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HE isn’t her type at all, this hot dog stand guy. Louise’s last few dates were more effeminate. Tall, pale, weedy. The sort of eligible bachelor a Jane Austen heroine would thumb her nose at. This one drools at the mention of oysters, sweats with the effort of swallowing them whole. He’s thick. A cross-section of him would reveal dense bone and two inches of fat-marbled flesh. She could never squeeze one of his babies out.

Louise has bought a hot dog from him every other day at noon since she started at Chapman & Chapman publishing a few months ago. She goes with William from marketing because everyone else in the office is above wiener-shaped nourishment. Today, William left work before lunch. He told Chapman Senior his carpal tunnel syndrome was acting up, but he told Cathy the admin assistant he had to take his cat to the vet. He told Louise he was going home to watch Judge Judy with a Dr. Pepper. A creature of habit, Louise went to the stand alone.

Hot dog stand guy cradled her bun. He loaded it with two scoops of relish and half a scoop of mushrooms. Held the onions. I’ve been watching you, he said to her. I know what you like. So what are you doing later?

Nothing much.

I’ll take you to dinner. You like oysters?

Louise nodded, though oysters are one of those things she feels she should like but actually frighten her. He was decisive, though. He stated, rather than asked her on a date. Maybe he wanted to settle down. Wake up next to a warm body; someone to bear him three sons, all named Tony. He probably came from a broken home. A latchkey kid. Every day his mother gave him a dollar to take to the diner around the corner for a hot chocolate after school. When his man-breasts blossomed she would’ve suggested he ask for a moderate amount of whipped cream. The waitress mocked him, emphasizing the word “moderate” as she called his order. Most likely her hair was a stiff, blonde squirrel’s tail, alert on her crown. She smelled of alcohol and her breasts were large to the point of being nonsexual, like hamster balls. Since then, Louise imagines he’s replaced hot chocolate with hot dogs and has only cared for small brunettes. The moment he saw her, he knew she was the one.

• • •

Do you do this often? Louise slides her glasses up the bridge of her nose with her middle finger. She just gave him the finger. He might think that was cool.

Yeah. I love oysters.

I meant ask your customers out.

Only the beautiful ones.

Louise slurps an oyster out of its shell the way hot dog stand guy does. There’s a little slimy somethingorother left behind. Does she pick it out? With what? Her fingers? Too disgusting. Her fork? Too prissy. Does she leave it? Would that seem ungrateful?

I see a beautiful girl, I ask her out. Sometimes, she even says yes.

Sometimes? Louise must be the only woman in Victoria desperate enough to date this bottom-feeder sucking, three-word-sentence speaking man-child. He ogles anything half his size in a skirt. They all know and avoid him. There’s probably a club, or at least a cautionary pamphlet: “The Working Womyn’s Guide to Lunching in Downtown Victoria: What to Relish and When to Hold the Relish.”

• • •

After dinner, hot dog stand guy penetrates Louise’s apartment. Something about urination. His options seemingly the outside wall of her building or her toilet. He’s a loud pee-er. Moans a lot. This man takes pleasure in all forms of excretion. He flushes, but there is no clomp of a lowered toilet seat, no screech of taps turning, though he emerges wiping his hands on the tails of his shirt. It isn’t grease stained, which surprises Louise. Somehow, she had expected him to show up for their date in an apron.

Do you want tea or something?

Tea? Like old ladies?

Louise lowers her hand from the cupboard. She’s nervous. And only because he is so not-nervous, she feels compelled to take the opposite position. He swaggers around her space in his street shoes, taps at her posters, tugs at her bedspread, tips her books on their spines (Lolita? You like that one, eh? Sylvia Plath. Depressing shit). Louise almost says you read? as an attempt at small talk, but stops herself.

He stands an inch away from her and tarantulas his hand to her back. The fingers of his other hand dip into his jeans pocket and his elbow nudges her elbow in a mollified chicken dance. He says kiss me, beautiful, but doesn’t wait for her to comply.

