I write short stories. I own surprisingly few pairs of shorts. I sometimes short circuit.
"Alana" sounds like "A lotta" = A lotta shorts.

Take the title however you like.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Sasha & Chuck - Superheroes (Title TBD)

Chuck pressed his fingertips into the biological scanner.

"Welcome Home" appeared in little red LCD dots and the silver door to his hidden underground headquarters slid open.

Beasley was there to welcome him as usual and take his boots.

"How did it go? You're alive, which cranks it up to 'pretty ok', right?" Beasley had been there from the beginning. Back in the orphanage when he was just Nigel, they'd become fast friends but he'd always been timid. He was happy in his role, the Silent Assistant. To him, it felt just as mysterious as if he were the one in costume each night.

Chuck grimaced as he peeled off his ergonomically correct, NASA-knock-off suit and mask. He'd really pulled something in his shoulder picking that guy up over his head.

"I got him."

"Great. Well, they're waiting for you upstairs."

He'd have to attend to his injury later. Beasley, ever swift and efficient, had already separated Chuck's grappling hooks, guns, grenades and other various secret weapons from his suit pieces - breastplate, tights, boots - in order to prepare them for cleaning and was holding open the elevator door.
Chuck, having made a quick change into a tailored Italian grey suit with silver and white damask tie, stepped into the elevator as he slicked a comb through his hair and checked the mirrored walls for flecks of dried blood or visible bruises. Clean as a whistle. He’d taken care not to get too roughed up tonight.

"Oh, and Chuck?" Beasley leaned towards the rapidly closing doors. He wanted to get this bit in at the last second. "Sasha's here."

***

"And that's when I said to him, I said, if I'd wanted a peace treaty I would have asked for a peace treaty."

Sasha chuckled politely at the former Governor's anti-climactic joke as she slipped away and into the empty library off the great room, hundreds of feet above Chuck's lair. She polished off the last of her champagne and turned the glass upside down in her hand. Her silver-painted finger tips swept the bookshelf closest to eye level until she found the groove she knew well. Sasha inserted the rim of the glass into its spot and turned it counter-clockwise. The shelf swiftly swiveled out and around to reveal a seemingly identical shelf that fit in perfectly with the rest of the book case. However, all the books were different. Sasha scanned them until she found the one she was looking for: Until We Have Faces by C.S.Lewis. She pulled it off the shelf and opened it to the inside of the back cover where a library card was stashed in its manila holder. She retrieved the card, slid the book back in place, spun the shelf around and was out of the room before anyone noticed she'd gone.

The governor was telling yet another painfully un-rousing anecdote.

"The Prime Minister, you see, is a friend of mine. So I told him I'd get Britney Spears to give him a private concert and you know what he said to that? You know? He said, 'No, no. We no like Britney Spears no more. We like woman with lots of hair. We want Cher."

Chuck's guests laughed appropriately - Michael the Governor's assistant, Leslie the journalist from City Weekly, Terence the owner and CEO of Chapman's Bank, Alex the head of Chuck's advertising firm CHK, Chuck's attorney, Steven, and Sasha, Chuck's, well, her title was fluid. The only one who didn't laugh, and who made a show of rolling her eyes, was Bunny - the Governor's wife.

Chuck came in to save the day.

"Thank you all for coming. Please, please find a seat. Governor do you have enough to drink there, sir? You do? Great. Everyone ok? Beasley put out hors d'oeuvre, didn't he? Help yourselves. Ok, well, Steven, why don't you get us started?"

Sasha studied her lover. Former lover. They didn't know quite what they were anymore. But she knew him better than he knew himself and that shoulder was going to need a good icing. She put her hand into the pocket of her dress (he'd bought it for her years ago) and stroked the library card. Looking back to him she realized that he hadn't given her a single glance since he'd come in.

***

Chuck peered at Sasha from the corner of his eye. She had the card in her right pocket and he could barely contain his grin. He had to cut this meeting short. Steven was finishing up his presentation.

"So that's the offer from Chapman's and I have these all in folders for you to review."

"Yes, yes. We will all need time to review the offer. Why don't we set up a meeting at my CHK office for next week?"

Alex gave Chuck a look but followed along.

“I’ll take a look at the calendar and send off an email tomorrow morning.”

“Excellent. Thank you all for coming. See you next week.” Chuck tried not to rush his guests out but only reached about 80% of the goal.

Soon everyone had gone except Sasha. They finally made eye contact.

"I thought this was supposed to be the big reveal. What'd you bring the press in for?" Sasha said.

Chuck ignored the question.

"I see you found it."

