And I'll take a flash! Please, and thank you.
|# ? Mar 25, 2020 01:09|
|# ? Dec 3, 2022 12:22|
|# ? Mar 25, 2020 01:10|
I hope this won't comically blow up in my face, leaving me covered in soot and with singed hair but otherwise unharmed. In
|# ? Mar 25, 2020 01:20|
I hope this won't comically blow up in my face, leaving me covered in soot and with singed hair but otherwise unharmed. In
|# ? Mar 25, 2020 01:24|
The rest of the 398 crits!
The judges were stumped by your story. The throughline is clear enough: the narrator is trying to return home, in a manner of speaking, by recreating their mother’s long lost recipe. There are some things I know for certain: The protagonist wants to recreate their mother’s recipe. Obtaining the ingredients to do this comes at great discomfort and personal risk, but they are clever and able to find workarounds to their various obstacles. This process is threatened by, among other things, beings called Obliques, who seem to be twisted dopplegangers of some sort—though the protagonist wields life or death power over these particular beings, i guess. Ultimately, the protagonist succeeds in making the meal, and disappears happily into the lineage of the food and the people who developed it. Not only that, but it seems that the taste of this dish hints at a world outside the protagonist’s purgatory, though for whatever reason they are not ready to come home.
There are a bunch of cool individual moments. I was intrigued by the almost spectral way the protagonist seems to interact with their environment; the bit in the grocery store, for example, was really cool and surreal even though I wasn’t totally clear on what was happening. My best guess is that the narrator, for reasons not made totally clear, seems to have ensconced themselves in some sort of ghostly in-between space in an attempt to escape something, but also seemingly in search of something. This individual seems more lucid than the other beings who wander this place, but for all I know they are an unreliable narrator; perhaps this is a wandering spirit who only thinks they are acting with agency, but in reality they are simply unable to let go of the life they had and move on to elsewhere.
Bottom line: the words are good, the imagery fascinating, but since we don’t get even the slightest nod to the rules of the setting, the story ends up feeling just a little too opaque.
This is a nice story about kindness. It made me feel good to read, plus it did not rely too much on cliches or dead parents/spouses/children for emotional weight. Yes there was death, but that wasn’t the point—Izal got to be a happy old lady, and then her kindness continued on in her place. That is beautiful.
I don’t have much to critique; the other judges weren’t keen on the god taking a dog form because they felt it was a little saccharine. I didn’t think so; Izal is a shepherd and would very likely have a dog anyway. What actually edged it out of the winning spot was this: Neth’s story had a specificity, a realism that made the feel-good aspect of it feel hard earned on a personal level. Your feels more like a parable—equally valuable, but the feelings of the piece are painted with a broader brush.
Bottom line: im not crying your crying
This is absurd and whimsical enough to make me not care that I don’t fully understand why any of this is happening. Well, okay, scratch that—I understand why some of these things are happening. The king seems to have gone a bit eccentric, possibly because of the passing of his wife, who is implied to have been the no-nonsense half of the equation. He definitely doesn’t want to be king. Right, okay, so actually I think I understand a decent amount of this.
What about Wagner though? Is he just some sort of well-meaning crow wizard who decided to do an intervention on the clearly lackadaisical king? He initially reads as some sort of nefarious charlatan come to grift the king—which is hard to avoid when you have an apparent stranger turn up and offer something that seems too good to be true. It would have worked better if Wagner was some well-known figure, like a corvid Gandalf, or something. Melvin could still have been uneasy about Wagner’s presence, but the offer of aid wouldn’t seem like such a non-sequitur.
This is actually a very lovely story to picture in my brain, and the king’s eccentricity is very charmingly painted. If this were a film, it would look great, but I would walk away feeling as though I had no insight into the characters’ feelings. The king’s exhilaration is nice, but it rings a little hollow because I don’t really know what it means for him to experience this miraculous escape. I’ll let you in on a secret: you are allowed to use the narration to give us a little window into the character’s thoughts and feelings, even in a relatively distant 3rd person POV (which this story is in). As the king rises into the air, does he feel the weight of this reign fall away? Is he relieved? Does this resolve some grief or dysfunction related to the death of his wife or his resentment of his station?
Finally, I always like to point out to writers when they can trust their readers more. I wasn’t a fan of “crow-wagner”. It’s the sort of thing writers do when they want to make quadrupal sure that the readers understand that the character has undergone some sort of change. But you described him very compellingly as a big ol’ crow!
“Long live King Melvin!” cawed Wagner is way funnier without the crow-.
Bottom line: a charming story with great visuals that needed a little bit more focus on the feelings and motivations of its characters.
You asked me about this elsewhere, so I’m going to start by talking about dialog.
What you successfully conveyed with your dialog (ignoring the background info provided by the narration): Mei and Tydus are friends (or something else?)! They have a close relationship, and pay attention to each other’s needs and feelings.
What could use work: Your characters tend to ask each other dry questions, then answer those questions very straightforwardly.
Here’s an example of a pretty good exchange:
9-Mei fingered a scratch on the back of her hand, recent enough that she'd yet to shed the plate. "I took the strain of my own accord, Tydus. Maybe it wasn't always pleasant, but someone had to do it, yes?" She turned her head to face him, a cross look coming over her face. "I hope you didn't treat this like an obligation, too. You know how I feel—"
Mei’s desire to avoid transactional friendships feels true—it’s a well-observed trait that real people really have. As is Tydus’s indignation that Mei would imply his gift was anything but a gesture of gratitude. Plus I liked the detail about the scratch on Mei’s hand; it’s one of those little things that makes your world feel more real, which is important in science fiction.
The only bit of the above quote that I would rework is everything after “...without whom the Acadamy…” just because it’s borderline “as you know, Bob.”
Here’s a less-good exchange (I snipped some stuff):
"Good morning, Tydus. Is there an experiment that needs my attention?"
This is a reasonable enough exchange, but this is the first time we see these two interact and it feels a little robotic.
You were also worried about not having enough of a plot. I disagree; in fact, I think you could have spent a couple hundred more words on some really fun exploration of Mei’s new garden, letting us experience it with her. Because that is the essence of this story: this wonderful garden, and the relationship between Mei and Tydus. If I were going to rewrite this, I’d get them inside the garden within the first paragraph, then launch into the dialog and characterization from there. That way you could have them wandering around interacting with cool stuff while they talk throughout the whole piece.
Bottom line: You successfully gave me a sense of established characters in an existing world, but slightly stilted dialog and a lack of narrative focus made the reading experience a little muddly.
I’ll get this out of the way: I’m not mad about the dead wife.
This was a fairly breezy read; the dialog was refreshing in its organic-feeling execution. I like the subtle subversion of tropes, here; the mad, grieving scientist is safely tucked away in an assisted living community, sought out by his own creation rather than the other way around.
I think the only problem is that the story keeps things very surface level. You touch on themes of personhood, of family in a time of cloning, grief in a world where your loved one lives on in form but not in mind. It’s some heavy stuff. You could have absolutely picked one of those things and had your characters explore it a little deeper through the dialog. I think what bothered me is how much parity there was between the narration and the dialog; both are, for the most part, telling us about the past. The narrative gives us the past as Magnus experienced it, while the dialog gives us the past as explained by the two characters to each other.
What might’ve slammed this one out of the park: Let the narrative tell us about the past and get down and dirty with some heady sci-fi concepts in your dialog. I’m not saying that I wanted to read technobabble or some philosophy 101 treatise, but if I was confronted by the clone of my deceased partner, I imagine the conversation would be about 75% more intense than the congenial tea chat we see here. Your ending could stay relatively the same, but you could have definitely punched up the dialog that got us there.
Bottom line: well-written, did some neat stuff, needed to lean harder into its own premise.
This is batshit insane in the best way. Gods being rendered into flavors? What the hell. I love it. The first line hooks with its absurdity. I love the internal logic of this story; it makes perfect sense when you tell me that Igor rotates his worship of lesser known gods. When Hestia shows up like “hey cut it out, you’re gonna blow up my spot” I’m like, yeah that makes sense.
This piece very much flies by the seat of its pants, which could be hit or miss, depending on the reader. I thought it was a blast, but there are enough weird, non sequitur elements that another reader might be put off by the randomness. I think the peak of that randomness is the role that baked beans play in the resolution—it makes the story feel a little Ren and Stimpy rather than like a theological fever dream.
Igor studies the fluctuation in paranormal activity and then...baked beans. It’s its own paragraph!
The logic of the story suggests that the frog thing either tastes like baked beans or is craving baked beans, but the more I think about it, the more I’m not sure I understood the logic behind that particular detail. I get what happens at the end, but not why, exactly. And I’m not fully sure I’m meant to!
Bottom line: this is a fun, creative romp through an insane premise that suffers only slightly from its own silliness.
Sitting Here fucked around with this message at 08:59 on Mar 25, 2020
|# ? Mar 25, 2020 04:44|
A crit of Phantom Heat by Simply Simon
The candle’s flame gyrates in a mesmerizing dance This has gotten off to a weirdly horny start, never tiring on its waxen stage, but the performance has almost reached its end. On the stump, it’s barely possible to make out carvings that once adorned the proudly erect pillar unf unf unf top to bottom: runes, hieroglyphs, and holy symbols. In a similar fusion of magical craft from all beliefs and cultures, a hundred-pointed star painted with blood and ash surrounds the candle. On the points of this Centagram, a ring of sleeker candles surrounds the central one like the worshippers the golden calf.
Spending your opening para talking about a candle rather than the protag is a bad start. You're describing the set rather than the characters - not a good way to hook your reader in.
All this knowledge, all this power drawn from any possible and impossible occult source, with one goal: to keep the flame alive, to sustain Hubert’s lover.
When Abadin had arrived at the university, he had been so fascinating, so exotic. Smoldering eyes sharpened by the same charcoal lines he drew on his plucked eyebrows, preened like nobody else where Hubert lived. Abadin needs more personality and less Disney Aladdin. He pushed for them to become study partners, and while poring over the same book, Hubert would get lost drinking in Abadin’s scent of foreign spices. All courage gather, Hubert asked about them, and earned a smile radiating the sadness of a lonely desert. Together they mourned flavors lost.
The very next day, still tired from sleep lost dreaming of olive skin pressed against his, Hubert made his way to the big market. And with enough persistence, and almost all of his savings, he finally obtained what he was looking for: a single seed from half the world away.
More studying, horticultural, in languages so frustratingly foreign. But Abadin was so helpful, so gentle teaching Hubert characters flowing so much more gracefully than his own harsh scripture.
Your prose in this story feels like it's trying way to hard to be poetic, and ends up detracting rather than adding to the reading experience. For example, the phrase, "his own harsh scripture" really draws attention to itself, it made feel think that this was an important point. But it's not; I don't even know what language Hubert speaks.
Finally, after months of waking to the expectation of finding the exotic plant shriveled, Hubert had his perfect gift. A chili pepper he presented Abadin on a bed of satin, and his friend’s kohl dissolved when he saw it, and this was how they became more than friends. Honestly I thought they'd started loving ages ago. But seriously, the problem with this section is that you're trying to describe how Hubert and Abadin fell in love, but instead of making it clear that Abadin was the object of Hubert's desire, you make it sound like he's got a boner for a chili plant. It's obvious of course that he wants to grow a chili to impress Abadin, but the only reason you've given me as to why Abadin would want a chili plant is because he's "exotic," which is a bit weak and doesn't help bring him to life as a character.
Soon, a coveted degree celebrated in intimate embrace. Hidden kisses lingering for hours as they bought a house for research, food and love. Their laboratory grew as did their affection, the chili plant prospered and slowly, Hubert learned to appreciate its heat, accompanied by Abadin’s gentle mocking laughter.
But then, the laughter became raspy. His breath labored, and their bed turned from a place for fiery embraces to one of rest. Abadin had taken ill with a flu his foreign body was not used to, burning up with a fever a local might shrug off.
They had studied medicine as well, had all the resources, the herbs, the tinctures. Hubert never slept these days as he mixed ointment after potion, with a restless energy he’d last expended on winning Abadin’s love. But the fight for his life, he lost. This is where your story actually starts. Look how many words you've made me wade through to get here. A man's life-long love has died before his eyes! This is some poignant poo poo! It doesn't need all this set up. You could have established that Abadin and Hubert were lovers, had been together a long time, and that Abadin was dying / had died and Hubert wanted to save him, all in your first para. Then straight into what is Hubert going to do. The details about the chili being something that had brought them together you could have sprinkled through the story.
And thus, he turned beyond life. Days, then weeks spent poring over books as Abadin wasted away. He kept smiling this drat smile, saying it would be fine, that Hubert should just lay with him and hold him and that was all he needed. But Hubert knew that this was the only way, and if he just succeeded, they would have all the time in the world to embrace, entwine their undying flames.
So Abadin’s last hot breath left his lips as Hubert held a candle, not his lover’s hand. But through his multitude of magics, Hubert did succeed in this: matchlessly, the candle ignited, housing Abadin’s spirit until Hubert could find a new vessel. Actually I've changed my mind, this is where the story starts. Abadin had died, Hubert has trapped his soul, and now he wants to bring him back to life. That's what should be in the opening paragraph. If you read that set up you'd want to know if Hubert succeeds, right?
He’d spent more time than he liked on that quest. Every morning again fearing that over night, the candle had gone out. The life of Abadin for weeks threatened by every gust.
But here Hubert stands now, ready to clad Abadin again in life. An orphan youth that won’t be missed this is a terrible cliche. At least make it clear that the person he's kidnapped resembles Abadin's original body or something is bound to a wall inside a samesuch Centagram as on the floor; its magic paralyzes him with eyes wide open. In them, the quivering flame reflects, which will replace his spirit.
Hubert starts the ritual, lights candle after candle, with a match lit from Abadin himself. With each tiny flame, the room grows brighter than it should, and after half are lit, going on is like climbing into an active crater. But as he endured the chili’s heat that coated his palate, Hubert pushes onwards, even as the firey circle singes his hair and dries his skin. In the center, Abadin seems frozen in anticipation.
