The Iron Writer Challenge #54
2014 Iron Writer Spring Equinox Challenge #4
A Toilet Roll Hat
A Single Roller Skate
A House Plant
Have you ever heard the story of Mata Hari? Let me tell you; she was my hero. Not in the way she lived her life, mind you, but the way she faced her death. Her bravery inspired me. I shall always face death head on with a kiss blown its way. I will laugh in the visage of fear. I will always find my strength in places I couldn’t even imagine.
So why is it I’m so afraid of love?
I find myself in an arrangement made by a close friend to try and set me up on a date. A blind date party with the rules of, ‘Bring a single item that best shows your personality type,’ then apparently stick us in a room to better know each other. Glancing around, this was a stupid idea. I’m better off alone. I felt almost embarrassed as I looked down at the small, potted house plant in my arms.
I almost died of further embarrassment when a man approached me with the most absurd personal item I’d seen all day.
“Hey, how’s it going?”
“Is that a roll of toilet paper on your head?”
“Sure is! Here,” he ripped off a square. “I even wrote my number on each piece. I’m impressionable, you have to admit.”
“Well, call me!” he then sauntered off to either offend or make someone else’s night with his antics.
A damn toilet roll hat. I suddenly felt less self-conscious about my house plant. I forgot to laugh at the fear I felt. Oh, God, I forgot what it meant to be strong. Maybe I should leave. Perhaps I had this ‘strong’ thing not completely figured out.
Looking around, I tried to find someone with something that appealed to me, and quick. I wanted to appear less conspicuous. A party hat? No. A laptop? Maybe, he seems normal. A toy airplane? He must have children. A bottle of wine? That man must be quite the smooth talker.
I think I gave up, and went to the bar to get a drink. Upon arriving, the man next to me started conversation.
“I like your plant,” he said. “It says a lot about you.”
I looked at him warily. “Like what?”
“That you work a job with long hours, probably don’t have time for a real pet, and the fact that you wrote a name on the pot in such a fancy font, makes me think it’s a very important friend.”
I looked at Eric the plant, then to the man.“What did you bring to the party this evening?”
“A roller skate,” he said, and in the corner of my eye, I watched his leg roll back and forth. “Figured I’d skate through this party and carry on.”
He earned a laugh from me. I think this guy is nice, otherwise I didn’t just laugh fear in its face, I laughed at insanity itself. “Tell me, single roller skate man, care to buy me a drink?”
And to this day this is still the story I tell my house plant of how he got me to meet my soul mate.
Cigarette smoke hung in the damp garage air. A card table set up in the center amidst piles of dust covered junk. Only a partially torn reproduction picture of Mata Hari formed any remote sense of human habitation. Yet, four men were seated at the table with playing cards in hand. Thomas finally broke the smoggy silence.
“Hey guys, I came up with a new invention.” He stated with a twinge of excitement in his voice.
The man on Thomas’s right tapped his cards impatiently against the table, “Dear God, not another one. Please tell me it’s better than that toilet paper hat you came up with last year.”
“Hey, that was a great idea!” Thomas defended.
“Bruno’s right,” the man across from Thomas retorted while running a hand through his shaggy blonde hair, “the only way that idea is great is if the average person has as much crap coming out of their mouth as you.”
A smile crossed Bruno’s face as he leaned back in his chair. “Hey Trevor, remember the one four years ago. He threw the thing together with a house plant and a skate, what was it called?”
“The Porta-plant, so you can take your plants with you where ever you go.” The man on his left mocked in his best Billy Mays voice. “Now that I think about it you could combine the toilet paper hat and Porta-plant and you always have a bathroom with you.”
Everyone but Thomas began to snicker. Matt, the man across from Thomas, finally had enough banter and decided to continue the card game.
“I raise two hundred,” he stated.
“Call,” Bruno followed.
Thomas thought for a minute, “Fold.”
“Fold,” Trevor added while tossing his cards to the center of the table.
Matt stared at his chips and silence fell back over the garage. Trevor lit up another cigarette and waited for the next round. Before Matt could flip his cards over Thomas ended the quiet once again, “I never got to tell you my idea!”
All three glances coldly fell on him. Matt’s left index finger was begging to angrily tap the table. Thomas sensed he needed to spill his idea before Matt got angry.
“Okay, so I had this idea for a hat. It has a two straws that attaches to the side of the hat, where, there are two spots to hold beer.” Thomas pitched in his best sales voice.
All three guys started to smile and then finally Bruno burst out laughing, “Dude, that already exists!”
“Since when?” He snapped back.
“Like twenty years ago, where’ve you been?” Trevor asked between laughs.
“Bruno, got anything to beat three aces?” Matt asked flipping his cards over. Bruno shook his head and tossed his cards.
“Thomas, between your old inventions and being two decades late on the beer hat you have to be the worst inventor ever.”
Matt passed out a new hand of cards and Thomas looked around at his three friends.
