Saturday, February 12, 2011

Short Story Saturday: The Unavoidable Dilemma of Chauncey P. Simm

The Unavoidable Dilemma of Chauncey P. Simm
by S. Michael Wilson 

            “Squeaky Cheese.”
            Those were the words she spoke to me before she walked out of my life forever.
Skull found in my backyardImage by katiecarman via Flickr            She stood framed in the splintered doorway of our spacious loft apartment, her full lips stained and puffy from an excess of pistachio nuts. I knelt in the far corner, the random fragments of my Berlin Wall Commemorative Beer Stein clutched in disbelieving hands. Her glare traveled across the room like a retired postal worker on a three day excursion through Fort Lauderdale, pausing momentarily near the singed potted palm for directions to the pitiful loser, then parking a few inches from my tear stained face and delivering her scorn through a passenger door window cracked open enough to let the contempt out and keep the air conditioning in.
            There was a pause during which I was meant to do or say something, but my copy of the event’s script had accidentally made it into the washing machine with my Day-Glo Buddhist robes, the words running together so that all I knew for sure was that I was supposed to do something with a ‘P’ and an ‘E’ in it.
            The moment passed, lost like a child in Sears, and before I knew what had happened, she spoke those fateful words.
            “Squeaky cheese,” she said.
            Then the door slammed shut, and I could hear her turn on her heels and stalk away huffily. I tried to speak, but the words stuck in my throat like an olive laced toothpick. That was it. She was gone.
            I was at a loss for what to do. I was beside myself with grief, and neither of us was sure what came next. It was almost impossible to imagine a world without her, and now it was the only world I could afford admission to without a student discount.
            Where had it all gone wrong? Had it ever gone right? Maybe it had all gone wrong before to such an extent that we assumed it was going right, so that when it all finally went right, it seemed so wrong.
            Philosophical quandaries never fail to give me an earache, and so I staggered to the throne of woodland animal skulls she had constructed as a young Girl Scout to earn her False Idols Merit Badge. A seat of polished rabbit skulls cushioned me as I attempted to relieve my broken heart and impaired equilibrium. I gripped the squirrel spine armrest as the room spun around me like a goldfish bowl in a centrifuge and thought back to the time when it all began.
            We first met in that magical time known as spring, two free spirits haunting the city of apples. Our paths crossed somewhere in central park. I was busy building tongue depressor profiles of famous dead Russian authors; she was lighting cigarettes and feeding them to pigeons. A smoldering bird set my wooden likeness of Nabokov aflame, and I pursued her across the park with the full intention of avenging poor Vladimir. My vengeful rage was cut short, however, as her stunning beauty and a vicious blow to the larynx stopped me in my tracks.
            She was part Bruce Lee, part Florence Nightingale, and promptly nursed me back to health after thoroughly kicking my ass. I regained consciousness with a flutter in my heart, helped along with her flawless CPR. I felt a love for her, swelling within me like a bruised kidney, that almost matched the pity in her eyes.
            We shared ourselves with one another right there in the bushes as she cradled my head and checked for spinal injuries. It seemed we were kindred souls, haunted by similar passions. She explained that her smoking pigeons were an anarchic attempt at performance art meant to illustrate the similarities between lung cancer and the avian flu. I confessed that I was cursed with an abundance of tongue depressors. We spent the rest of the afternoon asking probing questions of one another and evading park security. Our newfound affections and mutual curiosity had surpassed the restraints that shyness and no trespassing signs usually afford one in mixed company.
            Our backgrounds were as similar as mismatched footwear. She was a fractured debutante from a Midwestern town best left nameless. Struck mute at an early age by the sheer beauty inherent in her inability to exist in two places at once, she ran away from home under the darkness of the yuletide season, vowing never to exist in the same place once. Owing to a severe lack of traveling circuses in the immediate area, she ending up fleeing the only hometown she had ever known on a Cincinnati Book Mobile gone rogue. Her next three years were spent like a gypsy in a library, never staying in the same place too long, never reading the same book twice. Her journey ended as most often do, abruptly at a partially hidden Stop sign and a jackknifed ice cream truck. Armed with the Hobo equivalent of a PHD in world studies, she had since spent her waking hours hitchhiking and spreading global awareness through pointless acts of obscure social disobedience.
            I, on the other hand, had been born in a coma, only to be awakened at the age of seven by a monstrous thunderclap that split the heavens and set off every car alarm in three surrounding counties. Tutored endlessly until the age of awareness to catch me up with the rest of those sharing my birthday, I was released unto the world at the age of seventeen a well educated social recluse and societal misfit. Having read the collected works of Ayn Rand and misunderstanding all of it, I formed a religious and political belief system that even I did not fully understand, and was therefore forced to excommunicate myself, thus furthering along my complete alienation. I was on the verge of emotional bankruptcy when my parents finally came to my rescue and died from asphyxiation in a bizarre hang gliding accident, leaving me utterly alone yet completely self-sufficient, and owner of the world’s second largest Ping-Pong table, currently on display in Minnesota.
            Our life stories were so alike it was downright eerie, and there was a brief moment in which each assumed the other was a doppelganger intent on stealing their soul. The scuffle that followed our confused misunderstanding cemented our relationship and left me recuperating in intensive care for several weeks. She would come to visit me every other day, scaling out onto the ledge and blowing kisses at me through the windows, even though visiting hours were still in effect. By the time my recuperation was complete we had gained a devotional fascination for one another that bordered on stalking.
            It was not long after my physical therapy that we made a home for ourselves in small seven-bedroom apartment overlooking the first eighteen floors of a Styrofoam recycling plant. My new eternal life partner, having spent half of her life a transient, had accumulated more possessions than a convention center full of comic book collectors, and it took several months for us to contact the several storage facilities she had rented across the country and have her stuff shipped to her new home. We spent the intervening time between UPS deliveries eating Chinese Takeout and playing a bizarre hybrid of Monopoly and Pente I had once created in the throes of an Absinthe binge. Three years later, we had yet to finish the game. I was ahead by three.
            The years had flown by like big blurry things whizzing past opened windows, and it seemed like only yesterday that she had walked out of my life forever, despite it having happened only ten minutes ago.
            Once again, the question circled my head like an airborne badger. Where had it all gone wrong? Was the answer hidden somewhere in her parting words? Perhaps it was a coded phrase meant to scratch at the walls of my subconscious until it drew blood and left a nasty scar. What could it mean? Was she comparing our love to a dairy treat both noisy and binding, our passionate affair reduced to nothing more that a case of high pitched constipation? Maybe she was drawing a comparison between mice and cheese, alluding to dual roles unwittingly played out by us to the bitter end. However, if so, who had filled each role? Had I been the cheese, or the whining mouse? If I embodied the former, I was hazardously miscast as overripe Gouda, and if I was to be the latter, then my tail was much too wide. Perhaps I was wrong on all counts, and she was simply reading from an equally water logged script, as clueless as myself as to what our motivation was, and why the director had walked off the set in a huff.
            I scratched my ankle on a protruding beaver tooth and considered the possibility that she was attempting to compare the waning of our relationship to a Holy Rodent bespoken of in the missing gospel of Doogles. The door suddenly cracked open, and her face peeked around the corner like a ray of sunshine trying to make its way to the bathroom without being noticed. She scanned the room for my whereabouts like a reluctant warden, found me curled upon her childhood’s throne, and gave me a rueful wink.
            “The hardware store is closed on Tuesdays,” she whispered before closing the door with a mischievous grin.
            It suddenly occurred to me that I had never asked her name.

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