THREE MINUTES OF FICTION: “I’M CANCELING”

Hi, Celia, it’s Walter…Ferguson. Huh, I knew you’d let my call go to voice mail. You always do. I wonder if in the fifteen seconds that your phone is playing that brassy Adele song and my number is flashed on your screen, you can’t steel yourself sufficiently to answer? Maybe it’s not long enough to filter the irritability out of your voice, leaving that perky neutral tone? I guess you have to undergo the same process every time you answer the phone at the law office, but there you get paid by the hour, and dealing with me is charity.
So I’m in my ’76 Ford Fairlaine. I managed to get a restored muffler in mint condition from a guy in Toledo, so the noise wouldn’t be so annoying to you. But…it’s OK, because I need to cancel our date next Saturday. I have a….strong intuition that I’m going to be rammed head-on by a truck. It’s a very tactile vision. I mean, I experience this godlike force bashing into my car, crushing metal and glass and bone as the car does a backward somersault. What a waste of a cherry ride! “Cherry”! That’s an old slang term. Come to think of it, “ride” is probably outdated too—but, of course, I’m…older. Fourteen years old than you. I have to admit, that’s a lot. Almost a decade and a half.
The good thing about calling off our date is that it will open up your evening to spend with your son. I forgot his name. Is it “Justin” or “Austin”? Is he twelve or thirteen? Maybe he’s with his Dad this weekend. Maybe he prefers to hang out with his friends. I did. I hated my old man, and my mom was so fragile and passive I couldn’t bear to be with her.
If Justin or Austin is like his mother, he’ll be uneasy and distracted the whole time you’re together, until some allotted arbitrary number of hours has passed, and then he’ll make up a reason to leave. On our dates, you only really smile at me when you’re putting on your coat.
Are you just cold and or is it me? Ah, that’s hypocritical, because I don’t really believe it’s my fault. Let’s just say you’re “reserved.” That’s an appropriate term, because you are obviously “reserved” for someone other than me. I mean…Jesus! You must have been attracted to me a little bit. I was overjoyed when you walked into the restaurant that first time. You were so small and trim, with a face like a…like a cameo or something. Way prettier in person than your photo on the Internet dating site. But when I handed you that rose wrapped in green paper, you held it like a…a used napkin, with your thumb and forefinger, and your expression was…I don’t know, somewhere between panic and disgust. Then you forgot it on the table when we left.
I have to say, while we were watching that movie about the crippled boy in Afghanistan, sitting close together in the dark, I had this paralyzing certainty that our relationship was…stillborn. Is that the right word? But I suppressed the feeling, because you were so beautiful and kind, and I was so lonely.
Hey! I lied about having a premonition about a car wreck. It’s already happened. My body was completely mangled, but my cell wasn’t damaged. Isn’t that funny? Since nothing matters anymore, I figured it was an ideal time to cancel, without having to make up an excuse.
You don’t have to call me back.

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About Tom Ukinski

Tom Ukinski is an attorney in state government in the Midwest. He's been writing plays, novels, short stories, comedy sketches and screenplays for many years.
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