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Rated: ASR · Fiction · Comedy · #2189122
Two young men look for romance in a shopping mall.
Two younger and two older men waited for the bus. The younger men were dressed well because they were on their way to the Galleria shopping mall. One of the older men asked one of the younger men for a smoke. John took out his cigarettes and gave him one. Then John lit the cigarette for him.

They'd given Mike and John twenty dollars each spending money at the hospital. Mike tried not to think about how much beer they could buy with their cash. Mike looked good, but his looks didn't help him. People expected him to be more confident.

"Say, brother," the older man said to John. "Think you could give me a couple of dollars so I can get some beer?"

"I gave you a cigarette and a light. Don't ask me for anything else," John answered, his voice thick with anger.

The bus arrived. The two young men walked to the back of the vehicle and sat down on the vinyl seats. The city of Dallas sped by as the bus clambered onto the interstate. First, the buildings downtown rushed by, then came glimpses of nice houses. They seemed to frown on the intruders on the bus.

"I had a job where we had to move prefab homes through the downtown area. I learned how to talk to people then," John commented to Mike, by way of making civil conversation.

The Galleria sold nice things to nice people who had nice money. There were boutiques, department stores, an arcade, a couple of bookstores, and a bakery full of rich looking cookies, all for the upscale people of Dallas. Mannequins dressed in stylish clothes posed in picture windows. There was an ice skating rink where music echoed upwards towards the roof of the mall. Young kids glided around the slick surface, enjoying the exuberance of an affluent youth. Next to the skating rink were the food stands and tables of a food court. Behind the eating place a cinema advertised a movie named "Beetlejuice" on giant posters.

John spotted a well dressed woman. Mike was a little alarmed at the unabashed way John approached her.

"You look so gorgeous. I am amazed by how good you look," John gushed.

The woman stood still with a huge smile while John bathed her in compliments. Then both parties left on amiable terms, and John went to look for the next woman he could flatter.

The two young men rested on a bench in the middle of the mall.

"I've got to find me a woman. Let's go to Braxton's and see if we can find a couple of women," John ventured.

Mike wondered if John was impulsive enough that he would blow off the hospital and go home with a woman for a couple of days. Mike was also nervous about running afoul of the security guards. He hadn't seen any of them, but that didn't mean they weren't there, watching these two young men.

"I'd rather go to B. Dalton's and look for women there," Mike responded.

"You and those books. You can't get women in a bookstore," John answered.

"Yes you can. If you know what to look for you can."

"For every woman you get in a bookstore I can get ten at Braxton's."

"I like a woman of substance. I want a woman who has a brain."

"Well you go to B. Dalton's then. You can have those intelligent women. They all think they are some kind of female genius," John stated.

"They are better than you think," Mike responded.

The manager at B. Dalton's was a beautiful young woman. Mike knew he couldn't approach her in any other guise than as a customer. Women hated being hit on when they were at work and in the public eye. Mike noticed "The Delta of Venus" in the literature section. The beautiful young manager gave out a small cry as Mike took the work of literature off the shelf. As Mike looked at her he realized she was exactly what he wanted - stunning to look at and smart. She was the type of woman who he would like to live with in a small apartment in Paris. They could go to the Louvre and write poetry during the day, and frequent the sidewalk cafes at night.

This was where Mike always stopped. How could he approach this stunning woman if he didn't have his own transportation? He considered using Romeo's words to Juliet in Shakespeare's play: "If I profane with my unworthiest hand this holy shrine … ",but he wasn't suave enough to carry it off. (Mike had learned that there could be a whole world of difference between a good idea and the ability to put it into practice.) "And how would he handle the fact that he was a mental patient? Besides, she was at work, and she couldn't have guys hitting on her while she did her job.

Mike waited for John to show up at their designated bench.

"Did you have any luck?" John asked as he approached his companion.

Mike didn't know what to call what he'd had.

