Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Date

Submission for The Protagonist Game
Protagonist: John, the architect from Minnesota
Goal: to find true love
Obstacle: Mother
Action: Takes up stalking

John was shocked back into existence by his mother flicking on the light and shouting “Get Up!” from the doorway of his room. Almost thirty and still living at home with a “momma” alarm clock, John sat up, rubbed the drool off his face, and made his way to the shower to get ready for work.

Living at home definitely had its perks. John’s mother always made him a hot breakfast in the morning and ironed his work cloths. He had grown rather immune to her nagging and her impatience for him to start a family and move on.

“John, Dear,” his mother started as she poured him another cup of coffee, “are you working late tonight?”

“I don’t think so,” he muttered with a mouth full of toast.

“Mrs. Winston’s granddaughter is in town, and she really wants to meet you.”

John stopped mid-bite and set his fork down, “Now why would she want to meet me, Mother?” he stared at her suspiciously as she began clearing the table.

“She is really a lovely girl, from Texas. She is thinking about moving here, and when I told her I had a successful architect for a son... she was interested.” She was fluttering around the kitchen trying to deflect his glare.

“Successful architect? Is that what you’re telling people? Great.” John slammed both hands on the table, pushed back his chair, and stood up. “I’m going. I will probably be late,” he snapped as he crossed the kitchen and stepped out onto the back step, slamming the door behind him.

John’s mother had been bragging about him again, and he was getting really tired of her interfering. John practically stomped through the snow to his muddy old Dodge Omni parked on the street, cursing the Minnesota winter AND his mother under his breath.

Successful Architect? After John finished school, he had lucked into a job at a firm in the worst part of town, where he sat in the smallest cubical double checking measurements. Far from a successful architect, John spent most of the day reading handwriting comparable to chicken scratches on photocopies of photocopies.

He gritted his teeth as he pulled into the parking lot two blocks away from his office, and began the uphill trudge on foot.

It wasn’t like John couldn’t find a date on his own; he wasn’t unattractive or balding, but he was awkward and always nervous around women. He had talked to a couple of women on the way into work on a few occasions. When someone from his office pointed out that they had been prostitutes, John decided it would be best to stare at the sidewalk on the walk to and from the office to the parking lot.

Sometime between making a coffee run for the entire office and assaulting the copier with a screwdriver, John decided he take a more aggressive approach to the whole “dating” thing. He made use of company time by researching self help books on Amazon, visiting message boards, and matchmaking websites. By lunchtime, John was completely frustrated and exhausted, but he pushed on through forums of likeminded posters.

You don’t look for true love… it finds you. Has true love found you already, or is your true love waiting for you to take notice? This fail safe guide will help you recognize your true love… This got John’s attention. An even fifty dollars later, John was viewing his “fail safe” guide.

Disgust overcame him when he discovered it was a manual for Stalking 101. Had John slumped to being a stalker already? He didn’t even have a woman he was interested in enough to talk to let alone follow home with a pair of binoculars.

“This is stupid,” John said aloud, and cowered when he realized the words had left his lips. He looked around, and the few people who were sitting at their desks continued working diligently. John deleted the guide and shut down his machine; he left the office early.

John walked back toward his car. While the journey was downhill this time, the sidewalks were slick, and he had to take it slow. The extra time gave John plenty of time to relive the afternoons wasted time. He was sick with himself, and continued muttering, “What’s wrong with me?” under his breath as he walked on at a snail’s pace.

As John turned the corner toward the lot, a fog of strong perfume floated before him. Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted a woman standing next to an abandoned building. She was wearing a long dark coat and red heels. With his head bowed, eyes on his feet, and moving slower, John pretended he was invisible.

“Hey, Baby. Wanna Date?” a woman called from the shadows.

Head still down, John stopped. He raised his head and turned to her; she stepped out into the daylight on the sidewalk. “What’s that?” his voice cracked as she moved several steps closer.

“I said,” she met his eyes and flashed him a feathered lipstick smile, “Do YOU want a date?”

There was a moment of silence, and John contemplated running away, but reluctantly, he returned her smile. She winked at him and slid her small hand into his.

The light was on when John walked into the kitchen at 11:30. His mother was sitting at the table in her night clothes with rollers in her hair and a sour look on her face, “mad at me, are you?” she didn’t even give him the chance to answer, “Where have you been?”

“I had a date,” John smiled looking slightly disheveled.

“Oh?” her face lit up, “nice girl?”

“Absolutely,” he said walking past her into the hallway leading into the living room.

Happiness and enthusiasm gathered in her voice, “Will I get to meet her… soon?”

“Maybe,” John said over his shoulder as he started up the stairs to his room.

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