Man Catcher: a short story by Jon Frank

Man Catcher is a story set at a funeral first introduced to our audience in Episode 5 of When Fact Met Fiction.

In the episode Mel addresses Jon.

” You had to write an article about a funeral?” He continues, ” Nothing like exploring food beauty at a wake.”

Jon’s article is hardly focused on the food, although the reference is there as always. His story is a hilarious excursion into one woman’s attempt to catch the ‘man of her dreams’, or at least the man who ,”was so hot and so handsome,” from her office.

You may want to watch Episode 5: The Ultimatum , to get you ready for your read of the following story.

Man Catcher

By Jon Frank

Lauren pulled her car over to the side of the little road that wound its way through Lewis Memorial Cemetery. Even though traffic had yielded to the funeral procession as usual, she was so far back in the car line that she hadn’t even parked by the time the family gathered at the graveside. Her stomach was rolling from anxiety and hunger, and the scent of turkey casserole wafting around the car interior didn’t help. Well, at least the rain had stopped, and the sun was now flickering through the clouds. Excellent. Spencer would see her strolling up in perfect light.

Lauren had started a new office job only two months ago, and she had immediately noticed Spencer. He was tall, black-haired and grey-eyed, with a strong jaw and a body that had regular dates with the gym. He worked at the opposite end of the fluorescent-lit common room, but she could see directly into his office from her cubicle. Lauren made countless excuses to walk past the other cubicles and his office to get copies or more coffee. Truthfully, she detested coffee, but pretending she needed a constant supply was worth catching glimpses of him. Normally, she wouldn’t be so flirtatious, she told herself – but he was so hot and so handsome. Plus, she was sure she had caught him looking back a few times.

Lauren knew she wasn’t supermodel material, but the looks-decent fairy had left her with a modicum of petite cuteness. However, maintaining a fit body was a herculean effort. She managed to remain slim, but there was that slight pudge no amount of spin classes would get rid of. She had finally accepted it because she was sure she had ridden that stationary bike to the top of Kilimanjaro and back at least a dozen times.

When she had taken the job she had three decent office outfits. She couldn’t afford anything expensive and the clothes she had didn’t scream high-end department store as much as thrift store. With her first paycheck she splurged on several outfits she could mix and match. She chatted with her best friend Julie on the phone while she shopped, and Julie talked her into purchasing a new bra and a couple of push-the-edge-of-modest blouses to catch Spencer’s eye.

When Lauren strolled by his doorway or paused near him at the copier, she tried her best to suck in her little gut or turn so her fit calves showed to the best advantage. She felt she had finally gotten a bite on the line the other day when he had talked to her in the break room. Well, not talked to her, exactly. He had asked for the creamer, but they made eye contact and their fingers touched briefly when she passed it to him. Connection.

Now, Spencer’s grandmother had “passed,” and Lauren was attending the service as a show of support in his time of need. When the office sympathy card circulated, she signed her name and added, “Here if you need anything at all.” Nice touch. Even better, she was fortunate to be the last employee to sign, so she personally delivered the card to Spencer’s office. He was working at his desk. What a trooper; he was so strong.

Lauren handed him the card and said gently, “Hey, how’re you holding up? Do you need anything? We’re all here for you.” She gave him her best concerned smile, trying to make it look as genuine as possible. He nodded and said, “Thanks.” Lauren felt sure she succeeded in exiting the doorway looking both supportive and alluring.

She returned to her cubicle and immediately searched the local listings for the service time and place. Then she read the obituary thoroughly to familiarize herself with the particulars. After work, she spent three-and-a- half hours selecting a black dress that would both beckon and console. The dress was a shocker of form and perfection. Modest in neckline and hemline and constructed of soft chiffon, it slimmed and draped all the right curves Audrey-Hepburn fashion. Well, if Audrey Hepburn were three inches shorter and wearing Spanx for tummy control.

