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A Bed of Ice
   by Janice J. Heiss

No one sees or hears you without your make-up on, so when I have a job to do, such as grocery shop, I leave mine off.
     A nice filet of halibut for my Friday night dinner sprang to mind as I drove to Ryan's Fine Foods. Then, a quiet evening cuddling with my cat in front of the TV. It had been a long week.
     "Dinner?" a deep, disembodied voice asked, catching me off guard.
     I turned toward a fine male specimen with chemical-blue eyes.
     You talking to me? I gestured, flustered, yanking off my glasses. Absentmindedly, I touched my face.
     Yes, he nodded, smiling, gliding nearer as I returned his smile. A fishy, bleach spray (from him or the fish butcher?) doused me as I drifted toward him.
     "Yes, I'm having a dinner party," I lied.
     We stood side by side looking into the display case, the glare from its snow-white bed of ice swallowing us. When his arm brushed mine, I almost did a somersault. He's trying to pick me up, yes, he's absolutely trying to pick me up! But then, I felt a sudden sorrow for the gutted gray-and-pink carcasses. God-awful. This is god-awful.
     "So what looks good to you?" I asked, in a pillow-talk voice.
     "Well, you just can't go wrong with a moist cut of salmon. Brush it with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and bake it for exactly fifteen minutes at 350 degrees," he answered. "Yummy." He wet his lips seductively.
     "You're making me drool," I giggled, getting turned on, though I hated salmon. "Want to come over and help me cook?. . . Ha, ha! Just kidding!" I felt embarrassed and weary and shrunk back from the grisly triangular tableau of a school of fish, their mouths frozen wide open. In death shock? How gross to leave the heads on.
     "Who's next?" the clerk asked. I deferred to the man who deferred to me, saying that he had to go feed his meter.
     "Yes, well, um, I'll take twelve salmon steaks, please," I told the clerk.
     "Great choice. And don't forget to brush them with extra virgin olive oil," the man reminded me, turning to go.
     "Nice meeting you," I stuttered.
     "That'll be seventy dollars, please," said the clerk, handing me a ballooning bag of fish. God! Seventy dollars! I almost dropped my purchase, not prepared for its dead weight. The plastic bag's sticky handle cut into my hand.
     "Hmm, just a sec," I said, freaking out, as I struggled to find my wallet in my unzipped, roomy, red leather purse. "Now, what in the hell! Where in the hell? God damn it, my wallet's missing! Shit!"
     I looked for the man but he was gone. The clerk stood behind the counter impatiently waiting for his money, staring at me along with the vacant dead fish eyes. Staring and staring.

Copyright©2004 Janice J. Heiss

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