As the match touches the last wick, the entire Centagram flares up, each line in unison. The blaze unites in one bonfire, consuming the candles all, and something attempt to rise, a protuberance like an outstretched hand; but it collapses, lacking strength!
Hubert curses, upends his desk and throws it in the ring of fire. Not enough. The bed must burn, he drags it in as the youth’s eyes grow wider still beholding his obsession.
Almost high enough the fire roars. The books are next, their words the fuel for this mad endeavor anyway. And still, the fire craves, what else…
The chili plant! It won’t burn well, but this is magic; its heat a symbol.
In it goes.
For a moment, it seems this painful sacrifice was still in vain. But then, with a flash a fiery tornado builds, gathers all the fire, a magnificent pillar scorching the ceiling, and then it settles in humanoid form. A burning effigy, a djinn, Abadin lives as fire.
With haste, Hubert explains what Abadin has to do, as his lover’s glory burns off his eyebrows and parches his mouth. He gestures to the youth, and the head with features obscured by licking plumes turns towards him. In the captive’s eyes, the fire fades.
But it is Abadin’s reflection which wanes. Already, the magic falters, and he does not move to enter his new body. Hubert falls to his knees, crawls closer, his hair catching fire. He pleads through cracking lips. But Abadin shakes his head, and from his body draws an item, a shining smooth unburned perfect chili pepper.
This hits him as if the djinn had driven a flaming fist into Hubert’s stomach, and for the first time since Abadin took ill, his lover opens his eyes to reality. Sees the ashes of his life twirling in the firestorm. Sees all the time he burned and wasted, to gain back a warm embrace he himself denied his dying lover. Sees the terrified victim he would have sacrificed in his obsession. Having Abadin reject Hubert's mad plot, thus causing Hubert to change his mind, is a pretty obvious plot choice. Obvious isn't necessarily bad, but if you're not going to surprise your reader then something else has to hold their attention, and that something else almost certainly needs to be good characters feeling feelings. Unfortunately, Hubert and Abadin aren't very intersting characters to spend time with, and so I'm not getting emotionally drawn into this final encounter between the two lovers.
And so Hubert stands up and moves to free the youth, but stumbles in the stifling heat, succumbing to the fever he infected himself with. In despair, he turns to the djinn, and imagines in his empty face the lonely desert smile. Abadin throws his arm out, and a ball of fire ignites the ropes holding the youth, who falls out of the Centagram, freed from the spell. As his victim flees, Hubert attempts a scream an apology he recognizes as inadequate, but the fire has robbed him of all words. His skin feels crackling like a roasted chicken’s, but still he crawls closer to reach out, grab the chili and Abadin’s singeing hand, and manages one last request.
His lover obliges and draws him into the embrace they both desired for so long. I 100% thought that you'd killed Hubert at this point.
Once the flames have died down, from the ruins of the house a scorched figure will emerge. Hubert will be bald and scarred he sounds pretty hosed up tbh but twice alive. And for the rest of his long life, he’ll feel it on his back: the imprint of two burning arms. Whenever Hubert thinks of Abadin, they will radiate a phantom heat like a chili pepper hours after consumption. A permanent reminder that through this final fiery embrace, Abadin’s spirit will forever live in Hubert, smiling his warm desert smile. I know that the prompt didn't say you had to have a happy ending but it did say that someone gets what they want and "it's all wonderful." Suffering horrific burns and your lover still being dead is a pretty terrible version of wonderful, my friend.
Overall I think you had good ingredients (two lovers, a desperate plan, black magic, a tragic ending) but ended up making a terrible cake. Too much poetic flimflam, not enough solid character development.
|# ? Mar 25, 2020 08:26|
A crit of Ride of the Swan King by Yoruichi
King Ludvig the Fifth slouched against the red velvet seat of his favourite swan-shaped sleigh. He slid a hand under his crown to scratch where it was itching his bald spot. He hated the drat thing, the weight of it made his shoulders ache. The sleigh’s runners squeaked over the dry grass of the expansive formal lawn. Ludvig’s manservants, sweating in their stiff-collared uniforms, grunted as they hauled on the rope. The sleigh jerked forward another foot.
This is off to a bit of an awkward start, as I get hung up on a few details. "Heavy rests the crown" is a little too cliché for me, it makes little sense to me how it would itch his bald spot specifically (this line in particular seems like you're doing too much in one, commenting on his age and appearance as well as the uncomfortableness of his kingly duties/symbols, that's a reocurring problem), and there's a weird conflict between the runners squeaking (so, moving) and the sleigh only jerking forward when the rope is hauled on specifically, suggesting that it was still before.
Ludvig sighed and tried to concentrate on the thin violin notes that warbled from behind the shrubbery. The musicians had grumbled when he’d commanded them to secrete themselves around the garden, but he had insisted. What was the point of a whimsical ride in one’s favourite swan-sleigh, at the height of summer no less, if not accompanied by uplifting music? Ludvig risked a glance at the palace balcony. His son Melvin was glaring at him, arms folded across his chest.
Another small point of conflict, as your description of the sleigh-ride so far seems horrible, but Ludvig still calls it whimsical here, despite seemingly also hating it already.
The sleigh jerked forward again and Ludvig grabbed hold of one carved wing to steady himself. Suddenly he sat forward, and squinted into the hot noon sun. A black-clad figure strode towards him from the rose garden.
“Halt!” shouted Melvin. He was huffing and puffing across the lawn with a clanking retinue of palace guards.
I had to re-read this a bunch until I realized that Melvin had somehow teleported from the balcony to the lawn. Think about the timeline here: Ludvig notices the figure, and immediately afterwards, Melvin shouts something from rather close by, so either he noticed Wagner way before, and got down, AND got a bunch of guards, or something is a little off in your description. It's possibly the latter, as you're again trying to do too much at once by bringing all the actors together within the span of just two sentences.
The black-clad man paid the King’s son no heed. He bowed to Ludvig, and his cape swirled around him in an extremely pleasing manner.
“King Ludvig the Fifth, I am Richard Wagner, and I have come to save the Kingdom!”
“Save it from what?” Melvin’s face was red and his chest heaved under his silk day suit.
Ludvig twisted around to kneel on his seat and leant over the back of the sleigh.
Again, this makes little sense to me considering his previous position: he saw Wagner approach from in front of the sleigh ("he glanced forward"). Melvin can't have been on the balcony behind his father, as he could see him with just a glance. Also, he saw him approach with the guards. So why is Ludvig turning around in his seat and looking over the back of the sleigh? Who is he turning to?
“Give it a rest, Melvin,” he said. “I apologise for my son,” he added to Wagner. “He inherited a terrible seriousness from his mother.”
“Mother would have died of embarrassment if she’d seen you being dragged around the garden in a stupid sleigh!”
“She’s not stupid, she’s a beautiful swam!” Ludvig stood up on his seat and wrapped his arms around the swan’s arched wooden neck. “And you used to love sleigh rides!”
“When I was twelve! And when there was snow!”
“Enough!” shouted Wagner. He swept his cape back from his shoulders and brandished his conductor’s baton.
So far you haven't really captured my attention, but funnily enough Wagner now did. It's obvious that Ludvig is already into this distraction and Melvin is not, so you created conflict nicely by making Wagner first announce that he'd save the kingdom and now by having him shout at the king.
Ludvig’s concealed orchestra stepped forward from the bushes, twigs hanging from their white tuxedos. They stared at Wagner like men possessed, his poised baton a lightning rod for their rapt attention.
Wagner brought the baton down with sweep of his arm that sent a gust of air and dust flying into Ludvig’s open mouth. As one, the violinists dragged their bows across their strings. The baton trembled, and the clarinets began to waver. Up and down went the violinists’ bows. Trombones rang out from behind the fountain, followed by a mighty blast from the trumpeters who stood up from behind the box hedge.
A giddy smile spread across Ludvig’s face. He took his crown from his head and wiped his sweating brow with one puffy sleeve. The music was like a clarion call to his soul, he felt like a doe hearing the lusty roar of a stag at the height of the rut. Ludvig looked at Melvin, sure that he would see the same rapture written on his son’s face.
Melvin was staring with intense concentration at Wagner, and had signalled to the guards to fan out. He wore a rapier at his hip, and his hand was poised upon the hilt. Ludvig was startled by the sight. When had his softly-spoken, ernest boy learnt to command fighting men like that?
This seems a little incongrous to me as well, as Ludvig has seen Melvin command men just a few minutes ago, and he hasn't been soft-spoken in the scene at all. It seems to me that there's some previous opinion of Ludvig regarding his son missing. After all, he's called him overly serious before, that is not indicative of the soft-spokenness you allude to here, and also not a contradiction wrt commanding men. Quite the contrary, in fact.
The timpani boomed from the rose garden. Wagner waved his baton arm like a fiend and the trumpets blared. Black feathers appeared along the edges of Wagner’s cape. Some broke free from his upraised arms and swirled above the guards.
The men drew their swords.
Melvin held up his hand. “Father, what is your command?” he said.
Ludvig stared at the man who had somehow taken over his son’s body. The flutes trilled and the violins cascaded down a great waterfall of notes, like icy water poured down one’s back. Ludvig had no desire to issue commands; he never had. He felt the weight of the crown pressing on his hands.
Is he holding it as if presenting it on a plate? Even if he's gripping it by the rim, it seems weird that it presses "on" his hands. Also, isn't icy water on your back...a bad thing?
The music rose and held, the strings played tremolo and the wind musicians drew in a deep lungful. Wagner was covered in black feathers now, great long tail feathers sweeping the ground where his cape had hung. He raised his arms and his eyes met the King’s. It is time, they seemed to say, and Ludvig suddenly realised that he agreed.
“Your mother always said you would make a better King than I,” he said to his son. “She was right, of course.”
“What are you talking abou--”
Wagner’s arms crashed down and the horns blasted out a wave of sound that knocked Ludvig from his feet. He grabbed at the swan’s wing to steady himself but instead of polished wood he found thick feathers beneath his hands. The crown tumbled from his fingers. His velvet seat had become a saddle and he found himself with his legs astride a huge bird. He wrapped his arms around her neck as she unfurled enormous white wings.
I like that you keep Wagner's "skill-set" consistent, with the wind at his command.
Melvin rushed forward to catch the fur and jewel-encrusted crown, diving between the panicking manservants.
This is another sentence where you imo try to do too much at once, as he's catching the crown while also diving between people who panic, it made me think for a bit of the manservants also trying to catch the crown, maybe for themselves, and consider also: they should have been pulling the swan-sleigh with ropes, so a few meters in front of it. There's no reason for them to be so close to where the crown lands.
“Long live King Melvin,” cawed Crow-Wagner, who was now circling the swan on lustrous black wings, baton still guiding the orchestra from one clenched claw.
“Long live King Melvin!” echoed the manservants.
The guards sheathed their swords and dropped into deep bows.
With a thrust of her powerful legs the swan launched herself into the air. “You’ll make a fine King, my son!” Ludvig shouted.
Melvin stood straight, one arm shielding his eyes from the dust storm being raised by the swan’s flapping wings, the crown tucked safely under the other. He yelled over the frantic orchestra, “Where are you going?”
But Ludvig was already too high up. The music swelled to a thunderous crescendo and the wind ran electric fingers through Ludvig’s thin hair. He laughed and let out a belly-deep whoop as Crow-Wagner swooped beside him. The summer-gold kingdom spread out beneath them. Ludvig’s heart swelled with joy as he, the swan and Crow-Wagner soared away into the azure sky.
Overall, I liked the whimsical weirdness, and it was a light-hearted piece about someone simply getting what they secretly always wanted through magical intervention, which is perfectly fine; no real twists or moments of danger, you could have gone that route with Melvin and the guards but didn't. I don't know if more danger of them interrupting the performance with their swords would have improved this, however.
I was taken out of the story a little too often because the spatial relations between your "actors" confused me, and I didn't get a clear picture of what Ludvig really thought of Melvin before the latter turned out to be a capable leader. If you added that and polished up where people are standing and what they are doing at any given time, this could be quite fun.
|# ? Mar 25, 2020 13:28|
|# ? Mar 25, 2020 19:53|
|# ? Mar 26, 2020 05:52|
I’m in and I’m ready
|# ? Mar 26, 2020 08:25|
I’m in and I’m ready
|# ? Mar 26, 2020 10:12|
Sure, this sounds fun.
|# ? Mar 26, 2020 16:59|
Sure, this sounds fun.
|# ? Mar 26, 2020 19:53|
|# ? Mar 27, 2020 19:16|
yeah sure i'm in and flash
|# ? Mar 28, 2020 06:10|
|# ? Mar 28, 2020 06:53|
yeah sure i'm in and flash
Signups closed. Write em what you got em.
|# ? Mar 28, 2020 07:01|
SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT I SHOULD HAVE MADE A FEW DAYS AGO SORRY
As per TD tradition, the winner of week 399 will judge week 401. Week 400 will be a special event week because holy poo poo guys, 400 weeks of Thunderdome. What the gently caress.
|# ? Mar 28, 2020 20:23|
Chairman of the Council
Clayton Powell flicked the ignitor on the camping stove and stepped carefully back out of the hand-dawn pentagram. There wasn’t much space in his home office, and he’d had to clear everything off his desk to make room for his beakers and other long-disused implements. After all the fuss about the alleged “kidnapping” incident Clayton had sworn he’d never touch black magic again. But now his role as Chair of the Rodney District Council was at stake, and Clayton wasn’t about to let that drat Italian steal it from him.
The black liquid began to roil as the flames licked the sides of the pot. Clayton had been Chairman of the District Council for 20 years. The 3-yearly elections were a mere formality. Clayton was loved, no, revered by the good people of Rodney. No one questioned his right to sit at the head of the council table. Not until Frank Bianchi had the gall to add his name to the ballot sheet.
