Matt Maxwell
The Diving Board
 

The line's progress had been staccato, stopping just enough for a knee to stiffen, a yawn to warm an exposed neck, someone to hum a popular melody, a few strangers to chat nonessentials and mention the obvious. The line stretched, contracted, paused—but moved forward at an identifiable pace.
 
Now a man at the end froze, congesting the tolerant lemmings behind him, his hands locked on the rails that abruptly curved down, as if pointing the way. He leaned forward, straightened his arms. But didn't release his grip.
 
Tom, twenty minutes away from those rails, with his eyes pushed the timorous man. He squinted, projected a large hand. It didn't work. He wished he were next in line; then he could try to hurl a rock, peg the man in the back of his head. But even there it would take a Herculean arm.
 
A gust lifted the man's tweed jacket and tie. The maroon tie fluttered vertical for a few seconds, spiraled, slapped him in the face, and then gently fell. He shuffled his left foot, shuffled it a smidgen further, then again; his right followed in one timid drag.
 
Slate-colored clouds softened to diaphanous, creating shadows on the ground, heating foreheads.
 
Some in the line grunted. A woman with a raspy voice yelled: Let's move it, bucko!!! People chuckled. There is always a comedian in every group…
 
Tom checked his wrist, looking for the watch not there—he had left it on his desk, next to the sealed envelope.
 
Tom altered glances between the man and the girl less than an arm's length before him. He hadn't seen her face, but her sinuous curves and taut skin left him to guess her age at seventeen…maybe eighteen. Not old enough for this.
 
But maybe old enough for a quickie, if she could be talked into it. He didn't want to his place in line, so maybe just a stealthy hand job. He frowned, disappointed she wasn't wearing a skirt. He could more easily return the favor. Or just bend her over, give the crowd a show, a diversion in their rush—his rush—to replace the man on the diving board.
 
More catcalls to the hesitant man. I don't have all day! and Some time before Easter! and Show some fuckin balls! and I didn't come out here to work on my tan!
 
One person, a waif of a pale woman, even left the line, drawing spiteful, mocking glares. With vacant eyes, she passed by Tom, not looking anywhere but the ground in front of her feet. Tom wanted to bet someone she'd be back within four weeks.
 
The man glanced behind him, down at the long line. Finally, he scuffed forward, releasing the rail. Rather than springing like everyone else, he kept leaning forward, head beyond shoulders over torso before knees in advance of feet, toppling over like a pole. The tips of his black leather shoes slid across the board. And unlike the others, he wailed, arms whirling against gravity and his feet-over-head descent.
 
Tom leaned forward, let his lips graze the girl's hair, alight on her ear. She flinched. He held her shoulders, whispered, A muscle relaxant will dull the pain. He kissed her lobe, the back of her jaw. She sighed in her throat, a rumble he felt vibrate through his lips, on his tongue. She arched her back, pushing into his crotch.
 
They didn't watch the flailing man try to right himself, work his head around, pushing it between his shoulder blades, attempting to see the waiting asphalt.




Fighting Me

 
 After I left for work, locking the door with a colored key, I sweated for the moment—during a (guided) conversation, a gesture, a coy, shy gaze with a slinky smirk—to move in on my girlfriend. To make a pass at her; to steal her away from a callous cad like myself: I don't deserve her; I don't treat her like the (sex) goddess I know and think she is; and though I don't cheat on her, I tend to keep options open by not admitting our relationship when meeting any potential one-night stand. I've allowed myself little choice.
 
I confessed my shortcomings, even divulged some secret, deviant fantasies, even lied about a few lip-curling events, trying to make her realize I wasn't the man for her. All the while, I padded my resume and promised that if I were with her, I wouldn't treat her the way I do. She was hesitant, I'll admit. Obviously confused. She didn't say much, just squinted at me, sneered, chortled, chewed on the tip of her tongue in that subconscious-vixen manner. I pressed my case, enumerating my many, horrible faults: moody, selfish, wandering eyes, bitter and sarcastic and impatient, three girlfriends in the past I cheated on, a pot addiction, premature ejaculation.
 
I compared my faults with my attributes (some embellished, though I doubt I'll nark on myself for those): considerate, romantic, empathetic, an affinity for "chick flicks," daily showers, a waxed chest, expensive cologne, artistic, funny (don't all women say they want a man with a sense of humor?), sensual, a decent job with stock options and my own parking spot. By her smile, I knew I was winning her. I poured her another glass of merlot—good stuff, too, not the four-dollar brand I tend to buy so I can afford import beer. I held the glass close to my lips, to entice her. I leaned in.
 
And then I fucking walked in the door and busted myself kissing my girlfriend. Oh, I raced into a rage, called her a tramp and a floozy, even brought my arm up to give her a demonstrative backhand. But I caught myself with a quick jab to the chin, not a devastating, knock-out punch, but a You Better Watch What The Fuck You're Doing, Buster! hit. Pride and ego on the wobbly pedestal, precarious, there for her picking, the fight was on. I threw wild haymakers, spun my arms like a broken windmill. Not very manly, I'll admit. I wish I had learned how to fight, throw precision punches, bob and weave like a light-footed boxer. If I had, I could have won the brawl—and subsequently won her, for what female isn't impressed by the guy who stands up for her, knocks out the prick who dare raise a hand to her delicate skin? I wouldn't have looked like a wonky pansy who couldn't land a punch, who ended up on the ground, wrestling with my adversary, appearing to the nonplussed observer to be in an embrace with my epileptic lover.
 
She yelled for me to stop. But I was incensed. I had my pride to uphold. Desperate, I grabbed a handful of nuts and twisted. A wussy move, but I fucking screamed like a little girl. I made myself all the more pissed, going after sensitive and understood off-limits body parts. How was I supposed to enjoy my victory sex with torqued testicles?!!?!
 
Something caught me on the side, a pointed impact that nearly took my breath. I turned to see her foot behind her, as if she were going to kick a soccer ball. She fucking kicked me again. While distracted with her I snuck in a quick but lethal cheap shot, a knuckle punch to the throat, that left me gasping and wheezing, rolling on the floor, trying to suck every bit of oxygen from the room. I won the fight and proudly stood. I spat on myself. With my back to her, I called myself a few names, partly for show. I mean, it's expected, that gloating over your fallen enemy. Chicks dig it. The masculine, testosterone Hero, blood and dirt mottling his chiseled muscles, his abs pulsating. I spat again, wiped the blood off my face and replaced it with a nonchalant expression.
 
Before I turned around to accept my prize, I heard the door shut. But she'll be back. I'll wait.