First Date

By Todd McKie

My friends thought Denise was strange. I thought she was hot.

“Be careful,” they said. “There’s something wrong with her.”

When I worked up the nerve to call and ask her out, she said, “Sure, but why don’t you come over here instead? It’ll be funner.”

Funner. Well, okay.

Before I left for Denise’s I rolled a joint and put it and a ribbed condom in my coat pocket. And I threw in another condom. You never know.

On the way I bought a bottle of Prosecco. The stuff’s a little too sweet for my taste, but women seem to love it.

Denise greeted me at the door wearing a bathrobe. She’d been crying; her eyes were red and wet and mascara stained her cheeks. I handed her the bottle.

“Ah, Froggy goes a courting,” she said.

I smiled, but she didn’t. Denise put the Prosecco on the kitchen counter.

Her apartment stank. Something big and meaty had spoiled in there.

“The place is kind of a mess,” she said. “I’m afraid I don’t do much entertaining.” She shrugged and walked into the living room. I followed.

There were stacks of magazines and newspapers everywhere and several pieces of clothing were scattered around the room. A cheap boombox softly played Gregorian chants. Crude paintings of butterflies hung everywhere. I nearly tripped over a box filled with kitty litter and cat shit. Some had spilled out and been ground into the carpet. The room reeked of the cat box and rotten meat.

“Oh, you have a cat,” I said.

“Two cats,” she said. “But they’re hiding. They don’t like men.”

Denise leaned over and picked up a bra from the carpet and dropped it behind the couch. Then she turned to me again. There was something unfocused and far away about her eyes.

“Sit down, you poor fool,” said Denise. ”Sit down and take a load off.”

At first glance, the chair she pointed to appeared to be an ordinary straight-backed wooden one. The seat, though, was woven from strands of barbed wire. I winced.

“C’mon,” she insisted, “sit down and make yourself comfortable.”

“I’d prefer to stand.”

“Froggy would prefer to stand.”

Then Denise began to laugh, from soft chuckle to cackle to crazed howl and, by the time I ran from her apartment, a series of blood-curdling shrieks.

Later, safe at home and smoking that joint, I wished I’d grabbed the Prosecco on my way out.
Todd McKie is an artist and writer. He lurches from canvas to keyboard, dazed and paint-spattered, but grateful for the exercise.
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