Black Petals Issue #76 Summer, 2016

Flirting with the Alley
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Anniversary-Fiction by A. M. Stickel
Flirting with the Alley-Fiction by Roy Dorman
Gone Astray-Fiction by Denis Bushlatov
Surviving Montezuma-Serialized Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
The Road-Fiction by Walter Kwiatkowski
The Watchers-Fiction by Mike Mulvihill
Ghost Lover-Poem by Janet Ro
My Walk to Emberly Park- Poem by Janet Ro
Honey Island Swamp Monster-Poem by Richard Stevenson
Skin Walker-Poem by Richard Stevenson
Ucu-Poem by Richard Stevenson

benningtonvt.jpg

Flirting with the Alley

 

By Roy Dorman

A final chapter, maybe.

 

 

Stan Albright and his new sidekick, Yeti, an Others underling who quit that group to join Stan, have time and distance travelled themselves to New York City. They arrived there not according to any plan; it’s just where they wound up after escaping the Others, as Stan’s unusual powers went on autopilot.

Stan had been in New York a few weeks ago and evaded the Others’ henchmen after meeting John Doe in an alley. During that episode in the ongoing drama that has become his life, Stan had been a two-bit thug and, strange but true, had been the father he’d never met.

Looking around the streets now, Stan thought he might have slipped back in time a bit; there didn’t seem to be any cars newer than about 2010. This was a new wrinkle, but Stan took it in stride. He now existed before he knew Alicia Goodman, John Doe, and Stephen.

Yada, yada, yada. Stan, tired of not knowing what was going on, considered taking a sabbatical. Someone else is going to have to work on saving the world from the Others for a while.

After setting Yeti up with a job delivering pizza, getting him a place in a rooming house in the Bronx, and equipping him with a cell phone and some cash, Stan was down to a couple thousand dollars, left from what had been given to him by Stephen’s group. They’d also given him a debit card in his name with who-knew-how-much on it. Even if they didn’t make contact with him for a while, he’d be okay.

“So, don’t call me unless it’s an emergency,” said Stan to Yeti. “Fuck it! I won’t be everybody’s puppet anymore. If I think differently about it after a little vacation, fine.”

 

 

Stan had stepped into the little grocery just minutes before the downpour started. He was on his biking vacation from New York City, had just crossed into Vermont that morning, and had taken a wrong turn upon entering the town of Bennington. He had reservations at a bed-and-breakfast in Brattleboro that night, and it was now just a little before noon. Brattleboro was only 45 to 50 miles from Bennington, so Stan didn’t feel this summer thunderstorm would upset his plans too much.

“Hello, looks like you made it just in time,” said the pretty young woman behind the counter, whose nametag read: Lindsey Hibbins. “I saw you pull up on your bike.”

“It was time for a break anyhow,” replied Stan. “Also, I may have gotten myself a little lost. I came into town on Highway 9 and now I’m on Second Street.”

“You’re not too far off; you just went straight when Highway 9 made a sharp turn to the right and became Main Street.”

“So, I just go back until I find that turn and stay on Main Street through town?” asked Stan.

“That’s right. Highway 9 is Main Street from one end of Bennington to the other. But Main Street kind of meanders a bit when things like the town square or the railroad station get in its way. There’s an alley running parallel to Main that’s more of a straight shot. You could flirt with that alley when you don’t feel like staying on Main and then get back on Main when it suits you.”

“Flirt with the alley?”

Lindsey blushed a little, and Stan wondered to himself when he had last seen a woman blush. New York City and Chicago were pretty rough and tumble, and people there didn’t embarrass easily. 

Stan hadn’t been leading a normal life for almost a month now. Also, he had no idea what had been a normal life for him before this ordeal with the Others started. This made Lindsey’s smile all the more welcome.

“Flirt with the alley?” Stan asked again.

Lindsey’s smile broadened a little more. “I guess that’s my small town folksiness showing. The way I’m using it means something like you’d be biking on Main Street while it suited you, but keeping in mind that you could take the alley when you felt the established route didn’t meet your needs anymore.”

It was probably the “didn’t meet your needs anymore” that caused Lindsey to blush again. They both just stood staring at each over the counter, eye-to-eye, and grinning. A flash of lightning followed by a loud thunder clap broke the spell.

“You’re not married or anything, are you?” asked Lindsey.

Stan thought for a second about the “or anything” in his life—Alicia Goodman. “Nope. Are you?”

“No, I’m not,” said Lindsey, as she walked to the front door of the store, turned the sign from “Open” to “Closed”, and locked it. “It’s lunch time. I live in back. We could have some soup or something.”

“I think I’d like it very much if we’d have ‘or something,’” said Stan, as he stepped up to Lindsey and kissed her softly.

Walking hand-in-hand to her quarters at the back of the store, Stan noticed Lindsey had unbuttoned the top few buttons of her blouse. He felt an excitement he hadn’t known in a long time.

“Oh, my God! I’m Lindsey Hibbins!” Lindsey said, as they stepped into her living room.

“What?”

“I’m Lindsey Hibbins and I’ve never done anything like this before.”

“Hi, Lindsey, I’m Stan Albright, and I’ve never done anything like this before either.”