***

"Well, it wasn't hard to find now was it?"

"You remembered."

"Of course, I remembered." Sasha said, without the least bit of tenderness. "If I were surprised at anything it would be that you managed to remember. Now what is it?"

"That," Chuck moved in close and slipped his wide hands around her narrow waist, "is up to you to find out."

Sasha pulled away. A soft, menacing wind whipped through the room, traced the lofted ceilings and fluttered between Chuck's pant legs and Sasha's skirt hem. It dissipated as Sasha took a breath, her eyes un-clouding from milky white to her neutral gray.

"We're not together, you know." She managed to say.

"I know that. But why not, for God's sake? We're the perfect couple! Besides, I can't focus on fighting crime when you're standing there in that tight, leather, purpley-black suit, right next to me, and I'm not even allowed to touch you! Really, when you think about it, us being apart is bad for the citizens of Capitol City."

"I'm not buying it Chuck."

Sasha stared at him long and hard. She could see right through to his muscles, his skeleton, his cells but not his heart. Not his soul.

"Stop trying to get inside me, Sasha. You and I both know your power doesn't work that way. And if it did, it'd be completely immoral to use it for that. And stupid. I'm showing you all my guts right now."

"I know," she said under her breath.

Suddenly the elevator doors slid open. Beasley sat slumped over in a corner, not moving. Sasha and Chuck ran to him, Chuck sliding to his knees and thrusting two fingers under Beasley's jaw.

"He's alive."

Sasha reached down and pulled a piece of paper out of his hand. She read it aloud.

"Aren't secret hideaways supposed to be...secret?"

***

Beasley sat, although sat may have been too active a word for someone who had just fainted, in one of the over-sized plush chair in the library. Sasha blew a smarting cold wind into his face to awaken him.

He was groggy at first but he rebounded like a cat.

"Sir! Chuck! Sir Chuck!"

"They haven't knighted me yet, Beasley. Just slow down and tell us what happened."

Beasley rubbed his left temple.

"Well, I was down...downstairs...I had just put all your accessories away and your suit and was waiting for the elevator - I wanted to pop up for a moment and see if the refreshments needed to be refilled. Just as the door opened...


Crystal Sat Staring (Title TBD)

Crystal sat staring at a blank page of paper in a well-wrung notebook. She plinked Middle C on her electric piano and then slammed her head down on the keys, disharmony ricocheting violently around her studio apartment. She'd had writer's block for days on end. And it was all his fault.

Crystal's next-door-neighbor was a musician, too. Welcome to Midtown, NYC, right? Only he was a rock singer and she was a Classically-trained Indie-Soul Singer/Songwriter, as she liked to put on her posters. She'd booked another career un-altering show at once groovy bar, The Bitter End. If people were getting scouted at this place with it's strange hand-painted walls depicting S&M women and, in completely unrelated scenes, animals roaming in backyards, then Crystal was not in on it. She, of course, thought she was good and she even secured herself a gig in a showcase at CBGB but then they closed. In fact, they closed without telling her. Crystal stood outside the boarded door, keyboard in bag - hanging from her shoulder, just staring for 10 minutes. Unbelievable, her luck.

When this guy, the rock singer, showed up he changed everything. Crystal went from having peaceful afternoons for composing on her keyboard and synthesizer to stuffing cotton balls in her ears, even at noon. Weren't rockers supposed to sleep their debaucherous-night-induced hangover off until well into the evening? Well, today, Crystal had had enough of it.

She marched the three steps to her door, turned the two dead bolts and the flimsy doorknob lock and flung herself into the hallway. In a matter of seconds she was knocking at 19A, breathless with adrenaline. A dangerously thin model wearing a tiny white T-shirt and tight leather leggings opened the door. She blew a puff of smoke into Crystal's face and tapped the butt of her cigarette onto the toe of Crystal's fuzzy slipper sock.

"Yea?"

"Yea, is right, honey. I'm here to see the guy making all the racket."

She raised an eyebrow and scoffed.

"Unbelievable."

The skinny brunette turned into the apartment. Her bed head was even worse in the back and Crystal couldn't tell if it was from a jar or an actual bed. Or couch.

"Michael - someone in baggy Wal-mart sweatpants is here to see you."

She gave Crystal the once over and slunk back into the apartment. Michael appeared around the door looking fairly typical and quite as Crystal had expected: leather jacket indoors, longish wavy dark hair, stubble, bright blue eyes. He was the boy your mother, well maybe not your mother but your mother's mother, would have warned you about. Crystal had prepared herself for this and so recovered quickly. Had she not she may have swooned right into his handsome arms. That or covered her still unwashed face and ran back to her apartment.

