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pharmacy stored in her Prada purse. Rob’s an aging,
hygiene-challenged porn star and reality show celebrity.
on sight. She thinks she knows all there is to know about him but is
dying to find out more. He’s disinterested but somehow still sees
right through her. But they’ve both got big problems. Hers is in
the Louis Vuitton carryon in the overhead. His is in his pants.
the unlikeliest of friendships. He cares for her in ways she’s
never known before. He could be the best thing in her life—or the
help each other find answers they didn’t even know they were
looking for, yet some questions linger. What happened to Rob’s
first wife? What happened to Claire’s husband? Will they live
through the answers?
tragic, and funny novel about the bonds of family and friendship. If
you’d love a Gillian Flynn, Paula Hawkins, or Stieg Larsson novel
with a humorous twist, this would be it.
“I bought you the hat because you’re scary bald.”
Claire held the phone away from her ear, nostrils flaring. “I wouldn’t wear a hat if Philip
Treacy sailed it over himself on the QE2.” She strolled the gateway to watch the planes take off
through the windows. Her reflection in the glass mirrored back, her head shiny, embryonic.
Her stepdaughter let out a puff of breath. “Claire, you know how much his hats cost. It’s
just lying here on the floor.”
“I don’t give a flying—” Claire caught herself, counted to five. Annabelle meant well. “I
don’t do hats. I do bald. It is what it is.”
“Listen, why don’t you take a vacation?” The wheedling commenced. “Instead of going
wherever, to do whatever, you could go to that place I told you about in Hawaii.” Annabelle spoke
in run-ons. “They have a state-of-the-art meditation center.”
A woman wearing sweats gawked going by, smiling, nodding. Claire’s condition elicited
the sympathy of strangers. Maybe it was terminal. Whatever it was it looked bad.
“That place where I can sit around all day touching myself?”
“You can get in touch with yourself, Claire.”
“I’m halfway to Pennsylvania where I want to go.” Claire’s free hand pushed against the
window. “Me and my bald head.” Airport foot traffic hurried behind her in both directions.
“Well, you look like crap. Please reconsider Hawaii. It’s a luxurious place, the—”
“It’s not an ashram. It’s a—”
“Loony bin?” A harried traveler knocked her purse sitting by her feet. The pill bottles at
the bottom rolled and shook, cha, cha, cha, a druggist’s maraca.
“It’s a retreat center. Andrew sent Meg there for her birthday. He said she loved it.”
“Are you listening?”
Claire suffered in silence as loud as she could.
Annabelle tried a different way. “I’m worried about you. Jordan is too. Dad—”
Claire’s sudden tears annoyed her. She stabbed her phone off with one rigid finger, rammed
it into her purse. Enough of that nonsense. You can cry yourself a river, but you can’t cry your hair
back, or your life the way you wanted it.
Claire stared at the homeless looking guy sleeping on the airport floor and brushed the tears
from her lashless eyes.
She looked around. There were serious looking men in expensive suits waiting for their
flights. Most poking at their iPhones. Liam used to think every man who crossed her path wanted
to sleep with her. Now if they saw her at all she repulsed them. Claire had been a beauty until she
wasn’t. An emerald-eyed, fair-haired princess, her dad used to say. A long, tall, drink of water.
Before she’d been stared at, smiled on, envied. Now she was just stared at. Sometimes laughed or
pointed at and almost always pitied.
The wreck on the floor moved. Propped up on his scaly elbows, nodding off, his mouth
open, eyes closed. Even in his unwashed state he looked familiar. Like someone who used to be
famous. Claire scanned the crowded O’Hare terminal but didn’t notice anyone else looking at him.
Maybe she was wrong. Maybe he was just another loser. She looked at her Rolex and wondered
how late the flight was going to be. She couldn’t remember now what the voice said on the
announcement. Between the noise and the sedatives it was hard to keep up.
