the parking lot, stepping lightly but with purpose, one arm gently swinging a briefcase at her side. Truman considered her to be a luscious goddess headed to a festival for luscious goddesses. He wanted to be her Zeus and mate with her. He wanted to fertilize her deeply so that she may bring forth to the world a demigod. A demigod with the impenetrable power of a lobster.
Maggie Barrymore got in her car, started it and drove out of the parking lot. Truman began to follow her through town, being careful not to get too close for fear that she may recognize him. She made a right, then a left, and then another right and into the belly of a more upscale neighborhood – as upscale as Neptune, Nebraska could get. She pulled into the driveway of a neatly kept little house. It was humble, but sophisticated. Cookie-cutter for sure, but tasty like Christmas, Truman decided. The garage door opened, and she pulled the car in. The garage door went back down, and she was swallowed up by dark domestication, the kind that often brews salacious thoughts and deeds.
Truman was parked across the street as he stalked her like some creep from a dark documentary on Netflix. He retrieved lobster-shaped binoculars from a lobster-decorated daypack and positioned them against his eyes. He aimed them at her house to see if he could catch a glimpse of her, perhaps undressing, or maybe, hopefully, she just walked around the house nude all the time. Truman grunted with disappointment when no such view came into focus.
He strummed at the steering wheel with his fingertips as he carefully considered his next move. A move that would get him closer to his delicious crush. And then, like a sudden burst of cocaine and wayward dynamite, a fabulous idea struck him, and he quickly drove away and went back home, the sudden glee in his guts flying like war shrapnel.
Once there, Truman began shaving his face as he filled the tub with hot, hot water. Once the grimy and unkempt whiskers were cleared away, he splashed water on his face and then looked at himself in the mirror over the sink. It had been a long, long time since he had seen himself without the scruff. His skin was pale, but smooth like the belly of a slippery seal.
He set a small mirror and a pair of scissors on the edge of the tub and got in. He dipped his entire head in the hot water and then came up for air. He took a comb and ran it through his thin, spaghetti-like blonde hair. He twisted some strands together in his fingers and snipped it with the scissors. He did this again and again and again until his hair was very short. He studied himself in the mirror. “There,” he said with satisfaction. “Now I look like a real man.”
He scrubbed at his body with a new bar of soap. Then he rinsed. Then he let the water start to drain from the tub. It made a gurgling sound like the end of life. Then he rinsed again. He climbed out of the tub and dried off. He spread after shave lotion all over his face, across his arms and chest and over his private parts. He smelled himself and he thought that he smelled very good.
“Now that’s what I call super fresh,” he said, pointing to himself in the mirror and winking like he was Mr. Cool from Albuquerque. Then he brushed his teeth and swirled green mouthwash around in his mouth.
He walked into his bedroom and opened the closet door. He pulled out his one nice pair of pants and his one nice button-down shirt and threw them on the bed. He put on fresh underwear and socks and then the shirt and pants. He worked a crisp belt around his waist. He dug around in his closet for his nicest pair of shoes. He found them, but he had to blow the dust off them.
Once completely dressed, he looked at himself in the mirror again. “Damn, I’m one hot guy,” he said proudly to his stunning reflection. The mirror thought otherwise and whispered back, “No you’re not. You’re hideous. Absolutely atrocious. You make women violently puke.”
Truman ignored the disturbing voice in his head. He grabbed the keys to the rental car and rushed out. He drove to a nearby liquor store to buy a bottle of love wine. Then he was off again, back to the beautiful side of town, his soul adrift in blossoming romance. He was going to surprise Maggie Barrymore with a very special visit.
TO BE CONTINUED
In case you missed it, you can read the previous part of this story HERE.
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