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Peanut for a Bluejay
by J.C. Frampton


She was at the south-facing window of her cubicle, humming some inanity, and watering the desiccated philodendron out of an Am/Pm Minimart Slurpee cup. The morning sun pirouetted amidst her honey-blonde coif, adding dazzle to the glory of her collarbone, exposed above, praise God, a K-Mart update of a peasant blouse. She caught sight of a mendicant bluejay on a twig without and gave a loving wave that made him think of 1940 and his euphoria with "Snow White" at the Roxy. Was that Estee Lauder's "Youth Dew" she was wearing? Hadn't that been discontinued? His daughter, now forty, wore it before the first baby came. He and her mother, his Elaine, six-months dead after forty-three terrific years, had bought it at Neiman Marcus the same year the factory opened. He breathed deeply. Oh, life of enchantment! She turned and saw him and gave a Snow White-to-Grumpy irresistible giggle.

"Oh, Mr. Trenham! I just got up to water this dear little plant which seems, you know, so horribly neglected. I'm working on that production schedule for you . . . "

"No problem, no problem, child." And he walked toward her on rubbery legs. "And it looks like we have an avian panhandler here."

"Oh. Yes. If only I had a peanut for him."

"Well, let me get one, Miss Merchant. There must be some in the vending machine out in the hall."

"Oh, don't bother, Mr. Trenham."

"Not in the least, my dear. Come with me and we'll feed him outside."

Thank God he had the proper change, three quarters. Just want to be quick and all.

"We'll do it quickly before Mrs. Macadam comes back." Biggs looked over his Excel program but who gave a damn about Biggs?

Miss Merchant giggled. The office manager's name was McAdams.

The air was jocund with morning sunshine and new-blooming jasmine trailing over the low brick wall demarcating the presidential suite. In olfactory heaven, Trenham opened the crowded cellophane bag and handed it to Miss Merchant.

She threw a salted peanut on the lawn. The twitching jay shot after it. Miss Merchant giggled. Trenham was behind her in an enclosing bower of Youth Dew, coruscating golden hair and white shoulders.

"Here, let me," he said, reaching for the bag and gently, carefully brushing the empyrean margins of her bosom. Quivering with rapture for blessed seconds, then flashing with revulsion, he resurfaced, nerves anointed, his shame clammy against a thigh. Gone like a comet! Sun blazing in your face as you emerge from the Roxy on a 'forties Saturday and know the joy has ended. Miss Merchant turned quickly.

"You can train them to catch one in the air," he gasped, throwing a peanut aimlessly.

"Really?" Blue eyes wide and a Gioconda smile. The bird had flown to a high tree limb.

He swallowed a sigh. Unsuspected?

Miss Merchant carefully pinched her white sleeves and raised them to shoulder height and folded her arms under her bosom.

"I'll watch."

The dishes always know. "But some other time, Miss Merchant." Lord, he had on his pearl gray slacks! He handed her the bag, the eye contact already point-of-no-return.

"Gotta drive down to the south plant again and check out those miserable punch presses," he said over a shoulder as he fast-stepped down the flagstone path, Eden in his infamous wake. "Tell McAdams. Please don't worry about that schedule."

Behind the wheel of the Lexus, heading for home, he barely made the turnoff to Route 17. Never, never in his life, no never, celestial host, never, such white shoulders. Gotta think of a nice gift. Three kids, what-is-it-six grandchildren? Half-a-dozen, uh, women friends. At least. Twenty-seven million dollars. Precocious as ever. Where it matters. Lucky bastard.

He felt himself grinning widely as he pulled into the long circular drive, thinking about a Scotch, hearing the retriever's bark.



About the Author


J. C. Frampton lives and writes in Southern California. He has been a grocery clerk, a sportswriter, a sailor, a general-purpose journalist, an actor and a marketing guy. Journalism, humor and verse have appeared in West Coast newspapers and print mags. Beginning concentration on short fiction two years ago, he has had work online in Paumanok Review, White Shoe Irregular, Deeply Shallow and Eclectica.