Attracting Penguins

“Close the door, you’re attracting penguins.”

Her words woke him up. After a 24 hour shift at the hospital, he was sleeping on his feet. He awoke to find himself holding the freezer door open staring at a rack of ice cream. He turned his head and saw her. Laurna Ward. Laurna. And she was wearing a red and green 7-11 uniform. Even her name-tag agreed: Laurna.

“The penguins are flocking, close the door before there’s a stampede.”

“Oh, sorry.” He closed the door.

‘Christ, look at her. Ten years have not been kind to high school beauty. Her face, her hair, even her voice is rotten with smoke and nicotine.  And check out those hips.’

Her hips were the size of her elephantine desire for chocolate. Chad could see the face of beauty drowning in waves of fat. But, nothing could erase her history of being the catch of the class of  ’99. Open the yearbook from that year and you’ll see: “Most Charming: Laurna Ward.” And, “Most Likely to Succeed: Laurna Ward.” Obviously the yearbook is no oracle.

He had to have her. History was a much too powerful force raging through his veins, making him hungry for her, hungry for his youth. He had tried once in high school to ask her on a date, but, a crippling case of teenage inadequacy had choked the words in his throat, cursing him to stand before her locker, fumbling with his jacket’s zipper, while she quickly grew tired of his awkward presence, excusing herself, leaving him wishing he was dead.

Now, here, Fate proved a friend. Life had picked up for the man since highschool. He had finished medical school to get hired on with one of the best hospitals in the state. His Mercedes parked outside proved his worth to the hospital and to the entire medical profession. A failure with girls in highschool, a success with women since passing med school.

‘How could this rolly-polly smoke-soaked little 7-11 clerk refuse such a skilled surgeon? If only I could take my scalpel and cut the decade of waste from her blubbery face.’

“Laurna.” He breathed.

“Yes?” No recognition from Laurna.

“We went to Northern together.”

“Northern highschool?”

“I- we- we had History together.”

“We have history? We went out? Who-”

“No, had History. History class. We took History together. I sat behind you, Chad Wong? Mr. Robert’s class. I sat beside you at that pep rally you wore that funny condom shirt, remember? “Jiffy Condoms: Just Poking Fun.” Remember?”

“I remember the shirt, but, I don’t remember you. Sorry.”

“Chad Wong, remember? We had a few classes together, also, tenth grade Science. Ms. Goo’s class? We dissected a fertile pig together once. I cut out the tongue to take home, remember? You laughed and called me crazy?”

“Sorry, no, I remember the pig, but, you… I, you’d think I’d remember the tongue.”

“Oh.” Insecurity he hadn’t felt since high school came rushing back to his cheeks, spine, feet, brain. Every success, every dollar earned, every life and limb saved upon his operating table meant nothing. “Ah, well, good seing you, anyway,” he mumbled, rushing out of the store, zipping up his leather jacket, forgetting the ice cream he had promised his wife to bring home.


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