Mindy and the Douchebag
A Short Story by Jeremy Benjamin
Written using the suggestion "Occupation"
Originally featured on 02-19-2010
As part of our series "The Things We Change When We Want To Make That Big Change"

The half of Mindy’s bicycle that she had locked to the street signpost outside the movie theater was still locked to the signpost when Mindy, Ken and Steve came out of the movie. Steve was chewing on popcorn. His face dropped a couple inches. Mindy saw Steve look at it before she saw it.

The bicycle seat was unnaturally low to the ground, and slanted upward. That was on account of the absence of a back tire. Ken paused halfway through a sarcastic comment about the movie’s social message and looked where Steve and Mindy were looking. Ken caught a laugh as it traveled up his throat and squashed it with his chest.

The bicycle Mindy had locked to the signpost had possessed two tires. Her steel U-lock encompassed the signpost, the front tire and the bicycle frame. Ken had heckled her for leaving the back tire unprotected. It had a quick-release knob, unlike her previous bicycle. Ken always heckled her for lapses in her anal-retentiveness, as a means of reverse psychology wherein he was actually criticizing her for being too in control. Mindy did not hear the words Ken said, but heard the fact that he was heckling her because she knew the sound of it. She was too busy seeing what was in front of her.

The air was cold. Mindy walked to the remaining half of her bicycle. Attached to the seat was a yellow post-it note. She reached for it with two non-dominant fingers but did not touch it. She read it out loud. “Your tire is safe. Call…he left a phone number.”

Ken told her she should give the number to the police. When she reached for the post-it, Ken said, “No, don’t touch it. Get a plastic bag.”

Steve slapped the back of Ken’s head. “You’ve watched one too many movies. For the cost of running a fingerprint scan, the police would rather buy you ten new tires. My uncle was a cop. I’ll buy you a new tire.”

Mindy snatched the post-it note, ran her palm over it and pulled out her cell phone.

“Hello?”

Mindy looked up at the smoke passing in front of the fishing-hook moon so that she could not see Ken and Steve’s faces when she spoke into the phone. “Hi, I’m looking for a low-life piece of dogshit bicycle thief. Is he or she home?”

Ken said to Steve, “Maybe it’s someone she knows, an ex boyfriend, or a practical joker. If I came across Mindy’s bike, I’d do the same thing, just for laughs.”

Steve said to Ken, “Most of Mindy’s friends aren’t as cool as us. It was probably some psycho. If she calls that number, he’ll talk about green aliens and the intelligent race of dandelions that contacted them through vibrations, and the role that her tire—”

The nondescript male voice on the phone said after four audible inhalations and no discernible exhalations, “I didn’t think you’d call.”

Mindy said, “I didn’t think you’d think I’d call, either. I just thought you should know that that tire isn’t worth fifty cents at a depot, and you’re an idiot.”

Ken and Steve realized that she actually was talking to someone and not pretending. They both took a protective step toward her without realizing the other did so.

The voice continued breathing. Mindy said, “Do you know that you’re a pathetic idiot, or did you need me to tell you? Because only a pathetic idiot steels parts from locked bikes, and only an ugly, unlovable, retarded, half-witted loser crack addict who whacks off to child porn and would be doing society a favor if he fell dead in a gutter steals a bike tire and leaves a ransom note. So do yourself a favor and go fuck yourself.”

The voice spoke without pausing for another breath, as if continuing Mindy’s sentence. “It was not a ransom note. I think of it more as a flirtation. If you would be generous enough to forgive my stunted social graces, I would like to have dinner with you. My treat. And, of course, the bike tire will be safely returned. I’m actually polishing it as we speak. I…saw you. I watched you locking—”

She hung up and jerked the phone away from her face as if it had become a spider crawling up her ear. Ken and Steve were standing close enough to hear both sides of the conversation. She checked their faces to see if they had been laughing during any portion of her phone conversation.

Steve said in utter seriousness, “You should go on a date with him. Really. We’ll go with you, we’ll sit at the next table and pretend to be strangers, then when you leave the restaurant we’ll wait out in the parking lot and beat the crap out of him.”

Mindy unlocked her bicycle and slung it over her shoulder. “Stupid boys.” She started walking briskly. “As if I need either of you to beat the crap out of him.”

 

The pathetic idiot was wearing a leather jacket and a flannel shirt. He was tall and stocky. A boyish swirl of gray hair hung down matted but combed over his too large head. His eyes danced in a circle like two fish frantically looking for an exit from their bowls when Mindy entered the lobby of the Italian restaurant.

Mindy smiled at him. He bowed to her and kissed her hand. In his left hand he held the tire as though it were a trophy. It glistened with the exact sparkle as did his leather jacket. He gingerly placed it under the table when they sat down.

Her thoughts drifted as they dined. The pathetic idiot spoke mostly about his workplace, but she did not register what he said his profession was, even as he described it to her. She pardoned herself to use the ladies’ room. Looking in the mirror, her elbows on the sink, she tried to recap the conversation. He must surely have asked her several basic questions about herself, and she most likely had answered them generously and politely, but she could not actually remember telling him any particular thing about herself. It was an unnerving quality he had of causing one to completely space out.

After the bathroom came the parking lot. The pathetic idiot reached in his pocket and two yellow lights flashed.

“That your car?” said Mindy.

The pathetic idiot motioned to the passenger door. “Can I offer you a ride?”

Mindy held out the polished bicycle tire to the pathetic idiot. “Do you want to sleep with me?”

The pathetic idiot looked at the ground and nodded his head. He breathed loudly.

Mindy poked him in the ribs with her bicycle tire until he looked at her. She put a hand on his shoulder and squeezed the bone. “If it meant damaging something you love, would you still want to sleep with me?”

He inhaled loudly and exhaled silently.

“You love that car, don’t you?”

He nodded.

“What if I told you I would sleep with you if you beat up that car right now. Do it with a rock or a baseball bat, or do it with your elbows. Smash the windows. Dent the bumper. Bash it. Kick it. Scratch obscenities into the paint. Would you do that right now? Right here in this parking lot?”

The pathetic idiot took a backward step in a direction that was moving away from her at the same rate as moving away from his car. His lip flexed and un-flexed.

Mindy closed her palm around his hand that held her bike tire. “What if I did it? Would you stand right here and watch me wreck your car, if I let you sleep with me?”

The pathetic idiot sunk his head as if he were attempting to retract it inside his torso. The boyish swirl of gray hair flapped over to the other side of his oversized head.

Mindy smiled. “Good. Because there is no way in hell I would ever sleep with a creep like you.” She kneed him in the groin. “You don’t flirt with women by stealing bike parts and leaving your phone number,” she said as she walked away. Then she stopped, walked slowly back to him. He was doubled over with his back to the bumper. She bent down and kissed him on the cheek.

As she walked home, her pace quickened with buoyancy. She lifted the rim of the bike tire to her nose and sniffed the sparkly finish. It smelled like banana.

Read More By Jeremy Benjamin

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