Abercrombie

There are many styles of flirting. As one of her friends later told me, the one she used on me was known as the “Lost Puppy Look.” I was sitting in the South Crib of the Student Union at the University of Nebraska when I first noticed her. She was sitting alone and looking at me with just a hint of some kind of sadness in her eyes. After a bit she looked down at her table and sighed just as if I was really the perfect man she had been looking for all her life, but there was no way for us to ever get together. Every macho protective hormone in my body jumped up and saluted. I didn’t have a chance.

I wasn’t helpless though. I stood and started wandering over, looking around on the floor as if I had lost something. When I got to where she was sitting, I said, “I seem to have lost my frog. Have you seen him? His name’s Abercrombie. He’s really big, and he’s invisible purple.”

“How could I see him if he’s invisible?”

“I’m sorry. I guess you couldn’t. I generally find him by the gross noises and smells. Oh, look! There he is right behind your chair. He must like you.”

She got into the spirit quickly, looked around and asked me, “Why does he have that silly expression on his face?”

“He must be in love. After all you are the most beautiful woman that he’s ever seen.”

Somehow it’s much easier to get to know someone by sharing stories about an imaginary frog. I told her how he would sneak along the bar taking sips out of everyone’s beer, and she told me how he came into one of her classes and started making faces and imitating the instructor until the whole class was laughing. Of course our friends got in on it, and he was a campus celebrity for a while.

One night at The Local Bar she started laughing. “What?” I said.

“That bearded guy sitting up at the bar was bothering me before you got here, but Abercrombie just got even with him for me. He drank half the guy’s beer and then filled it back up for him. Saved a trip the restroom too.”

For quite a while it was a standing joke to walk up to that particular jerk and ask him how his beer tasted. He seemed to like the attention, and he never did catch on.

Everything was fine in the fantasy frog kingdom until one day I walked into the Crib just as she was giving another poor sucker the “Lost Puppy Look.” I turned around and walked out before they saw me, but there was no escape. The frog had to die.

Next day when she sat down at my table, I looked up and told her, "Abercrombie's dead."

"He can't be! I saw him just this morning."

"Must have been his ghost. He was sneaking beer from people at the bar again last night, and he got a little tipsy. He fell off onto the pool table, and one of the football players speared him with his cue stick. He was so messed up that he didn't know what was happening, but he started screaming something about ghosts and waving the cue around. Finally he threw the cue with Abercrombie down onto the floor and stomped him to death. You can still the stains there on the table and the floor if you want to go look."

Tears were streaming down her face, "I don't believe it. He can't be dead. He just can't be."

He was though. I showed her the article in the student newspaper about a football player being admitted to Student Health complaining that he was being haunted. She was really crying by then ... over an imaginary frog. I left her sitting there. For being full of college students the room was strangely quiet.

The last I heard she was teaching school somewhere. She has a son, and she was named teacher of the year once.

Sometimes I still catch a glimpse of something invisible purple out of the corner of my eye. It doesn’t bother me too much. I don't believe in ghosts, and purple never was my favorite color.