Actually, Stan had no idea if he had or hadn’t done anything like this before. They stood facing each other and a little smile formed on Lindsey’s lips. “So you believe me?” she asked.

“Only if you believe me. And now that we’ve been properly introduced… You were introducing yourself there, weren’t you?”

Lindsey took Stan’s hand and led him into her bedroom. There they made love with a passion that surprised both of them.

After, lying on the bed and softly touching each other, Stan asked, “What about your customers? Won’t you get in trouble with your boss?”

I’m the boss. And I probably won’t get any customers until it stops raining. If anybody does come by, they’ll see the ‘Closed’ sign and figure I got stranded someplace by the storm.”

“You own the store? How’d that happen…if it’s okay to ask?”

“I grew up in this store,” said Lindsey. “My parents ran it until they were killed in a car accident three years ago. I decided to put my going nowhere writing career on hold and do my grieving someplace where I was comfortable. It was only going to be until I found a buyer, but time sort of slips away here in Bennington.”

“And none of the men in Bennington…”

“You’re probably curious about the box of condoms in the drawer by the bedside table…”

“Oh, no, no…I didn’t…”

“It’s okay. I know you’re too nice to pry. I’ve been getting a new box every year so that…well, so that they’d be fresh if anything happened and I’d have to use one. A woman’s gotta have her dreams, ya know.”

“Well, I for one am pleased to be in your dream,” said Stan, kissing her on the lips, “but, hey, do you mind if I make a quick phone call?”

“No, that’s fine,” said Lindsey. “Should I leave for a minute?”

“I’d really like it if you’d stay right where you are. I just have to call the bed-and-breakfast in Brattleboro to let them know I’m not going to make it.”

Stan got out of bed and pulled his phone out of his pants pocket. He found the number in his phone and punched it in. Lindsey listened to Stan’s end of the conversion.

“…No, no, I’m okay… Oh, the biking’s fine, but I got caught in the rain… No, thanks very much for offering, but I don’t need a ride… I’m fine with you keeping the security deposit and I’ll try to you see you next time through… no, really, everything’s great; I just think I’m going to flirt with the alley for a few days… Okay, then, bye.”

Lindsey had playfully elbowed Stan in the side when he had used her “flirt with the alley” adage. After he completed the call and put his phone on the nightstand, she asked, “What did the person say when you said you were going to be flirting with the alley?”

“Well, he was an older gentleman and after a bit of silence, I think what he said was, ‘Oh, ayuh.’”

Lindsey laughed and said, “Oh, ayuh, that’s what he’d say to that all right. He might have been thinking he knew exactly where you were, too—not in bed with me, personally, but in bed with somebody who lived on your route.”

“I thought I detected a bit of a smile in his voice when he said that.”

“It looks like the rain is letting up,” said Lindsey. “I don’t want to, but I suppose I should open the store. Did you mean it about staying around for a while? I’d really like that, ya know. I did get your name before I allowed you to bed me so you wouldn’t think I was a shameless hussy, but I’d like to get to know you better.”

“I’d like to get to know more about you too,” said Stan. “I do believe you when you say you’d like to be a writer; that last sentence sounded like it came straight out of a bodice ripper.”

“I was just messin’ with ya,” said Lindsey, “playing the innocent Vermont storekeeper and all. But you do know that’s what I am, don’t you? An innocent Vermont storekeeper?”

Stan kissed her again and they got out of bed to dress. “Is there a hotel here in town I could stay at for a few days?”

“I wouldn’t want you to think I was getting all clingy and everything, but you’d be welcome to stay here. I’ve got a bike and could show you the area tomorrow. My neighbor, Bill Hobbs, could watch the store; he’s retired and always looking for something to do.”

“This is kind of a small town. Wouldn’t some people get their noses out of joint?” asked Stan.

“Most of them have known me practically my whole life. It’s not like I’m running a house of ill repute. Besides, I just opened that box of condoms; might as well use ‘em up.”

“I’ve got some in my bike saddlebags if we need more,” said Stan, raising his eyebrows comically. When she looked at him suspiciously, he said, “Hey, a guy’s gotta have dreams too.”

That afternoon, Stan walked the streets of Bennington, once in a while flirting with the alley, taking in its small town charm. He had coffee and pie at a little diner as a late lunch and later a bottle of soda for a quarter from a soda machine by a gas station. After what he’d been through the last month, he found himself constantly expecting to see tails or tentacles sprout from beneath the clothing of the locals. He tried to shake the feeling that he was being watched, but it just wouldn’t leave.

“Of course I’m being watched; I’m the stranger in town,” said Stan to himself.  “If there were still party lines, the phone wires would be humming.”

Stepping out of the alley to get back onto Main Street, Stan almost ran right into Stephen. “Oh, no, ya don’t. Sorry, buddy, I’m on vacation,” he said.

“I’m bringing you good news, Stan,” said Stephen. “You and Yeti knocked off a very important Other and his entourage last week. I imagine he was sent here to deal with you directly. You had become too dangerous and the clumsy attempts to capture you had maddened the powers that be. They’ve gone, Stan! They’ve gone!”