Clayton still cursed the day he’d first met Frank. It was not long after Bianchi moved to Rodney from central Auckland. When the pipe from Clayton’s hot water cylinder had burst and flooded his triple car garage he’d thought he’d do the magnanimous thing, give the new plumber a call. But not only had the JAFA git charged him an arm and a leg, he’d accused Clayton of illegally installing the cylinder himself (which was true) and botching the pipework (an absolute bloody lie).
Purple steam was rising from the boiling pot in the center of the pentagram. Clayton jumped as his desk phone began to ring. He lunged for the trilling handset and knocked a jar of lamb’s blood onto the floor. It hissed where it splashed onto the salt outline of the pentagram. Clayton swore.
“Yes?” he barked into the phone.
“Mr Powell? It’s Blake. From next door?”
Clayton winced at the sound of the teenager’s reedy voice.
“I think you should check the news, Sir.”
“Yes Blake very good,” he said. “Bye now.” Clayton banged down the handset and punched the power button on his PC. He coughed; the steam had turned to acrid smoke, and was quickly filling the small room.
The PC whirred to life and Clayton clicked to bring up the website of the Rodney District Times. His heart hammered as he watched the loading bar. Clayton had an awful flashback to the scandal with Beth Aitken, all those years ago. Maybe she’d told Frank - they were living together now, after all - and they’d dragged out all the old stories--
“All charges were dropped! It was a misunderstanding!” Clayton shouted at the computer. He thumped the desk with one meaty fist, making his beakers rattle.
The smoke was making his eyes water. Covering his nose and mouth with his sleeve he bent down and turned off the burner. The carpet was smoldering where the lamb’s blood had interrupted the pentagram. He stamped on it with one slippered foot.
He looked at the smoking pot, the pathetic camping stove, and his spoiled pentagram. It wasn’t enough. He needed something much more powerful.
Down in his garage Clayton dragged a chest out from the dark recesses of the storage cupboard. A shudder ran through him as he caressed the burnished brass lock. The lid creaked open and a puff of mildewy air hit his face. Buried under piles of musty ingredient pouches and hand-scrawled notebooks was a heavy iron cauldron. He cradled it, and felt the old power thrumming through the metal.
Heart beating fast, Clayton stacked firewood under the cauldron’s tripod and with a muttered incantation summoned the fire to life. Still got it, he thought, rubbing his hands together before the flames. The hot iron hissed as he dumped in the contents of the pot from his office and what was left of the lamb’s blood. Kneeling before the chest Clayton searched its corners for the one pouch he knew for certain was still in there. His most precious ingredient, for use only in the most desperate of circumstances. A lock of Bethenny Aitken’s hair.
The cauldron rolled and steamed and the wood fire smoked. The air in the garage felt electric. Clayton raised his arms and pictured himself resplendent once again in the Chairman’s seat. He drew the lock of hair from the pouch and held it to his nose one final time, before casting it into the cauldron.
The wail of sirens shocked him from his reverie. The hair burst into flames and the steam from the cauldron turned red, then green, then settled to a sickly yellow. Clayton stumbled from the garage to find Blake Henderson standing open-mouthed on his driveway.
“Are those police?” Clayton said, as the sirens grew louder. “Why are there police coming down our street?”
“I thought your house was on fire! So I--”
A wailing fire engine swung into the driveway and rocked to a halt in front of Clayton’s house. Frank jumped down, still pulling on his volunteer firefighter’s suit. He yanked a hose from the side of the truck.
“Wait!” Clayton shouted, but Frank was already in the garage. A river of sooty water washed out onto the driveway.
Clayton glared at Blake, suddenly sure that the pimply bugger had set him up.
Frank reappeared from the garage, drying his hands on his thighs. “Maybe next time stick to barbequing outdoors, ok?” He held his hand out to Clayton.
“What the bloody hell do you want?” Clayton said.
“I thought I’d congratulate you. Didn’t you see the news?”
“Frank’s pulled out,” said Blake. “Said he hasn’t got time to be a councillor anymore now that him and Beth are having a baby.”
Clayton blinked. Bethenny was pregnant? “But, what about the election?” he burst out.
“I guess it’s just a formality now,” said Frank.
Clayton ignored Frank’s outstretched hand. He pictured himself, resplendent in the Chairman’s seat - his seat - and rubbed his hands together. Blake wandered off to look at the fire engine. The popular trees rustled above their heads, as the last of the spell’s vapours dispersed on the breeze.
|# ? Mar 29, 2020 01:19|
Prompt: White Rabbit (Alice)
The chips were set. The cards had been dealt. Some had even been played, before Lucky and his crew politely barged in and commandeered the table. But they weren't here to play Poker. Today, Al's Pachinko Lounge would host a different game of reading people.
Al's was owned by Lucy—Lucky's only sister in a lineup of nine brothers—and while Lucky usually called his meetings at his own establishment—Lucky's Pizzarino, kitty-corner from here—today there were circumstances.
Last night, Lucky's Pizzarino had been raided by the Pigs, and Pete "Cheeky Bon-Bon" Tomasino got nabbed. Of course it itched; Cheeky was his best guy. But what itched more was the nagging feeling that this was no random bust. Someone in the Colony was a rat. Today, Lucky aimed to find out who.
Already, he had a suspect.
Lucky counted five of his goons around the green felt table, when there should've been six. To his left sat Jimmie "Checks" Napoli, the gentle giant who required two chairs, one for each cheek. Checks once took a shotgun blast to his torso and lived, so you're drat right he earned that extra chair. Next, Louie "Long-ears" Lanzetta sat between Franky and Frankie— "Two-Buns" and "Bucktooth" respectively—and finally, Vincent "Clover" Moretti incessantly chewed on something, but at least he was quiet about it.
The chair to Lucky's right was vacant.
"Where the gently caress is Tipper?" he said.
Tipper was the new guy. Little rough around the edges, but with his talented tongue and charismatic smile, the guy could sell you a dead fish from the canal at a hundred-percent markup. Sure, he was annoying as hell, but he was useful—or so Lucky had thought.
His boys glanced around, but offered nothing. Their scared looks, like rabbits hiding from a wolf, might've amused Lucky any other day, but today he was fresh out of patience. He dug his pocket watch from his burgundy waistcoat pocket and flicked it open. Time's up. He clapped it shut.
That confirmed it. Tipper was the rat, and now he was in hiding.
Lucky opened his mouth to speak, when a bell jingled in the doorway. Tipper entered and sauntered over, pulled up a chair and straddled it.
"You're late," Lucky said, grimacing.
"Sorry Cap," Tipper said, snatching a martini off a passing server's tray.
"That's it...? You're sorry?"
"I'm... really sorry." Tipper raised the glass to his lips.
Lucky unhooked his striped umbrella from the back of his chair and batted the stemmed glass out of Tipper's hands. Tipper yelped as it shattered on the floor. Two little olives tumbled away as a salty pungent aroma filled the air.
"Do you think your time is more important than everyone else's?" said Lucky.
Lucky leaned closer. "You think I'd ever be so disrespectful as to show up late to a meeting?"
"Ey Bosso," Clover interrupted, speaking through the wad in his mouth, "weren't you late to your own wedding?"
The scraping of metal across tile made Lucky's teeth grind to the root as the others scooted away from Clover. Clover stopped chewing. His eyes twitched back and forth. Perhaps he wished he could dial back time and try again. He nearly jumped out of his skin when Lucky barked a laugh.
"You right," said Lucky
Tipper's face lit up. "Cap, I never knew you was married!"
“I ain’t.” Lucky smirked. “Because I was late.”
Raucous laughter spread around the table. Clover’s laugh rang louder than the others. He had a cute face—chubby cheeks, beady eyes, and a pink nose—it was a wonder he didn’t get chewed up out there.
Or was it?
Why was he asking such personal questions? Why did he need to know? Who was really asking? Lucky eyed him suspiciously.
"Alright, boys," Lucky said abruptly. "You all know why we’re here instead of—"
"Ey Bosso," Clover blurted, "any word on Cheeky Bon-Bon? We gonna roll some heads?"
"... I'm getting to that, you knucklehead."
Clover turned red.
"As you know,” Lucky started again, “the 'Rino got hit, and Cheeky got nabbed. I've called you here because I suspect— Hey Tips."
Tipper’s head shot up. Everyone had been paying close attention except him. He’d been busy stacking cards into a house.
"Tips, could you go get my beat-stick from my car?"
"Sure thing, Cap!" Tipper sprang up and hurried out.
Lucky met eyes with Checks and nodded. Make sure he don't make it to the car.
Both metal chairs sighed as Checks rose to his feet. He followed Tipper out. An elderly couple skittered aside from the doorway to allow him to squeeze his mass through.
Lucky tugged his pocket watch out and flicked it open. His white mustachio twitched with each tick of the second hand. He glanced at his remaining men. Clover’s knee was bouncing beneath the table. What did he have to be so nervous about?
Just as Lucky determined Clover had to be the real culprit, Franky "Two-Buns" sprang up and disappeared into the kitchen. Moments later, he reappeared carrying a fluffy white-frosted cake that smelled of caramel and cinnamon. He plopped it atop the pile of cards and chips at the center of the table.
There were two problems with that.
Firstly, Lucky hated when people drew attention to his birthday—let a man age to himself, you know?
Second, and more importantly—
Lucky jabbed the point of his umbrella into Franky's hand, pinning him to the table. "Just curious," he said, "what kinda cake is that?"
A sweltering rage boiled inside Lucky. His body shook as he allotted every ounce of willpower toward containing it. "I know my name might confuse you," he said, his pulse quickening, "but allow me to make one thing perfectly clear…" Lucky hooked his umbrella handle around Franky’s neck and yanked him down. Franky's face smashed into the cake, the impact sending poker chips rattling across the table. Lucky pressed his face close to Franky’s ear and bellowed, "I AIN'T A FUCKIN' RABBIT!" Lucky shoved Two-Buns to the floor and jutted an accusatory finger at the others. "Did you know about this?"
"Nah Cap," Bucktooth said, shaking his head. "Errybody knows yous allergic…"
Lucky was on his feet in an instant. Louie "Long-ears" tackled Two-Buns and pinned him down, while Lucky circled the table and jabbed the tip of his umbrella into the soft pressure point of Franky’s shoulder.
"First, you sell me out to the Pigs," Lucky said between gritted teeth. "Now you tryin' to bump me off? Well not on my watch, bucko!"
"Lucky, noooooo!" Franky yowled, "I swear I didn't know!"
The little bell jingled in the doorway. Lucky ignored it, raising his umbrella overhead like a club.
"Ey Bosso..." Clover said, looking past him. Lucky followed his gaze.
Checks had returned. And so had Tipper.
Before Lucky could express his dismay, a stout woman with dark curls and a pronounced aquiline nose budged past them. She parked before Lucky with her hands on her hips, eyebrows raised to her hairline. Her lips did that scrunchy thing. Lucky let his arms fall to his sides. A smile climbed over his face. "Lucy!"
"Aldo Giovanni Esposito," she said, scowling. “You let him go right now.”
"Aw, come on, don't call me that in front of my boys…"
Lucy whirled on the crew and spoke in her best customer-service voice. "Could you excuse us please?"
Once they’d all filed out, Lucy turned back to him. "Lucky, what're you doin'? Why'd you send Checks after Mario?"
"Tipper's a rat, Luc! He got the Pigs to raid the 'Rino."
Lucy crinkled her brow. "Okay… And Franky?"
"He tried to poison me." Lucky gestured at the cake splattered on the table.
"Disliking carrots ain't the same as bein' allergic..."
"Well, they don't know that."
Lucy rolled her eyes. "Look, you don't have a rat."
"Of course I have a rat! How else would the Pigs have cause to strike the Pizzarino? Thankfully they came while I was out celebrating my birthday at Cotton Tales." He added with a whisper, "It was open poetry night. I won third!"
A smile flickered across her face, but disappeared just as quickly. She shrugged one shoulder. "Lucky... It was me. I called the Pigs."
Lucky's heart stopped. She was kidding. She had to be. Right? How could his dear sister do such a thing?
"But Lucy. Cheeky was watchin' the place. They got him..."
Lucky gaped at her. "You know? But... why?"
Lucy raised her hand to inspect her nails. She smacked her lips.
“Because he dumped me."
|# ? Mar 29, 2020 06:39|
Fluttershy and Pinky [and the Brain]
“Planet Eternia is under imperial blockade. Please turn back.”
When the stark white starfighter hailed her, Fiona jumped in her pilot seat. She had known it was coming. She had prepared an answer. And yet, her finger trembled uselessly on the comm button.
“Final warning before I shoot at you!”
Fiona realized her free hand was holding her hair in a death-grip. With great effort, she released the tortured locks, and stroked the bright pink mane for a soothing few seconds. She slammed her finger down.
“This is freighter Pegasus on a humanitarian mission!”, Fiona yelled. “I’m Captain Fiona Sheen, carrying food and medicine. By common war convention, you have to let me deliver these.”
The silence stretched out and her hair suffered again. She gently pushed the button again. “Please?”
The answer was gentle and without a hint of mockery. “Hello Fiona, this is Commander Peter Kim, right hand man of Emperor Heern. You’re wrong about this. We’re not at war!”
“You imprison the Eternians…”
“Because they do not understand that the Emperor brings peace and prosperity! He is a very smart man, much smarter than them! Because they keep resisting, and that is stupid.”
Fiona knew what she should say. She had already explained her conviction to help the Eternians against Heern, the evil oppressor, when her friends had tried to stop her. She should throw all this in Kim’s face.
But instead, she just closed her eyes and fondled her hair.
“So will you be smart?”, Kim asked. “It was great talking with you, but you really have to leave now.”
No, I don’t. Fiona’s eyes shot open, took in the entire view: the clouded planet, its defense satellites, the hundreds of imperial spaceships surrounding it. A blockade meant mostly to keep people in and break their will. She could do this. She had to.
After a final fistful of soft pink comfort, she slammed the speed lever forward, yanked the flight stick hard left and shot past Kim’s fighter.
