SITTING PRETTY James used his best phone voice. First impressions count. "Hello Angel, I'm here in the park near the station. Where are you? I want to know if you look as good as your photo on the forum." He grinned when the only reply was a picture from Angel's phone camera. The lake in the photo looked familiar with its ducks and artificial islands. He could see he was already beside it and soon figured out where she must be. Just an hour between trains he muttered to himself as he pushed through a group of overfed children stuffing themselves with steaming hotdogs. He saw Angel's head and shoulders first, young and pretty, above the low azalea bushes flowering along the lakeside path. Coming closer, what he saw brought quite different thoughts raced through his head, 'Of course, we only know each other from the Internet. I've made all sorts of assumptions to fill in the gaps. Of course, so has she.' But it wasn't the large man with her that had startled James. "You'll excuse me if I don't get up," said Angel softly and sweetly. James forgot the ever-so-clever greeting he had been silently rehearsing. Smiling and nodding they shook hands formally. He tried to look everywhere except at the flashes of sunlight glinting from the bright metal of her wheelchair. She gestured that James should sit with the older man on the park bench next to her wheelchair. "This is my father. I wanted him to come along too. After all, you never really know what you might be letting yourself in for when you get to know people online." Angel's father shook his hand with an unexpectedly strong grip. James pretended it didn't hurt. Angel wheeled her chair around. "So James, let's get a good look at you. You look older. I think you must have been using an old photo for your avatar," she said accusingly. All three laughed loud enough to make the nearest ducks flutter off down the lake. Father also wanted a good look at James. "So I hear you're a bit of a practical joker and a poet too. Angel's been telling me how you've been having some fun teasing her and the other moderators on the website. When I was a lad we got poetry in school. Do you write proper poetry, stuff that rhymes or is it all that arty-farty stuff?" "Mostly arty-farty I'm afraid," said James handing a folded paper to Angel. "Like this one. We said we would each bring something along today. She's always going on about saving the world so I wrote her something about peace in the world." Absorbed in what James had written, Angel did nothing to stop it when the wind coming off the lake lifted up the hem of her little red dress. James saw just enough firm young flesh to make him think she was not just a pretty face. Then she moved, trying to get comfortable in the wheelchair and looked up. He remembered when he was young and his mother caught him with a lingerie advert and looked away. "Come on. Read it out," said Father. Angel read it aloud: the world is at peace in those precious still moments between winter storms "It's a haiku," said James. "It's OK. I know what a haiku is," said Father, going on to surprise James further by suggesting it might be considered a senryu on account of the metaphor. Angel made a show of counting off the syllables on her fingers before thanking James with a warm little hug made awkward by the wheelchair. "James says he wants me for my mind," grinned Angel reaching into her bag. "So I have written one especially for him. It's a three stanza pantoum rhymed ABAB with each line repeating." Then looking over to catch her father's expression, she added. "It's called Piss Artist." Father giggled like a teenager. "That's my girl. You can always spot the benefits of an expensive education." "Please James, will you be the artist and read it out," she said. So James read aloud: PISS ARTIST I Mark my territory, graffiti is my art. I spray calligraphy, written from the heart. Graffiti is my art. A new but ancient rite. Written from the heart, a creature of the night. A new but ancient rite, I spray calligraphy. A creature of the night, I mark my territory. Father giggled again, not least because of the youths in leather jackets who had passed by just at the right time to stop, listen and then clap politely when James reached the end of his little recital. One said to James, "It's not often I get to meet a real Piss Artist." Another questioned this with a loud, "No mirrors in your house then?" They exchanged grins with Angel before they left, noisy and scaring the ducks until they were gone. "Wow. Will you post it on the website?" said James. "No. I'm saving it for a competition. I'll tell everyone it's named after you if it wins. You'll be a sort of celebrity." Finally able to relax, James grinned back. "Well, thank you my little Angel, I do hope you will always think of me as your very own Piss Artist." Soon the little time they had, was gone. "I'm only here between trains," said James tapping his watch. "Got to go right now. I'd really love to do this again. I'll be back through in a couple of weeks. Please, can we do it again?" "Yes, of course," said Angel. "But only if I get another hug before you go." Grinning mischievously, her father asked for a hug too but didn't get one. Like she had done so many times when she was young, Angel held out her hand to her father. They sat together in silence until James was gone from sight. Then they waited a little longer. A grey-haired couple passed by, trying not to look at Angel. They scurried away along the path when she sprang to her feet. "OK Father, let's get you back into your chair." "Yes, you nailed him and oh yes you are naughty," he said, shuffling off the bench and back into his wheelchair. "So now you know he really does want you for your mind, not your body. I wonder if he believes in miracles." end Sitting Pretty was published in The Straitjackets Magazine, Fall 2011. First appeared, cherry-picked by the Editors at ABCtales, 2009.
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Copyright  Colin W Campbell A Sarawak based writer.
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