by: Raf De Bie
Last week, I asked Cynthia to marry me. Today, the mailman hands me her reply: an empty piece of paper and a plastic bag stuffed with vowels, consonants, and punctuation marks. The mailman pats me on the back. “Sorry fella, they must have fallen off. It happens sometimes.” I drop to my knees, hands in the bag, then in my hair. How am I supposed to make sense of this? As the mailman walks away I find a Y, an E, and an S. I press them against each other and make kissy noises.
In the town’s Scrabble club, I get surrounded like I’m a blank tile. I don’t even have to ask the members to help me out; they just yank the bag out of my hands. Soon they present me a letter that doesn’t excel content-wise, but the word value is off the charts. Cynthia feels like I don’t bake her enough flapjacks. She calls me a porcqupyne. The plastic bag has only five characters left. “You’re welcome,” the Scrabble club members say as they retreat into a corner of the room, where they light up cigars and unfold a game board.
I find a bar where I tell a drunk clown about my love issues. After about an hour, he asks me where Cynthia lives. I tell him, “Way too far.” He says, “Way too far for what? For true love?” He orders another round of rum and cokes, and when the bartender replies that I should buy the clown a round for once instead of complaining about this Cynthia girl all the time, the clown headbutts him. Then he puts his hand on my shoulder, looks me deep in the eyes, and says, “That man has never been in love before. I will help you.” An hour later I’m riding a mini-tricycle on a dirt road, my eyes on the enormous moon on the horizon. I try to see myself in the shadows of the dark craters, on one knee in front of Cynthia as I offer her a ring. Cynthia holds her hands in front of her face and shouts, “I do! I do! I DO I DO I DO!”
I. En route, people throw me sausages and booze, and I ride ride ride two miles an hour, weeks on end. I take the boat, a train, get lost in three different states, and find my way each time again. I take a turn, work myself through the gravel on the long driveway, am unable to stop, and with a bang, I come to a standstill against Cynthia’s front door. I drop to the doorstep unconscious. As I wake up, I’m sitting in a police car right next to the clown, who is very calmly explaining to two officers it’s about time the bartender gets a taste of true love, so this all could have been avoided and it was all a dream.
II. En route, people throw me sausages and booze, and I ride ride ride two miles an hour, months on end. I take the boat, a train, get lost in three different states, and find my way each time again. I take a turn, work myself through the gravel on the long driveway, am unable to stop, and with a bang, I come to a standstill against Cynthia’s front door. I drop to the doorstep unconscious. As I wake up, Cynthia is standing right in front of me, an Elvis suit tightly hugging her slim waist, azure sunglasses on her perky nose, and pink lipstick on her bubblegum-blowing lips.
==> I choose for the dream.
=> For the confrontation.
> For II.
“Yes or no?” I ask.
“No. I already told you in the letter. My manager wrote down twelve pages just because we felt so sorry for you.”
“But I want to marry you.”
“Look, I’m a singer. A pop star. And you? What do you do? What are you?”
“A dreamer, a dreamer!” I shout, “That’s good too.”
“Not good enough.”
Cynthia slams the door shut.
I’m all alone again.
I ride to the coastline, where I rent a glassblower. He blows a gigantic bottle for me. I sit down in the bottle and have the entire Scrabble club push me into the sea. They hand me a quincunx (26 points) as a present for the voyage. Soon I’m drifting through the surf into the salty ocean.
The island where I wash ashore is inhabited by porcqupynes. They eat the few characters that are still in my pockets and soon learn how to speak. I bake them flapjacks. I have discussion panels with them, and soon I forget Cynthia. After a couple of months, I organize a dating show, matching two porcqupynes every full moon. New couples get to spend a night inside my glass bottle. During those nights, I take long walks along the beach, where I think about things that I will have forgotten about the next day. I am almost happy.
Raf De Bie lives and writes in Belgium. He graduated from the Antwerp Writers’ Academy in 2015 and is a former editor of the literary magazine Kluger Hans. His most recent publication in English, before this one, was in the European bizarro anthology This Is Not An Anthology. You can find him on Twitter.
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