“I like you,” he said. “You’re funny. But we don’t have to sleep together.”

“Okay,” she decided, as if his words didn’t count. “Let’s give this a shot.”

···

ATTENTION ALL HIJETS CUSTOMER SERVICE PERSONNEL:

It has come to the attention of security that there is some confusion about an individual who identifies himself as William Masterson. He freely gives out his personal information, which never varies from the following:

Name: William George Masterson

Date of Birth: January 2, 1964

SSN: 987-65-4327

Mr. Masterson also frequently states that he holds a PhD in Polish Literature obtained from Harvard University, information which we have been unable to verify.

Over the course of his numerous calls, Mr. Masterson has variously claimed to be an Owner, a Card Holder, and a “new” owner still waiting for his Ownership Packet to be Fed Ex-ed to his current location. Please take note that Mr. Masterson is none of these things. Our efforts to locate him and prevent future calls lead us to an institution in Washoe County dedicated to caring for those with severe psychological issues, and, by working with their staff, we were temporarily able to prevent Mr. Masterson from contacting our company.

Recently, however, Mr. Masterson has resumed his calls. Due to his ability to retain information which staff members have involuntarily slipped into previous conversations, Mr. Masterson is able, for short periods of time, to appear as a serious caller.

It has recently come to our attention that Mr. Masterson has left the care of the Washoe County facility in which he formerly resided, and his current location is unknown. His last traceable call came from a payphone in Upper Sandusky, Ohio.

Security has had a difficult time preventing calls from Mr. Masterson because of his transient nature. Please help us prevent future harassment from this individual by turning over all calls from him to security.

Thank you for your time.

···

“Excuse me,” said the man on the phone. “This is William Masterson. I’m just calling to see which FBO my plane is going to be positioned at.”

Tim exhaled. “Mr. Masterson? Social security number 987-65-4327?”

“Yes.” Mr. Masterson sounded relieved. “This is he. I’m trying to get from Teterboro to Reno.”

“And what seems to be the problem, sir?”

“Well, the problem is that my plane isn’t on schedule, and I’d like to know why.”

Tim was quiet. He didn’t want to turn poor William Masterson over to security any more than he wanted to waste time dealing with him.

“Hello?” said Mr. Masterson. “Is this a good connection? To whom am I speaking, please?”

“This is Timothy.”

“Well, could you put Jeanette on, please? I booked my flight with Jeanette.”

Tim rolled out of his cubicle and glanced down the row, where he could see Jeanette’s strappy white sandals hanging out into the hallway. She was probably busy with a real client.

“I’m so sorry,” he said. “She isn’t in today.”

“Well, that’s alright, Tim. I’m sure you can help me. I apologize for being pushy, but I’m in a bit of a hurry. My fiancée is waiting for me in Reno, and I would hate to be late to pick her up.”

“Your fiancée,” Tim repeated. It was impossible for him to imagine a woman waiting for William Masterson to be released.

“Yes,” said Mr. Masterson. “Buffy Vanderpoel. She should be on the manifest.”

Tim stared at his computer screen, scrolling through bookings. “I’m so sorry, sir,” he said. “I can’t seem to find your information.”

“Well, I’m brand new. I haven’t even received my packet in the mail yet. Perhaps my flight hasn’t been entered into your computer system. Perhaps it was done manually.”

“I’m sorry, sir,” said Tim. “That’s impossible. There would be an electronic record of any flight booked with HiJets.”

“I have a special request,” continued Mr. Masterson. “My apologies if this sounds absurd, but could you have the cabin stocked with spearmint licorice?”

“What?” asked Tim. He clicked open the e-mail about William Masterson.

“It’s an old-fashioned flavor, I know. But Buffy is quite fond of it. Unfortunately I’ve been unable to procure any, so I appreciate anything you can do about the matter.”

“Of course,” said Tim. “One moment please.” He transferred the call to security.

···

“I like your penis,” said Amberly on their second date. They met in the middle of town, in a cheap and hideous motel that gave their intimacy an urgency it did not otherwise merit. “I like the little curvature it’s got. Yours is my first penis with a curve.”

