In Training (Flash Fiction)

Susanne stepped out of her apartment and was startled by a broom handle whizzing by, narrowly missing her face.

“Oh,” said Bob. “Sorry ’bout that, Suze. I kinda got carried away there.” Bob clasped the handle in his hand and tapped it to the ground like a medieval guard. He wore a white t-shirt that was too small and stretched up above his belly, exposing his belly button. “Going to work?” he asked.

Susanne nodded. “Hi, Bob. Yeah. Another night shift.”

“Great,” he said. He took up his mighty staff of plastic and moved toward her. “I’ll walk ya to your car.”

Susanne smiled and started along the cement path. She’d given up on trying to tell him no months ago, and to be honest, it was kind of nice to have some company at that time of night. Not that she ever felt threatened living there, but Bob was weird enough that most other residents steered clear. As if knowing her thoughts, he gave his broom handle a twirl.

“Did you get enough sleep?” he asked.

“No,” Susanne said with a sigh. “I tried, ya know? But it’s hard. Brian comes home and he’s so excited to see me. It’s cute.” She smiled at the thought. “Besides, the Friday night rush is so crazy it doesn’t really matter if you’re awake or tired.”

“Watch out!” Bob said suddenly, and Susanne jumped back. He brought his plastic staff down hard on the dirty cement. “Some jerk left their gum here.”

She laughed softly into her hand. “Thanks, Bob,” she said.

“My pleasure,” he responded. “Stepping in gum is no way to start the day. Well, unless you’re my ex-wife.” He laughed to himself, and it was a laugh that ended with a small snort. Susanne laughed again as well.

They rounded the bend, Bob leaping over the mighty tree root that was displacing the pathway, and came to where Susanne’s car was parked. It was old, and the crack in the windshield was showing more signs of growth. “You need to get that replaced,” Bob said.

“I know,” Susanne said as she got into her car. “It costs money though.”

“Well shake that money-maker,” he said with a strange amount of pride. “I know you bring in the tips, especially on nights.”

Susanne smiled. “Don’t let Brian hear you. He gets so uncomfortable about it.”

Bob shrugged. “You’re a young waitress with a cute ass. Use it or lose it, sister.”

“Yeah!” Susanne said. She closed the door and rolled down her window. The car groaned for a few moments and then finally started.

“Aren’t you gonna ask me about my staff?” Bob asked.

“What?”

Bob held out his modified weapon.

“Oh,” Susanne said. “Ya know, Bob, to be honest? I never even noticed. What’s with the broom handle?”

“It’s a staff,” he said. “I’m training to be a ninja.”

“Oh,” Susanne said without the least bit of surprise. “Well that’s nice. Good exercise.”

Bob’s eyes narrowed at the potential slight, but he quickly let it go. “It’s the direction my life is taking me. I must follow my chi.”

Susanne nodded and smiled. “That’s great, Bob.”

“Yeah.” He looked around, as if scouring the bushes for potential attackers. “Do you want me to wait for you here until you return?”

Susanne glanced at his white t-shirt. It had crawled nearly half way up his torso now, and she saw his belly button was covered with a generous amount of hair. “No, thank you.”

“Okay,” he said with a satisfied nod. “Have a good night then. Shake that money maker!”

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