A short story for my readers. But not as short as my flash fiction stories.
(Las Vegas, Nevada)
It just happened from out of the blue, one Friday in March. Katya quit. I was taking a brief respite from my hectic work day, enjoying a relaxing moment at the water cooler when she stormed out of the Boss’s office. I made a valiant effort to not stare at her mini-skirted rump whilst she strode down the corridor.
A few minutes later the honor of my presence was requested by the Boss.
“Yes, Boss. What do you want?”
“Katya quit. What does she think this is – the neighborhood Dairy Queen? Nobody quits Cirque du Soleil!”
“So you want me to knock her off? Give her the hard good-bye?”
“Goodness no. We’re not the Mafia. Just follow her to Albany and bring her back. ‘Persuade’ her to reconsider. I called the Greyhound station and they have a ticket waiting for you. And here’s $20 in McDonald’s coupons.”
“Gee, Boss. Thanks for your generosity.”
(Albany, New York)
Upon arrival in Albany, I traipsed to a seedy motel where I paid cash for a room for the week. With my Oakley shades and Members Only jacket, I hoped I was nondescript. But my baggage contained my precious stilts and tree costume. I couldn’t help but feel self-conscious, as though everybody who saw me knew I was a circus performer trying to pass as a civilian. Even the hooker on the corner had looked at me askance.
I drew myself a bubble bath and contemplated my next move. Sadly, Katya was not from Albany. She had no connections here. She only came here due to some mysterious obsession she had with the city. And this only made my job more difficult. I went over what I knew about the woman as the scent of lilacs filled the bathroom, lulling me into a state of blissful serenity.
Then I remembered Katya’s other obsession: fine cigars and the men who smoke them. The walls of her Vegas apartment had been adorned with framed 8x10s of famous men smoking cigars: Sigmeund Freud, George Burns, Groucho Marx, Fidel Castro – the usual gents who inspire lust in women’s loins. Surely, her personal supply of smokes would run out eventually, and she would feel compelled to seek out the best cigar store in town. All I had to do was wait.
And wait is what I did. Three days in a row I shuffled along Central Avenue, dressed as a homeless person, my tree costume and stilts concealed under a blanket in a shopping cart. Alas, Katya was not among the patrons of the Habana Premium Cigar Shoppe. And my decision to stop showering for the sake of my new role was beginning to seem like an error in judgment. But then, when it seemed as though all hope was lost, like a cheerleader’s virginity, I spotted her enter the shop. A few minutes of anxious anticipation later, she emerged once again, a large bag in her hand. As she mounted her pink bicycle, I frantically hailed a passing cab.
“Follow that Schwinn!”
Katya’s oblivious pedaling led us to Willett Street. She entered a two-story abode and soon after I saw a light go on upstairs. I ripped a hundred-dollar bill, gave half to the cabbie, and told him to drive around the block a few times. Then I donned my tree costume with the stilts hidden inside, hung my trusty Leica from my neck, and assumed a position that gave me a decent shot of Katya’s window.
I was sitting in my office, taking a brief respite from my hectic work day to clip my finger nails, when the Boss’s voice came over the intercom, requesting my attention.
“Yes, Boss. What do you want?”
“Our beloved Katya has returned to the fold, Timmons. Go pick her up at the airport.”
“Nobody quits the Cirque du Soleil, Timmons. Nobody.”