It was Saturday afternoon.
Kevin Cox sat on his back porch sipping a cappuccino and absentmindedly summoning strips of crunchy bacon out of thin air. The strips hung in space for a moment before falling onto a growing pile on the floor beside him. Three cats, all mangy strays, were sprawled around his rocking chair, flicking their tails and gnawing on bacon strips that they’d snagged from the pile.
The Baconmancer was conducting a post-mortem on his breakfast date.
He’d met Esther Merton at the gym during one of his twice-annual “Sure I’m Exercising, Mom” visits. Esther was tall, cute, and friendly, the kind of girl who caught a lot of eyes. She happened to end up on the treadmill next to Kevin’s, and laughed at a couple of dumb jokes he made, so he took a chance and asked her out. To his surprise, she said yes.
The date itself had seemed promising at the start, but it hadn’t ended well. Now Kevin was going through that all-too-familiar post-date ritual, the Where Did It All Go Wrong game.
There hadn’t been a problem with the time of day. Eleven AM was pretty reasonable. That made it more of a brunch date than a breakfast date, really, but it was the weekend. People liked to sleep in on the weekend.
The location was fine, too. Jim’s Place was a solid first-date choice: it was neither too cheap nor too formal. Kevin especially liked Jim’s because they had plenty of non-bacon options. Kevin never ate bacon if he could help it.
What had it been, then? The conversation had started off okay. They’d covered all the usual topics: weather, health, afternoon plans, hockey, bacon. There had been that one part where neither of them spoke for eighty-six seconds straight, but that wasn’t actually too bad. Kevin had counted through silences of six or seven minutes on some of his really bad dates.
He’d minded his manners while eating his omelette, and he hadn’t done anything weird like staring at Esther’s mouth while she chewed or flipping his fork in the air between bites. Let it not be said that he couldn’t learn from past mistakes!
If he’d had to rate the date halfway through, Kevin would have given it pretty decent marks. But then Esther went to the bathroom while they were waiting for the bill, and when she got back she was standoffish, cold, even impolite. Within about ten seconds she slapped a ten dollar bill down on the table and rushed out in a huff.
The worst part was that her waffles and orange juice had actually come to $13.50.
The most obvious explanation was that she must’ve found out about the bacon thing somehow. That always scared people off, made them treat him like a loser. It wasn’t so much that he was a special; there were lots of specials out there, after all. It could even be an advantage, kind of an exotic allure, if your ability was impressive enough. When you could only do something lame like creating bacon, though, you went from a cool guy to a weirdo pretty quickly. That’s why Kevin tried to keep that part of himself secret, when he could.
Maybe Esther had Googled him from the bathroom on a smartphone. There were those pictures of him on Facebook… But no, he’d untagged himself from those, and he’d told Munch to delete the video, too.
Could he have conjured some bacon onto the table by accident, and she’d seen it? Nah, he always felt a little tingle in his fingers when he made bacon, and he hadn’t felt that.
Maybe it had been something on her end. Maybe she had received some bad news, something personal or family-related. Maybe she’d gotten food poisoning, or a sudden headache. It had to have been something like that. Kevin couldn’t think of anything he’d done wrong the entire time.
He decided he would give her some personal space, let her sort whatever-it-was out, and call her up in a couple of days. Maybe she needed a shoulder to cry on. That could open up some in-roads.
Satisfied with his verdict, Kevin stood up, kicked the pile of bacon out into the yard, where two raccoons and some crows were waiting, and went inside with a smile on his face.
Esther Merton was jogging along Dallas Road, the rush of blood in her ears blending with the crash of waves on the beach below. A little faster, she told herself. A little farther.
No matter how fast she went, though, or how far, she couldn’t get that face out of her head. She’d seen him through the window as she came out of the bathroom at breakfast.
Had it really been him?
Was he back?