“That’s not the right direction!” His protests shot past the Pegasus as did his laser bolts. Fiona knew her old freighter could not beat the commander’s ship. It was faster, more agile, and was armed. But she only had to reach the Eternian defense grid.
“I’m sure you panicked and pushed the wrong button. Just hold on, I’ll stop your ship!”
Fiona had no hands free to stop Kim from yelling at her. She adjusted the list of her wings as she dove downwards, dodging a barrage that cut through where her engines were a millisecond ago. Pegasus went into a corkscrew motion, and Fiona closed her eyes to not get sick from the tumbling picture on the screen. For moments drawn out like bubblegum on sole, she flew entirely by memory. Then, a yank on the compensator handle, Pegasus stabilized, and she saw Eternia – right in front.
Fiona allowed herself a grin. One final sprint, and…
A giant hand slammed against her back, the restraints bruised her shoulders. All air left her lungs.
“I got you!”, trilled Kim through the alarms. “Just the engines. You’ll be fine, prepare for boarding please!”
His cheerful voice rang like a Monday morning wakeup in Fiona’s ears as the black spots in her eyes converged and swallowed her.
ӂ ӂ ӂ
On the mighty flagship, they stood in front of Emperor Heern himself, a tiny man cloaked in shadow.
“Just throw her in a cell,” the imperious voice commanding a dozen planets snarled.
“That would be such a waste! Heern, you should have seen her fly. She almost beat me with a slowpoke freighter!”
“You almost failed to stop her from ruining my blockade!”
“It was an accident, I’m sure. Fiona, back me up, you panicked and made a dumb mistake, right?”
Shackled, bruised and slumped, Fiona managed a nod that was not even a lie.
“See? She’s sorry and will do her best to make it up. Right, Fiona?”
“I’ll do my best to make it up,” she murmured.
The Emperor let out a well-suffered sigh. “Then do whatever, Peter. But I’ll be very angry if…”
Peter whooped. “You’re the nicest man in the galaxy! See, Fiona? This generosity and wisdom is what the Eternians are missing out on. Let’s help them together!”
Heern leaned forward, almost leaving the shadows. “So you’re willing to assist Commander Kim in our righteous fight?”
Fiona shrunk until she was smaller than the Emperor. She was more convinced than ever that this man was evil and needed to be stopped. But what could she do? She glanced at Kim and his expectant, beaming smile.
Head down, survive, and hope.
“…yes. Yes, I’ll help.”
Kim slapped her on the back as if another engine had exploded. “That’s the spirit! We’ll get you a fighter fitted right away. And you get to try it out tonight.”
Fiona wanted to melt into the floor. But Kim’s stare and grin put a pressure on her that was about to make her head explode. He needed her to ask, and she could not resist.
“What…what are we gonna do tonight?”
Heern chuckled like a strummed bass.
“Try to take over the world.”
ӂ ӂ ӂ
Fiona’s fingers twitched beside her face, expecting hair that was no longer there. She had not dared to look in the mirror after the navy barber had finished with his buzzcut. She knew that her dams would break when she saw what they had done to her and leave her a dirty puddle. Until then, she was completely numb.
“I’m so pumped for the attack tonight. The Eternians are gonna be like huh? And we’re gonna be like whoosh! And then…”
Commander Kim – Peter – waved his arms around to illustrate his planned maneuvers. Nobody else in the mess hall even looked up; they had to be used to his antics. Fiona stared at the slop in front of her and thought about its resemblance to her life right now.
“Don’t you like broccoli?” As soon as she moved her head even a centimeter to the side, Kim plunged his fork into Fiona’s veggies. “You must be so grateful to Heern! I had to beg him for years to let me fly one of these beauties. So worth it. Biggest fun I ever had. You’re going to love it!”
Fiona moved something that might be meat a little to the side and back again and made a noncommittal sound. Maybe she could just take the fighter and fly, far far away and never think about this again, forget about Eternia and return to her friends and their laughter at having been right.
“When we finally defeat the Eternians together, Heern will be so grateful. We go way back, you know? He knows he can rely on me because I get every job done. Eventually.”
He leaned back and got a distant expression as he chewed his own maybe meat for a while. “He can be a little difficult when it doesn’t work right away. But tonight will be re-soun-ding! And he’s gonna shower us in praise!”
Fiona really wanted to keep smiling an empty smile and nod. But again she almost touched a strand of hair that was no longer there, and something in her broke.
“Peter, you seem like a really nice guy. Does it never bother you to kill so many people?”
He almost fell off his chair backwards, but instead rocked forward and suddenly was very close.
“Fiona, what kind of question even is that. Are you still confused about this? We’re not killing anybody, we’re not in a war. All this pew pew is just a fancy lightshow. Getting the point across about Heern. Or are you not alive after I shot you down?”
Her bruises still throbbed, but she was afraid to touch them.
“Modern ships have all these safety features! Nobody dies in a shoot-out. Fiona, please. We’re civilized people. I should be offended, but I’ll forgive my future wingmate everything. At least if you let me finish your steak.”
Fiona closed her eyes, felt the throbbing intensify, and nodded her cold light head tersely.
ӂ ӂ ӂ
Peter’s ship flew right through the explosion. “Did you see that? That was awesome!”
Fiona saw the Eternian pilot whose ship had submitted to Peter’s shots sail away in an emergency bubble. The third in a row for whom the notoriously fickle technology had worked. How much longer would this last? Every death out here would be on her as well, while she still supported the empire implicitly.
An Eternian shot grazed her cockpit, startling her. She let her flight instincts take over, like when she had evaded Peter for a while. This fighter was phenomenal, she had to admit. Like a rodent slinking away into a sewer grate, she dove away from the pursuit of two “enemy” fighters, their helpless blasts mirrored in her shining hull. Sleek and fast and deadly. And fun. She gritted her teeth as she had to admit it to herself, she understood why Peter kept annoying her with cries of joy. But this was so wrong. She didn’t want to do this. But her chance to just slink away tail between legs was gone long ago. All she could do was just. not. pull. the. trigger.
“Get rid of the guy behind me!”, Peter yelled. In a trance, she fell in line, in position to shoot down his pursuer. It would be so easy, the Eternian pilots had nothing on her. He waggled in her crosshairs, but she predicted all his moves. Just a push of the button, and she could keep up her ruse of helping the empire, and survive.
And then what? Try to convince Peter that Heern was a bad man? Peter, who was dumb as a stone and twice as loyal? He would not betray his oldest friend. Any of the other imperials? Could she convince them? With what charisma?
Peter performed a flawless loop, shaking off the distracted Eternian and ending up next to him.
“He’s boxed in! Free shot, take him out!”
Fiona knew that she had to finally decide what she actually wanted to do. Her fist crushed phantom hair. And her finger pulled the trigger.
Peter’s left thruster exploded. A plume of burning fuel escaped – but not Peter. Fiona gasped. But it was done now, and she had to live with the consequences. And see them firsthand.
Hidden in the smoke and embers, she followed the crashing fighter down to the surface of Eternia.
ӂ ӂ ӂ
For the first time, Fiona had been glad for a more practical haircut. It had been a desperate dig, then drag, then first aid effort, but Peter, encased in a safety bubble that had not ejected, lived. And grinned a dumb grin.
“I told you nobody dies in these fights.”
She could not hold it any longer. Fiona cried ugly screaming tears.
“There, there. This was a bust, but next time we’ll take this world.”
From a curtain of salt and snot, Fiona broke forth with a furious grimace and spat her words in Peter’s face.
“There is no ‘we’! I don’t want to take any worlds, you moron! I hate you and I hate Heern and I hate the empire and that you enslaved me and cut my hair! You disgusting…evil…”
She could not speak any more, but fixated Peter with a glare that made him recoil.
“Wow, I’m sorry that you feel this way. Why didn’t you just tell me? You could have had a cozy cell and kept your style!”
His earnest confusion deflated her. Fiona sat back on her legs and gazed up to a sky where the lights of lasers and explosions painted her a picture of the empire losing soundly, with their best pilot gone.
And that victory was hers.
With only a little hesitation, she reached up and stroked what was left of her hair. A rough sensation, but still soothing, and she managed a little smile.
|# ? Mar 29, 2020 21:44|
Got to get, even
959 / 1,500 words
Moved to the archives.
Staggy fucked around with this message at 23:25 on Jan 7, 2021
|# ? Mar 29, 2020 23:23|
I remember flashes mostly. Cracked brick wall. Folding chair. Puddle of puke. Stealing, fighting, fixing, and falling down. And then, one day, although it could've been the same day for all I knew, it was a couple of stringbean arms under my pits, pulling me up to my feet. I thought it was some kind of ghoul, finally come to drag me down to hell for my punishment. But it wasn't.
Officer Chagewicz cleaned me up. Splash of water, fast-food burger - even popped me half a xan to cure me long enough to come to grips. "It's worse than ever," he said. His voice was always squeaky, got his balls busted non-stop over it - that and his clinical inability to put on muscle mass - probably why he ended up quartermaster instead of beat. But his voice shook when he was talking to me, some kind of nervous fear I never saw in him before. "You gotta come back, man. You gotta put a stop to it."
"I gotta? I can't do poo poo. I told you it would only get worse. That's why I left, remember? Those three will take every little scrap they can and leave nothing on the bone. I can't do poo poo to them, what makes you think I can?"
Chagewicz furrowed his caterpillar brows at me, mouth twisted like I might've made a joke he didn't get. Then the sound of my voice caught up with my brain. He didn't understand a word I said. Must've passed out on my jaw wrong. Happens all the time. We took our time and sorted things out.
"They think you're dead, or so junked-up you're no threat."
"I was never a threat to them when I was stronger."
"Exactly, man! You're, like, a wildcard!"
"Why now? You've been on the take for years. What changed?"
"It's not just frame-jobs and drug money anymore, man. They're changing the playbook. It's kids now. They're… dealing… children." He could barely choke out the words, and the minute he did he started sobbing. "They had me source all these… little handcuffs… for little hands. I can't take it anymore. It has to stop."
My fingers flexed. I massaged my jaw, that soreness coming through clearer. I started sweating harder. Vision going narrow and red. A growl rose from somewhere down behind my heart. "You know where it's going down?" He nodded. "You got a gun for me? A car?"
"I-- I got a gun for you, sure. But no car. I'll drive you."
I fixed my gaze on Chagewicz. The foul scent of his past treachery was still lodged in my brain, coming unglued with the rest of the melting tar in there. I couldn't stop myself from snapping at him. Almost ready to bite. "Remember the last time you drove me somewhere? I wound up here."
He flinched. His eyes pleaded with mine, bloodshot. "I'm sorry, Detective. You were the best of any of us. You always were. It's just… They got me by the neck, Fredericks and them, and they never let go. They never have, not an inch. I didn't want to die. Didn't want my daughter…" He trailed off, gaze drifting. His mouth goldfished, producing nothing more than a hoarse whisper from the back of his throat.
It was real. And he was right. I was the only one who could stop it.
It was a simple game they ran, which makes it all the more embarrassing for me, how many times they caught me up in it. It went like this.
Step one. Pick a minion to do the job. Probably a beat cop. Someone loyal, who loves being on the take and who has something they can exploit, like a gambling problem, or the love of his life.
Step two. Put a mask on him. Something distinctive, like a Frankenstein. Doesn't matter what it is, it just has to be something that'll have all the papers saying, "Sweet Jesus, terrible crimes were committed by a man in a Frankenstein mask, this is sensational!" Send him out to do said crimes, and plant a trail of evidence to be picked up on by some do-gooder.
Step three. Send in the do-gooder - that's me. Said do-gooder will pick up the planted clues, put together an investigation, and get busy plotting out how to bust Frankenstein. Said do-gooder will feel great about himself, and will not notice the leash around his neck.
Step four. On the appointed day, kidnap the person you wish to frame - through trickery or force - and put them in the Frankenstein mask. Just when the heroic do-gooder is about to round the corner, you kick the masked kidnapee out of the van, and speed off. Do-gooder tackles Frankenstein and un-masks him to reveal - gasp! - it's the Chief of Police! And he almost got away with it too. Nevermind that he denies up and down any semblance of guilt.
Step five. Quietly assume the power left behind by those you framed. Expand, consolidate, and get ready to do it all over again. Pat your do-gooder on the head, throw him a bonus for a job well done, and tell him not to worry about those little niggling details.
I had my own sixth step. Never figure how to ignore the little details. Bring them home every night. Drink more. Neglect the wife. Obsess. Spiral. Confront the boss. Become a problem. Get dealt with. Lose it all - the reputation, the wife, the house. Disappear. Realize that at least down there, in the scum, you're off the leash.
Step seven. Get into a car with a man who betrayed you countless times before, but this time, be confident he isn't. Wonder if his reasons, genuine as they may be, weren't planted by someone higher up with an understanding of how to manipulate this man. Get halfway across the bridge to the warehouse district before realizing that the trap, which he swore up and down is not a trap, is most certainly a trap.
Step eight. Roll out of the car and jump into the canal.
The saltwater rush into my nose and lungs woke me up for the first time in months. Still not quite enough to coordinate my arms and legs to effectively swim for the ladder, at least not through piss-soaked trousers and a long overcoat. But it felt good.
By the time I hauled myself up on dry land, Chagewicz's car wasn't on the bridge anymore. A big part of me said he went on ahead to warn them. A little part, an old part, said he trusted me. I checked the heavy long-barrel pistol he'd given me. It looked like it'd still work.
I passed through some other dockyards to get to the one Sergeant Dinkley had sourced years ago. I'd never been there before, but I'd staked it out, near the end. Somehow, I still had some shred of a good reputation with the workers I passed on the way - they let me through and slapped my back for catching some corrupt pieces of poo poo. They were in for some heartbreak later, I hoped.
