Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Love Bites - Anti-Valentine Blog Hop 2014

San Francisco
Leslie Fulton

He ignored me at first. Immersed in his beer, he barely looked up when the young Vietnamese bartender asked if he wanted a shot.

“Ready?” she asked, white teeth gleaming in the dark. She held up a bottle of tequila.

He nodded. With a swift movement, she poured a shot and placed it in front of him. She put a can of Red Bull beside it.

“You too?” He looked at me and gestured at the bottle.

“I’ll stick with beer, thanks.”

He licked the space between his thumb and finger, adding salt. “Cheers,” he said, and held up his glass. He downed his drink quickly, but without any real enjoyment.

“I’m Tom,” he said. 


I motioned to the bartender to pour a new round, shaking my head when she hopefully gesticulated at the top-shelf tequila. Tom and I sat in companionable silence. I covertly studied him. He was in his forties, dressed in black like a hip software developer with a grey messenger bag, hair curling to his shoulders, facial stubble, a strong nose and a mouth that turned down like a sulky child’s.  

“You married?” he asked.

I sighed, not wanting a come-on. “Nope. And not looking either.”

“Smart girl,” said Tom. “Romance is for losers. I got dumped yesterday. On Valentine’s Day!”

“What happened?”

“It started last Valentine’s. I had bought a nice bottle of wine and some truffles from XOX. Have you tried them?” I shook my head. “You should. They’re fabulous. Fresh. The guy makes them out of his little store on Columbus Avenue in North Beach.

“Anyway, my wife was standing in the kitchen, her back to me, staring out the window. There was no sign of my son. I knew right away something was wrong. She turned around and told me she was done. Finished. After 15 years. She had sent our kid to her parents’ place in Covina.”

“Jesus, that’s rough,” I breathed. I thought about reaching out and touching his arm but thought better of it.

“It gets worse,” he said. “I screamed, I yelled, I sweet-talked her. It took me all night, but I finally convinced her to keep trying. I begged her to stay for just a year, and if at the end of it she still wasn’t happy, she could leave. With everything. Every single thing I had. To my surprise, she agreed. She called her folks and asked them to put our boy on the plane the next day.”

“What happened next?”

“Nothing. And everything. Time passed. We seemed happy. Things got back to normal.”


“This Valentine’s Day I came home, my arms full of her favourite long-stemmed white French tulips and a silly stuffed bear. I called for her but there was no reply. And no sign of my son. I walked into the kitchen. There she was, looking out the window. I put the flowers on the table. I was still carrying that stupid bear. I walked over and put my arms around her. It was like hugging a metal pole, she was so stiff and unyielding. The bear dropped to our feet. We stood there for a minute, me desperately hugging her, she giving me nothing. Finally, she stepped away and told me she was done. That she had honoured her commitment. She had stayed the year and now she was taking everything, including my son.”

“Everything?”  I asked.

“Every single goddamned thing. The furniture, my vinyls, the bedding, the pictures off the walls.  She cleaned out our joint bank account. She even took my toothbrush.”

“What did you do?”

“What could I do? I had promised her everything if she’d stay the year. I’m an honourable man. I walked out of there with nothing.” He paused and glanced at me. “She took the coat from my back as I was walking out the door.”

Tom drained his glass. “A lesson, Dana. Love bites.”
He touched me briefly on my shoulder, his fingertips resting there for a second and then he turned on his heel and disappeared into the San Francisco night.

680 words

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

The Christmas Letter

AMMC Submission 
Leslie Fulton
eBook: Yes

The Christmas Letter
By Leslie Fulton

It was that time of year again.  The annual Christmas letter extravaganza.  The listing of accomplishments aimed to impress family, friends and neighbours scattered far and wide.  Anna preferred the shock and awe approach.  She liked to leave them gasping with respect and envy.

