Excruciating Torture

He’s a young man, the kind with sad, distant eyes. He is wearing three layers too many for the spring weather, but he diligently struggles along the beach, pausing to take pictures of waves, of terns, of bits of chainlink fence. Self-consciously arty stuff, more to get a feel for the camera than for anything else.

A pair of red boots enter his frame. Up, up (slow pan to insinuating saxophone) past long legs, highwaisted jeans, a red top masquerading as a pair of bandanas. “Pardon me,” he says, “you’re in my shot.”

“Are you a photographer?”

“Uh, yeah. I guess so.”

“Are you famous?”

“No, no. I’m from Saint Louis. Nobody gets famous in Saint Louis.”

There’s a long pause. She’s still in his shot. He fingers the ascot covering his yellow turtleneck fretfully.

“So, uh, what’s your name?” She laughs as she says it.

“Well, I’m–“

“No, wait. Let me guess. You’re… Finbarr?” She laughs again. “No, of course not. That couldn’t be it. Oh, I know! You’re Eric!”

He blinks. There’s a loose thread on the front of his blue velvet waistcoat. He plucks at it, tries to avoid eye contact, fails. “Sure. So, uh, I guess I get to guess your name, too? How about, uh–” (For an instant his imagination fails. He can’t think of a single female name. Has he ever known a woman? Has he even ever met a woman before? He starts to panic.) “–Linda?”

She giggles. “Linda’s a pretty name!”

“Well, Linda, you’re a very pretty girl.” Something is dying inside of him. He wants out of this conversation. He doesn’t know how to get out of it.

Linda takes her top off. “Why don’t you take my picture?” she purrs. “I could be in Playboy, don’t you think?”

He hems and haws, starts to struggle out of his purple corduroy jacket. He can barely breathe. “I … suppose. I could. I mean–“

It’s almost a relief when her friends break his legs, tie him to a post and light him on fire.

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