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From Here They Look Like
by Marvin Pinkis

Rollo Wickersham excused himself from his scintillating table companions. As Lester Von Esposito and his Society Band played havoc with the barely discernible strains of "You and the Night and the Prozac," Rollo opened the Bolivian doors to the veranda and twenty minutes later determined his next move by stepping outside.

He strolled to the rooftop railing of the plush Hotel Wilkes-Barre, in gay midtown Fargo, and glanced down from the dizzying heights of the one-story structure from which the ants below took on the eerie appearance of very small insects. Rollo lighted a cigarette. He missed Felicia, his cheetah, and wondered if she was involved with anyone. It had been several years since her announcement that she was going to the corner for game and would be right back.

Rollo pensively peered out into the black, starless night. The black, starless night peered back and asked, "What you lookin' at, boy?"

He reflected on the fateful events that preceded his decision to not face the music: getting drummed out of Kiwanis, a broken engagement when Margaret had turned out to be an alien and the heated argument as to how raise children, the business with Felicia.

As he bemoaned his existence, his reverie was jarred by the sudden appearance at his side of Velma Unglespieler (the consonants are silent) who he dimly recalled as the school slut and that was in sixth grade. The deafening cacaphonous passages of a badly-defined tango from inside drowned out the night noises. Conversation, to be audible, required shouting at the top of one's lungs.

Velma stared out into the night with her good eye and screeched, "Well, Rollo, we meet again. A centavo for your thoughts."

Inside, there were gun shots and the music stopped.

Rollo sensed an opportunity and answered, "I'll tell you for two centavos."

Velma replied, "I can see how you got to be rich. You know, you were practically the only boy in school, except from third grade down, who I didn't bed."

"Hm," he hm'd, "as I recall, nearly all the boys in that class were stricken with every venereal disease known to man and some peculiar only to hoofed animals."

"Well, as I've always said, you can't have it both ways, sexual adventure and being disease-free. Remember, I was a wisp of a girl, barely seventeen."

"Are you from around here?" queried Rollo.

Velma deftly handled the query and quipped, "I'm a creature of the rooftops, living on top of one building on odd days of the month and on another even days, spurned by society for indiscretions during a misguided youth, cast aside by a family bent on having many children with the sole intention of eventually disowning them, harassed by law-enforcement officials who look askance at my participation in tavern brawls, solicitations on public streets and dusky alleys, and the utilization of credit cards that mysteriously appeared on my person. I'm a victim, I tell you, a victim."

"You poor beleaguered creature."

"No, I've experienced many things but never, how did you say it, beleaguered? But, for money I'll try anything."

"Ah, you're right but on a night like this after fortunately encountering you after all this time, who needs recriminations? The truth is, I thought of myself as above you then. Primarily, because I was tall for my age and you hadn't mastered walking erect."

"Yes, a bitter time. But the training films and private lessons helped and now I can walk up to ten feet from where I am without getting hopelessly lost, if I have a supply of bread crumbs. In that earlier callow period being close to a prone posture had the advantage of enabling me to quickly assume a coital position in my frenzied quest to be everyone's girl."

"You're a strange one, Verna Oogleshpretz. Let me take you home to mother. Maybe she can do something about that hump."

The star-crossed duo walked together into the ballroom where all I's turned at once to them-- Irma, Irving, Ike, Ilsa and Betty who did it as a joke.

They were determined to fly in the face of convention and relocate far from that place. He would sacrifice his reputation as the town bon vivant, she as courtesan to derelicts. Opposites, perhaps, but strange, even yucky, are the turns this capricious passage called life can take.