“That’s great, Stephen! Ya mean I can go back to leading a normal life?”

“You can lead any kind of life you’d like to lead, Stan. We’re taking Yeti and John Doe back to work with us. Yeti will be invaluable in fighting the Others wherever they pop up next. Alicia asked to go back to St. Thomas and we set her up there. By the way, she said to say ‘Hi.’ You’ve done a lot for us, Stan, and we added more to your debit card account as a bonus. If we can help you in any way get established in a new life, we’d be happy to help. Of course, you’d always be welcome to work for us full-time if you’d like…”

“No, no, no, that’s fine,” said Stan. “I appreciate the bonus, but I think I’d like to lead my own life from here on out. I’d say ‘Thanks for the memories’, but they’re already starting to get hazy. I’m not going to forget all of this, am I?”

“No,” said Stephen. “You’ll remember these adventures long enough to tell your children and grandchildren. You still retain your unusual powers if you ever choose to use them. If you need to contact me, you know, if something unusual comes up, I can be reached by mental telepathy. Just put your needs into thoughts and I’ll see what I can do. Goodbye, Stan, and thanks again for your help.”

With that Stephen dematerialized and Stan was left on the street by himself. Across the street, a shopkeeper had been watching them and his jaw dropped when Stephen disappeared. Stan smiled and waved at him and started down Main Street toward Lindsey’s little grocery.

 

They were eating dinner at a quaint little Italian restaurant off Main Street. Stan felt wonderful, and it probably showed on his face as he talked to Lindsey. He still didn’t know exactly who he had been before this all started, but he was looking forward to starting a new life with a clean slate.

“Stan, you never told me what you do for a living,” said Lindsey around a mouthful of Shrimp Tetrazzini. “Are you based in New York City?’

“I’d tell ya, but then I’d have to kill ya,” said Stan trying to look serious.

“Very funny. Let’s see, I’m guessing you might be a teacher…maybe a high school English teacher. You’re on summer vacation, biking up the coast.”

“Flirting with the alley.”

A thirty-something woman came up to their table and spoke in what was not quite a whisper, but soft enough that people at nearby booths and tables couldn’t hear her.

“Is everything all set for tomorrow night?” she asked Lindsey, ignoring Stan.

“Celeste, this is Stan Albright. He’s on a biking tour from New York City and may be spending a few days with me,” said Lindsey.

“Hi, Celeste, nice to meet you,” said Stan, offering his hand. Celeste continued to ignore him.

“Do you think that’s a good idea?” Celeste asked.

“You’re being a little rude here, Celeste. I’ll talk to you later.”

“So what was that all about?” asked Stan. “Seemed almost like a jealous girlfriend or something.”

“Stan, you’re probably familiar with the term ‘deal breaker’, right? I’m hoping what I’m about to tell you won’t be a deal breaker for us. Tomorrow is Midsummer Day. It’s not celebrated much here in the United States, but in Europe, especially Eastern Europe, it’s widely celebrated. It has a history steeped in witchcraft. I’m a Wiccan, Stan—a witch.”

Stan mulled that over for a bit, then replied, “Before Celeste came over you were asking what I did for a living. Well, I’m sorta between jobs right now, but my previous position involved saving the world from being taken over by aliens from another dimension.”

“So you’re going to make fun of me, is that it?” said Lindsey. “Witchcraft is an important part of my life. If you can’t accept that…”

“Just a minute,” said Stan. He steepled his fingers in front of his face and concentrated. After about thirty seconds, a miniature 3D hologram started to form in front of them in their booth. It showed Stan, Alicia, John Doe, and Stephen doing battle with a variety of characters from the Others’ realm. The battle included laser beams and small explosions, and the display drew the attention of some of the nearby diners. It went on for about fifteen or twenty seconds and then winked out.

“I hope that’s not a deal breaker, Lindsey,” said Stan.

“Holy shit,” said Lindsey. “I hope you can stay for a while, Stan. We’ve got a lot to talk about.”

 

The End

 

 

Roy Dorman, roydorman@yahoo.com, of Madison, Wisconsin, who wrote BP #76’s “Flirting with the Alley” (+ BP #75’s “The Enemy of My Enemy,” BP #74’s “Doesn’t Play Well with Others,” BP #73’s “A Journey Starts with a Flower,” BP #72’s “The Beach House,” BP #71’s “The Big Apple Bites,” BP #70’s “Borrowing Some Love,” and BP #69’s “Back in Town” and “Finding Good Help…”), is retired from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Benefits Office and has been a voracious reader for 60 years. At the prompting of an old high school friend, himself a retired English teacher, Roy is now a voracious writer. He has had poetry and flash fiction published in Apocrypha and Abstractions, Birds Piled Loosely, Burningword Literary Journal, Cease Cows, Cheapjack Pulp, Crack The Spine, Drunk Monkeys, Every Day Fiction, Flash Fiction Magazine, Flash Fiction Press, Gap-Toothed Madness, Gravel, Lake City Lights, Near To The Knuckle, Shotgun Honey, The Creativity Webzine, Theme of Absence, The Screech Owl, The Story Shack, & Yellow Mama.

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