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Bob’s Back.

The little girl inside of me is all a-titter. “Oooh, Mr. Handsome. I JUST SAW HIM!” We call him Bob. We don’t actually know his name yet, but Bob’s a good a name as any. We imagine it’s short for Jacob, actually, rather than Robert.

“He’s gorgeous,” Sansara crooned yet again, swooning over his beautiful face. She’s easy like that, but I’m not. I’m difficult. I want meat on the bone, if you know what I mean. I need a man who will stop chasing tail once we get settled down together and start chasing good dreams, like starting his own business or something of that ilk. I’ll help, of course. And, if he has no dreams, I’ll forge my own into an empire of badassery.

Yeah, I know it’s not a word. Wanna fight over it? She looks for her inner She-Hulk… this will definitely break a nail.

I have ideas but if I write them here, then they’ll be stolen out from under me. They still might be just because at least some other human beings on planet Earth are thinking what I’m thinking, Brain.

“What is the square root of ketchup?” Pinky asks.

I kiss Pinky and run off into the sunset with him, because he is the perfect boyfriend. Not the perfect husband or man, just the perfect boyfriend… someone who thinks off-the-wall shit because they’re slightly unbounded by reality. Those are the kinds of things I want put in my brain to think about.

Pinky & The Brain “Best Moments” on YouTube
Pinky & The Brain “Are You Pondering What I’m Pondering?” on YouTube

“Do you believe in telepathy?” Bob asked his coworker, Joe, while they were on a break together. Joe shook his head and just stared at Bob.

“I don’t either, but I’m starting to really wonder about it. I mean, could it be there are people out there who are mind readers but they try to hide themselves in case there’s some sort of thought police that wants to dissect them alive to figure out how they’ve got something the rest of us don’t?” Bob continued.

Joe just stared at Bob, like he grew another head. Every word the man said piqued his interest further. Bob paused long enough that Joe felt he should ask a question to tease a little more information out of the quiet giant of a man. It wasn’t that Bob was enormously tall in comparison to Joe, but he was a couple inches taller and quite a bit wider in all the places it seems to count.

“What makes you wonder if they might exist but stay hidden?” Joe asked.

“Well, if you think about it, mind readers could find each other somehow, right? So why would they tell the rest of us it’s possible to read minds?” Bob asked, dancing around the pink elephant in the room.

“Okay… do you know someone who has an uncanny knack of reading your mind?” Joe asked curiously, wondering where this was going. He needed an anchor of some sort, they were free falling or locked in a void and he liked keeping his feet on the ground.

“Well, sort of… There’s a shopper that comes through a lot. She did before I quit and come back and, I didn’t see her for a little while, so I was thinking about her and suddenly there she was, looking just like I left her even though I know she also likes colorful hair. But how could she know when she might walk past me in the store, you know? I’m always moving around, as you are, so how is it we accidentally make eye contact or I just plain see her within a few feet of me or whatever?” Bob mused out loud to Joe.

Suddenly, Joe frowned. He had been seeing the same woman, as it turned out, almost happenstance. Impossible little moments, like furtive glances, and one of them even included a smile, he’d realized just last night while he was thinking about flirting with Kayla some more, a coworker of his who definitely was not quite single after hearing her talk about being in an on-again/off-again relationship. He didn’t know why she wouldn’t just leave the jerk, unless she was the jerk of the situation? Either way, it was not serving him to keep flirting with her, and that’s when he realized Grocery Girl might be making eyes at him even though she almost never smiled.

So Bob was thinking Grocery Girl had telepathy. He never thought of it that way before at all, but now that Bob mentioned it… how exactly had he seen her ten days in a row? Why is it she stopped? Well, that was easy, he wanted her to stop… which meant she potentially read his mind. And now she was teasing Bob…

“Say, Bob,” Joe asked suddenly. “How often did you used to see her before you went on hiatus?” He tried not to look too interested; he didn’t want to tip Bob off that he liked the same girl that Bob did. Suddenly, he was in competition and he didn’t want Bob to know it. If you asked Joe, Bob beat him hands down in the looks department. But could Joe beat Bob in the mental department? If the woman is a mind reader, that might matter more.

