The Bigshot by Lowell Jaeger

Office at the college, my name on the door. View of the lawns and walks. My toddler daughter opens a desk drawer, empties it on the floor, spilling thumb tacks. Her mom’s peeved I missed the birthday party, so the kid and I are paired while Mom pampers herself with a spa day at the health club.

“Molly,” I say, “don’t put those in your mouth.” I’ve been out of town. A blind woman taps her cane past my window. “Molly,” I say, “spit that out.” She opens her mouth. Two tacks drop into my palm. I watch the woman navigate the commons, tapping side to side. Test my index finger against the tack. “Ouch!” I say. Molly stares up at me. A man sitting on a park bench shouts, and the woman with the cane answers. He’s giving directions. Or coaching her.

“Molly, have you got something in your mouth?” She clamps her lips tight. The blind woman rests her cane against her chest. Which is when I notice her open blouse and cleavage. Voluptuous hips and thighs. Molly gags. “Dammit, Molly.” I pry a finger past her new sharp teeth. Open her jaw. She’s scared. I find nothing.

The blind woman fluffs her auburn curls. No, she’s adjusting a velvet sleep mask over her eyes. The man leans, speaks sternly, and the woman taps away across the commons again, faster. Molly snuffles. I scoop her up and point out the window. “Look, Molly, let’s watch the lady with a stick.” Molly cries, and I hug her against my shoulder. She stiffens and won’t hug back.

We close up the office and step outside, Molly leading the way. I shade my eyes in the sun. “Hello, Molly,” the man on the park bench calls out. I walk over to him, shake hands. Says he knows Molly from the health club. And my wife, Angie. “You must be the father,” he says. I hear tapping behind me. He’s tan. Muscular. The cane probes around my shoes.

“Where’s the baby?” the woman asks. Molly sobs, unconvincingly. The man calls to her, and she comes. “I’m Teddy,” the woman says. They’ve both been to the birthday party. In my home. She removes the mask, her eyes small, milky, gray. I ply the moment to appreciate her cleavage. “Want to try it?” she asks. “First time’s a real rush.”

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“No Picture Available” (image via Flickr user Sean Kirkpatrick)

When I reach for the cane and mask, she takes my hand, holds on. “Frank,” she says to the man, “go after her. She’s wandering.” Molly heads for the empty fountain. She’s just turned two. I’m thirty-three. Think I’m a bigshot. Tenure track. I test the cane. Tap. Tap. Pull the mask over my eyes.

As editor of Many Voices Press, Lowell Jaeger compiled New Poets of the American West, an anthology of poets from 11 Western states. He is author of five collections of poems, including WE (Main Street Rag Press 2010) and How Quickly What’s Passing Goes Past (Grayson Books 2013). Most recently Jaeger was awarded the Montana Governor’s Humanities Award for his work in promoting thoughtful civic discourse.