The date subverted the man’s expectations. They dined, drank whiskey, played pool and ate molten cakes, yet the night seemed to just be beginning. The woman moved through the world like a marionette with no master; she struck not a soul with her limbs. The man followed. On their second date, they talked little; instead, they dipped doughnuts into their coffees and traced the lines on the inside of their hands with their forefingers. At the end of the evening, the woman squeezed the man’s body to hers. His arms fenced in her waist, and she did not let go.
On a night dive, my flashlight bathed sleeping Caribbean coral, revealing an octopus gliding among sharp shadows like a teasing fan dancer. Enchanted, I followed deeper.
Once, she flashed petulant white. I had come too close; she required a more reserved suitor. Chastened, I settled prone onto the sand and waited, tank almost empty, watching her thread in and out of my cone of light.
At last, a delicate tentacle, scintillating calmly blue and brown, inched out of a crevice and touched my outstretched finger. Tryst concluded, she vanished into the blackness and took up residence forever in my dreams.
Irina approached the visa interview window.
The consular officer looked through her papers.
“Where did you meet your fiancé?”
“Internet, Moscow, Paris.”
“You know where he lives?”
“Mercer Island, in-between Seattle and Bellevue.”
“You’re aware that he was married four times?”
“Seven. Four wives, three move-ins.”
“And you’re sure that this time he will...?”
“I told him that I poisoned him.”
“You did what?”
“Poisoned him with love poison. If he leaves me, he dies.”
“Oh, I see. What makes you think he believed you?”
“I took him to our family cemetery. My Grandma buried seven husbands.”
“Aw, Mom. I don’t wanna go to Camp!”
“C’mon, Trevor. You’ll have a great time! This is Space Camp!”
Sighing, he followed her to registration. There, a man in a space suit greeted them. “Welcome to Space Camp, Astronaut! I’m Captain Stan. What’s your name?”
“Trevor,” he replied glumly. “Can we just get this dumb week over with?”
“I take it you haven’t seen our spaceship.”
“Spaceship?” Trevor’s eyes wandered, and then widened. “Holy ... ”
The ship looked ready to blast into the great beyond. It was real!
Stan grinned. “Yep--we’ll be making actual intergalactic journeys. Pluto, here we come!”
It had been over five years since Thomas last saw Yolanda and it surprised him to see her with another man. He always had the silly belief that she wouldn’t be able to find anyone else after they broke up like he was unable to. But here she was with that small smile he had grown to love upon her face. Many fantasies start to race through Thomas’ head as he hopes that she would see him and want to come back to him.
They approach Thomas’ direction and she looks at without any recognition as they walk by him.
Warning: this might put you off these for life.
I knew it had to be you. You were never clever enough to wipe the sugar-beard from around your mouth.
Did you enjoy the sweet dough sliding down your neck? I bet the taste still lingers on your tongue.
What about the icing? Can you guess the extra ingredient that I added? I’ll give you a clue: it’s something that makes the doughnut more… diet friendly.
Oh, what’s wrong? Can you feel your stomach griping, twisting, and churning? Is your bowel preparing for the brown lava eruption?
That’ll be the secret ingredient.
You can tell me later if it works.
They did it! They seceded!
No they didn’t! They voted to leave the EU
You mean they’re still part of Union of European States?
It’s the European Union.
Well, it’s still a union. Maybe the UK could form the Confederate States of England.
No way. Scotland wants out. It wants to join the EU by itself.
Scotland? Trump’s there. Maybe he can make it the 52nd state.
You idiot. Scotland hates Trump. He’s probably getting booed and egged.
By all those sissy dudes in skirts?
Kilts. Battle dress, you moron. Romans wore kilts, too.
Well, Romans were sissies too.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It might have been a good idea in its early years, but now LinkedIn has become a giant monolithic bureaucracy. Regulations now in force at LinkedIn mean that posts cannot appear until faceless officials in LinkedIn HQ approve them. Ask yourself – what do we get from LinkedIn?
I call on the Discussion Owner to hold a referendum immediately to see if we should hold a referendum to Remain in LinkedIn or Leave it.
If we leave, we would no longer have to write about cats! We could write about fish! We could become the Friday Fish Faction!
“I can’t believe it,” Marlene said, glaring at Lynne, who arched an eyebrow.
