The Professor and a Mercedes
Each day is the same; after parking his late model Lexus in the alley
the man sits on the bench in the small parklet.
This time, he uses to flush the stress and anxiety of the
Sixty-seven-minute commute from the suburbs out of his system.
Reynolds Standish Thornwell is a dapper man, six foot tall with
a trim athletic build and he wears it well. Today, he modeled two
different jackets; the smartly cut navy blue blazer, and the
summer wool herringbone blazer before he grabbed the two-button,
timber wolf gray linen sports coat to layer over his pearl silk
shirt and plum color tie. A striped plum and lime colored square
peeked out of the breast pocket.
He sits in the park to watch the world go about its business.
Thirty minutes he’ll sit and mentally prepare for another day.
Then he makes the slow walk against the traffic; auto and pedestrian rushing past his storefront, where he has books for sale. Old books, battered and beaten books, cheap massed produced books, arranged fastidiously by genre, on floor to ceiling shelves, textbooks some still in boxes that“fell off the truck” during the transport to the university two miles city blocks away. Others displayed in the large storefront window, hoping to snare the attention of the freshmen who attend the city college just a short stroll through the park. Near the rear of the shop, he keeps the upscale collection. The ones with names like Hemingway, Pearl Buck, James Baldwin printed on the dust covers. He once set a first edition of Chandler’s “The Lady in the Lake” in the window. This was three years past when he first opened the shop. But it sat on its pedestal for thirty-two weeks before he took it down and
reluctantly added it to his personal collection.
Today he lingers on the bench, the hope that lightning will strike twice.
Thirteen days past a former student of his had walked the path, stopped and then retraced his steps.
Yes, it is Professor Thornwell. The former student proclaimed. A bit
older now, but still wide-eyed and full of youthful vigor; the former student, not the man.
The usual banter followed:
How’s life? Good, I hope.
How’s the wife?
He remembers my wife, Thornwell thinks.
Oh, so sorry for your loss, professor. I hadn’t heard
And you, young man?
I knew you would do well, the star of the class.
The professor couldn’t quite remember the name. An unusual name.
No, not unusual, foreign, the name of a reptile perhaps? Salamander, no.
Do you remember me, professor? Sala Udin. And this is my sister,
Mercedes. You wouldn’t remember her, she was only an in-coming freshman when you left.
The professor looked at Mercedes and the remainder of the conversation
was white noise. She was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Her beauty was like a picture on television or a model painted on the ridiculously gigantic billboard he sees each morning on the expressway, used to sell unsexy products like auto/home insurance. But Mercedes would sell something exotic like mangos, or Costa Rican cruises.
Mercedes smiled and said Hello, professor.
Golden brown and her skin glistened as if she just came out of the ocean or a quick dip in a golden shower. Midnight black locs flow down her body nipping at the small of her back not unlike a shy lover. Her eyes engulfed him and he had to sit down
on the bench in order not to fall and be swallowed into her eddy.
Reynolds Standish Thornwell is in love again for the second time in his
He remembered that he muttered goodbye and take care, or some nonsense when he wanted to take Mercedes by the hand and sit with her in the park. Sip wine and talk about… what?
He smiles, knowing that his thoughts are insane. What would Cassandra think? But Cassandra’s gone, left him with his books and single place setting, eating take-out food from the corner deli.
In any case, lightning would not strike today, it’s too late. He stands
and treks across the street into the Book Emporium.
The day progresses as usual. Few patrons enter the store,
fewer still make a purchase. Bored with busy work, he closes early,
ignoring a young man who peers into the window, his nose pressed two
inches from the CLOSED sign.
The professor waits for the young man to leave before turning on the small light over the counter, sets the alarm and locks up for the day.
The drive home is longsome as usual.
And the knowledge of a hollow space surrounded by four cold, white walls awaits his arrival, makes the task more difficult.
Why can’t I just close my eyes and keep the wheel straight when the road whips around Solomon’s Bend?
He did close his eyes, one evening. But he slammed into a yuppie who was driving a BMW. The man was very hysterical. The professor fled the scene. The city highway patrol knocked on his door later that night.
He lost his driving privileges. The judge assigned him to a driving class.
The professor took public transportation. Everyone was in a hurry and rude.
The woman smelled as if she bathe in perfume.
It’s call Pink Sugar. The lady said, rolling her eyes.
The following day he drives, despite the court order.
And lightning does strike the same place twice; sitting on his bench is Mercedes.