"What can I do ya for, sweetheart?"

"Yes, hi. I'm Crystal. I live next door. And, you see..." Michael's face scrolled into a brilliant ear-to-ear grin.

"You live next door!? That's great. Come on in, neighbor." He put his arm around Crystal and ushered her into his apartment.

**

"You must be the siren I used to hear all the time when I first moved in, singing all those, uh, indie-soul kind of songs. You some kind of singer slash songwriter, right?"

Determined not to be thrown into some lush haze of serendipity by Michael's word choice, Crystal fired back.

"Well, that would have been before you started playing full blast every single day in the middle of my composing time!"

She slid out from under his arm and stood firm.

"And I've just...I've just come here to say that I would really appreciate it if you could have some common courtesy for the rest of the people in this building who are trying to create something, you know? I mean, you could at least just play for a bit then give it a rest for an hour or so. We could come up with some kind of schedule, whatever. Just...you're not the only one here, you know?"

When Michael burst out laughing, Crystal realized she was hearing more than just him. She looked around to discover three other skinny rocker types and another skinny model slinking over the couch and the floor like sweaters laying out to dry, smoking and laughing and rolling their eyes.

"Honey, sweetheart. I dig. It's cool, really. You're very cute."

Michael swirled around, plopped down on a stool and picked up his ______ electric. He motioned to an upright under the window next to him.

"Why don't you do your 'creating' in here? We can jam together and share the space." His friends laughed some more.

"You can't be serious."

"True. But I've been known to try."

Crystal sat at the piano bench because her knees wouldn't hold her another moment. Her adrenaline had been quite drained by Michael's charm and her embarrassment at the other 'hipsters' in the apartment.

"Great!" Michael said. "I'll start and you join in."

Before Crystal could protest Michael started into a rock song. Crystal knew it well as she'd been getting a steady diet of it for the past week. He'd been playing it to death trying to finish it. And since Crystal couldn't concentrate on her own playing she'd started finishing it for him. She'd actually come up with a kicking piano part and suddenly her hands were forming their arch and floating toward the keys.

Crystal tried to keep them steady as she placed her fingertips on the ivories, centering herself with Middle C as her keystone. She tried desperately to imagine that the other band members and impossibly beautiful groupies weren't sitting behind her with bored or snobby looks wrinkling their eyebrows. She was only about four bars in when she succeeded. Crystal always liked to imagine herself at a white grand piano at the amphitheater in Central Park when she knew she was playing well. And she was playing well. The lyrics to the song, usually growled and groaned by Michael, came out of Crystal's mouth breathily soft at first and then louder, each note ebbing and lilting and skipping up and down riffs with her signature British-soul-singer-inspired sound. Crystal closed her eyes and imagined the crowd singing along, lit lighters swaying in the air.

Suddenly a bass, another electric and drums appeared behind her on the stage. A gruff voice began to sing along, blending his own sound with hers to absolute perfection. She hit the final note of the song and slowly opened her eyes to see that she was back in Michael's apartment but he and his bandmates were all at their instruments, their faces full of glory.
The brunettes clapped at the men while stealing odd glances at Crystal which were starting to look a little like jealousy.

"Crystal! You did it! You're amazing!" Michael said.

"Thank you!...I did what?" Crystal replied.

"You finished my song." Michael become very serious. He slid his guitar to his back and knelt on one knee beside her. Taking her hand, he looked her in the eyes with uncomfortable sincerity.
"Crystal, will you join my band?"

Before she could swim back to the surface of Michael's eyes, one of his friends piped up.

"Hold on, hold on." His name was Lewis and he was British.

"That was pretty good but we need to have a chat about this. One impromptu song don't make you one of the New New Yorkers."

"Who's the leader of this band, me or you, Lewis?" Michael retorted, still on one knee.

"You are but we've all agreed to make these kinds of decisions together!" The rest of the band agreed with Lewis.

Michael stood, bringing Crystal up with him.

"Crystal, love, would you let us sort this out? I'll be in touch."

He escorted her to the door, shined her a smile, and left her in the hallway to reel.

What just happened? Crystal wondered as she entered her apartment and leaned against the triple-locked door. She decided promptly to put the whole incident out of her mind, take a shower and go to Barnes 'N Noble to read comicstrip books. It was her way of relaxing and she had a busy night ahead of her: she was catering a pre-Video Music Awards party at a swanky lounge on the Lower East Side.

I'm Still Alive! (Which You'd Know If You Follow CallMeLanii)

Hello all!