Attending the graveside service was crucial, but she hoped to close the deal at the family visitation afterward. It was tradition in the South to bring food for the mourners to eat while gathering for comfort, stories, and memories. Other people might bring something from a store or restaurant. However, Lauren’s plan required a certain type of homemade dish. On one hand, the recipe must be so sumptuous that Spencer – or maybe even his parents – would notice she was not only easy on the eyes, but was quite a cook as well. On the other hand, if she made something too elaborate, it would seem like showing off. And, even worse, she would be expected to cook like that forever. Checking her bank account balance, she knew it also had to cost next to nothing. So it had to be cheap, easy to prepare, and absolutely delicious. And there was only one dish that would do: The Man Catcher.

She contacted Julie for the turkey casserole recipe. Julie’s mother called it “The Man Catcher” because it’s the reason her future husband had noticed her at the church picnic, and she continued to make it often over the years – which might explain why Julie was one of six kids. To display the dish, Lauren purchased a real casserole pan, not aluminum foil, with a lid and carrying case, fancy enough that Spencer would feel obligated to return it or, dare to hope, ask her to come by and pick it up.

When Lauren finally arrived at the graveside, the mourners were all pressed together around the perimeter of the funeral-home canopy. Leaving her raincoat in the car so the fabulous dress would be on full display, she weaved through the standing crowd to the family seated in front. With a somber look, she positioned herself strategically to Spencer’s left at the edge of the row. The preacher had just begun his remarks when a peal of thunder heralded the rain’s return. The shower quickly became a downpour that ushered most of the mourners under the canopy, and caused umbrellas to sprout like mushrooms among those unable to fit.

Lauren scooched in tight between two blue-suited elderly men, which allowed her to stand at the head of the casket immediately in front of Spencer. He glanced up but didn’t seem to notice her yet. Lauren thought quickly and made a grand show of wiping “tears” with a silk handkerchief. That did it. Spencer’s steel-gray eyes bore into her and he nodded his head to acknowledge her presence. Yes, she said to him with her eyes. I am here for you, my beloved.

The preacher’s sermon droned for a bit. The steady rain thrummed on the canopy and made Lauren painfully aware of her need to pee. She gritted her teeth and shifted her high-heel dress shoes on the cheap green outdoor carpet placed around the grave to hide the dirt. The preacher finished and asked the mourners to bow their heads in prayer.

At the same moment he said, “Dear Lord,” the rain-swollen canopy overflowed and a torrent of freezing water poured down Lauren’s back, causing her to invoke the name of the Lord as well. She staggered forward, but her spiky heels lost their grip on the wet carpeting and rain-softened grave edge. Her feet flew out, her bottom hit the ground, and she rode the carpet like a water slide under the casket lowering device and down into the grave itself. There was an ominous ripping sound as she fell the entire six feet and landed on her bottom again, causing her to release her bladder, as well as more appeals to the Almighty.

She looked up to see several sets of eyes, including Spencer’s, peering down around the edges of the casket. A glance at the hole she slid through also revealed a muddy swath of black chiffon dangling from a bracket of the lowering frame above her head. As she stood there in her new bra and mud-crusted, urine-soaked Spanx, one of the older gentlemen she was previously standing beside deftly unhooked the dress between pinched fingers and dropped it gently to her. She missed catching it, of course, and it landed in the brown puddle already drowning her new high-heel pumps.

_________________

Lauren leaned on the doorbell of Julie’s house until she opened it. “What? Oh Lauren, oh Lauren,” she cried. Her best friend stood before her in a black dress that was ripped, mud-plastered, inside-out, and backward. Lauren’s mascara and snot were wiped across her face and her hair looked like Barbie’s after being in the bathtub. In her hands was a casserole dish with matching lid. Through blubbering lips she spoke. “I need a shower, and a fork.” To which Julie replied, “I’ll get the wine.”