2013 has been a fabulous year for us.  Lots of travel, of course, to Europe and Asia.  Our best trip was probably Spain where Brian ran with the bulls in Pamplona.  He looked so dashing dressed in white with that red kerchief around his neck.  Brian managed to speed past them all, and was very thankful he wasn’t gored.  It certainly puts the spirit back into your life, he says, and recommends that we all try it.  Maybe next year for the kids and me!

Anna pushed her chair away from the keyboard and sighed.  “What a bunch of utter horseshit,” she muttered to the dog, Peanut, an ancient terrier mix of indeterminate lineage.  “That trip was a nightmare.  Chris got sick and threw up the entire week and Amy tuned out and listened to her iPod when she wasn’t whining about missing her friends.”  Anna picked up a pencil and chewed on the eraser, her brow furrowed in annoyance.  She loathed writing Christmas letters but Brian thought it was important and even made the trip to a special store to buy the cards.  She hated the ones he chose. They always had gold foil inside the envelopes.  The greasy slick taste of the glue made her stomach flip over.

Chris is playing soccer and continues to do well in his studies.  He is having a stellar year and is thinking about his options for college.  We’re hoping he realizes his dream of becoming a doctor like his Granddad or a lawyer like Brian.  Chris is also singing in the church choir and enjoys socializing with his many friends after school.

“Doing God knows what.  I think he’s smoking dope.”  Anna nudged Peanut with her foot.  He groaned in protest and halfheartedly snapped at her ankle.  She noticed she had a hole in the toe of her sock.  “I wonder if I should tell Brian about the porn magazines I found under Chris’ mattress?”  Her son befuddled her.  What had happened to her cheery little guy with the missing baby teeth and the infectious laugh?  Her sweet boy had turned into an incommunicative teen whose ringing cell phone seemed to be the only things that could animate his face. 

Amy is our little angel.  She is a perfectionist in everything she does and has made the cheerleading squad yet again.  She is also teaching ballet to preschoolers and loves them to pieces.  There’s no doubt she’s headed for great things!

Anna was worried about Amy.  She couldn’t remember the last time the girl ate a proper meal.  When she did, it was junk and lots of it.  Anna had found a green garbage bag full of vomit at the back of Amy’s closet last week.  She was drawn to it by the smell – that sickly sweet stench of rotting food and stomach acid.  Amy spent most of her time in her room.  She never came down for dinner anymore.  Neither did Chris, for that matter.  He was out with his friends.  Not the ones from the neighborhood – but the new ones she didn’t know from high school.  Nor did Brian eat at home.  He stayed in the City most evenings, working late.  It was usually Anna all by herself, with Peanut for company, eating Campbell’s Cream of Chicken Soup with a glass of Shiraz and the latest Martha Stewart magazine.

Of course you all remember, Peanut, our dog.  Peanut is doing just fine and loves to chase balls in the park.  He is ever the great companion and I’ll miss him when he’s gone.  He’s 14 now and I dread the day he leaves our family for doggie heaven.

Actually, Anna couldn’t wait.  Peanut was a grouchy, incontinent little shit of a terrierist.  The last time he paid attention to balls, much less retrieved one, was just before his got lopped off by the vet.  Anna begrudgingly fed him his Purina Dog Chow twice a day, only because she was afraid of the consequences if she didn’t.  Peanut was the type of dog who, if you popped off in his presence, would tear out your eyeballs and eat them with glee.  You’d be found by the police with your entrails pulled halfway across the living room floor, the dog in the corner, panting and bloody.  Anna hated Peanut.

And me?  I’m just fine.  Busy, busy, busy.  I can’t even begin to tell you all that I’ve been doing!  Very happy – my family means everything to me – and I am so glad I can stay at home and take care of them.  I consider myself blessed.

Anna snorted derisively.  She took a sip from her teacup, and looked at the clock above her computer, wondering if it were too early for a drink.  It wasn’t quite past 11.  In the morning.  Anna loved her family.  At least she used to.  When Chris and Amy were young and needed her.  When Brian used to come home at 6, his arms full of flowers and groceries, his face alight and happy.  Even the dog was tolerable back then.  At least he didn’t stain the carpet.  Anna often wondered what would’ve happened if she’d kept her job in the City, at least part time.  She had enjoyed working, making her own money, thinking for herself.

