Ms. Glenda opened the blinds at her bay window, sat down with her Sanka and waited. The mailman was something good to look at.
He reminded her of Jim Magee, her cousin, the magician. The mailman should have it today, she thought, for it so happened that the package was now three full days late, according to what her computer had told her. But in truth, she waited more for the delivery than she did for the mailman because Ms. Glenda would never talk to the mailman. Today, though, she would push herself to talk to him if he did not have her video in his truck.
The day before had been a Tuesday, and Ms. Glenda had received nothing. She’d waddled out over the tiny walk of her front yard, past the azaleas and antique frogs, but when she’d got to her pearl box and peered down in, there was nothing to greet her but yawning darkness. Sweating and shifting, she returned to her recliner and her Scottish blanket. Her father, now approaching 110 or so, lived in Scotland, but Ms. Glenda had no idea where Scotland was out there in the great world beyond. It was a fact that she had also been waiting on the handsome mailman who reminded her of Jim Magee to bring the usual check that her father sent her. Her father had once made a surge of money. She knew nothing more about him other than he was happy in Scotland and had a gibbous back.
Presently Ms. Glenda played her card game on the computer at the coffee table, but every now and again she looked up through the mini-blinds to see the cars pass by on Ovidil Street, hoping he’d come by in his blues and his smiles.
It would be the fifth video in the series from Ripped Rondo.
Ripped Rondo Leight had become Ms. Glenda’s favorite, though she did have her second favorite and her third favorite. But Rondo always had a charm to his workout video that Ms. Glenda lapped up. His first video had come on the television on a Sunday morning when Ms. Glenda switched away from the Baptist hour and looked for something fun and for something dirty. She found him. She watched shining, flexing Rondo maneuver the free-weights through the air like some passionate god, and when he squatted and did his leg thrusts she wiggled with excitement and spilled meringue on the Scottish blanket. After the program ended, Ms. Glenda felt alone and scared. She hobbled over to the kitchen telephone and called her sister in Texas and told her about it all—about Rondo and his great gift for exercise—on her voicemail, as her sister from Texas was rarely home, hung up the receiver and immediately yanked it back up to her ear, her other hand pinching a credit card out of her lavender purse.
* * *
It became 4 o’clock and Ms. Glenda had not seen what she wanted. She’d been accustomed to the mailman in his shorts and with his powerful legs to bring on his handsome approach around 1, sometimes 2 p.m. during the winter holidays. But it was now late afternoon, and Ms. Glenda began to consider the possibility that she had dozed off at some point with the television on the weather station, her tabby cat by her side, and had missed the mail delivery entirely. She did not have energy within her to get up and check. She did not wish to go outdoors because a tropical storm was to come. The weatherman had said it was so.
With remote in hand, Ms. Glenda put on one of her most cherished Ripped Rondo episodes and got her coffee mug in hand and put her feet under the Scottish blanket. She wished she had a cigarette—a good, mentholated cigarette—but it had been years since she had bought them at the grocery.
Presently Ms. Glenda farted.
Rondo, in Episode #33, wore a pink shirt and bright white shorts. He looked like a healer, a minister, a clown, and an ice cream man. He satisfied Ms. Glenda. He got up within Ms. Glenda’s soul and shouted to her and moved her—not physically—but within, deep-down within where no one had ever cared to venture before. She loved to see him with the giant blue ball as he stretched and groaned and pointed into the camera right at her soul and at her little pudgy existence—he was the healthiest thing she had ever seen in her life.
In Episode #34, Ripped Rondo traveled to the Bahamas and women flocked to him, and men arm-wrestled him and chefs regaled him. Rondo Leight signed some autographs and showed off his new Bahaman drink—packed with vitamins and protein. Ms. Glenda wondered how it might taste and where the 700 islands of the Bahamas might be. She thought her sister in Texas may know, and she would have gotten out the stationary to write her, but she had no energy in her. She could write her on the computer, after dinner, after she had the roast beef sandwiches in the refrigerator.
Ripped Rondo must have been over 7 feet tall, Ms. Glenda thought. He would have made a fine wrestler or some sort of strongman that went about with the carnivals, but Ms. Glenda was glad that he had decided on his own television show instead. Ms. Glenda was glad that he was her own.
* * *
When it had gotten on to sundown and the workers of the world were returning to their homes, Ms. Glenda decided it best that she get up and make some dinner for herself and for her cat. She microwaved the roast beef and sighed deeply. The mail still had not come. The yellow notice flag on her pearl box was not up, and she could always see it when it was.
Ms. Glenda wept.
As she ate her dinner, one carrot at a time, she turned on Episode #79 at random and found Rondo with his hair longer and shinier than ever, his necktie carelessly thrown over his broad right shoulder, and his coffee mug looking like a child’s teacup in his bearish hand. His tan was dark and glistening as he lifted bricks over his head, then a small car over his head, then two bikini ladies over his head—smiling all the while he did it. He bent down and did nearly a hundred push-ups with one hand. He popped back up into his stance for 75 jumping jacks and broke into a sprint, looping around the fake palm trees all about him.
Even as she ate on her couch, Ms. Glenda did not feel any energy come into her. She wished she could work her way outside and check the mailbox, just in case. Just in case, her mind kept whispering.
She knew Rondo would want her to. He would want her to go out there and check on him.
Ms. Glenda thought perhaps some coffee would help her get motivated. She powerfully wanted to contact Ripped Rondo at her computer and maybe write him a personal note, if she could gather up the right amount of courage to do so. She flung her tabby onto the beaded rug below and managed to push herself toward the coffee maker, humming a church hymn she’d heard somewhere.
In her mind, Ms. Glenda debated which episodes she would watch before bed. Episode #65 was a good one; Rondo was in Tokyo, wherever that may be. Episode #28 had Rondo visiting important charities in Los Angeles. In episode #44, Ripped Rondo Leight proposed to his girlfriend, but Ms. Glenda knew that it was all for show. She knew full well Rondo cared more about his program and his fans and his glorious physique more than he ever could for some loose woman.
Her dead mother’s picture of Elvis looked down at her in the kitchen. The King in violet. Something in Rondo reminded her of Elvis Presley. Ms. Glenda’s mother had left her life when she was nothing but a small girl, and she had only heard of her death from studying over records at her computer one Sunday afternoon. She remembered how her mother loved Elvis. She thought her mother, thusly, would like Ripped Rondo very much. Ms. Glenda cut some bread and buttered it.
Out of the corner of her eye she thought she saw the mailman dancing by her pearl mailbox on the sidewalk, past her daises and past her little chain-link fence. Could it be, she wondered. It was dark outside, she remembered. Why would the mailman and his strong legs be coming by now? She did not have the energy within her to go and see, though. She could not find it within her soul. She would sit on the couch with her Scottish blanket over her and she would watch Episode #1 and let the magic start all over again.
Ric Hoeben homes it in eastern South Carolina, holds an MFA from the University of Florida, and hopes his recently finished short story collection, Sandlappers, will be a real smash.