By Joshua Scribner
Candy nibbled at her salad, sipped at her mochachino, and occasionally glanced at him with just a hint of judgment in her expression.
That didn’t stop Fred from enjoying his cheeseburger. He loved Berkeley’s outdoor cafes.
Trish showed up at their table and joined them. He liked Trish. She was generally an upbeat person, but today she looked like a mixture of sadness and suspicion.
“I got it,” she said.
Candy glanced at her, took a sip of her drink, and then said, “Oh yeah?”
“Yes,” Trish replied. “If you want to understand someone you just have to look at the aspects of them that don’t fit together. For instance, you’re a rather mean person. You constantly go around hurting people’s feelings, you hate children, and you’re indifferent to most the world’s plights.”
Candy shrugged and gave a little nod. Trish continued.
“Yet you’re a vegetarian, and you do volunteer work for the animal shelter.”
At this, Candy raised her eyebrows and gave another slight nod.
“Something happened when you were a child, something where an animal was unfairly hurt by a person, causing you to feel bad for animals and feel anger toward people. Subconsciously, your life is about trying to even the score. But your subconscious mind will never be satisfied, because you can’t change what happened.”
At this, Candy rolled her eyes back in her head like she was trying to stare at her brain. She was that way for about ten seconds and then regained her usual appearance and said, “Fair enough.”
Fred looked at Trish, who was studying him, and he was afraid. He didn’t think he could have the same ho-hum reaction that Candy had responded with. He tried to prepare himself. Trish started in.
“You’re a good looking guy and kind of funny. You could probably date an attractive girl with a good personality, but you don’t. Most of the girls you date are a little overweight and rather domineering.”
He didn’t respond at first, and then he felt Candy’s foot nudge him under the table. He nodded.
“I’ve never met your mother, but I’ll bet she’s kind of fat and very controlling. You never felt that you earned her love, so, subconsciously, you’re trying to find it in girls similar to her.”
This time, Candy didn’t nudge him. She faked a yawn to put a hand briefly on the back of his neck and pinched.
“Sure. Right on,” he said.
“Good, knowledge is the better part of the battle. One thing you have to remember is that you’ll never be satisfied. No girl will ever be as good as your mother is to your subconscious mind.”
“I’m glad I could help,” Trish said, somewhat self-righteously. “I’ll see you two later.”
She got up and left. She went to a table that was far enough away that he was sure she couldn’t hear them.
“You’re not that bad, Candy. You gave me money after my wallet was stolen, and I’ve seen you give to homeless people.”
“I know,” Candy said and looked off at who knows what. Fred continued.
“My mom’s never been fat or controlling. In fact, she’s a beanpole, and all my friends knew her as ‘The Cool Mom,’ because she let us get away with stuff.”
“I know, you’ve told me about her, and you’ve actually dated a variety of girls, with some fatties and control freaks mixed in there.”
“Okay. So why didn’t you correct her or let me correct her?”
“Because she needs to see us the way she sees us right now, and in her desperation, she’s ignoring facts that don’t fit her theories.”
“Fine. But again, why not correct her?”
“Because she thinks she’s saving us.”
“Well, her older brother used to have bouts of depression.”
“Okay, so that didn’t go with the other aspects of him. He graduated at the top of his class and dated girls that looked like supermodels.”
“What does that have to do with saving us?”
“Well, I’ve been her friend for a long time, and as far as I know, she never talked to him about his bouts of depression. I think she wishes she had, though. He killed himself last week.”
Joshua Scribner is the author of the novels The Coma Lights and Nescata. His fiction won both second and fifth place in the 2008 Whispering Spirits Flash Fiction contest. Up to date information on his work can be found at joshuascribner.com. Joshua currently lives in Michigan with his wife and two daughters. Contact Joshua.