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A Love Story in Five Minutes

by Robert Owen

The intoxicated woman brushed Findley’s arm as she passed.

In one hour and twenty-four minutes, she will stand, hug her friends, drive home and go to bed. Tomorrow she will wake, drive to work, drive home, watch television and again, go to bed. On Friday she will add a gym visit to this pattern.

Over the next ninety-eight days, two hours and thirty-four minutes she will cycle through variations of this basic routine, adding, as occasion permits or need demands, seven visits to friends, four visits from friends, nineteen trips to the grocery store, an appointment with her gynecologist and a blind date that will start well but end early.

On August 12, at 10:47 pm, the subject of a city-wide police task force will enter her home through the bathroom window she has left open to air out some evening stink. He will find the woman alone in the living room watching a Seinfeld rerun as she applies coats of yellow polish to her toenails.

He will approach her from behind, shove a garbage bag over her head, and wonder at how her desperate writhing... so... completes him.

Findley squeezed his eyes shut, willing an end to the precognitive vision before the coroner could begin his autopsy.

“You okay, buddy?” asked the bartender.

Findley ordered a Bloody Mary, walked behind the woman now seated at the end of the bar and poured the drink down her back.

“What the hell?” she squealed, springing from her bar stool. A celery stalk hung improbably from her collar as she stomped in place, her arms extended like a crane preparing to take flight.

Her friends gasped a communal cluck of horror, stood as one and, with the precision of ants, pasted cocktail napkins over the earthy red wound spreading across her white silk blouse.

“Sorry.” Findley said. There was no hint of contrition in his voice.

An ant glared at Findley. “Jerk!” she snarled.

Before he could agree, a large hand clamped down on his shoulder and turned him on his heels.

“You did that on purpose!” announced the man now glowering at Findley. “I saw the whole thing. You did that on purpose.”

In four hours and twenty-one minutes, his jailers will allow the man to make a phone call. Shortly before dawn the man’s brother, having arranged bail, will meet him in front of the prison and drive him home.

Tomorrow afternoon, as the woman with the now-stained blouse sits in her cubicle processing insurance applications, the man will attend an initial meeting with the attorney hired by his father to defend him against the pending assault charges.

The State will ultimately drop its case when the assault victim, despite a broken nose, seven stitches and one mother of a bruise on his left cheek, will refuse to press charges.

The meeting with the attorney will go well. The two will marry on April 19th of the following year. Over the course of the next ten years, they will grow to hate each other, but not before they spawn three children, the last of whom will become a medical researcher and develop the cure for arthritis.

Pleased, Findley flipped the man off and cheerfully collected his beating.

In the brief tussle that followed, Findley learned, among many other things, that Germany will withdraw from the E.U., that Jennifer Aniston will win an Academy Award, and that on August 12 at 10:47 pm, the woman with the red-stained blouse will watch a Seinfeld rerun with her new boyfriend at his apartment by the beach.

Paramedics drove Findley to the hospital where an exhausted emergency room doctor administered first aid and wrote Findley a prescription for pain medicine.

Five years from now the doctor will suffer a broken leg, develop an addiction to Vicodin and move to Argentina, where he will practice medicine under an assumed name and forged credentials. He will meet a Japanese woman who speaks no English, fall in love, quit using drugs and die when the walls of his clinic collapse on him during an earthquake.

Findley, who could do nothing for the doctor, took the prescription and left.

At the drugstore across the street, Findley waited patiently as the attractive young pharmacist filled his script. After a short time, she called Findley to the counter and explained the medication.

Their fingers touched as the young woman handed him the little orange bottle of pills.

“Are you alright?” asked the pharmacist.

Findley opened his eyes, blinked twice and then smiled. “Do you like Ethiopian food?” he asked.

“I love Ethiopian food,” she said. “It’s my... favorite.”

“I know a great place.”

Copyright © 2009 by Robert Owen

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