Part VI: The Flashback

Georgie reclines with a half-smoked cigarette on the closely clipped front lawn of his modest, three-story suburban home in an anonymous subdivision. All too soon, the smoke runs out.

Georgie groans as he rises to his feet.

He walks down the deserted beachside street along the windy shorefront, near a flashily lit convenience store.

Sluggishly, slump-shouldered, he slouches through the swinging glass doors and into the air-conditioned store. He walks through like a zombie, like a rat in a familiar maze grabbing exactly what he wants.

Georgie pays the pretty sales clerk for a pack of smokes and a snack. She smiles.

“Have a nice day!” she chirps.

Georgie grunts, turns, and leaves.

On the waterfront Georgie strides home with his trembling hands full, trying to smoke a cigarette and eat a burrito at the same time. Suddenly, he’s struck with a wild idea. He juggles the burrito and the cigarette, pulls a memo notebook from his back pocket, and scribbles:


Then he draws a flashing light bulb (for inspiration-get it?), which he turns into a fat lady bending over, seen from behind.

Satisfied, he shuts the book and walks on.

He starts humming the song he heard playing when he was in the shower. He passes another sleazy, fleabag motel and keeps singing to himself: “Such a lovely place…such a lovely space….”

Out of nowhere, a strangely familiar woman’s voice starts humming the melody.

Georgie and Claudia make a cute meet. (Don’t you think?) Like some cute teenage surfer couple in some wholesome, 50’s beach movie, they’re both singing.

“We are all prisoners here, of our own device….”

Abruptly, Georgie stops singing-but Claudia keeps right on. “Livin’ it up at the Hotel California.”

She’s not embarrassed. She’s not shy. (She’s singing for us, isn’t she?) And when she sees Georgie watching, she only sings louder.

“Such a lovely place, such a lovely place, such a lovely space.”

Georgie looks down at her shapely, well-manicured feet.

Suddenly, Claudia stops singing too.

He’s looking at her brightly colored, bluish-painted toenails.

As he walks past her she finally speaks to him.

“What are the chances of that?” she asks.

Georgie stops staring at her feet and briefly looks into her eyes.

“Huh?” he asks. “Of what?”

Claudia smirks.

“You were just singing ‘The Hotel California,’ weren’t you?”

Georgie’s too befuddled and embarrassed to answer.

“I don’t know,” he stammers. “I don’t remember.”

Claudia laughs.

“Well, don’t be embarrassed! You don’t need to be shy with me. That’s amazing, isn’t it? I mean, like, the coincidence-us both singing the same song at the same time, like that?”

Finally, Georgie lightens up and laughs a little.

“Yeah, that was weird.” he admits. “You were singingHotel California,’ too, weren’t you?”

Intrigued by his mysterious shyness Claudia tries to draw Georgie into a conversation.

“Hey, you live just down the corner of the next block, don’t you?” she says.

She pauses like she’s just remembering something-she doesn’t know what.

“Oh, hell!! I know who you are!” Claudia snorts. “I know where I know you from!”

“Yeah?” Georgie says. “Where?”

“You’re the guy who’s always out there on the front lawn, smoking a cig. Right?”

But Georgie is still staring at her feet.

“Yeah, maybe,” he confesses. “I guess.”

Georgie’s evasive, noncommittal. But Claudia picks up on his shyness and confusion.

“Hi. Hey!” she says. “You really are anti-social, aren’t you?”

Politely, Georgie corrects her.

“Not anti-social,” he says. “Just non-social, maybe.”

Georgie’s still being evasive, but Claudia doesn’t push the issue. Instead, she simply acts supportive, compassionate, caring.

“Wow!” she gushes. “That’s amazing! I just had this flash, like-you know, déjà vu or something. I had this flash like we’ve met before-in another life, or something, maybe?”

Still, Georgie says nothing. He can’t think of anything to say-and he can’t escape the feeling that he’s stuck in some old, bad dream. So Claudia picks up the slack, all by herself.

“Anyway, I was just on my way to get my nails done,” she says. “I’ve been over at the Sea Port for the past week.”

She pauses, then confides.

“It’s this professional pedicurists’ convention I have to go to for work. It’s so damned boring!”

Finally, Georgie breaks his stupefied, tongue-tied reserve and blurts out:

“What’s your name? If you don’t mind me asking.”

“I’m Claudia,” Claudia smiles. “Claudia Nesbitt.”

“That’s nice,” Georgie flashes back. “Or, I guess that’s nice, huh?”

“Yeah, I guess.” Claudia laughs. “What’s yours?”

“I’m Georgie,” Georgie agrees. “Georgie Gust-or, at least, I think I am. That’s who I was the last time I checked.”

They shake hands, firmly. Georgie’s grip is strong, but Claudia’s is stronger.

“You’ve got a firm grip there, Mr. Gust,” Claudia laughs. “Would you like to arm wrestle?”

