by Jeffrey Gandell

Sol was itchier than usual. It could have been the weather or it could have been one of those things. I don’t know why I’m so itchy, he thought. Of course, it didn’t matter why, really. You’re itchy, you scratch. Sol didn’t want to blow the tickle up into one of his medical meltdowns, he just felt the need to scratch. A lot. His nails were too short from biting to get the job done right.

Walking down the street, he swung his leg up on a stair that led up to a doorway and went to work. It was good. It was better than good, it was sublime. Scratching nirvana. Rubbing his leg hair into paste, a sound like cereal being crunched slowly sunk him into a meditative plateau.

The door in front of his scratching self swung open. He froze, mid-stroke, looking at the woman who had opened the door looking at him. Sol’s hand was still glued to his leg, pants halfway up his calf.

‘What are you doing here?’ Diane asked.

‘I’m scratching my leg.’ She looked at Sol’s leg. There was no doubt that’s what he was doing.

‘Have you seen my keys Di—’ Lester came up behind her, saw Sol, saw their icy poses.

‘Who are you?’ He asked. This was his place.


‘Sorry, Lester, this is Sol, Sol, Lester.’

Lester already knew the name. Now everyone knew everyone’s names. Sol had supposed that there was someone like Lester. He might have even given him the hypothetical name ‘Lester,’ though it was probably closer to ‘Smokey,’ or ‘Wallace.’ All the alternatives dropped away when genuine Lester materialized. Now Lester could put a face to the name, and Sol could put a face and a name to the preoccupation. Sol imagined that he looked exactly the same as Lester had imagined he would. Diane stood there, shifting her weight from one foot to the next.

‘I’m gonna go look for those keys,’ Lester said.

‘Well it didn’t take you too long,’ Sol reasoned. He had managed to separate his nails from his leg hair and to regain a more upright position. He still leaned forward a little bit, but he always did that. Diane used to tell him to stand up straighter, that he was going to develop back problems in the future. She thought of scolding him on his posture, but instead just stood straighter herself.

‘Listen, Sol, I’m sorry you had to scratch your leg right here.’

Sol’s leg was still itchy, itchier, even, than before. His arm was itchy too. He thought about which one he would scratch first when he managed to dislocate himself from this doorway scene. He couldn’t do both at the same time. He would need a third arm for that.

‘Found them!’ Lester’s voice came from inside the apartment. Lester was often out of context, something Diane was beginning to find annoying. Standing in his doorfront though, she had to push such a thing into the back room of her mind. It’s not like they were lost, anyway.

‘We’re going for a walk,’ Diane said, as if it mattered.

The thought came into Sol’s head that they might be headed in the same direction as he was. He decided to go in the opposite direction of wherever they were going. He’d go straight up, if he had to.

‘It was nice to see you,’ Sol said, to his own disappointment.

‘Definitely. ‘

‘I found my keys,’ Lester appeared in the doorway, beaming. ‘They were in the cutlery drawer. Imagine!’

Something about this statement made Sol feel slightly better about things.

‘Take it easy,’ he said.

‘Bye Sol.’

‘Sol man, good to meet you.’ Lester thrust his hand out. Sol was forced to shake it. Lester had a good grip, which made Sol feel slightly worse about things. He turned and walked away. The itchiness was worse than ever, but he refrained. The street kept moving.

Stepping out onto the sidewalk, Diane slipped her arm into the loop Lester’s arm created when he jammed his hand into his jacket pocket.

‘Weird guy,’ Lester said.

‘Ya, weird guy,’ Diane agreed and looked behind her, wondering when it would be appropriate to extricate her arm from Lester’s vulture-like grip.


Jeff -- that's Mister Gandell to you -- teaches English at Dawson College and runs Clamorous Sundays, the once a month read aloud extravaganza at Green Room. He likes to buy his shirts in NYC. They just fit better. They have those darts or whatever.

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