I’m a matchmaker. They call me dastardly. Some say villain. But beneath the shadow of my top-hat brim, there’s no sly smirk. No, it’s a smile of genuine joy as the Lead and the Damsel first meet. I can tell I’ve arranged a good match, and I set my schemes into motion.
I’ve used various methods in the past. Most of the time, there’s rope or chain involved—a woman tied to the mast of a ship, a woman tied to a horse, a woman tied to large cogs atop a clock tower. In a moment of inspiration, I eye a speeding locomotive. I tie the squirming Damsel to the tracks. I twirl my waxed moustache and wait for the Lead to realize he loves her.
That’s the worst part—the waiting. It’s so arduous. I can’t drop the Damsel into a split-second life-or-death situation. No, I need to ensure the peril is drawn out. The train needs to be miles away. The Lead needs to spot the scene from a distance and still have time to make a grand entrance. The Damsel needs to struggle against her bondage while I grapple with the Lead, falling to the ground in mock defeat.
I open my mouth, watch the sinister scene go dark, blast text into the void: You’re too late. You’ll never save her in time! hangs mid-air for all to see, piano riff backing my taunt.
But he saves her. He always does. I check my pocket watch. We’re ahead of schedule. She’ll be fine, and they’ll gaze at each other. The Lead will mistake adrenaline for love. The Damsel will confuse gratefulness with something more. Most of the time, that’s enough.
James R. Gapinski is the author of The Last Dinosaurs of Portland (Bottlecap Press, 2021), Fruit Rot (Etchings Press, 2020), Edge of the Known Bus Line (Etchings Press, 2018), and Messiah Tortoise (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2018). Find them online at http://jamesrgapinski.com or on Twitter @jamesrgapinski.