Wishing you much joy and happiness for the holiday season  -- from our house to yours during this so very wonderful time of Jesus’ birth.  We can’t wait to hear what has been happening with you and your loved ones and look forward to receiving your letters.  Love always, Anna, Brian, Chris, Amy and Peanut

Anna saved the document and sat back in her chair.  She couldn’t wait to get her first Christmas letter from old college friends and neighbors who had moved away.  Oh, she had learned to read between the lines.  It was a private language she’d mastered, unwillingly, many years ago.   A lexicon that was only spoken – and understood -- once a year.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Hollywood North

AMMC Submission 
Leslie Fulton
eBook: Yes
Dedication – To Nigel and Alex, xoxo

Hollywood North
By Leslie Fulton

It was late by the time Maerwen left the factory. She was tired and hungry. It was cold and snowing. She longed for some soup, a bath and her bed in that order. The last month had been brutal. Work was ramping up and she was tired of the frenzied bonhomie that was a hallmark of the season. Behind the smiles was a grim determination to get everything done on time. Her boss, a fat man partial to wearing red, was the worst of all. He micromanaged his overworked staff and everybody was feeling the heat.

Maerwen sighed. Her feet ached in her sturdy green leather boots with the turned-up toes. Even the little bells, hung by silver threads around her waist, gave a mournful clink as she walked. They sounded as tired as she felt.

It never used to be this way. Maerwen remembered a time when the Human Christmas was a lot of fun. When she first started working at the factory the toys were easy to make—dolls with lustrous hair, trains with blinking lights, and building blocks that transformed into castles with just a little imagination. Now it was electronic games, day in, day out. Maerwen’s eyes ached putting the pieces together and she had never been good at coding.

As she neared the pub across from her apartment, she decided to stop in for a quick drink. A few laughs wouldn’t hurt either—she couldn’t remember the last time she had smiled spontaneously. All this faux Christmas spirit while punching the clock seven days a week was getting her down.

“Maerwen!” Her friend Santiel waved her over. She was in high spirits, most likely due to the pitcher of mead on the table in front of her.

Maerwen smiled and motioned to the bar. She didn’t feel like mead tonight. Something stronger was in order, perhaps Saerloonian Glowfire, a pale wine that tasted like ripe pears, or Berdruskan Dark, a potent black wine high in alcohol.

Beriadan was working the bar. Maerwen was glad to see him. Not only did he serve a generous pour, he was a sight for sore eyes. He looked like Orlando Bloom, the Elf who had made it big in the Humans’ Hollywood. Maerwen was an avid fan of the Hollywood Elves. Cate, Liv, Hugo and Orlando were her particular favourites. She found it funny that Humans thought they were one of them when everybody in Faerie knew differently. The only thing she resented was that so many Elves had fled the factory to seek their fortune in Hollywood there weren’t enough workers to fill the Christmas shifts.

“What will it be, sweetheart?” Beriadan was a big flirt. It was just what Maerwen needed. 

“What’s strong and sweet today?” she asked. “I need a real kick.”

“Job getting you down?” Beriadan poured her a big glug of Talkana, a potent purple wine made from Ram Berries. Maerwen nodded her thanks as she downed it in one gulp. He poured her another. 

“Maybe I’m just getting too old for this gig,” said Maerwen. “I’m definitely losing the Christmas spirit.”

“Ho. Ho. Ho,” said Beriadan flatly. “I hear the old man is pushing you hard this year.”

“Tell me about it.” She took another sip of her drink, enjoying the slight burn of the Ram Berries. “We’re understaffed and overworked, that’s for sure. It seems every Elf fair of face has hiked it south to California. Add in a little bedazzlement and the Humans fall for it every time. Turn around and there’s an Elf in another movie.”

