She wiped a newly sweating brow, then rifled the handbag for her cell. Elyse hadn’t spoken with Uncle Chuck in two weeks.
With his bullet-shaped, nearly hairless head he strongly resembled the hockey puck comic. Chuck came over a lot after that; on weekends her father’s brother brought her to movies, kidded around with her and her mother while the three of them ate Sunday lunch. Elyse’s father had died when she was six. A photo of Uncle Chuck on the fireplace mantel reflected late-day sunlight. At home she placed her handbag on the coffee table.
Two contributed tissues. One passenger asked if she was O.K. She gasped, then sobbed raggedly. On the bus home from work Elyse eyed a stranger’s newspaper: standup comedian and actor Don Rickles had died.
Only “Rickel helps you…Rickel helps…Rickel….” No Chock Full o’ Nuts earworm coiling through her brain. Coffee break. Three-thirty.
Just “doing it,” whatever “it” was, with no one but Rickel. No Sonic songs. No McDonald’s ditties. Hungry for lunch. One p.m.
Why couldn’t she recall True Value and Ace verse? Rickel was history. Was it time to re-caulk the bathroom? Did she need shelving units? All day long the “home center” jingle jangled inside Elyse’s head. “Rickel helps you….”
Iris N. Schwartz‘s fiction has been published in many journals and anthologies, including Anti-Heroin Chic; Five-2-One; Gluttony: 7 Deadly Sins, Volume 2, Pure Slush; Jellyfish Review; and Spelk Fiction. Her short-short story collection, My Secret Life with Chris Noth, was nominated for two Pushcart Prizes. Shame is her latest collection.