Recently-divorced Ben Graham is way too old to be at the Moth Sausage show that his half-his-age girlfriend has dragged him to. Heads up, there’s flying meat!
NYCM Flash Fiction Challenge Round 3, November 2019. Genre: Romantic Comedy; Location: A concert; Object: Hair Dye. 997 words.
“You must be a Larva.”
I turn, startled. I thought I had the balcony to myself. The pretty brunette sitting a few seats over is vaguely familiar. “Excuse me?” I shout over the screeching guitar and thumping bass.
“A Larva,” the woman repeats. “That’s what they call first-timers. This is your first Moth Sausage show, right?”
“Yeah,” I answer, looking down at the mob around the stage. “First and last.”
She smiles, joining me at the railing. “Well, I’m only here because my son is responsible for this racket. Lead guitar. I’ve been to way too many of these.”
“Someone should give you mother of the year.” I cringe. “Your son might be the next Hendrix but whatever they’re doing down there sounds like someone sacrificing a goat.”
She laughs. “A whole herd of goats.”
“Sacrificing them brutally,” I deadpan.
“Kids these days, huh?”
I follow her gaze to a group of girls wearing tattered gray wings strapped to their backs. Mothlettes. Hailey told me all about them.
But somehow Hailey had failed to mention that the average age at a Moth Sausage show is what…nineteen? I suppose it didn’t occur to her. She’s only twenty-two herself, and honestly, she’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer.
I need to break it off.
As if on cue, she grins up at the balcony, gesturing at me to come down. I wave, but there’s no way I’m going back down there.
“Your daughter’s having a blast,” the woman says.
Ouch. But she isn’t off base. Technically, Hailey’s young enough to be my daughter.
I’ll end it. Tonight.
I clear my throat. “Actually, that’s—”
“Wait a sec,” the woman cuts me off. “Aren’t you Parker Graham’s dad?”
My eyes go wide. “I am. Why?”
Her grin broadens. “I knew I recognized you! Parker was in my robotics camp last summer. You picked him up every afternoon.”
“Professor Gina! Of course!” Last summer was a blur with the divorce, but I remember her now. “Ben Graham. Nice to see you again.”
“Likewise.” Her green eyes shine in the frenetic light, which strobes to the bizarre melody coming from the stage. “How’s Parker doing? He was having a hard time.”
I run a hand through my hair. “Yeah. The divorce was tough on him, but he’s great now.”
“Been there, done that.” She nods. “You know, I never realized he had an older sister.”
Out of nowhere something cold and dripping-wet smacks the side of my head.
“Hey,” Gina says. “You got Bratwursted!”
I touch my damp temple. To my horror my fingers come away stained and dark. But it’s not blood. It’s that stupid men’s hair dye. I’d dabbed it on before we left, trying for less salt and more pepper. I quickly wipe my hand on my khakis.
“They do this at every show,” she explains. “I can’t believe they managed to chuck one all the way up here!”
I look down. Sure enough, they all have sausages. They’re twirling them around like batons, holding them at crotch level like…
“Yep.” Gina rolls her eyes. “They’re really doing that.”
I scan the crowd. There’s Hailey. Some random guy comes up behind her with his sausage and pretends to…well. But she doesn’t protest, not even when his lips trail up the back of her neck. She closes her eyes and leans into him.
Well that’s a gut punch. On the bright side, maybe I don’t need to bother ending it. Maybe I can just leave.
“Yikes.” Gina shoots me a sympathetic look. “Need to go get a drink?”
“God, yes.” I follow her down from the balcony, admiring her curves in those jeans. Professor Gina. Who knew?
In the lobby a voice squeals, “Ben!”
Before I can stop her, Hailey throws her arms around my neck and mashes her lips onto mine. She smells like aftershave, or whatever kids wear these days.
“Nice, Ben.” Gina’s voice is flat.
“Wait!” I try desperately to disentangle myself from Hailey.
The ground thumps as Moth Sausage starts a new song.
“You two kids have fun.” Gina ducks away, eclipsed by Mothlettes beelining for the dance floor.
I drag Hailey to a corner where we can talk without shouting. When I break things off, she just shrugs. She’s wearing a pair of those ridiculous wings now, too. What was I thinking? I’m a walking mid-life crisis.
Half-dazed, I wander over to the concession stand. Gina’s in line. I study her. She really is pretty, in an understated sort of way. How had I never noticed during all those camp pickups? She sees me and manages a weak smile. “Sorry. I’m sure she’s a nice girl.”
“I wouldn’t know. She was never much for conversation.” I stare at the floor. “Anyway, I just ended it. She’ll have no trouble finding some Bratwurst Bro to take her home.”
Gina nods gravely. “She’ll find a Sausage Savior.”
“A Kielbasa King.”
“A Liverwurst Lover.” Gina’s eyes sparkle when she laughs.
I’ve got a Chorizo joke on the tip of my tongue when a cacophony erupts from the theater, sending the Mothlettes hovering around the concession counter into a frenzy.
Gina’s eyes go wide. “We should leave.”
“It’s Hide the Sausage. Their encore. They don’t always play it, but when they do…”
“Hide the Sausage?”
Gina leans in, her voice low. “Trust me, we don’t want to be here when these little punks start hiding their sausages.”
I hesitate. “You wanna go grab coffee?” Shit, I hate how nervous my voice sounds.
“I’d love to. But hang on.” She grabs a napkin from the dispenser on the counter, reaches over, then wipes my temple.
I groan at the dark smear on the napkin. “Please don’t tell me that’s been there all night.”
“Yep. All night.” She winks.
On our way out some douchebag waving a sausage yells, “Hey! You’re missing the encore!”
“Exactly the point, kid,” Gina mutters.
I shake my head. “Larva.”