October 2, 2009

Jim Harrington

They Laughed

Mom said I wasn't capable of living by myself and couldn't move out of her house until I married. Sounded easy enough. Lots of people did it.

I tried and tried to find me a woman. The last one laughed when I proposed. The sound erupted from her like someone had performed that hindlick thing on her. The noise followed me out the door like monkeys on a rope and into my car. I thought covering my ears would help. It didn't.

I was so upset when I got home Mom decided to send me to a psychiatrist. He said I had gynohobia, whatever that was. Told me rejection was a good thing, a learning experience. I learned I didn't like rejection.

I heard about this new game show on a local TV station where you filled out a survey, and they matched you up with your perfect mate. Tonight was my turn on the show. I used extra deodorant after my shower and slicked my hair real good.

When they called my name, I walked out of the Green Room and onto the stage. I saw her sitting on the couch. Well, I saw someone. She was too far away for me to see her face, even when I squinted. I thought about going home, but then I heard Mom's voice in my head.

A man whispered in my ear and gave me a shove to jump start me. I baby-stepped across the shiny floor until I was in front of a redhead with purple lips. I lowered myself to one knee and took the paper out of my shirt pocket with the words I'd written out so I'd get them right. Trouble was the paper was soaked with sweat and the letters had disappeared.

I closed my eyes and took a breath like the doc showed me. The pressure in my head eased, and I pulled Mom's ring from my pocket. It felt heavy. When I looked up, the woman smiled. That was a first. Maybe I'd finally found the one.

I opened my mouth, but nothing came out. My mouth dry, I tried again. Nothing. On the third attempt, I heard words, but they weren't mine. At first, I didn't understand. Then the words repeated from behind me.

"Contestant number four? I'm sorry, but time's up for this week's show."

The woman covered her mouth, but I still heard her snicker. The nice man told me I could come back next week and try again. I told him no thanks.

I inched along the freeway on the way home, stuck in traffic. It didn't matter. I wasn't in any hurry.


Jim Harrington lives in Huntersville, NC, with his wife and two cats. His stories have appeared in Apollo's Lyre, Every Day Fiction, Bent Pin Quarterly, Long Story Short, and others. He is a flash fiction editor for Apollo’s Lyre. You can read more of his stories here.

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