When she walked back to her gate the boarding had already started. She hadn’t heard the
announcement. Again. The man lying on the ground was gone. Maybe security’d shooed him
away. She noted her seat number and got in line. Sweat broke out over her upper lip. Sweating
was a problem with no hair. An added humiliation. She hoped they didn’t dilly-dally too long with
the drinks on the plane. Thank God for the three-hour jump in time going east.
She boarded then hunted for her seat—8B. She really needed to get some glasses. The
plane was a small commuter with three seats across, a single on one side of the aisle, a double on
the other. Claire found aisle 8 and was about to sit in her seat, one of the doubles, on the aisle,
when she saw him.
The dirty hobo from the airport slumped in the window seat, 8C. Right next to her.
He sprawled out over both seats, looking fatter up close, and older, late sixties at least,
despite the desperate dye job and combover. A bushy moustache like a squirrel’s ass wasn’t big
enough to cover his pock-marked face. His gut hung over his thighs. He looked either asleep or
passed out. He reeked.
“This is a mistake.” Claire stopped, twisted around in search of a flight attendant. She
couldn’t see one. The teeming line of travelers behind her tried to keep her going. “This can’t be
right. I can’t possibly sit here,” she said like an Astor in steerage on the Titanic.
The Asian man behind her smiled, moved his head up and down.
She was about to indulge in a hurricane force panic attack when she heard, “This is a full
flight. Please find your seats. Make sure your carry-ons are stored below your seat or in the upper
Claire swung her Louis Vuitton bag into her seat hitting the filthy hobo’s fat leg hard. He
jiggled up with a snort and scooted over to his side. She heaved her matching carry-on into the
overhead bin, sat down, dug a little blue pill out of her bag then swallowed it dry. She made a big
show of settling into her seat so she could turn her head to see what he was doing without seeming
obvious. He leaned against the window, eyes closed, mouth open. She could hear him snoring.
Claire stuffed her bag under the seat in front of her then fastened her seat belt with a click.
When he opened his milky blue-gray eyes he looked at her with eyelids that appeared too heavy
for him. All of a sudden he had the hearing of a dog. One side of his mouth lifted in a lopsided half
smile. He leaned forward to make sure his ragged backpack was still there, fiddled with the seatback
pocket, readjusted his seatbelt. Satisfied that all was as it should be in his area, he gave Claire
another look, one that seemed to urge her to give hers another check just to be safe. She did. In
seconds he slept again.
It occurred to Claire her unwanted traveling companion hadn’t noticed he sat next to a
hairless woman. He didn’t look her up and down and then quickly look away like most people.
Nor did he insist on politically correct earnestness, meaningful, direct eye contact. Her grubby
neighbor seemed to care only that seat trays were upright, all electronic devices were turned off,
and appropriately stored until takeoff. Claire shook her bald head. Whatever drugs he was taking
she had to get some.
The plane was almost full. Claire looked up to see a man about her age. One of the impatient
ones in a pricey suit in the aisle next to her seat. Staring. Oh no. She could feel the color begin to
climb up her neck.
“Hey, aren’t you that guy?” the man in the suit said.
Claire exhaled. She turned to her right, startled.
“Yeah, you’re the guy from that reality show, aren’t you?” The suit wasn’t budging without
“Uh-huh… yeah, I’m him.” Claire’s seatmate slurred, barely stringing the words together.
His double chins fell forward on his chest.
“Rob,” the suit said.
The flight attendant came up behind the man prodding him forward. “I knew it,” he
muttered before moving toward his seat.
That’s where she’d seen him. What’d he say his name was again? She turned toward him.
Asleep again. “Hey,” she elbowed him. “I thought you looked familiar. You were in a reality show.
What else would I have seen you in?” She hardly ever watched reality television—at least not on
He eyed her Rolex and ten-carat diamond ring. “Nothing.”
“I thought you were someone famous when I saw you in the airport.” She knew she was
right. She almost always was. “What else are you famous for?”
His head swiveled toward her, jowls sagging.
“My cock,” he said. “I have a thirteen-inch cock.”
She currently lives in Nevada with her husband. She is a two time
Book of the Year finalist for her debut novel The Last Day for Rob
Rhino. You can find short stories and blog posts on her website.
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