James Cervantes

Crab Oscar: A Biopic

Oscar shuffled around on two feet. The other two, the outer ones, were thinking about a waltz but settled for a polka. If you can imagine your two legs, then another off to the right and another off to the left, you can pretty much see Oscar, who every now and then kicked himself in the ass.

Oscar was overheard thinking to himself: I’m not some tricky European story. I will not be a symbol. Oscar shuffled off into the distance chuckling to himself and some people never mentioned his name again as long as they were alive.

He loved living alone. He’d learned long ago that it wasn’t necessary to look at faces. At intersections, just focusing on the wait or walk signals was enough. He’d liked the different bird sounds in Vancouver that told you when to wait or walk.

Shopping was made easy by the machines you slid your bank card through, which told you what you owed, asked if you wanted money, and told you it was all o.k. He’d long ago put out of his mind cashiers mumbling about ice and stamps.

At about age 42, Oscar learned he could go back to school via distance learning and was overjoyed. He applied himself diligently to his online classes, earned a degree in distance learning, then returned to his former life.

There was this gadget made in the Netherlands that consisted of two pincers on ball joints at either end of a stainless steel rod, and between them was a magnifying glass also on a ball joint. The gadget was made to assist in the making of small craft objects. That’s really what Oscar wanted to be and eventually he would figure out a way to get there.


Tour Bus

This is the city of my birth but it has grown increasingly unfamiliar the last two days of my visit. I try to be a good tourist and make my way down to the lobby for breakfast before the hotel staff has become crabby.

There’s loud chatter coming from the dining room so I put off breakfast for a cigarette outdoors and grab a complimentary coffee from the lobby stand. Oxygen feels great but I ruin that in a matter of moments with the cigarette. A bus is parked outside the hotel portico, one of those luxury buses with a large sign saying “Executive Pioneers.”

The dining room has not thinned at all by the time I return. Twenty or thirty women in their sixties and seventies are seated in pairs or groups of four, all talking at Volume 8 on a scale of 1 to 10. They are all overweight to obese, have short cropped hair with tight curls, and wear an almost standardized style of dress: a blousy shirt-blouse worn outside pants or jeans two sizes larger than the blouse. Not executives, or pioneers. Widows!

I can’t finish my breakfast because I’m suddenly not feeling well, dazed and exhausted from careening about a city ten times the size it was when I left it. Looking about the room, I think that this is what my mom would look like and be doing if she had survived my father. They have to be widows, I think, and I am a living husband, an endangered species. My cell phone is upstairs in my room, otherwise I would call my wife for some kind of reassurance.

Probably the most portly of the women brushes my table as she heads for a particularly animated group of four. Like the rest, she’s wearing a nametag dangling from a loop around her neck, but hers is festooned with ribbons and a couple of large badges with print I can’t read. She appears to be the Head Person, so to speak, and focuses her attention on a woman with gray pigtails wearing a polka dot lime green blouse. Pigtails raises her arms, claps her hands above her head, and wiggles her bottom in her chair. They all laugh and Head Person dashes off. Pigtails follows and breaks into a trot in a mock race, cutting off Head Person.

I signal to a waitress, then ask for my check. I scribble my name and room number, put two dollars on the little plastic tray along with the receipt, and leave the room almost as fast as Pigtails. For some reason, I’m disgusted. I’m not really sure where I’m going. Upstairs, or outside? There’s really nothing I have to do. I opt for my room.

I turn on the TV and hook up my laptop to the hotel high speed internet, not really sure which will get my attention. From my tenth floor window I can look down on the hotel entrance drive. The tour bus is gone. I log onto Facebook and have to lie about what I’m doing.

James Cervantes

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