His kiss is an egg over easy. A spoon smacking oatmeal. The first breath in a snorkel mask. Louise ducks her head into his neck. It’s hard, salty. Hippo neck. She imagines his head atop a spit of meat in a donair shop. Then realizes we are meat. All of us. And what makes this chunk of meat less desirable than any other chunk of meat? She sucks on his neck. He lifts her up and onto her bed. Takes off her shirt. I like your tits, he says. You’re hot. He engulfs an entire breast in his mouth. One of his hands undoes his belt, shimmies his jeans to his knees, then lifts her skirt and scooches the crotch of her panties to one side. He breaks his seal on Louise’s breast to ask if she’s got condoms.

Louise reaches with one arm to open her dresser drawer. She wants to say I don’t sleep with the sort of man who presumes sex on a first date. But she does sleep with that sort of man. The interested sort. The single sort. The sort who, because she sleeps with him on the first date, will not call her for a second. Will not put her through the gradual fall from oysters and conversation to frozen pizza and flatulence.

Condom rolled on, he mounts her. All two hundred and fifty or so pounds. His lead-balloon belly expunges the air from Louise’s lungs. She tries to raise him with her hips and legs, to ask him to at least take his shoes off, but he is unmoveable. His eyes are on the ceiling; one hand on her headboard, the other spread on her mattress. Ram. The word fills her head. Ram. Ram. Ram. Ram. Ram. Ramramramramramramramramramramramram. Ram. He moans again. A moan slightly more orgasmic than his pee-moan, and deflates on her. Those wet hot dog lips mash against hers. He squeezes her shoulder with a callused hand and looks into her eyes. His are unclouded. He is either pure of heart or a simpleton.

I think sex with clothes on is so badass, he says, and chamois his brow with his lower arm hair.

Louise squirms; attempts to fill her lungs. Hot dog stand guy hoists himself onto his fists and knees. Part ape, part elephant seal. He sits back on his heels, thwaps the condom off and tosses it to the carpet. Louise slides under the covers and rolls onto her side. Hot dog stand guy schlubs his jeans over his ass and sits down next to her head.

What’s going on in there, beautiful? He pokes Louise’s temple.

Nothing much.

If he was the one, he would’ve remembered it was the first phrase she spoke to him. But he looks at her forehead, staring at a blemish or replaying his orgasm in his head. He pinches Louise’s earlobe and kisses her neck and she is almost turned on by the implied tenderness of the act. She reaches for the seam of his jeans. She could make love to him. Skin to skin. But he buckles his belt and gets up, letting her hand flop over the side of the bed. He saunters toward her door and raises his right arm as though to high-five the door jamb. See you soon, eh?

• • •

At work Monday morning, Louise waits in the snack room until William from marketing arrives. If she walks to her desk, she’ll pass Cathy, who will ask Louise how her weekend was and Louise will say fine. A socially astute person would stop any further chit-chat, but Cathy will go on to describe the weekend she spent with her rich boyfriend. Did she mention he’s rich, but not investment-banker rich, Internet-start-up rich? And Cathy will then promise to set Louise up with his friend Rob, who’s older, but still hot. And by “older,” Cathy will mean thirty. Which is not older than Louise, but is older than the girls Rob normally dates. And Louise will then slink to her desk feeling like a tree—not an arbutus or a willow, but a lumpy Garry oak—coated by a ring of unattractiveness with each passing year.

But William will have spent the weekend staring out his window wishing for winter so the scene would better suit his mood. Louise had one up on him. She, at least, had left her apartment.

It’s five past ten before William enters the snack room like a slippered, bathrobed gamer hunting for Cheerios. The buttons on his shirt are caught in a tug-of-war between his post-post-adolescent beer fat and the optimistic notions he holds of his actual body size. He isn’t pudgy so much as unformed. A mound of pasty playdough in the shape of a man. He says hey through his emo bangs.

Louise says hey back and what’s up?

I was just thinking about how gross sex is. William snails his hand into his sleeve and opens the fridge to stare at his lunch from last Thursday. Do you think it’s still edible?

What I hate is when the guy just wants to come and I could be any sort of hole. Louise closes the fridge door.

A doughnut?

Ketchup bottle.

Warm, gooey sock.

They should invent a warm, gooey sock. Then my Friday night wouldn’t have happened.

William slumps into a chair at the small table next to the fridge. He looks up at Louise. Friday? I don’t want to hear about it.

It’s partly your fault.

Get some girlfriends.

Women don’t like me. It was the hot dog stand guy.

William snorts. You know he’ll do anything that moves, right? You should probably be sanitized.

He called me beautiful, she says. I was lonely.

