Charles flipped his iPAD closed and relaxed his head onto the pillow. He looked over at Scissors. She was frantically scrolling through her texts.
“How did you get the name Scissors?”
She rolled her eyes and gave him that look.
“An old boyfriend. He told everyone I cut his heart out with a pair of rusty scissors, you know, like in the song by Miranda Lambert. The name stuck.”
Charles thought for a minute.
“The girl in that song, she cut her own hair. There wasn’t anything in the song about her cutting some boy’s heart out?”
“Yea, right,” said Scissors. “I guess you know the song. My X thinks everything’s about HIM. You know what I mean? Anyway, the name stuck like I said. So, I just accepted it. Are you a Country music fan?”
“I like lots of different music styles,” said Charles. He didn’t really care for Country music but if Scissors did he thought it would be best to keep this to himself.
Charles met Scissors at a protest rally. She was putting up Black Lives Matter signs. He was attracted to her at first sight. He went along behind her and blocked out the BLACK on the signs so they said Lives Matter. When she saw him, she whacked him with a signboard.
“What the FUCK do you think you’re doing?”
That further enraged her.
Charles took his marker and restored the word BLACK on the last sign he’d changed.
“You think that makes everything okay?”
“I don’t know but you’re cute when you’re mad.”
Scissors gave him that look. It was a mixture of anger and alluring vulnerability that he found irresistable.
She knew right away that he was attracted to her. He wasn’t bad looking. She decided to have a little fun.
They both fell silent.
Something in her eyes made him think he had a chance.
“I don’t know if it makes things all right or not. Let’s have a drink and talk about it.”
It was crazy on the street and hot. She’d put up enough signs for one day. He looked okay and she could take care of herself if he wasn’t.
“Okay, but you’ll have to buy. I don’t have any money.”
“I invited you. It’s on me.”
One thing led to another and they ended up in bed. For Charles it was love at first sight. For Scissors it was more like a challenge, a game.
“I hope you don’t plan to cut out my heart.”
Scissors assessed her situation. Charles was cute and he was good in bed but there was something odd about him. He was a little too forward, a little too confident. He wore his feelings on his sleeve. She preferred more mystery in a man, more battle in a relationship.
“So, where do you think this is going, Scissors?”
“Where is WHAT going?”
Jesus, she thought. He’s already moving to stage 2.
“There is no US, Charles. I don’t know anything about you and you don’t know anything about me. The sex was good, okay? But, there’s no US. We just met on the street and had a drink and then we fucked. That’s it. I think it’s best to end it there, for now at least.”
She’d had experience with men. They’re usually up and out after they get what they want. Charles wanted more but she wasn’t about to jump into another relationship especially with someone she hardly knew. There was nothing wrong with him but there was nothing special either. She thought it best to put on the brakes.
“Hey, we just had a pretty good time. You said so yourself. Isn’t that something to build on?”
“Are you nuts? I’m gonna get my things and go. I’ve got a busy day tomorrow.”
“Putting up signs?”
“None of your business.”
“Look, you have to eat dinner. Let me take you out.”
He was right. She was hungry. Maybe she was missing something. Maybe he needed a little more time to make a proper impression.
“Okay, but then I’ll be on my way.”
“Your choice, Scissors. But, if you change your mind, you’re welcome to stay here tonight.”
She gave him a smirk.
They put on their clothes.
“So, where’re we gonna go?” asked Scissors. “Everything’s locked down because of the pandemic.”
“I know a few places we might get into.”
“Who are you, David Copperfield? I’m not going on a wild goose chase, Charles. I’ve got stuff at home.”
“None of your business.”
“What’s good for the gander is good for goose, Scissors. Follow me.”
Charles locked the door and took off down the street. Scissors kept up alongside him. The first place he took her was closed. He rapped on the window and a waiter came to the door.
“How about letting us sit in the back Mick?”
“Sorry Charles, no can do. We’re shut tight.”
“How about Peccaries?”
“I hear they’re letting locals in through the back door.”
Charles turned to Scissors. “Will you eat ribs?”
“What, you think I’m a vegetarian? Of course I’ll eat ribs.”
“I thought you were a liberal,” said Charles with a smile.
“Not all liberals are vegetarians. Do I need to make a Venn diagram? You have a lot to learn Charles.”
“I look forward to it,” he said as they went on to Peccaries.
They sat at a booth in the back. The front was filled with empty tables that faced the street and a sign on the front door that said CLOSED. The back was about half full, dark and private. Only locals knew about it.
Charles was on the rebound from a third business failure. He was an entrepreneur who built or bought businesses and sold them for a profit. The problem was there hadn’t been any profits lately.
One of his ventures was an abandoned gold mine located next to a ghost town in northern California. He bought the mine. He met a family—a father, mother and two kids. They were down and out. The man needed work and a place to live. He told Charles he could get the mine back in operation. Charles checked it out. The mine looked promising so he set them up. The property was cheap. He got the mine and the ghost town for a song.
