Monday, April 09, 2012

Draft One, Short Story

As of yet, untitled

I suppose I can't blame it entirely on a single customer, but it's probably fair to assume that the man in the jeans overalls was the one who made my ulcer begin bleeding.  I've not had a single day without pain since the day he visited the Town Clerk's office, which means I've not had a single day without nurturing the grudge I still hold, though the incident occurred more than a dozen years ago.  I've been told that holding grudges contributes to poor health, but my grudge is warranted more so than others, or so I have come to believe, and since I have this biological, constant reminder of the man who gifted me with this malady, I see little hope that I will be able to eradicate the grudge or the illness.

The day my ulcer began to bleed was a promising looking Monday.  The sun shone in that way it does when spring is about to spring.  I had washed my car the day before and the rays bounced off  the windshield.  I had packed leftovers from the dinner I had made last night, namely, pork chops with carrots and potatoes.  How I wish I could eat those things now without going into spasms!

I took the same steps I have taken for forty-two years now, noting someone had swept the winter's dust off.  My key easily opened the entrance to the 1873 brick building, my other key, the cherry wood door to the office.  The morning smell of my work space greeted me.  Few things are more pleasant than the scent of a cleaned, polished counter, a freshly vacuumed carpet and a waxed, buffed floor.

Lights got flicked on, lunch went into the refrigerator out back, and I, ready for nine o'clock, took my place up front.  It would be another hour before our part-timer, Janet Hornberry, arrived, and I looked forward to the next sixty minutes of quiet, because even though this is not a busy office, Janet can be a tireless talker.  Rarely did I have to speak to anyone before ten o'clock.  And on Janet's day off, I could go a full eight hours in silence, certainly a perk to the job, in my estimation.

Imagine, then, my surprise when the door opened and in walked an average sized man dressed in overalls, a greasy, tan, thermal shirt underneath and work boots.

"Can I help you?" I asked the early arrival.

"I need to apply for a marriage license."

His voice was of medium tone, neither high nor low, smooth nor grating.  His face was neither light nor dark, his hair a vague hue of brown, his eyes an indecisive hazel.

"Okay, sir, here you are," I said in my usual polite tone, though I rather resented his intrusion.

"You need to fill out this information, and have your finance fill out these sections."  I highlighted the areas, in the event he had poor recall.  "And you both will also need to show two forms of identification."

"I can do that right now, then," he said, taking a pen from the coffee cup of writing instruments on the counter.

"That's fine.  Your wife-to-be is outside, then?"

"Oh no, I have her right here with me."

I raised my eyebrows, but he did not catch my questioning look.  He continued to write with his oddly clean, soft looking hands, filling in part of the spousal sections after he completed his own.  He then handed me the form.

"Ah, I see your finance's name is Diamond," I said.  "A lovely name."

"Yes, it is."

"And you said she is here with you?"

"Yes, sir."

I waited an uncomfortable few moments, not looking at the man, for fear he was looking at me rather than taking the appropriate action.  "And...you said she is here with you?" I asked again finally, understanding my apprehension had been justified.

"Yes, she is," he said, reaching into his front-bib pocket and removing what appeared to be a shred of greasy, white rag.  Uncrumpling it, he dropped the contents into his open palm, the contents being, unbelievably, a diamond.

Admittedly, it was a lovely diamond, tear shaped, probably one carat, shined to perfection.  Having purchased three engagement rings myself throughout my life, I knew there was little chance of that diamond being fake.  Were it not for my professional position and shock, I surely would have asked to hold the gem, run my finger over the smooth top, turn it over, relishing in the points pushing against my skin.  Instead, I cleared my throat.

"Sir, it is a wonderful diamond, and I am sure your betrothed will very much appreciate it, but I need her to sign the form and present ID in order to process any kind of license."

"Betrothed?" he asked.

"Yes, the woman you intend to marry."

"Well, I mean to marry Diamond."

"But I need to see her, or at least her signature," I said, growing a bit impatient.  Clearly the man was being obtuse.

"You are seeing her.  This is her."

I am not sure how long I paused because I cannot remember how many seconds or minutes it took me to process his statement.  I could not possibly have heard him correctly.

I smiled and feigned a chuckle.  "I think, sir, I misunderstood.  It sounded like you said you are planning to marry this diamond!"

"That's what I said."

"But sir, you cannot marry a diamond."  (If memory serves me well, I said this immediately, as if reminding customers that wedding inanimate objects is frowned upon is part of my job description.)

"Why not?  It's not illegal, is it?"

"Actually, it is illegal, sir.  Section five point three of the marriage code says..."  I took out the legal handbook stashed in the drawer behind the counter.  After reading the text, I looked up at him.  "I'm sorry sir,"  I said, closing the book and returning it.

"Well, okay then."

He took the piece of rag off the counter and stuffed it back into his front pocket.  The diamond remained in his hand.

"Would you be able to get me a little water, then?" he asked, as if he deserved compensation for an inconvenience.

"Certainly," I said.

I retrieved a three-ounce paper cup of water from the cooler in the back of the office.

"Here you are."

"Thank you," he said, raising his open palm to his mouth, popping the diamond in and drinking the water in one mouthful.

"Much appreciated," he said, smashing the cup and handing it to me.

I extended my arm to take his trash. 

"Think nothing of it," I murmured.  "Nothing at all."

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