These Are The Stories Part VI
A Short Story by Doug Dean
Written using the suggestion "Love"
Originally featured on 11-23-2009
As part of our series "The Words That Seem to Justify Anything"

The narrator dug through a cardboard box. He held up an old cable bill, then crumpled it and threw it into a wastebasket. He held up a brochure, then threw it in the wastebasket.

He held up a slip of paper.

He looked at it. He scratched his head.

“Hmmm…”

The narrator nodded and placed the slip of paper in his shirt pocket.

Then he began again.

 

***

 

In a now-non-existent future, Brick Jones cuts into his New York strip steak and grins at his beautiful girlfriend, Catarina Freudenberger at Spago. Catarina gulps the last of her glass of Moet & Chandon. After a few now non-existent moments, their tall waiter, Raoul departs from his service station with a cocktail tray loaded with two drinks, one of them a second glass of Moet for Catarina with a surprise garnish, an engagement ring. When Raoul reaches the table, he breaks etiquette (although not really he’s told himself because it’s a special circumstance) by first placing Brick’s glass of ‘91 Barbaresco down above his steak knife before smiling and turning to Catarina.

“And here…” he says grasping the stem of the flute, “is a special drink for the lady,” he continues slowly guiding the flute to the position just above her salad knife (Catarina used her entrée knife for her salad to Raoul’s disappointment).

She sees the bubbling 24-carat diamond at once. Of course she does. This woman, Catarina, is another in a long line of women intent on getting her hands on the now-non-existent Brick Jones Fortune. Brick can’t see it because Brick is so taken with her, her International Modeling and vast lingerie collection. Brick is a bit thick in the ways of love.

The diamond is so large it starts catching the light in the room and reflecting it onto Catarina’s sculpted features.

Catarina gets very excited, giddy, she pretends her voice has gone above the octave’s of human hearing due to the excitement. She’s clapping her hands together rapidly, mouth agape. Of course she is. Catarina thinks that Brick is going to get down on his well-worn carpenter knee and propose to her that she share her life with him. What she actually hears, though, is ‘will she share his money with him?’. And the answer is going to be a resounding ‘yes’. On the wrong side of twenty seven, Catarina sees her looks beginning to fade, her contracts beginning to thin. ‘International Modeling’ as she’s described it to Brick, has really been mostly catalogue modeling with a few overseas bathing suit shoots.

Raoul asks if everything is alright, if they need anything else.

Brick shakes his head, and Raoul departs.

Brick smiles at Catarina, and reaches his hand out to hold hers.

“Catarina,” he begins, beaming. “These past six months have been absolutely wonderful. It’s been really wonderful.”

She nods.

“You’ve made me very happy,” he continues with a wink. “And I just want to know if you want to make me even happier, maybe the happiest I’ve ever been, by accepting my hand in—“

A loud crash of plates hitting the floor. Brick and Catarina turn towards the noise. Walking towards them and away from a crouched and cursing Raoul is a six foot tall cyborg.

“Informatica?!” says Brick.

“Yes,” affirms Informatica, reaching their table.

“Brick? Who is this?” asks Catarina.

“This is Informatica, my personal assistant. She’s one of those cyborgs,” says Brick.

“Um, okay? What is she doing here now?” says Catarina.

“She doesn’t love you,” says Informatica.

“What?” says Brick.

“She doesn’t love you,” says Informatica.

“Informatica, I don’t understand. What are you saying?” says Brick.

“What the fuck?” says Catarina.

“She doesn’t love you,” says Informatica. “Don’t propose. She’s not in love with you.”

“This is bullshit,” says Catarina.

“Is it?” says Informatica. “You pulse and heart rate indicate otherwise.”

Raoul arrives at the table. “Excuse me. Is this cyborg bothering you? I’d be happy to throw her-”

“No, Raoul. It’s okay. This is my assistant Informatica.”

“Sorry I bumped your tray,” says Informatica.

Raoul leaves.

“I’m sorry to have to tell you this again, Brick. But you cannot marry her,” says Informatica.

Brick looks at Informatica, then at Catarina.

“Explain yourself, Informatica, Catarina and I have a connection. Why are you saying that she’s just after my money?” says Brick.

