The Kindle cover for Well Met
by C. E. Seligman © 2004; online version © 2008; Kindle 'single' version © 2016
I saw Beemis again, the other day.
He was sitting, as usual, on the bench near the elm tree. Just sitting, enjoying the afternoon sun, and the view. When he saw me, he nodded in casual greeting, and I went over and sat down, as I had so many times, the last couple of years.
Now, to look at him, you wouldn't have thought there was much to him -- just a very ordinary looking fellow, much like any other fellow sitting on a park bench, enjoying the afternoon sun, and the view. Not someone you'd look at twice, or give a second thought to, if you were passing by. And yet, he was one of the most pleasant and interesting men I'd ever met, even if more than a bit -- well, let's be generous, and say 'odd' -- in some ways. So, whenever I saw him, I'd sit and visit a while.
"Afternoon, Frank," he said, softly.
"A nice day, isn't it?" he observed.
"Yes, it is," I agreed.
Our conversations always started like that. Just a nod and a hello, and a comment about how nice the weather was. Which it always was, because he was only there on nice days.
"Been a while," he said, apologetically.
"Yes, it has."
"Been busy, back home. Tests and things."
I smiled. "I imagine so." He was often busy with one thing or another, or so he said whenever he apologized for not being around for a while. And I was sure they tried to keep him busy, or at least distracted, wherever 'home' was.
He looked at a young couple a dozen or so yards away, then back at me.
"You've been busy, too."
I blinked. I had been, but I couldn't imagine how he could know that. Still, he often said things that were surprising, then explained them away in such a simple and obvious way that they didn't seem surprising at all.
"Yes, I have. But how did you know?"
He nodded toward me. "Your clothes look like you've been living in them, you haven't shaved recently, and your eyes are bloodshot. You've been busy."
I smiled at how obvious he made it seem, and nodded. "Yes, I have. A lot of new patents filed, and my boss..."
"Mr. Hardy," he interjected.
"Yes, Mr. Hardy. He can't hire another man, what with the budget cuts, and he won't listen to reason. Just wants things done, and done now, whether I have time to properly study them, or not."
"Well," he pointed out, "most are never brought to market, so I don't suppose it makes much difference..."
I nodded. "That's true. But still, what's the point of doing my job, if I don't do it right?"
He smiled, a common thing for him. "True. There'd be no point in it, no point at all -- would there?"
I shifted uncomfortably. I was still young, but not as young as I once was, and had often thought just that, especially given what we'd talked about, as often as not. For his fantasies, though having nothing to do with reality, stood in painful contrast to my deadly dull job -- for that matter, to my deadly dull life.
He took another look at the couple, sighed, then turned to me. "Frank..."
"You remember the first time we met?"
I nodded. "I think so. About two years ago, right here, on this bench."
He nodded. "Yes. Right here, on this bench. You remember how we met?"
I didn't really remember, but since we always met the same way, I hardly needed to. "You nodded toward me, and mentioned what a nice day it was."
"Yes. It was. A very nice day."
"Just like today," I pointed out.
He looked around, took a deep breath, as if he were savoring the day and the view for all they were worth, and nodded.
"What?" I said, in puzzlement.
"Well met," he repeated. "We were well met, that day."
"Yes," I said, "I suppose we were." For despite the limited nature of our relationship, we often seemed the oldest and closest of friends. Or at least that's the way it seemed to me, and he acted as if it seemed the same to him.
"You ever think about fate, Frank?"
I shook my head. "Not really. I'm not much for philosophical ruminations. Not like you."
He smiled. Chuckled, even, as he shook his head. "Not like me." Then he sighed a great sigh, as if some great sadness had overtaken him. Which was odd, because he didn't look -- never looked, for that matter -- at all sad. Even when he didn't look particularly happy, either.
"You remember how I greeted you?"
"Yes, I do." In fact, now that I'd had a chance to think about it, I remembered it quite well, as it had seemed very strange, at the time -- at least, until he'd explained it.
"Afternoon, Frank, I said."
"You were surprised by that."
"Yes, I was, since we'd never met. But then you pointed out that my badge had my name on it."
He smiled. "That was convenient."
I nodded. "Yes. It made it easy for you to confound me for a few moments." He always liked to confound me, and I knew, from our long association, that he must have very much enjoyed my confusion.
"Yes. It made it very easy to explain it away."
