Short Story
                  Approaching Cloaked Figure
                                                  By Douglas J. Ogurek


“Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be
made visible through him.” - John 9:3


  Poppies covered a hill.  At the top of the hill, a woman and a man sat on
either side of a picnic basket.
  
  She studied her lips in a compact.
  
  He talked monotonously into a phone. “An XME?  Some brigand carjacker
isn’t going to take my XME.  That’s my XME.  I’d toss the keys.”

  The woman closed the compact.

  “He wouldn’t shoot me.  Some brigand?  This is just me, but that’s my car.”

  She took a picture of the flowers.

  “He placed second in regionals.  It’ll likely be in the paper.  You should have
seen the winner, Pat.  Jesus.  This monster.”

  A cloaked figure stood at the bottom of the hill.

  The man ended his conversation.

  She touched a poppy. “You were talking about Brandon.”

  “A wise deduction.  It’ll probably be in the paper.  I saw a couple of
reporters.  I suspect they’ll do a comprehensive profile of that goon that won.  
Probably on steroids.  They better talk about Brandon too.”

  The figure at the base of the hill held a Weedwacker.

  The woman stroked a flower.  “They’re beautiful.  They make me think of
weddings.  Of our wedding.”

  He thumbed his phone.  “They’ll be here in fifteen.”

  The woman squeezed lotion from a bottle labeled “Pt.”  “C.C. says Glask
tests on animals.  I don’t get it.”

  “Pat’s wife’s into this flower field motif.  She’s into Monet’s Poppies
Blooming.”

  “Glask makes my lipstick.  This lipstick I’m wearing?”

  “You think Monet’s is a restaurant, I’ll bet.  Who’s this rogue?”

  Circular mirrors covered the figure’s cloak, the collar of which swept wave-
like over his head.

  The man sighed.  His voice did not fluctuate.  “If Pat sees this rogue, he’ll
think I’m a fool for suggesting this place.  I need Pat to…what’s this about?”

  “Let’s ask him what he’s doing.”

  The man viewed her through his phone.  “Let’s not egg him on, Petal.”

  Petal rubbed the lotion into her legs.  “But this testing…”

  “This is a good shot.  But your hair.  Why don’t you fix your hair?  Kind of
putzy-looking.”

  “Why do they have to do that?”

  He lowered the phone. “I suppose you didn’t learn about Monet?  Despite
your eclectic liberal arts undergraduate education?”

  “Is he just going to…”

  He studied the lotion. “How much did I pay for this?”

  “Forty, I think.”

  “Petal, you are beautiful. My Petal.”

  The Weedwacker started.  The figure, spinning, slashed flowers and moved
ten feet up the hill.  He stopped.  

  The man’s voice did not fluctuate.  “Absolutely putzy.  What’s he…I’m
absolutely beside myself.  This rogue, Pat’s going to…”

  “They’re so beautiful.  Why’s he doing this?”

  The man pretended to calculate an equation.  “I suspect it’s because he’s a
rogue.  You went to college, right?  Rogue?  Do you know what rogue
means?”

  “Yes.” Petal compressed her lips.  “They put chemicals in rabbits’ eyes.  
Glask?”

  “C.C. tells you this?  She goes and gets a pit bull.  Jesus.  People see
that?  They think low class.”

  “Do they have to do that though?  With the chemicals?  I don’t get it.”

  “Take some more forty dollar lotion, Petal.”   

  “It fills the gaps.”   

  The man answered his phone. “Mr. Kudolla,  I’m working on it right now.  
What do you think so far?”

  Petal sipped water from a glass bottle.

  The man frowned.  “I told Paul to put them in.  I’ll take care of it.”

  She traced the gold “Define” script on her bottle.

  He put down the phone, then watched the cloaked figure.  “This is just me,
but those pit bulls?  I suspect they ruin the perceived value of a
neighborhood.”

  The Weedwacker resumed.  The cloak’s mirrors flashed and the figure
severed more poppies.  He ascended ten more feet, then stopped a hundred
feet from the couple.

  “Way, he’s destroying them.  Why’s he destroying them?”

