Rob’s Entry in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. Written 7/31/1991.
“Hot enough for you?” quipped Klipp, his clever cliche slicking the wheaty silence like a tenor scythe and resonating with accusatory overtones such as a gavel-struck District Attorney with a largish tuning-fork for a head might make. Mopping hankily at the slick yet somehow strangely seductive sebaceousness beneath his toupee, Klipp cast a glass glance at Babs. His good eye, the wooden one, never strayed from its lumbering vigil over the ocean of ochre acreage.
Babs beheld Klipp’s cold socket-marble, now in partial eclipse of his askew Tom Cruise, but was unable to meet the unbearable bare stare of his pupiless Little Orphan Annie model, so long ago purchased as the blue beacon beckoned, prophesying nicer prices for the then-young and chipper Klipp as it did for all alert K-Martyrs. The Orphan Orb was Babs’ blank reminder of the ancient accident he still held an aggrievous amount of accountability to her for, a simple game of ping-pong gone horribly and away awry, and of the all-too-apt aphorism that the fund did indeed stop when someone loses an eye.
Now he blamed her everywhere and for everything, weather notwithstanding, whether standing with knotted knuckles nestled ‘neath his nose as now, sporadically slipping a surreptitious digit homeward, or getting at the blazing ball above and feeling its rays baking away at him like so much bald and blind cake. Babs reached over and gently straightened his pate-mate, a hairhat under which Klipp mandated his every action be classified as “cruisin,” then nosed closer and eyed him with remorse as she mouthed his name noiselessly: Jim. Once Jim the joker, Jim the exercise nut, the jungle explorer, the constructor of quality playground equipment, of fine office accoutrements, Jim her most gentle jewel, he was now just Jim the Wheat-Keeper, a field marshal tasked to bask week after week on a weedy watch.
Babs’ only consolation was that at least he was grainfully employed.