I sensed that he was about to launch into one of the flights of fancy which, though very interesting at the time, often bothered me, afterwards. And though I knew -- or at least presumed, given his gentle manner -- that he was completely harmless, it was a little disturbing to know that you were sitting on a park bench, talking with a complete lunatic, as if he were the sanest man in the world. Because, after all, doing that couldn't help but make you wonder about your own sanity, as well.
"You ever wonder about my name, Frank?"
I frowned slightly, as I wondered where he was going, and nodded. "Well, yes, in a way..."
"Beemis. Such an ordinary name. One you could pick out of the air, and no one would ever think about it, even for a moment, to wonder whether it was real, or not."
"I don't think it's all that ordinary. After all, the Beemis Building is an imposing old edifice, and I imagine that old man Beemis, if he's still around, must think his name less than ordinary." I nodded toward the building across the way.
Beemis chuckled. "Yes, I suppose he must. If he's still around."
"Though I have to admit, I did wonder, at times, if it really was your name..."
He looked at me, and smiled. Smiled like a cat smiles, so to speak, at a mouse. And spoke, low and very quietly, as he always did when he smiled like that.
"That's good, Frank. Very good. What made you wonder about that?"
Of course, I couldn't tell him the real reason. That I'd been to every nut-house within ten miles, asking about anyone with his name or appearance who might have wandered away. Because it had been quite a while between-times on a couple of occasions, and I was concerned about his welfare. Or at least, that's what I liked to tell myself.
"Nothing in particular," I said. "Just something about the way in which you introduced yourself."
He nodded, still smiling that disconcerting smile. "Yes. I looked around for a bit, then turned to you."
"Beemis, you said. Like the building."
"That's right. Just like the building."
He looked at the building for a few moments, then turned back to me.
"You ever wonder about my first name, Frank?"
I nodded. "At times. But you seemed a private sort, and I didn't want to pry."
He nodded. "Not the best of things, for casual friendships like ours, to pry."
"No," I said, wondering if he'd gotten wind of my trying to do just that, and was warning me.
He looked at the young couple again. They were kissing, not in an overly intimate way that would have been out of place in such a public place -- not that you don't see that sort of thing all too often these days -- but in a merely pleasant, friendly way that communicated a sense of closeness and caring so appealing that you couldn't help but wish that you were in a relationship like that. Not that someone like me had much hope of ever being in such a relationship; but still, one can dream.
"A nice couple, that," he observed.
"They do seem very nice," I agreed. "At least, to each other."
He laughed. "Yes. Especially to each other."
We continued to watch them as we chatted. I don't usually do things like that, as it seems intrusive, even when, as in this case, the couple had to expect that others might watch. But since Beemis was watching, it didn't seem all that wrong for me to do so, as well.
"You ever think about being in love, Frank?"
I hesitated a moment, then nodded.
"Of course. Who doesn't?"
He nodded as well. "Exactly. Who doesn't?"
The lovers' actions grew more intimate, and we fell silent, as though loath to break the spell that bound us to them. But within a few minutes, the couple became aware of our interest, and flustering on her part, and glaring on his, packed up their things and left.
Beemis watched them go, a bit wistfully, I thought.
"Love is a wonderful thing, Frank."
"Yes, I suppose it is," I agreed, dully.
He turned to me. "You don't have any love in your life, do you, Frank?"
I shook my head, not even wondering how he knew that, because the tone of my words would have made it obvious, even to someone far less perceptive.
"No, I don't."
"Too busy with your job, no doubt."
"There is that."
"And afraid of getting hurt."
I looked at him -- looked so intently as if to look right through him -- wondering how he could possibly know that, but unwilling to ask how he did. So I gave the answer I always gave anyone who asked about my love life, or lack of one.
"I just haven't met the right girl, yet."
He chuckled. "No. You haven't."
I nodded, more forcefully than really necessary, trying to convince myself, more than him, that it wasn't a completely facetious answer.
"No. I haven't."
"Would you like to?"
His sly smile and the twinkle in his eyes showed he was baiting me, so I cautiously smiled in return.
"Of course. Who wouldn't?"
"Yes. Who wouldn't?" he agreed, with a dreamy quality to his voice.
I looked at my watch. Twenty of, already. Almost time for me to head back to my office.
That's the end of this excerpt, but it isn't the end of the story.