I crouched near a door to the warehouse and peered through the crack. Chief Fredericks supervised while Sergeant Dinkley removed a padlock and chain from a shipping container. She opened it up and peered inside - too dark for me to see, but she recoiled from some smell. "That's justice you're smelling, bitch," I muttered. I squeezed the grip of my pistol and tensed up to burst through the door and lay them low - but a deafening thunder came from above me and nearly flattened me.
I scrambled behind some crates as the helicopter landed. A woman stepped out - I recognized her, it was the district attorney. Couldn't remember her name. She shook hands with Chief Fredericks. All smiles. She whispered in his ear and he cocked an eyebrow. He motioned for a lackey to toss him an assault rifle, and he raised his voice.
"You out there, Detective? Mrs. Blake here says she saw you scurrying around behind my warehouse. You can come on out, now. Or we can come and find you."
I was out of moves. I stood up, still gripping the gun.
"There you are. Why don't you drop the gun, Detective? We can talk this through. We want you back on the winning team." Fredericks' pearly white teeth blinded me even in the dusk light.
"I'm on my own team now." I dove, squeezing the trigger. Aiming to wound. I wanted justice, not blood, as crazy as that sounds in that moment. Their rifles exploded, tearing up everything around me. I felt myself get hit, more than once. But it wasn't me that was screaming in pain.
And wouldn't you know it? Before long, there was Chagewicz again, pulling me up by my armpits, loading me into an ambulance. "We did it, man," he croaked. "We won."
|# ? Mar 29, 2020 23:25|
The Airport Food Court Caper
Jerry Mouse/Tweety Bird
Tabby looked up as she was jostled by her Uncle Mel leaning forward from the back seat to crack her Uncle Wald across the back of his head. Her eyes returned to her Gameboy and her mind returned to being Luigi. The U2 album that played on her headphones mercifully drowned out whatever argument they were having, even if the CD kept skipping.
Uncle Mel was shaking her by the shoulder, gently but persistently. Tabby sighed, that meant they had arrived. She paused the game and slumped out of the car. Mel shoved her hot pink Barbie suitcase into her arms, then hefted Wald’s case out of the trunk and held it out to him, dropping it before the other man had chance to grab it. The case sprang open and Wald scurried to retrieve several pairs of heart patterned underpants as Mel grabbed his own case.
Wald went and shut the trunk, then picked up both his and Mel’s cases, but after they had gone two steps, dropped one of them on Mel’s foot. Mel hopped on one foot and cursed, holding his foot in one hand and trying to shove at Wald with the other. He appealed to Tabby for sympathy, but she ignored him.
“Hey, buddy! Ain’t you gonna pay me?” the cab driver yelled.
After a disagreement about who was going to get their wallet out of their Hawaiian shorts, they were on their way into the airport. Wald grabbed a trolley to stack their cases on, and put his and Tabby’s on it. Mel tapped Wald on the shoulder, and when he turned his back, Mel barged his suitcase off the trolley with his own. Wald grinned at Tabby, and pushed the trolley in through the airport doors. Just as they got inside, he noticed the absence of his own suitcase and threw up his arms in alarm. He whipped his head from side to side, the oversized camera around his neck bouncing around. Then he saw his case on the ground outside, lying open revealing piles of identical Hawaiian shirts. He scurried out to grab it.
While Wald was jumping on his case in an attempt to get it to close again, Mel gestured to Tabby to get behind him, while holding a finger to his lips conspiratorially.
Uncle Wald struggled back through the airport doors, holding his suitcase shut. He placed it carefully on the trolley and held an index finger to if telling it to remain closed. Then he smiled at Wald for a second, before making a realisation with a start. He gestured somewhere around waist height, which was shorter than Tabby but Mel got the idea. He shrugged. Wald began to visibly panic, but then Mel started grinning. He stepped out of the way to reveal the girl behind him, who was completely absorbed in her music and her game.
Both men grabbed the handle of the trolley and it snaked from side to side as they both wrestled for control of it. Tabby lagged behind, busy punching bricks and going down pipes in Mushroom Kingdom. She was vaguely aware of some pocket patting by both uncles as they pretended to have forgotten the tickets, as stood in front of the departure board.
They needed check in desk 54, and they looked up to see that they were in line with number 1. Wald grabbed Tabby and sat her on top of the suitcases, then looked at Mel, who counted down from three on his fingers, then they both started running with the trolley, leaving several knocked down old people and crying children in their wake.
After several minutes of running, they both stopped, panting, and looked up to see that they were now in line with check in desk 9. Tabby had not looked up from her Gameboy. The two men looked at each other, huffed a sigh, and started running again.
They stopped just short of colliding with a wall. Now they were next to desk 30. Mel held his hands up and jumped up and down. Wald pointed to a sign which read ‘Check in desks 31-60 downstairs.’ Mel bent double and gasped for breath. Wald saw the opportunity and grabbed the tickets out of Mel’s shirt pocket, and hid them down his own shirt. When Mel had recovered, they headed to the elevators. They were out of order.
After a struggle to carry the trolley with suitcases and Tabby downstairs, where Mel and Wald fought to knock each other over without harming her in the process, they made it to the correct check in desk.
Mel waltzed up to the desk, which miraculously had no line. He smiled at the check in assistant, and reached into his shirt pocket. His hand closed on nothing and a look of horror crossed his face. He whipped around to look at Wald, who was grinning innocently with his hands behind his back. Mel got up in his face and yelled. Wald stepped backwards and pulled the tickets out of his shirt and held them up, laughing. Mel snatched them out of his hand, shoved Wald, and then put on a more polite expression as he faced the check in lady.
The lady looked at the tickets, shook her head, and pointed to the sign above her head, which read 53, then to the one next to hers, number 54. The line for desk 54 snaked around the whole of the lobby. Mel shook his head and pointed to his watch, and the check in lady just shrugged.
Mel heaved a sigh as Wald laughed, and they all trudged to the back of the line.
Uncle Mel looked at his watch. It was five-o-one. He tapped his foot for a while, then looked again. It was five-o-two. He sighed as the line moved forward half an inch. His watch said five-o-one again.
Mel jumped up and down and pointed at his watch. He paced up and down while Wald laughed at him. Then Mel brightened, and pointed to a sign that said ‘Hot Cawfee’. He wiggled his eyebrows at Wald, who nodded. Tabby opened her mouth to say what she would like, but he held up two thumbs to her then and was speeding off.
Uncle Mel returned and pressed a large cup of chocolate milk into her hands and ruffled her hair. Then he turned around and smiled at Wald, then pretended to trip and spilled both hot coffees on Wald but mostly on the white shirt of the extremely large man in front of them in the line. Mel shouted at Wald, and pointed at his leg, which certainly not tripped him up. But anyone who had not been watching might be inclined to believe Mel from the degree of his protests.
The very large man turned around slowly, his face bright red and huge fists already balled up in rage. He looked at Mel, who looked shocked and pointed at Wald. The man punched Wald straight in the face, and then when Mel laughed, he punched him too.
The check in man gaped at their matching bruised faces. “Wald Ratcliff, Mel Finch and Tabby Finch?” he asked after a beat. The three of them nodded. “Did you pack your bags yourself?” Mel put a finger to his chin. Wald smacked him on the arm, then bodily forced him to nod his head as he and Tabby did so of their own volition.
The trip through security was a farce, with Mel needling Wald into acting suspicious by pantomiming various banned items that he might have in his hand luggage. They both had to be strip searched, and Tabby just sat in the waiting area, glad of an uninterrupted hour with her game.
An announcement came over the loudspeaker. “Tabby Finch please report to customer services. That’s Tabby Finch, report to customer services. Thank you.”
Tabby pulled off her headphones to check she wasn’t hearing things. She looked at her uncles, who were balling up pieces of toast to throw at each other. She tugged on Uncle Wald’s sleeve. He looked at her, and a piece of toast hit him square in the eye. He cried out in pain and flailed for something to throw back at Mel, but Tabby was insistently tugging his sleeve and pointing to the loudspeaker box. Mel looked at Wald, who drew his hand across his throat and shook his head. Tabby frowned, then shrugged and shoved a chunk of sausage into her mouth, then returned to trying to keep Luigi stay alive.
Uncle Mel shook Tabby’s shoulder and pointed to another table where another girl around her age was sitting with her mom and younger brother. Mel pantomimed grabbing the other girl’s hat and running away, then shoved her in that direction. Tabby looked at him, shook her head once, then returned to her game. Wald shook his head and his finger at Mel. Then they started to have a hushed conversation. Tabby was not interested.
“Tabby Finch please report to customer services. That’s Tabby Finch, report to customer services. Thank you.”
This time she just ignored it and they finished their breakfasts, or in the case of her uncles, threw it at or around each other. A passing businessman got a fried egg to the face. A tomato splatted the back of a bride’s dress and slowly drew a red trail down it.
“Tabby Finch?” a gruff voice barked.
The three of them looked up. Two security guards were standing there, with a dishevelled lady holding a bottle in a brown paper bag behind them. Tabby looked away as her mom shouted something at her, and gestured for her to get right over there.
One of the guards took her by the shoulder and led her towards her mom. Tabby tried to grab the tail of Uncle Wald’s shirt but the other security guard pried it away. Uncle Mel reached out for her but was blocked by the first security guard. She looked over her shoulder as her mom roughly grabbed her wrist and pulled her away. The security guards were marching Uncle Mel and Uncle Wald away, having to pull them further and further away from each other as they aimed punches and kicks in each other’s direction.
|# ? Mar 30, 2020 01:34|
The Little Magician
“I have this dream sometimes. It’s late at night. I’m sitting in the passenger seat of a car. The radio is off and the only sound is our tires against the asphalt. We glide past line after line of reflectors along a dark road up in the hills. It’s so smooth that it feels like we’re floating.”
“But then something changes. I notice that we aren’t following the reflectors but beginning to pass them, to overlap them. I say nothing as we veer off the road, as we jitter over the rumble strip and into the grass. The driver and I sit in silence as our light beams illuminate the guard rail. And then we jacknife through it, careening into the open air. There’s a final, awful moment of weightlessness… Sometimes I get that same feeling before something bad happens.”
“You ever feel like that?”
I look up from my gloved hands to the group of children sitting cross-legged in the grass around me. I look at their slack-jawed expressions, their wide uncomprehending eyes. Their dollar-store party hats gleam in the afternoon sun as half-eaten slices of ice-cream cake melt. On the far end of the yard, a group of parents whisper, trying to figure out which of them will confront me.
“Anyways, who wants to help me to pull a rabbit out of a hat for the birthday girl?”
Magic is a wonderful thing. Truly marvelous.
I’m not just saying that because it’s what pays the bills (it doesn’t) or because it’s what parents tell me (they split years ago). I say it because it is what makes the world glitter, what can make the impossible possible. It’s what can make a squat unhappy creature from Oklahoma into black-suited Californian marvel. Gregor Samsa in reverse.
My next gig is far away from the world of dollar-store party hats. It’s in the hills, the land of the rich and famous. My small, beat-up sedan saunters past neat, well-trimmed hedges through a gate that opens by itself. When I waddle out of my car, holding my chest of supplies, there’s already someone coming down to greet me.
“Oh good, you made it! We weren’t sure if you’d be able to find the property.”
Before I can react, my hand is in a tight grip that almost lifts me off the ground. The greeter is a tall man with a manicured beard and horn-rimmed glasses. His t-shirt is covered in bold, geometric letters that read “BE TOUGH. BE KIND.” He’s the picture of photogenic domesticity.
“Not to worry,” I say in my glum voice, as I straighten my top hat. “I saw this place in a dream once. Hopefully this time there’s a better ending.”
The man gives a loud, percussive laugh, not because what I said was funny but because he’s afraid of being left out of the joke.
“Well, we’re glad you’re here. Tessa and I were pulling our hair out earlier this week trying to think of a perfect addition for Dylan’s party and then, like, wham, it hit us. Magician. Classic.” He beams as he looks down. “It was so hard to find someone good, but you absolutely look the part. Suit, gloves, and all.”
“I suppose appearances really are everything.”
He laughs again and ushers me inside. I feel like I’m weightless as he guides me through a sleek home of bevelled edges and pale brick. Large circular mirrors and ceramic posts dot an entryway that folds into a recessed, open-floor living room. The children, pale and listless, wear uncrumpled button downs and neat pleated shorts. They sit in medicine-cabinet pastels as their parents chat in the kitchen, dipping small vegetables into a watery vat of hummus.
After unpacking my trunk between a set of ferns, I clear my throat with a phlegm-filled cough. A few parents turn to take pictures with their phones but most continue talking.
“Hello, all you happy people, gather ‘round while I show you…” I twirl a hand in the air, “something amazing.”
And I do. I draw cards from a deck and make them appear in strange locations across the house, in its basketlike lamps, buried in the heap of vegetables, in a tassel shoe. I make rings lock and interlock into dazzling new shapes. With a curtain and a flick of a thin black wand, I make it seem as though a child is floating in the air. I raise him high enough to see the top of the dust-covered bookshelf, before lowering him again to the floor.
After a showman’s bow, I look up to the audience to see a woman staring at her phone, a free hand deep in hummus. A boy stares at the ceiling with a look of total surrender. Even the man who greeted me has lost interest, talking instead about a start-up, a fruit-of-the-week delivery service for urban professionals who are too busy to buy fruit themselves.
It’s the last one that hurts the most, but I am a professional. I won’t let it hurt me. I won’t boo-hoo.
Instead, I take out the saw.
“Alright, it’s time for one last trick, happy people,” I say with a sad, sour voice. I give the saw a weak wave and gesture to a box behind me. “I’m going to need a volunteer. Would anyone… would anyone want to be part of this? How about the birthday boy?”
I give a dour look to a boy who lifts himself off the couch. I help him into a small box speckled with smiling moons and winking stars, then slam the door behind him. A few faces look up.
“You know what,” I say, “this isn’t the first time I’ve separated someone.” I flick the saw with a lazy finger. It sounds like thunder in my hand. “That would be my parents. They never did like me.”
I lift the saw on top of the box. My bearded friend looks up from his conversation.