“I don’t really know, Joe… almost every day for months, I guess. Sometimes I’d just see her walking down the aisle, sometimes I’d see her as she came by the deli area itself, sometimes I saw her when I was on break, or out in the aisle doing stuff. I remember one time, I was over by the meat department and she walked right by me. Literally, if I had moved just a few inches, I could have touched her. Of course, I was engaged in some stupid conversation with another deli worker at the time, talking about some plan or other that I’m not really able to recall off the top of my head, so she probably heard my stupid lisp and everything… but, she didn’t stop coming by the deli area. I don’t think I ever saw her buy a damn thing from the deli, either,” Bob concluded. “We rarely made eye contact,” he said, sounding a little wistful.

Hmmm… Joe thought about how he had shared at least ten seconds of eye contact in total. In fact, she wasn’t afraid to look into his eyes at all. Then he remembered the day he gave Grocery Girl a compliment, not even realizing it was her. She had chopped her hair off, dyed it black, and added a choker, giving a very Prue vibe from Charmed.

He wondered if she’d done that on purpose just to entice him. He’d been wondering about it a lot since the moment he realized he was being flirted with in the weirdest way possible… The shyest way, he thought. He had no proof, but he was willing to gamble a whole paycheck on the idea she was shy. He had an unshakable hunch. He’d observed her for at least fifteen minutes total over all the times he’d seen her. When he thought back to the day he complimented her choker, he thought about how she never smiled. Neither did he… but he caught her smiling at him while he was also smiling, elated to be flirting with the whore of the deli department.

Wait a minute, why did he call Kayla a whore? That’s not right… that’s not the word he meant to use. He meant to call her flirtatious. Yet there it was, staring him in the face. The word whore wouldn’t leave him at all. He actually was becoming concerned because that word wasn’t part of his common vernacular.

“No, it’s part of mine,” God replied sternly. “She’s a whore. She cannot stay celibate, so she runs back into the arms of a sure deal until she flirts her way into the pants of another man, crashing him into the ground and using every bit of him up, then running straight back into the man she uses all the time for casual sex. She’s a whore. A tramp. A strumpet! And you’re falling for her bull shit as we speak. Well, good for you, young man. I’m glad you have all your life to fritter away chasing skirts and feeling inadequate next to other boys like yourself.”

“Just who are you?!” Joe demanded in his head. He did not think those things about Kayla at all, yet they were right there: judgmental and harsh, putting her in a light he’d never seen her in at all. It didn’t really do much to diminish his crush on his coworker, either, but it bothered him all the same.

“Who, me? I’m nobody special,” God replied.

“Wait, are you the Grocery Girl?!” Joe demanded. “How dare you call my coworker a strumpet! Why don’t you have the decency to show your face when you insult someone else?!”

“Wow,” God said. “You think I’m the Super Vixen, do you?”

“So yeah, I think telepathy could be a thing,” Bob remarked, getting up to go back on the floor, his break being over. Joe snapped out of it. What just happened to him? His break was nearly over, too. He whipped out his phone to text his roommate for encouragement to continue flirting with Kayla, trying to push the rude interruption out of his mind. However, all he could think about is some random voice in his mind calling Grocery Girl something completely different: Super Vixen.

He didn’t have the heart to continue soliciting his roommate for encouragement, after all, and he put the phone away. If that wasn’t Grocery Girl in his head, just who was it? Why were they there? Why were they so mean about his coworker? She was cute and always smiling; she was incredibly attractive, actually, he had to admit… in a frumpy kind of way. But what about Grocery Girl? He gulped, remembering he saw some cleavage unexpectedly not so long ago. Normally, Grocery Girl was very modestly dressed, but that time, she was showing off her tatas subtly, wearing a lime green shirt of some sort and a grey jacket. He’d thought the combination of colors to be odd, so they stood out in his mind forever. Why not a black jacket?

“Why not, indeed?” God asked him, interjecting again as Joe tried to go about his day, following directions and creating food where necessary. His heart wasn’t into flirting with Kayla anymore and he had no idea why. Actually, he did have an idea why… when whoever it was in his head called her a whore, it rang true in his ears, so to speak. It was making him feel a sinking sensation. He was sinking more thinking about how Grocery Girl must have been flirting with him while Bob was gone, but now maybe she was back to flirting with Bob instead.

