Tall Tales by Kayla O'Connell

“What have we got today, Shirley?”

“I’m serious, and stop calling me Shirley”

For a moment he stared at her.

“That’s not how it goes, dear.”

She ignored him as she rummaged through her twisted paper bag.

“Did you know Leslie Nielsen died? So sad, such a sad thing."

“I know, my dear. We did love him.”

“Airplane, it was so funny.”

“It was, dear.”

He moved closer to her on the bench. It was cold but through his layers he felt little. He pulled a worn hat out of his coat pocket.

“Look what I have for you. It covers your ears and everything.”

She looked at him hard.

“Thank you!” She clumsily grabbed at the hat and shoved it on her heard. Pointedly covering her ears.

“They were getting red. Could you tell?”

“I could.”

She became sidetracked by her new gift and ran her fingers over it, memorizing the bumps.

He called her out of her distraction, “Darling, back to work. What have we got today?”

“Did you call James?”

“Not today, not yet, he’s in work until 6, we’ll call him after. What have we got today? I’m getting hungry.”

She continued to rummage through her bag, throwing aside used napkins and worthless items she had garnered along their hours.

“It looks like...” she pulled out each item and placed it on the bench.

“Oh no dear,don’t put them there... bed bugs,” he whispered.

She smiled through her feigned shock and moved them to her lap.

“Three cheeseburgers and half of a pita sandwich. I don’t like that falafel stuff... not American you know. You can have it.”

He picked up the sandwich and stared at it for awhile.

Eventually he leaned toward a bite.

“It’s okay, dear. You don’t like that much either. You need your strength. Eat up.”

She quickly removed the pita sandwich from his hand and expertly replaced it with a cheeseburger.

He bit down happily.

“What shall we do today my love?”

“Call James.”

"We will, darling. He’s out at six. we’ll call him then.”

“Ask about the children? Don’t forget.”

“I won’t. I’ll ask. You can ask, you’ll talk to him too.”

“Yes.”

The pair ate their meal in silence. The chaotic life of the city served as their own personal entertainment. For a moment they forgot that it was getting cold.

“What shall we do today my love?”

She thought for a moment, chewing.

“Coney Island! We’ll get our bathing suits. We’ll sit on the dock and eat Nathan’s! They say it’s seven-hundred calories but to hell with them! Extra chili, I say!”

They laughed together. A young man walked up to them and quickly handed them a five dollar bill.

“Merry Christmas” he whispered.

“Oh thank you, dear, but we’re not poor, we’re only testing our strength against the elements! NASA has asked us to test out their new winter jackets. Boy, do they work!” She got up and swung her weary jacket around. The boy moved on, he likely didn’t hear them chuckling together through his headphones.

The old man held up the five dollar bill, “Two hot dogs, extra, extra calories! Pile them on!!” he shouted as his companion laughed so hard tears began to form in her eyes.

“Yes, TWO hot dogs!”

Their laughter slowly died out while they finished their meal.

“Is it time yet?” She looked at him.

“It’s not, dear. Not yet.”

“Well what would you like to do with the rest of our day?”

It was his turn to think for a moment.



Suddenly he jumped up.

“I ain’t here on business baby, I’m only here for fun... and Rosie you’re the one!!”

The old man grabbed his companion’s hand and began to dance her around in bright circles. She could hardly stand with laughter.

“I want to sing like Bruce and dance around Union Square. I want to scare the tourists!... 'Rosalita jump a little a lighter!... Seniorita come sit by my fire!'”

They spent a few more moments twirling each other around and jumping up and down to the music in their heads. He grabbed her close.

“Now I know your mama she don’t like me, cause I play in a rock and roll band.”

She raised her head to his... “someday we’ll look back on this and it will all seem funny.”

Their frozen lips warmed for a moment. If they didn’t know any better they might think they were twentysomethings dancing through the first cold days of winter. Looking forward to warm Christmas nights and summers ahead. But they knew better.

They sat, breathless and laughing still. She wrapped herself around his arm and laid her head on his shoulder.

“Is it time yet?”

“Not yet, dear.”

“How much time?”

The old man looked at his watch. He noticed the hands were still.

“Twenty minutes or so.”

“Fantastic. What shall we talk to James about?”

“Well, we can ask him about his children. Perhaps about his job?”

“Oh, what is he doing now?”

“I thought I told you the last time I spoke to him!”

She shook her head and looked up at him. Waiting for something.

“Well he’s become quite successful you see. He was just promoted at his marketing firm. He has pension, paid time off. He’s got it all! And he hasn’t said anything yet but I think that beauty of a wife he has might be pregnant again!”

“Really?”

“Twins!”

“Oh how exciting! We’ll be grandparents again! Oh, what can we buy them for Christmas?”

“Well, darling, they won’t be born for a bit.”

The look on her face urged him on.

“Next year though! Next year we can get them some warm sweaters. We can get them some 'I love Grandma' sweaters!”

“That sounds lovely.”

“We won’t tell him. It’ll be a surprise.”

They sat for a few moments in silence. It was cold but they had learned to cope. What is life but learning to cope, the old man thought to himself, just coping. He looked down at his companion and thought for a moment he saw youth in her eyes. She was dreaming of warm babies, big houses and family holidays. He would sell his soul to give it to her. Turns out that’s just not enough.

“Almost time?”

“Yes dear, it’s almost time. Have you got any quarters.”

“Oh yes, I have two from yesterday. What if we need more? What if he wants to talk for quite some time?” The look of worry on her face amused him.

“Well that young man gave us a five dollar bill. We can change that into plenty of quarters later on.”

“Yes, that will be fine.”

The afternoon sun was beginning to set and together the pair approached evening. Crossing arms and wrapped in each other, they prepared for the cold night ahead.

“It’s time, darling. Would you like to call today?”

“No dear, you go ahead. You talk to him about his promotion and when you’re done I’ll talk about the children.”

“That sounds lovely.” The old man kissed her tenderly on the forehead and achingly stood up. Cold air doesn’t do much for old bones, he thought. He walked over to the pay phone and slowly put his quarters in. He dialed numbers. He waited.

Moments later he hung the phone up and traveled back to his companion.

He wrapped her in his arms.

“No answer?”

“No, no answer. Maybe tomorrow.” He wrapped her tighter as they prepared for night.


Kayla is a twenty-something writer/actor/yogi/bartender livin' the dream in big, bad NYC. Visit her blog if you know what's good for you: http://kaylaelizabeth327.blogspot.com.