New Fiction: Arnie Blank

Sam Chapin


A Good Catch

Arnie Blank was bored. So bored that his chest cramped and the back of his throat itched. He was sitting in front of his computer, opening and closing the same tabs over and over, waiting for news to happen and statuses to change. He stood up and walked around the office, avoiding the gaze of his coworkers, and then found his seat again. He put in his headphones and listened to nothing. He typed ArnieBlank ArnieBlank ArnieBlank ArnieBlank ArnieBlank ArnieBlank…and then his phone rang.


“Arnie Blank.”

“I’m looking for Molly O’Brien.”

“She’s in the management office. It’s a different number.”

There was an awkward silence and Arnie sighed.

“I’ll transfer you.”


Arnie Blank had been working at the leasing office for…he didn’t like to think about it. Suffice it to say he had a full head of hair when he started. He also weighed 20 pounds less and was one ex-wife the poorer.


On this particular day, which happened to be a Friday in April, Arnie was feeling especially insignificant. His morning started with a cup of tea, some cereal, and an eviction notice taped to his door. His landlord threatened that if he was late with his rent one more time…it turned out that Dowall was, unfortunately, a man of his word.


But it wasn’t like Arnie had nowhere to go. His aunt lived in Carroll Gardens and his grandma was out in Queens. He could stay with them for as long as he wanted, but he really didn’t want to stay with either one—Arnie was fed up with family. His phone rang again.



“Arnie Blank.”

“Arnie Blank.”

There was no response so he hung up. He sat back in his seat and stared at his computer, allowing the letters to blur as his eyes crossed. He blinked and his eyes regained focus. It had been ten minutes since he got in to work and already he was watching the clock.


“Arnie.” Chuck Powell put a firm hand on Arnie’s shoulder and smiled a fake smile. “How are you today, my friend?”

“I’m fine, Chuck.”

“Well, you look terrible. And you sound miserable. If this is fine, I’d hate to see you unhappy.”

Arnie smiled an angry smile.

“That’s the spirit!” Chuck started to sing as he walked away. “Just put on a happy face!”


Arnie watched him go and grimaced. He had seen Chuck come into the office as an intern and get promoted to Director of Residential Leasing within a year. Chuck was clearly the Boss’s son.  Arnie had been there four years and had seen only one pay raise and zero promotions. Life, as they say, was not fair.


Arnie took a deep breath in, held it, and let it out. He did it again and then again after that. He couldn’t get enough air so he decided to walk to the window and open it up.


Two floors above, the law office of Jeremy Taglioni was having a party. Mr. Taglioni had been called out of the room to attend to some business but his co-workers, friends, and family remained. His wife, Sylvia, was standing next to the window, talking to her husband’s mistress. Mrs. Taglioni was holding her one year-old daughter, Emma, in one hand, a drink in the other.


“This party is exhausting,” she muttered. “These people are barely alive. Just look at them all.”


She and her husband’s mistress surveyed the room. Aside from a couple of small groups talking amongst themselves, everyone seemed to be aimlessly roaming the room, taking uncomfortable sips from their plastic cups. People nodded to one another, offered a polite word or two, and continued on to nothing and no one in particular.


“They suck the life out of me, I swear to God.” Mrs. Taglioni took a healthy swig of red wine.

“Where did your husband go?” The mistress asked.

Mrs. Taglioni scowled . “Who gives a shit?”

Emma laughed.

“She’s beautiful,” said the mistress, bitterly.

“Yes, well, weren’t we all?”


Mr. Taglioni entered the room and waved Mrs. Taglioni over with his hand.

“His highness beckons.” She turned to the mistress. “Could you watch this one for second?” handing Emma over. “And careful, she’s got a death wish.” Mrs. Taglioni walked across the party to her husband.


