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His Own Naked Lunch



He works in the shoe department. He is an assistant manager, a position he has held for eight years. He is the perfect employee - punctual, courteous, a breath of fresh air in a stale environment. Yet, he is shy around women. He doesn't socialize outside of work, preferring to spend his off-hours doing crossword puzzles. He doesn’t like to talk about himself. He would be eliminated in the first round of a speed-dating game show. The one trait that makes him stand out is his ability to visualize women naked. This is not simply imagining what a woman would look like naked, it is an actual power he possesses. X-ray vision, if you will. While assisting customers, he sees the women naked. At the beach or in a restaurant, women are naked. Fortunate for him, he can pick and choose which women he wants to see naked. He has a grandmother, for goodness sake.

She works in the men’s department, where she is adept at handing out compliments to the vain male customers, who believe her when she tells them how great they look in that leather jacket, or how that overpriced business suit fits them just right. She is not so much a flirt, as she is a savvy sales person, with the gift of making everyone feel a little bit better about themselves.

He thinks she is pretty. With clothes and without. He would like to ask her out but is terrified of rejection. Today they are both in the employee lunch room. He is eating a sandwich, thinking of something clever to say. He can’t come up with anything. She is sitting alone, eating an apple and looking at a magazine with pictures of celebrities on its cover. She giggles. He likes the way she giggles. She probably doesn’t even know I exist, he thinks to himself. I’m such a loser. She gathers up the remains of her lunch and deals them into the proper receptacles – recyclables, compostable, everything else. She is almost to the door when she spins and heads directly towards his table. He can’t swallow. He feels the blood leaving his head and traveling down into his stomach. He wants to throw up. He tries to smile. She is not smiling. He shouldn’t have stared. Too late. She stands over him, shaking her head. Hello, he mumbles. Hello to you, she says. Do me a favor, she says. What kind of favor? he asks. Will you just do me a favor? she repeats. I suppose, is all he can come up with. Put some fucking clothes on. She walks away. Smiling.

This story was written by Fred Vogel. His words have seen the light of day in Literally Stories, Flash Fiction Magazine, Literary Orphans, Crack the Spine, and elsewhere. He resides in Oregon.
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