Leroy Cox, The Pessimist
Janet, the photographer.

Janet the photographer drives downtown still dressed in her nurse costume. Scrubs with cartoon Tweety Birds dancing across the elastic waist. When she gets this close to the river, almost home, it’s hard for her not to go too fast. A deep breath after at last pulling into the parking lot and she’s locking the door to that world and once more in her own.

Ned the tortoise looks up of from the center of the cluttered shag carpet when Janet bustles through the door. As though he’s been caught in some criminal act, he stays still and eyes her as she sheds her coat, purse, and keys on the sofa. Yet Janet suspects no fowl play of her beloved pet. Sweeping him up, cooing and turning him over to check that his belly’s healthy, and placing him onto the linoleum while she digs around in her fridge for a suitable treat, she’s able to prize for Ned one cherry tomato. “Did you miss mommy, baby baby?” she bites the tomato in half and gives him the rest. “You need some proper food but I gotta shower, precious boy.” 

Still standing in the kitchen she strips off her bottoms, and on her way to the bedroom wiggles out of the top. She keeps her messy hair in its plastic clip but also pins up her bangs and turns on the cold water. Two computer speakers are tied to the wire stand above her toilet and she plugs them into her small red mp3 player. She hums along to The Temptations, steps into the stained tub and carefully aims the stream of water away from her hair. Now, scrubbing the makeup off of her face and shaving her underarms, shivering, Janet begins to feel like less of an impostor. 

When she steps out she tries to warm herself with the friction of the gritty towel but it doesn’t sufficiently prepare her for the mad dash in the cold air to her bedroom. She is tired and her legs ache from being on her feet all day but the shower woke her up and dodging the scattered clothes and dishes on her carpet still seems like a game. She leaps and jerks across the living room shrieking and laughing, dancing to the music still blaring, the towel flapping. There’s goosebumps on her skin. She’s debating whether she can suffer in the cold long enough to grab some food for Ned before getting dressed.

Will clears his throat and as she notices him on her sofa next to the door, she stops still, breathing heavy. He’s on his phone and doesn’t have any real reaction to her odd nightly ritual. He’s familiar with it.

"Oh hey baby baby I didn’t see you were here already!" She feels herself widening her eyes on purpose when she smiles at him like she does for photos. She’s really shivering now that she’s standing still so she tiptoes quickly to her bedroom and shuts the door.

Regina, the artist.


Regina, the artist, began to think the middle-aged man blushing in his doorway might have Tourette’s syndrome or something worse and that she should leave very quickly, but then he cleared his throat, extended a hand, and added:

“You can just call me Leroy though, of course. Leroy Cox.” He looked like he was in pain. “But I will tell my friends. What’s your name?”

Regina Gerard” She put heavy emphasis on the first syllable of her first name and shook Leroy’s hand. “I’m right next door, and my dad’s name is William F. Gerard.”

“Oh.” Leroy stared at the tool box she held.

 “So you can find us in the phonebook, when you tell your friends. And if you change your mind, Mr.… um, Leroy, I think an owl mural would look stunning above that window. Your living room is in autumn tones.” She turned and left.

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Leroy Cox, the Pessimist

Leroy, the pessimist, wanted to flip houses. He wanted to buy a run-down, abandoned, old house, fix it up, and sell it for profit. He was good with his hands and he had always wanted to travel, but there were two problems; he didn’t have the money, and being a pessimist, he couldn’t see potential in any of the houses he looked at. So he found a job as a bank teller and once in a while he would spend several hours on a real estate website until he’d talked himself out of flipping houses.

On one such occasion he was settled in on the sofa after a long day and a knock on the door caused him to look up from his first bite of a Lean Cuisine.

Then, a teenager in a large shirt was staring up at him from his porch and so was the large metal toolbox she had with her.

“It’s full of paint. I do murals, any kind, and I can do one in your house for just thirty bucks. I want to buy a mustang.” She pushed the hair out of her eyes and stood with her hand on her hip. Then, they were silent for what felt to Leroy like incredibly too much time.

“How much does the car cost?” Leroy asked. “How many murals do you have to paint?” He instinctively looked past her at the curb, as if a Mustang would be parked waiting.

“Don’t know yet; haven’t found one for sale. Still, I don’t have a job, and I need to start building my portfolio.” Then she was entering Leroy’s house without being invited; she was smiling and talking to him in a bunch of art jargon he’d never heard before. She was walking around pointing at his walls.

“I could paint some owls there! Do you like owls? I could do them in all colors. And sizes and patterns. I could incorporate that window, and add some falling autumn leaves there, for composition.” Leroy didn’t know how to make her stop and he panicked.

“No.” he said. Then they went silent while more time passed.

“What’s wrong? Do you not like owls? They’re cute.” The stranger began looking more and more embarrassed.

“You didn’t want a mural in the first place. I’m sorry. I’m not a very good listener. I’m sorry. Here I am in your house, you didn’t even have a chance to clean up.” With every statement she was retreating from the residence. Leroy was suddenly very aware of the rumpled quilt and laptop on the sofa and the cereal bowls on the coffee table.

As she opened the door and hefted her paint box, she seemed to realize she had just insulted him, and added, “You have a very nice house though, sir. I’m sorry I barged in, and I’m going now. Just let your friends know about me if they need a mural painted, Mr.…?”

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