Fred Vogel

Posted on July 3, 2017


David Trolley

After completing a one-hour mescaline-induced version of Neil Young’s “Down by the River” in the acoustically-perfect bomb shelter at his parent’s hilltop home overlooking the benign San Fernando Valley, David Trolley threw up all over his girlfriend, Sarah, as well as into his brand new Martin guitar. Those were the wasted days. Goodbye, Sarah.

While visiting the Self-Realization Fellowship Center, David dared his girlfriend, Jennifer, to join him for a dip in the center’s serene lake. They had just shared a joint in the parking lot and were full of giggles. Jennifer declined, citing the beginnings of an ear infection. David tossed her in anyways. Who knew meditators could be so humorless? Or physical? David and Jennifer were arrested and spent four hours at the Malibu sheriff’s station before being bailed out by Jennifer’s father, the honorary Mayor of Hollywood. Those were the hazy days. Goodbye, Jennifer.

There was Lyndsey, the girlfriend who left David for a John Travolta-look alike, even though the new boyfriend couldn’t dance and looked ridiculous in his white suit. Those were the disco days. Goodbye, Lyndsey.

Two years ago, David’s marriage to Sami ended after she accepted the fact that David was nothing more than a habitual masturbator who only enjoyed giving pleasure to himself, ignoring her needs, wants, and perversions. David had married Sami just to spite his best friend at the time; he certainly didn’t want him to have her. Those were the self-absorbed days. Goodbye, Sami.

Having exceeded his life’s quota of love, David was alone. His apartment didn’t allow pets, his friends were either married or living in faraway places, and his co-workers were far too young to hang out with a man of fifty. As is the case with many lonely people, David spent much too much time talking to himself.

“I should be retired by now.” David was an assistant manager at Walmart.

“I should have grown children.” David was impotent.

“I should have love in my life.” David had had more than his fair share of love, but they never worked out.

After his annual physical, which ends with the dreaded jelly finger, David dressed and was ushered into his doctor’s office for the usual debriefing. The doctor was studying his computer screen when David entered. He motioned for David to have a seat. The doctor remained glued to the screen while David fidgeted in his chair. The doctor removed his glasses and looked directly into David’s eyes.

“David, my friend, you’re dying.” Then after a slight pause, “No, just joking. Everything looks fine.”

Over the years David had come to accept his doctor’s macabre sense of humor.

“How are things at work?” the doctor asked.

“It’s Walmart. What can I say?”

“It could be worse. It could be Chinatown.”

David appreciated the doctor’s reference to one of their shared favorite films.

“No Faye Dunaway in your life?” the doctor continued.

“Not at the moment.”

“That’s OK. Less pain.”

“I could use more Xanax.”

“Couldn’t we all. You know, David, I’m retiring.”

“You’re not old enough.”

“Sixty-six next month.”


“My wife says it’s time to travel.”

“You don’t look anywhere close to sixty-six. What’s your secret?”

“Not working at Walmart.”

After David quit Walmart, he went in search of the rest of his life. But before moving forward, David felt the need to first go back to where it all started. He wanted to reconnect with Sarah, Jennifer, Lyndsey, and Sami to find out what he had done wrong and if it was because of him that each relationship had ended. David wondered if he would be able to locate any of his ex-lovers, so he did what everyone does in search of information – he turned to Google. David was able to acquire all the needed data within half an hour.

Jennifer was an Environmental Attorney practicing downtown. They met for coffee.

“You know, I was thinking just the other day: When did coffee shops become coffee shops?” David said. “I mean, when I think of coffee shops I think of Denny’s or Ships. Not Starbucks.”

“David, why did you want to see me?” Jennifer asked. “You mentioned you had something important to talk about. I hope it wasn’t to discuss coffee shops.”

“I want to know why you left me.”

Jennifer took in a breath before saying, “I honestly don’t remember. Does it really matter?”

“Did it have anything to do with me throwing you in the lake?”

“I’m sure that didn’t help, but no, that wasn’t why I left. I don’t know, maybe it was because you had no ambition. You never were serious about anything. I knew I wanted to do something with my life.”

“So did I,” David pleaded.

“And what are you doing these days?” Jennifer asked.

“Up until recently I was managing a large company. But I’m taking a hiatus to sort things out.”

“Well, I’m glad to hear that.”

“I need to know what I did to screw up our relationship.”

“Maybe it’s best you don’t look at it so much as a relationship. Look at it as a fun time. And then we went separate ways, you know? It’s what everyone did back then. It was no big deal.”

“Are you married?” David asked.


“Any children?”

“I have four. Two still living at home.

“And your husband?”

“He also still lives at home.”

David and Jennifer exchanged awkward hugs and cheek kisses, then went their separate ways.

