LUNCH IN THE PARK
by Francis U. Kaltenbaugh
Melanie was late for work, again, and very upset, with herself,
her surroundings, and life as she knew it. Once again, it wasn't her fault, but the boss would of course – blame her.
Her last lover and part-time fiancee, when the mood struck him,
had barged into her apartment at 3:52 AM. Drunk, overamped, and horny, he wanted to discuss her taking him back – again; this was the third time she took away his *only* key to her apartment. He had argued with her till 6:31; when, in his asinine inimitable style, demonstrating his anger, smashed an ashtray into her neatly arranged nick-knacks. Then he stalked-out slamming the door for emphasis, knowing it would upset her elderly neighbor. She would hear about it.
After the subway ride, her bus, which would get her to work fifteen
minutes early – broke down. She was thirty minutes late, and *hated* to be late for anything. She demanded others be on time always, herself included, and would berate herself endlessly, whenever late for anything.
"Damn!" she thought, seeing the portly and greasy boss standing there,
hunched over her work area – inspecting her work from yesterday. She glanced at two of her co-workers produced a twisted smile and silently nodded.
Denise, watching Melanie as she entered, turned to Lori seated
next to her, rolled her eyes and said, "Look at her. Black! Always wearing black everyday, can ya believe her? Gawd!"
"Little behind schedule are we -- AGAIN?" the boss asked, turning
to follow her, as she hurried past him. He was showing his best stern look for the benefit of the others, but it didn't mask his lust for her. She muttered something! "What! Didn't catch that?" she heard him calling after her.
She couldn't wait any longer. Holding it, from the apartment all the
way to work. "Damn Super! Damn toilet! Damn ex-fiancee!" And then her boss, hanging around waiting for the grand entrance – just so he could make a scene. Another way of trying to pressure her, a little more, pushing without touching – knowing she would *give in* – eventually.
When she was done in the restroom, she gingerly opened the door,
peering out to see if anyone was about to enter. It would only take a moment, and she would feel so much better. She walked out and he wasn't in sight. She ignored the stares from co-workers and settled in to absorb herself in her work, feeling more at ease. Losing herself in the little accomplishments of a job well done, she felt better.
Caught up in her work, she turned around to look at the clock, and
noticed two things at once, it was lunch time and the boss was standing by the door – waiting. Used to the ritual, an excuse ready, she was surprised to see him walk off with the new girl in tow. Grasping her arm with his pudgy little hand, surely he was bending her ear with all the advantages of working here – especially with him.
Each girl had received the same indoctrination, except, he was
obsessed with Melanie. "You know what they say about girls who wear black," he had told her many times, with a stupid smirk. She let out a sigh, relieved at not having to play the daily game of wits, explaining why they couldn't take lunch together. Another trip to the restroom, and then, she'd be able to face the lunch crowd.
Upon reaching the street, she ignored all the trash and litter from
humanity, and accepted it as a bright, cheerful day; nothing like the windowless rooms where they worked. She decided to skip eating again; she would go to the nearby park. A lovely day, some sun, a little reading and relaxing in the park would make her feel much better; she even had some tidbits stashed in her purse, rationed and leftover from earlier last night, when she had visited friends in a nearby neighborhood.
The bench was hot from the sun, almost too hot. She squirmed a lot,
as she sat there, finally the heat became warmth and she felt it spread comfortably. Her black knit-bag served triple duty: purse, an often needed carry-all, and sometimes home; in it, she finally found the book she wanted, COMMAND LINE COWBOYS. Reading would help her escape her dismal surroundings. She dipped in the bag and pulled out the leftover morsel, looked around cautiously, and quickly consumed it.
Dan saw her immediately. She came through the park entrance. In this
bright sun, he wondered, "_Why in the hell would anyone be wearing all black!_" Full length skirt, almost hiding her knee-high black lace-up boots, see-through black blouse with black bodice beneath, black shawl draped over her back, and a black knit-cap – that was completely hiding her waist-length blonde hair from view. He especially noticed the very large black bag she carried. "Look like a damn black laundry bag," he muttered; "gotta be somethin' worth my time there."
