By Thomas Payne

Birgit was arriving on the 8:32 flight from Chicago. Nathan had asked Jon to drive him to DIA, and asked if they could pick up Heather on the way to make it less date-like. I-25 was clear and Jon was trying to keep it under 85. Nathan lit him a cigarette.

“She’s flying across the Atlantic from Germany to meet you for the first time. What could possibly make it less date-like?”

“Career minded. Career.”

“You said she’s a barista.”

“She works in a café. It’s different in Germany.”

“No one travels to another country to find a better job. The other side of the tracks, maybe. Different part of town, the next town, maybe. But not another country.”

“Things are different there. You’ve got to get that straight.”

“You said everything was the same but in a different language.”

“I never said that.”

“I asked you if they had electricity and airports. You said everything was the same as in America, they had a president like us, but that they spoke German.”

“That was in ninth grade.”

“Did it change between now and then?”

“The language?”

“No, the everything.”

“She’s a normal human being. She went to high school, knows how to flush a toilet, had a mom and a dad, just like us.”

“Except she’s German.”

“What does that mean to you?”

“Her being German?”

“She’s still a human being.”

“You mean a hielman being.”

“That’s enough of that.”

“Does she have a boyfriend?”


“Just a question. If she’s a normal human being then she might have a boyfriend, or not.”

“I don’t know.”

“You’ve been pen pals since the third grade and you don’t tell each other if you’re dating. Or don’t they date in Germany.”

“Of course they date.”

“What do they call it?”



“Yeah what? She calls it dating.”

“I thought it’d be more, I don’t know, more Germanyish. But is she? Dating?”

“I don’t know.”

“That means she’s not dating anyone and is coming out here looking to see if there’s any romantic spark between the two of you, a slow burning from years of pouring out your heart and souls to each other in letters.”

“I’m glad you’ve got that all figured out.”

“Do you still write letters? Or just email each other?”

“We text.”

“Get out.”

“I kind’ve wish I could.”

“You text each other? Like every day, every hour, send each other little tidbits about your day?”

“No, we still write letters.”

“Wouldn’t that be a trip if they’re having third graders start out by texting?”

“I guess they do chat rooms now.”

“Do you think you’d still be talking to her if you’d started out in chat rooms?”

“God no.”

“You’d be sending video streams back and forth. It’s so different now. Everything is right there, right now, right behind the monitor screen. I met this girl online and was head over heels for her and then met her. She was a very eloquent typist.”

“We talked about emailing, but somehow it seemed closer sticking with letters.”


“That’s what we came up with.”

“Is she seeing anyone?”

“This again?”

“We just traveled back in time. Back in miles. Lost odometer mileage right there. Is she?”


“Yes, that’s it?”

“She’s been dating him for two years, serious, loves him.”

“What was all that about?”

“She loves him?”

“The tap dance. The whole you don’t know if she’s dating anyone?”

“There’s no tap dance. She was dating him, now I don’t know.”

“How could you not know?”

“Because she doesn’t know.”

“She doesn’t know if she’s dating him?”

“That’s right.”

“So she’s coming out here to meet you to find out if she loves you or him?”

“She’s coming out here to find a job, the opportunity of a job.”

“Where’s she staying?”

“She’s staying with me. Separate bed, separate room, separate bathroom.”

“Same house?”

“I’ve only got one.”

“I saw this movie once…”

“I’m not marrying her so she can get a green card.”

“You saw it too?”

“I’ve heard about it.”

“How long is she staying?”

“Everything is up in the air.”

“Is she hot?”

“I don’t know. We don’t do e-mail.”

“You could still send each other pictures.”

“We don’t. We did in eighth grade.”


“And what?”

“Was she hot in the picture she sent in eighth grade?”

“I don’t know. Now looking back it’s a picture of an eighth grader. I sent her a school picture with feathered hair and braces.”

“At the time did you think she was hot?”

“She looked…on first impression, European.”


“I guess so. I don’t even know what that means.”

“You know. Frauelien-like. You and Clara are over with?”

“Months ago.”

“So this might be something new?”

“Birgit is going to have enough to worry about: new country, new job, how to get to the new job in the new country.”

“Is she paying rent?”

“A third.”

“You got that going for you.”

“She insisted.”

Thomas Payne works in Colorado and has earned an MFA from Colorado State University. He has had stories published in Louisiana Literature and Colorado Review, among others. He is currently focused on publication of a 100,000 word collection of short stories


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