Mr. Taglioni’s mistress looked down at the little baby. Emma held her hands out, reaching for her face and smiling. Mr. Taglioni’s mistress smiled back. She lifted the baby towards her face and Emma spit up, some of it hitting her lower lip. Mr. Taglioni’s mistress let out a scream and set Emma down on the desk behind her, searching the room for a napkin.


Meanwhile, the married couple were having a heated discussion. Mr. Taglioni was very upset but was being mindful not to raise his voice amongst company.


“Why should I care? I don’t give a shit about your reputation. What about my reputation, huh? What about me?” Mrs. Taglioni, on the other hand, was being much less mindful. The whole party had quieted and all eyes were on them.

“Excuse us everyone,” Mr. Taglioni said, as he tried to usher his wife to the door. “It seems my wife has had a few too many Shirley Temples for her own good.” There were a few scattered laughs issued from the party-goers.

“Yes,” Mrs. Taglioni smiled, “perhaps I have.” She looked Mr. Taglioni in the face. “And perhaps you’ve had a few too many whores for yours.” She shifted her gaze to her husband’s mistress and screamed, “Emma!”


Outside, a group of Japanese tourists were being led around town by a fat, middle aged tour-guide called Ralph.


“And this is the stock exchange. It’s where rich people trade stuff and we all get screwed. Now write that down.” Ralph used to be a decent actor but he wasn’t a very good tour guide.


Hayato was fascinated by all the buildings and had been filming them all day. He was walking behind the group as he didn’t speak much English and didn’t like listening to Ralph’s voice. He was far more interested in just being in New York than learning about its history. He loved all the gray buildings and statues of men on horses and the big, cobblestone streets. In Tokyo everything felt so compact. Here he could breathe. Here he could really spread out.


“Hey you, in the back,” Ralph yelled at Hayato. “Try to keep up.”


Hayato wasn’t sure what he said but could tell that Ralph was frustrated so he rejoined the group. As he walked, Hayato looked at the city through his camera, tripping over the cracks and curbs in his path.  He spotted an old building with giant metal decals and a metal roof and lingered with his camera. He zoomed in and slowly panned down the building, noticing how it gradually got fatter as he made his way down. He got to the twentieth floor and stopped. There was a baby in the window. He watched as it crawled out on the ledge. A man emerged in the window, two floors below. Hayato yelled out but it was too far for his voice to carry. The baby struggled to its feet and Hayato heard a woman’s blood-curdling scream. The man two floors below looked up as the baby took its first ever steps, right off the window ledge.


“Maa nante koto nanda,” Hayato said, as he closed his eyes. After a few seconds he slowly opened them, still looking through the camera. He looked to the window, hoping the baby had managed to hold on or regain its balance. But there was no baby. He searched the street with his lens. Again, no baby. Confused, he panned back up to the window and saw the man, two floors below, now holding a baby in his arms. Instantly, Hayato knew what he had to do.


YouTube Hero

Arnie looked down at the baby, wearing a pink onesie and cap. She smiled up at him and reached with her tiny hands for his face. He gave her his index finger and she held it with both hands. She pulled it to her mouth and sucked on the end of his finger, looking at him with her big, brown eyes.

“No! My baby! My baby!”

Arnie poked his head out the window and looked up.

“She’s okay. I’ve got her.”


Mrs. Taglioni rushed out of the room and ran down the stairs. She slammed the door of the office open and went to her daughter.



Emma smiled a big smile, still holding onto Arnie’s finger. Mrs. Taglioni gently picked her up out of Arnie’s arms and Emma reluctantly released his digit.


“Baby, baby, baby. I’m so sorry.”


Emma laughed.


“Thank you,” Mrs. Taglioni said, looking into Arnie’s eyes. “What can I say?”


Arnie blushed. “It was just a lucky catch—”

“No,” she stopped him. “I owe you everything.”


Arnie’s officemates were all watching, dumbfounded. The rest of the party from two floors up streamed into the office and were very relieved and confused to see the baby in her mother’s arms. Mr. Taglioni went to his daughter.