He was starting to feel it -- bad, and needed to take care of business
fast. The prospects in the park looked slim – Sally, the bag-lady, a few winos, and the typical homeless refuse. He needed more, now. She was there, obviously on lunch break, a working girl, and should be an easy mark. A bicyclist approached; Dan tried his luck. "Hey man! Got some change? Gotta make a phone call bad. Lost my wallet," he pleaded.
"Get bent!" spat the bicyclist, as he sped by.
"Yuppie punk! Yo mutha . . ." Dan mumbled, not enthused enough to
continue without an audience to hear his torrent of rhymed curses. He looked to Melanie sitting on the bench.
The hawk circles in the distance -- pretending not to study its prey; while the intended victim, absorbed in its own microcosm, is oblivious to its impending danger.
Melanie relaxed, alternately scanning her book, then her surroundings
– always aware. You never knew what to expect in this part of the city, and this park in particular. Looking up from her book, she noticed a big, apparently ownerless, tabby nosing around some fast-food bags laying beside a trash-barrel. She liked cats. Big ones. Leopards in particular, and often thought of herself as a big black cat – reincarnated; female and as deadly as needed for survival, wherever she found herself – including this urban jungle.
She was enjoying it: languishing in the sunshine, her book, forgetting
her problems, and escaping into her little bit of solitude, distanced from the derelicts and other refuse in the park.
She thought, "Every time I tell 'em I'm a big black leopard, the
guys always tell me, `You mean panther.' What do they know." She started reading again, then laughed quite loudly from a passage in her book.
Flying in ever tightening circles, the hawk moves directly above its unsuspecting prey, unseen. The victim busies itself with its own needs, desires, and concerns of existence.
She checked her watch. "Time for the grind, gotta hurry back to work."
She slide her book into her purse, rummaged in her bag, and got up from the bench. She could chance being late – again! by crossing the park and taking the safe way back to work, hoping traffic would allow her to J-walk. Or, using the underground pedestrian walkway, which would get her back to work in plenty of time. Dangerous at times, and pretty dark with all the lights busted, but she had learned to endure it. "Oh well!"
Dan moved nearer, slowly working his way behind where Melanie sat. Far
enough away, figuring she wouldn't notice him studying her. "Dis'll be easy, real easy. Shit! she's bookin'." He made a move.
Heading for the underground walkway, she looked around and couldn't see
the guy, she had spotted before. She breathed a sigh of relief and walked more quickly knowing she should avoid a confrontation.
She felt so much better after relaxing in the park, reading, listening
to the birds, a good buzz – much better than she had for days. Such a fine day. It really lifted her spirits. She would have to speak to the Super as soon as she got home. "_Gotta make him fix that damn toilet and stop the leak in the sink. The leak's driving me crazy!_" She entered the underground pedestrian walkway.
Wings swept back to dive, the hawk plummets to attack! The hawk's outstretched talons reach for a tender neck -- easy prey.
Claws spring forth, a cat's-paw -- countering the hawk's deadly grasp. Feathers are ruffled.
She took several deep breaths to counter the adrenalin rushing
through her and to stop shaking. Melanie had to step over the prostrate form, took a few steps away, then hesitated. In the dim light of the underground walkway, it took a minute, but finally found and withdrew some tissues from her purse. She wiped her straight-razor clean then placed it back in her bag. As she threw down the soiled tissues, hating to litter but had to hurry, she heard him emit a final rattle and gasp.
Because of this little confrontation, once again – she was late for work.
# # #
Copyright 1994 Francis U. Kaltenbaugh
Francis is a writer who enjoys exploring, lifting up the rocks of humanity and checking the darker side. When not looking under rocks, you can find Francis in cafes, restaurants, and bars trying to find the elusive glue to paste a book together with. Thinking electronic publications are great, Francis knows there is an Alien out there, who has received and is reading RUNE'S RAG, and is at this moment writing a story to send back to us.