Beriadan grinned at her. “Well, you’re a lovely lady. What are you still doing here?” He turned and looked at himself in the bar’s big mirror. “Come to think of it, what am I doing here?” He turned around slowly. “Maerwen ….” he said.

She put up a hand to stop him. “Don’t even think about it.”

“Why not?” Beriadan was excited. He ran a hand through his mop of silvery blonde hair. “We’re both young, good looking and are ace at shooting arrows. The Humans love Elves. They’ll love US.”

“But who will make the toys?” Maerwen thought of all the disappointed Human children opening their stockings on Christmas morning to find nothing but air. No Nintendo, no computer games, no iPhones, nothing. She could hear their howls of indignation. She could feel salty tears of rage coursing down millions of red, contorted faces.

She shrugged. On second thought it didn’t seem like a bad idea at all. Beriadan, reading her face, could see her hesitation.

“Think of the fame, the money, the cars,” he wheedled. “We could be living the good life. We could be partying with Orlando. I betcha he knows how to throw a good one.”

Then Maerwen remembered the letter. She had been in charge of opening the Big Guy’s fan mail and amid the pleas for faster phones and violent computer games, one handwritten note stood out.

I really don’t need anything. I just want to say thank you. I’m sure you work very hard up there and I’ve always appreciated it.

She downed her drink and pushed back her chair. 

“Nah,” she said. “It’s not for me. Thanks for the drink but I’ve got to get back to work.”

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

His Heart & Soul


His Heart & Soul
By Leslie Fulton


I knew I was doomed the minute she walked in the door.  She stood there, all leggy and blonde and glowing.  I thought my heart would jump out of my chest just at the sight of her.  I had to meet her.  I don’t usually believe in love willy-nilly hijacking your senses -- that kind of stuff is for suckers, bad country songs and Hallmark cards.  But she was perfect.  She was the one meant for me.

I don’t remember how I finally got my legs to stop quivering enough to walk over and say hi.  She stood there uncertainly, backlit by the setting sun.  I think I may have fallen over a chair.  I know I pushed Bill, my assistant, out of the way.  I had to be the first to reach her, to talk to her, to possibly touch her.  She was mine.

“May I help you?” I recall saying.  “Welcome to my store.  Are you looking for anything in particular?  For you I’d have it, or at least try to find it.”  I remember grinning stupidly and swallowing my gum.

My angel had the grace to smile at me.  Her voice was melodic and pitched slightly low.  She stuck out a hand, free of rings, for me to shake.

“I’m Charlotte.  Charlotte Hanson.  I know you’re Andy.” She looked around the store, giving me a chance to delight in the dusting of freckles on her perfect nose.  “Great shop.  I read about it in the paper.  Actually, I am looking for a couple of albums, on vinyl of course.  I’m DJ-ing a party at the university tomorrow night and I need some late seventies stuff.  Something ironic.  Village People maybe or Elton Montello if you have it.” 

I couldn’t believe my luck.  Not only was she gorgeous, she knew who Elton Montello was.  A Goddess.  Perfection Itself.  I sent Bill scurrying to the back room to find the album.  I have a couple thousand back there, arranged alphabetically.  Bill always rolls his eyes when I make him work the back and says I’m like that dweeb from the movie High Fidelity.  I don’t care – it makes my life easier.  Elton Montello, that perverse, omni-sexual punk, was definitely filed under M.  I had just played his opus, Jet Boy, Jet Girl, last night after the store had closed.  It was an old song, obscure, rude and brash.  Not one that I would have expected this vision, with her fresh skin and clear gray eyes, to have chosen.