“Oh thank God.” He kissed her forehead. “What would I have done?” He looked at the tears in his wife’s eyes and kissed her forehead as well. He turned to Arnie and gave him his hand. “You’re a hero. A goddamn hero.”


The people from the party upstairs started clapping and Arnie’s co-workers followed suit. Everyone was hugging and crying, even Tom and Michael from accounting, who genuinely disliked each other. They all came to Arnie, one by one, and hugged him or shook his hand. No one could believe it, least of all Arnie.


After twenty minutes, all the partygoers had returned to their party and all of the office workers had resumed their work. Save for Arnie. He was sitting at his desk, looking out the window, reliving the moment over and over in his mind—the split second between seeing the baby fall and then holding her in his arms. He had caught her. He had saved the baby’s life. He pictured the baby holding his finger and smiling. He pictured the looks on the faces of his co-workers. He pictured the baby’s mother. He pictured the baby’s mother for a long time, remembering her eyes and her mouth when she said, “I owe you everything.”


“A goddamn hero,” Arnie muttered.

At five o’clock the office started to pack up and file out. Before leaving, everyone came to Arnie and congratulated him once more with a smile and a look of newfound adoration. Chuck Powell emerged from his office and strutted to Arnie’s desk.


“Arnie Blank,” he said, shaking his head. “You look like a million bucks.” He set a cigar down on Arnie’s desk and left the room.


Alone in the office, Arnie  picked up the cigar. He put it to his nose and was surprised at how good it smelled. He slipped it into his chest pocket, picked up his briefcase, and briskly walked out of the office.


As he reached the front door, he heard voices from outside and he smiled. He straightened his tie, patted down his hair, picked up his briefcase and pushed open the door.


“You got a dollar?” a homeless woman asked him as he stepped outside


Arnie shook his head and walked down the steps, heaving a sigh as he went. He had expected a grand reception and he felt stupid for it. He kicked a plastic bottle as he made his way to the subway.


“Mr. Blank?”


Arnie whipped around and there stood Mrs. Taglioni, now clad in tight blue jeans, three-inch heels, and a revealing, billowy, black blouse. Her hair was up and tousled, her full lips a deep, lustrous red.


“Mrs. Taglioni, hello.”

“Oh please, Sylvia.”

Arnie blushed, again. “Sylvia.”

Sylvia strode elegantly over to Arnie. “I just wanted to thank you again. I can’t express how...” She started to cry and fell into Arnie, her head resting on his shoulder.

Arnie patted Sylvia on the back. “Really, it was nothing. Just instinct. I didn’t even think about it.”

“You saved my baby’s life. You saved my baby’s life!”

Sylvia was hysterical. Arnie put his arms around her and Sylvia kissed him hard, pressing her waist into his and holding him close. Arnie didn’t resist and held her tighter, feeling his member grow hot against her body.

“Take me home,” Sylvia whispered in his ear.


On the subway, the two sat silently next to one another. Arnie glanced at Sylvia but she stared straight ahead, her eyes glued to a beer advertisement. Arnie summoned his courage and reached for her hand, which was left limp in his grasp. He placed it back on her lap and shifted his gaze to the beer ad.


“Do you have condoms?” Sylvia asked, as they walked out of the station in Park Slope.

“I don’t think so,” Arnie replied.


They went into a corner store downstairs from his apartment and bought a box of condoms and a six pack of beer, at Sylvia’s request. They climbed the three stories to his apartment and Sylvia noticed the piece of paper still taped to his door.

“Were you evicted?”

Arnie jammed his key into the lock.

“Sorry about the mess.”


Sylvia looked but the mess was nowhere in sight. Arnie lived in a studio apartment with a small table, couch and loveseat, bureau, and a full bed. Sylvia set her things on the table.


“Where’s the bathroom?”

“It’s in the hallway. I share it with my neighbor.”

Sylvia opened a beer and sat down on the couch. Arnie remained standing.

“Aren’t you going to sit?” Sylvia patted the cushion next to her.

