When his girlfriend dumped him, Salazar suppressed an urge to stalk her. That would only lead to trouble, maybe even a double-murder. She said she wasn't seeing anyone, but why else? It was probably that guy down at the hardware store. Sandy hair was a definite weakness of hers. It was why he'd worn a wig for the full week of their relationship. Had she seen him take it off? He should ask her. He picked up the cell phone and thumbed through to her number.
"Hi Claudia. I just wanted to ask you if the reason you broke up with me--" The line went quiet. He pressed redial.
Rrring! Rrring! Rrring! Rrring! Rrring!
Salazar closed the phone. Maybe she was driving. He should buy a hands-free set for her car. In fact, that's what he would do.
He rode his bike down to the strip mall. He'd thought about getting a driver's license many times, but had never made it through the DMV line. The bike suited him fine anyway. It was usually sunny in San Diego.
The Best Buy was at the far end of he mall, but the parking lot was laid out in such a fashion that riding a bike could be dangerous. He dismounted and walked it along the sidewalk. People bustled past, not paying him any attention.
He came to the hardware store. There was a bike rack outside and two bikes were already parked. He looked through the door and saw Sandy-hair at the register talking to a customer. As he spoke, his hands made expressive gestures, palms cupped and sweeping in small circles as if he were feeling Claudia's breasts. She hadn't let Salazar do that, but she would let him. He had that going for him.
"What the heck," Salazar said, locking his bike beside the others. It wouldn't hurt to ask.
He waited his turn, gaze casting about the store. The chromed top of a Rustoleum can caught his attention. How did they get that shiny finish to stick to a plastic lid? How hard would it be to peel it off?
Salazar walked to the display and lifted the can in one hand. It was heavier than it looked, but what wasn't? He rubbed at the chrome with his index finger. It was smooth and seemingly inseparable. He scratched with his nail. Nothing. This is one admirable can lid, he thought.
"Can I help you?" Sandy-hair was standing at his shoulder. His eyes were translucent green. Salazar saw what Claudia saw in them.
"Hold this," he said, pushing the can into Sandy-hair's hand.
Salazar reached into his khaki shorts pocket and pulled out a pen knife.
"You don't need that," Sandy-hair said. "Look." He squeezed the lid and popped it free of the can.
Ouch, Salazar thought. He opened the blade and took the lid from Sandy-hair. He scraped the blade across its surface. Chrome flaked to the floor.
"Dude," Sandy-hair said, "you can't do that. Now you gotta buy the can."
"Have you been seeing my girlfriend?" Salazar said.
"My girlfriend," Salazar said. "Have you been seeing her, dating her? You know what I mean."
Sandy-hair frowned, gaze falling to the open blade. Salazar nodded. He closed the pen knife and dropped it into his pocket.
"What's her name?" Sandy-hair said.
"You tell me."
Sandy-hair blew out a breath. "Are you for real? You know you're buying this can, right?"
Salazar watched Sandy-hair's mouth. He imagined those plush lips on Claudia's. It wasn't hard to imagine.
"I'm dating a girl from the Community College," Sandy-hair said. "Her name's Marcy."
"No," Salazar said. "That's not her."
Sandy-hair nodded. "Come with me. I'll ring you out."
"Do you have any hands-free phone setups?"
Sandy-hair shook his head and walked to the register.
Salazar motioned with his hands. It felt clumsy. "For cars."
"I know what you mean," Sandy-hair said. "We don't carry those. You should try Best Buy."
"It's for my girlfriend," Salazar said.
"That's cool." Sandy-hair scanned the Rustoleum can. A number came up on the digital display.
Salazar opened his wallet. It was empty. "I don't have any money."
"Credit card? We take all the major ones."
Salazar shook his head.
"Maybe that's why you're having girl problems," Sandy-hair said. The words were mean, but the way he said it was nice. Compassionate. Sandy hair, green eyes, compassion.
"Tell you what," Sandy-hair said, setting the can on a shelf below the counter. "Give me your name and phone number and I'll hold this for you until you have money, okay?"
"That's a great idea," Salazar said. Intelligent too. He certainly saw why Claudia was interested. "Can I have your number too? I'll call before I come in to make sure you're working."
"Here's a store card," Sandy-hair said.
"Can I have your cell number instead?" Salazar said. "I'll feel nervous if you don't answer."
Sandy-hair looked him up and down. "I guess so," he said. They exchanged numbers.
Salazar left the store and unlocked his bike. He walked it along the sidewalk, feeling better than he had all day. The sun warmed his head. He thought of Sandy-hair's gleaming eyes. The end of the sidewalk came up. He started to lift his leg over the seat bar, but thought better. He pushed the kickstand down and leaned the bike to rest.
He pulled the cell phone from his pocket and deleted Claudia's number. Hands-free sets were expensive anyway. Then he dialed Sandy-hair. It wouldn't hurt to ask when he would get off work tonight.
Rrring. Rrring. Rrring.