Anything Before E. Okay F.
Samuel E. Cole
The idea of a relationship being based on the alphabet initially hit Eloise Udani in BodyStep class at the gym, eavesdropping a conversation between two prancersizers about a preference for married name over maiden name.
“I was a T before I got married. Thank God I met an A. No more waiting in line for me.”
“I was a Q who married a B, and we couldn’t be happier.”
“I went from V to C,” the BodyStep teacher chirped in. “And we’ve been married for twenty-one good, long years.”
Each prancersizer had gone from the end of the alphabet to the beginning, Eloise thought.
Perhaps that’s what she needed to do.
Eloise had been married and divorced four times, unclear with each conclusion the reason for the demise. The men had complained about a lack of communication, affairs, money problems, appearance changes, and lost love, to which Eloise agreed and disagreed, although not with exactitude. There was a bigger reason why the marriages had failed, but she was never able to extrapolate the cause.
“Are you saying the key to relationship success hinges on finding someone whose first letter of their last name is farthest away from the first letter of my maiden name?” Eloise asked the ladies.
“Absolutely,” the BodyStep teacher said. “What good ever comes from X, Y, and Z.”
“I was always picked last,” Prancer one said. “In school, for prom, for class pictures, at the DMV. But now that I’m an A, I’m always right up front and ready to be called on like a snap.”
“I love being a B,” Prancer two said. “There’s a reason benefits starts with it.”
For the next hour, as Eloise grooved, jumped, clapped, and hopped, she also recalled with growing anger Mister Sparillo, Tibbs, Yang, and Zuckerberg, ex-jerks who, like a yoyo, rolled up and unraveled down with very few tricks up their sleeve.
Later that night, after work, she logged onto the ‘Our Time’ dating website and winked at Ted, smiled at Jarrod, said HI to Rob, and gave a thumbs up to Peter’s shirtless chest and arm hair. There was no way to see last names, damn privacy filters.
Ted winked back. Jarrod added a tongue emoji to a smile. Rob said, HI CUTIE. And Peter deleted her from his message board.
Oh well. Those might not even be their real first names. In-person is better anyway. She sent a kiss to some George before clicking off and going to bed.
The next day, eager to vote for the first United States female President—Clinton—the tall man at the registration kiosk pointed her to the farthest table in the gymnasium, saying, “U through Z is all the way down there.”
“You shouldn’t punish people whose last names begin at the end of the alphabet,” she said. “It’s unfair.”
“My last name’s Vaughn,” he said. “I had to do the same thing.”
She opened at work the staff directory and searched the last names of hot men, single or married, it didn’t matter, aghast at the majority Perry. Queen. Richter. Smith. Thompson. Underwood. Valley. West. Xander. Young. Zondervan. One ugly Adolfo. Two bald Connors. Droopy Donahue. Freckle Frederickson. Gay Gaines. Halloween bowtie Hanson. And Lady Baxter. Lady Conroy. Lady Darby. Lady Fry. And Lady Kingston.
Only one hot Anderson, fired last week, according to the new semi-hot HR director, Mister Wicker. Shit.
Over the next week, she contemplated ridding men from her existence forever, until loneliness crept in and the thought of never being touched, kissed, held, and loved bruised the small part of a heart that still ticked clockwise.
The phone book was filled with Ackerman. Ballentine. Clay. Donovan. East. Foster. She sunk deep into the couch and pondered a next move. How to make last first. Where to find former rather than latter? When will it be her turn to find counterpart contentment to set free compulsive unhappiness?
The next few months held no answers, routine business distracting from making any concrete plans. Buying groceries, laundry soap, and BodyStep workout gear, she whispered to herself, “Don’t try so hard. Love shows up when we least expect it. Good things come to those who wait.” She groaned. “Yeah, right.”
Browsing the bookstore, flipping through ‘The World’s Most Eligible Bachelors’, she bumped into a silver daddy pulling a little boy’s hand.
“Sorry. Bathroom emergency,” the silver daddy said with a British accent. “Interesting book you got there. May I come back and ask why?”
She laughed, and said in a fake British accent, “Good day to you, sir, and I hope you and your companion find what you’re looking for, before it’s too late.”
The silver daddy and the little boy disappeared. Five minutes. Ten. Fifteen. Twenty. She whispered to the book, “Good riddance, to you and yours.”
Unlocking the car, she heard a British accent yell, “hey wait,” approaching with a jog, little boy in hand, the silver daddy wearing gray Puma tennis shoes, blue tight-chest Polo shirt, and green eyes so animated with color she questioned whether she’d ever before seen green.
“You didn’t buy the book,” he said, shifting the little boy to a left arm.
“Unadulterated rubbish,” she said in the fake British accent before switching to a pirate voice. “Me thinks fifty-five dollars for a Saudi Prince be too darn expensive, matty.”
“I don’t think a Saudi Prince speaks pirate.”
“What do you call a Saudi Prince who speaks pirate?” she asked.
He laughed. “I can honestly say, I do not know.”
“I’m Adam and this here is Adrian.”
“It’s our pleasurrrre to meet you.”
“May I ask you a weird question?” she asked, sucking in her stomach.
“You mean a second weird question, don’t you?”
She smiled. “What’s your last name?”
“Georgie,” he said. “Why do you ask?”
During the remaining days of her life, sharing each one with Adam and Adrian Georgie, she came to better understand that some people rarely get everything they want, but sometimes they get very, very close.
About the Author: Samuel E. Cole lives in Woodbury, MN, where he finds work in special event/development management. He’s a poet, flash fiction geek, and political essayist enthusiast. His work has appeared in many literary journals, and a first poetry collection, Bereft and the Same-Sex Heart, was published in October 2016 by Pski’s Porch Publishing. A second book, Bloodwork, a collection of short stories, was published by Pski’s Porch Publishing in July 2017. A third book, Siren Stitches, a collection of short stories, winner of the J.F. Powers Prize for Short Fiction, was published by Three Waters Publishing in October 2017. A second poetry collection, Dollhouse Masquerade, was published by Truth Serum Press in May 2018. A third collection of short stories, Young Thieves in a Growing Orchard, will be published by Weasel Press in April 2019. He is also an award-winning card maker and scrapbooker.