As European promises fade to black, let's amuse ourselves with this week's chapter of my serialized comic novel "Four Bidding For Love." (Those who find absurdist humor and adult situations offensive, please read no further.)
Though he avoided police procedural movies—his tastes ran more to Italian neo-Realism and Chinese costume dramas—Robin knew not to park his car directly across from the ramshackle two-story Berkeley house, but down the street so he could unobtrusively observe the man he'd been tasked to best in mano-a-mano negotiations, Ross Tozaj. Opening a wine-accessories catalog as if reading it, Robin glanced cautiously over the catalog at the seedy house and thought, maybe this Ross is a spindly little man who just wants his wretched toaster.
That morning Robin had prepared various arguments to win Alexia over to attending the craft fair with him, but she'd instantly agreed to provide backup. Just as his mind eased with this reassurance, Alexia had announced that she would disguise herself as a man in order to protect her identity from Ross.
This revelation pushed Robin's spirits off the delicate perch of reassurance just reached. "Don't worry," Alexia had said soothingly. "After today, you'll never see him again. You're just the mouthpiece, and he knows that. But if he is unstable, he may seek revenge against me, and I'd rather he didn't know what I looked like."
Glancing briefly at her abundant bustline, Robin declined to voice his suspicions that her womanly assets could not be masked by a man’s shirt and jacket.
Alexia studied her neighbor's ill-ease for a moment and then added, "I was planning to be there anyway, just to see what he looked like. Don't worry, it'll be fine. Just get what you can out of him and call it a day."
Robin had nodded, but sensing her failure to reassure with words, Alexia had patted his shoulder in a maternal fashion.
And now, Robin told himself as the door to the Berkeley abode swung open, I find out what I've gotten into. A huge bearded specimen of humanity stepped directly from Robin's worst fears onto the house's front porch, and brandished a gleaming hand-axe.
As Robin's pulse raced up to heart-attack rapidity, the man wiped the shining blade on his blue overalls and inspected the handle with an endearment that sent chills of fresh-brewed terror down Robin's spine. The giant balanced the hand axe lightly in his palm, and then suddenly swung it forward in a throw which lodged the axe firmly in the stout porch column. The man's glee was disturbingly enthusiastic, and Robin flipped open his cellphone with unaccustomed difficulty.
Alexia picked up his call on the second ring. "Hi, Robin."
"This guy Ross is the size of a bear, and almost as hairy," he blurted. "He's throwing a hatchet into a post right now, and enjoying it far too much."
"If this is your idea of a joke," Alexia replied coldly, "it's not funny."
"I'm not joking," Robin hissed. "I'm parked outside his house in Berkeley."
"Not where he can see you, for goodness sakes."
"No, of course not. Now he's got a long board." After a brief pause, Robin stammered, "Holy moly, he just split the board with a single throw."
"Don't worry, I'll bring some pepper spray that will stop a bear in its tracks."
Robin's voice sounded disembodied and distant. "What if the bear flings a razor-sharp axe at you?"
"This is absurd," Alexia protested. "No one can get inside the craft fair with a hatchet."
"This guy could strangle an ox with one hand," Robin said, and Alexia had no immediate reply. "He's just a collector," she finally said, but her tone was less than convincing.
"Look, why don't we just call this meeting off and you handle the negotiations with email?" Robin implored.
Alexia's sigh was heavy with annoyance. "After all this? I just left my house after spending all morning dotting a stubble on my chin. The only man's shoes I could find were my ex-husband's sneakers, and they're so big I look like a circus clown."
Realizing Robin was not responding with the sympathy she'd expected, Alexia said, "No, I have a better idea. Call him and demand to work with an intermediary. If he refuses, then tell him the deal is off."
The relief in Robin's sigh was practically thundering. "Fine. I'll let you know if he agrees."
The overall-clad giant sauntered inside, and Robin took a deep breath to calm himself before making the call to Ross. But his worry was wasted, for Ross—odd how his voice did not reflect his bulk, Robin observed—calmly agreed to an intermediary. To Robin's further surprise, Ross announced that a young woman by the name of Kylie would be acting in his stead. Her dark hair would be pulled back in a ponytail, he said, and she would be wearing jeans.
In response to the question of what young woman could possibly befriend such a hellaciously hirsute axe-lover, Robin's imagination conjured a female equivalent of the man in overalls: stout, uncouth, unnerving, with a shaggy ill-kept ponytail acting as a rough analog of the giant's unruly pirate's beard. Kylie had a suitably Amazonian ring, and Robin could easily imagine her deafening chortle and the porcine cunning in her close-set eyes. He shuddered once and then started his car, reassuring himself that regardless of her undoubtedly frightening appearance, this female intermediary would be a vast improvement over negotiating with Hatchet Man.
Next: Robin Meets Kylie: Love AFS
To read the previous chapters, visit the "Four Bidding For Love" home page.
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Four Bidding For Love (print, $16.99)
My non-fiction books:
Resistance, Revolution, Liberation: A Model for Positive Change (Kindle edition)
An Unconventional Guide to Investing in Troubled Times (print edition)
An Unconventional Guide (Kindle edition)
Survival+: Structuring Prosperity for Yourself and the Nation
Survival+ (Kindle edition)
Survival+ The Primer
Survival+ The Primer (Kindle edition)
Weblogs & New Media: Marketing in Crisis
Marketing in Crisis (Kindle edition)
My other six novels and assorted stories: (sample chapters and the stories)