The End

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Sexy FedEx Driver

Mine: A story about a cat and her sexy FedEx Driver

Mine

A Story About a Cat and Her Sexy FedEx Driver

By Jon Frank

 He picks me up around my belly. I hate that. But then his bulky muscular arms turn me toward his face and pull me in close. Our eyes lock and he speaks soothingly to me. I should scratch his eyes out, but he sounds kind, he smells good. He rubs my ears. That is my favorite, but of course I resist purring. After all, I need to keep my dignity.
He is calm, not like most Stompers always kicking and thumping about. He is taking me back to her, My Gentle. I do not want to go, and I should kick away and dart for the bushes again. I am sure I am faster. He caught me by surprise when he leaped from his big white truck, but I am ready now. Yet his purple and black shirt feels so rough and nubbly against my nose. I tell him so, but like all Stompers he does not understand me because he is stupid.
She is waiting, My Gentle. She carefully lifts me from his grasp. I struggle some because I like the way he smells – and he is still outside. They meow to each other and My Gentle touches his arm. They yowl some more and he hands her something. He is always handing her stuff. Sometimes it is a big package filled with the poppy-poppy stuff that sticks to my tail. I do not like that. But sometimes it has cat toys in it or nibbles. Then I like him.
They meow some more and she takes me inside. I expect to be scolded but instead she sets me down softly, peers out the window, and sighs heavily.  She mews at me and then hurries upstairs.
I will not follow. There are things in the big room that need attention, but first I must express my anger at being brought inside. The curtains are right there, but the damage is not immediately noticeable. The couch and chairs are a definite no-no. I would spend the night in the garage for that. Carpet? No. Banister? Too permanent, and a trip to the white-clad Stompers.  Laundry? Definitely laundry. I seek out the basket and relieve myself there. I don’t cover it. She needs to know my displeasure. I need to hear the sound of her mournful mewling.
Short Story "Mine"
The kitchen window beckons and I find myself in deep thought there. The birds are unusually quiet for this time of day. I call to them through the screen with my expert bird noises, but as usual they do not respond. They sense danger, but not from me. From something else, probably Nigel, the big black tom next door. I hate him. That sleek muscular build, long winsome tail, and subtle white blazing on his chest may turn the other female’s heads – but not mine. I am far too perfect for him. Yes, it is true I slipped outside this morning because he called. But it was out of curiosity, not desire. If he calls again, I will not answer. I stretch and extend my claws to emphasize my point.
“Nigel, do not come here again tonight under this window after dark when My Gentle is sleeping and where I might or might not be waiting,” I call out.
I jump down and slither into the big room. My perch tree is there and I climb to my throne to survey the kingdom. My Gentle is still upstairs, using water from the sound of it. I too take a cleaning and drift into a short sleep of merely three hours or so. I am rudely awakened by a knock on the door. My Gentle opens it and I am surprised to see the Stomper has returned. My Gentle calls my name, so I deign to acknowledge their presence by jumping down and approaching. The Stomper is carrying bags and he no longer wears the skin he had on this morning. Gone is the purple and black, and he now wears stripes like the fat tabby Holford from across the street. I rub against his legs and act like I want to be petted. If he responds I will let him pet me exactly twice before I bite.
They go into the kitchen. She puts her paw on his arm and he does not pull away. He unloads the bags and wonderful smells assault my senses. There is Meat! Wondrous Meat and something else. Something intoxicating. . .
I jump to the counter and My Gentle shoos me off. I must know what is in that blue box. I tell her to give it to me but of course she does not listen. She is too stupid to understand my clear instructions. I will walk on her feet. She shoves me away and continues talking to the Stomper. Shoves me! That is it. The next time I escape, I shall not return. Until supper. Then I will sit in front of the big window which is also a door, and give her The Look.
The Stomper is opening all the Meat now. He is meowing at My Gentle as he places it on the cutting board. Stupid Stomper, give me the Meat or she will put it on fire and ruin it. But wait, he is doing something else now. Yes, he is adding the blue box stuff to it, the one with the strange heady smell. He puts a small bit into the Meat. He pounds and crushes the Meat now with his sinuous muscles. My Gentle is leaning in closer and she coos softly. Watch out, you silly Stomper. She will act like she wants you to be with her, but she will bite. I would.
Now he mixes in some other things with the Meat. Other delicious-smelling stuff. I will again walk over and delight them with my presence. My Gentle tries to shoo me away again, but the Stomper leans down and gives me a sample of the Meat. Careful, My Gentle. I will steal him from you.
The Stomper returns to his work and sets the bowl aside. He takes something else out of the bag. It is a Fish! A whole Fish!persian cat
“Yes! Yes! Yes!” I tell him and rub my body and butt against him. See, stupid My Gentle? This is how you get a man; do you not realize he caught the Fish for me?
My Gentle laughs and cuddles closer to the Stomper, my Stomper. His broad paws knead the Fish and Meat, expertly massaging in the smell-goods he has brought with him. My Gentle now has her own paws in the bowl with the Stomper’s and they are both kneading the Meat. Are they going to sleep in it? Stupids. Give it to me!
I see My Gentle has stepped up her game, because her eyes are dilated and she has lowered the tone of her meow to entice the Stomper.  Ah, ah, ah, My Gentle, you don’t have what it takes. Watch me as I leap to the windowsill and prance with my tail high. Ha! You don’t even have a tail, you silly Manx.
It is time for me to end all this foolishness and take him for myself. I hop to the table, a no-no spot – but this calls for desperate measures. I stretch languidly and ease myself into my most alluring pose and cast my deep, blue Persian eyes upon him. To emphasize my desirability, I lick my muzzle.
My Gentle points to me and laughs again, leaning further into the Stomper. He laughs too as he washes his paws. Witch! You have left me no choice. Now I shall have to use the Move. No male can resist it. He will be mine henceforth and you will be relegated to the lesser males.
I lick my paw, wet my ear, then roll over on my back. But ah, here is the best part. I twist my head a little and quietly mew, “Come here.” Yes! I have him!
He puts the Meat into a dish and comes toward me with it.  An offering for forgiveness of his transgressions with My Gentle. I turn over and meet his paws with my face, making sure to mark him as mine. He sets the bowl down and I smell its delicious aroma. I almost embarrass myself at how quickly I accept his offering.
Later on the couch, I allow My Gentle to sit with him as they watch the flicker of the fire. I lay on the table before him and show him my belly, which he strokes sweetly. He is a good Servant and will be allowed here again. But of course he must be reminded of his place, so I clamp down with all four paws and bite him.