Arnie opened himself a beer and sat down next to Sylvia. She took a long pull. He took a longer pull.

“You know, I’ve never done this before,” Sylvia lied.  “I don’t know where to start.”

“I’m not sure. I mean, neither have I.”


Arnie nervously drank his beer, his right knee bouncing up and down uncontrollably. Sylvia set her beer on his bureau and moved closer on the couch. She tenderly placed her hand on his thigh and his knee stopped.


“Relax, Mr. Blank. Just relax.”

“You can call me--”

Sylvia pushed Arnie down on the couch and got on top of him. She took off her shirt.

“Take off your shirt,” she said.

Arnie took off his shirt. She kissed him and bit his lip, drawing blood. Arnie gave a shout and bit her back.

“Take me to bed.”

Arnie stood up with Sylvia’s legs wrapped around his waist, turned,  and threw her on the bed.

“Take off my pants.”

He unbuttoned her jeans and pulled them off. She wasn’t wearing any underwear.

“Take off your pants.”

He took off his pants and boxers. Sylvia raised her eyebrows and smiled. Arnie walked towards the bed.


He took off his socks and they made love for an hour and a half.


Arnie was woken up by a phone call from his aunt. He turned over expectantly but Sylvia was gone. He let out a sigh, and picked up his phone.

“Hello, Gail.”

“You didn’t tell me you were famous, Arnie.”

“What are you talking about?”

“On the internet. On the YouTube.”

Arnie opened his computer and found emails from virtually everyone he knew: his doctor, his co-workers, his childhood friends, his cousin, Pete, even his grandma. Each message had “Congratulations!” or “Oh my god!” or “You’re a hero!” or “What a catch!” in the subject heading. He opened one and it had a link to a video titled, “Hero Catches Falling Baby.”


“I’m so proud of you, Arnie. You saved that baby’s life. You’re a superhero.”

As Arnie watched himself catch the little girl, he felt the same twinge of excitement and pride that he’d experienced the day before.

“I’ve told everyone. I still can’t believe it!”


Arnie said goodbye and closed his computer. He sat there, thinking. Soon, thoughts of his heroic exploits were overcome by Sylvia. She was nothing like anyone he’d ever been with, which was, by all means, a compliment. He looked back on the previous night and he could barely recognize himself. He had been so confident, so decisive. In the past, sex for Arnie had been filled with insecurity and doubt. It felt like an exam that he had never studied for and that he dreaded taking. With Sylvia, he wasn’t worried about making mistakes. He felt an unbridled freedom that he had never felt before, certainly not with Helen. In all their four years of marriage, he had never experienced the level of comfort and intimacy that he felt in one night with Sylvia Taglioni.


Arnie took a shower and got dressed, smiling as he put on his socks, and walked out of his studio. As he locked the door, he noticed that the eviction notice was gone. In it’s place was a phone number. He took it off the door.

“Hola, Arnie.”

Arnie quickly pocketed the number and turned to Dowall.


“You’re a lucky man, you know?”

“I’m sorry?”

Dowall laughed. “Okay, sure. You don’t know. But if it were me, I would not be keeping her a secret.” He raised his eyebrows and winked. “And don’t worry, I told management that it was just a misunderstanding. So, no hard feelings?” He held out his hand.

Arnie shook it. “Sure. I mean, yeah, of course.”


Dowall laughed again and started walking down the stairs, shaking his head at a bewildered Arnie standing in the hallway. He withdrew the phone number from his pocket and looked at it. It must be Sylvia,  Arnie thought with a smile. Any reservations that Arnie had surrounding Mrs. Taglioni were washed away, leaving him utterly in love.


Author Bio:

Sam Chapin is a contributing writer at Highbrow Magazine.


Photos: Rebecca Bollwitt, Dirk Klein, Nick Neyland, See-ming Lee (Flickr, Creative Commons).

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Rebecca Bollwitt (Flickr, Creative Commons)
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