Through sheer determination, I got her talking and laughing.  We stood by the cash register for close to an hour, me, playing song after song, her, rolling her eyes in mock disgust or excitedly dancing in place.  She knew her music, alright.  Loud, fast and raucous was how she liked it.  I invited her for a drink at The Pelican, a pub around the corner.  She accepted.  She helped me close up, her finely muscled arms lugging boxes of freshly Fedexed CDs from behind the counter into the back room where Bill would unpack them in the morning.  At the pub, she matched me pint for pint.  She drank Guinness.  I drank Harp.  She called me a wuss and playfully punched my arm.  I pulled her close and kissed the creamy foam off her lips.  I invited her back to my place.  We fell into bed.

For two blissful weeks, Charlotte was my life.  We spent every possible waking moment together.  She helped out in the store and I set up the turntables at her gigs.  She would always turn to me, her slim, lithe figure in black jeans and a white T-shirt, her long shining hair in braids, and give me an incandescent smile, a knowing grin.  I was in love.

In that time, we were apart only once.  She had a gig in Napanee at the army base and I had a day’s worth of inventory to plough through.  After work, I stopped by The Pelican for a pint or three.  I nursed my beer and love-addled thoughts of Charlotte.  I had to prove my devotion to her somehow, this rock and roll, quicksilver girlfriend of mine.  Trouble was, I didn’t have much money.  I wanted to give her a part of me, not something transitory and impersonal like a ring in a box.  I wanted her to know that I loved her with every pore of my body.

It hit me.  Perfect.  A tattoo.  Her name, emblazoned on my chest, just over my heart.  In big, bold, colorful letters.  Italicized.  I usually avoid pain at any cost, but I wanted to do it for Charlotte.  And for myself.   Frank, an old friend of mine, ran a tattoo and piercing shop three doors down from The Pelican.  I could trust that Frank’s tools were clean – we had played football together and he was like a brother. Frank was a local legend – his work graced the biceps of some of the most hardened bikers in Kingston.  I called him from the bar.  I was in luck.  He had a cancellation that night.  A bride-to-be had chickened out of getting a tattoo of interlocking wedding rings on her ankle.
Frank held the door open for me as I ducked in out of the November rain. He looked quizzical and a trifle worried.

“Andy, you’re out of your mind, man.  You hate pain.  Are you sure you want to do this?”  Frank took my beaten up brown leather jacket and hung it carefully in the closet.  “Listen, bud, it’s my duty to try and talk you out of this.  You barely know this chick.  She’s gorgeous and all, but are you sure this is a long term thing?”

I glowered at Frank.  “Listen, she’s the one, Frank.  THE ONE.  This is it.  Let’s just get to work, shall we?”

I don’t remember much about the process except that it hurt like hell.  Frank told me I passed out at one point.  But Charlotte was worth it, and this was the first and last tattoo I’d ever get.  There was pleasure in the pain. By branding her name over my heart and my soul, I was making her mine forever.

Charlotte I:

I just about flipped when Andy tugged off his rugby shirt when I got home.  There, amidst the oozing and scabbing, I could make out my name.  He stood there, his chest bared, proud as could be.  I remember backing away.  I felt trapped and cornered.  I couldn’t breathe.  I had just met the guy, for Chrissakes.  We were having a lot of fun.  He was wonderful in bed and he loved music as much as I did.  We were definitely simpatico.  He liked the fact that I was a DJ and could get him into some great clubs.  He was nice and everything, but this was a little too much.  I felt betrayed – he hadn’t given me any indication he was that nuts about me.  I would’ve extricated myself pretty fast if I had any idea he was so intense.   I thought we both knew it was just a fling and that it was reaching its natural end. 

I remember his face crumpling when I told him I was leaving.  He was picking at the scabs on his chest.  I could make out the C and the H, luridly pretty in bright green italicized script.  A mixture of blood and pus bubbled out of his skin.  I thought I was going to throw up.  He gave off some pretty heavy vibes.  All I could think about was canceling all of my Eastern Ontario gigs.  Anything to get out of there.  I had received a few offers to DJ at some clubs in New York.  It seemed like a good time to check it out.  