“The other night, when you had her over, I observed you mating. She hardly touched you. Her heart rate never got over 50 beats per minute. At one point she rolled her eyes,” says Informatica.

“Is this true?” says Brick to Catarina.

“Well…It was just an off night for you, honey. Normally, I love the sex we have,” says Catarina.

“She is lying again,” says Informatica. “I listened to a phone conversation she had this morning. She didn’t speak of you the way someone does who is in love.”

“Look, I was tired,” says Catarina. “I’m always cranky in the morning.”

“Another lie,” says Informatica. “Her brainwaves indicate a morning person.”

“Jesus,” says Brick. “Catarina, is she wrong? Are you just with me for my money?”

“No,” says Catarina. “I’m not…I mean, not just for your money. I like you too, Brick. I guess I’m just feeling older and want to know I’ll be taken care of. You said you wanted to take care of me. Don’t you, Brick?”

Brick looks at her. “Hmmm…”

“Thank god I didn’t propose just now,” says Brick, finally.

Catarina’s face fills with fear. She looks at the diamond.

Brick signals Raoul. “Check please, Raoul. Split it down the middle. You know the drill.”

“I do. Sorry to hear it, Mr. Jones,” says Raoul.

Brick turns to Catarina. “I’m very disappointed. I thought you loved me too.”

“Maybe I do,” says Catarina.

Brick turns to Informatica. “Informatica,” he sighs. “You really understand love, don’t you?”

“I do,” says Informatica. “I do.”

 

***

 

Forensic experts milled around the room as Detective Robison knelt next to a chalk outline and a blood-stained carpet.

“Hmmm…”

“Hey Herb,” yelled Robison’s partner from across the bedroom.

Robison turned. “Yeah?”

“The victim must shop at the same store as your wife,” said Detective Strebak. “Her boyfriend’s got like three of the same shirts as you.”

“Yeah, what a coincidence detective,” said Robison, turning back to the blood-stained carpet.

 

***

 

Vlad pulled his car over to the curb. He looked over at the white house. All the lights were off.

“Hmmm…”

He reached over to the passenger seat for the folded piece of paper with the address on it.

763 SE Foster

He looked at the number on the house, nodded and put the piece of paper back into the glove box.

He pulled his cellphone out of his shirt pocket, opened it, and scrolled through the list of numbers until he reached hers. He put his thumb over the Send button, looked at the house again, then closed the phone.

He opened the glove box, grabbed the folded piece of paper with the address on it and looked at the address.

783 SE Foster

“Huh?”

Vlad looked closer.

763 SE Foster

He pulled his cellphone out of his pocket and scrolled back to her name and pressed Send.

He listened to it ring twice, and then she picked up.

“Hi…Stephanie?…Yeah, no I think I’m here…I mean, I am here, but I’m not sure if it’s your house…hehe…yeah, 763 NE Foster, yeah…it’s just that the lights are all out…oh, well that’s very progressive of you…hehe, no, I meant forward-thinking, not political…hehe, yeah…okay I’ll just wait here then, no hurry, see you in a minute or, er, however long you need…okay, fantastic!”

He closed the phone.

“Idiot,” said Vlad to himself. “Not cool! Be cool!”

He watched the door for a second.

“Oh, yeah,” he said shaking his head.

Vlad reached into the backseat and grabbed his leather bound album of CDs. As he was bringing it onto his lap, he jumped at Stephanie tapping on the window.

He smiled at her. She tapped again.

“Oh…shit.” Vlad reached over and unlocked her door.

She opened it, placed her purse on the floor, sat down and closed the door.

“Err, sorry, I didn’t mean to slam it,” said Stephanie.

“Oh, don’t worry, you didn’t,” said Vlad. “It just closes kind of loud.”

She forced a grin and nodded.

“These old cars, right?” said Vlad.

She forced a grin and nodded.

“Sorry the door was locked,” said Vlad. “Hope you didn’t get too wet out there.”

They looked at each other for a moment.

“So I was just picking out a CD to listen to on the way,” said Vlad.

“Oh, cool, do you have The Thermals, I could listen to the Thermals right now,” said Stephanie.

“No,” said Vlad.

“Oh,” said Stephanie.

“But I like them,” said Vlad.