Georgie apologizes.

“Sorry,” he says. “I didn’t want to hurt you.”

Georgie looks down again at Claudia’s open-toed feet. Claudia’s hooker-blue toenail polish is peeling off intriguingly. It looks slutty, Georgie thinks. But sweet-like sex-candy.


There are doctor’s papers, notes, and conference binders strewn around the cluttered bedroom area of the cheap motel room.

Georgie’s giving Claudia the pedicure she always wanted in the brightly lit bathroom. He’s using “New Blue” nail polish-Claudia’s pick. Claudia basks in Georgie’s rapt attention.

“I really can’t believe you’ve never given a girl a pedicure before,” she says. “You’re just so-so good at it!”

Georgie basks in Claudia’s praise. “Really?” he says.

He buffs furiously on the last bluish layer, laughing at himself for being so strung out behind the whole foot-polishing routine. But it’s turning him on, sexually, at the same time.

It’s making Georgie horny-Claudia, too.


As sunset fades over the white sand beaches Georgie walks home still excited by this afternoon’s meeting with: The Love of My Life, the Number #1, The One and Only, Great Love. My soul mate-Claudia Nesbitt.

Just as he gets home the phone rings. He rushes inside.

When he picks up the phone, he’s already missed the call.

He pushes the “MESSAGE” button.

Out of nowhere, Claudia’s silky, languorous voice fills the empty room.

Hey Georgie,” she purrs. “I was just thinking of you. I was downstairs at one of the lectures. It’s sooo boring. I wish I were with you, instead. Doing-” she pauses suggestively, “you know.”

Georgie’s swept up and possessed by the fragrant memory of Claudia’s shapely feet, blue toenail polish, and the fragrant smell of her foot-sweat wafting to his nose.

Almost immediately another message comes in, clashing with the previously recorded message.

Out of nowhere, Claudia’s choked-up, sobbing voice fills the empty room. She’s very distressed, nearly in tears.

“Hey, Georgie,” she says. “It’s me again. Claudia. Hey. Ugh. I’m just calling-I’m just calling because-I’m sorry. I’m just so bored at this stupid conference. I’m not going to go to this class I have in ten minutes. I’m getting so sick of listening to the same thing over and over again. I’m just in my room, taking a bubble bath. Anyway, I’m sorry to bother you. Thanks for letting me vent.”

Almost immediately the phone rings again.

Georgie picks up the phone.



“You must look beautiful in that bubble bath.”

“Oh, Georgie. That’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me.”

And she really means it, too.

“Seriously, Georgie,” she says. “That is one of the nicest things a guy has ever said to me. You just don’t know-the things guys say, when they-you know.”

Through the swirling mists of the motel bathroom, Georgie massages Claudia’s feet. He makes wild, passionate love, orally to her fetidly smelly feet.

She moans in ecstasy.

“Oh, please.” she pleads. “Don’t stop. Do me right on the arches.”

Georgie is in ecstasy as her feet quiver with delight.


Georgie and Claudia wake up together both still fully clothed. Georgie smiles into Claudia’s eyes. She immediately falls back to sleep.

Gently, Georgie caresses her hair and her feet. For a few brief moments, he watches her sleep, still oblivious. Then he leaves, quietly without waking her up.

As the cheap motel room door closes, we see the blue nail polish bottles strewn across the cluttered nightstand. Beneath them, Georgie’s left a note that reads, simply:

Thank you.



Georgie comes home with a Styrofoam cup of coffee in his hand. As he steps to the front porch, he tells himself he’s really ready for the day. He opens his mailbox and shuffles through a few bills. Then he unlocks the front door and steps inside the empty house.

The house is still a mess, with dirty dishes and clothes lying haphazardly throughout the kitchen and the living room. Quickly Georgie picks up the dirty clothes, cleans a few dishes, and sets his house in order before he finally sits down to write the first installment of The Secret Love and Death of Georgie Gust and Claudia Nesbitt.

I’ll have to begin the story with me, as ridiculous as that sounds he thinks. It’s been forever since I actually sat down to write.

He starts writing:

By the end I knew I’d succeeded. It was just one of those things.

I enjoyed myself and left. That’s all that mattered.

God probably took delight in watching his orchestration of me that day.

I guess I’ll just chalk it up to “personal growth.”

The next day, things were even better.

I’ll probably never hear from her or see her again-or, maybe not for a week at least, anyway.

He turns on “Hotel California” on the CD player and keeps typing through the whole day without distraction, looping the one song over and over again.

Out of nowhere, Claudia’s brisk business-like voice breaks into the quiet room.

“Hi, Georgie,” she says.

-Jonathan Harnisch

About Jonathan Harnisch

Author | Mental Health Advocate | Schizophrenia | Artist | Blogger | Podcast Host | Patent Holder | Hedge Fund Manager | Film & TV Producer | Musician
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