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Three flights of stairs, a bottle of red wine and Paul Klee on the wall

He took the first two flights of stairs without any worries. But mid-way through the third flight he had to stop to catch his breath. Nothing too serious, but still it concerned him. He wished he could blame it on smoking; but he wasn’t a smoker. What he was, was 47 years of age and 18 pounds heavier than he should be. His scrawny bean-pole of a doctor had coldly pointed that out to him: “For a man of your age and height, you should only weigh …”

Big deal, an extra 18 pounds wasn’t much. Still, for a guy who had always been fit and trim, it was enough to make him feel extremely self-conscious about taking off his shirt. The bulk of extra poundage gravitated around his waist, but in his own mind, his chest had also become disturbingly flabby. To top it off, he was continually discovering an increasing number of gray chest-hairs, giving him another good reason for keeping his shirt on.

His breathing now back to normal, he took a deep breath and plowed his way up the remainder of stairs and knocked aggressively on her door. She answered the door with a glass of red wine in her hand and a nervous smile on her face. She was wearing a pretty blue dress with matching high heels and had her shoulder-length hair pulled back in a casual ponytail to show off her fresh-water pearl earrings. “Oh good, you came,” she said sheepishly. “I bought us a bottle of wine. I just poured myself a glass, y’know, as a confidence builder. I wasn’t so sure that you’d show up.” She bit nervously at her lip, clearly regretting what she had just blurted out.

“Why wouldn’t I come?” he asked, not expecting an answer. “You invited me over; I said yes; so here I am.” She stood frozen, blocking the doorway for a moment, before finally saying “oh” and stepping aside to let him in. He sucked in his stomach as he took off his coat, laying it over a chair in her tiny living room. He relaxed his stomach, said “this is a cozy little place you have here” and then sucked his stomach right back in when he realized she was giving him the once over. Being a tit-for-tat kind of guy, he immediately gave her his own once over. She was no skinny-mini either, but she carried her weight well. She was a buxom blonde in every sense, curvy, big-boned and breasty.

She took a sip of wine and grabbed his coat. “Oh, let me go hang this up for you.” He settled himself on her plush sofa with its decorative throw pillows. She had a large basket of potpourri in the corner of her living room and a smaller basket of the stuff placed in the center of her white-marble coffee-table, making the room smell appropriately girlie, which he found to be quite soothing. He was intrigued by the large art-print in a sleek silver frame that dominated one of her walls. But his attempt to impress her, backfired when he pointed to the print and said: “That’s a nice piece. Picasso is one of my favorite artists.” She tilted her head. “It’s Paul Klee” she said in such a nonchalant way that it didn’t make him feel even the slightest bit embarrassed that he didn’t know his Paul Klee from his Pablo Picasso. She had jazz playing at a low volume, clearly setting a mood, so he decided to take a shot at redemption. “That’s Diana Krall, right? She’s got a great set of pipes.” She smiled sweetly and told him: “Yes, she certainly does.” As Diana Krall tickled the ivories and belted her way through “East of the Sun (and West of the Moon)” their eyes met and they were lost in the song for a few dreamy moments.

“Oh,” she said abruptly, “let me go get you a glass.” She set her wine glass down on the coffee table next to the opened bottle of red wine and hurried into her kitchen. “I hope you like red wine,” she said, handing him the glass. “Love the stuff,” he assured her, “and it’s good for the heart too.” He poured himself a full glass, then topped off hers.

“Down the hatch,” she said, biting at her lip and raising her glass. “No wait,” he insisted, touching her arm, “let me do this.” He raised his glass, clinking it to hers. “To a fresh start,” he said softly, “it’s been a long time, too long.” He knew he wasn’t in love with her and he was fairly certain that her feelings for him didn’t go quite that far either. But he was definitely in like with her, a whole lotta like. She was wearing a floral perfume that truly suited her and he decided he’d find out what it was so he could surprise her with a bottle of it. “That smells so good,” he said. “I’ve got a pot roast in the oven,” she replied. He reached over and touched her knee. “Well the roast smells good too, but I meant you, your perfume.” She blushed a deep shade of pink and stroked his hand which was still on her knee. “Thank you,” she whispered and then blushed an even deeper shade of pink.

Yes, he liked her, he liked her a whole lot. He had forgotten just how comfortable he could be with her. She had put him so completely at ease, that later in the evening, he didn’t feel even the slightest bit self-conscious when he removed his shirt and exposed his chunky love-handles and flabby chest with its sporadic strands of gray hair.


Paul Germano lives in Syracuse, NY; with his dog April, a strong, muscular and lovable pit bull. Germano’s fiction (flash and otherwise) has been published in roughly 25 print and online magazines including the Journal of Microliterature, Marco Polo, the Pittsburgh Flash Fiction Gazette and the Vestal Review.


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