Receiver of Pineapple
Iftar Fredrickson was in love. With me, apparently. It was the most absurd thing I had ever heard. Yet here I was. In a gallery. In LA.
The noise from his entourage grew. His name hadn’t been Iftar when I knew him. A yearbook check put him as David Frederickson. Same hair as I had seen in recent paparazzi shots though. Long and crazy and curly. It suited him far more now than it had then. Then people had made fun of him, the weird theater kid who stared at people too long, too intensely. We had not run in the same crowd. Then I had avoided him and his too staring gaze.
I guess I was going to know him now. For six months the odd millionaire had been emailing me. Asking me to be at this reunion of sorts. Not a school sanctioned one, but a party he said he wanted to put on for people who had impacted his life. Who had played a role in his success.
He never answered when I asked what role I had played. I felt like a fraud even attending. But the idea that someone loved me, had loved me so long and from afar and that I had been so oblivious…well let’s say it was better to be here, now, than in my own padded little Ohio life.
The entourage rounded the corner. He always traveled with an entourage now. Reminded me of my own pack of cheerleaders and football players back in the day. His looked fun though. I wondered how I looked. Then I wondered why I cared. It was David Fredrickson. But I knew why I cared. I always cared. The swarm parted and the crazy-haired slender man in a 1920s style suit knelt on one knee in front of me. What the…
He smiled. A confident and insane grin and held out a…pineapple. In my direction. I stared. The planes of his familiar face had hardened, matured. His dark eyes twinkled.
“For you,” he said. The crowd turned to me. Expectantly. Obviously, I had a role in this scene. I just wish I knew what it was. I reached with two hands, tentative, and took the pineapple from him. He nodded. I guess that was my role. Receiver of Pineapple. The entourage clapped politely and murmured approval. He rose and leaned towards me. Half fearing he would embrace me in front of the crowd, I leaned away. But he only put his mouth next to my ear and whispered. “Quarters.” Then he spun away.
“Friend Ospey,” he called, and it was clear this was performance art, a show for all those gathered. “Do you have a quarter?”
Ospey, a hulking behemoth of a man who was not all that different from the John Parker he had been in high school, stepped forward. He was dressed in…maybe pre-victorian era tights and pantaloons? “Of course, Iftar,” he said in that same meant-to-be-heard voice. “I always have quarters.”
“Why, Friend Ospey, do you always have quarters?”
“Because quarters are the most useful coin,” said the entire entourage in unison, in a way that was both solemn and gleeful. This was a ritual. I was not part of it. There was laughter – it was hard to tell if it was genuine or staged, and I suppose it didn’t really matter.
Iftar leaned in closer to me again.
“It’s good to see you. I’m glad you came.”
“I. Well thank you for inviting me? I’m still not sure why you did?”
“You gave me change for a soda once.”
“I…I don’t understand. You invited me…you say you have loved me…because I gave you change for soda once?”
“You gave me change for a soda once in spite of the fact that you were terrified of anyone who wasn’t part of your carefully camouflaged disappearing act. You gave change to the weird guy. Part of me fell for you in that moment.”
“That makes no sense.”
“Things don’t always have to make sense.”
Yes. Yes they do,” I insist. Otherwise I’ve done everything all wrong.
“Fine, Claire. Because you taught me everything.”
“How is that possible?”
“You used a crowd to hide yourself. To blend in. And you never needed to. You only ever needed to believe in yourself enough to get out of your own way. I learned from you to get out of my own way. I always hoped you would learn to get out of yours. Have you?”
I thought about my life. My job. My sense of cognitive dissonance when I looked in the mirror most days. “No. I don’t think I have.”
He held his hand out. “Claire. Receiver of Pineapples. There’s still time…”
I looked at his hand and the implications of taking it were so simple and so momentous and then I shifted the pineapple to only my left hand and took his outstretched hand in my right. Ohio seemed very far away indeed.
“Quarters,” he said.
I did not understand the tears that suddenly overwhelmed me, but I nodded.
Deb holds a degree in Fiction from the University of South Florida, where she was a Saunders Scholar in Fiction. She has had numerous short stories published and has worked as a freelance journalist. Her background includes more than 20 years in Technical Project Management. Her consulting firm, Courtney Literary, is about to launch TaleWinds, featuring Regatta Project Management Software for Writers. She hosts the popular “Write Drunk, Edit Sober” improv writing series monthly in Colorado Springs, and the first volume of the craft book “Write Drunk, Edit Sober” will be released in early 2020.