Joe deflated completely. He realized Bob has already seen her today, which meant he was unlikely to see her… unless something sent her running back to the store randomly. What were the chances of that happening?

“It’s more likely than you suspect,” God interjected. Joe frowned a little. Was he going insane? Had he finally cracked? Is this how schizophrenia begins? “No,” God replied, “Schizophrenia is terrible and you do not have it.”

“Then you would be…?” Joe inquired in his mind.

“You won’t believe me even when I tell you,” God replied coquettishly. Joe’s mind leapt back to Grocery Girl. God made one of those unpleasant game show sounds that indicated he was wrong. Joe shook his head gently and continued working, trying to focus on what he was doing. If he just stopped thinking, it’d be easier.

God watched Joe as he went about his work, wondering if the man would ever guess the least likely (yet also most likely) answer: that God was speaking to him, brain to brain, mano y mano. Metaphorically speaking, anyway.

“I wonder what her name is?” Joe was pondering to himself, somehow shoved onto a one-track groove regarding Grocery Girl, forgetting Kayla existed for the moment. It was one of her days off, anyway.

“She’s probably fucking that bloke she’s on-again with, wondering how long it’ll take you to take her to bed and spend all your extra cash on her ungrateful soul,” God said, knowing Joe wasn’t even thinking about Kayla in that moment. Joe was, in fact, avoiding it because he had all the clues to make the same conclusion himself. He simply refused to because he wanted someone to end his loneliness. It was the normal human condition, after all.

“What? Grocery Girl?” Joe asked suddenly, confused.

“Kayla, dufus. This is a reality check. You cannot simply daydream about another woman to avoid a problem you created: you are flirting with a ticking time bomb. Don’t you see how she flirts with The Beard? That’s the dude she wants to fuck most out of all of you and you know it.” God was not pulling any punches. “I will not allow you to flirt with my girl while you are in the middle of wooing a whore into your boudoir.”

Joe blinked a few times. He kind of felt like crying. Was it the onions he was chopping or emotions he was feeling? A little bit of both, he imagined. Nobody would really question it so long as it didn’t devolve into an ugly cry out of nowhere… How could he avoid that? Well, he supposed he could think through what the intrusive ass in his head was saying to him.

Kayla did flirt with everyone, but especially so with The Beard. The Beard did the same thing in reverse, leading Joe to a very low opinion about that guy. He was all over fellow employees and customers alike. He wondered if The Beard was targeting Grocery Girl or not, as well. From what he’d seen, Grocery Girl doesn’t like engaging in conversation. She just went around people instead of speaking, actually. There was a time she could have come through where he set up to do some work, which he’d actually done on purpose because he figured she’d just say, “Excuse me” and continue on through the aisle she was already in. But, to his surprise, she instead went around him, his cart, and the display his cart was backed up against, just so that she would not interrupt him at all.

That didn’t fit in with his idea of flirting. His idea of flirting was to put yourself out there, try to be seen and heard as often as possible. She got the seen part, for sure, but he’d never heard her say anything other than “thank you” when he complimented her choker. He had hoped that day he was creating an excuse to say anything to the woman, but it didn’t work out… That didn’t jive with Bob’s question about mind-reading, either.

Grocery Girl looked neutral all the time to him… neither happy or miserable, just there. That’s one reason he never tried to put himself out there again. Another would be that he could get fired. He’d daydreamed of her smiling at him for the compliment and so on, but that never happened. However, the more he thought about it… the only time he saw her smile is when he accidentally caught her looking at him and he was smiling. Was it his fault there was never a smile with that “thank you”? He was only smiling because he had been flirting heavily with Kayla… it was making the days go by faster and more brightly.

Grocery Girl had to be ultra-polite… wait, he was supposed to be thinking about the mess he started with Kayla, wasn’t he? Instead, he was ruminating on Grocery Girl as if the other woman didn’t even exist. “I guess that settles it,” Joe muttered to himself. “I don’t really like Kayla. I’m just responding to her ‘all hands’ flirting, thinking I’ve got a chance with this mediocre gal, all while passing up some woman I’m pretty sure is making eyes at me. I should leave Kayla to The Beard. It’s obvious that’s the dude she wants to be with, if anyone, but she’s not focusing her efforts so she’ll probably never get him. Plus, I’m absolutely certain that jackass is vain as can be and she’s not as pretty as she acts.”

