Constance 'Dusty' Miller
She ran like a deer.
Her thin white T-shirt fit like a glove and she was wearing shiny red silk shorts.
Dan was sitting on a park bench, waiting for the bus, right along Shore Drive, under the palm trees, and he’d seen her before.
Just laid off the previous Friday, Dan was supposedly going downtown to look for work.
For whatever reason, he jumped up off the bench and began jogging along beside her.
“Beat it, jerk.”
“Ha. That’s no way to treat a fellow runner.”
Her head came around and she took in the clean jeans, the yellow long-sleeved shirt and the brown hiking shoes.
“You’re no runner.”
“Sure I am. I have to admit I’m not really dressed for it today, but I just felt like taking a run.”
“Go to hell. Creep.”
Slowly his pace fell off. He was already huffing and puffing, although at one time he really had been a runner—perhaps jogger was a better word.
Coming to a reluctant halt, he nodded.
“Right. Can’t say as I blame you.”
After thirty seconds or so, she turned for a quick look—just making sure he was gone, or so he guessed.
He smiled as big as he could get it and gave her a half a wave before turning back to his park bench.
And predictably, the Number Seventeen bus was just roaring past the stop.
“Hey! Hey!” To his surprise, the bus pulled into the curb.
“Don’t be pulling that stunt too often, Bud.”
“Ah, no, Ma’am.” Fishing in his pocket, he found the right change and threw it in.
“Please be seated, sir.”
In a bit of extra-special revenge, the lady hit the gas just before he made his seat, and he clunked his hip-bone pretty hard on the metal corner as the bus spurted up into its usual ludicrous speed.
Dan didn’t know what it was about bus drivers, but in his experience, most of them drove like a bat out of hell. They must hate passengers or something.
It was quite mad, but they were all like that.
And this was a nice little town—
The next day, Dan had an early-morning appointment for a job interview. A bit nervous, he figured he looked all right and might even stand a chance. It was right up his alley, doing siding, trim, windows and doors. He’d completely forgotten about the girl.
…and there she was, coming along the path, gulls wheeling and crying in the background and the sound of a riding lawnmower going around and around.
Somehow he knew she was aware of him. There was the odd tension around the mouth. She was trying not to smile, that was it.
Dan stood up quickly, shaking out his arms and his legs. He jogged lightly in place, waiting for her to arrive.
As she went past, he turned left and began running alongside her.
She didn’t look at him, her face flushed with both the running and the unwelcome attention.
“Hi, my name’s Dan.”
“Fuck off, Dan.”
“No, just Dan. So what’s your name, anyway?”
“Fuck off, asshole.”
“No, that’s me—remember?”
She somehow managed to sigh deeply, even with the deep, full breathing required to jog at a pretty good clip.
Her thoughts were pretty plain: shit.
“Can I buy you a bottle of water?”
Finally she slowed down.
They slowed to a walk, for which Dan was grateful.
“Yeah, I know. I understand. But, uh…I guess we can’t help who we like sometimes, eh?” It came out in a low tone, and his breath was still a bit ragged. “Look, I’m sorry, okay?”
He forced himself to face her.
Those eyes were terribly blue, though—
Dan turned and walked away, grateful that it was a nice cool morning and he had barely cracked a sweat.
What he really needed was to focus on that interview.
Well, of course they told Dan that they would let him know. That sounded an awful lot like sorry. While he was uptown, he might as well try the employment centre again.
He really didn’t have much in the way of savings. The rent was paid up until the end of the month, and state employment benefits didn’t kick in until he’d served a two-week waiting period.
It was going to be tight enough, and it was only a walk of about eight or ten blocks. Having found a couple of nearby prospects, he decided to hoof it over and drop off a resume.
The next morning Dan was stiff and sore from what was really only a little bit of walking.
Looking for work like that, he had to keep his phone on him. There was no real reason to stay home, but he laid about most of the day, spending some time as a salve to his conscience by thoroughly reading the want ads and circling some of the more interesting prospects.
In the event, he didn’t even make it out of the house, ending up out in the backyard having a beer and waiting for the sun to go down so he could barbecue. He thought of his mother. His mother was smart. She’d insisted on buying that God-damned side of beef, and then stumbled across a cute little freezer chest that just happened to fit into the rather useless little back room of his bungalow in Queenston Heights.
It was right about then when inspiration struck.
The costume was easy enough. Dan had worked some pretty cold days back home in Chicago.
What that meant was that he still had a couple of sets of long, white underwear, the one-piece kind that went from ankles to collar and long sleeves. One time, back when he had a life—back in Chicago to be honest, and a girlfriend, and other friends, and got invited to a party once in a while, he had bought a cheap trilby hat. This was luckily black. He had some clunky old black runners, canvas high-toppers. All that was left was the plastic Groucho Marx mustache, nose and spectacles, picked up at a joke shop for about three bucks as part of another costume—a Halloween party thrown by one Slim White, high-school and college buddy and perpetual party animal and seeming ne’er-do-well who had suddenly and unaccountably one day been picked up by the most prestigious accounting firm in the city.
