The One That Got Away
A Short Story by Tim Josephs
Written using the suggestion "Storm Cloud"
Originally featured on 12-04-2006
As part of our series "Fall Stories"

Peter rolled over and looked at the clock on the table beside his bed. It was 4:45. He couldn’t sleep again; he’d barely gotten more than a couple hours a night for the past week.

He rolled back onto his left side and closed his eyes, really trying to will the sleep to come. After a few moments, he realized it was pointless and got up; he needed to be at work in a few hours anyway.

He thought about calling her again, had even dialed half her number before slamming the phone down. But what would be the point? She wasn’t taking his calls anymore.

You blew it, buddy boy, he thought, filling up the coffeemaker with water. Jenny was it and you blew it. Sure, he’d dated lots of girls, but none like Jenny.

He smiled wearily and thought about her again. He could see her face perfectly in his mind. She wasn’t gorgeous, but she was definitely pretty. Not pretty in the traditional sense, he would explain to people who hadn’t met her, but kind of like one of those bug-eyed, squishy-faced dogs. Her good looks really had to grow on you.

And they had. That nose, those eyes, that mouth! Yes, she had it all. No eyebrows, though. She said the upkeep was too much work so she had gotten rid of them years ago. He didn’t mind, he never cared that much for eyebrows anyway. He just loved counting the freckles on her face. There were only four so it usually didn’t take him that long, but he still loved to count them.

And her hair! Oh, her hair! It was an amazing frizzy yellow with an amalgam of brown, green, and black at the roots. Jenny often said she had to look downstairs to remember what the original color was. How he had laughed the first time she said that! Unfortunately the rest of his family at Thanksgiving dinner hadn’t been as amused.

He was impressed when he found out that she made her own clothes. She could make anything and had even made him a pair of boxer shorts. Because she only used burlap, they chafed and itched a little but because they were from her, he wore them frequently.

He remembered how cute her particular eating habits were. She only ate haggis and banana pudding, so finding a restaurant that served either proved to be a difficult task. But after an exhaustive search, he finally found a place that served both: Chiquita Maguire’s. But they had only been there a few minutes when Jenny said they needed to leave; apparently one of the waiters had looked at her funny.

 

 

Peter went and sat by the open window. He looked down at the street; only a few cars were moving at this hour. In the distance he heard the faint rumble of thunder.

He was going to propose to her, actually pop the question. He had bought a ring and everything. He had just been waiting for the right time.

He thought about hiring a skywriter but realized that probably wouldn’t be a good idea. Jenny explained to him one night that when she was little she was never able to see different objects in clouds like the other kids could and it really traumatized her. So now she basically hated clouds and would avoid looking at the sky as much as possible.

Peter considered taking her to a baseball game and having the question put up on the scoreboard. But Jenny despised crowds. About a year ago they had gone to an outdoor concert and Jenny did not enjoy herself. She claimed that a large man walking by had dripped sweat on her and she insisted a little kid sitting near them kept looking at her funny, so they hadn’t stayed very long.

He finally decided to just invite her over to his apartment to propose. He was going to whip up some banana pudding and stick the ring right on top.

Jenny arrived at around ten that night, only about two hours late, which wasn’t bad for her.

When he placed the bowl before her, she looked puzzled.

“What’s this?” she asked.

“It’s banana pudding, silly,” he said.

“No, I mean what is that in the pudding?”

“It’s a ring.” He got down on one knee and cleared his throat. “Jenny, will you marry me?”

She stared at him with a slight look of disgust. “Marry you? You want to get married? We’ve known each other what, like two weeks?”

Peter looked a little disheartened. “It’s been eight months.”

“Whatever,” she said and stood up. “Listen, Peter, I wasn’t going to say anything but I think you’re pretty strange.”

Peter looked confused. “What?”

“Yeah, you’re really weird. I mean, you drink two percent milk, who does that?”

Peter was stunned.

“And you must have like six pairs of socks. I don’t know if you have a fetish or what but you might want to get some help for that.”

Peter got up. “What are you saying?”

“I’m saying I can’t marry you, you’re a freak.” She walked to the door, picking up her new burlap jacket. “Oh, by the way,” she said turning around, “you’re banana pudding sucks. You never use enough Tabasco sauce.” And with that, she opened the door and left.

 

That was two months ago and Peter remembered that night all too well. He chased after her but she had hopped in a cab. He called but she just wouldn’t listen to him.

He wracked his brain trying to think of what he could have done differently. Maybe he should have taken that online taxidermy class like she wanted him to. Perhaps he should’ve given one of his kidneys to her brother’s friend’s uncle. Maybe she was right and arson was a healthy way to relieve stress.

 

 

Peter sighed and got up. What was the point in thinking about it now? It was over. He looked out the window, the sun was just coming up and he could see storm clouds on the horizon. He didn’t think he was going to make it in to work today. He adjusted the burlap boxers and headed back to the bedroom.

Read More By Tim Josephs

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Portland Fiction Project

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