It's been a long while since I've posted anything. I've been so busy with the two plays I'm directing, the short film I'm writing and co-producing/co-directing, working, dealing with the US Elections, hosting family and friends and trying to be a good wife that I haven't had time or energy to write that last short story and finish my collection.

And I'm still not doing that. I don't think.

I'm not sure what the last story will be. I have a couple that I've started but they feel like they'll be much longer than any of the others, which is ok. I'm just not sure which one to choose or if it should be a completely new and different story.

So.....you know my other shorts posted here. I'll post the two unfinished works and maybe you could let me know which you think fits best or if I should write something new altogether.

And if you don't have an opinion about them in that way, feel free to just enjoy!

-A-

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Giver



When Linda put her wedding rings into her change purse it was for protection. Inspecting used bicycles at BUY reCycles was a job that put jewelry in danger; she always liked to put it away. But not too far away.



On this particular Friday, a young couple came in looking for a retro-style ladies’ cruiser.

“You’ll probably be interested in this. It just came in.”



They ooh-ed and ahh-ed at the 1970’s orange-red bike, complete with fenders, hand-brakes, 5-speeds, a side mirror and a bell.
The woman’s eyes lit up at that bell.
“It’ll probably go for about 65 dollars tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow?”
“Yea. We only sell ‘em on Saturdays.”
“But we want to buy it now. We’ll give you the money right now. Cash.”
“Well, we only take cash but I can’t sell it to you now. I’m sorry. It’s the only way to make it fair.”
The woman spoke to her husband when she said, “Yea, so fair it’s unfair. It’s like an inconvenient fairness.” To which he replied, “Damn hippies.” And all of this they said soft enough to sound private but loud enough to be unmistakably public.
Linda wiped her hands on a cloth and got back to work, initiating her yogic breathing. She was volunteering. She was on a higher plane. She couldn’t be bothered with people like them. They probably don’t even recycle. Look at their designer shoes – what are they doing here in the first place? Probably just want to make themselves feel like they’re doing something good for the world. Or worse yet! – They probably just wanted to save on gas and hadn’t given the slightest thought towards greenhouse gasses.
But Linda was the one who was literally saving the planet: cleaning it up one dirty, discarded bike at a time.
Almost 5:00. Linda had plans to go to the Farmer’s Market quickly (they close at 6!) and then make some tofu, chickpea and sprout salad on mixed greens – organic! – with homegrown tomatoes and some wine she’d made herself, in recycled bottles, of course. It didn’t always turn out great but it was organic and sulphite-free and she was pretty sure she’d got the recipe down this time and couldn’t wait to try it. The waiting was intense. That was her one downfall. She couldn’t stand to wait.
The couple approached her again just as she was about to tell Billy, the six-foot-eight 50-year-old autistic man who also volunteered there that she was planning to duck out a bit early and could he just not touch the bike she’d been working on because she’d be in tomorrow to finish it.
“So what time do you open tomorrow?”
“Ten.”
“BUT YOU SHOULD GET HERE EARLY! IF YOU WANT THAT BIKE YOU HAVE TO GET HERE EARLY BECAUSE PEOPLE LINE UP AND WAIT TO GET IN,” Billy shouted. Shouting was his only form of communication.
“What? Really?”
“YES! ONE TIME A GUY SLEPT OVERNIGHT IN A TENT TO GET A BIKE HE WANTED. YOU BETTER GET HERE EARLY! IF YOU WANT THAT BIKE!”
The couple was in shock. Linda didn’t know why she wanted to soothe them. Must have been her natural empathy. Damn her bleeding heart – she couldn’t have hated this couple more than if she’d found out they ate red meat.
“Well, it’s not quite that serious. Just try to be here about two hours early. Bring a good book!”
The woman seemed more interested than her husband; almost giddy, in fact. He did not appear amused in the slightest and looked as if he’d suddenly discovered the walls were covered in cow shit. His nose crinkled.
“I’ll be here!” the woman declared wholeheartedly. She seemed to really mean it. She whispered to her husband, “Can we hide the bike behind some other ones?”
“No,” he said, with a look Linda’s way, “that wouldn’t be fair.”
“I don’t understand how coming two hours early makes it fair. That’s not fair for the person who comes when it opens. If they only sell on Saturdays then everyone should come at the same time or for only one hour or something. But tomorrow, what if someone gets here at the same time as me? Who gets it then? I mean, it’s a used bike, for God’s sake. The only way to make it fair, really when you think about it, is to let people buy what they want when they want it. Can you imagine if the rest of the world worked like this? McDonald’s drive through tells you if you want a BigMac they only sell ten of ‘em at ten in the morning so if you want one then you’d better…”
Linda thanked the God she didn’t believe in that they were gone. At this point, she didn’t even care that they obviously disregarded the way McDonald’s tortures the cows they so selfishly devour. Imagine – your first idea for an analogy about economics and equality is McDonald’s! What a topsy-turvy world.
She washed up quickly in the back sink, grabbed her purse and trotted downstairs. As she was about to hop on her bike she noticed a homeless man playing something unrecognizable but soothing on harmonica. And, doing as she always did when she saw someone less fortunate than herself, she pulled out her change purse. In fact, homemade from mom’s old recliner's retro fabric, her change purse had only one function: to give to the needy, whether it be tip jars, the Sick Kids canisters at the grocery store or the very homeless. She always paid for everything else in bills – and so she always had change.
Linda dug the tips of her fingers into her change purse.
“Here you go, brother. Namaste.”
The sun glinted off of something in the man’s beggar basket as Linda rode off humming John Mayer and imagining the possible Fair Trade finds she was about to discover at the Farmer’s Market; a handcrafted clay bowl or a bird sculpture to add to her collection, perhaps!