“But I guess that’s life.” Though no one can see it, Dylan looks at me from his place, crammed into a secret compartment away from the blade. (I am a professional.) “Sometimes I wonder if it’s all worth it, though. I wonder if anyone of us really can appreciate the magic in the world.”
The woman raises a hummus-soaked hand from the dip.
“Sometimes, when I’m out late at night, I drive without my headlights on. I wind through the darkness, wind on my face and I think, well, what’s the worst that could happen? Would it be that bad if there were another car behind the curve?”
I grimace as if getting ready to do something dastardly.
“I guess we’ll find out together, won’t we?”
But then the bearded man runs across the room yelling before I can even begin.
It’s late in the day. The sun begins to vanish, painting the sky a brilliant orange, as I retreat from the hills. There’s one show left for me to do today and it’s at an apartment in the city. When I knock on the door, a frazzled woman opens the door. When she realizes who I am, her face breaks into relief.
“Oh good, I am so glad you’re here,” she steps aside to let me pass. “Come in. Come in. I’m Lina. We spoke over the phone.”
I shuffle into a cluttered apartment, dragging my leather case behind me. Everywhere there are photos and knick-knacks Through a banner plastered with the words “HAPPY BIRTHDAY RED” is a table with a dozen wizard hats on it and an unlit cake.
Lina bites her lip as she leads me past it. “We were expecting some guests but I think they must be running late. You can go ahead and get started, though. Red’s in her room, far back. I just need to make a few quick phone calls.”
As she vanishes into a kitchen, I knock on a door. When there’s no response, I enter anyway.
Inside is a small girl, curled up on her bed. Her face is red and puffy. Around her are small trinkets, a small black and white wand, a set of playing cards.
She sniffs as I enter, her expression matching my own. “What do you want?”
“Well,” I say gingerly, “I came to show you something amazing. Can I do that?”
Red says nothing. I walk across the room to her.
“It’s a small trick, but one of my most impressive.” I pick up the playing cards next to her on the bed. “Pick a card, any card.”
For a few moments, we go back and forth. She picks a card and I guess it. I make the card appear from behind her ear, from inside my sleeve. For a few moments, I manage to make her world dazzle. She smiles.
And then so do I.
|# ? Mar 30, 2020 01:37|
Tyrannosaurus fucked around with this message at 21:23 on Jan 8, 2021
|# ? Mar 30, 2020 02:02|
Little Human, Big Tiger
➞ Words: 868
From behind the wooden bars, a tiger peered at Elle. It's amber eyes flickering like flame as it followed each one of her steps. This was the beast Elle would have to oversee and study if she wished to successfully kill. It was her clans sacred tradition, the princess would have to kill her first tiger before her eighteenth birthday to become queen. Her mother and grandmother had done so long ago, now it was her turn.
Machali let out a snarl, her gaping maw revealing teeth that begged to wrap around Elle's skull. The tigress was one of the largest she had ever seen. Stories, murmurs had been whispered about the man-eating Machali for years. She was rumored to have taken out an entire village, bodies ravaged.
Wind howled, causing Elle to shiver. She approached the barrier of the cage. She narrowed her eyes, taking in Machali's beauty and strength.
"Ah, another human to taunt and jeer at the tiger. How noble," Machali spat. Her ears pinned to her skull.
Elle fell backwards, her palms grappling with dirt as she shoved away from the cage.
"W--w-hat the? No, no there's no way. Elle, get it together." Elle peered at the tiger, dumbstruck by its ability to speak. Machali's eyes widened realization of something dawning on her face.
"You? You're the chosen one? But.. you're so little." Machali muttered, her paws splaying against the bars. "How are you supposed to save us? You're one of them."
"You can speak! But how is that possible?" Elle inquired, now keeping a safe distance from the cage. It must be some wizardry, something evil. Her mother, nor grandmother ever mentioned speaking tigers.
"You can merely understand me, small human. It is said that one day a creature with the gift of comprehension will save the tigers of India. Granted, I never believed it could be man," the last word was spoken with a curl of Machali's lip.
"This cannot be. I am to kill you, it is my destiny. If I am to become queen, it must be done..." Elle trailed off. How was she supposed to kill this beast? It all seemed so wrong.
Machali let out some semblance of a laugh, "Oh, you can try little one. I do not recommend it. You've heard the whispers, no?"
"Man Killer, it's been whispered of you for years. It's why I must rid you of our land," she said.
"I have never killed man unprovoked or unharmed, know that before you justify the idea of killing me, human."
Elle peered closer at the tigress. Scars riddled her entire body, beneath her beauty was terror. A terror that made Elle sickly aware of what her people have done to tigers for years. Even the cubs were never spared.
She stood, shaking the dust from her dress. Perhaps she could do things differently, but if she were to do anything she had to act fast. Her birthday was tomorrow, the ceremony only hours away.
"Machali, I don't know what I can do for your kind. But I can start by saving you." Elle stuck her hand out, asking for permission to touch the tigress.
Machali blinked, evaluating the situation. Slowly she stepped forward allowing her head to rest in the princesses hand. "Do you mean it, little one?" Her question hung in the air. The answer was quick.
"With all my heart," Elle stated, her mind made up she jostled with a chain of keys hanging on her belt loop.
Stepping forth she inserted the key and turned it into the rusted lock. With a groan the door to the enclosure swung open. Machali snuffed and paced the opening to her chance for freedom. She stepped through and out of the cage.
What she did next shocked Elle. The mighty cat of the jungle kneeled, doing her best impression of a bow.
"Little Human, you are a Queen of a new age. Come with me, I can protect you. You can lead a new beginning for man and tiger," Machali declared.
Elle knelt down beside the tigress, her hand coming to rest atop her head. Daringly so, she stroked the tigers ears. Marveling how soft her fur was. Shuddering at the thought of how her home was littered with many tiger pelts used as rugs.
"I will come, but Machali, we start a new dawn tomorrow. There will be change," Elle said. From her bag, Elle presented Michali with meat. A offering.
Michali accepted, her whiskers twitching with appreciation.
Somewhere, a bell rolled. The gathering bell, a signal for the clan to assemble.
Michali lowered herself to the ground further, "Come! Get on, we haven't much time!" She roared.
Elle looked back uncertain, but steeled herself and her heart from any doubt. Gently she maneuvered her body onto Machali much like that of a horse. Machali threw herself forward, heading towards the jungle.
Just as dawn broke, they reached their destination. The jungle loomed ahead of them, no scent of campfire or cages were present.
Elle would change the fate of tigers and humans. Even if it took years. There would no longer be terror for the striped beasts of India, only beauty.
|# ? Mar 30, 2020 03:48|
So Yo came up with the plan in the shower and came out to tell me, all shampoo in his hair and a towel hitched around his bits. "We're going to really do it," he said. "We're going to steal us an ATM machine."
I slid a couple eggs and a couple of Jimmy Deans onto a plate and sat his rear end down, had a listen. He shoveled food in and talked with his mouth full mostly. "It's really just a matter of strategy."
Now Yo may not have been the best man I've had in the sack, but he was always the man with the plan. He used to run Talahassee Central High's football squad from the defensive line on account of the coach and quarterback both being idiots. He's kept food in the fridge and us both out of lockup the whole time we've been together. I made my own breakfast while he laid the whole thing out.
"So what do you think, Cici?" he asked.
"I think it could work," I said, turning to put up the dishes. "And I think you need another shower, less you want that shampoo to go rancid in the sun."
"Wanna join me?"
I almost turned around, but I heard the soft flumph of the towel hitting the kitchen tile just in time. "Not now, Yo. Pick that thing up and get yourself clean."
We spent the weekend getting everything together for the job. We didn't need much that we didn't have, apart from the bag we bought off of Quaalude Mark for twenty bucks. We had the pickup. We had the chains.
Monday morning the bank sends out the armored car to fill up the machines. Monday afternoon The Legendary F. J. Z. skated by and tagged the alley, including a wide streak in black spray paint right over the ATM machine's camera. We gave Felix ten bucks and the can.
The whole thing almost fell apart that evening. We were getting ready to get to work, parked the pickup and had just walked out when Travis Crager strode right up to us. "Yo Yo Yo," he said, just like he did at football practice. "Now what brings you out here this time of night?"
"Good evening office Crager," said Yo. "It's been a while." And Yo just launched into a mile-long list of gossip and regards from parents and classmates, and swept us both across the street to a diner and we were talking football and downing bottomless coffee for about an hour. Then it almost seemed like Travis was about to remember to ask about what we were doing and Yo broke in with "But we've taken enough of your time already," and he wandered out of the diner looking a little dazed. We shared a slice of pie, tipped the waitress, then walked back to the car.
We already had the chains strung into a harness. I heaved it over the thing and cinched it tight while Yo secured the ends to the pickup. Then we got in the front and put it in drive. "They bolt those ATM machines in tight," said Yo, "But this baby used to haul tractors uphill. This is going to work." He revved the engine, put it in gear, released the clutch. I heard metal straining and grinding. Then I heard concrete tearing, and we were moving, the ATM machine throwing sparks behind us as we peeled away.
Plan was to go to Dez's garage, which was empty since Dez got locked up for selling stolen Lexuses to some Ukrainian mobsters who turned out to be FBI. But we picked up company before we got there. Vipers, the white motorcycle gang around here, and they wanted our prize. They flanked us, kept us on the road, and started shooting at the chains.
"Yo, is there a gun in the pickup?" I asked.
"Is there a gun?" he scoffed. "Under the seat, babe." I reached down and pulled out the shotgun. "Ammo in the glovebox. Birdshot."
I shot, blind, wild and high. A warning. They didn't pay much heed. The other barrel I aimed low, at tires. That got their attention. They scattered, firing a few more rounds at me. One hit the rear-view mirror.
Yo turned, sharp, and the ATM machine swung and slammed into the door, making me drop the shotgun. A few of the bikers started to try and follow, but Yo had gone off-road, into a wide muddy creek that those bikes couldn't follow us into.
On the other side we stopped, and quickly checked on the ATM machine. Muddy, with most of the concrete around the bent rebar stripped away. It was heavy, but Yo could lift. We got it into the bed and put the bag on it. Two heavy duty trash bags with a net of copper wire between them, good enough to cut the GPS system off from the satellites. We chained it down and got moving again, deeper into the Florida swamps.
Only thing was, we couldn't crack the thing. We had power tools, and they were useless. "We need explosives," said Yo. "Do you know anyone who has explosives?" I did.
Before I was with Yo, I was with Danny. Danny Sykes. He was the best lay I ever had. Lived in a shack in the swamp. We used to sleep on pillowcases stuffed full of twenty dollar bills. Used to be a Chemistry teacher. People who watched too much TV tried to get him to make drugs, but he never could do any of that. But bombs, bombs he could do.
One day he found a truck full of money. But worthless. Covered in bright purple dye. He had me go to the library and look it up, turns out it was from a bank robbery two years back. So when he wasn't making nitroglycerin or thermite for beer money, he tried formula after formula trying to get the dye out without bleaching the money white.
"So Danny," I said, stepping out of the pickup. "Can you do us a solid?"
"Sure," he said. "If you show me those lovely hooters of yours?"
"What?!" I said.
"Come on," said Yo. "It's not like he hasn't seen them before."
"I did a spring break video," I said. "That doesn't mean I'm going to lift my shirt for any geezer with a receipt in his left hand. Come on, Yo, let's go."
"Jeezus, Ce," said Danny. "See you never did get a sense of humor. Of course I can help. Looks like a C4 job." He walked towards his shed. "Sides," he said. "Figure I can look that video up online if I want."
$ $ $
"God damned dye packs," said Yo, that next morning.
"Nice of Danny to offer what he did," I said. "Guess he had wanted an extra pillow."
"I've been thinking about that," said Yo. "Five cents on the dollar was probably too much. So what if..."
"You think found a way to do it?" I asked. Then I thought one step more. "We are not going to rob my ex. Even if he is a creep."
"Okay," said Yo. "Plan B, then. How about we rob a bank?"
|# ? Mar 30, 2020 05:31|
Robbo’s Covid Life (Rocko Rocko’s Modern Life)
The shelter-in-place order had been in effect for two days when the trouble started. Rob was video-chatting with his neighbor Tess.
“I really thought our Skyping days would be over when you moved here,” she said before taking a drag on her cigarette. With her smoking habit, emerald green hair, and predator’s smile, Tess had always reminded Rob of a dragon. “I mean Jesus, you’re right next door and I can’t come see you?”
“We have to take this social distancing thing seriously, Tess!” Rob looked up from the dragon he’d been doodling on his tablet. “I don’t like this any more than you do. I’m going crazy locked up in here! But I’m only going out for my shopping and to run errands for the people in the other apartments. You should too.”
“Ugh, fine,” Tess exhaled, the smoke billowing from her mouth only accentuating her annoyance. “You’re such a Boy Scout. Tell me, do you have Boy Scouts in Australia?”
“Yeah, we have Scouts, but it’s coed.” Rob leaned back in his chair and sighed. “I miss Oz, Tess. This isn’t the America I signed up for. I thought it was going to be fun – a real animation job, hanging out on the beach, eating hot dogs –”
“— with a cute blonde American girlfriend on your arm, I’m sure.” Tess smiled sardonically.
Rob blushed. “Would I be a pig if I admitted that?”
“No way. I want the same thing! It’d definitely be better than wiping down shopping carts and talking to old ladies.”
“It’s good to feel useful, though. And people are really grateful for the help. Look what Mrs. Nguyen gave me for getting her groceries!” Rob held up a grey knit cardigan proudly.
“Wow, nice.” Tess rolled her eyes.
“It is nice, Tess.”
“If you say so. You said you were working on this new cartoon?”
“Oh right, yeah! See, it’s about this wallaby, and –” Rob started as a loud voice sounded from the complex’s courtyard:
I’m DJ Arty
I’ma start the party
Takin’ y’all back like Doc and Marty
“Oh man, do you hear that? What is this bullshit?” Tess stubbed out her cigarette.