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Kowareta And nana short story

Kowareta And Nana

Kowareta and Nana

By Jon Frank

He sat solemnly in the small boat as the oarsman paddled quietly behind him. The mist of the afternoon’s rain was beginning to settle on the water, and lanterns were already lit in a few of the shoreline Uchis where the fisher-folk lived.

He had been away a long time. The battles had been fierce and exhausting, but he was finally returning home. He pulled back a sleeve and allowed his hand to glide in the water, enjoying its silky coolness. The setting sun peeked through orange clouds, casting a golden glow on the palace above the village. Oh, how he had missed his house and gardens, his birds and writing desk. But there was something he must do before returning to those grand walls and furnishings.

As he approached the shore, his gaze scanned the shoreline and settled on a particular structure, a squat two-story dwelling with an ornate set of red lanterns festooning the front porch. Would she still be there, his favored one?  Even on this return to his peaceful home, his mind and heart remained at war. He knew it was wrong to feel this way about a geisha. They had met when she was a Minarai, that second level of training when the girl is permitted to follow her teacher or onee-san into banquets. She had just achieved the third level when he departed for war over a year ago. Now a Maiko, she received the full benefits and courtesies of a geisha. She entertained, served her teas, and played the shamisen skillfully. She could attend a man in all manner of ways except physical intimacy – unless consent was given by both parties. Such consummation was rare and deeply frowned upon, however, for it was purity that made a geisha desirable to men. Geishas were tiny, delicate blossoms that any touch would shatter and taint for all time. And his favored one’s elusive, untouchable position is what attracted him to her. Yet he could not deny the truth, that he wanted all of her, to possess her. As a lord, he could choose to buy her outright. But then she would be no more than his concubine, and that was not enough.

The boat bumped the shore and he leaped forward, clearing the bow in one step. Landing surefooted, he drew a deep breath of his homeland, tasting the air and relishing the sounds. He knelt and placed his forehead on the rocky surface, thanking the spirits for a safe return. He stood and nodded to the boatman, who bowed in return.

“Welcome home, Daimyo-san.”