The homeless man, Martin, gingerly picked up her half carat round diamond solitaire engagement ring and Irish braided sterling silver band between two of his dirty finger nails, which he’d nibbled to a point so he could pick on his guitar. He grinned a toothless grin as he forgot Linda and remembered that the pawn shop two streets over was open until 6pm. A drunk guy outside the Royal Hotel had once given him a genuine Rolex watch, which he’d pawned straight away, so he peaked now into BUY reCycles and caught the clock. It pointed to 5:15.
Plenty of time. He could pawn the jewelry, buy some booze and still get over to the Farmer’s Market, on his recycled bicycle, to panhandle outside the “ReCrafters” tent where those overweight knit-crazy housewives sell their homemade crafts made from recycled materials.

“Recyclers love to give,” thought Martin, as he dabbed his sunken chest with patchouli, tracing the deep V of his flower print shirt. “And it’s a good thing, too.”

Thursday, March 20, 2008

SumAntics: Get the Sleep You Don't Deserve!

Advertisement:

Do your unfulfilled dreams keep you up at night?
Do you wake up in a cold sweat thinking about your disappointing life?
Do thoughts of the days' sins and failures stop you from getting a good night's sleep?

Then SumAntics is for you!

SumAntics is a revolutionary new way of converting the vocabulary of your pathetic, daily life into inspirational words and phrases that will not only let you rest peacefully but may even put a smile on your sleeping face.

Stop tossing and turning over that lie you told your Boss! With SumAntics, suddenly that 'lie' becomes "a compelling reconstruction of the truth"!

SumAntics is a brand new type of Thesaurus containing a wide cache of the negative pathetic words and phrases that make up your most self-destructive thoughts. Organized first by Category, such as "Marriage Issues" and "Inner Demons", and then Alphabetically, SumAntics lists many words and phrases that cause you taxing and unreasonable stress, forcing you to analyze the unfair and undeserved consequences of your thoughts and actions when all you're trying to do is get the rest you're owed as a Human Being. It pairs these with inflated synonyms that zap the negative connotation out of your sins and vices instantly, giving you the chance at that peace you know you deserve!

Don't let your pathetic life of unfulfilled dreams keep you from your much needed rest! Use SumAntics to find the best way to turn that phrase! Transform your 'pathetic' life into one of 'incalculable potential' and your 'unfulfilled' dreams into 'plausibly redeemable' ones!

Stop beating yourself up because you were too lazy to workout today! Don't think of yourself as 'lazy' but as someone 'proudly committed to leisureliness'!

Now you can keep having that extramarital affair without it keeping YOU from sleeping soundly next to your spouse! After all, meeting an 'esteemed companion' for a meeting of 'compassionate exchange' is nothing to lose sleep over!

AND SumAntics comes with a 30-day Guarantee! We guarantee that if you're not sleeping more soundly in just 30 DAYS you must be one sick son-of-a-bitch because we covered everything but child molestation and terrorism in this Thesaurus. Please turn yourself in to the authorities or seek professional psychiatric help.

So try SumAntics and finally get the guilt-free sleep you so desperately need!

SumAntics :
Helping You Get the Sleep You Don't Deserve.