“I’m going to go outside, check it out,” Rob said. He stood up from his computer desk and threw on the cardigan.
“Good loving luck,” Tess called after him.
The “it” that was making all the noise turned out to be two twenty-something men. One of them, a be-hoodied figure Rob didn’t recognize, was sticking a phone in the face of his friend, a heavily-freckled ginger Rob had seen once or twice around the complex. A boombox blared atop a nearby bench, vibrating with a heavy base. DJ Arty grimaced into the phone camera, flashing what Rob assumed were meant to be gang signs, and continued his rap:
Always sippin’ on that Barcardi
Got the best bars ‘cause I’m a smarty
Keep on winning like Vince Lombardi
“Hey! DJ!” Rob called down to them, trying to keep his tone chipper. “Don’t you think you and your friend had better go home? You’re being awfully loud, and there’s a lot of older folks around here who are trying to rest up. Besides, this coronavirus thing is really serious, and we all gotta work together to stop it, right? Flatten the curve?” Rob laughed nervously.
DJ Arty scowled up at Rob. “Don’t you think you should shut the gently caress up, Crocodile Dundee?”
“Well now, that’s – that’s really uncalled for.”
“This is America! I have the right to self-expression!”
“Go home, Arty!” Rob looked over to see Tess leaning out from her open apartment door. “Wait until your mom hears what an rear end in a top hat you’re being.”
“Fine, tell her! I don’t care.” But Arty still snatched up his boom box and stalked from the courtyard. “Let’s go, G.”
Tess waited until Arty and G had retreated to a first-floor apartment. “Arty’s a little poo poo.” She leaned against the wall. “He’s been mooching off his mom for years now. Until his ‘rap career’ takes off.” She made exaggerated air quotes. “You okay, Rob?”
“Yeah, I’m fine. It’s not a big deal, really.” Rob kicked an imaginary pebble away from his front door. “They’re just making it harder for everyone who’s trying to keep people safe, is all.”
“You know what you need to do?” Tess made a show of inspecting her manicured nails. “You need to get revenge. Show him who’s boss. If you embarrass him enough, he’ll never show his face around here again.”
“How do I do that? I’m not really a scary kinda guy.” Rob spread his arms wide in apology.
“But you’re a genius cartoonist – come on, you are – and if I know one thing about Arty, it’s that he loves attention. He wants nothing more than to be famous.”
“So…” Tess grinned her dragon’s grin. “You’re going to make him famous.”
A few days later, Rob was spiraling down another Wikipedia hole when he was interrupted by a furious banging at his apartment door. “What the gently caress is this bullshit?” Rob cracked the door open to see Arty standing outside, his face twisted with anger.
“Can I help you?” Rob said with exaggerated politeness.
“It’s this loving cartoon!” Arty shoved his phone in Rob’s face, the screen frozen on an image from Rob’s newest Flash animation. Rob had spent almost all of last week getting it just right, and he suppressed a bit of inward glee when he saw the view number. “I know you made it, don’t try to loving deny it!”
Rob knew even as he answered that he was making a mistake, but he couldn’t stop himself. “You don’t think The Adventures of DJ Farty and Pee are based on you and your friend, now?” An evil smile spread across his face. “But even if it were, I heard you wanted to be famous. I’d be doing you a favor, mate.”
Then Arty shot forward once and Rob’s door smashed all the way open. The chain hung uselessly from the door, ripped from its moorings, as Arty pushed his way into the apartment. “This is what I think of your lovely cartoon!” Arty screamed, swinging at Rob’s computer monitors with a baseball bat – when had Arty got a bat? – smashing them to the floor.
“L-listen.” Rob backed away. It was hard to get the words out through his suddenly dry mouth. “Arty, we can talk about this –”
But Arty didn’t want to talk. He rushed forward with a bellow, and then Rob was on the ground, arms up, shielding his poor, thin body from the blows. Rob had to stop Arty somehow, get away, find some advantage, but all he could see was Arty’s eyes gleaming with rage, the bat coming down again and again and –
— And then the blows stopped, replaced with a sniveling sound. Rob was shocked to realize it wasn’t coming from him, but from Arty. He looked up to see Mr. Giancarlo from downstairs, who had Arty in an armbar. Arty squirmed helplessly against the hold. “I’m sorry, okay! I’m really sorry!”
“Drop the bat!” Tess was standing in the doorway, her phone held out in front of her like a torch of justice. “I got it, Rob. I got everything. You can press charges!”
“N-o.” Rob’s own voice sounded like it was coming from far away. “No, I think Arty’s learned his lesson.”
Tess nodded grimly at Mr. Giancarlo, who released Arty with more than a little reluctance. Arty fled into the night without a look back.
“loving coward.” Mr. Giancarlo shook his head. “Robbo, you alright? That kid could’ve killed you.”
“Yeah, yeah, I’m alright.” Rob picked himself up. “You…you saved my life, Mr. Giancarlo. Thank you.” Rob spread his arms wide to hug him.
“Uh uh!” Tess put out her hand. “Social distancing, remember?”
“Right, right! Sorry.” Rob let his hands fall awkwardly to his sides. “I remember. I just – I just need to clean this mess up and – ” Rob felt the tears starting in his eyes “– figure out how to pay to replace my monitors.”
“Forget that!” Mr. Giancarlo folded his arms sternly. “You think we’re gonna let you deal with this all by yourself?”
“No buts, Rob.” Tess said. “We’re going to take up a collection ASAP. It’s the least we can do after what you did.”
“For making a flash cartoon?”
“No, for all the nice stuff! Running errands and checking in on people and everything! You know, the important things.”
“You’re a true neighbor,” Mr. Giancarlo beamed. “I hope you feel at home here, Robbo.”
“Yeah,” Rob said slowly. “Yeah, I do.”
|# ? Mar 30, 2020 06:14|
Snacks on a Plane
She had been waiting her whole life for this moment. Her first flight. It was on a slick new Airbus A320 no less. The pilot suit she wore was pristine, her shoes shined, and her hair was tied back into a ponytail. She was sitting in the co-pilot’s seat and ready to go. Almost. The pilot hadn’t arrived yet.
That’s when the door opened and the pilot stepped in. He was surprisingly young and while he was wearing the pilot’s hat and coat, he was also wearing… a band tee?
“Dropkick?” She read aloud, confused.
“Yep, that’s me,” He answered before catching himself, “Yep, that’s me… shirt. My name is Jordan O’Beef.” He tapped his name-tag.
“It says O’Keefe,” she replied. He waved her off as he sat down in the pilot’s seat and put his headset on.
“Everybody calls me O’Beef,” he said as he began flipping switches on and off.
“The flight check is done Captain,” she said, staring at the careless flicks of flight control machinery, “Aren’t you a little young?”
He laughed. “If you say so. But enough about me, what about you? Have you been flying long? What’s your name? What’s your favourite food?” asked O’Beef.
“I’m April Takari, your trainee, remember? I’ve never flown before. And… uhhh… peaches? Is this a test?”
“Oh yes, it’s definitely a test. So how about you get us in the air and I’ll grade you.”
“Isn’t the captain supposed to make the announcement?”
“Mhm, mhm. Oh right. Check this out,” he said with a wink as he twisted his pilot’s cap backward and hit the button on the intercom, “Yo, yo, check it. I’m Captain O’Beef, I’ll make this brief, stay in your seat, and ya won’t get beat. Yooo!”
He shot her a goofy grin and flashed two joined V’s with his fingers.
“What the hell was that?” She asked incredulously.
“I’ve always wanted to be on the radio,” he answered with a shrug, “no one listens to those things anyway. Alright, let’s do this,”
She shook it off and engaged the throttle. Thankfully this was a short trip. She had read the flight manual a dozen times, aced the classes, and got top marks in the flight sims. She was going ace this pop quiz too.
The sun was peeking over the forested horizon as the ambling plane picked up momentum going down the runway. The rumble of the aircraft grew at the same rate the trees did as they got closer. Captain O’Beef’s complexion faded into a pale white, the enthusiasm drained away. At the last moment, he grabbed on to his seat and screamed, “We’re gonna die!”
The plane took off from the runway with plenty of room to spare.
O’Beef looked down over the forest and fell back in his chair with his hand over his heart. He noticed April was staring at him.
“I uh… forgot to feed my fish. Yep, they’re going to die,” he said as he regained his composure, “It’s okay, I’ll call my roommate when we land. Do you have any pets?”
She shook her head. Something didn’t seem right and it was starting to bug her.
“You seem really nervous. Haven’t you logged thousands of flight hours by now?”
His eyes grew wide. “Nervous? What? No…”
“You don’t seem like a pilot.”
“Sure I do! I umm… Oh my god, look out!” He yelled as he pointed into the sky.
April squinted her eyes to look into the distance and said, “I don’t see any—“
“Evasive action!” He yelled and jerked the steering controls as hard as he could to the right. The aircraft groaned and pitched hard clockwise, it’s massive wings slicing through the clouds as the plane barrel-rolled through the sky. All the alarms went off at once, passengers were thrown from their seats, and the Airbus nosedived as it lost velocity. The snack trolley flew down the length of the plane, smashed through the cockpit visor, and blasted out into the howling wind. Angry, gusting air blasted through the cabin.
“O’Keefe, Takari, come in,” squawked their headsets, “this is tower one. Sensors show you’ve suffered catastrophic equipment failure. Turn around and make an emergency landing. We will have rescue crews waiting on the tarmac. Godspeed!”
O’Beef flicked on the intercom. He could barely be heard over the roar of the wind.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, we will be returning to the runway momentarily due to turbulence. The in-flight snacks have been canceled. That is all.”
He looked at April and nodded his head. He took the controls in his hands and stared intensely down at the runaway. “I got this,” he told her.
Jesus, he was going to kill them all. She flicked a switch while he was distracted.
He was pouring sweat and grasping the control with white knuckles and tight lips as the plane dropped lower and lower back to the runway. The wheels dropped out. He ground his teeth together. The vein on his head throbbed.
“gently caress, gently caress, gently caress,” he muttered through a clenched jaw.
The wheels skidded as they touched asphalt. The plane shuddered as they slowed and came to a stop.
O’Beef fell back into his seat. “I can’t believe I just did that,” he said, relieved.
April pointed at the switch she had flicked on. “Auto-pilot.”
“I mean, that’s how it’s done though if I had to do it.”
“You’re not a pilot.”
He hung his head. “No. I saw you boarding this plane, and the captain going into the bathroom. I stole his hat and coat off the hook in the stall and when he looked up I reached under and pulled his pants off. I imagine he’s still in there screaming about his pants.”
She stared him the eyes and shook her head in disbelief. “You impersonated a pilot, endangered hundreds of passengers, and committed at least a dozen felonies to sit next to me? Why the hell would you do that?”
He shrugged. “Is it too late to ask you out on a date?”
|# ? Mar 30, 2020 06:21|
Rocket J. Squirrel and Pinkie Pie
Sweltering sweet air smacked Raquel’s face as she peeked in the oven. She squinted through the heat and saw the top ring of the kolaches baking in the oven. Golden brow, perfection. Raquel was helming the pastry counter at the Buc-ee’s near her house. As she reached into the oven, her phone vibrated in her pocket and she jumped. Her knee kicked into the oven door and she barely yanked her arm out of it before it got slammed in.
“Again?!” She shouted. Realizing that she was at work, she pulled her top teeth down on her bottom lip as her face twisted in embarrassment. She looked around but was relieved to find that the graveyard shift was dead as usual and her lapse in professionalism went unnoticed.
She sat down on a nearby stool and withdrew her phone from her apron pocket.
omgomgomgomg praty crazy where are yuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu?”
Raquel smiled. It was Charley, her best friend. She shot her a quick text back.
come oonnnn, just come to the party!
She knew about the party, and it was one she didn’t want to miss. Imaging Charley there, having a good night, gave her something to be happy about for a moment. But, only a moment, as a burning smell infiltrated the air around her.
“Oh no!” She shot up and threw the oven door open and was greeted with charred fruit and burnt pastry. “I pucked ‘em”. She scolded herself as she killed the oven switch.
“That you did.”
Mr. Cantone’s booming baritone threw tremors into her heart.
“I’m so sorry!” She pleaded. But, she knew his reputation. Mr. Cantone did not suffer workplace incompetence lightly. He withdrew his hand and raised his left eyebrow.
“Your apron.” He said.
“But, Mr. Cantone, I need this job! I’ll do better, I promise. I’ll never let you down again, OK?!”
Her pleas ricocheted off Mr. Catnone’s steely demeanor and shot right back into her gut. He left his arm extended and waited. Tears welled in Raquel’s eyes. She had never done anything so poorly. Top of her class, lead in the school play, and the youngest girl in her class to get a job. The “All American Kiddo” her dad called her. But now?
As she put her apron in Mr. Cantone’s hand, he met her eyes.
“I need to think about this.” He said. “You’ve been a good worker Raquel. One of the best until now. Come back tomorrow, and we’ll talk. There may be a way back from this.”
Raquel nodded and thanked Mr. Cantone, she would be OK. Probably. Her hands trembled as she hurried out of the store before her boss could change his mind. As soon as she left, her heart plummeted into her gut.
A freefall. She’d experienced it once before but it was thankfully in the privacy of her own home. The rejection from Dartmouth, her dream school, that sent her spiraling. All over a simple realization, that took her therapist months and months of work to help her realize.
“I’m not perfect. There is no such things as perfect.” She said under her breath. It helped, but not as much as her phone that thrummed in her pocket.
Raquel’s nose tipped up and out of the freefall. Her heart found its natural place of rest and her breath returned to its natural rhythm.
ur place? She fired back.
Raquel pulled her powder blue Beetle up in front of Charley’s house in Hunter’s Grove, the swankiest subdivision in the town. Charley’s house may as well have been Raquel’s. Growing up, she spent more nights there than her own. She cracked the window and killed the engine. Music was blaring in the house and neon-colored lights strobed out of the windows. She knew it was going to be a party but she didn’t know just how ‘Charley’ the party had gotten. From the looks of it, it was peak Charley.
