Now that Europe is "saved" for the 20th time, let's turn to this week's chapter of my serialized comic novel "Four Bidding For Love." (Those who find absurdist humor and adult situations offensive, please read no further.)
Katy gazed at Alexia with the disappointment of a religious soul for an unrepentant sinner, and then brightened. "I have an absolutely fantastic idea."
Alexia sighed dourly. "What? Finding a nice ex-sniper to pick off the axe murderer before he can get to me?"
"Stop being so melodramatic. What's your eBay name?"
Alexia strode over to stand behind her friend as she scanned eBay pages.
"You can bet this jerk wouldn't be outbidding me if my online name was 'GreenBeretSniper007.'"
"You mean some women use male-sounding names?"
"Don't be naive, of course they do," Alexia snapped.
"Don't you be naive," Katy countered. "There are plenty of guys who would snatch a poster from GreenBeretSniper just because they want to prove their machohood."
Squinting at the screen, Alexia asked, "What are you looking for?"
Katy did not answer right away, but then she scanned a new page and said, "Not what, but who, and I think I found him."
"Your dream date," Katy replied, as if it were self-evident.
"Tell me you're not serious."
Jabbing her index finger at the monitor, Katy said, "I think it's a brilliant idea. Just find local men who share your collecting interests. They must have some good characteristics or they wouldn't like the same things you do."
"And how can you tell this guy is local?"
"It says 'local pickup only,'" Katy replied curtly. "Don't you read this stuff before you bid?" Scrolling down the page of the auction history, she enthused, "Look at this guy: a movie poster collector who loves Chinese teapots and books on Asian art history. He's probably about 40, cultured and loves to travel."
Grabbing the mouse from her friend, Alexia moved down the page and said, "Look at this Dr. Seuss boxed set. He's probably 88 years old and buys all this stuff as presents."
"No, he's a single parent of an adorable girl," Katy retorted.
"Look, Chinese cookbooks," Alexia said accusingly. "It's definitely a woman posing as a man."
"He's a gourmet, too," Katy said defensively, and then added, "See that? A man's electric razor. It's a man."
"She bought it for her husband," Alexia volleyed, and Katy sighed in defeat. "You really don't want to meet any men, do you?"
"Not that way," Alexia said sourly, and Katy turned to look at her. "Not any way. Just admit it."
"Admit to being tired of throwing darts in the dark and always missing? Yes."
"No, I mean admit to giving up."
A peculiar sort of exhaustion aged Alexia and she gestured surrender. "Fine. Yes, I give up."
The front door bell tinkled, announcing a customer, and as Katy arose she murmured, "What are you so afraid of? That someone won't like you?"
"No," Alexia replied, but Katy had left to greet the customer and Alexia was left alone with her roiled thoughts. Sometimes friends know too much about you, she mused darkly, and then forced herself to straighten the shoes awaiting buyers, not just once but twice.
* * *
Robin awoke from the nightmare in a cold sweat. The setting had been a desert town, a bleak landscape of dusty streets and suspicious townsfolk. He'd entered a creaky old wooden house, wondering why he was considering buying such a ramshackle old pile, when a lean man with the razor-sharp hatchet had surprised him. Turning to flee, he'd shouted in alarm, snapping himself awake. Lying sweat-soaked in the dark, he deeply regretted accepting the task of meeting this dangerous eccentric. And what for? To satisfy the collecting quirks of his neighbor? Why didn't she meet this horrible man herself?
Rolling over, he told himself, no, it was too late; but forewarned is forearmed, he thought at he looked blearily at the clock—4:04 a.m.—and he realized he could easily stop by Ross's address on his East Bay sales trip the following morning and perform some rudimentary surveillance. At least he'd know what Ross looked like, and be prepared to face him with at least that minimal foreknowledge.
Despite his attempts to calm himself, he wondered if the dream was a warning that this Ross was indeed unstable, and just the sort to slice one open with a hand axe should he encounter a disappointment.
And given Alexia's strict instructions on the negotiations, his disappointment could practically be guaranteed. Oh, Lord, why me? he sighed. Why couldn't he be merely a kung fu expert? Punched silly, a broken bone or two, I could take; but being sliced open like a raw chicken—Robin shuddered and turned on his bedside light for reassurance. It was going to be a long day; how did I get myself into this senseless Hell?
As he turned the miserable prospect of meeting this unstable axe-enthusiast over in his weary mind, Robin suddenly rebelled at the burden and thought, Alexia should be there to take over in case things go sour; that's the least she can do. His mind made up, Robin pulled the down pillow over his head and drifted into a troubled sleep.
To read the previous chapters, visit the "Four Bidding For Love" home page.
A note of thanks to those who buy the book: As an independent writer, book sales are a substantial part of my income. I receive no funding from a university, trust fund, hedge fund, think-tank or government agency. I self-publish my books as a financial necessity, as the small royalties (5% to 7.5% of the retail price) paid by publishers cannot support me during the long months it takes to write a book. Your purchase makes it possible for me to continue sharing ideas on the blog and in my books. Thank you.