He followed me into the bedroom and watched me pack my stuff.  He was crying and kept asking why I was leaving.  Didn’t I understand that he loved me?  Didn’t I understand that he had undergone immense pain to prove it?  Frankly, it gave me the creeps.  I couldn’t even look at him.  I just grabbed my duffel bag and got the hell out of there.

It was nice while it lasted.  Too bad he had to get so weird on me.


She just walked out.  Never even looked at me or said goodbye.  Her eyes turned black with anger and some other emotion I couldn’t identify when I showed her my tattoo.  Her tattoo.  Maybe fear, I don’t know.  I didn’t mean to hurt her.  I thought she’d really like the gesture.

The scarring healed a lot faster than my heart.  I tried to hate her and then forget about her.  It was impossible.  Every time I breathed, her name pulsed on my chest.  I got rid of the Elton Montello album.  Gave it to Bill with strict orders that he never play it in my presence.  I spent a lot of time in the record store, listening to anything but the thrasher bands Charlotte and I loved so much.  Christ, I even found myself listening to Tony Bennett one night.  Pathetic.

I asked Frank about getting the tattoo removed.  He said it was an excruciating procedure and that it would cost me a bundle of cash.  I’d also have to go to Toronto or Montreal because he didn’t have the technology to do the job.  He pointed out that I could erase just a few letters – and end up with Harlot on my chest.  That pretty much sums up how Frank feels about women.  Me, I can’t handle any more pain.  Of any kind.  I guess I’m stuck with Charlotte for the rest of my life.

How the hell am I going to meet somebody new?  That question bugged me for months.  I shied away from social situations.  I didn’t go to The Pelican at all.  Too many memories.  I’m also a decent looking guy.  Women always hit on me.  I just couldn’t handle that scene anymore.  The idea of getting naked with someone named Carol or Cathy or Cindy scared the hell out of me.  Who would want to be with me when they’d be constantly reminded of my one true love?  My horrible mistake?

I made up my mind that as far as women were concerned I was out of the picture. 

 Unless I met another Charlotte of course.

Charlotte II:

A friend had told me about Andy, and I was intrigued.  The story about his tattoo had made the rounds.  Kingston is a pretty small city and everybody hears everything, eventually.  I thought he sounded sweet.  My friends said I was crazy to want to meet the guy.  Sure, the whole tattoo thing sounded a bit obsessive, but I couldn’t help myself.  I’d seen Andy around a few times.  He had been a fixture on the local pub scene – a handful of clubs, upscale watering holes and dives.  I thought he was handsome in a shambling, bearish sort of way.  I never introduced myself because I didn’t think I was his type.  He tended to go for tall blondes and I’m short and petite with cropped brown hair. 

I worked up the nerve to go into his shop, which is probably the best music store in town.  It sells all sorts of imports and rare recordings.  I had walked by it a number of times, peering in the window looking for him.  I only ever saw Bill, a guy I knew years ago from high school. Finally, one day, I saw Andy’s head bent over a vintage cardboard cutout of the Ramones.  I pushed open the glass door and walked inside.  He straightened up and smiled at me.  God, he was gorgeous.  

 “Can I help you?” he asked politely.  I felt like I was going to sink through the floor.  My blush swept from my hairline all the way down to my fingertips.  “I guess so,” I stammered.  “I’m trying to find an old record.  From the late seventies.”  He stood there, hands on his hips, staring at me.  “Um, do you have any …..” I looked around frantically, racking my brain for a name of a group from that era.  The Ramones wouldn’t cut it.  Too obvious.  “Do you have anything by Elton Montello?”  There.  That was good.  We used to play Elton Montello a lot in high school, along with the Specials and Black Flag.

The silence was awful.  It went on and on.  Finally, I heard someone sniggering from the back of the store.  It was Bill.  He stifled it pretty quickly when Andy shot him a murderous look.  “No,” he finally said.  “Sold out.  Shit music anyway.”  He started to walk away.  I grabbed his arm.  “Listen, if a copy happens to come in, would you mind calling me?”  I pulled a business card out of my purse, handed it to him and turned to open the door.

