Leslie a short story

At present I am reading short stories in Amy Hempel’s new collection “Sing to It.” In these stories most of her polished prose is in first person and reads as a stream of compelling, and of-times surprising consciousness. At first, I was confused by her style but after reading a few of the stories I tuned in and let her messages haunt. I can’t duplicate her style but admit some influence and offer this purely fictional tale for your comments.

My routine is simple. I rise before the sun, don an attractive tracksuit and run. I adopt a three-mile circuit. I warm up on the short distance down the west side of Shoal Creek to the park at fifteenth. Here I cross and turn to run up the east side of the Creek where the trial is located next to Lamar and is lit by street lights. Then, at a mile and a half, when the sun has risen, I turn left across a bridge and take the path on the west side of the Creek. I enjoy the dappled sunlit path, the green trees, the earthy smell of the ground, the bird song, and the gurgle of the water in the Creek. In one place, the path opens up, and I pause to take in the magnificence of nature. I do some jumping jacks while staring at the way that the morning sun highlights the Creek. I promise myself that one day, I’ll return with watercolors and easel to paint this beautiful scene. Invigorated, I climb the bank to my apartment, shower, put on an attractive blouse and business suit, and drive my short commute to work.

On the way, I stop at my favorite coffee shop for a sweetened café latte. There are two baristas. From the way that they interact with each other, I assume that they are close. Jose, the taller of the two, always serves me. He must see me in the parking lot for, when I enter, he has my order ready. We exchange pleasantries. One spectacularly beautiful morning I tell him that I had an invigorating run along Shoal Creek that morning.

He asks: “Did you see Leslie?”

I tell him that the route is generally deserted. He comments that Leslie visits the coffee shop each morning with an identical order to mine. We both laugh, then I turn half expecting to see Leslie, instead I see a car entering the lot with the favorite Austin bumper sticker. It reads: “Keep Austin Weird.”

I turn back to Jose and remark, “That Leslie, as a confirmed cross dresser, is well invested in keeping Austin weird.” Jose agrees with me.

I arrive at the office and open it up for the day greeting the staff and my partners with a serene sense of wellbeing tinged with superiority. When the mayoral election comes around Leslie’s name is on the ballot. Leslie as mayor – now that would be weird. The winner is Kirk Watson for another term. I like him and admire the astute way that he brought the rampant city environmentalists and the needs of in-coming employers and their developers together.

His thesis was quite simple, “The environmentalists and business leaders have the same goals.”

His premise startled every one until he explained. The environmentalists wish to protect the green Austin amenities, such as the Barton Creek greenbelt, Shoal Creek, and Town Lake, to name a few; to do this, they need Council’s support and funds. The new comers and developers come because they wish to enjoy the green Austin amenities, such as the Barton Creek greenbelt, Shoal Creek, and Town Lake. They expand the tax base and bring funding for the environmentalists.

Everything evolves and so does my morning run. It begins with an appearance where the west trail comes to my favorite spot, the place where there is an opening commanding a view down the Creek. The man, yes of course, it is a man, is completely naked. He stands fifty feet from me obviously posing for my benefit. I pretend not to see but catch his actions as, he pees an impressive long arch into the Creek. I’m a little taken aback by his presence but not frightened. He is too far away, and I can run. I wonder if he is Leslie, who is known to camp somewhere along this Creek. I do ask myself why Leslie, who likes to be seen as a woman, should wish to assert masculinity to me. I calm myself by telling myself that this person, was caught by surprise, and is as startled as I am.

My office overlooks the street of the coffee shop and, beyond, the way into Shoal Creek. Late each morning Leslie appears calmly walking up the street. He, or should I say she, is perfectly clad in women’s clothing. A clean chin, how does one shave in the woods, full make-up, skirt and blouse, hose and the highest high heels, surely uncomfortable to walk in? To top it all I keep reminding myself that Leslie is enrolled as a mayoral candidate, yep, Austin weird.

