Acupuncture After The Apocalypse

An Extremely Suitable Temperature

“Was this a test?” Uno asked after we left the shop and sat down for lunch at the NorthSide.

We were in the glassed-in courtyard, which was an extremely suitable temperature considering how cold it is outside today. A couple of patrons warming their backsides at the fireplace step out of the way when a waitress approaches with more logs.

“Let’s crank this up a notch from ‘calmly glowing’ to ‘cheerfully crackling,’ shall we?”

I glance at Uno to see if he’s noticing the waitress’s pretty back. As she stoops over to tend the fire, two inches of smooth skin are on display between the hem of her blue sweater and the waistband of her black pants. Her derriere is appealing all its own. But he is missing all of this urban loveliness, this opportunity to experience something other than our prim suburban neighborhood and his dead wife’s canned tomatoes.

Instead, he is staring straight at me.

I yank out one of the menus piled on our table. I’ve had it memorized for twenty years. But Uno doesn’t know that, so I pretend to contemplate its offerings. “What are you in the mood for?”

Uno gently taps the top edge of the menu. I lower it to where I can see his blue eyes and his eyebrows, which are dark brown and silver. The silver hairs grow conspicuously long, as if eager to be noticed.

“This was a test of some sort, no?” Uno says. “Meeting your father? Being asked to demonstrate the handcuffs for customers?”

“Oh, that.”

“Bringing me here in the first place,” he continues. “Did you feel you needed to know how I fare in your old stomping grounds?”

“I just thought you’d like it.”

“I do.”

“So what are we arguing about then?”

“You’re pretending today means nothing. Perhaps I’m falsely elevating the day’s importance. That, or I have discerned the truth, which is that thus far, you and I have interacted in only a setting appropriate to a man of my age. You were curious to know how I would do in this neighborhood, in your old world.”

Jill Riddell is a writer in Chicago. She teaches at the School of the Art Institute and has a weakness for nature, magic, and pennies abandoned in sidewalk cracks.