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A Short Story by Jonathan Mitchell

I looked across the room at her. I caught her eye. She smiled, I think. I smiled back. I also thought that she was raising her glass of some unidentified drink and making some sort of motion to me. Was I imagining this? Did she really smile at me? Did she really make some sort of motion with her glass?

I was at my favorite watering hole, The Half Blue Moon Saloon, drinking a Tequila Sunrise. The top 40 band was playing some oldies. They were playing the Doobie Brothers, "Minute by Minute."

Is 27 too old to still be a virgin, I thought to myself. If not, it must be too old to have never kissed a girl or have ever gone on a date.

I am a very neurotic person. I have a variety of hangups. One of them seems to be an inability to relate to the opposite sex. Therapy did not help to rid myself of all of these hangups. Is it reasonable to blame it all on that one early childhood trauma? I wonder. I am not sure but I have blamed it on that one isolated incident often enough.

I downed the remainder of my drink. I was getting sort of restless just sitting on the barstool, so I decided to get up and take a walk. The slender blonde, the one whom I had just had that encounter with, imagined or otherwise, was walking in my direction. The band was now playing "Born To Be Wild." Now she was standing close to me and, I think, trying to say something. But because of the noise, I couldn't be sure. I could only hope that she was actually talking to me. Just in case she was actually talking to me, I got up my nerve and mouthed the word "what" with emphasis so she could read my lips. She then repeated what she had said the first time; I guess she really was trying to strike up a conversation with me. I still could not hear what she was saying though. The band stopped playing.

"Well, we are going to take a 20 minute break between sets," said the band leader.

"Remember everyone, it's hip to tip."

She noticed that I had a puzzled look on my face.

"I was saying that I almost spilled my drink waving to you back there," she said looking right at me. That was a pretty good line, I thought to myself. This was my big opportunity. I knew a good comeback line might make the difference between celibacy and biffdom. The Half Blue Moon Saloon was a well known pickup place but I had never done well there due to all of my hangups.

"Well don't worry, I would have bought you another if you had spilled it."

"Oh, you're so sweet," she replied.

I congratulated myself for having come up with a good comeback.

"I'm Cindy Larsen," she said, extending her right hand to me.

"Peter Sinskey," I replied, taking her hand and shaking it lightly.

"Very nice to meet you, Pete. You come here often?"

"I spend my fair share of time here."

"I come here once in a while too," she said and I could have sworn that she was raising her eyebrows to me in an amorous manner.

"What sort of work do you do?"

"I'm a COBOL computer programmer for an insurance company," I replied. "Sort of a boring job but it's a living." I was a bit embarrassed by this. Women find computers complicated and programmers dweebish.

"Oh, that sounds like such an important job," she said in a amorously sweet and breezy voice and with what I felt to be feigned enthusiasm. "I'm just a legal secretary," she said in a tone of voice that sounded embarrassed.

"Ahh don't sell yourself short. That's a good job."

"Oh you're so sweet!"

"So you know any good jokes?"

I knew a good number of jokes. Of course joke telling was more than just making up a good joke or even knowing it. There was a manner or delivery, of getting it across. I knew I might not be too adroit at this due to all of my hangups.

"Yes as a matter of fact I do," I replied.

"Oh let's hear one," she said, touching my hand.

"Okay, you know why O.J. Simpson's mother wanted to have him home by November?"

"No, why?"

"He's the only one who knows how to cut the white meat at thanksgiving."

She made a face. "Oh that's gross." Then she started laughing out loud, very heartily.

She then asked me to tell another. I told her another and another. We seemed to be hitting it off pretty well.

The 20 minute break between sets was now over. I offered to buy her another strawberry daiquiri and then a Margarita, her favorite drinks.

The band started to play again. This made conversation difficult. Yet, we were staring at each other in a knowing manner. This is my big chance, I thought to myself. I can't do anything to fuck it up, not this time. She and I are still talking between sets and songs. I looked at my watch. It was 1:00 a.m. In another hour it would be closing time at the Half Blue Moon Saloon. I knew that I would have to make my move quickly.

"So, Cindy Larsen. I was wondering if we could go some place that is quieter and less crowded so that we can get to know one another better."

"Yes, I'd like that very much," she replied.

