by Beth Stiller
[ fiction - march 03 ]
The cell phone in her coat pocket bounced against Wanda's leg. She could feel it. It was cold. She walked more quickly passed the neighborhood dry cleaner, the pizza parlor & peeked into the window of the Internet café. Wanda caught a glimpse of Nigel & Fredo's blue faces gazing into the screens. She tapped on the window. Fredo looked up to see his friend. She was striking, though middle aged, bundled up against the cold. Her mischievous eyes peeked out between scarf and thick hair, which flew about in the wind. In contrast to her dirty blonde hair, were her green eyes. Fredo tapped Nigel. Nigel recognizing Wanda, made a fist with his right hand and attempted to swallow it, unsuccessfully. Wanda was famous for being able to put her entire fist into her mouth; everyone in the neighborhood knew that. She gestured for them to 'cut it out'. The boys waved Wanda to come in and pointed to the screen. They were comforting themselves with notes from home while drinking genetically engineered freshly squeezed juices. Wanda saw her own reflection in the window glass mixed with that of the boys. Though cold, she thought she looked well, at times her reflection looked tired, worn out. Losing a few pounds wouldn't hurt. Wanda waved them off and walked on. It did seem nice and warm in there, but she was not in the mood to hear again how much Nigel wished his boyfriend would have him back. And again listen to Fredo egg Nigel on to go clubbing with him in order to get THAT man out of his head. Plus, it was such a bore to do her fist-in-the-mouth-trick again.
Wanda popped into a dark entryway protected from the wind. Thinking, I am worse then Nigel. She gave Tucker a call. "Hey"
"You," he whispered
"Is this a good time?"
"Later would be better?"
"In about five"
"Bye-eeee." She attempted to sound cheerful.
The phone returned to her pocket. She put her glove on and stepped back into the street. At least Nigel didn't TELEPHONE his estranged lover, just e-mails, that's not quite as bad is it?
The light turned red. The scent of coffee wafted out of the corner café. Coffee, wouldn't a coffee be nice? Or is it too late in the day; would it keep me up? She barely missed the dog droppings while calculating the time, five minutes. Was it too early for a beer? The next filthy window revealed another Internet cafe populated by men smoking cigarettes and watching porno. Had five minutes passed? She fiddled with the cell phone in her pocket and tucked into another doorway.
"Do you know what time it is, here?"
"Wanda, what's up?"
"Oh I was just, ah, thinking of having some sushi"
"Sushi is good"
"Yep, There's this local place with a female sushi chief. She is also a potter."
"Where are you?"
"Home, New York, The Village."
"I just thought I'd call."
"Wanda I've got to tuck the kids in."
"Okay, some other time?" her voice went up.
"Are we done Tucker?"
"Bye-eee Tucker." She tried to sound cheerful.
Wanda sat down on the bus stop and stared. Her eyes pooled. Rivulets froze on her cheeks. Her own words reverberated in her head, 'Some other time?' Her throat tightened. 'Are we done Tucker?' She didn't scoot over when others sat down to wait for the bus. She didn't get on the bus when the bus arrived. Eventually she stood up and walked on.
Still too early for a beer? How could she get that man out of her life? How about a hot-sake, that would be nice. Wanda pulled out a tissue and cleared the tears from her nose. She shoved the crumpled tissue into her pocket next to the cell phone. The phone bounced against her leg as she walked. There was only a short line outside the sushi bar. Maaki was not only the owner & chief but made all the ceramics in her restaurant. The regulars had their own mugs. She fiddled with the phone in her pocket and thought maybe she should give Tucker a call. Hmm, it is, she calculated, ten pm over there, that's not too late, is it? Their earlier conversation echoed in her head, 'are we done?' she had asked. 'Bye Wanda.' Tucker had said brusquely. The door opened and she was ushered to a place at the sushi bar. She hung her coat on the rack. It was warm inside, but instead of basking in its comfort, she stared blankly into space ordered a green tea and hot sake.
"Good evening, I think I have seen you here before." A small man beginning to bald though only in his thirties introduced himself. His clothing was unconventional but tidy. His tiny hand reached to shake hers. His nails were small, clean and shiny.
"Yes, most probably." Wanda wished she could give Tucker what he wanted.
"My name is Tom. Oh aren't you the gal that can put her entire fist...?"
"I am Wanda. Tom you have your own mug." His name was etched into the side.
"Yes, Maaki was kind enough to make this mug for me."
"I see your name but what is that symbol there? A fish?"
"A sort of a badge, a Maaki thing. They say she once was a monk, you know."
To their right a deep but feminine voice asked, "Maaki would you make me a gold roll, I am feeling lucky today, yes, something special with gold please."
Tom whispered, "She seems to have a healthy appetite." The woman was also in her thirties with light skin and short light hair. Her voluptuous bosom hovered over the bar. She looked slightly tired for her age, someone who lives hard. Her hands had clean smooth white fingers with short bitten nails.
Maaki handed over her special tea mug. "Here you go Sarah." The girl's billowing sixties sleeves threatened to dip into the soy sauce. She too had a mug of her own.
Wanda asked, "Gold?"