She smiles and waves.
Professor Thornwell, fancy meeting you here.
She remembers my name.
She laughs when he tells her that the Book Emporium, located across the busy road is his shop.
A giggle really. Oh, I’ll have to visit one day.
Like Errol Garner tickling the ivories.
She’s a liberal arts student, a poet, an animal lover, and a professional
Karaoke singer. That’s the whole of me. She proclaims shyly.
He has no clue what Karaoke is.
Yeah, I know a great little place not far from here she exclaims after he had found his tongue and asked.
Are you hungry? A sophomoric manner to ask a lady to dinner, he thought, but he couldn’t bring the words back.
It is a small place- but not nice, crowded and noisy. Young people bustling and hustling, laughing loudly, talking in a language he didn’t quite understand.
Every man seems to know her.
Mercedes, what up!
I like your pieces last night, girl.
Mercedes, you coming to the party tonight? Glances at the man. Sorry.
Mercedes hugs a young, round woman, whispers in her ear and leads the professor through the throng.
The table seems to be waiting for them, like a boat tied at a pier.
She pushes him in first and slides against his body. Her fingers
gently swipe across his thigh.
A waitress appears; the woman Mercedes had hugged. And two bottles of Sam Adams one for each.
Do you like this? she asks. Her lips graze his ears, the heat from
her like a blast furnace and every bit as dangerous.
Yes. He says and wants to say more –
But she’s undoing his tie and the top button on his silk shirt.
No, I need my glasses to see. The professor says. Slipping them gently
from her grasp.
The waitress brings a menu.
He’s pleasantly surprised by the choices. And the food arrives
on real plates with real silverware and linen napkins.
I lived here for almost forty years and I have never seen this place.
My wife and I he explains. Two children older than you surely,
grandchildren half your age I expect.
The food is good, he eats it all. And half of her plate too.
Do you like poetry? She whispers in his ear partly because the noise is incredibly louder.
A bottle of wine appears at their table. From a friend the waitress announces.
A boy drops in the chair across from Mercedes.
The professor can’t hear what they are talking about, or laughing at him? Not crudely. But the boy cut his eyes at him, smiles, stands,
offers his handshake.
That was Nasir, my younger brother. Mercedes says. He’s coming to school next year.
Three women, no not women, girls in women costumes, pile into the seat across the table. One drags a chair from another table.
All are beautiful, but Mercedes stands out like a lump of coal in a fresh snow bank.
An intoxicating strong, sweetish tobacco scent envelopes the ladies. Are the women smoking?
Hi, Professor Thornwell.
They know his name?
Professor Reynolds Thornwell, these are my friends. Elana, Neena, and Siva.
Sing-song names, nothing boring like Sara, Linda, or Elizabeth
Hi, Rey this time.
Hello, ladies. He knows he will never remember the names.
The odor is strong. Marijuana, that’s the smell.
Have you ever smoked weed, professor? This song comes from the lips of Mercedes.
No, he has never smoked marijuana. That sort of thing is frowned upon in his circle.
Come on, professor, give it a try. This from another of the lovely ladies, Neena, he thinks. She looks slyly at Mercedes and smiles at the professor.
He looks at Mercedes. She avoids his gaze and giggles. The other ladies
laugh also, an inside joke he decides.
Siva, short, strong legs and well-sculptured ass. Fine, delicate facial features like a Japanese geisha; at least what he imagines a geisha would look like.
Rey, let me show you how it’s done.
Put that away! He shouts over the din of the fully packed house.
You’re in our circle now. Mercedes again. Her musical tone in his ear, her tongue lightly flicks his ear.
No, it has to be the wine and the vibe from the ladies, right?
He has no choice really.
Hold it like this. Neena speaks.
He turns, and the tiny muscle deep in his abdomen spasms. Her full, sensual lips are a whisper from the confluence of his upper and lower lips. The nearness of her voluptuous frame makes his throat dry. His eyes fall to her cleavage like a diver off a cliff.
May I have a glass of water, please?
Elana hands him a glass of wine. Elana, alabaster skin, Karen Black eyes, lithe and wispy; not like a model, like a skater, an athlete’s body.
He drinks and inhales the weed.
Slowly now, don’t gulp, Mercedes says. Sip like fine wine.
He does and he likes it.
© 2016, charles stone. All rights reserved.
The author has granted WritersCarnival.ca, its affiliates and syndicates non-exclusive rights to display this work.