FIRST DATE by Raymond K. Rugg

The meal was going okay until I noticed the cockroach.

This dinner was my one chance to make a good impression. Tammy had finally agreed to go out with me and I had splurged on the best restaurant I could afford. Granted, it wasn’t a five-star eatery, but for God’s sake, the place was better than some greasy-spoon cafe, and I hadn’t expected to find vermin on the tabletop.

We were nearly finished with our entrées when I spotted him. Luckily for me, he had emerged from the shadows of the centerpiece on my side of the table, away from Tammy. As calmly as possible, I flipped my salad bowl upside down on the tabletop, trapping the unwelcome dinner guest beneath it.

Tammy paused in mid-sentence and raised her eyebrows. She gestured with a nod toward the bowl. “What’s that?”

I strategically dropped my napkin over it. “Nothing. I mean… what?”

Tammy reached over, moved the napkin, and tipped the bowl up to look under it. I couldn’t do anything to stop her. It was like watching the proverbial train wreck.

Tammy’s scream, that I was prepared for. “It’s a cockroach!”

Tammy’s big smile, now that, that I wasn’t prepared for. And before the bug could even scurry away, she grabbed it up and popped it in her mouth. I heard the ‘crunch’ as she chewed and swallowed, a look of delight on her face. Tell you what, that whole crazy scene, that I wasn’t prepared for.

What a sweet surprise! What a nice gesture!”

I didn’t know what to say. I mean, I was just speechless. When the waiter asked if we wanted to see the after-dinner menu, Tammy told him that I had already taken care of dessert. She flashed me a dazzling smile. I thought I could see a cockroach leg stuck in her teeth, but it might have just been my imagination.

Later, I walked her back to her apartment. I think she would have invited me in for coffee, but I said I needed to get home. “Early morning at work for me.” It was just about the only thing I had said since Tammy had her bonne bouche. But she didn’t seem to mind. Her dessert had put her in a really good mood.

On her doorstep, she lifted her face up toward mine for a goodnight kiss. Real or not, I couldn’t get rid of the image of that hairy little leg stuck in her teeth. I managed a quick peck and said goodbye.

But today, I couldn’t stop thinking about her. I mean, I know there’s the eating a bug thing and all, but she is awfully pretty. And after that dinner, she seems to really like me. Anyway, I called her up. And we’ve got another date. At the same restaurant. So. Um. Do you know of anyplace that might sell cockroaches? Because, let’s face it, I can’t count on being that lucky twice in row, right?

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rkr MASH mugRaymond K. Rugg lives in Reno, Nevada, where he sells insurance by day and writes speculative fiction by night. Recent publishing credits include stories in the Reunions anthology and the Stories from the World of Tomorrow anthology. Rugg is also the author of a non-fiction book, Rugg’s Handbook of Sales and Science Fiction. Check in with him at his website, RaymondKRugg.weebly.com.

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