The man in a rusty pick-up, a hoarder, parked in the same spot in the Metroparks, the little lot on the sharp curve beneath the railroad bridge. He backed in to view the walkers, joggers, and bicycle riders on the asphalt trail. He’d been coming every night to tally and fantasize. His beloved possessions piled up beside him in the passenger seat, but he made room for his laptop to be at eye level, easily accessible, outfitted like a cop’s cruiser. One never knew when something eye-catching would need to be Googled. He was a boy-scout type. A hunter.
Every night the same nature-lovers could be counted upon to stroll by his truck: the couple with their great dane; the lithe, sweaty dad pushing a stroller and running unbelievably fast; the barrelesque woman clothed in all black, shuffle-running, her long blond hair swinging like curly ribbons behind her. The sisters: chatting, laughing. Beautiful teeth, both. That’s what Pick-up Man noticed: their lovely teeth. They taunted him with their paper-white smiles, their easy mannerisms. Taunted, because they never once looked his way. Never a smile for him.
One day, Pick-up Man got an earful.
The beauties with their pearly teeth, they’d stopped right in front of his truck. As fate would have it, they ran into old friends. Pick-up caught snatches of conversation. One of the sisters had a son who–once upon a time–played soccer with the woman’s son. Introductions went around, and that was how he got their names: Colleen and Meegan. Kelly. Bob. He cared not for the couple. They, too, went by all the time, and while he coveted Kelly’s luscious beaver-y teeth, she always wore black, and Pick-up hated black. And blondes.
Brunettes. Playful, bouncy ponytails. Colorful, sporty outfits. After that, when the sister teeth walked by, he called them by name. Colleen…Meegan…Colleen…
He whispered. Licked his teeth. As the summer days passed, he learned about them bit by bit. They weren’t sisters, as he thought, but friends. This misconception disturbed him. All the time he thought they were sisters, but no. Pick-up wanted to know them better. He wanted–no, he needed them to smile for him. But they never so much as looked his way when they walked by.
Desperation is not only the mother of invention, it’s the father of folly.
Pick-up decided to pick them up. He’d been ready for days, but each time Colleen and Meegan passed by, his resolve melted. What if they were stronger than him? What if they screamed before he could taze them? What if someone saw him drag them onto his truck bed? Was he strong enough to lift their dead weight? So much to consider, so much could go wrong.
Then, providence. Meegan went by alone. Throwing off all caution, he jumped from his truck and approached her. Her brow furrowed and she made as if to side-step him.
“Excuse me,” he said, “Meegan, right?”
Hesitant. Wary. “…Who’s asking?”
“Your friend, Colleen. Why isn’t she with you?”
At first Meegan wouldn’t tell him, but once she was chained up in his truck bed and taken to the top of Royalview hill, he had a great conversation with her. (A little slit in the tape allowed for it.) Really, in no time he felt like he knew her better. And Colleen, too. Colleen had a COVID booster that day and wasn’t feeling well. That’s why Meegan walked alone.
“What lengths we go to, to stay healthy,” Pick-up shook his head. “Boy, will she be surprised to see us. Tell me the way. To her house.”
Not surprisingly, Meegan was uncooperative. But he had her phone. Her fingerprint. Once he had Colleen’s last name, he had everything he needed. The two spent a night under the stars. Neither slept. Pick-up went through Colleen and Meegan’s life on social media until the phone battery died. Meegan lay wide-eyed and silent, her delicious smile hidden by duct tape. Pick-up couldn’t wait for the sun to rise, for Colleen’s husband to leave for work, to get the friends together again.
True: Colleen and Meegan have amazing smiles. And Bob and I do regularly run into them on the Metroparks trail.
Also true: My son, Luke, played soccer with Colleen’s son, Brandon. What great memories I have of those days. Brandon zipped around the field, stealing the ball from anybody and everybody. Luke just bowled people over and stole it like a Viking.
Also, also true: I have big, beaveresque teeth I try to keep white because they’re so front and center, but where the idea came from of a sicko who fixates on teeth…I have no clue. These things just come to me.
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