Ron MacLean is author of the story collection Why the Long Face? and the novel Blue Winnetka Skies. His fiction has appeared in GQ, Greensboro Review, Fiction International, Night Train, Other Voices, and elsewhere. He is a recipient of the Frederick Exley Award for Short Fiction and a multiple Pushcart Prize nominee. He is a former executive director at Grub Street, Boston’s independent creative writing center, where he still teaches.
Prostate Frank Finds True Love
Friday morning coffee. Prostate Frank, as usual, last to arrive.
The others seated, the usual coffees around the usual table. Cuban on the house speakers. Bounce, with the leg going already and he’s only started his Americano.
“All rise.” Max the Grabber, in a warm-up suit. A mug of sweetened black. “Now presiding, the honorable Prostate Frank.” The others stand. The greetings. The welcoming smirks.
“Sit down, ladies. I’ve got news.” Frank straddles his chair. Joints creak and crack. Serena plunks down a scalding decaf.
“Enlarged spleen?” ventures Dave 3.
Frank ignores him, sips his substitute coffee. He hasn’t had the real thing since reading about the hyperplasia. “I’m smitten.”
“‘Scuse me.” Question Mark, his face with that irritated red patch. “We’re talking here. Item three: geese.”
Serena’s back there grinding beans. They raise their voices without thinking.
Prostate fingers his mug. He’s never been just Frank. Always modified. Invisible Frank. Trombone Frank. Women’s Blouse Frank. “New topic,” he says. “You hear me? I’ve met someone.”
He’s got them. A silence. Just the Cuban on the speakers and the coffee grinder and Bounce, with the leg against the table.
“No shit.” Altar Boy in his Friday uniform: crisp ironed white shirt, blue jeans. “A woman?”
“In my dance class.” Frank’s cheeks soft. He has begun to use skin products. Hands and face mostly. He likes the way it feels. This he tells no one.
“What’s her name?” “Where’s she live?”
“You dance with her?”
“Talk to her?”
“Hang on.” Max the Grabber. “Can we discuss the meaning of met?”
“Item four,” Question Mark, volume rising, “people who drive down the center of the fuckin’ street.” He’s become an au lait guy. Sips at it. “How hard is it? Get on your side or get off the road.”
“Wait,” says Altar Boy. “Back up. Dance class?”
“Fuck you.” Frank’s got a chip, ever since the decaf. Of all the Franks he’s been, Prostate is his least favorite, but you don’t choose your nicknames. And if you can’t handle the love, you shouldn’t be here. “I’ve seen her move,” he says. Warmth. A seed, waiting to be born.
“What dance class?”
“And online shopping,” says Question Mark. “This morning, on the radio, women’s pajamas delivered overnight in a gift hatbox.” A beat, then, “What the fuck?”
“I don’t see a problem.” Max checks the wall clock. He’s got a train to catch. “I have no gripe with that.”
“Hey.” Frank leans across Dave 3, stares down Question Mark. “You listening?”
“Priceless.” The Hemorrhoid, who’s been quiet. “Prostate Frank goes salsa.”
Chuckles all around. Frank’s moving to the beat. Sways in his seat to the Cuban. And granted, it’s only his torso. His head and neck, but you can see grace in it. A kind of poetry. “Go ahead, laugh,” he says. Head and neck. A series of small cracks; some nascent, unnamed Frank pushing toward sunlight.