As a publisher, I have found there to be nothing more gratifying than the opportunity to observe a writer develop, sometimes from their earliest initial publications in which one can see their obvious talents emerge and blossom. Urban Graffiti has published many such talented writers and poets throughout the years who have gone on to have successful careers in their own right, and I am pleased to have played a small role in their success. One such writer and poet is Sonia Saikaley, whose short fiction piece, “A Specimen In A Petri Dish” first appeared in Urban Graffiti #7 in Autumn of 1999. I am pleased to reprint Sonia’s story here, now, for your critical enjoyment. Enjoy.
I look through the peephole, my heart pounding like the drums at a First Nations pow-wow. I quickly stop looking through the hole and comb my fingers through my short, brown hair. “What the hell is she doing at my door?” I whisper to myself.
She knocks at my door again, louder this time. “I’ll be there in a minute,” I call out, frantically shoving the tits and pussies magazine under the chesterfield.
I walk into the bathroom and look at myself in the mirror, comb my fingers through my hair again. “Christ, Derek! You look like shit,” I say out loud. “Your fantasy girl is at your door, and you look like shit.”
She knocks again.
What an impatient woman, I think as I walk out of the bathroom and into the main room. She looks like such a patient, kind person from afar, from my bachelor apartment window anyway. With her blonde, shoulder length hair in a ponytail and flat chest, she looks like a schoolgirl. But looks can be deceiving. Like my Pop used to say, “Looks can be deceiving.”
Pop, a confectionery owner, never trusted anyone who walked into his store, be it Mrs. Marcello, the little Italian old lady who wanted to chat with my Pop because she was lonely, or the pimple-faced Tommy looking for a tube of miracle acne cream to clear away his zits before his prom, only to find tubes of toothpaste and hemorrhoid ointment. “Looks can be deceiving, boy,” Pop used to say. “You never can know when some son-of-a-bitch will hold you up, or who that son-of-a-bitch will be. A clean-cut, three-piece suit, please and thank you son-of-a-bitch can just as easily as a dishevelled, tattoo-decorated, fucked-up junkie shove a .45 calibre up your arse and blow the shit right out of you, faster than any laxative I guarantee you. You understand, boy? Don’t trust looks.”
I unlock the door, almost expecting her to slap me across the face and say, “You disgusting pervert stop watching me. I can see you watching me. I can just imagine what you do here in your pathetic hole you call home. Unzipping your jeans, you pull down your underwear and grab your two-inch penis. Rub, rub, rub until you cum, cum, cum.”
I pull open the door.
“Hello,” she says, extending her right hand, “I’m Morgan. I’m your neighbour. I live across the street from you.”
I look down as I shake her hand, which feels like unsanded wood — rough, callused. I let go quickly. I then take a closer look at her face. Blond facial hair pops at me like a specimen in a petri dish under a microscope. Beginnings of a goatee. “Jesus,” I say.
“Sorry,” Morgan says, “my hands are a little rough from the work I do. I’m a mechanic. Anyway, the reason I’m here is to ask if you’d be interested in signing a petition fighting the city’s proposed plan to demolish the Old Cartier Bed and Breakfast on Somerset Street and turn it into a parking lot. Will you sign the petition?”
“Sure,” I mumble, pulling the clipboard from Morgan’s grip.
“Thanks for the support,” he says.
“No problem,” I say, then add, “I’ll see you around.”
“Of course you will,” Morgan laughs. “You live directly across from me. See you and thanks again.”
I shut the door behind my neighbour. I walk quickly over to my window and pull down the blinds. I then rummage through my desk drawer, looking for a card. I find it. Dr. Linda Lambert, Optometrist. I pick up the receiver and dial the number.UG
Sonia Saikaley has lived in Japan, where she taught English and found the solitude to write. She has also gotten lost in the alleys of Venice but found an amazing pizzeria. Now, in Ottawa, Canada, she finds herself surrounded by her big Lebanese family and amidst the chaos and joy, she writes. Her fiction and poetry has been published in Still Point Arts Quarterly, Stepaway Magazine, The Caterpillar Chronicles, Maple Tree Literary Supplement, the anthology Lavandería – A Mixed Load of Women, Wash, and Word, and other publications. She is a graduate of the Humber School for Writers. Her novella The Lebanese Dishwasher is co-winner of the 2012 Ken Klonsky Novella Contest and will be published by Quattro Books in 2012.