Sami was easy to locate. She was working as a tour guide at the Chihuly Garden & Glass in Seattle, a popular exhibition located next to the city’s iconic Space Needle, a Jetson-like sore thumb set amid the city’s skyline. David hopped on a plane and was in Seattle in no time. He rented a car and drove towards the sore thumb.

“You were a sad soul,” Sami told him, as they strolled through the gardens of glass. “You had lost touch with everyone’s reality but your own. You became too into yourself, not the person I had married. I tried telling you this a million times but you never listened.”

“This is all glass?” David asked.

“It’s all glass, David. All glass.”


“I have a tour to prepare for. Good seeing you, David.”

“All glass,” David said, unaware that Sami had already walked away.

Lyndsey was a poet. A well-known poet in poetry circles, but just another pretty face to non-poetry people like David. Four collections of poems highlighted her resume. As poetic license would have it, Lyndsey was scheduled to read from her newest book at the legendary Powell’s Book Store in Portland the same weekend David was visiting Sami. David wanted his visit with Lyndsey to be a surprise. He headed south in the rental car towards Portland. He took advantage of the few hours he had to kill by walking down to the Willamette River to take in the sights and sounds of the city, then grabbing lunch at one of the city’s many food-cart pods.

When David entered the book store, he was amazed at its massive size. He wandered up and down the aisles, through color-coded rooms, up one flight of stairs then down another, meandering through the one-time car dealership, now home to hundreds of thousands of books. He became lost in no time.

“I can’t believe there are so many books,” he thought to himself, not remembering the last time he had been in a bookstore. “Who reads all this stuff?”

He stumbled upon an information desk and was directed to where Lyndsey’s reading was to take place. Ten minutes later, after circumventing more of the store’s maze, David found himself in the Pearl Room, where Lyndsey was standing, along with dozens of other poetry people. She was as attractive as ever, the long blonde hair still passing for blonde, the blue eyes as sharp as ever. She spotted David from across the room and greeted him with a little wave and a warm smile.

“What a wonderful surprise!” Lyndsey said, as she made her way to David after finishing her reading and book signings. “You look absolutely wonderful.”

“As do you,” David said. “You’re quite the poet.”

“You didn’t understand any of it, did you?”

“Not a lick.”

“Well, you were never one for the written word. So tell me, what are you doing with yourself these days? You’re living here in Portland?”

“No. I’m actually here to see you,” David said. “I drove down from Seattle this afternoon, but I’m still living in L.A. I have a question I need to ask.”

“It must be an important one.”

“What did I do wrong in our relationship?”

“You did nothing wrong,” Lyndsey said, smiling at the innocence of the question. “I truly enjoyed our time together. You were the perfect gentleman.”


“So, I guess I was looking for the perfect lady.”

“You were?”

“What can I say?”

A woman with painted eyebrows and a puppy dog on her lap wheeled up to where David and Lyndsey are standing.

“David, I’d like you to meet my wife, Leigh. Leigh, this is a dear, dear friend of mine from the long ago, David Trolley.”

After exchanging pleasantries and a few stories of Lyndsey’s past, Leigh excused herself and wheeled away.

“She’s everything to me,” Lyndsey said.

“You still into disco?” David asked.

“Can’t stand the stuff. Not much music grabs me anymore. Give me something from the sixties and I’m a happy girl.”

“And Jackson Browne,” David added, for no apparent reason.

“David, it’s too bad you don’t like poetry. I’ve sprinkled a few moments of our days together throughout some of my poems.”

“I’m flattered. I think.”

“It’s all good, I promise.”

And with that, David watched as Lyndsey caught up to Leigh and rolled her out of the room.

All David found while researching his first love, Sarah, was her memorial notice. She had been living in Europe when she had died; her remains having been sent back to the States and interred in a mausoleum in Cambria, a beach community north of Santa Barbara. David drove up the coast and located her name on the marble wall, adorned with a shriveled rose in a tarnished brass vase which he replaced with fresh flowers, borrowed from a nearby plot. He apologized for vomiting on her and wished her well. He was at a loss for any meaningful words. He assumed one of Lyndsey’s poems could have expressed all the words he was unable to come up with.

With Jackson Browne’s “Running on Empty” blasting over the radio, David headed home, ready to look for a real job. Along the way, he thought about the journey; how none of the women from his past had shown much emotion towards him one way or the other. No one seemed to hate him, yet no one seemed to regret that their relationship had ended. Maybe Jennifer was right. Maybe he had made too much of the word relationship. Maybe those days were nothing more than a good time before moving on to something new, but David did disagree with one comment she had made – relationships are, indeed, a big deal.


Fred Vogel‘s words have seen the light of day in Literally Stories, Crack the Spine, Subtle Fiction, Literary Orphans, and elsewhere. He resides in Oregon.

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