He supported the family for a year with no positive results. It was okay. He knew the odds were low that the mine would be productive again but he hoped it would. After a year he could no longer afford to support them. He gave the man a little extra cash and sent them on their way. Later Charles found out the mine had been productive after all. The man sold the gold on the side without telling Charles. By the time Charles found out the man and his family had disappeared and Charles had sold the mine to someone else at a loss.
While they waited for their food, they sipped wine and talked. At first it was awkward. Events had moved so quickly. Neither knew what to say now that the fires of passion had cooled.
“Tell me about yourself Charles. What do you do?”
Charles was a little nervous. He hoped he wouldn’t blow it. He knew Scissors was checking him out. She was a real minx. He steadied himself and took another sip of wine to bolster his confidence.
“I guess you could say I’m an entrepreneur.”
“You own businesses?”
“Actually, I don’t own them. I buy them and improve them. Sometimes I start them from scratch. I hope to make a profit when I sell them.”
“So, you’re a speculator?”
Charles didn’t like the word speculator. He didn’t want to create the impression that he was some kind of capitalist leech. He knew that would be a major turnoff to a girl like Scissors.
“No, not a speculator. I’d say I’m an optimist.”
“An optimist? What’s the difference?”
Charles wasn’t sure. What exactly was the difference, he wondered. He tried to make up something that wouldn’t make him sound too crass.
“A speculator is a gambler. He makes bets. An optimist doesn’t gamble. He hopes. He has this unshakable faith that things will work out.”
“They sound the same to me,” said Scissors. Charles couldn’t tell if she looked confused or uncomfortable.
The food arrived—country style pork ribs smothered in sauce with a baked potato and salad. They dug in. It was quiet for a while.
After the gold mine Charles bought a ranch in Nevada. He had an old friend, old in age, who wanted to live out his life on a ranch in semi-retirement. The place was falling apart. His friend offered to fix things up, to put in some crops and to care for a few animals if Charles could put the deal together. It seemed like a good idea. The area had potential or at least Charles thought so at the time. Everything went well at first. One day Charles called his friend at the ranch but there was no answer. After he tried again a few more times, Charles made a trip to the ranch to check on things. He found his friend dead under a shade tree. The animals were gone and the place was worse than when he’d bought it.
“So, tell me,” said Scissors. “How have these businesses worked out? How does it feel to be a rich entrepreneur while so many people all around are struggling?”
Charles knew what she meant. She put him into a group, the despicable one-percent, just like he thought she was a vegetarian because she was a “liberal.”
“Actually, it’s not like that Scissors. Not all entrepreneurs are rich. You want me to draw you a Venn diagram?”
Scissors laughed. “Okay, I deserve that, but really, how have things worked out? I’m curious.”
“First, tell me about yourself, Scissors? I can’t imagine you are a professional protestor or sign poster.”
“I work in retail. Things are pretty much on hold for now so I’m out on the street to support causes I believe in.”
“What causes?” asked Charles.
Scissors took a sip of wine.
“Black Lives Matter for one. What happened in Minneapolis disgusts me. It happens everywhere all the time. Don’t you feel how unfair that is? Don’t you want to do something to stop it?”
Charles put his elbows on the table and rested his chin on his hands.
“Let me tell you a story about one of my ventures. I bought a restaurant that had failed. I bought the building, the furniture, fixtures, everything. I hired a manager to get it up and running again. I had to leave the area for a couple of weeks. When I returned, the manager had sold everything, furniture, fixtures, stock—he even somehow managed to borrow money against the building by forging documents. And, he was gone.”
“So, what’s that have to do with anything?” asked Scissors.
“Lots of things are unfair. Pettiness, greed, and an every-man-for-himself mentality can thwart any attempt to build, create, invent, and organize. Human nature is what it is. Shit happens. Yea, I know that. We have to live with it. But, that doesn’t mean we can’t work toward change. As long as great ideas and values remain there is hope that they can be encouraged.”
Scissors got a standoffish look on her face. She put her hand over her mouth and let it slide down onto her neck. She looked away from Charles. When she looked back, she looked unhappy.
“Wow. That’s really sad. If people will never change maybe the whole thing is just worthless?”
“No, it’s just the opposite Scissors. For God’s sake, push ahead. That’s all we can do.”
Charles took a sip of wine and smiled. He knew he’d blown it. He’d spent the whole time talking about himself. Just like Scissors’ x-boyfriend he’d acted like everything was about him.
They had finished eating and were on a second bottle of wine. Scissors had no idea what to think about Charles. He threw himself on the wheel of life and got crushed. Could the same thing happen to her? What did he want? They’d already slept together so it couldn’t be that. Was it the “US” he had mentioned earlier? Did he have in mind some kind of long-term relationship? She wasn’t ready for that. It was too soon after her last breakup. All this conversation did was depress her. What a terrible way to end the night.
“Time’s up. I need to go. Big day tomorrow.”
“Edison made a thousand attempts before inventing the light bulb.”
“Did he? Well, good for Edison.”
Scissors picked up her purse, gave Charles a peck on the forehead, and left. It was only later that he realized she had not given him her phone number or address or even the name of the place she worked.
This is the first chapter of a new novel, right??
Vignette. Writing exercise. Something to keep my mind functioning. But, thanks for the idea.