“What? You thought I’d do it forever?” Lynne snapped.
“You’re supposed to be committed! You’re … “
A sob choked away the rest of Marlene’s reply. She lay her head on her arms.
Lynne sighed, fixed a sympathetic look on her face, and put her hand on Marlene’s arm.
“Sis. Look at me,” she said.
Marlene lifted her head. Wet spots dotted her sleeve.
“I founded Pride here in town, and I’ve run it for two years,” said Lynne, gently. “It’s your time to take the reins.”
It’s not easy to understand what’s going on around you while you are staring at the ground. Look at the noise of the crowd. I’d never been in the limelight before.
The desire of seeing the world one last time is unbearable. Maybe seeing the fury in the people’s eyes can help me to kill my lust for life.
But I can’t even move my head. It’s too late anyway.
It’s hurrying to hug me. And I won’t be one piece after that.
I had always dreamed of living like Louis XVI, but I am going to die like him.
“My precious – where are you?”
Sod it. Lucia had lost her wedding ring. Some might argue that her fidelity had gone eons ago, but the ring bound her to a long-ago promise. The naked fourth finger of her left hand was too obvious for her liking.
The Cat sniffed. One of his little – some might say cute, some might say annoying – traits was knocking things off shelves. Spectacles, kirby grips, the occasional wedding ring taken off for cleaning…
The Cat didn’t judge, but Lucia’s last affair had pushed certain boundaries. Tom’s youngest brother.
Who also happened to have a dog.
In Greek legend, the twins Noxos and Cretinos argued from earliest childhood. Later, they branched out into politics, invariably taking opposing positions simply for the sake of it.
Soon, they headed national campaigns: leading opposing parties, for or against independence, in abortion, gun control or gay marriage debates, their unpleasant faces came to be familiar household fixtures on live TV debates.
But this being Greek legend, the Gods had a suitable punishment in store. Noxos and Cretinos were condemned to sit together for ever, gazing silently at endless TV debates in the one place that never tired of them: Pluto.
Her cravings now she was heavily pregnant had become more unusual. Snails were the latest.
Her weary husband went out and bought a bagful from the market, but on his way back he got side tracked by some friends who were out having a few drinks.
Eventually he staggered home in the early hours, dropping the snails all over floor as he struggled to get his key in the door.
As the door swung open his wife shouted "Where have you been???"
Without hesitating he looked down and said to the snails "Come on, nearly there".
"You have to learn how to coexist!" I commanded, as they turned their heads accusatorily to each other; the silk garter to the wool skirt, the wool skirt to the cotton sundress, and poor miss sundress to the satin gown.
They looked each other head to toe, sure that one had to be guilty. Sure they'd find a gap in the teeth, an eyelash missing, or a scratch on the elbow. Sure that a slimy larvae was slithering through one of them, discreetly, manifesting nothing more than a pin hole. But soon enough, it would infect and consume the others…
“Closer!” The little girl with purple arm floaties stood at the edge of the pool.
“You can do it,” her father said, standing chest deep; but he still took a conciliatory baby step closer.
“One...two…” she leaned forward precariously, pink toes on the edge. Dad had his arms out.
“You moved,” she accused, straightening, hands on hips.
“You can do it. Jump.”
“One...two...FIVE!” She straightened again, knowing exactly which button she had pushed.
“Three, not five,” Dad said. “You know better. Now jump.”
“One...two…” she jumped. Dad did not catch her. Another valuable lesson learned.
She was humming her favorite Lana Del Rey song when he entered the terrace.
“You’re not bad.”
“Am I? Then why do you leave me?”
“I mean your voice. Come on. We’ve decided it together.”
“Sorry. My memory sucks,” she mocked.
“Would you like me to be with you when I’m in love with her?”
Then it happened. She jumped before he could stop her. The last lines of the song were still in his mind:
“He used to call me poison,
Like I was poison ivy.
I could have died right there
Cause he was right beside me.”
“It’s a great place, Sue.”
“Really, never heard of it.”
“It’s ‘the place to be’ on Saturday night.”
“OK, I’m game.”
“See you later, Mom.”
“Call me when you’re ready to come home, Sue.”
“Yes, Mother. I promise.”
“Love you, Sue.”
“Me too, Mom.”
“We’ll take my car, Sue.”
