Marjory Colmes

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Marjory Colmes was only twenty-six years old, but already she was a spinster. With long brown hair and crooked teeth, she worked in the Jonestown Public Library for twelve hours a day, every day of the week, some years even over Christmas. Marjory Colmes had never been to college, but Marjory Colmes was madly in love with her books.
Every Tuesday at approximately 7:38 pm, Marjory Colmes would turn off her library computer, pick out a volume of poetry, and write a linear commentary on one of the sonnets. On weekends, she signed up for online dating services and emailed her commentaries to anyone who expressed interest.
One weekend, someone responded.
“Dear Marjory, I thought your linear commentaries were inspiring,” he said. “I especially liked the one you wrote about Shakespeare’s 20th’sonnet. Would you like to go out to dinner sometime?” The letter was signed “Pete.”
-Pete
Marjory thought about it for a while. She received the email at 7:36 on a Tuesday evening. Marjory thought about the email for exactly two whole minutes. At 7:38 pm, she turned off her computer and went to read another sonnet.
The next morning, Marjory responded.
“Dear Pete,” she said. “I would love to go out to dinner with you sometime. Where should we meet?” The letter was signed “Marj.” No one ever called her “Marj,” but Marjory Colmes had always wished people would.
Pete wrote back over lunchtime to set a date, and Marjory agreed. That night, she wrote a linear commentary especially for him. She wrote it about one of her favorite poems. She wrote it about Shakespeare’s 104th Sonnet. She wrote it especially about Shakespeare, just for him. The Sonnet said this:

Oh how much more doth beauty beauteous seem
By that sweet ornament which truth doth give?
The rose looks fair, but fairer we it deem
For that sweet odor which doth in it live.
The canker-blooms have full as deep a dye
As the perfumed tincture of the roses,
Hang on such thorns and play as wantonly
When summer’s breath their masked buds discloses:
But, for their virtue only is their show,
They live unwoo’d and unrespected fade,
Die to themselves. Sweet roses do no so;
Of their sweet deaths are sweetest odors made:
And so of you, beauteous and lovely youth,
When that shall fade, my verse distills your truth.

Marjory loved the kinds of sonnets that talked about truth.
At 7:38 the following Tuesday, Marjory turned off her computer, pulled up her thick, wool stockings and adjusted her skirt. She powdered her nose and straightened her glasses. Marjory Colmes had never powdered her nose or straightened her glasses for anyone else before. Marjory Colmes had never been out on a date.

By 7: 43 pm, Marjory Colmes was one-quarter way down the sidewalk to the Cold Street Café.
By 7:44 pm, she realized that she had forgotten her purse.
By 7:56 pm, Marjory had gone back for her purse, turned around, and carried it tightly under her arm for half a mile until she reached Pete Gunderson’s favorite Cold Street Café.

She waited until 8:26 and almost left the diner before Pete finally arrived, almost half an hour late. Pete Gunderson was not quite the man that Marjory had expected. He was a great, fat man with six gold teeth and greasy hair. The greasy hair was combed over his greasy scalp, to hide the fact that so much of his scalp was showing. Pete Gunderson was forty-seven years old.
Pete Gunderson was also missing an eye.

Marjory Colmes decided that she could love him, anyway.

She waved to him and Pete Gunderson came over to sit down across from her. T hey shared a booth on the corner of the tile-floored café. An orange neon light blinked “Miller” over their heads, and their coffee cups shivered beneath a flickering fluorescent light.
There were flies under the cake cover on the counter. One of them was dead.

“I’m Marj Colmes,” she said. “Pleased to meet you.” Pete Gunderson shook her hand.
“You’re a fine piece of packaging. I’d like to roll you up and smoke you like a cigarette,” he said with a smile. Marjory stared at him for awhile. At first she did not know what to say. No one had wanted to smoke her like a cigarette before. After awhile, she said thank you.

When the waitress came over, Marjory ordered one piece of strawberry pie. Pete ordered the rest of the strawberry pie. When the waitress left, Pete asked her where she worked, and they talked for eleven minutes. Marjory told him that she worked at the public library. Pete told her that he worked for Suck ‘Em Out Sewage Company. His job was to unclog septic tanks.

Marjory Colmes decided that she could love him, anyway.

When the pie came, Marjory handed him her linear commentary.
“Good stuff,” he said, and set it down in a pool of leftover syrup.
“Oh, careful!” Marjory warned him. Pete did not seem to hear her. He put his elbows up in the syrup, too. Then he lit a cigar.

“So, you, uh, get out much?” he asked her, scratching his armpit. He smelled powerfully of gasoline and malted milk balls. Marjory told him no, she did not get out very often. Pete told her that he liked to go clubbing on weekends. People thought it was cool when he put shot glasses in his eye socket.
“How interesting,” Marjory said. She told him about her linear commentaries, and he listened.
At the end of the night, Pete Gunderson offered to walk her home. Marjory thought of all of the wonderful things that she and Pete Gunderson might do together, once they were married. Marjory Colmes was just happy to have someone in her life.
When they got to the door to her apartment, Marjory Colmes closed her eyes and leaned forward to kiss him. She imagined that his kiss would be like gasoline and malted milk balls. But Pete Gunderson did not lean forward to kiss her back. Instead, he scratched his neck and lit another cigar.
“Yeah, this was fun and all, but you’re not really my type,” he told her. Then he turned around and left.
Marjory Colmes was left devastated at her front door.
In the morning, Marjory did not get up to go to work. Instead, she wrote herself a check for five hundred thousand dollars (the total sum she had saved from all her work at the library). She flew to New York City, let the lease expire on her Jonestown apartment, cut all of her hair off and had her teeth straightened. Marjory Colmes stopped writing linear commentaries. She stopped reading sonnets from Shakespeare. Three years later, Marj Colmes was the number one bookseller at the top of the New York Times Books List. She had written a feminist novel entitled Flies Under the Cake Cover. Her novel was very popular with all of the other young women who worked in Public Libraries and went out on internet dates. Some of them stopped writing linear commentaries, too.
One day, Marjory Colmes met a man named Pete Gunderson on the street. His eye socket had gotten infected from stuffing so many dirty shot glasses into it. His hair was almost all gone now, and four of his gold teeth were missing. Pete Gunderson did not notice her, but she noticed him. She stopped him and said hello.
“You’re a fine piece of packaging. I’d like to roll you up and smoke you like a cigarette,” he said with a smile. Marjory told him to go smoke himself like a cigarette.
Then she turned and walked away for good.





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