Love With a Proper…
by Marc Shapiro
Donna had it all.
An established career. A long and happy marriage that, these days, had produced a next generation and was coming up on a second grandchild. Donna was content, secure, comfortable. And light years removed from anything approaching temptation.
Until the day she walked past that damnable newspaper vending machine, sitting slightly off balance in the front of a CVS pharmacy.. Donna marveled at the slick, utilitarian, metal of it all. It was clean and obvious. Its Los Angeles Times logo was big and brash…and immediately tempting in a way that Donna had not felt in years. If a machine could be hot, this was it
Donna glanced down at the coin return slot and that sealed the deal. Staring back at her was a cluster of glistening quarters. Easily a couple of dollar’s worth. In Donna’s suddenly racing thoughts, this could be nothing less than a metal to flesh love offering. She looked furtively over her shoulder and saw nothing and nobody. If she got caught…Suddenly it was just too hot and illicit for words. She could not resist.
Donna reached into the slot and scooped out the coins and pushed them into her pocket. She looked around one more time and then skulked away with the excitement and unease of an inexperienced pick pocket who had just made their first big score. It would be this chance liaison, rather than the attentions of her husband, that would keep her up this night.
And uncharacteristically drive her back to the vending machine the next day.
The machine stood its ground, offering its silent continence. Donna instantly went to the coin return slot. It was empty. Donna was disappointed but still adventurous as crazy thoughts filled her and brought a tight smile to her face. After a moment of mental stand- off between machine and woman, she reached out a jiggled the handle that opened the newspaper carrier. The sound of coins hitting the return slot was its response. The vending machine had been pleasured, reasoned Donna, and the handful of change was her reward. Like the previous day, she scooped up a handful of quarters and was once again on her way.
There would be a next day and a next day and a next.
What Donna’s suddenly on fire imagination had created was a full blown affair, full of intrigue, promise and the constant threat of being spotted by store security. But after a week of jiggling the handle and receiving her love coins, she did not seem to care and nobody in her real world seemed to notice that she was acting mentally away from reality and into her own little world full of wild thoughts and intrigue. Donna had taken to dumping her daily booty into a small jar that she kept in a place that she knew her husband would never go. A constant reminder of the intimacy that she had found, slight and bent out of all normalcy as it was. It was her own private love match.
But at the end of two weeks, the affair was seemingly over. She would jiggle the handle but, suddenly, the coins stopped coming. It went on this way for four days. Donna was hurt, disappointed and just a bit angry as her imagination went to the dark side. She now thought of the vending machine as ‘a bitch’ and immediately thought of herself as a jilted lover in the wake of her mechanical paramour most certainly cheating on her with any number of passersby.
Her worst notions of vending machine infidelity were seemingly confirmed when, while staking out the machine (yes it had gotten to that point) she spotted a hunched over homeless man shuffling over to her ‘significant other’ and cautiously jiggling her precious handle with his filthy hands. Donna fumed at the violation as the wastrel bent down to check its slot and finally stagger off with nothing to show for it.
At least it was particular about who it gave it up to. But it would prove to be a small emotional victory when, the very next day, a swarthy Mexican looking banger walked over, jiggled the handle (rather harshly she thought) and bent down to find its slot very full. He helped himself to the coins and, as Donna perceived as a further violation, took the last newspaper in the machine and walked off with it. Donna seethed at the continued slight of her metal friend.
Donna saw the machine’s dalliances as proof that what it was that they had was over. She went back to her real life, was judicious in going blocks out of her way to avoid the vending machine and the unnerving appearances of Coinstar change counters (overtures she resolutely refused) everywhere she went. But, in the sense that she felt a jilted lover in a very strange relationship, Donna was only able to hold out for two weeks before she returned to the scene of the crime and what she perceived as a final parting of the ways.
Donna arrived early. Apparently, it was not early enough.
A middle aged man stood some five feet away, arms folded and looking straight ahead. Donna’s mind went deadly red. She wanted to kick his ass. She wanted to kick the machine’s ass. For Donna, the obsession, the fantasy, the whatever it was that brought human and machine together had reached critical mass.
Donna suddenly softened. She passed the man who gave her a scant look. Donna approached the LA Times vending machine that had spent weeks messing with her head. She looked down at the logo and stared mental daggers into it. Donna sensed that it was over. She gave the handle a rough jiggle and turned to walk away…
When she heard the familiar sound of coins hitting the coin return slot. A thin smile crossed her face as she scooped the coins up and into her pocket. She walked away. Donna felt she had the final say and that the machine was saying it was sorry. Donna loved the irony of it all.
Woman vs machine and woman won.
Or had she?
She was about a hundred yards from the machine when she heard the sound of rattling. The man was wrestling with the vending machine handle, yanking hard several times. Then he bent to the coin return and slipped his fingers in. The slot was empty. The man looked out at Donna, a mixture of quizzical and pissed off wrinkling his features. Donnna smiled and then chuckled. Typical man, she thought.
All the machine needed was a woman’s touch.
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