"Yes, Maaki puts gold on certain cuts of sushi, it is very good for the health and good luck."
"Yes, like in Japan. Hello my name is Sarah."
"I'm Wanda, this is Tom."
"You look sad."
"Sad have you lost something, someone?" Sarah asked.
"Lost, well yes I suppose " Wanda thought about the cell phone she had left in her coat pocket hanging on the hook. Oh dear perhaps he had called and she hadn't heard it. What time would it is there now, ten-thirty, would he be in bed?
"Sorry, sorry, sorry, it is a habit, bad, bad, bad, habit. I am a therapist you see." Sarah's deep voice apologized. Her dark brown eyes sparkled invitation as she looked at Wanda, downed the rest of her sake then cupped her hands around the tea mug.
Tom noticed that Wanda's eyes were rather red. "Shall we try the gold sushi Wanda?"
"Yes, it will bring you new friends." Sarah answered cheerfully. She was already drunk, Happy and drunk.
The three of them Tom, Wanda & Sushi Sarah talked. Sometimes a gold flake passed between their lips. The cell phone may have been ringing in the pocket of the coat, on the hook on the wall, though probably not. Funny how they had just met, and they already felt like friends. Several gold rolls and sake pots later, it was time to go.
"Would you girls like to come over to my place?" I don't live far from here. Tidy Tom offered up the invitation. Was he gay? After all, it was the village.
"Wait, wait, wait, Wanda, I want to give you something." Sarah called Maaki over. She nodded, and returned with a small ceramic fish, whose function Sarah explained, was a chopstick rest. Maaki handed it to Sarah, who reached for Wanda's hand, opened her palm and lovingly placed the little fish within, closing the fingers around it. "You can make a wish, a fish wish."
Wanda's eyes no longer red from the tears, green with gold flecks. "Thank you, Sarah, that is very sweet."
Tom's enthusiasm grew. "Here we go then girls, off to my place. How about an after dinner drink, some music? I can show you my new spring clothing designs."
"You're a designer then?" must be gay thought Wanda. No designs on the two of them. Why not.
"Okay, Okay, Okay," Sarah wrapped herself, in her winter coat.
Wanda slipped off the stool to the coat rack and bundled up.
"Tom," Sarah whispered, "I like her. We can help. Do you think...?"
Tom smiled. "Come on, let's go."
"Mind if I visit the ladies room?" Wanda asked.
"We'll wait outside, take your time."
In the ladies room, Wanda pulled the phone from her coat.
"What's up?" Tucker asked.
"I just thought I'd call. I'm finished with the sushi now and..."
"Glad you had a good meal, I just put up a pot of hot water. It's awfully late you know."
"...Sarah, Sushi-Sarah gave me a fish."
"had you meal paid for did you?"
"No, not that, a ceramic fish, to prop the chop sticks on. Tucker, she has a sparkle in her eye, like you know...she wants something."
"Thanks for ringing."
"So, this Sarah, Sushi-Sarah, rather ah, likes me Tucker."
"But I just want... ah, you know."
"We've been over this. Ye-es," he shouted to someone else, "Yes, I HAVE put the kettle up."
"Tucker, I always thought you might like, well a girl-girl thing..."
"Nice of you to call. I've got to..."
"Have you forgotten what you wished for that night? Remember you had asked..."
"Kettle's whistling must run."
"Tea, you do like tea."
"Bye now, Wanda."
"Bye Tucker. Bye-eee." Wanda flushed. She splashed some cold water on her face, dunked the cell phone back into her pocket and left. She bowed to Maaki, who gave her a knowing wink, and went out into the cold.
They walked arm in arm, Tom, Wanda, and Sarah toward Tom's place. He liked to entertain. The decor was somewhat like a church. Oddly, and of some entertainment value, those who came into his home, always seemed to tell the truth. Sushi-Sarah took this occasion to take a nibble on Wanda's ear, removing the scarf with her teeth. Tom looked on casually. Wanda was still trying to figure out the phone call. Hadn't he asked, once upon a time, "Have you any girlfriends you might want to invite?" between his nibbles to her inner thighs. What exactly did he mean by that? Had she misunderstood? Sushi-Sarah's bosom brushed against hers as they walked. Wanda's mind was on the other side of the pond while Sarah imagined a more intimate moment with Wanda, in moisture-laced passion. Wanda's cell phone bounced between them.
"Here we are," announced Tom. He pulled an old skeleton key from his over coat. The nondescript door opened to a linoleum-covered hallway with apartments on either side. Instead of going into one of them, the three continued. They passed through a door to an open courtyard. Beyond which were great stained glass windows reaching to the rooftops, like a church. "This is my place." He opened the door and invited the girls in. Tom hung his coat beside the door on a hook, as did Sarah. Wanda was still a little chilled or perhaps a little shy and kept herself wrapped up. The windows from the inside were wonderful. The courtyard lights through the stained glass dappled color into the room. Tom even had a confessional in the corner. Must have bought it from one of those churches gone restaurant. The large coffee table was lined by high backed straight chairs something the elders of a congregation might sit in.
