The Watcher (flash fiction)

I’m slowly crawling out of the funk of a long-lasting, unexplained fever…and regaining my equilibrium in others ways after a difficult past few months. Writing hasn’t been much of a priority. Today, I feel well enough to return to the keyboard, so I’m taking advantage of that.

I’ve been reading a lot of Joyce Carol Oates lately, and I see her influence on the following piece.

The Watcher

It wasn’t enough that he could see her, he wanted to be close to her. He wanted to lean in, take a deep breath near her neck, and luxuriate in her scent; he wanted to meld his flesh with hers and disappear into the darkness forever.

Daniel slowly lowered the binoculars and squinted at her form, so far away. From this distance, she could be anyone. She was just another person sitting at the outside cafe, drinking a coffee. He couldn’t see her delicate features, the gentle slant of her nose, the spark of her eyes. He couldn’t see her lips curl in a secret smile or her brow furrow in worry.

“Excuse me, sir?”

Daniel turned at the voice, a flutter of panic in his stomach. The police officer wore a smile, but it was forced. The smile said, I’m trained to look like this when I approach people, even shifty-looking sons of bitches like you.

“Yes, officer?” Daniel said automatically. The binoculars suddenly felt awkward and heavy in his hands.

“May I ask what you’re doing?” the office said. Even though he was in full uniform, including what looked like Kevlar under his short, his face was free from perspiration, and it was at least 90 degrees outside. Daniel had been sweating ever since he stepped out of his apartment, but that wouldn’t deter him from his purpose.

“Bird watching,” Daniel replied. He’d practiced this, of course. He care nothing about birds, but he’d memorized the local birds by studying various Internet sites. He could ramble off facts about cardinals and blue birds and even the migration patterns of geese.

“This doesn’t seem like an ideal place for bird watching,” the officer said, pleasantly enough. The radio on his shoulder squawked to life, and he reached out and turned down the volume. “I mean, standing here on the sidewalk downtown.”

“You’d be surprised how many different species are here,” Daniel said.

“Be that as it may, I’m going ask you to move along. The park isn’t far from here.”

Daniel gripped the binoculars. If he left, he could lose track of her, and who knows how long it would be before he tracked her down again? Lately, the girl had been changing her routine, and it frustrated (and tantalized) Daniel to no end.

“Sir?” the office prompted. His smile was gone now, and his voice carried a slight edge. “It’s time to move on.”

“Of course,” Daniel said. “I wasn’t trying to bother anyone. I just spotted a scarlet tanager and got excited.”

“Where?”

“What?”

“Where was this bird?”

Daniel smiled. He brought the binoculars back up to his eyes and focused on her. “Right over there,” he murmured.

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