The saleswoman came out of nowhere.

At that moment, and for the last several minutes, Tommy had been standing near the back wall of the Nordstrom’s nearly deserted lingerie department, fondling the empty cups of the largest bra in the display. He had it off its little hanger and was pinching and pulling at the lacy fabric with his eyes closed. He thought he was alone; he wasn’t even trying to hide what he was up to.

It’s hard to say which of the two of them was more startled.

“May I help you?” she said with a gasp when she saw what Tommy was doing.

“Nope,” said Tommy to the saleswoman, and he threw the Sevilla Semi Demi Underwire Size 48DDD at her as he fled the department, ran down the escalator, out the wide doors, and did not stop until he was a block away.

Out on Wilshire, at the bus stop, still recovering from his close shave, Tommy put in his earbuds and for the umpteenth time, listened to his cousin Dino belt out a nearly accent-free rendition of “My Way.” It was a recording Dino had made a few nights ago in that karaoke bar in Koreatown—the one that looks like a ship’s galley inside. The place still stinks like cigarettes, fifteen years after smoking was banned indoors, but it’s packed every night with a lively hipster crowd who enjoy slumming.

That night Tommy had felt nauseous from the closeness and the smells and had gone home early—alone, as usual—to their “swanky bachelor pad.” That’s what Dino called their place—even though it was really the guesthouse behind their rich uncle’s place in San Marino. Dino was always working on his idiomatic expressions. According to Dino, Tommy was a “dweeb.”   […]


The story appeared in Umbrella Factory, Number 36, April 15, 2019. ◾ Request full textSee all stories