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Hooks and Loops

by Boris Kokotov

Early afternoon at an uncrowded cafe. A sign “Lebanese Tavern” can be seen. Soft music is playing. JANE and STANLY are sipping drinks and chatting. They have already ordered lunch.

JANE is an attractive, buxom woman in her early thirties, smartly dressed, confident. STANLY is about the same age, an artistic type, talkative, a bit nervous.

JANE: You told me this story a month ago, soon after we began seeing each other.

STANLY: l’ve made changes lately, added a couple of episodes.

JANE: I hadn’t noticed.

STANLY: It’s still a true story.

JANE: If you say so.

STANLY: You don’t believe my stories are true, do you?

JANE: Telling the same tales many times doesn’t make them more convincing.

STANLY: Do you think I make them up?

JANE: Of course! Embellishing facts or replacing them with fantasies, that’s what’s going on.

STANLY: You mean, in creative writing.

JANE: In recreational talking, as well.

STANLY: Talking could be just a first step—

JANE: In a wrong direction.

STANLY: That’s certainly a possibility.

JANE: So you are using me as a guinea pig.

STANLY: You are privileged to enjoy the stories before others have a chance to read them.

JANE: Like the incident when you went swimming with sharks and got bitten.

STANLY: But not by a shark. And that didn’t happen in the Atlantis Aquarium!

JANE: Or the saga about having an affair with an older cousin.

STANLY: She wasn’t my cousin, she was my classmate’s cousin.

JANE: If so, it’s even less interesting.

STANLY: It was interesting enough to me back then.

JANE: But why should I hear all this?

STANLY: Well, I’m opening my heart...

JANE: I don’t operate on an open heart. I am not a surgeon!

STANLY: Good for you. Premiums for your malpractice insurance would be prohibitive.

JANE: Or how you refused to play violin as a way of upsetting your domineering father.

STANLY: What’s wrong with that one?

JANE: It sounds like you’re looking for an excuse by blaming your dad.

STANLY: Dad spared no efforts trying to crush my resistance.

JANE: Did he succeed?

STANLY: He had no doubts about his judgments.

JANE: On the whole, weren’t his judgments right? Why were you so reluctant to accept that?

STANLY: Right or wrong, they were judgments, almost verdicts. I hated that.

JANE: Listen—

STANLY: I know, you’re not a surgeon.

JANE: Nor a shrink. But if you’re up to spilling out the next story, all right, you have my ear.

STANLY: Thank you, at least I have something. Anyway, here is a poem:

One day my father brought home a sewing machine,
the old foot-operated Singer. He cleaned and greased it.
Then he taught himself how to sew.

Each Saturday morning he used to come home
with two fiber suitcases full of pre-cut pieces
and work through weekends stitching them together.

Mostly it was bras: white and pink, soft to the touch,
and incredibly big — all of them — at least
to the eyes of a twelve-year old boy.

Running the old Singer was my father’s side job
for a couple of years. My mom liked the extra money.
I hated the noise and was ashamed by those

resilient semi-spheres, never collapsing flat,
furnished with narrow straps and a wider band
impregnated with hooks and loops.

Occasionally I was summoned to help with packaging.
I was good at putting the finished goods in bags
and stuffing the bags in suitcases.

JANE: That’s all?

STANLY: Unfinished. Untitled. Still mulling over the ending.

JANE: I swear I know where you’re going with this!

STANLY: Then you know more than I do.

JANE: Those oversized bras made such a frightening impression on your immature mind...

STANLY: I suppose they did.

JANE: That later in life you steered clear of girls with big boobs.

STANLY: Hmm...

JANE: Until you met someone—

STANLY: Meaning you.

JANE: Who was able to reveal—

STANLY: Yes, indeed!

JANE: How silly your phobia was and encourage you to make amendments.

STANLY: Brilliant idea! Can I use it?

JANE: Be my guest... All right, our food is coming!

(A dark-haired middle-aged waitress comes with a tray, smiles at them and puts a few dishes on their table.)

WAITRESS: Okay guys, here are your appetizers: salad, cheese, olives, and hummus.

JANE: Everything looks delicious. Thank you!

(The waitress smiles at her and leaves. Stanly appears slightly annoyed by the interruption.)

STANLY: Now, since you’ve inserted yourself into the story, you share responsibility for its truthfulness.

JANE: How can I share responsibility with someone avoiding responsibilities at any cost?

STANLY: Avoiding responsibility still costs less than assuming it.

JANE: That’s what storytelling is: responsibility-free activity.

STANLY: Unless one dares to turn fiction into reality.

JANE (with a smirk): I feel you are searching for a way to complete your poem on a positive note.

STANLY: As Paul Valery famously wrote, “Poems are never completed, only abandoned.” But I’m not going to abandon this one.

JANE: You’ve suddenly become so determined.

STANLY: Yes, but I need your full support.

JANE: Hey, those hooks and loops are catching on you!

STANLY: For carrying those amendments out.

JANE (laughing): Putting them into practice, so to speak. Now, can we eat? I am hungry!

STANLY: Me too!

JANE: Remember I told you about the guy I was seeing this summer?

STANLY: A student adviser at the college? Like yourself?

JANE: He’s an assistant professor.

STANLY: Yeah, what was his name? Something exotic, right?

JANE: Right. The name’s John.

STANLY: I heard he swam with sharks too, wasn’t as lucky as I was: a big white got him, messed him up badly.

JANE: Oh...

STANLY: Such a shame, you know... Here, kabobs are coming!

JANE (glancing at her phone): Got to go. Ask for a doggy-bag, will you?

STANLY: Sure. Listen, my digs are just around the corner—

JANE: Sorry, I have a faculty meeting in half an hour.

STANLY: No problem, we can save this for dinner. When you come, the kabobs will be hot and the beer will be cold.

JANE: And the sky will be blue.

STANLY: Only if you come early.

JANE: You’re asking for more than you deserve, Stan.

Copyright © 2016 by Boris Kokotov

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