“Wait.”  His voice was strange.  “Is your name really Charlotte?”

I stopped.  “Yes, it is.”

“Charlotte, I’m closing up.  Would you like to go for a drink with me?  There’s a nice little pub around the corner.  Maybe we could grab a bite to eat and a beer.”  It was more of a command than a plea.  My heart thumped.  I smiled and nodded.  He turned to Bill, whose jaw had hit the floor, and threw him the keys.  “Lock up, would you Bill?  Thanks.”  He opened the door and together we stumbled out into the late afternoon summer sun.


She was an odd little thing, Charlotte the Second, as my friends liked to call her.  I don’t think I would’ve hooked up with her if it hadn’t been for her name.  She was incredibly shy.  And short.  I’ve always been attracted to tall athletic women who walk with assurance.  Charlotte the Second scuttled sideways like a startled crab.  We used to lie in bed and she’d trace the pattern of my tattoo over and over again with her finger.  Her tattoo, she called it.  She asked me endless questions about the other Charlotte.  What was she like?  Was she pretty?  Was she smart?  Was she good in bed?  It drove me crazy.  I used to bat her hand away, roll over and go to sleep, just to get away from her incessant probing.

We were together for about six months.  She haunted my apartment in the evenings, her large dark eyes growing bigger and more vulnerable each day.  She’d drop by the record store on any pretext – to bring me some lunch, a coffee, a kiss.  Her small clenched fist would creep up my chest when I thanked her with a hug.  Her fingers would begin to form the nine letters that spelled her obsession. 

She started to bug me about getting a second tattoo.  Another Charlotte branded somewhere on my body.   She wanted her first and last named inked in an elegant script on my left arm.  Somewhere noticeable so the world would see it.  She couldn’t understand why I refused.

“Is it the money?” she demanded, thrusting an envelope of bills in my hand.  “I’ll pay for it.  Is it the pain?”  She pulled a bottle of codeine from her purse.  “These will dull the throbbing.  Andy, please.  For me.”

I couldn’t take it anymore.  She was driving me crazy with her demands, her insecurities and her demons.  When I finally broke up with her, one rainy November night at The Pelican, I felt an intense rush of freedom.  The manacles had been loosened.  She didn’t take it too well.  She paled and her face twisted in pain.  Her eyes etched questions and accusations into mine.  After awhile, she got up and walked out the door.  I never saw her again.

I was pretty sick of the dating scene.  The experience with Charlotte the Second had drained me of all my energy.  I spent the rest of November getting the store ready for the Christmas rush.  Lots of old Bing Crosby records to sell.  Nevertheless, I perked up when Frank dropped by with some good news.  His roommate’s cousin was planning to visit during the holidays.  She was supposedly cute, vivacious and fun.  Her name was Charlotte.  What the hell?  I needed some levity in my life.  Merry Christmas and all that kind of stuff.  Might as well give her a whirl.

Charlotte III:

What an arrogant asshole.  He took me to some grotty pub called The Pelican and insisted I drink beer.  I hate beer.  I hated him.  He kept saying that we were meant to be together and that he’d show me why if I went home with him.  As if.  I got out of there pretty fast.  Later, my cousin told me about the tattoo.  What a pathetic loser.


A year and a bit after I got that damned tattoo, I finally found the Charlotte of my dreams.  She has silky blonde hair, kind brown eyes and loves me for who I am.  She makes few demands.  She is easily the love of my life.  I never thought it could be so great.  We eat breakfast together in companionable silence – no more of that yap, yap, yap that I got from the other Charlottes, especially Charlotte the Second.  A blessed relief I tell you.  She’s at home waiting for me in the evenings after work.  We go on long moonlit walks along the waterfront.  Afterwards, she curls up by my feet in front of the fire while I stroke her head.  I love her.  She’s great.  This is it.  Finally.

Charlotte IV: