Half Off

I smoothed a crease out of the Sticks and Stones logo while I offered appreciation to the universe for the invention of repositionable rubber cement. Carolyn watched me work with the expression of someone who’d never seen paste-up before. “Your sales flyers look more like ransom notes,” she remarked.

“What can I say? It’s a gift.”

“I didn’t mean it as a compliment.”

Clearly. I could feel the confusion in her gaze as a subtle tug. Something like the tautness of the drying glue on the back of my hand. And it felt oh-so-satisfying to peel at the edges and confound her by reveling in her criticism. “It’s an established aesthetic. Haven’t you ever seen a Sex Pistols album cover?”

“That’s a band. Right?”

“Girlfriend, if I didn’t know better, I’d accuse you of punking…me.” The shop’s bell jingled, and I caught a glimpse of the incoming customer in a strategically placed mirror. The very tasty customer.

I hadn’t seen him around these parts before—I would’ve remembered. He was a fortyish blue collar type in denim and flannel. Wide shoulders. Dark hair with great potential. Three days of stubble that I could hardly wait to feel rasping along my lips, and chest, and stomach. I watched Mr. New Guy’s reflection as he made his way up the far aisle, considering whether I should offer my assistance. Virgins on the lookout for specific metaphysical gear tended to find me and ask for it, so I allowed this one his personal browsing space and simply enjoyed the reflected show.

“Shoplifter?” Carolyn whispered. I cocked my head toward the next mirror he would appear in and let her see for herself. “Oh. He has an interesting face.”

“I agree.” For most people, the word interesting is a euphemism for I don’t see the appeal. But Carolyn meant it. Quirky, a little off-kilter, a face with character.

Thoroughly, utterly, happily married as she was, Carolyn lost interest after the briefest glimpse. She said, “Okay, I’ve been dreading the day I had to say this again, but I really need to use your bathroom.”

“Knock yourself out.”

She ducked in back. I rued my lack of homemaking skills for a fraction of a second, then turned my attention to that denim jacket hanging just so, imagining how peeling it off those broad shoulders would feel. The wearer of the denim rounded the endcap, then paused and took in the spiritual aerosol sprays with the same bafflement I’d seen when Carolyn watched me tweak my ad. “Lemme know if you need anything,” I told him.

He looked up and we locked eyes. Great eyes. Dark. Thoughtful. But though the suggestion in my suggestion had been obvious, I didn’t get a zing off him. That didn’t mean much—I’ve hooked up with plenty of guys who didn’t register with me right away. Some people vibed more than others, plus I find strangers notoriously difficult to read.

“I was looking for something about…meditation.” He glanced away, as if he found the thought of establishing a spiritual practice embarrassing. “If that’s even the type of thing you—”

“Absolutely. I’ve been meditating since I was fifteen. And since there are lots of different techniques, you can try a few on for size and see how they feel.”

No zing. Not yet. I guided him to the media section and pointed out my most comprehensive beginners’ books, as well as my personal favorites. When I talked, he listened. He seemed pretty focused, too. That’s always a good sign.

His vibe was still elusive, but his body language seemed promising. When I touched him on the arm, he didn’t deck me, anyhow. Even after I did it three times. 

Finally, I dragged him back to the counter and walked him through the guided meditation CDs I keep behind the plexi, and even offered to play a few tracks for him. “No, that’s okay. You really seem to know about this…stuff. I’ll start with a book.”

“I just so happen to be running a meditation special.” I was doing nothing of the sort, but the ad didn’t have much text on it yet, only a picture of a laughing guy in a suit sliced in half. “Buy one, get one half off.” I let my gaze linger on the hollow of Mr. New’s throat, and tried to picture the feeling of peeling half off him. Where to start—top half, or bottom? Of course the bottom’s where all the action is. But I’ve always been a sucker for a shirtless guy, for that initial skin-on-skin feel of two bodies sliding together, torsos against arms, bathing in the warmth that’s been trapped under shirts, heated like the brush of a soul.

Still, no zing. “If it’s on sale…guess it can’t hurt to look at the CDs.”

My beaded curtain clattered. Fortunately, Carolyn hadn’t overheard my flirtatious fib and called me on it. At this point I’d actually decided a meditation special wasn’t a bad idea after all…though I’d probably want to bisect a photo of a mellow guy with closed eyes for that.

“You’re getting a pack of sponges and a can of cleanser for your birthday,” she told me.


It came through so loud and clear it startled me. I found Mr. New staring at Carolyn with his mouth literally open. And then he closed it and smiled broadly.

He had a fantastic smile. Damn.

“Lucky me,” I sighed. “It’ll go with the hand sanitizer you bought me last year.”

“Which you never use.”

I noticed my new customer checking out Carolyn’s wedding band. The zing ebbed, though not dramatically. People lust at each other all the time—I mean, all the time. Usually, that’s as far as it goes. A boost to the hormonal system, a spring in the step, a mental image to beat off to later.

Nothing wrong with that. We can all use a little zing.


Flash fiction is a form of ultra-short storytelling. Much of the content is delivered in metaphor and subtext.



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Half Off © 2013 by Jordan Castillo Price. 
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