I was getting over one, being careful, but I'm a sucker for a woman who laughs at my jokes. When we ended up together in the kitchen, our conversation began with cracks about the other guests. Then we trolled out the occasional minor confession, had some hits here and there. The best part was that it had been free of the dull usual, nothing on kids, or houses, no talk about jobs.
Now a couple of days after the party we were having lunch. Ann told me I'd been in one of her dreams.
It made me remember the guy in the men's room at work, almost exactly a week before. I knew his face; in that way who he was, but not his name. His cube is on the far side of the space, across the sea of dividers. Over there the computers make the calls to customers, rather than take them in. As I dried my hands, he turned from the sink where he was washing and told me he had dreamed about me. I misunderstood at first; I thought he was making a move.
He told me that in his dream we had been in the company lunch area. A section of his newspaper was missing and he was sure I was responsible. But he knew I was a professional house-watcher and he didn't want to go over to where I was sitting and bother me while I was working.
As for Ann's, in her dream we were at my house, her idea of it anyway. I was a Catholic, one of many kids.
"Is that like your family?" she asked.
"Close," I said, though it wasn't.
"They didn't like me," Ann went on. "So you drove me home."
"That's it?" I said.
The table was so small our hands almost touched. I gripped my glass of wine as if now that it was empty it might fly away. It wasn't much of a dream. And that was disappointing because except for rare circumstances I never remembered mine.
The food got there finally. She looked at her watch. Unlike at the party, she was dressed much nicer than me. No doubt she had a nicer job too.
"So what do you want to be when you grow up?" I asked.
She laughed like I hoped she would. It was something from the party. In the kitchen, a man nearby had said it to a woman, his line. A half hour later, Ann and I in the same spot, we heard him try it on another woman. We couldn't help it; we'd both cracked up.
"Oh I don't know," she said, playing coy. "What about you?"
I picked up my sunglasses and put them on.
"A professional house-watcher," I said.
She kept smiling, couldn't have gotten it, but nodded like she wanted to, like she did. I didn't need a watch. I'd wait as long as I had to, for her laugh to come again.
Jon Fain's fiction has appeared in various literary and commercial publications, including elsewhere online in Small Spiral Notebook, Fiction Warehouse, Sign of the Times, and Anderbo. His story collection Lovers and Other Losers was a finalist for the 2003 Sandstone Short Fiction Prize.
Jon's story Endpapers won VerbSap's Burning Book Competition.
Photo courtesy of
Marinka van Holten, Wezep, Netherlands.
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