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Stan the Torch Man
By J.C. Duffy
Stan was shy by nature. He had been carrying a torch for Gladiola ever since his fifth year of high school but lacked the courage to ask her out on a date. He carried his torch in his pants. Actually, it was a flashlight, but he found that torches set his pants ablaze, and not in a good way. Plus, British people called flashlights torches, so he felt it was close enough, even though he lived in Ohio.
Gladiola was smart as a whip by comparison, and she graduated high school in only four years. She was two years younger than Stan, so by the time she graduated Stan was finishing his seventh year. Then she moved away to college, leaving Stan behind with his flashlight, his D batteries and the scrapbook of golden memories that he never got the chance to fill.
That was 40 years and a thousand batteries ago. Now, pushing 60, stan's flashlight had still not dimmed with time, so he decided to take the bull by the horns and do something drastic. He quit high school to embark on an all-encompassing search for Gladiola.
It turned out to be a quick search. He really didn't need to cut his education short, as he found her immediately on Facebook. Her privacy settings prevented him from seeing any pictures of her, so he sent her a Friend Request. She confirmed it within seconds, including a lengthy message, basically containing her entire life story. Did she have her life story on file just waiting for Friend Requests from people from her past? It gave him an uneasy feeling.
Ironically, she had been living right down the street from him for the past five years after decades of messy divorces, tawdry affairs and cheap encounters. They had probably passed each other in the neighborhood many times but failed to recognize one another. Then he saw her pictures. Time had not been kind to either of them, but especially to her, he thought. He sent her a message in return saying that he lived in Hawaii with a swimsuit model, then posted some pictures of Don Ho and Heidi Klum.
From then on, when he walked past Gladiola's house he would sneak a peek at her as she raked leaves, mowed the lawn, hauled ashes, shoveled snow or sent a gentleman caller on his way in the morning. This was his least favorite thing to see, right behind hauling ashes. He didn't have the nerve or stomach to introduce himself, so they lived out the rest of their tortured lives without ever meeting again.
On the bright side, Stan was finished with high school, so he had the free time to fill his twilight years with daytime television and beer.
He put his flashlight in the junk drawer. It was a collection of broken watches and broken dreams. He liked saving money on batteries but he missed carrying a torch for someone.
When death finally arrived for Stan it was anticlimactic. Gladiola missed it on the obituary page, and he never got the chance to change his Facebook status to "Dead." No one seemed to notice that he no longer posted photos of his lunch, or tended his imaginary farm in Farmville, or wrote "LOL" beneath people's cat videos.
There are people who would say that Stan possibly wasted his life. Give each of those people a cigar, and keep one for yourself if you agree.