Fortuitously, there was a Winchell's doughnut shop just a few blocks from the Half Blue Moon Saloon. It was open 24 hours. Cindy and I were walking together side by side. She touched my hand. I touched her hand back. The next thing I knew we were walking hand in hand, my right in her left. I was feeling pretty good.

The doughnut shop was not very crowded on this Saturday night--or I should say Sunday morning in this case--so we had no problem finding a table to sit at. Cindy ordered coffee. I ordered a hot chocolate because caffeine always makes me kind of jumpy. I guess that is because of my hangups.

"So, what do you do with yourself besides COBOL computer programming and going to nightclubs to listen to top 40 bands?"

"Well I jog a few times a...."

"Really!!", Cindy stated with wide eyed enthusiasm. "I jog a lot also. I also work out at the Holiday Spa a couple of miles from here; you ever go there?"

"Well, I still have a membership, but I never use it much nowadays."

"How come?"

"I just got tired of it."

I did not tell her about many of the people in the spa being unfriendly to me.

I had never met anyone like Cindy. We had just hit it off somehow as if we were exactly right for each other. It was as if it were fate or the Lord working in a mysterious way.

"That's too bad. We could see each other more if you went to Holiday sometimes." She smiled. I smiled back. I could tell that was another hint of better things to come.

I decided to change the subject.

"I am also an avid reader. Two of my favorites are Michael Crichton and John Grisham. Also J.R.R. Tolkien and Philip K. Dick. Guess I have pretty eclectic tastes."

"Wow, I don't believe it! I never thought I would meet a guy who not only likes to read but likes some of the same authors I do. The Great Train Robbery is my favorite novel. I also read Grisham, partly cause I work in a law office I guess. I really enjoyed The Firm. Seemed like The Firm was his best work. The others were sort of a rehash of that same plot line."

I was equally stunned as she was to find an apparent soulmate with whom I had so many compatible interests.

"I also like downhill skiing a lot," said Cindy.

Another common interest of mine. I was completely blown away. I think that she was also when I told her that I went to Mammoth a number of times a year. She had never been skiing east of the Mississippi though. I think she was rather impressed when I told her I had relatives who lived in Vermont and I had been skiing there as well.

Later on we also found that we had a common interest in certain types of music. One of the performers we both liked was James Taylor.

Finally at three o'clock in the morning we said goodnight. I knew that I had to make another subsequent move.

"Cindy, there's a James Taylor concert coming up and I would be honored if you would accompany me there."

"Oh Peter, I'd love to," she said and started to hug me passionately. She would not let go after a while. I then kissed her lightly on the lips. I then looked into her eyes to gauge her reaction. She did not seem to mind. She then kissed me rather passionately right inside the doughnut shop. Somehow our tongues managed to find each other and acted as if they had known each other for years.

She got out a Bic pen and a piece of paper and started to write on it.

"That's my phone number. You'd just better phone me between now and the concert," she said in a mock authoritarian tone of voice.

I went back to my apartment and went to bed dreaming sweet dreams. My first date, my first kiss, and a really compatible soulmate I thought to myself. I was in a state of utter disbelief.

We had another date just before the concert. We had dinner at Sizzler. We had just started dating but I could tell that she was the girl for me. I could tell that she was the one. Not only would she be the first one to have dated me, the first one to have kissed me, she would be my first and last girlfriend. THE girl. The future Mrs. Sinskey.

"I was wondering if I could see your place, Peter," Cindy asked.

"Well it is in the neighborhood, why not? Of course, turnabout is fairplay. I get to see your place after you see mine."

"But uff course mon cher," she replied in a mock French accent.

We drove back to my place.

"This is it, chez Sinskey," I announced.

I was surprised when Cindy started walking around like a kid in a candy store. Then I got over my initial surprise as I realized that this was a test. She was taking a tour of my place to check me out. To see how I lived to make absolutely sure that I was a compatible mate. She insisted on taking a tour of the entire place which naturally I gave her.

"Wow, you're the neatest bachelor I've ever seen. I like that."

It was true. I was compulsively neat. It was almost an obsession of mine, that bad things would come if I did not have a clean apartment. It was part of the profound psychological hangups that I had.

We kissed goodnight after I drove Cindy back to her place. I could tell from her reaction that she liked my place and had liked the way I lived. The concert was in a few more days. We would get together again at that time.

The concert was excellent. We put our arms around each other and smooched for a good portion of the concert.