Geisha waits for her SamuraiThe samurai turned on his heel and climbed the three steps to the geisha house. The interior was bright and colorful. Two younger geishas approached and removed his outer clothing and weapons with the tenderness of a mother to her babe. A third girl led him further inside and bade him sit at a low table. She left and returned shortly with tea.

As she began preparing his tea, the samurai caught her eye and asked, “Is she here? Is Nana here?”

The girl nodded, rocked back on her feet, stood, and left silently. In a moment, someone else returned. It was his favored one! The samurai’s breath caught and his heart bent ribs back in its hunger for her. Could it be that his dreams and thoughts had betrayed him all this time? For they were ugly and horrid compared to the beauty before him. She glided like a koi in a stream. Her piercing eyes of the rarest jade green stabbed his soul. Her hair was black as the night sea, and he felt he might need several strong men to restrain him from touching it. She knelt, her back arrow-straight as she prepared the tea.  A tiny smile flitted across the corner of her mouth. She remembered him! He clinched his fist in anguish at her tease.

He kept his eyes on the steaming teacup as attendants brought forth supplies for the meal. Unlike many houses, where food was prepared beforehand by a cook, a geisha in this house prepared the meal for her guest. The samurai’s beautiful host prepared a precise portion of his favorite dish, a refreshing Asian Kale Salad with Craisins. Each motion was carefully choreographed to emphasize the exquisite ivory beauty of her small hands. Working seamlessly between knife and bowl, she expertly carved delicate shapes into radishes and chestnuts and placed bamboo shoots and tiny cabbages in a pleasing arrangement. She completed the dish and set it before him, along with a fragrant dressing of ginger and essential oils. He ate vigorously, glancing at the burning incense stick used as a timekeeper. It showed precious few moments remaining, and he felt his heart ache for her once more.

“Delicate one, I would speak to you before we leave.”

She responded in the traditional “Oh-hoo,” accompanied by a polite nod.

“I have been away a long time,” the samurai said. “I see you have gone beyond your previous training and taken the mantle of Maiko. I have commanded men to die and been willing do to so myself. Yet in this moment I find courage fleeing like a petal on the wind. Your beauty is more formidable than any sword or arrow, and I am defenseless before you. Speak your wishes and I will raze the kingdom to fulfill them.” He punctuated his words by placing a hand at his hip where his sword normally hung. She bent her head lower, then brought her verdant eyes up to meet his own dark ones. She spoke, her voice a whispering wind on temple bells.  “Kowareta-san, I too have longed for your return, but dared not speak of it. I feared for your safety, not from enemies’ weapons, but from the gaze and charms of another woman. For many nights have my dreams found you, and I blush to say you are every bit the man I long for. I have but one wish, yet my position will not allow me to say it.” She cast her gaze downward again. He reached forward to take her chin in his hand. There was an intake of breath from the attending geisha.Quote from the story Kowareta and Nana

“Leave us!” the samurai commanded. Each girl cringed, bowed, and scattered. He turned back to his favored one. “Forgive my harshness, little flower. I mean for our words to be heard only by our ears.”

A sparkling tear ran down her soft, pale cheek before angling to the corner of her lips and finally to the thumb of his hand. He brought her eyes up again to meet his. “Please, speak,” he coaxed.

She took his hand with hers and placed it against her face, not concerned about the disruption of her makeup. “I long to become a full geisha, and yet I long to be joined with the other half of my soul.”

“I too wish to complete my soul.”

The geisha ran her hand along the samurai’s arm and felt the lean muscles there. She continued upward to his broad, stout shoulders and thick neck muscles. The tears came unchecked now, but they had become tears of happiness. He stood and brought her to her feet. The onee-san entered and bowed in respect, her face bright with worry.  “Daimyo-san, what is the trouble? Has this one displeased you? I can replace her.” She snapped her fingers and another girl entered.

“Stop, old woman! Do not dishonor the moment. However, it is true you will need to find another to replace this one – I believe that to be impossible.” He gripped Nana-san’s shoulders and turned to leave.

“Please, Daimyo-san, if you must take her, then let us gather the small belongings from her room.”

“No,” he said firmly, “I will provide all she needs. She leaves tonight and takes nothing but her heart.”

The End


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