LEOPOLD’S MONOCLE • by Stephanie Scarborough

“Leopold, darling, take off that ridiculous monocle! You look silly” Daphne dug her cell phone out of her purse and flipped it open. The screen was black; it had been for the past three years. Leopold had urged her many times to take it by the Verizon store and get it looked at or replaced, but Daphne insisted there was nothing wrong with it. “I get calls all the time!” she said. “Listen! It’s ringing right now!” So Leopold let the issue lie.

“Oh, look!” she exclaimed. “It’s Matilda!” She put the phone to her ear and began chattering away. Leopold knew there was no Matilda, at least not on this plane of reality, but it kept Daphne from talking his ear off, so he let her indulge in her imaginary friends. He also kept the monocle firmly planted on his face. If Daphne got her imaginary friends, he got his monocle. It wasn’t just any monocle, though as far as Daphne knew it was. With his monocle, Leopold could see anything he wanted. He could peek inside a brothel in Nevada (not that he ever did that) or watch a breathtaking pink and orange sunset on the other side of the globe. He could watch Jupiter’s 63 moons orbiting its gaseous form or glimpse the world at the bottom of the sea.

He didn’t use the monocle to look at any of those things, though; he used it to watch Iron Chef on his neighbor’s TV. Daphne wouldn’t let him get cable (“Leopold, dear, television turns your mind to so much mush”), so what choice did he have? Today’s secret ingredient was clotted cream. A clerk at the grocery store once told Leopold that clotted cream was “cream, enriched with even more cream.” Leopold wasn’t sure how such a thing was possible, but he took the young man’s word for it.

“Matilda, I can’t come over for tea right now. Leopold and I are on a train to New York!” Daphne “mmm-hmm”-ed a few times, then laughed. “Of course I’ll bring you back a souvenir. What would you like?”

So, Daphne wouldn’t spring for basic cable, but she would buy souvenirs for her imaginary phone friend. Leopold grimaced.

“A Buddha statue? Well, I’ll try to find one. I can’t make any promises, though. But I’ll look for one… Uh-huh… Oh, yes, I agree, penne pasta is vastly superior to rotini… Hmmm, I don’t know, let me ask Leopold.” She covered the phone receiver. “Leopold, darling, which song do you think best embodies the 1980s — ‘Jesse’s Girl’ by Rick Springfield or ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire’ by Billy Joel?”

“Neither! ‘The Safety Dance’ by Men Without Hats is the ultimate embodiment of all things ’80s!” Leopold was quickly growing bored with Iron Chef — clotted cream really did have its limitations. Chef Morimoto had resorted to clotted cream-smeared cucumber slices topped with caviar and grape jelly. Leopold shook his head and sighed. Maybe it was for the best that Daphne refused to get cable. To think that the woman next to him, chattering to her imaginary friend on a broken cell phone, knew what was best for him sent shivers down Leopold’s spine.

“Yes, who would’ve thought! ‘The Safety Dance’! But it’s so true, if you think about it…” Daphne continued talking to Matilda for the duration of the train ride. Leopold settled into his seat and adjusted his monocle. Time to take a peek into that brothel in Nevada…

Stephanie Scarborough lives in Fort Worth, Texas with her two feline overlords. Her work has appeared in The Rose and Thorn, Shallow Graves, and Big Pulp. She has fiction forthcoming in OMG!: The Book of Awesome Stuff. Visit her website at: http://hellostephanie.net.

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