WARNING: SumAntics may cause delusions of grandeur, an increasing moral numbness, and desensitization resulting in the arrest and/or death of you and those around you. Please consult the moral compass of someone else or your spiritual adviser/guide/pastor/priest before trying SumAntics. SumAntics, if used in the company of other non-SumAntic users, may arouse suspicion and judgment: Keep SumAntics away from prying eyes and anyone with whom your encounters have caused you to use SumAntics in the first place.



Friday, February 29, 2008

Sponge Cake



"Why do you only ever do half of the dishes?"

Lisa and Ann were the quintessential odd couple. Ann was the neat and tidy one; Lisa, the 'functionally askew' as she liked to call herself. Anne called her a simple, indisputable mess.
So they had their differences.

Ann relaunched the question adding, "And don't tell me it's because you're a hand model."

Lisa was a hand model. On the side. She was mainly an ear, toes and lips model. Everything in between was nicely constructed...though for some reason no one ever wanted to see the whole package. A fact which made Lisa resent her 'working' body parts.

"Well, I am! And I can't overwork myself."

"Doing the entire load of dishes would be overworking yourself?"
Ann was never impressed with Lisa's excuses. And Lisa never ran out.

"And I can't get dishpan hands! For crying out loud - do you want me to default on my half of the rent?"
Lisa had always wanted to be an actress. Or a writer. Anything where her aptitude for dramatics would be welcomed and praised.

"Firstly, I know for a fact that your ears and lips bring in way more than your hands: they're barely getting even the local newspaper jewelry ads anymore. Secondly, WEAR GLOVES!"
Ann gathered her purse and threw a cardigan in it: she was always finding herself cold, even in the middle of a gorgeous summer day like this one.
"And I'm not finishing those dishes!"

Ann had fierce principles.

Lisa watched Ann walk out the door to her job as a window dresser for Saks 5th Avenue. She didn't take even a sideways glance at the dishes. Instead, Lisa reached for the phone.

Samuel asked how she thought their date had gone last night, the first since they'd been back together after a 2 year break-up.

"Sam! Insecurity from you is a bit disconcerting, I have to say."
Lisa was searching for a spoon to eat her cereal with but couldn't seem to find a clean one.
"But it was good."

"Well, firstly I think some concern may be somewhat warranted, not insecurity. And secondly, you were concerned as well so give me a break."

Lisa cradled the phone in the crook of her neck and shoulder, braced herself on the counter and stared menacingly at the dishes. She muttered something about Mary Poppins as Sam continued.

"Also, what is with this 'good'? I personally remember being taught in English class to use 'good' and 'bad' as adjectives as sparingly as possible; to be more expressive and creative!"

Lisa laughed and turned her back on the dishes. She loved this banter. Sam was the one person she could use big words to express deep thoughts with who would understand and fire back with aplomb.

"But I don't use 'good' very often so in this case it created a convoluted, dark potential for a web of subtext and contradiction."

"Well, I try my damnedest not to read into anything you say over the phone. I'd go crazy."

Sam and Lisa both had penchants for physical expression. If you knew them, you'd know that any telephone conversation not only lost something in translation but also something in the way of art, dance, and showmanship.

"Let me phrase it better: I felt our date was wonderful. Seeing you again made my weak. But there was also a sponge cake of tension and many little things unsaid floating in the air..."

"Mmm, sponge cake. So, what you're trying to say is that the scrumptious inner layers of our relationship are as delectable and enticing as fluffy baked goods."

Lisa found herself twisted up in the cord of the phone, the pangs of hunger turning to vicious stabs and the dishes suddenly looking very sad and in need of rescue.

"Hey, I have to go get ready. I have a photo shoot."

"How convenient."

Lisa was untangled and the phone was mid air between the receiver and her ear. She never ended conversations with goodbye.

Sam continued.

"Or completely true and reasonable. Whatever. Are you coming over tonight?"

Lisa hesitated, contemplating whether to hang up and blame the impending misunderstanding on her not hearing Sam, thinking the conversation was over - or just answering. She answered.

"Maybe. I'll call you either way, alright?"

"Fine."

There was that sponge cake: this time it was gorged with the thick bitter syrup of an "I love you", dripping plops over their ears and tongues.

"Bye."
Lisa said quickly, hanging up the phone and pulling gloves out from under the sink.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Recluse.



Thom hadn't always been a recluse.

Thom had loved life once; loved people; places; adventure; laughing; talking; singing; the art and act of being alive.

