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Rated: 18+ · Short Story · Contest Entry · #2316168
A man sits down to read a book and trouble finds him
His real name was Jesus Moralez, but these days he went by Larry. He was sitting on a park bench reading a book minding his own business, when a little blond-haired girl came out of nowhere and sat down beside him. Larry looked at her and she looked at him.

“How ya doing?” he asked.

And she told him. For the next ten minutes she told him more than he could ever want to know about how she was doing. As far as Larry could gather, a certain little boy who was either on the jungle gym right now this very moment or had been on it in the not-too-distant past, had said something or done something this little girl didn’t like and she was not going to forgive him ever, ever, ever.

Larry said things like, “Oh,” and “Huh,” and “Is that right?” but he really wasn’t paying a lot of attention to her story. He had come out to the park to read this book and it wasn’t a bad book and it seemed to Larry, he’d much rather be reading it than listening to this little girl’s tale of woe, but what was he to do, tell her to go away?

“Is Shirly Mae bothering you?” A woman shouted from four park benches away. Larry looked over at the woman and then down at the little blond-haired girl sitting next to him. “Well,” he said sitting forward, “It’s just that I’m reading a book.” He held up his book to prove it.

“Okay then,” the woman said. “Now, don’t you bother the nice man Shirly Mae!” She then sat back on her bench and stared out across the grass toward the children’s swing set.

The old guy feeding the pigeons two benches down and the four women sitting together three benches down were all looking at Larry now. They looked eager to see what he was going to do next. The old guy with the pigeons spun his index-finger around his ear a few times and silently lipped, “Nuts.”

Larry looked down at the little girl. and said, “You must be Shirly Mae?”

The girl shook her head no.

“You’re not Shirly Mae?”

“No,” she said.

“Well, then who’s Shirly Mae?”

“She’s my sister.”

“Oh! Okay great,” Larry said. “Where’s your sister now.”

“She’s dead.” The girl said.

“She’s dead?”

“Well, technically she’s missing, but I think she’s probably dead.”

“Is that so?”

“It’s what they say on tv.”

“They say she’s dead?”

“They say she’s probably dead. My mom doesn’t believe it.”

Larry paused. “Then what’s your name?” he asked.

“Jo,” she said. “Without an e.”

“Jo without an e,” Larry repeated. He now looked at her closely for the first time. She looked clean. Her hair looked washed. Her blue stretch pants and pink tee shirt looked good on her. Real good.

“No,” he said to himself. He said, “No, no, definitely not!” Then he said, “Look Jo, I think your mother wants you to go to sit with her.”

“She’s out of it,” Jo said. “Look at her.”

Larry looked over and saw that the woman was now standing on the jogging track in bare feet. “Shirly Mae!” she screamed across the grass in the direction of the swing set. For a moment Larry thought she was dancing but she might have been just trying to maintain her balance. “Shirly Mae!” she screamed again. “Shirly Mae!”

“Mom!” Jo called to her.

“There you are, you dear girl,” the woman said and smiled a lopsided smile. She stumbled backwards then and plopped down on her bench. Her face was in the shadows again, but Larry could see tangled strands of her platinum blond hair hanging across her face.

“Told ja,” Jo said.

“Where’s your father” Larry asked.


”Do you know his telephone number?”

“It’s 36-1- 995—” Jo began.

“Hold on,” Larry said. “That’s international. Where is he?”

“He’s in Budapest.”

“He’s in Budapest?”

The blond-haired girl named Jo now rolled her eyes. “Yes, for the hundred and tenth time.” She put her head back and looked at the sky like she was asking God for help.

Larry felt he’d fallen into a rabbit hole. What the hell happened? Larry usually went to the park on Laslow. He hadn’t been here since the fourth of July nearly a year ago. He came here today for no special reason other than to read a book and mind his own business. And now…what the hell happened? This whole thing was getting surreal.

“Look, Jo, you better go sit with your mom,” he said as nicely as he could. Then, when he saw the two cops walking up, he said, “Beat it!”

“Well, well, well, well,” the first cop said. “Lookie who we have here.”

Larry started to stand up when the other cop, the black one, put his hand on Larry’s shoulder. “Relax, Jesus, no reason to get all pumped up here.”

“We saw ya over here,” the white cop said. His name was Riker. “And we wanted to say hi.”

“Look,” Larry said, “I was sitting here reading a book and this girl came up to me.”

“Yeah, and what were you talking about?”

“She was talking! I wasn’t talking. She was telling me about some kid on the jungle gym.”

“Shaney,” Jo offered. “His name’s Shaney.”

“You’ve been told not to come within 500 feet of any children.”

Larry tried to stand up again and this time both cops gave him a hand. The next thing he knew he was in handcuffs being led away.

“She sat down next to me,” he tried to explain but neither cop seemed to want to hear it.

--964 Words--
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