“You guys suck.”
Jason stared out the bay window that Allison adored, idly toying with the mother-in-law’s tongue sitting on the highly-polished window-seat. Sansevieria trifasciata, she would have corrected. All he knew was the cats liked to play with it, so if he shredded the leaves a bit, Allison would blame the cats. He hated the cats. Allison had named one Emerson, the other Mata Hari, living for the moment when new acquaintances inquired about the unusual names.
It wasn’t that he didn’t appreciate Allison’s education, but he got very tired of her flaunting her three college degrees, especially when he was between jobs. That’s all it was–just between jobs; a seasonal layoff, not a major crisis.
And so Jason was perched on the window-seat, waiting for the UPS truck, having done the unforgivable once more: ordered something “unnecessary” from geekygifts.com on the credit card she didn’t know he had.
“I think it’s better if you don’t have a credit card, don’t you?” she’d asked. “Especially when you’re working in something as seasonal as landscaping. Even in summer, it’s not a reliable job. Remember two years ago when we had the drought? You didn’t work for almost three weeks. I don’t mind the winter layoff; that’s expected, but that summer break was a killer. I wasn’t sure we’d make the first tax payment.”
She’d said it lightly, almost in passing, but Jason knew better. Allison directed their finances with dictatorial precision. Their budget was planned to the penny, and woe to the person (always Jason) who upset the carefully balanced ledger. She’d taken to leaving it up on the computer so he had to look at it before he could check his email or chat on Facebook. He’d learned long ago not to leave anything else in his history.
“You really ought to spend some time on job sites, don’t you think?” she’d suggested. “I mean, I know we agreed that as long as you worked at least nine months, we’d be fine, but it sure would be nice to have a little extra money coming in after Christmas. Isn’t there a temp site for Harrisburg?”
There was, and Jason had been on it a few times. TotallyTemps.com. He’d stumbled across it when he was morosely surfing for the original Arkham Horror boardgame. When she’d found out he’d spent fifty dollars buying it, she had come undone.
Allison’s rage left Jason utterly unbalanced, like a roller-blader trying to pop a stunt wearing a single roller skate–a vintage 1950s, rusted, squeaky, strap-on, metal roller skate.
The doorbell rang; Jason had completely missed the delivery truck in the parking lot. He accepted the package, slit the tape, and reverentially extracted the custom-made toilet roll hat from its bubble-wrap cocoon. A roll of tissue on a spindle suspended over the head, obediently waiting for the moment it might be needed. It was foolish; it was absurd; it was nonsensical; it was his, to be re-packed carefully and artfully hidden, all before Allison came home.
“In here, Boss,” Pipa called out.
Frizzy followed her voice into one of the smaller bedrooms.
She nudged past Pipa and stood over the body of a shapely young Caucasian woman. Her head lay in a large pool of blood.
“COD is a fatal blow to the head.”
“You don’t say,” Frizzy mumbled.
“For all you know, she could’ve been poisoned before the blow,” Pipa chirped back, plucking hairs off the rug.
Frizzy revolved on the spot taking in the rest of the room. The dressing table was littered with dozens of beauty products, the closet filled with an avalanche of clothes and the only decoration in the room was a rather large house plant in one corner of the room.
Pipa handed her a business card from the small purse that was beside the victim.
“Sofia Lane. Exotic dancer,” Frizzy read out, noting down the name and number.
“Oooo, what if she was a spy? That would be so exciting! A modern day Mata Hari!”
Frizzy rolled her eyes, “Why do I put up with you?”
“Because I’m the best forensic pathologist across the state and also because your sex life would choke and die if it wasn’t for me.”
“Remind me to reward you with a toilet roll hat.”
“Aw, Boss. You flatter me.”
Frizzy sighed, shaking her head.
“Alright, everyone. Let’s catch the bastard who did this.”
The words sounded in her head over and over again. How could he. After all they’d been through together. Sofia whimpered. It was all so surreal—it had started off just like any other argument they’d had in the past. But then it’d escalated; he’d started to call her things that she’d never even think to associate with another human being and she’d lost her cool and pulled out a large chunk of his hair. It now lay glistening golden on the rug at the foot of her bed.
Her breath came in huge gasps as she curled up into a ball on the floor. It had been so long since someone had made her feel so vulnerable and raw. She’d never thought that there’d be a day like this in her life after Marc had become a part of it…
She waited for him to come back. He always did. But after five long hours of moping, with a sense of foreboding she realised that this time, maybe he wouldn’t. She then made up her mind. She’d go back to him and fix things—for the first time, she’d take the first step. Determined that she could mend her three-year-long relationship, she rose to her feet and hurried towards the door— only to accidentally step over a single roller skate lying astray on the floor. For a second, she was suspended in mid-air and then before she could break her fall, she was propelled backwards, head-first to the floor and was unconscious in an instant.
No-one knew about her soft skull condition.
Not even her.