But somewhere along the line - and Thom couldn't quite remember if it had been the marriage or the secret divorce or maybe it was the great ketchup-in-the-fridge versus ketchup-in-the-cupboard debate - he'd pulled away.
Friends would write to him with the common chatter of emails and community-based website comments: "Just droppin' a HI!"; "What's new?"; "Happy Birthday!" written in obnoxious sparkly glittery swirly flashy script. Family would call and leave messages in cheery voices with just-interested-enough queries into his life, his wife, his job. And for a while he was content to lie. He'd write back equally shallow quips of "HEY! Not much? YOU!?" and "Thanks! Wish you coulda been there, bro!" (why does everyone shout on the Internet?). He would call his family back and chat, chirping generic positives like "It's a wonderful roller coaster! I learn something new about her everyday!" in regards to marriage; he would pick out some inane detail about his job that he could be happy about like "They finally switched back to the Swingline stapler after a year of begging on my part!"

Thom, after a while, just couldn't play that game anymore. He began to feel either guilty or tired or both. He stopped calling back. He stopped logging on. The phone would ring and he would click it straight to voice mail. But just so no one sent the police to find him he would call his friends and family back, when he knew they weren't around. And he'd go on and on about how busy he was and how sorry he was that they couldn't seem to get their schedules synced for a simple chat. The world's going to pot the way they run us ragged, he'd say. We should all move to Jamaica, live at a slower pace and chat and IM and email and phone all the live long day, he'd say.

When Christine moved out (when was that?) he found himself a routine and promptly ground a nice, deep rut in it until he barely needed to be awake to function.

And being so removed, so vegetative, he didn't even mind it.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Destiny...





Marissa wasn't there when they were handing out Destinies.

Though the line for Brains hadn't been very long - the shortest in decades! - their stock was overflowing because of it; they had overstocked. This made the available options varied and vastly more difficult to choose between. Marissa thought she would get in a line and just be handed the next proper Brain; that it would take all of 10 minutes. If she'd know, she would have arrived earlier. She had never preferred too many choices: Just give me the best of what you've got and I'll be on my way, was her thinking.

Marissa had argued extensively with the Supplier.

"How are we supposed to decide if we want a Creative Mind or an Analytical Mind if we don't know what our Destinies are yet? How can I possibly choose a Brain inclined towards Math and Science when I don't know if my Destiny will be that of a Painter?"

The Supplier calmly reassured her.

"Miss, your Destiny is matched to your Brain. Pick a Brain that seems best to you and the Destiny Giver will match it. After all, you don't currently have a Brain with which to make the proper decision about your Destiny anyway."

"Well," Marissa fumed, "If that's the case, how can I possibly pick out a Brain if I don't have one to pick one out with in the first place!"

The Supplier slid his finger down a row of possible Brain matches.

"Seems to me, as I have a Brain, that you have a natural inclination towards curiosity, interrogation, sarcasm and violence. Let me see if I have something in that vein. A Brain bent on world domination, perhaps? Or a politically-inclined, closed-minded Brain?"

"Do you have one that's not as smug and superior as your Brain? Something in the Intelligent-Yet-Humble Category, perhaps?"

"We don't have that specific category, ma'am, but I believe you were born with smug superiority so no choice of Brain is going to change that."

Marissa let out a wild scream and attempted to leap over the counter, through the window and onto the Supplier's windpipe. But he slammed the gated window shut and her head ricocheted against the bars. Pre-Brainees tend to be either nearly vegetative or royally pissed off. Scientists are still baffled.

When she came to, she found herself out of line and laying on a bench. She marched up to the counter but was promptly escorted to the end of the queue.
Twenty minutes later she came face to face with the Supplier again. By this time she had calmed down and managed to speak with a pleasant voice.

"I think I would like to see your Artistic Brains please."

The Supplier handed her a clipboard full of options and closed the gate with a suspicious look.

"You can decide over there and come to the front of the line when you know."

"Why, thank you." Marissa forced a smile.

By the time she finally picked one out, had it implanted and wired into her Nervous System, the Destiny Station was preparing to close in 5 minutes.
She ran as fast as her legs could carry her. Why these two vitally linked departments weren't in the same building let a lone in the same room, she didn't know. She cursed the fact. But when she got there - they were closed.

"No problem," Marissa thought, her new Brain kicking into calculative gear. She went home, set her alarm for a bright and early start and was standing outside the Destiny Station at quarter to 9 in the morning. At 9:30 Marissa began to worry. She copied down the number written on the door and went to a pay phone on the corner. Her call was answered right away.

"Hi, I'm standing outside your office right now. I really need my Destiny."

"Oh, I'm sorry, ma'am. We're closed."

"But the sign says you open at nine," Marissa pointed out.

