Here is 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.)
Robin withdrew his handkerchief for the third time and wiped his tearing eyes. The appointed rendezvous point—the craft fair's coffee stand—was unfortunately adjacent to a vendor of scented candles whose heavily-perfumed wares had instantly triggered Robin's allergies. It seemed as if an entire containerload of vanilla bean extract had been poured into the wizened seller's white candles, with another cargo of chemical-musk thrown into the array of squat purple candles for good measure.
Surrendering to whatever petrochemical had launched a frenzied immune response in his suffering eyes, Robin shifted out of whiff range and reckoned he could watch for the pony-tailed negotiator from a safe distance. The din of hundreds of conversations filled the cavernous space, and Robin's innate dislike of crowds added to his discomfort. All this for a stupid toaster and an equally stupid poster, he sighed; this is the cost of being too nice for my own good.
Amazing that someone can make a living at this in a depressed economy, Robin mused, for he'd paused in front of a booth of rustic bird houses. Taking in the steep price being asked for each avian abode, Robin thought, maybe I'm just naive, and this guy drives a Mercedes.
A glance at his watch stirred Robin's annoyance, for his counterpart was late. As he scanned the coffee stand once again—no females with dark ponytails—he fumed, I've already wasted far too much time on this foolishness.
The next booth featured a selection of handcast gargoyles, "suitable for lawn placement or hardscape decorations" according to the hand-lettered sign. Robin reckoned the hunched little monsters with exaggerated expressions of evil intent were hideously inappropriate for anyone's yard save the Addams Family; yet the proprietor, a hearty man with red suspenders and a jovial countenance, acted as if he were selling beatific cherubs rather than figurines guaranteed to etch nightmares in the minds of anyone deranged enough to purchase one.
His curiosity was quickly rewarded—or perhaps punished would be a more accurate description— by the potbellied craftsman himself, who approached, thumbs crooked theatrically behind suspenders, to describe his purposefully hideous wares. In a booming voice designed to carry over the surrounding din, the man stated that the gargoyles were cast from originals that graced Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Robin nodded in feigned interest and twisted round to survey the coffee stand once again.
His need for deliverance at fever pitch, he saw a slim chestnut-haired young woman in blue jeans and form-fitting blouse walk hurriedly up to the coffee booth and then slip off her sunglasses in a nervous scan of the patrons. Her dark hair was bound into a glossy ponytail, but he immediately dismissed her as a potential Kylie. It couldn't be her, he told himself; she's gorgeous. As the gargoyle maker droned on, Robin watched the young woman glance about in the fidgety fluster of someone late for an appointment. It couldn't be her, Robin repeated to himself, but then clearly she was late and looking for someone.
Robin had never fallen in love at first sight, and so he could not know that angels voices don't well up in Heavenly chorus to announce the glad tidings; they whisper. What happens is precisely what he experienced, which is that everything and everyone but this young woman fell away from his perception, and he could not pry his gaze from her.
Though it seemed more likely that the menacing gargoyle on the tabletop beside him would spring to life than this comely young woman would be the negotiator for the ursine axe-thrower, Robin was so desperate to escape the enthusiastic purveyor of gargoyles that he resolved to approach the young woman.
Excusing himself, Robin walked unsteadily toward the anxious dark-haired beauty and inwardly prepared for cool rejection. Smoothing the front of his black turtleneck, he took a calming breath and then approached the young woman. "Excuse me, but are you Kylie?"
The young woman gazed at him and stammered, "Why, yes. Are you Robin?"
"That's me," he replied, and his relief was mirrored by Kylie's approving appraisal of him. Though Robin was pleased she did not seem disappointed, he could not hear the angels of love at first sight which murmured so enchantingly in Kylie's ear. For it seemed to Kylie that a Bollywood movie star had just introduced himself, and everything around her but his tentative smile and earnest dark eyes fell away from her view.
Kylie too had never experienced love at first sight, she did feel aflutter with a new kind of nervousness. Though Robin’s black turtleneck and worn khaki trousers were ordinary, his symmetrical features, large soft eyes, easy grin and casually combed black locks worked like magnets on her gaze.
In a voice which reminded her of an avuncular FM radio host he asked, "May I get you a cup of coffee?" and she nodded a bit too eagerly.
"I must look like I just left the saddest movie ever made," he said lightly. "Those scented candles fired up my allergies most wickedly."
Glancing about, Kylie said, "There's no place to sit in here anyway. Maybe we can find a bench outside."
Robin affably agreed, and once the two had cardboard coffee cups in hand, they worked their way through the craft enthusiasts to the open doorway and the crisp San Francisco air beyond. Once beyond the odoriferous reach of the candles, the faint scent of Kylie's hair, or perfume, he couldn't tell which, reached Robin, and the thought that she smelled good registered brightly in his mind, alongside the observation that her blue jeans clung quite attractively to her firm derriere.
Two pair of eyes followed the youthful couple with hawklike intensity: a matronly and not terribly attractive woman in a long purple skirt and square sunglasses wearing a kitschy straw hat wreathed with pink flowers, and a top-heavy man in a crumpled fedora and baggy coat trousers similarly masked by oversized round sunglasses.
In their single-minded pursuit of the love-struck young couple, the ungainly set of spies collided in front of the cuckoo clock booth, and each issued a curt apology before advancing through the doorway.
Though it was cruel to even think it, Alexia reckoned the rude woman who'd just bumped into her was ugly enough to pass for a man, and a damned plain one at that. This town is a magnet for batty old ladies in castoff clothes, she thought, while the rest of us are scrimping just to avoid ending up on the streets.
For his part, Ross took one look at the bulging chest, grotesquely ill-fitting trousers and mashed fedora of the high-voiced man who'd jostled him and thought, Jeez, even the bums have pretensions; this poor devil thinks he looks like Sam Spade. He probably also thinks he's Emperor of Atlantis, too; what a nutty town.
With these first reactions firmly in mind, each gave the other wide berth; Ross took up position beside the entrance registration booth, while Alexia joined the fair attendees who were enjoying the afternoon sun on the pier.
To read the previous chapters, visit the "Four Bidding For Love" home page.
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