POWDER BURN FLASH #8 - Gerald So

CALL ME CUPID

by Gerald So

Lilah twirled some spaghetti onto her fork and brought it up to her mouth. Somehow she slurped it with no loss of dignity. She sipped some wine and swirled it, downing it in two swallows.

"Okay. I can't wait," she said. "What's your big news?"

The light in Powell's eyes dimmed. The smile packed up and moved out.

You wouldn't see it unless you knew Lilah better than Powell did, but before he said anything, she braced herself.

"I think we should see other people." His words were only a formality, eyes darting everywhere to avoid her. Lilah showed no reaction, so he picked up the lull in conversation. "It's not you. It's me..."

Still Lilah gave him nothing. She twirled another forkful of spaghetti as if he'd said it would be partly cloudy tomorrow.

Powell's face, meanwhile, had gone so white you'd think he was the dumpee. He stood and paced as she ate. It looked like he was doing the pee-pee dance. Soon his legs tired and he took his coat from the closet.

One last try: "I'm sorry to do this on Valentine's..."

Finally he realized how dumb he sounded and waddled out.

From my usual spot between the low trees, I focused on Lilah. She deserved better. A lot better than Ted Powell. I couldn't feel too sorry for her the way she stood her ground. I loved her.

Powell's high beams came on and he backed out of her driveway. Lilah may have been waiting for just that. As soon as Powell sped away, she dropped her fork and cried. My heart went out to her. I didn't have to follow Ted; I knew where he lived.

* * *

Arriving ahead of Powell, I found a good position. It made me think of the time in college someone dared me to serenade Lilah. My first look at Lilah rattled me to the point of saying, "It's too powerful. I'll only sing for my wife."

And I thought about Lilah all through Western Lit class. That night, I called my mother and asked what she would think if I married outside our religion.

The next time Western Lit met, I arrived early, ready to sing "Dulcinea." Lilah was late, as she would be often.

Powell's garage door rolled up and I tracked his car, recalling how I asked Lilah out, "purely in the interest of fellowship and good conversation."

The next day, she found me in the student union and told me straight. She didn't like me "in that way," but hoped we could stay friends.

I nodded dumbly and didn't try making a case for myself.

And we have stayed friends, though she hasn't seen me in years. Every Christmas, she sends a mass-produced update on her life. Last year, she mentioned meeting Ted at a bar. This year, she called him "warm, sensitive, and caring."

The light in his bedroom came on. I steadied my hands and looked through the scope.

A puff of cigarette smoke led the way as Ted stepped into my sights. I was sorry to see he was like all the rest. Between beats I squeezed the trigger, sending a round through his heart.

End

GERALD SO is Fiction Editor for The Thrilling Detective Web Site. He blogs at http://geraldso.blogspot.com/.