William stands up and holds his arms out to Louise, a couple of inches away from her. If I knew it was up to my standards of cleanliness, I would pat your shoulder.


Don’t feel bad. I think everyone’s equally disgusting. William takes a step out of the snack room then stops. Can we still eat hot dogs?

If I stop going to the stand, he’ll think he matters.

• • •

Louise watches hot dog stand guy as she and William approach him at noon. He looks vulnerable from a distance, with the sweetness of a sleeping child. Maybe he wasn’t so bad. Overeager, inexperienced. Desperate to be saved from a life of solitude and reconstituted meat. Thought he could channel love via a quick, dry invasion.

Beautiful day! He projects across the grill.

William squints, vampiric. I hate summer. I have reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder.

OK then. What’ll it be?

William looks over at Louise, who’s skulking with his shadow. Uh, two footlongs?

Louise nods.

Hey, beautiful! Want a pretzel? Hot dog stand guy shouts. Not to Louise, but to the blonde newcomer behind her whose breasts nudge Louise’s scapulae, so eagerly does she covet her position.

For you. Hot dog stand guy hands one footlong to William, shifts his gaze to Louise and says, and for your friend. Condiments are around the corner, guys.

William fills his bun with mustard and gives Louise extra relish. No mushrooms today. Fungus and depression do not mix. William knows these things.

Louise thinks she hears hot dog stand guy ask the blonde what she’s doing later. Or maybe he asked if she’s wooing a skater. Or chewing a waiter. Shooing a hater.

For your friend? Louise says as they walk back to the office.

Maybe he didn’t recognize you. You have your hair up today. William licks the mustard off his chin and says, this isn’t even cooked.

He was too excited about the blonde. Premature evacuation.

She was well-endowed.

He told me he liked my tits.

They’re nice too. Cute.

And sociopath needs a grammar lesson. Beautiful day, hey beautiful, kiss me beautiful.

I don’t think adjective overuse is a grammar problem per se.

Everything’s beautiful. Sunny days. Fluffy clouds.

Is it syntax?

Daisies. Dandelions.

You should know this, Louise.

Worms. Spiders.

Vocabulary, I guess. Lexicon.

Homicidal maniacs.

Good one.

• • •

At home that night, Louise masturbates to Nirvana. She doesn’t need a man. She has a job, books, television. A clean apartment. The whole bed to herself. A teddy bear. No jealousy, no mother-in-law, no skid-marked boxer briefs. No expectations, no disappointments.

• • •

Tuesday morning it’s Louise who trudges into the snack room at five minutes past ten. William faces the coffee maker, drumming on his mug with two index fingers. Louise asks if that hurts his knuckles. William turns. Nah. Hey, Chapman Senior’s looking for you. Something about a typo.

Louise slaps her palm to her lips. Did Chapman look mad mad or playful mad?

Playful, maybe? William raises his hands, palms up, and juggles as he speaks.

You’re just being nice. Louise drives her palms into her forehead. Two tent pegs into beer bottle cap-encrusted soil.

You look like you could use like ten more hours’ sleep. You should claim insomnia.

Louise blushes, and hopes it’s one of those invisible blushes, then wonders if those even exist. She grabs a chunk of hair and covers her face with it, moustache style. I couldn’t sleep last night on account of realizing I’m going to die alone.

That’s not the most depressing situation ever.

What is, then?

Ending up a quadriplegic from a failed suicide attempt off a low building. William does a buh-dum-bum-psssh! on his mug and the string that dangles from the snack room lightbulb.

Hey. William pours himself a cup of coffee and points at Louise. We could find eachother when we’re like eighty-five and die together in an old folks’ home.

I thought you were gay.

William rolls his eyes upward as though she’d asked him to multiply five by seven. More like asexual.

Okay, you can Facebook me. Will they have Facebook then?

Yeah, but it’ll be like dot matrix printers now.

Everyone will still have profile pics from their thirties.

Yeah, I’ll be like damn you’ve aged well, girl. Meet me at Shady Pines.


When we’re too old for sex.

And there’s no one else left.


Susan Sanford Blades lives and writes in Victoria. Her fiction has appeared in Other Voices and The New Quarterly.

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LF #034 © Susan Sanford Blades. Published by Little Fiction | Big Truths, January 2013.


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fall from oysters

by susan sanford blades