A while back Kenneth Gangemi sent us an entire unpublished novel of a series of loosely interlocked stories. We published six of them in our last Fiction Issue. Here's another...
Nick came to a store that specialized in products for single women. A big sign advertised a Twenty-Ninth Summer Sale, for women who would turn 30 sometime after Labor Day. Nick realized that he was also in his twenty-ninth summer and felt a little sad. But he was much better off than the women. Soon they would be offering rewards for eligible men. His friend Gatwick once complained, "They're either married or gay!"
Spinsters was busy with customers, so he went inside. He seemed to be the only man. Christopher Fry had written about these women: O, the fabulous wings unused, folded in the heart. Some would end up watching television with their mothers. It was very noisy in the store, like being in a parrot house. Nick resisted the urge to put his fingers in his ears. Gatwick, who had briefly been a dancer, once told Zoë that women tended to have stronger and more flexible legs than men. Because of all their talking, did they also have stronger jaws?
Two employees asked him if he needed help, but he shook his head and said he was just looking. He wondered if the management of Spinsters called them advocates, representatives, sales associates, or customer satisfaction specialists. Who were they kidding, they were retail clerks! Nick walked around the store, noting the variety of products for single women. He observed some customers looking at cheap imported bras in a bin. The sign read "One Size Fits All."
Nick noticed one of the women looking him over. Perhaps she was evaluating him as husband material, a chump who could be her ticket to motherhood. He heard two others, both quite attractive, inquiring about the dogs on sale. To prepare for the next winter, another single woman was buying an electric blanket. Nick overheard her ask to have a man's name embroidered on it. "It's going to be a cold night," she might say to a girlfriend in January. "I'm so glad I'm sleeping with Charlie."
One of the pathetic sights in New York City was the single girl going home alone on a Saturday evening, holding her dog on a leash, carrying a copy of the Sunday newspaper. It was unfortunate that many would be childless, with their magnificent reproductive systems never used. If he was a woman he would want the experience of having a child. Nick observed the activity in the store. Other single women were buying television sets, vibrators made in China, and long-handled brushes to wash their own backs. One customer waited to pay with all five items in her shopping cart: a dog, a vibrator, a long-handled brush, an electric blanket, and a television set. She was prepared for a long winter.