“Yeah, me too,” said Stephanie.

Vlad turned a couple of pages in the book of CDs. Then he looked over at her.

“My car was broken into a couple of weeks ago and I lost a ton of CDs,” said Vlad.

“Oh, well that sucks,” said Stephanie. “They got your Thermals CD, eh?”

“No, I never actually owned The Thermals,” said Vlad.

“Oh,” said Stephanie.

“But I like them,” said Vlad.

“Yeah, me, too,” said Stephanie.

“Here,” said Vlad, closing the book and handing it to Stephanie. “Why don’t you pick something out for us while I drive?”

“Okay,” said Stephanie.

Vlad turned the ignition and the car whined.

“It’s doesn’t do so well in the winter,” said Vlad pumping the gas.

The engine turned over and Vlad pulled away from the curb. A horn blared as a minivan full of children weaved to avoid Vlad’s Honda.

“Heh…oops,” Vlad said with a smile.

“Your lights are off,” said Stephanie before returning to flipping through the book.

“So have you lived down on Foster long?” said Vlad, taking a left. “I hear that it’s getting better, you know, more FoPo less Felony Flats. Though I imagine it’ll be a good while before too much positive development happens down here. Don’t believe the hype, right? I mean, there’s still lots of crime on Foster. I saw a few prostitutes on the way here. You know what I mean, right?”

“Not long, to answer your question,” said Stephanie. “I actually just bought that house you picked me up at.”

“Oh, wow. That’s great. Wow, you bought a house in this market? Good for you. A friend of mine just bought a house. Her parents helped her of course. I think that’s mainly how I’ve heard of people being able to buy property in this market.”

“I bought mine,” said Stephanie, flipping through the blank pages. “I put all my savings into it. Kind of my dream.”

Vlad looked at her, then back at the road, signaled and took a right.

“That is awesome, good for you!” said Vlad.

“Thanks,” said Stephanie. “So what about you? Do you rent?”

“Yeah, I rent,” said Vlad. “I’ve moved around a bit. It’s hard to find good roommates. I actually lived with my ex-girlfriend for awhile once.”

“Oh? How’d that go?” said Stephanie.

“About how you’d expect,” said Vlad. “A lot of me mumbling cursewords to myself while mowing the lawn.”

Stephanie laughed.

“Yeah,” Vlad laughed. “Relationships, right?”

Stephanie looked up from the book. “Oh, no, I wasn’t laughing at that. I just haven’t met anybody else that has the soundtrack to the movie Ghost before.”

Vlad looked over. “Oh, yeah. My mother gave it to me. We actually went to see it together, kind of by accident. You have it?”

Stephanie smiled at him. “Yeah, my dad gave it to me. We went to see it, kind of by accident too. Huh. I love that movie.”

Vlad laughed. He looked over at Stephanie. “Yeah, me too. It’s really good.”

Vlad pulled over. “Here we are, The Montage. You hungry? I’m starving.”

“Yeah, I love this place. I was just here last week,” said Stephanie.

“Yeah, this is a great place to come to with friends,” said Vlad. “I love to come with a group and get a tray full of oyster shooters. Did you come with a group last week?”

“No, just…just one person,” said Stephanie. Vlad looked at her. “Anyway, I really like the Spicy Mac. What do you usually get?”

“Spicy Mac! Shall we?” said Vlad, opening his door.

Stephanie closed her door with a loud slam. “Oops, sorry again.”

“It’s a piece of shit,” said Vlad with a shrug.

Vlad reached for the entrance door and swung it open, grazing Stephanie’s shoulder as she tried to move.

“After you,” said Vlad, with a smile.

“Thank you,” said Stephanie, rubbing her shoulder.

“Two please,” said Vlad to the Maitre D’.

“Right this way,” said the Maitre D’, leading them to end of a long table. He placed paper menus in front of them.

They sat and looked at the menus for a moment.

“Oyster shooters?” said Vlad.

Stephanie looked up from her menu and then nodded after a moment.

Then she looked back up from her menu.

“You know what’s cool about you?” said Stephanie.

Vlad looked up from his menu. “No,” he said. “What?”

“I bet there’s something. And I’m curious to know what.”

Read More By Doug Dean

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