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THE WAY THINGS WORK 

by Paul Kesler


 
I. The Customer 

     You have arrived at the diner in the middle of the night. It is closed, but the waitress, who is the only occupant, opens the door as you approach. She has the face of the usherette at the movie theater three hours earlier, who was also the actress in the film you watched. You do not know her name. She is wearing sleek dark stockings that whisper as she walks. Her black hair is styled in a bowl-cut bob with straight bangs over the eyebrows. Her skin is white; her eyes blue. 

II. The Client 

     I can play what role he likes. An actress, it doesn't matter --- I can adapt. Yesterday I was a salesgirl, I met him in the park, but my hair was too long and he didn't recognize me. 

     Tonight, I was an usherette; then, for a lark, I entered the film he was watching. I know he saw me both times, but he was too surprised to speak. 

     Now I've come to this diner, in some dilapidated town miles from anyplace, but I don't care, it's not an inconvenience since I don't require travel. I go where a customer's mind goes. Tomorrow, it might be some distant planet he dreams about, maybe the middle of a giant crater slumped from the depths of a long-extinct volcano. Or a well in southern Holland. 

     I serve him food before he's ordered it, before I've even turned on the lights. But he only stares at me, without eating, making out my features from the moonlight streaming in. I grab one of his spoons and start to dish out portions of myself, which he gobbles ravenously, starting with my eyes and lips, and working down to my toes. I am wriggling the whole time, but he's too hungry to notice. 

     When all of me is gone, I take up residence at the back of his mind. This will do, I suppose, till he gets tired of this place and starts to dream me up again. Perhaps I will meet him in the early dawn, somewhere down the road. 

     This diner will never exist again, not after tonight. It was only put up for the customer. There is just one-per-girl, because that is the way things work. 

     Tomorrow he may want my hair long and straight, and my skirt less tight. But I'll get used to it. After all, I'm just a client, and I can do anything. 

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