Since then, his hair had begun to recede and he was acquiring quite the belly last time Dan had been home.
The real question was a simple one.
Did Dan have the nerve to do this?
And if so, why?
Why make an ass out of himself over this one girl in particular—not that she wasn’t nice and everything.
He’d always liked tanned blonde girls, with healthy skin and legs that were built for running but as yet hadn’t gone all scrawny and stringy.
There was no real accounting for that attraction, largely a function of his own imagination rather than any real thing that she might have done or said.
All she had to do was go running by, essentially.
She hadn’t been all that pleased, had she.
It struck Dan that he hadn’t noticed any tattoos—which, at a distance, always seemed to look like someone had given them a real good beating.
Shore Drive was strewn with parks, in between upscale condos and the occasional glitzy business outlet.
He didn’t know much about the girl, so he picked the most logical choice, Bayside Park. He had sort of resolved not to use the car too much, but he still had half a tank of gas and then there was the costume…he really didn’t want to walk across town like that.
When a young blonde lady in a charcoal grey SUV pulled into the parking lot, he got out with alacrity. It was her.
He did a few quick stretches. Late the night before, he’d finally gotten off his ass. He’d put on his old running gear and started off nice and slow. Running in the dark gave a man a little time to think.
By the time he got home, he’d done about two and a half kilometres, just trying to stick with it and going nice and easy. It had given him an odd burst of confidence. Other than that, he had nothing to lose but his dignity—and the crazy get-up was a pretty good disguise, when you thought of it.
He started jogging along, very slowly, and in his peripheral hearing, there came a slight gasp.
That was about it, but in this college town and beach community of three-quarters of a million people, such sights as he were not uncommon.
There was, after all, the guy that habitually dressed as a Roman Catholic Bishop, driving an old silver Cadillac hearse and showing up at the Tight Pussy Cocktail Bar and Strip Club down on Carnival Avenue.
There was Davey Purple, the guy who had a dozen different vehicles, all idiosyncratic in that one was a Cadillac, one a VW beetle, another was an old British Spitfire. They were all painted the same peculiar shade of purple, and if that wasn’t enough his house was the same colour—and on the occasional summer weekend Davey Purple, the only name anyone had for him, would be hanging out along the boardwalk in a pair of purple flip-flops, very tight gym shorts and his normally straight and lanky black hair dyed that same damned purple.
At first, she probably thought nothing of it…
When she came up alongside, he couldn’t help a quick look and a stifled giggle might have escaped him.
She turned to look and he quickly shifted his gaze forward.
The lady thought nothing further of it, lifting a wrist to check the time. She had her ear-buds in, a belt with a pouch and water-bottle, and it was only after the odd figure at her side accelerated to stay in position that she gave it another thought.
“Hi. It’s me. I’m back.”
Startled, she whipped around to look at him, mouth open…the pace dropped and they slowed into a walk.
“Dan. Oh, yes, Dan. I kind of wondered whether you were going to show up again. Ah, for fuck’s sakes.” Pulling out the bottle, she took a long gulp of the clear fluid.
He lifted the nose and mustache off of his face, hopefully not to break the elastic band, as the thing had been around a while.
He cracked a big grin even though it wasn’t going well so far.
“See? It really is me.”
“Oh, I believe you.”
She gave her head a quick shake and then a rueful laugh.
“Dan. What a fool—” Yet she smiled when she said it.
“So look. You’re probably married, right? You’ve got a boyfriend, right?” He still didn’t even know her name. “See. I knew that.”
The impossibly-clear blue eyes gazed into his from a distance of about two and a half feet.
She put the water bottle away, and fiddled with the flap of the pouch as she held his gaze.
“Well, I don’t know about that. Dan. But, if you wanted to have a drink or a cup of coffee sometime, maybe we could talk a little more.” To his eternal surprise, she handed him a folded bit of paper.
Then she turned and sprinted off into the middle of the park as he stood there marveling at women and their mysterious ways—and maybe, stunned, just a little bit at his own nerve.
The funny thing was, it seemed to have worked.
On the paper, in neat, slightly backward-slanting writing in a sensible dark blue ink was her name, Reese, and the phone number.
His poor old heart fluttered in his chest…
Dan realized he was standing there on the boardwalk dressed up like Groucho Marx as The Mime or something like that and it was time to get the hell out of there.
Whoever would have thought of that?
Constance ‘Dusty’ Miller has some books and stories the reader may enjoy here on Smashwords, including Moonstone Magic, which is currently free.
Thank you for reading.