"Well, now, about what we talked about before," I said, looking directly into Cindy's lovely blue eyes. "Ah yes, my place. Yes, I will be happy to accommodate that. First, I think a trip to the 7-Eleven might be in order."

"The 7-Eleven?" I inquired.

"Yes, they usually have Trojan condoms there."

I was absolutely stunned. This meant that I was going to finally lose my virginity and lose it to this drop dead knockout!

Cindy and I walked arm and arm to the local 7-Eleven and I bought a box of condoms.

We then got back into my Toyota and then Cindy gave me directions on how to get to her apartment.

Upon arriving at the apartment, Cindy opened the door and then after seeing what I saw, my heart started pounding vigorously at a very fast rate.

"This is my friend, Peter. Say hello to Peter."

"Peter say hello to my fine feathered friends, the tremendous tweeting ten."

Cindy's apartment looked like an aviary. There were ten uncaged birds, eight cockatiels, a dove and a bluish colored macaw.

Cindy extended her right arm out a little bit and said, "C'mere, Paco," and the macaw sort of divebombed her and then sat on her right arm.

"Say hi to my friend, Pete, Paco," she said, pointing her right index finger at me.

Paco then flew towards me and landed on my head whereupon I started screaming hysterically. Paco finally flew off of my head and I just bolted out of Cindy's apartment screaming hysterically.

So, I mused to myself, the girl of my dreams, my soulmate, is a big bird fancier who doesn't even keep her birds in cages and here I am, someone with a morbid fear of birds, often called ornithophobia. I knew it was not a rational fear but I could not help myself.

A few days later, I was in my apartment looking at the phone wondering if I should call Cindy and try to explain things and perhaps patch things up. I might be able to reconcile with her even if she were a bird lover.

I then thought back to my earliest childhood memory when I was four years old. The screen door of our house was slightly open and a sparrow flew in and begun fluttering around aimlessly, trying to get out. I got scared and I fled for the front door. But it was stuck, and I couldn't get out. At age four, I was too weak to be able to exert the extra force required to open a door that was sticking. I was absolutely petrified as this bird flew aimlessly and then hit me with its wings. My dad finally scooped the damn thing in his arms and let it out the screen door and it immediately flew away.

This episode must have scarred me quite a bit emotionally. I grew up a really shy kid, an absolute introvert without any friends, always keeping to myself at school. I also seemed to be always ridden with anxiety. I would have preferred a more gregarious occupation, such as being in sales, but went into computer programming largely because I did not have to deal with people due to my being so shy after the encounter with that sparrow at age four. At 27, I had never had sex or had a girlfriend, never kissed a girl or been on a date until I met Cindy that night.

Again, I looked at the phone and contemplated on whether or not to call Cindy and try to reconcile. She had seemed to like me so much. Perhaps she would understand.

Part of my psychological problems had stemmed from society's feeling that a fear of birds was less rational than other fears. I had wondered why that was. If a woman got up on a chair when a mouse ran into the room that was something society accepted. A man with a fear of birds was considered bizarre. Acrophobia, a fear of heights, was considered acceptable since a person could get killed falling out a window, yet a bird could not kill you. Even more interesting was the arcane triskaidekaphobia--a morbid fear of the number 13. People would often get nervous on Friday the 13th. In most major American cities that have skyscrapers or huge office buildings, you will rarely if ever see a 13th floor. The floor after 12 is usually 14. They just skip the number 13 as if it did not exist. A fear of a number was considered more rational by this society than a fear of a certain living creature.

What the hell, I'll call her, I decided. I dialed Cindy's number. After she answered the phone I told her it was me.

"What do you want?" she asked rather nastily.

"I just wanted to explain about the other night. I have this really irrational fear of birds. I have nothing against them. I thought we could still go out. I could come over to your place again if you kept them in cages."

"Fuck you. How would you like it if a bird kept you in a cage? That's a really fucked thing to suggest, putting my birds in a cage. You're a real asshole. A fear of birds is pretty ridiculous. You'd have to be nuts to think I would go out with you again. Just fuck off, and I don't mean you should engage in coitus."

Cindy then hung up the phone.

I then took off my pants. Well I guess I am going to be alone nights for a while I thought to myself. I then tried to imagine what Cindy must have looked like naked and started masturbating very vigorously.

The End

Copyright 2002, Jonathan Mitchell - All Rights Reserved.