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The Monkey in the Window

Who was she? I don't think I knew her. It was quick, and I was curious.

All I had really seen was the flip of her long red hair as it vanished around the corner, out the door.

Should I go after her? No, I should stay here.

No, I should go. Of course I should go. One never gets anywhere by simply staying here.

A twenty dollar bill on the counter, no time for change.

* * * * *

Out on the street, the wind is whipping hard. I pull my collar up and face into the cold, rain slashing my face, tiny needles penetrating the skin.

I squint, squeezing my eyes against the spray. There, turning the block. Did she just smile at me?

I take off down the street.

* * * * *

I come to the next corner. Do I look around? Do I step forward boldly? Do I turn around and go back for my change?

I put a foot forward, and hesitate. If she turns now, she'll see a leg, from knee to ground, hanging in mid-air. I hope she's gone around another corner before I finish this step, so that I'm sure she hasn't seen me.

I lean forward.

She's nowhere in sight.

* * * * *

I gaze down the street in disbelief.

She's gotten away.

I turn and rest my head against the wall. The stone is cold and jarring, and I wonder if I will cry or laugh.

It's too cold to do either one. I step back, and turn to go.

And there she is.

* * * * *

Standing across the street from me, she's gazing into a window. Her lips are pursed together tightly, one finger pushing on her lower lip.

Her other hand is on the glass in front of her.

She bends forward to take a closer look. I feel myself taking a closer look.

She straightens, and enters the store.

* * * * *

Standing outside the window, gazing where she was, I search for the object that held her attention. It is a toy shop, one that still sells hand-made toys, wooden and metal alike.

How they survive in the heart of Chicago, I'll never know.

Movement catches my eye. On the floor fo the display, a monkey with cymbals sits. He is, perhaps, six inches tall, and he bangs his hands together at regular intervals.

Some form of machinery is at work, but I cannot figure it out.

I am startled when a hand enters my vision and plucks the monkey from the display.

* * * * *

I look up, and through the window I see the clerk, old, balding, but full of life. He is smiling.

The monkey claps again, sitting relaxed in his hands. He offers the toy up, and I catch a glimpse of red hair.

She is buying the monkey.

The clerk takes it over to the register, and begins to press buttons. He makes small talk as he rings her up. She laughs.

Her smile is infectious.

* * * * *

She steps out of the store clutching a paper bag, turning the corner without looking up.

That's when we meet for the first time. She knocks me down.

She apologizes profusely. No, I say, it's my fault.

She blushes, and asks me to dinner. To make up for it, she says.

Funny, I was going to ask her the same thing, if I ever managed to get the courage.

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