Since Hubert the Bearded Dragon died, the thing that cheered me up was having sex with my diner customers. The first one was Taylor, middle-aged, married and polyamorous, hugged like a boa constrictor. “Pet loss is so hard,” he’d say, squeezing me like a pinkie mouse, making me feel like I was alive again. After one of our love-making sessions he ended up in the hospital with heart failure. I visited him there, thinking that Hubert would have liked the unnatural warmth of the hospital room.
His wife Alexis was by his bedside. “I usually see you in your diner outfit,” she said. She gave me a lift home in her Honda. “He’ll be fine,” she said, thinking that I was worried about her husband. I invited her into my apartment. “That was Hubert’s terrarium,” I said, pointing to a cluttered corner of the room. I still had his U.V. light plugged in. She stared at the pet loss support group fliers, hugged me as hard as her husband did. “Losing a pet is like losing a dream,” she said, moving in to kiss me.
After Taylor and Alexis, there was Charlene, who owned the Critter Center, and wanted to harvest my eggs. I could imagine my babies hatching in an incubator, but not in another woman’s belly. “You and I would make beautiful creatures,”she said at the end of my shift, kissing me with the most beautiful scaly lips.
Then it was Fernando, a retired bullfighter with scars all over his body. I asked him if he’d like to meet me after work, to accompany me to the Critter Center and help me chose one of the baby iguanas. That one looks a little bit like you, he said pointing to a wise looking buggy-eyed lizard. Afterward, making love with me on my Alligator patterned rug, he promised me his couch in Spain whenever I wanted to travel. “I’ve never been to Spain,” I said, “can I bring the iguana?” He said, why not? and left me a case of herpes and the promise of a climate so warm that a reptile wouldn’t need a UV bulb to stay alive.
Then there was Ilya, who sat at the counter and waited for me to arrive each day. “I take you home,” he would say and “make you happy.” In the corner of his apartment, he had an aquarium with only one fish. “Where are the other fish?” I asked. “I had a piranha,” he said, “he ate all the others.” I stared at the fish, who looked lonely and useless, like a castaway who has lost the will to float. In a way, he reminded me of myself.
Ilya removed my jacket. and kissed me sweetly on the lips, “I can be your prince,” he said, his big Russian eyes full of soulfulness. “Be my frog instead,” I said. He squatted down on all fours and croaked.
Meg Pokrass is the author of six flash fiction collections, an award-winning collection of prose poetry, two novellas-in-flash and a forthcoming collection of microfiction, Spinning to Mars recipient of the Blue Light Book Award in 2020. Her work has appeared in Electric Literature, Washington Square Review, Wigleaf, Waxwing and McSweeney’s.
JEFF FRIEDMAN’s eight book ,The Marksman, was published in November 2020 by Carnegie Mellon University Press. He has received numerous awards and prizes for his poetry, mini tales, and translations, including a National Endowment Literature Translation Fellowship in 2016 and two individual Artist Grants from New Hampshire Arts Council.