To read more, borrow/purchase a copy of
"Short Shorts" or "Well Met"
The Kindle cover for The Last Time I Saw Paris
The Last Time I Saw Paris
by C. E. Seligman © 2009
The first time I saw Paris, it
was a misty April morning. The kind of morning where the world fades
into the distance, its usual sights and sounds softened by the haze,
until you can imagine yourself all alone, with only your thoughts to
keep you company.
I was taking what I liked to think of as a morning constitutional,
strolling through the park not far from the apartment I’d been put up
in. The azaleas were in bloom, their riot of pinks and other shades
dimmed to a pale shadow of their usual glory, but still a lovely
contrast to the gray-green shadows cast by the trees. If I’d had my pad
with me I’d have stopped and done some sketches, but for once I’d left
it behind, so I could concentrate on a problem I’d been asked to help
I was idly turning the thing over in my mind, pondering it from one
angle and another when she flashed past me, russet hair streaming behind
her, a multicolored nylon jacket concealing the soft curves that lay
beneath it, and running shoes with little flashing lights, like those
you see on tots, accenting the flowing motion of her stride.
I stopped and stared as the vision disappeared into the mist. A
moment, maybe two, not long enough to make a positive identification of a
suspect, but more than enough to burn her features into my memory. Even
now I can see her as clearly as in that moment, the pale beauty of her
face accentuated by the rosy hue her exertions lent her cheeks, the long
lithe legs extending from her running shorts, and... admittedly filled
in from later observation... the glories that were only hinted at by her
I spent many a moment going over her features and imagining my first
conversation with their owner before I actually saw her again. And
though in some ways she proved less than my fantasy, in almost every
other way she was so much more that I can still scarcely believe my good
I think I mentioned that I’d been asked to help with a small problem.
Or perhaps I didn’t. My memory doesn’t seem as good as it was, these
days. Not that there’s anything wrong with my mind. The doctor assures
me that it’s just a side effect of my medication.
At any rate, since I was an occasional consultant for the force, I
took advantage of my position to see if anyone knew who my vision was
and where I could find her. Which caused a lot of head-shaking and
chuckling, and supposedly led to a considerable effort on my behalf. But
as it happened all those efforts went for naught, and it was only by
chance that I met her again.
I’d been dragged to one of those affairs that friends drag you to, to
take your mind off other things — in this case my obsession with the
girl everyone else was by now convinced didn’t exist. A monstrous
gathering of cretins going through mating rituals which involved large
quantities of alcohol, awkward gyrations to dismal noises supposedly
related to music, and a liberal application of lies and half-truths.
Needless to say, the well-intentioned members of the force who foisted
this misery upon me were soon paired off with members of the opposite
sex who seemed as anxious to be bedded as my companions were to
accommodate them, so I was able to make an early escape, and find my way
Or at least that was my intention. But being less familiar with the
area than I thought, I was soon lost, and finally sought refuge in an
imposing-looking edifice that looked like it should offer suitable
lodgings for the night.
I handed my card to the man at the desk, with the exculpatory thought
that as long as my friends on the force were the cause of my plight the
force might as well pay for my room, and turned to idly survey the
gleaming wood and marble surfaces ornamenting the vast lobby — and to my
great astonishment, saw her sitting at a table in the cocktail lounge
across the way.
She didn’t look the same, of course. Before, she’d been made up for a
run in the park. Now... well, I don’t know what she was made up for,
but if glamour could be personified, it wouldn’t have held a candle to
the way she looked. Her hair was up in a stunning coif, and the maroon
gown that clung to her figure couldn’t have done a better job of
advertising what lay above or below its low-cut top. I’d thought her
gorgeous before, but if I hadn’t been filled with a surge of desire
which drove all other thoughts out of my mind, I’d have wondered why
every man in sight wasn’t lying prostrate at her feet.
Which was more or less where I planned to be, as fast as my feet
could carry me there. So, ignoring the desk clerk’s halting questioning
of my sudden disappearance, I made my way to her side.
Now I may be talented in some ways, but I’m not exactly a brilliant
conversationalist when in the presence of a girl whose looks take my
breath away. And it didn’t help that the burly fellow sitting across
from her seemed to take considerable exception to my presence. So I
won’t embarrass myself by repeating what passed for my end of our
conversation, save to say that I managed to give her my business card,
using the excuse that there was an incident in the park the other
morning, and if she wouldn’t mind answering a few questions about
anything she might have seen, she could contact me as shown on the card.
