and Dora sat on the roof of the Food Bear Market. A rope and a bucket
hung over the roof ledge next to a ladder. It was eight p.m. and
starting to rain. People in the parking lot scurried to their cars.
Nobody stopped to put money in the bucket. They were supposed to
be raising money for the United Way, but so far only had $27.82.
"What about getting your tummy stapled?"
Dora said. "Have you thought about that? You're just a kid, don't
waste your life being a fatty."
Fat Larry looked at Dora with her dyed
red hair and pale wrinkly skin and imagined how she might look with
her mouth stapled.
The wind picked up, and the rain pelted
against them, defeating the patio umbrella they huddled under. Dora
dug rain ponchos out of the huge black duffle bag she'd lugged up
the ladder. She had a pillow, a flashlight and who knew what else.
He'd only brought a portable CD player, but the batteries had died
two hours ago. He put the poncho on; it covered his chest well enough,
but left his legs bare.
"What about that high protein diet?" Dora
said. "You could eat all kinds of grease and fat. Bacon, eggs, till
you're ready to burst. Might be cheaper than that stapling. A lot
slower though. My grandson used to be a tubby. We started giving
him apples every time he wanted a snack. It worked for him. But
you, you're past that, I guess."
Fat Larry sighed.
"What about aerobics?" Dora said. She
pulled a Polaroid out of the bag and shoved it toward him, then
aimed her flashlight beam against it. In the photo Dora wore shimmering
hot pink stretch pants with black leg warmers scrunched at her ankles.
"You could come to my class if you wanted. I'd go easy on you."
"I think I'll pass."
"You should try it, get those endorphins
going. You know I'm in training for a marathon." She put the picture
back in the bag and pulled her cigarette case out again. She'd been
chain smoking and talking nonstop the whole six hours they'd been
on the roof.
"What's the most you've ever run?" Larry
"I ran twelve miles on Sunday."
Larry looked at Dora. "I don't believe
Dora smiled. "It's just mind over matter.
Use it or lose it." She eyed Larry's stomach. "Well, for you, it's
more like, use it and lose it."
Larry's face turned red. "Listen Dora,
you're just a big joke. Everybody laughs at all those stories you
tell about riding your bike sixty miles in a day or bench pressing
your own weight. Come off it, Dora. You're like eighty years old,
nobody your age can do that stuff."
She took a puff of the cigarette. The
smoke hovered under the umbrella. "You don't believe me."
"No. It's not possible for you to do that
stuff. And besides you smoke like a chimney."
She looked at him. "I only smoke when
I'm nervous. It's hard for me to sit still this long. I got to be
moving around, exercising."
"You're gonna run out of cigarettes pretty
soon," he said. He looked at her, dwarfed under the red poncho,
her wrinkly face peeking out from under its hood, her spotty fingers
holding the cigarette. She belonged on some late night TV comedy
show. She was that ridiculous.
"We got a break coming up," she said.
"I'll head down and get more cigs. You want a candy bar?"
"Nope." He still had the bag of cashews
he'd lifted from the store in his pocket.
Dora looked out at the near empty parking
lot. "You know, I think I'll just see you in the morning. It's awful
wet out here. No sense in staying on the roof all night with nobody
here to give money."
"That's not the deal Dora. Twenty-four
hours straight with only a break every four hours."
"Listen, nobody's in the parking lot to
see, I'm going home."
Fat Larry peered over the edge of the
roof. The lights in the parking lot had come on, illuminating the
sheets of rain. "Guess you're right. Nobody'll be around for hours."
He gave the ladder a shove, and watched as it tumbled to the pavement.
"Now what did you do that for?" Dora said,
a look of confusion on her face. "Thank heavens I have my cell phone."
Fat Larry watched as she pulled it out
of the duffel bag. "Here, give me the phone, I'll take care of this,"
Dora held the phone close to her chest.
"I don't trust you."
"Listen Dora, it was an accident. I didn't
mean to push the ladder off. Guess I bumped it with my foot. I'll
call Skinny Larry, he's working in the deli tonight, he'll come
out and put the ladder back up. You can go home, I'll stay here."
"I don't know," Dora said, shaking her
"Just relax, Dora. It'll be okay." Fat
Larry smiled apologetically. "Let me handle this."
Dora handed him the phone and watched
as Fat Larry punched in the number.
"Hey, I'm on the roof with Dora," he said.
"Get ready to hand over the badge."
Skinny Larry said something Dora couldn't
make out and then Fat Larry put the phone in the front pocket of
"You didn't mention about the ladder,"
"Didn't need to."
"What do you mean? And what's this about
Fat Larry stretched and ate a few cashews.
Dora was acting nervous and it made him feel good. "Didn't you used
to have a name badge with like all these little stickers on it?
Stars, little birds, a couple of balloons?"
Dora wrinkled her brow. "I did. It had
a stars for every time I won employee of the month."
Larry eyed Dora. "It had five of those
"What do you know about it?" Dora said.
"Kevin in the bakery, he found it near
the sweet rolls. The clasp was broken, must have fallen off when
you went to get one of those raspberry jellyrolls you like. That's
when the bets started."
Dora folded her arms across her chest.
"What are you talking about?"
"Me and Skinny Larry, along with the rest
of the night crew make bets about you all the time, like on what
story we can get you to repeat. Everyone likes the one where you
say you swam the English Channel. My favorite's the one where you
say you stopped a bank robber. We keep a running bet tally, the
leader gets to keep the badge. I get five hundred points if I make
it through all twenty-four hours sitting on the roof with you. That's
enough points to stay in the lead indefinitely. So you ain't going
"You and your cronies must have something
better to do. People like me. I've been voted employee of the month
more than anyone else."
"It's a joke Dora. Like voting the school
nerd for homecoming king."
"You're a liar," Dora said.
"I could say the same to you, Dora. You
drive people nuts, going on about how great you are, how you're
such an expert at this and that. I tell you what, you don't know
shit. You're the laughing stock of Food Bear."
"I want my phone back."
"What are you willing to do for it?"
Dora stared hard at him. "I'll die before
I do any sexual favors for you."
"Don't worry Dora, I'm not interested
in that. Entertain me, do one of your aerobic routines. I'm in the
mood for a little laugh."
"Okay. What ever you want, you're in charge.
But it's a little hard in the rain here, and especially without
"Just fake it, Dora."
Dora stepped out from under the umbrella
and stood about three feet in front of him, tapping her foot as
if silently hearing a beat. "Okay," she said and began rolling her
shoulders, then moving her head from side to side. She moved both
arms to the left and wriggled her fingers and swung her hips.
"Hey Dora, I never knew you had the moves,"
Fat Larry said.
"I'm just warming up." She moved her arms
across her body to the right in a simulated wave, then stomped her
feet in a sharp rhythm. "Cha cha cha," she said.
"Oh, Dora baby, don't stop," Fat Larry
Dora did a complicated hand routine that
resembled the Macarena along with side steps and began circling
the umbrella. Once, twice, and then a third time. Fat Larry was
starting to get bored. "Come on Dora, show me something else," he
"Okay," she said, and quickly spun behind
him, wrapping her arm underneath the front of his neck, securing
him in a headlock. "How's this, fatso?" she said.
Fat Larry couldn't breath. He fought against
her, but she twisted away every time he was close to getting out
of her hold. "Icabreth" he struggled to say, but Dora only tightened
her grip. His body grew floppy, the fight in him sifting out his
arms and legs, as he realized, all too late, that he had been wrong
about Dora all along.