“Thanks?” said Tim. He was somewhat less fond of his penis, due mostly to the fact that it required Viagra to maintain an erection. Its curvature—slighter than Amberly made it out to be—had never seemed particularly worthy of his attention.

“You make me feel wild,” Amberly confessed. “I’ve never really just hooked up with some guy before. I’ve only slept with boyfriends.”

“I’m not just some guy,” he said, letting his eyes wander along her body. “I’m Tim.” She had small breasts and large hips, and dark hair bloomed in her armpits in a five o’clock shadow. The immediacy of her naked body was still miraculous.

“Okay, so you’re Tim,” she agreed. “But you’re still just some guy. Maybe a little bit exotic. I think the wheelchair is exotic.”

Tim rolled his eyes. “I’m the whitest, most boring guy who’s ever been called ‘exotic’ in your whole life.”

To his surprise, she laughed. “Well I guess I’m just the kind of girl who’s into ‘others.’”

“Other whats?” Tim asked. She didn’t answer. They looked at each other. Tim rolled his chair closer to the bed and ran one of his hands along her feet. He liked the pale skin of her legs, pocked with the same shadows as her armpits. He liked the muscles underneath the skin, though they were nothing extraordinary. He wished that his own legs weren’t so withered.

“So what happened to you?” she asked.

“Car accident when I was twelve.” Tim shrugged. “I was the only person seriously injured. Wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. How lame is that?”

“Wow.” Amberly screwed up her face. “I can’t even count how many times I didn’t wear a seatbelt when I was twelve.”

“Yeah.” Tim tried to put the right balance of humor and rue into his smile. “Me neither.”

The room’s air conditioner rattled to life, surprising both of them. Amberly had tried to kick it on when they first came in, without luck. Now that they were naked and sweaty in what Tim felt reluctant to call an afterglow, it hit them with a wall of air that raised goose bumps.

“So, did you ever think about murderball?” Amberly asked. “I saw that documentary. Those guys all looked like pretty tough motherfuckers.”

“Yeah. I’m not really into hitting people. Wasn’t a big sports fan before I was paralyzed, not a big sports fan after.”

“Huh.” Amberly licked her lips. “I think if I was paralyzed from the waist down, I would be pissed off all the time. Hitting people is pretty much the only thing I would want to do.”

Tim shrugged. “So you got the testosterone that was meant for me, I guess. They switched our chemicals in the womb.”

Amberly laughed. “Sometimes I’m angry all the time,” she confessed. “I just want to hit people and break shit, even though nothing’s wrong.”

Tim ran a hand up her prickly leg. “So do you ever? Hit people and break shit, I mean?”

“No. Well, I break stuff sometimes, but only things that are mine. And I never hit anyone. But sometimes I wish I was ten feet tall, and then I could do whatever I want.”

“You can do whatever you want.” Tim put his face close to hers. “Right?”

Amberly sank back down into the pillows. She dragged Tim with her, until he pitched out of his chair and landed on the scratchy sheets beside her.

“Sure,” she said, kissing his neck. “Right.”

···

Mark called to Tim from his cubicle.

“Hey man,” he said. “I’ve got somebody on the line who asked for you. He’s having trouble with his flight, and says you booked it.”

Tim sighed and picked up the phone.

“Hello, Timothy here,” he said. His phone voice was somewhat higher-pitched than his normal tone. He didn’t sound like himself. “How can I help you?”

“This is William Masterson,” said the voice on the other end. “I’m just calling to see when my plane is going to be positioned.”

Tim could hear laughing one cubicle over. He rolled out into the hall and gave Mark the finger, which only made him laugh harder.

“Hello,” said Mr. Masterson. “Timothy? Are you there?”

“Yeah.” Tim sighed into the phone. “I’m here. Look, Mr. Masterson, where are you?”

“I’m getting ready to depart for Reno.”

“No,” said Tim, tapping a pencil against the edge of his keyboard. “Where are you really?”

Mr. Masterson was silent.

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