"I did get some kind of a response from a woman," Mike answered.

"Did she look at you? Did she say something to you?" John asked with playful sarcasm.

"It was sensual in nature," Mike responded.

"What did she do, show you her tits?" John's playful words were starting to bite.

"No. She didn't do that. You wouldn't understand," Mike patiently tried to explain.

"I understand. You got turned down cold," John responded.

"Well how about you then? How did you do?" Mike asked his companion.

"I talked to this girl, but she was nuts. She'd be real friendly, and I'd be thinking, 'I got her. She's mine'. Then she'd start talking about some guy named Heathcliff. It was Heathcliff this, and Heathcliff that, and I'd be wondering what in the world she was saying."

Mike had a small smile on his face.

"Some women are just crazy," Mike muttered.

They had two hours before they had to return to the hospital. The two young men rode the bus back to downtown Dallas, where they found a small café. The place was nestled among tall buildings, probably a place for the movers and shakers of Dallas to eat lunch during the week. Mike still had all his money, so he decided to order a good meal there. He gazed at a picture on the wall of a beautiful young woman sitting at a table with a handsome young man. There was a piece of pie in front of her, and she was delicately guiding a delicious looking morsel to her mouth. Mike wondered what the difference was between commercial art and the high art they displayed in museums.

John grabbed a flier off a stack of advertisements. Then he grabbed a pencil next to the stand and started writing on the back of it. Mike leaned forward to look and see what John was scribbling. John had written the words "skank list" on the back of the piece of paper.

"I'm going to list all the skanks we're going to get at the hospital, and I am going to call it our skank list," John told Mike.

"You must be totally cynical about women," Mike commented.

John paused a moment, and Mike thought he saw a suspicious look on John's face.

"I don't know what that means. What does that mean?" John responded, confused.

"It means you think women are no good, and that it is stupid to try to have a meaningful relationship with them," Mike returned.

There was a heavy silence, then John spoke.

"You can have your meaningful relationships. I just want to have fun, and I can't stand a woman who thinks she knows everything," John replied.

"You don't want someone you can share your thoughts and feelings with?" Mike asked.

"Hell no. A woman is there for sex, cooking, and cleaning," John said definitively.

"What about the women at the Galleria?"

"Those are rich women. They can get away with their arrogance because they have money," John stated.

There was a small frown on John's face.

Mike knew this conversation would go nowhere if he tried to pursue it. The waitress brought their hamburgers, and the two young men ate in silence.

John finally said, "I don't know what you believe in your world, but in my world I am realistic, and I get a lot of women."

"With me it is not a question of quantity, but a question of quality that counts. When I get a woman I want it to mean something, and not be superficial," Mike responded earnestly.

The ward seemed a little drab after the young men had been in the mall. The other mental patients gathered around and asked if they had gotten the phone numbers of any young women while they were out. The two young men were diffident, saying they both had struck out.

Jerry approached John discreetly. "Did you drink any beer?" he asked in a whisper.

John looked at Jerry and said out loud, "Yes I did. I drank a beer in Braxton's."

Mike looked at John in astonishment. He checked to see if any staff had heard. He went to his room.

About an hour later Mary, the psych nurse, came into Mike's room.

"Mike, I just talked to John Stample, and he said you guys split up while you were on your outing," Mary paused. "You knew you were supposed to stay together." She paused again. Mike didn't know what to say. "We're taking a hard view of this," she said in a serious tone.

"We did split up, but I swear to God I didn't drink anything," Mike responded.

"I believe you, but you were supposed to stay together. What do you think would happen if John had forgot about the hospital and went home with a woman for a few days? How am I supposed to trust you guys now? I'm going to talk to Dr. Pinter about this, and I doubt if you'll be going on any outings for a while."

Mary left, and Mike went out to the lounge. He wanted to ask John why he had gotten them both in trouble. He sat down and waited for M.A.S.H. to come on TV.



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