“Wow, you were right. This is a ‘happening’ club. I’ve seen a bunch of my friends already. It’s really noisy though. What’s all that banging?”
911 is flooded with calls.
Sue’s mother dialed frantically, and her daughter’s cell phone rang … and rang and rang and rang.
“Did you read my script?”
“What do you think?”
“That main character. . . You made me fall in love with her.”
“So you like it, huh?”
“No. It made me angry.”
“I threw it across the room.”
“I’m confused. Maybe you didn’t like the other characters?”
“No, your plot sucks.”
“Where did I go wrong?”
“I loved that woman—even with her flaws. I pulled for her. You led me to believe she could overcome. Then you killed her off.”
“She’s my creation; I can do what I want with her.”
“And I can hate your script.”
"I believe in the Cause,” the white-robed priestess intoned.
A great bell tolled. BONG. Thousands of candles throughout the grotto flickered. A low hum from thousands of female throats set the walls vibrating.
“I believe every being has the right to be.” BONG.
“I believe sentience is universal.” BONG.
“Peace rules where the sovereignty of none reigns.” BONG.
Ptark crouched behind the rocks, fingering the button that would signal his armies. Suddenly, an invisible hand snatched him by his collar and carried him swiftly to hang before the priestess.
“Blasphemer!” she shouted.
He blinked. “Jessica?”
Her eyes popped open.
You don’t mess with big Moll…
Literally. She is our office cleaner and her baleful glance takes in our slovenly habits. Dirty coffee cups littering surfaces. Food eaten at desks. Banana skins discarded in wastepaper bins.
She thumps her broom on the floor.
“Things are gonna change round here.” She points at all of us, and lights up a cigarette.
“You can’t – ”
The glare silences me. The last two decades’ no-smoking rules don’t apply to Moll.
“I’ll stop smoking when you b*****s clean up after yourselves.”
“Aren’t you supposed – ”
I fish the banana skin out of my bin.
Through the rain-splattered glass I see myself taking my husband by the hand, leading him away from our guests. While no one hears my screams, the window shatters, drawing everyone’s attention my way, including the smiling one wearing my body.
For the victims of the massacre in Orlando, June 2016.
– Just sent pic mum of boyz all havin fun.
– Gettin noisy hr mum. Not sr whatz hapnin. Bangs
– Mad guy out thr. Has GUN I think. We OK wr hidn in toilt. Dont u worry. Wr OK. Keep u infrmd
– Jeez hes firin gun. Think people hrt. Blood evrywhr. Im OK still in toilt
– Scard mum. Hes not far away. Hidin in cubcl. Luv u mum x
– Jeez hes in hr mum. Must be qut. Hope doesnt see us
– Jeez mum hes fnd us x
– Love u mum x
Though never ‘fairest of them all’ I could gaze at one and be gifted with an unfinished canvas, a work in progress. Oftentimes I was pleased to regard, like Narcissus peering into the pool, the image as sufficing to be seen at the office, pub or school.
But now with this framed picture of middle-age I wonder how I appear to the world - if I’m noticed at all - as I board the bus to work, the bus that passes the old folk’s home, making me think ‘I’m not vanished yet’ but also imagine the reflections confronting residents there.
"What's wrong with me?"
"Everything's right, dear. You're a woman now. A heavy flow is normal at your age."
"So, I won't die of blood loss?"
"No. It's not a wound. You're fine. Now... you will have to take precautions, or you'll be on the street with screaming piece of flesh."
"So, I won't I die?"
"Hey... you're not sick, all right? Go take a shower, use this to plug it. Keep few more for later use."
"So, I won't...?"
"Go clean yourself!"
"Go. Wash. It. All. The other hole, and mouth, and your hands. Tonight you're working."
I hold the alien princess close, smelling Aquanet in her bouffant.
“Luna Base in an hour,” Johnson says, throttling down our bullet-shaped rocket.
Tex, our co-pilot, lights a cigarette and runs a comb through his slick hair. Doc slips his slide rule into a pocket.
“Oh, Brock,” she whispers, bright red lips gently brushing my earlobe. “Are you sure I can’t give you some reward for saving Skalix 9 from those horrible Bugmen?” Her eyes shine.
“Not necessary.” I pull her closer; she yields willingly.
“Just keeping the galaxy safe for white Protestant republicans everywhere, ma’am.” I kiss her hard.