Wanda plopped down into an overstuffed leather chair; Sarah plopped down on top of her. Wanda's overcoat was between them. The stiff phone poked them.
"Something to drink? Something to smoke, girls?" Tom went off to the kitchen.
They nodded. Sarah began to nuzzle Wanda.
Tom put on some music. He put coasters and glasses on the table and lit a joint. Wanda reached into her coat pocket and pulled out the phone & ceramic fish. Sarah held her other arm, without getting up Wanda leaned over to the coffee table and placed the stuff on the table. "Look Sarah, the little fish has friends." Lined up on the table were ceramic fish, many.
A little puzzled Wanda asked, "Tom, do you serve meals on this table? Eat much with chopsticks?"
"Um hm, my place is just one room, up there is a loft for sleeping and storing my clothing samples. What you see, is what it is." He passed the joint.
Sarah took a hit and played with Wanda to see if she could blow the smoke into her mouth.
Wanda took a sip of her drink, placed it back on the coffee table.
Sarah could hold back no longer. "Ok, Ok, Ok," she whispered into Wanda's ear and began kissing her passionately.
Sarah's advances toppled Wanda onto the floor, her cell phone fell to the carpet in the chaos. Wanda was a little nervous. "Sarah would you like to see what I am famous for?"
"Indeed, I do, do, do."
"Look," Wanda made a fist and slid the whole thing into her mouth.
"Amazing, mazing, mazing." Sushi Sarah grinned.
Wanda went white, and wriggled to get up. She ran to the toilet. Vomiting was heard throughout the apartment. Tom and Sarah looked at each other. Sarah shrugged. "Drank too much too, too, too, much, I suppose."
"No, she has more to get out then that, wait."
Wanda returned feeling much better. Instead of choosing her own chair she joined Sarah. Sarah smiled.
Wanda picked up her ceramic fish and held the joint to be re-lit by Tom.
"Thank-you, quite a gentleman, unlike someone I know."
Tom took up one of the straight high-backed chairs and put a tall-undignified hat on his head - fool judge of fools. "This is an item in my spring collection," he pointed to the hat.
"Very...high, high, high" Sarah responded.
"There's a man." Wanda began.
"A man," Sarah, nearly asked for the fist in the mouth thing. She so dread, dread, dreading another M-a-n story. Balling up her own fist, she brought it to her cheek.
"I just can't get him out. Really it was nothing. Well not that it was nothing, maybe it was nothing to him, it's only that I, I just never got to live it through."
Tom nodded. The big hat followed.
"Never got to know if it was something or nothing." She took another hit off the joint, "See, it is worse to loose nothing or something not knowing if it was really something or nothing that you are loosing. You see?"
Sarah and Tom looked at each other and nodded in unison. "Sarah, you need a hat." He ran up to the loft and brought back another undignified tall head cover which he ceremoniously placed on Sarah's head. Sarah went to a tall chair on the other side of the table. Wanda slopped over the stuffed leather chair in the middle.
"So, for the longest time now I've been making these phone calls. I'm obsessed. I walk the streets thinking of what cleaver thing I'm going to say on the next phone call. When to make the phone call, what I will say. What he will say. Every phone call comes out wrong, uncomfortable, not cleaver at all! In the shower, on the bus, in the subway, waking sleeping ALL the time, planning the next phone call. Then beating myself up for the last one. Thinking I should have said...why didn't I... next time... Sarah, Tom help me!" She passed Sarah the joint.
"Does he call you?" the panel asked.
"Never, only once really, to tell me to buzz off, in a nice way of course."
In a very serious contemplative way, Sarah took a hit, and closed her eyes. Solemnly she whispered, "the confessional, Tom, Tom, Tom she must go in." Sarah passed Tom the joint.
They lifted Wanda up and gently placed her in the confessional. Sarah and Tom ducked their tall hats into the priest's side. Wanda's phone had gotten kicked nearby in the process. They passed the joint through the hole. "There must be a way, some way to end this obsession."
Sarah crawled over to Wanda's side. Gently she dropped the giant hat between Wanda's breasts and began to nibble up her legs. Wanda crushed the hat to her. She wriggled and moaned softly with pleasure. "Oh Sushi Sarah take me from this misery."
"I will bring you home, trust me, trust me, trust me." Her mouth neared contact.
Wanda displayed further pleasure, with wriggles and moans and tenderly began to explore Sarah's body. The open phone kicked into earshot had auto-dialed the last call. "Yes, this is what he always wanted. Now he has it. No I have it, oh Sarah." her moans became a little louder "Tucker oh, ah mm didn't you ask for... ? nothing, nothing, nothing"
"Wanda?" a faint familiar but distant voice sounded.
Dreams and fantasies meshed with reality and arousal.
Sarah found Wanda's secret and proceeded with great skill, like a surgeon she removed the infected bits and infused life into fresh tissue. Wanda arched her back and searched passionately for Sarah's lips. Her hand flailed down and smacked closed the phone.
Tom hummed softly to himself as he washed the glasses and cleaned out the ashtrays. Before going to sleep up in the loft, he picked up the ceramic fish on the floor dusted it with the dishtowel and placed it with the others on the table.