And, miracle of miracles, having received a promise that she would do
so, I stumbled back to the desk in a haze of happiness.
I spent the rest of the night going over every moment of our
conversation, reading every possible interpretation into each word, and
thereby alternating between exultation and despair. As a result I never
did use the bed the force paid for, but instead called a cab and
returned to my apartment shortly after dawn. Which, as the accountant at
the force pointed out, I could have done when I first went into the
hotel, and saved a lot of trouble and expense. But as I pointed out to
him... Oh… of course… you want to know how we met.
That's the end of this excerpt, but it isn't the end of the story.
To read more, borrow/purchase a copy of
"Short Shorts" or "The Last Time I Saw Paris"
The Kindle cover for The Last Dance
The Last Dance
by C. E. Seligman © 2012
The ballroom was no more crowded or noisy than usual, but between the haze of cigarette smoke and the humid heat of a summer evening permeating the air it seemed more stifling than stimulating, and for a moment he wondered why he’d come. He’d been thinking of trying out that new place uptown. Maybe this would be a good night to do it.
He turned to go, and an odd feeling came over him. A feeling of déjà vu that made him stop in his tracks, and look round the room again.
In some ways it was hardly surprising that a sense of familiarity had seized him. Thelma was there, and Rhonda and Lois and Yvonne, and a dozen others he had danced and laughed and flirted with. All reasonably attractive girls and equally good dancers, and all happy to dance with him, and in some cases to do even more. But there was something else, something he couldn’t put his finger…
His gaze fixed on the girl sitting at a table across the way. Her back was to him, but his interest was instantly piqued, and he picked his way through the crowd, transfixed by the view she presented.
She was dressed in one of those slinky dresses with long ties that could be adjusted half a dozen ways, depending upon how much or how little of yourself you wanted to display, and was tied to display as much of her back as possible, as there was nothing from just below her waist to her neck. Well, nothing save for a translucent undergarment of some sort, and a cascade of brown waves that would have provided considerable cover on their own, making her attire seem in some ways almost as demure as it was daring.
She turned to speak to one of her companions, and a jolt passed through him, as between the profile exposed to his view and the animation filling her face he found her even more attractive above than below – and considering what lay below, that was really saying something.
“Good evening,” he said, as he reached the table.
She looked up and raised an eyebrow. “Good evening, yourself.”
“I haven’t seen you here before. Are you new to the area?”
“Just visiting,” she replied. She nodded toward her companions. “My friends said this was a good place to come, if you like to dance.”
“I usually enjoy it, though of course it depends on your partner.”
She turned to her friends. “Have any of you danced with him?”
Two of them nodded and one added, “He’s very good,” while the other just giggled. He didn’t remember the first, but he did remember the one with the giggle. She was one of those who’d been willing to do more than just flirt.
While they were talking Thelma had made her way to his side, and suggested they share the first dance. He gave his would-be companion a rueful smile and expressed his hope that perhaps she would favor him with a dance later on, and she smiled and said that perhaps she would.
The music started, and he and Thelma glided off, sifting through the crowd as though they’d been lifelong partners — which was truer than he might have liked to admit, given how often he danced with her. For one rule he always followed was to favor each of his regular partners with a dance or two each evening, no matter how much he might want to dance with some newcomer, such as the nameless stunner he’d been dragged away from. And after he exchanged Thelma for Rhonda, Yvonne wanted a turn, so the entire first set passed by without his having a chance to even talk to the new girl.
He looked toward the table she’d been at and noted her absence and that of her friends, and glumly presumed he’d lost his chance. Then a familiar voice spoke behind him.
“Hello there,” she said, and he turned to look at her reproachful expression.
“Um… hello,” he replied, wondering what he’d done to deserve such a look. “Is there something wrong?”
“Yes, there is. You were supposed to ask me to dance with you, and instead, you spent the last half hour dancing with everyone else in the room.”
“Not everyone else,” he protested, “though I’ll admit it might seem like it, given how remiss I was. But Thelma is an old friend, and…”
She arched a brow. “How good a friend?”
“Just a dancing partner. I don’t know if you noticed, but she’s one of the best dancers here.”
“I don’t know. She didn’t seem all that terrific to me…”
Now it was his turn to raise a brow. “I presume you mean you are a better dancer than she?”
“I’ll let you be the judge of that, when the music starts.”
“Ah. So since I missed my chance to ask you to dance, you’re going to ask me?”