Raquel looked down and realized that she was still in her grimy white t-shirt and jeans from work. She took a deep breath and assured herself that nobody could possibly notice her wardrobe in such a Charley party.
She reached into the backseat and grabbed the twelve-pack of Coke in the back. The party had been going for about two hours, and knowing Charley that probably meant they were running low on sugar. Raquel slammed her car door shut and inhaled the thick, humid, summer air. As she walked up to the entrance of the old colonial, the thrumming tones of Ariana Grande’s Break Free resonated in her chest. Raquel smiled and sighed, Charley’s signature song.
As she slid open the door, Charley was approaching the bridge of the song when she shrieked, dropped the microphone, and beelined toward Raquel nearly tackling her and bringing her to the ground.
“You made it!”
“I made it!”
“Duet! Right now!” Charley shouted into Raquel’s face. “Melanie, step away from the microphone!” She shot her head toward the karaoke platform. “My best friend is here, and we’re singing!”
Charley yanked Raquel up and guided her through the cliques of teens and twenty-somethings peppered throughout the house. The two sang Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, a song that conveniently allowed Raquel ample opportunity to hide behind her friend. She didn’t mind singing, but the crowds did get to her from time to time. It was nice hiding behind Raquel. Her charm and unrelenting positivity are what drew everyone to her house for this party. It certainly wasn’t the alcohol, Charley’s parties were dry, by definition. Just loud music, dancing, and singing. A great place to forget about…
Probably getting fired. And losing a job that, while it wouldn’t turn any heads, gave Raquel a sense of purpose and meaning. She began to fall. Charley didn’t notice, she was already queuing up her encore. Raquel’s heart raced and sweat beaded up over her eyebrows. She doubled over and Charley caught her by the stomach.
“Babe?” She whispered, into Raquel’s ear. “What’s wrong?”
Raquel sat on the floor, her back pressed against the foot of Charley’s bed. Charley entered the room through her attached bathroom holding a damp towel. She sat on her bed behind Raquel and carefully wrapped the towel around her head.
“How’s that feel?” She asked.
Raquel rolled her eyes up at the towel and felt an uncomfortable trickle of water roll down her neck.
Raquel smiled and reached her right arm across her body. Her hand found Charley’s which was resting on her shoulder.
“Thank you,” Raquel said through a breath.
“Feel better?” Charley asked.
“I do, yeah.” Raquel nodded.
“Alright, well. Let’s get back to the party!” Charley shot up out of the bed and pumped her arms in front of her chest.
Raquel tried to steel herself and get up, but her shoulders sunk down and pulled in together. Impossible as her charm and energy was to resist, Raquel found herself immune to what she usually relied on to be her elixir.
“Music!” Charley shouted. “Let’s get some music on!” She ran over to her iMac Pro and opened up Spotify.
“Charley?” Raquel pleaded as Charley scanned through one of her upbeat playlists.
“Can we talk?”
Charley turned around and looked at Raquel. Raquel’s face was cast downward to the ornate rug in front of the bed. Charley dug her index fingernails into the cuticles alongside her thumbs and started to pick.
Silence hung in the air between the two best friends. The party below them evaporated away from their awareness. Charley ambled over to Raquel and sat down on the floor next to her.
“I need you to be better than this.”
Raquel perked up at the odd request from her friend.
“I don’t help you. You help me.” Charley continued. “You know how it is. You fly. All the way up there.” Charley pointed upward. “You fly and I watch. I cheer for you and I keep you up. That’s what we do.”
Raquel didn’t realize that her mouth was hanging open until her jaw began to ache. She turned toward Charley.
“What are you talking about?”
Charley looked back down to the floor and fixed her gaze on a curlicue pattern in front of her.
“Charley, I’ve leaned on you my whole life. I’ve spent more nights here than my own home. I’ve hidden in your shadow all throughout high school. You’re my best friend and there isn’t a single person that we went to school with who wasn’t jealous of me. My whole life people have always wondered why you keep me around.”
“You’re my high flyer.”
Raquel scoffed and pulled her knees toward her chest.
“Well, your high flyer just got shitcanned from a goddamn Buc-ee’s.”
“What?” Charley cocked her head to the side. “Who on earth fires the incredibly perfect Raquel?”
“A guy who sees the incredibly perfect Raquel on her phone at…”
“It was my text, wasn’t it?”
“It doesn’t matter,” said Raquel.
“Oh my god, it’s my fault. And I dragged you to this party and I made you sing an Elton John song.”
“No, it’s my problem. It’s my fault. I can’t go blaming you when I talk to my boss about this tomorrow,” Raquel said. She stood up and looked at herself in a wall leaning mirror. Her fingers were still trembling but not as much.
“Huh? Why would you talk to your boss if he fired you?”
“He told me that we’ll have a talk tomorrow.”
“Babe, that doesn’t sound like you were fired. It sounds like he knows how loving awesome you are and that he just wanted to rattle you up a bit, but nobody gives up my Raquel.”
“Dartmouth did,” Raquel said, as she turned around and faced Charley.
“Yeah, I’ve been waiting to tell you, but yeah, I’m not gonna be able to go to Dartmouth.”
“No! They rejected you?”
“It’s worse than that. I got in, but they didn’t give me the scholarship I applied for. I can’t afford it.”
“So wait, they didn’t reject you?”
“They may as well have. Without money, I can’t go.”
“gently caress me, Raquel. You got into loving Dartmouth.”
“I know, I know, I should be proud of just getting in. My therapist has already told me that every time I talk with her.”
“Screw that,” Charley said, as she stood up. “I’m proud of you.” She hugged Raquel from behind and looked at her face in the mirror.
“My beautiful, amazing, best friend.”
A weight that sat in the pit of Raquel’s stomach faded and her breath returned to its normal cadence.
“Charley, I think I’m ready to fly again.”
“Can I come?”
|# ? Mar 30, 2020 06:23|
prompt: Sylvester and Rarity
A Date with Destiny
Silas was a man in desperate want of a date. This was generally true, though especially at this present moment: his cousin Anthony was getting married in two weeks, and had said in no uncertain terms that Silas could not come unless he found a date. It was these circumstances that found Silas walking main street, in search of a woman, and a suit to wear.
Downtown was bustling, full of people—more than Silas was used to seeing, he thought to himself. Silas wandered down the wide sidewalk toward the clocktower at the end of the road, the proverbial center of town. It was not that Silas was incapable of finding a date; far from it, in fact. It was just that so few of the women in this small town were up to his standards. He saw with the eyes of necessity today, though, and began to reevaluate some women he had previously overlooked. His eyes caught on Laila Warren, a perfectly suitable candidate—if she weren’t dating Billy, that ugly chunk of meat. He smiled and waved, and she gave what Silas perceived to be a demure smile in response, before turning quickly into the nearest storefront. He walked past the door she had turned into—a bookstore—and caught her eyes and waved again. She hid her face behind a book, but not before what Silas was sure was a deep blush. Silas smirked.
He wandered through the farmer’s market, to no avail. Women loved the farmer’s market, he knew—but all the ones he found suitably attractive already had their arms slung through a man’s elbow. There had been a cute blonde gal, poring over a pile of gigantic peaches; Silas had been moments from his approach (“Some nice peaches you’ve got there,” he’d been prepared to say) when a large bearded man appeared with two large pineapples in his hands, she turned and squeaked in delight, and disappeared out of Silas’ mind forever. He moved on, heading for the tailor recommended by his mom.
Destiny’s Dresses & Tailoring was down a short alleyway just off the main drag. An A-frame sat on the sidewalk, pointing Silas toward its doors. An immaculate pink storefront lined with an array of shimmering dresses stood in contrast to the brickwork around it. Silas thought it an odd place to go for a suit, but he’d never worn one, much less purchased one, so he didn’t think on it too long. He pushed through the door to the sound of a gently tinkling bell. The inside was as glittery as the outside appeared, with rows of mannequins displaying pristine, glistening dresses. The room seemed to sparkle, to Silas’ eyes. The room also seemed to have no suits, as far as he could tell.
“Hello!” called a melodic voice from out of his field of view, and he turned to look—and was struck dumb. Before him stood the most angelic creature he’d ever seen: a woman bedecked in resplendent shades of purple, with alluring curls of brown hair framing a gentle face with a kilowatt smile. “I’m Destiny. How can I help you?”
“I—I—” Silas stuttered and blinked several times, before managing to cough out a complete sentence. “I need a dreth.” Destiny started as several tiny drops of spittle splattered on her face, then cocked her head slightly. Silas then turned beet red. “I mean a thuit, a thuit. I need a thuit.”
“Of course!” Destiny replied, with a smile that seemed to grow brighter by the second, and seemed not even to acknowledge Silas’ misstep. “I keep suits in the back room—it’s called Destiny’s Dresses, after all!” Destiny giggled, and Silas’ began to sweat.
The next several minutes passed in a blink, as Silas stood for measurements and answered Destiny’s questions regarding his suit needs. All Silas could think about was Destiny. His Destiny, he began to think, and smile began to grow on his lips. He knew now, who his wedding date would be. “I’ve got a date with Destiny,” he thought. Or he would, in just a few moments.
“Hey, Dethtiny?” he said, the question poised on his lips.
“Yes?” she replied, with a patient smile.
He was interrupted, however, by the gently tinkling bell of the storefront. A loud “Hello??” rang out insistently from the storefront. “Hold that thought, Silas,” Destiny said pleasantly. “I’ll be right back!” She darted out to the storefront, not noticing that Silas face had gone a deeper shade of red than any dress in the store.
Silas stood stock still, his fists clenched tightly. He knew that voice at a word. Sure enough, less than a minute later, Destiny returned with a short, mousy man in tow—Ruben. “You can have a seat over there while I finish up with this client,” Destiny said to Ruben, as she returned to her tape measure and clipboard, and resumed her work with Silas.
“Oh, it’s Silas!” Ruben cried, with a grin that stretched from ear-to-ear of his small head, and a gleam in his eye that only Silas caught. “How’s it going, old buddy?”
“Not bad, Ruben,” Silas replied, with all the forced composure he could muster. “Whath up with you?”
“Still doin’ the lisp thing, huh?” Ruben replied, and Silas’ face once again flushed red. He was grateful that Destiny was behind him. “Anyway, I’m good. Getting a suit for Anthony’s wedding.”
“I don’t know what your talking about,” Silas muttered, then added, “Yeah, thuit for Anthony’th wedding. Acthually, could you wait out front, Ruben? I don’t want Dethtiny to be dithtracted by our converthathion.”
“Oh, I’m perfectly fine!” Destiny chimed in, chipper as ever.
Ruben chuckled. “No worries, pal, I’ll step out. Let the master do her work.”
As soon as Ruben walked around the corner, Silas started to resume his previous line of questioning—but the moment had passed, and so had his courage.
About an hour after he left Destiny’s, one suit closer to the wedding but still dateless, Silas’ phone rang. Ruben. He answered with a sigh. “What do you want, Ruben?”
“Hey, hey, good to see you, too,” replied Ruben, his voice dripping with sarcasm. “Listen, I won’t take long. Anthony told me the deal—” Silas hissed in annoyance “—and I don’t want to get in your way. You’ve got your eye on Destiny, I see.”
Silas could imagine Ruben’s eyes flashing. He’d known him long enough to know there was a catch. There was always a catch. “Whath it to you?”
“Nothing! That’s exactly my point. She’s all yours! In fact, I wanted to give you a tip: she loooooves dogs.”
“Dogth you thay…” Misgivings aside, he was not one to look a gift horse in the mouth.
The gentle tinkling of the door bell gave way to an eruption of barking and furious pull on the leash in Silas’ hand, as Spike leapt forward. “Eathy, Spike!” Silas shouted, and pulled firmly on the leash. Then: a loud hiss and a flash of pure white, as a cat streaked across the floor into the waiting arms of Destiny, who had just appeared from the back.
“What are you doing?” Destiny shouted, with the first hint of anger Silas had seen from her yet.
“Dethtiny, will you be my date to Anthony’th wedding?” The words tumbled out of Silas like a rock let loose down a hill.
“What?” Destiny cried, clearly still alarmed by the situation. She quickly followed up: “No thank you! Come back for your suit when you don’t have a dog with you, please! What were you thinking?”
Silas froze, unsure of what to do. He thought about asking again, not entirely sure she’d understood what he was asking. He half-turned to leave, then turned back, and began to say, “Let me—”
“Out, please!” came Destiny’s immediately reply, and Silas complied.
Not five minutes later, as Silas sat on a park bench contemplating his next move and petting a now-jolly Spike, a despondent Ruben plopped down next to him, a bouquet of flowers and what was clearly a cat toy in his hands.
“You thon of a—”
“Yeah, I set you up. Was gonna try to play the considerate fellow after your catastrophe.”
Silas face quivered in rage momentarily. “I knew I thouldn’t have truthted you.”
“No, probably not,” Ruben chuckled. “Don’t worry, she turned me down, too. Said all men were creeps and huffed off.”
The two of them sat in silence for a couple minutes, both stroking Spike’s fur, who hadn’t the faintest clue what had happened but was thoroughly enjoying his present circumstances. Then, suddenly, a thought crossed Silas’ mind.
“Thay… My couthin said—”
“Can you drop the lisp thing, please?”
“Alright, alright. My cousin said I need a date, but he didn’t say it had to be a woman.” Now, it was Silas’ turn to grin. Ruben’s brow furrowed in confusion for a moment, but then understanding crossed his face. “What do you say? Will you be my date?”
Ruben pondered for a moment, then shrugged. “Sure!” he exclaimed, as he shoved the flowers toward Silas. "You gotta wear the dress, though!"
|# ? Mar 30, 2020 07:08|
Closed. If you post before Judgement I might still love you.
|# ? Mar 30, 2020 07:24|
how many posts until the next page
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