James used his best phone voice. First impressions
count. "Hello Angel, I'm here in the park near the
station. Where are you? I want to know if you look as
good as your photo on the forum."
He grinned when the only reply was a picture from
Angel's phone camera. The lake in the photo looked
familiar with its ducks and artificial islands. He could
see he was already beside it and soon figured out
where she must be. Just an hour between trains he
muttered to himself as he pushed through a group of
overfed children stuffing themselves with steaming
He saw Angel's head and shoulders first, young and
pretty, above the low azalea bushes flowering along
the lakeside path. Coming closer, what he saw
brought quite different thoughts raced through his
head, 'Of course, we only know each other from the
Internet. I've made all sorts of assumptions to fill in
the gaps. Of course, so has she.'
But it wasn't the large man with her that had startled
"You'll excuse me if I don't get up," said Angel softly
and sweetly. James forgot the ever-so-clever greeting
he had been silently rehearsing. Smiling and nodding
they shook hands formally. He tried to look
everywhere except at the flashes of sunlight glinting
from the bright metal of her wheelchair.
She gestured that James should sit with the older man
on the park bench next to her wheelchair. "This is my
father. I wanted him to come along too. After all, you
never really know what you might be letting yourself
in for when you get to know people online."
Angel's father shook his hand with an unexpectedly
strong grip. James pretended it didn't hurt.
Angel wheeled her chair around. "So James, let's get
a good look at you. You look older. I think you must
have been using an old photo for your avatar," she
said accusingly. All three laughed loud enough to
make the nearest ducks flutter off down the lake.
Father also wanted a good look at James. "So I hear
you're a bit of a practical joker and a poet too.
Angel's been telling me how you've been having
some fun teasing her and the other moderators on the
website. When I was a lad we got poetry in school.
Do you write proper poetry, stuff that rhymes or is it
all that arty-farty stuff?"
"Mostly arty-farty I'm afraid," said James handing a
folded paper to Angel. "Like this one. We said we
would each bring something along today. She's
always going on about saving the world so I wrote
her something about peace in the world."
Absorbed in what James had written, Angel did
nothing to stop it when the wind coming off the lake
lifted up the hem of her little red dress. James saw
just enough firm young flesh to make him think she
was not just a pretty face. Then she moved, trying to
get comfortable in the wheelchair and looked up. He
remembered when he was young and his mother
caught him with a lingerie advert and looked away.
"Come on. Read it out," said Father.
Angel read it aloud:
the world is at peace
in those precious still moments
between winter storms
"It's a haiku," said James.
"It's OK. I know what a haiku is," said Father, going
on to surprise James further by suggesting it might be
considered a senryu on account of the metaphor.
Angel made a show of counting off the syllables on
her fingers before thanking James with a warm little
hug made awkward by the wheelchair.
"James says he wants me for my mind," grinned
Angel reaching into her bag. "So I have written one
especially for him. It's a three stanza pantoum
rhymed ABAB with each line repeating." Then
looking over to catch her father's expression, she
added. "It's called Piss Artist."
Father giggled like a teenager. "That's my girl. You
can always spot the benefits of an expensive
"Please James, will you be the artist and read it out,"
So James read aloud:
I mark my territory,
graffiti is my art.
I spray calligraphy,
written from the heart.
Graffiti is my art.
A new but ancient rite.
Written from the heart,
a creature of the night.
A new but ancient rite,
I spray calligraphy.
A creature of the night,
I mark my territory.
Father giggled again, not least because of the youths
in leather jackets who had passed by just at the right
time to stop, listen and then clap politely when James
reached the end of his little recital. One said to
James, "It's not often I get to meet a real Piss Artist."
Another questioned this with a loud, "No mirrors in
your house then?" They exchanged grins with Angel
before they left, noisy and scaring the ducks until
they were gone.
"Wow. Will you post it on the website?" said James.
"No. I'm saving it for a competition. I'll tell everyone
it's named after you if it wins. You'll be a sort of
Finally able to relax, James grinned back. "Well,
thank you my little Angel, I do hope you will always
think of me as your very own Piss Artist."
Soon the little time they had, was gone.
"I'm only here between trains," said James tapping
his watch. "Got to go right now. I'd really love to do
this again. I'll be back through in a couple of weeks.
Please, can we do it again?"
"Yes, of course," said Angel. "But only if I get
another hug before you go."
Grinning mischievously, her father asked for a hug
too but didn't get one.
Like she had done so many times when she was
young, Angel held out her hand to her father. They
sat together in silence until James was gone from
sight. Then they waited a little longer.
A grey-haired couple passed by, trying not to look at
Angel. They scurried away along the path when she
sprang to her feet.
"OK Father, let's get you back into your chair."
"Yes, you nailed him and oh yes you are naughty," he
said, shuffling off the bench and back into his
wheelchair. "So now you know he really does want
you for your mind, not your body. I wonder if he
believes in miracles."
Sitting Pretty was published in
The Straitjackets Magazine
First appeared, cherry-picked
by the Editors at ABCtales