  Way raised the volume of his voice, but not the pitch.  “Sir, would you mind
taking your performance elsewhere?”  The figure did not move.  Way spoke
to Petal.  “This isn’t fair.  I set this up.  What’s this about?”

  Petal, not looking, set the bottle on a poppy.  “Those rabbits.  I don’t get it.”

  Way sighed. “C.C. and her cartoon character obsession. Lumpulp or
Lempalp or whatever it is.”

  “Lampelp.  He’s the streetlight in ‘The Skyscraper and the Shelter.’  That
cartoon movie?  He’s the streetlight that helps the skyscraper change?”

  “She’s what?  Twenty-five now?  This is just me, but isn’t it time she moved
beyond cartoons?”

  The figure destroyed more poppies, moved twenty feet closer to them.  A
wavering line resembling a seismograph reading marked the front of the
cloak.

  “Jesus Christ.  Pat’s going to be here in ten minutes and I have this rogue
to contend with.” Way looked at Petal through his phone.  “Will you please
not sit like that?”

  She shifted, spilled on her blouse.
     
  “Now that was slatternly.”

  “But it’s brown.  And it’s just water.”

  “Slatternly.  Do you know what slatternly means?”

  “I don’t know why.”

  Trumpets sounded on Way’s phone.  He swiped it and sighed. “Can you
please fix your hair there?  It looks putzy.”

  Petal retrieved her compact.

  “Paul, you’ve done an outstanding job so far.  But I need you to put those
skylights back in.”

  Petal touched her hair, but tilted the compact toward her mouth.

  “Now I know I suggested taking them out, but Jim Kudolla, he really wants
them in.”

  The Weedwacker buzzed and the figure resumed his destructive ascent.  
He stopped fifty feet from the couple.  The material of his cloak resembled
molten lava.

  Way addressed the figure.  “Okay, the performance is over.  You’ve
established your mystique.  Will you please move on now?”

  The figure remained still.  Petal swallowed more Define.  “Way, what does…”

  “That’s what I’m trying to figure out.” He sighed.  “Today of all days.  I’m
absolutely beside myself.”

  “Can we talk about Glask later?  About the testing?”

  “Petal, that’s enough.  I hate this.  You’re being unprofessional.”

  Petal smelled her hands.

  “I did an interview.  For the N-Choir Building?  The dark one I showed you?  
I wonder what they’ll say about me.  What do you think they’ll say about me?”

  “How great an architect you are.  Maybe how professional you are.”

  Way sighed, and then sighed again.  “Brown?  Why did you wear brown?  
Brown doesn’t convey a very cosmopolitan image.”

  “It’s in.  The clothing stores, they all–”

  “Do you know what cosmopolitan means?  And I’m not talking about your
magazine.”

  “Testing on rabbits isn’t cosmopolitan.”

  Way’s thumb twitched.  “Pat.  You should’ve heard Pat.  At their corporate
meeting, when I discussed N-Choir?  He went on and on about me and the
design.”

  The Weedwacker destroyed more poppies.  The figure stopped twenty feet
from them.

  Petal swiped the water stain.  “Way, Way, please Way.  That testing?”

  “Do you see this rogue?  Jesus.  Do you see what’s happening?”

  “I don’t get it.”

  “Jesus Christ.  What’s this about?  I work on setting up this goddamn thing.  
This isn’t fair.  Goddamn it.  What’s this about?”

  Petal tried to straighten the poppy her bottle had wilted.

  “I’m going to talk to this rogue.” Way rose, then approached the figure.

  Petal smelled the gas from the Weedwacker.  It smelled inexplicable, and
unavoidable.  She watered the wilted poppy.  Then she brought a tissue to
her lips.  

  -- END --
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About Douglas J. Ogurek
Douglas J. Ogurek’s fiction
appears in the British
Fantasy Society Journal,
The Literary Review, Gone
Lawn, Morpheus Tales, and
several anthologies. He is
the communications
manager of a Chicago-
based architecture firm,
where he has written over
one hundred articles about
facility planning and design.
Ogurek also reviews films
at Theaker’s Quarterly
Fiction. More at www.
douglasjogurek.weebly.com.