Novel Excerpt: Fears, Frauds and Polar Bears

Chapter 38


My dog meets yours? Male, 45

Tucker’s favorite place is Clover Point, the freedom of an off-leash area. He’d love a scheduled romp, no pressure for us guardians, just a walk and talk, then if all goes well something short in duration without our canine chaperones next time, perhaps a used book store browse or a tattoo session.

Ultimately, my dream is the same as yours. Health, happiness, stability, honesty, friendship, connection, intelligent conversation, loyalty and laughter, love above all. You can tell your pooch that I am a veterinarian, so she is in good hands. Age is a state of mind, so please be young or youthful as I am.


Jeff feels desperate. At times his self-restraint is forced to a state of hyper vigilance to keep himself from unraveling. It takes way too much energy. It deprives him of his creativity, and his thoughts have become scattered like cockroaches in a suddenly illuminated room. None of his recent financial scams have panned out and debtors are knocking. It is as if it is almost closing time at the bar and only the ugly girls are left. The dating game itself is usually a fun pastime, but there is something wrong with the women these days, scarcely a bite despite his charm and his being a literary outlier. Maybe appearing more average will help.

He shakes his head and the glow from the small outdated monitor casts upward shadows of his nose and cheekbones on alternating eye sockets that were already a darker ashen color than the rest of his face. (It isn’t just that it is winter, but he has a naturally dulled complexion, like a diluted earthworm grey.) The line shadows of his lower eyeglass rims underscore pouches below his lower lids that might be mistaken as a symptom of sleep deprivation except that it is the opposite; he has too much time on his hands these days and sleep comes to him like a medicated depressant. He stares forward again. The veterinarian idea is prosaic, and not only does it disappoint him to feel so creatively impaired, it irritates him that he would have to find a temporary dog and pretend to care about it.

Wait. No, the dog will have something contagious it caught from being with me in my office – I take Tucker to work with me and there was an outbreak – and so Tucker had to stay home. Poor Tucker is scratching so badly he has to wear a collar of shame.

He misses the bravado he used to feel knowing he had sent something beautiful off into cyberspace and the launch would dazzle at least a few star-gazed onlookers from which he could select the most attractive. The selection process is usually good for passing times of boredom, and – less by necessity than an abundance of free time – he would expand the choices by doing his own searches. He has come to recognize the female regulars and – barring his recent profile rerun – makes sure his submissions don’t become stale and unwanted like these women have become. Choosing has some advantages over being chosen, however. For example, it is the best way to eschew desperate divorcees (not that the desperation is a problem, but this too often means they have unappealing gravity folds and undermining levels of cynicism). The selection seems endless at times especially on the more reputable websites, although he hasn’t felt the inclination to join any with monthly fees except during free trial periods. He rarely responds to women’s profiles without photos, though he denies his reading audience reciprocity, balancing his anonymity against the risk that his photoless profile will diminish his own chances of generating interest.

He was sure the last time that his profile would attract women. However, the only date he got from it was an overweight, forty-six year old who wouldn’t stop talking about her ex-husband the entire time they were at the meeting place – the downtown Buzz & Brew Café. She could prattle on! His efforts to reclaim a less grating conversation failed. So he scanned the area around her or, when trying to appear engaging, he observed the movement of her lips without hearing her words, noticing how the little the thin upper lip moved evenly and how the fuller lower lip occasionally followed a trajectory slightly off to one side. It was a small consolation that she paid the tab, absentmindedly as she spoke, oblivious to his having planted the idea through a few interjected comments such as how much he is attracted to successful women and that too many women seemed to want him for his money.

Jeff – or, for this date he was Colin – managed to exploit her lingering emotional attachments with her former husband by suggesting “jealousy is not only a sweet revenge, it is nectar for attracting him to your desirability!” His urgent needs were strong enough that he accompanied her to her suburban condo in her vehicle, using the hackneyed excuses for not having a car with him at work downtown. The drive seemed interminable since apparently when nervous she acts like a tedious toddler (God help those around her if she behaves like this when she is not nervous), narrating her actions and reading obvious signs. “The Bank of Montreal on the corner is still lit up.” “Bus only.” “Oh, we need to get in the left lane now.” “That bike lane is new. I think it is new.” “Tim Hortons. Double double!” She chuckled and then shifted gears to an equally inane twaddle. “I used to hold my hands and ten and two. Ten and two! That’s what we were taught! Right, Colin? But now with airbags you could ‘BAM!’” She released her right hand from the steering wheel and slow-motioned the back of her palm to the same side eye socket. “See? So you’re better off lower, like four and eight. Hard to get used to it though, isn’t it?”

Jeff eventually reached such a level of pique it required herculean control to get the sexual release he sought, then leave without sabotaging the date with an unpleasant honesty which was sure to be out of character. His revulsion was a product less of her than of the ease of the lay and the whoring of himself, as it occurred to him he was her prop instead of the other way around. He didn’t find her interesting enough to truly dislike her.



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