"Oh, no. We're closed for good. With all the self-help books and everyone looking for their Destinies on their own, no one's been by here in ages. Except to complain that they're just sure we gave them the wrong one because this quiz or that TV Show told them they need to read that book or watch this other TV show so they can 'reveal the secrets to discovering their True Inner Purpose' or whatever."

"But I WANT you to give me a Destiny! What am I supposed to do?"

"I guess you just have to try to find it on your own. You picked up a Brain, didn't you?"

"Yes."

"Use that."

Oranges.



Oranges.

It all came down to oranges.

Daniel's entire life - from the supremely important to the devastatingly boring (Far too many of the first had been massacred to oblivion and too many of the latter quietly endured) - all came to a bone-grinding halt at the kitchen counter on the 23rd of January.

Which orange? They all, all five of them, looked the same.

Daniel picked up the woven bowl which cradled them, placed them on his two-seater table with a grave deal of concern and sat down in one of the padded folding chairs. He picked each one up; handled it, squeezed it, sniffed it. He thought of Jerry Seinfeld's melon joke and rolled them each the short length of the kitchenette to see, well, to see if one stuck out in some way or the other. Not a single one followed the same path. One was much slower than the others, though; at first Daniel reasoned this one had more orange in it. But then he doubted his ability to throw them each exactly the same way with the same speed and realized this venture was a better joke than a scientific experiment.

After he'd rinsed each off (in hot water) he sat them in a row from left to right and tried to place them in order like a hand of cards. Again he could not come up with a system of hierarchy. Daniel finally decided to cut a slice out of each to taste and grade that way. He even took a moment to select the proper knife, a steak knife: he only had a butter knife, four steak knives and a butcher knife. But when he sat down to do the deed he blanched at the thought of the four he would evidently leave behind, rotting away by day's end and going needlessly to the trash.

He also wondered, if the one he chose today was the best, why would he ever want to eat the other four? Hadn't he compromised in every other area of his life? Wasn't every day that he lived to see full of suppression and sub-standards? How could he knowingly eat sub-par fruit on top of all that!
No, that would be a step too far.

Gingerly, he placed the knife back in the drawer. Slowly, he paced around the table looking at the oranges from every angle. He wasn't really looking at them any more than when you, deep in your own thoughts, find yourself staring at the person seated across from you on the train. Unfortunately, oranges don't glare back at you or give you attitudinal quips like "Take a picture: it lasts longer". That would likely have eliminated one or more of them. Daniel took lip from just about anyone except an orange - or any other type of fruit. They're not very intimidating. Oh, they might bark; we're the ones who bite. Unless you're allergic. Then you have to watch yourself.

Daniel plopped down on his chair. He found that he couldn't comfortably see all the oranges at once so he piled them all in the bowl again, directly in front of him, and went into a deep stare the likes of which could decode any Magic Eye 3-D picture.

Some unacknowledged time later, the front door opened with a crash and Janet came storming in.

"What is wrong with you? Let's go! You're making us all late!"

Daniel looked up in a haze.

"But - the oranges."

"Listen, Dan, " Janet said, "I don't know if you missed your medication or you took too much of it but I've honked; I've phoned; I've buzzed. If someone hadn't been having groceries delivered at the exact second I was about to speed off you'd still be sitting here like a vegetable. Or fruit. Whatever. But Nancy and Bill are in the car waiting and I have to present my half of the proposal in like half an hour at that completely premature board meeting and I will quite literally murder you if anything goes wrong even if it has nothing directly to do with you because it will definitely be the indirect result of you completely ruining my morning and working up my blood-pressure by acting like an irresponsible, inconsiderate child."

Daniel sighed. He threw his suit jacket over his shoulders and scooped up his briefcase. As he turned back into his apartment to grab his keys and lock the door he saw the oranges. He knew they would be there when he got home, with their secrets. He quickly grabbed a coat off the rack by the door and threw it over them. Oranges were the last thing he wanted to be greeted by after the horrendous day he was bound to have. They're so perky.

"And Dan?" Janet called to him from halfway down the stairs at the end of the hall.

He pulled the door shut, jiggled the knob and looked at Janet.

"You're buying the coffees. And the gas."

"Don't I always?" Dan replied.

Janet was at the bottom of the second stairs. She called back to him without a glance.

"No. No you don't."

About Me

My photo
I'm Lanii. I try to Be Good. It doesn't always work. "Call Me Lanii" is sort of about that - my inner and outer triumphs (what?) and struggles. "Alana Shorts" is sort of about that, too: I draw way too much inspiration from the crazy and strange events that actually happen to me and end up writing very little 'fiction'. I usually have my tongue quite thoroughly stuck in my cheek.