LOVE (OR VANCOUVER)
Matt Leibel

Magnus was in love with Betty. Betty was not in love with Magnus. Betty was in love with a red leather purse she’d seen in the Macy’s window. The purse was in love with crotchety old Mr. Weaver, the night security guard, who was shamefully in love with the buxom young actress who played a troubled teen on a hit television program. The actress, linked publicly with several of Hollywood’s Hottest Young Hunks, was secretly in love with The Elusive Idea of Being a Normal American Teen.

*

Magnus was in love with Betty. Betty was in love with Jesus. Jesus “loved” Betty, of course, just as he loves all living creatures, but he wasn’t “in love” with her. Jesus was in love, however, with the notion of Goodness. Goodness was not in love with Jesus, but it did think Jesus was cute, though a little too earnest and a tad boring. Goodness sent Jesus an instant message saying if he ever felt like giving it all up and being bad once in a while to give Goodness a ring, but Jesus was totally computer-illiterate so he never got the message.

*

Magnus was in love with Betty. Betty was in love with Magnus. Only it wasn’t the same Magnus. The Magnus who was in love with Betty she called Magnus I. The Magnus with whom Betty was in love she called Magnus II. Magnus II’s real name was actually Magnus III. Magnus III was a wealthy young European aristocrat and a distant relation to the royal family of Denmark. Magnus III was in love with the play Hamlet. Hamlet, as we know, was in love (or not in love) with Ophelia. Ophelia—well, she was just a real fucking mess.

*

Magnus was in love with Betty. Betty was in love with Carl. Which is odd because I just made Carl up. He walked in right off the set of a completely different story. Which might give you an idea how desperate Betty has become to get out of Magnus’s clutches. Carl is in love with Fruit Loops, the mandolin and the city of Vancouver, British Columbia. He’s easily my favorite character in this piece thus far. I wonder what sort of crazy adventures await him in the future.

*

Carl is in love with me. Now, I like Carl as a character to hang out with, but I don’t really swing that way. I’m more inclined toward Betty, purse-lust and all. Carl takes my rejection well, but that’s only because he’s a fictional character who came to me in the same sort of opium-induced fever that drove Coleridge to pen “Kubla Khan.” Real people from actual life don’t take rejection well at all. Our egos, although meticulously crafted using some of the highest-performance ego-construction materials available on the market today, simply aren’t equipped for it. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either not human, or a damn liar.

*

Magnus was in love with Betty. Betty was in love with Magnus. This time it was the same Magnus. Magnus couldn’t believe his luck. It was as if he’d just won the grand prize in some contest he’d forgotten he’d even entered. He kissed Betty on the lips and Betty kissed him back. Sparks flew. Tragically, a small boy in central Missouri was electrocuted by the flying sparks. For a few minutes after the kiss, all the clocks in the world stopped to take in their love. That was an absolute bitch to fix later, and led to labor strife in certain regions of Switzerland. In the coming days, I found myself thinking more and more about Carl. Gosh, I hope the dude is okay. I hope he didn’t take my rejection too hard.

*

Magnus was in love with Betty. Betty was now secretly in love with Carl again. Betty knew that Carl was gayer than orange silk but considered that a challenge, and like all women, Betty loved Challenges. She flashed her tits to the bathroom mirror and sang “I can bring home the bacon...” for inspiration. Then she set out to seduce Carl. She took him furniture shopping. He helped her pick out a lovely couch and ottoman for her new home in Vancouver. At the end of the day, when she leaned in to kiss him, it felt like kissing a comatose cod.

*

Magnus was still in love with Betty. Betty had warned Magnus in the strongest possible terms not to follow her to Vancouver, but being the Stereotypical Romantic Male that he was, Magnus just didn’t listen. Oh, damn. All of a sudden I can’t remember whether Vancouver is a real place or something that I just made up, like Carl, or Fruit Loops. I think it must be real, though. I seem to recall roller-skating in Stanley Park and going for Chinese food one time at a place called The Noodlemaker, which had the best spare ribs ever when I was visiting Vancouver with my family when I was like eleven. I seem to recall a tank full of these big long-whiskered sun-orange fish you so often see in fish tanks at Chinese restaurants. Betty was in love with goldfish. Goldfish were indifferent to Betty. Goldfish were in love with the idea of swimming around the tank in random patterns, with waiting to be awarded as prizes in county fair ringtosses, and with fish food.

*

Magnus was no longer in love with Betty. Magnus was in love with Vancouver. Vancouver was in love with Carl: he was a fantastic addition to the community. Betty was now in love with The Idea That All Men Are Useless Scum. The Idea That All Men Are Useless Scum was in love with cheap beer, televised sporting events, and Buxom Young Women in Bikinis. Buxom Young Women in Bikinis were in love with the Idea Of Leaving Vancouver To Pursue An Acting Career In Hollywood. Hollywood, of course, was only in love with Itself.

*

Imagine a world in which Magnus and Betty had never met. It would be a world wholly devoid of Love. Such a world must be as barren as the surface of Mars. We cannot have this. If need be, I will call upon Carl to arrange a meeting of the unsuspecting couple. Carl enjoys playing matchmaker: it gives him something to do.

*

Magnus was again in love with Betty. Betty was now only in love with the Idea of Love Itself. Magnus decided this was good enough for him. The Idea of Love Itself was kind of hot for the both of them, since, truth be told, the Idea of Love Itself is something of a cheap slut. Carl was hired to be the wedding planner. Magnus II/III was the best man. Jesus showed up for the ceremony in a biker jacket, Versace sunglasses, and a sleek white linen suit. He’d cut his hair short, and everyone was in love with his Hot New Look. Jesus was in love with the honey-walnut shrimp hors d’oeuvres, and with the Rabbi’s Wife.

 

Matt Leibel lives and writes in San Francisco. His fiction has appeared in Barcelona Review, Pindeldyboz, and 3AM Magazine, among other publications. You can read more on his Web site, www.mattleibel.com.

 

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