Crystal wondered how pretty had anything to do with the way one behaves, honestly. Wasn’t beauty in the eye of the beholder? If so, that meant all people are beautiful, not just the ones she personally took a liking to. How do pretty girls act? Like vain bitches? “I thought that was separate,” she thought abstractly. She was perplexed, but not for long before her attention went elsewhere; she was cooking a bunch of meals for her lazy-as-can-be parents so they could enjoy their retirement of reading and watching television day in and day out. She didn’t really see the allure of being a zombie like that, but there it was: two grown adults acting like five year olds, taxing their sick child to make them comfortable as they grow older and die.

Joe could feel someone smiling somewhere in his mental periphery, which was incongruent with the thoughts that just went through his head. Could that be Grocery Girl? What did the other voice call her? Super Vixen?

“Why’d you call her that? Also why do you call her your girl?” he inquired internally, hoping for a response that made sense. So far, the word choices were not his typical vernacular, so he really believed someone else was indeed in his head. He wished it was the woman he was so caught up with suddenly. Well, it wasn’t that suddenly… it was the moment he realized she’d smiled at him. He’d really wanted it in his bones, but it hadn’t happened until he was already smiling himself. He wanted to cry. All he had to do was smile at her? And now what? She was flirting with Bob again? He was even hotter than The Beard. And, furthermore, he shut Kayla down every time she tried to flirt with him. He’d flatly tell her to do her damn job and the like, as if he had eyes only for getting food out there into the lobby area, the browsing sections.

“She’s my horse, if it’s a horse race, and I’ll bet on her every time. She’s my baby, as in a child that I take care of,” God replied rather enigmatically, even though all His words made perfect sense they were not the words Joe needed to make sense of the situation at all. Joe was angry with himself. A potential missed opportunity was right there on his horizon; he could have been with the beautiful woman nobody dared to approach if he’d been on the ball and thinking it through. If he’d just smiled, he could have had the super babe that walked through the store once a day every day.

“I wouldn’t liken her to a horse, myself,” Joe replied, taken aback over the metaphor. He couldn’t argue with vixen, but horse… that seemed to be taking it too far.

Crystal responded, pondering, “Why not? Horses are large creatures of burden, magnificent, full of personality, and quite willful. You can lead one to water, but you…”

“Can’t force it to drink,” Joe’s brain finished the old adage without a second thought. Her mane-like hair popped into his head suddenly, making him silently agree that perhaps she was a bit like a horse. Or perhaps just a wild animal trying to avoid being hunted. Or perhaps she was just a girl, lost somehow, looking for a lantern in the dark.

“That doesn’t explain who you are,” Joe said, indicating he was waiting for an explanation. He tried to still his mind, concentrating on the task he was given to complete as he waited for a reply.

“It’ll come to you some day,” God replied. “It might take you a while, but I have faith in you.” That last part rang out in Joe’s mind. Faith. When’s the last time anyone had used that word in a conversation with him? He couldn’t remember.

“Thanks, bro,” Joe replied sarcastically.

“You’re welcome, bro,” God responded, just as sarcastically.

Joe shook his head, moving from one station to the next. He was falling behind just a little, so he had to step up to keep up with the dinner rush demand. Their job was to fill all the cases as full as possibly by 5:30, so the professionals browsing hungrily after work would be tantalized by their fresh spoils and take as much home for a quick and easy — yet nutritious — dinner. It was already 4:08 PM and there wasn’t much time. His lunch was still coming and he had to get a cart out on the floor by 5:15 PM or he’d be interrupting shoppers… shoppers like Grocery Girl, walking through the deli, hungry as can be.

He wondered if she ever took any food home with her. He hadn’t personally seen it, but if she did… he wanted whatever he made to be the best whatever-it-was possible, so he decided to become extra mindful. Maybe one day, she would taste his cooking, his contribution. And maybe, just maybe, she’d want to kiss the chef.

She wondered what he was making today and whether or not she could eat it. And furthermore, what was Bob making? Bob seemed like a sweetheart, though God assured her he would cheat on her someday. He didn’t say that about Joe, though.

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