“Do you have any objection?”
He looked her up and down. Other than the arch expression on her face, she seemed a perfect partner. Long, lithe and lissome, he’d guess, even without having seen her take a step.
“No, none at all. In fact, I’d be extremely disappointed if I didn’t get to dance with you.”
“In that case,” she said, and moved into his arms as the music started again.
There had been a few occasions when he had danced with an especially talented partner, and moved not just well, but almost as if in a dream, gliding across the floor, turning and twisting and moving as one, until the dance became not an experience shared by separate individuals, but a seeming merging of minds and bodies and souls into an utterly wonderful combination of sense and sensuality, as magical as it was rare. Not that the first dance they shared was like that. It was very nice, to be sure. She moved smoothly, followed him well, and given the way she smiled and laughed, seemed to be having as good a time as he; but as they began the next dance, there was a subtle change in the way she moved. She slid into his embrace, not because of any change in his posture, but as if she needed to be close to him. He lessened the pressure of his arms and hands and let just the movement of his body guide her, and she moved within his embrace, sliding and twisting and turning as if sensing what he meant to do even before he knew it himself. And long before the dance was over, he knew that he wanted to keep her in his arms for the rest of his life.
They must have stayed like that for the best part of an hour, ignoring the rest of the crowd in the room whether dancing, or waiting for the next dance to start. Then she excused herself, saying she needed to freshen up before the last set began.
He nodded reluctant agreement, and went to the bar to get a drink. Just ice water, to help cool the fever building inside him partly from the exertions of the dance, and partly from the feelings that dancing like that had raised within him. Namely, the fervent hope that perhaps their evening wouldn’t end when the band stopped playing. In fact he felt almost certain it wouldn’t. A flight of fancy swept over him, and he imagined intimacies that he had no right to expect, but given the way they moved together, had every reason to hope for. He could practically feel her flesh sliding across his, moving as one in a way far more intimate than, and yet in some ways no more sensual than the dance itself.
He saw her go over to the band leader and say something to him. The band leader nodded, and she looked around and headed toward him. But that was merely incidental to what had attracted his attention. For she had done more than just ‘freshen up’. She had turned into the siren he had just been dreaming of. Gone was the silky undergarment that had slid beneath his hands, and for that matter, the hair cascading down her back. Not that she had cut it off. It was still there, but pinned up, so that there was now nothing but soft, bare flesh between that lovely mass of curls and the base of her spine.
“I like what you’ve done with your hair,” he said with a smile, as she rejoined him.
“I thought you might,” she replied.
“I presume you were getting too warm with it down?”
She nodded. “A little, yes. Though that wasn’t the only reason. I thought you might find things more interesting this way.”
He chuckled. “I’m sure that every man in the room finds it more interesting.”
“Ah… but only you will be able to take full advantage of it…”
“I must admit, that’s exactly what I hope to do.”
Her eyes twinkled, as she gave him a devilish smile. “I thought you might… especially given the dance I’ve arranged for the end of the evening.”
“Oh? And what would that be?”
“I was thinking a bolero would be nice…”
“A bolero?” He frowned. “I’ve some experience with the dance, but not as much as with others.”
“I think you’ll find that you know it as well as if you’d danced it all your life.”
“Well, whether I do or not, I’m sure I’ll enjoy having you as my partner.”
She smiled. “I’m sure you will.”
A shiver passed through him, and the room seemed to shift and blur, as though the fabric of existence had somehow twisted around itself. The multicolored lights scattered around the room flickered out and were replaced by a harsh white glare from somewhere behind him, and he struggled to keep his balance, as if standing on a precipice. A flicker of fright passed over his partner’s face, and she murmured something he couldn’t make out; then suddenly everything was just as it was.
“What was that?” he asked, shakily.
“I said I hoped the band will start playing soon. Now that my back is so exposed I’m feeling a little cold.”
“No, I mean… what…”
She nestled against him, and gazed into his eyes. “This feels much better, doesn’t it?”
Something skittered in the back of his mind, but for the life of him he couldn’t tell what it was. In fact, with her warm, soft form wrapped in his arms, he didn’t care what it was. Didn’t care about anything but keeping her there, forever and ever.
“Yes, it does.” He bent his head and drank in the honeyed scent of her. “Much better.”
That's the end of this excerpt, but it isn't the end of the story.
To read more, borrow/purchase a copy of
"Short Shorts" or "The Last Dance"