Sometimes I meet others on the trail. It is rare. I greet each with a hearty “Good morning” glad that we are always passing. Leslie still appears from time to time, or I think that it is Leslie, always the same place, generally sparsely clad. Sometimes there is a wave of a hand. I respond raising my arm. Time passes, spring becomes summer and then Fall. It is still warm I wear a skimpy top and shorts. The dawn is getting later and my run through the woods is in half light. I begin to fear seeing the naked / sparsely clad one, because something has changed. I can’t put my finger on what, but my sixth sense tells me that things are different; I consider altering my route but don’t.

It is Friday the week before Thanksgiving, and my nemesis jumps out in front of my path. He holds something in his hand. It looks like a gun. I’ve never seen him this close. His chin is covered in stubble. I’m now convinced that he is not Leslie. He motions to me to step off the path into a stand of bushes. There’s a rug on the ground. He wants me to lie down. I am trembling. I must obey. There is a yell, and my assailant is attacked from behind; he drops the gun. Leslie yells,

“Go away you perverted creep. I’ve had my eye on you. You are not welcome. Go.”

Miraculously, my assailant runs off. Leslie picks up the gun and hands it to me. I feel stupid when I look at it and see that it is plastic. I am embarrassed to have been held up by a semi-naked man with a toy in his hand. Leslie gives me a smile and disappears.

I do not call the police for their presence would surely be a poor thank you to Leslie. At the coffee shop, I talk to Jose and arrange for free coffees for Leslie. I don’t explain why. I merely remark, “I’m keeping Austin weird!” Jose nods in approval

I make one additional change; I adopt a new run route around Town Lake.

8 thoughts on “Leslie a short story

  1. Writing in the first person poses unique challenges for me. Foremost on the list: how to avoid the repetitive use of the pronoun “I”. But when I crack it, which is difficult as each character is unique, the narrative takes off. The big bonus: the character takes over and I become a mere chronicler. That’s when the fun starts. At least that’s what I reckon. The reader judges the final work.

    Back to the story: Leslie is intriguing, as is the narrator whose diary/journal/thoughts we get to peek into.

    For me, Kirk Watson is shrewd, capitalising on the accepted narrative. In reality, his premise is no revelation. Environmentalists and big businesses work hand-in-glove. All the time. It’s a given; an ongoing proxy war fought via opposing lobbyists and special interest groups. As they say, follow the money and see who pulls the strings.

    This fallibility by the narrator, makes her a real person. I see many readers relating to her—and as the author, you dear Jane, clinched it. I don’t know if that was your intention, but it came through rather well.

    Trust Easter is turning out well for you and yours.

    God bless,

    • Thank you for your input: it is what I like – to learn something new. My piece is rife with the first person in the form of “I’. Thank you for your input – lets see if my new next first person story can limit the use of the first person. In this story maybe too much attention went into avoiding using the third person in reference to Leslie, to avoid the conundrum on which to use; “she” or “he’ and not enough attention went into the way that the stream of consciousness got written and the use of first person singular, I.

  2. I agree that it is sad when we get robbed of certain pleasures by the actions of a few antisocial persons. Do you remember when one could enter an airport and walk immediately to the gate and onto the plane? I wonder if the jails are large enough to incarcerate all the anti-social elements – perhaps we should go back to shipping them to Australia! (is that a poor joke?)

    • Haha. We put them in detention offshore these days Jane. The difference between the 1700’s and today is that when criminals are in detention today they get meals, exercise, TV, internet, books to read and educational activities. It pays to be a criminal these days both in and out of jail. And if they don’t get all of those things they complain to the UN which sends a Human Rights dude to check out and harass the government. 🙂

  3. What a great pace and style your tale has, Jane. I like the way she shows her gratitude to Leslie at the end and the community links. Her first sighting of the man jarred, yet not enough to change her route….interesting. Xx Hugs for you xx

  4. A very wise precaution at the end I would say. Your story unfortunately is all too true today in our sick world. Our modern generation is slowly being pushed into imprisonment at the hands of a sick minority. When caught they get a police record and in many cases a rap over the knuckles, a brief time in prison for their crime and perhaps an ankle bracelet which they find a way to get around and continue their violent behavior. So the innocent majority look over their shoulder when in lonely places by themselves or avoid those places they once loved to go. Instead of treating such people gently they need to be locked up for life.

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