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ZorajitZorajit
Sep 15, 2013

No static at all...

I like this prompt! I'll throw my hat in.

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ZorajitZorajit
Sep 15, 2013

No static at all...

Mixed Messages
1,113 Words

Arat’s gambit worked flawlessly. He finished his turn by setting his last worker-peg and then sliding the topmost ziggurat piece over it to complete the fourth tier. “That’s it,” he said, turning over the tiles he held in his palm. He had won. Three times in as many games.

Visi sneered and hung his head. And to think he had taught Arat to play to pass the time between lessons. “Come on, we need to get down to the real ziggurat or the priestess will have us cleaning beer pots again tonight.”

The packed the game away and left Visi’s cell for the hot sun waiting outside. The floods would be coming any day now, and people would be expecting to see the new priests on the steps of the temple. They had long lives to serve out in the walls of the city, working their way up the steps, and there would be many more games to be played. He’d make up the losses, Visi told.

***

“And how is the thesis coming along, Malika?” Professor Elizabeth Witmore asked. Her office overlooked the London campus, the morning sun shone in through her window.

“Just fine,” Malika said, for the first time in ages, it was, “I sent you the pictures, did you see them?”

“I was just looking them over now, number A00-133, right?”

“That’s the one. It’s the most complete prayer board that I’ve been able to locate. I’ll be ready to present before the year’s out I think.”

“Has there been any progress on the outer pictograms? Your paper would be much stronger if you could produce context for them.”

“Right now, I’m still working off the theory that they’re dates of some kind. The presence of repeated counting digits and sequences seems to suggest a calendar, but not one we’ve documented before. Likely for certain religious ceremonies,” Malika said.

“Oh?” Elizabeth asked. The video call buffered for a moment. She couldn’t help but smile, “You may want to double check your inventory.”

Last year when she’d come out for field work, the girls had stayed behind in London. It was safer this year, and she knew more people, so they had agreed to come out for the break. The distance hadn’t been the worst part, in truth, the semester she spent in Jersey was worse since they were just out of reach. But the time difference made it almost impossible to get to see them regularly. Her webcam was fine for speaking with the other professors, but it never seemed to be good for her, or for the girls. She knew her work was drawing her away from them, but for the time being, she had to be serious about it. They weren’t her little girls anymore, and all through the last year she’d been trying, and failing, to find a connection with them.

Malika turned, then turned back, her sienna skin blushing, “I’ll call you back professor!” she said hurriedly. The girls had the artifact laid on the floor of the den and were playing with it. She heard her mentor say her goodbyes and close the call. Malika dropped to her knees beside the prayer board and the girls. “And just what are you two doing?”

“I’m winning!” Nasheed, the younger of her daughters said.

“You are not. All you’ve got are cows,” Shareen said.

They were growing up so quickly. Nasheed had been a toddler when her PHD program started and she had to explain that Mommy went to school too when Shareen cried at the start of every primary school semester. But her oldest was becoming a young woman now and her youngest suddenly looked not so far behind. Malika tried not to think about looking at universities for Shareen -- that was a few years off yet. But she hoped she’d be on a tenure track by then, though there was little hope of that if the prayer board was damaged by the two tonight.

“It’s not a game,” she said with an edge to her voice. The girls put down the gray clay tiles and tired not to meet their mothers’ eye. “Remember what I told you? How Aunt Elizabeth had lots of parts of them, but this is the first whole set we’ve found? We can’t lose any pieces, or I’ll be in trouble too! Now, see here, we can put the ziggurat’s together and fit the tiles down. This is a way they could have been asking the gods for help, right here, even before Babylon.”

She was rambling again, she told herself. The prayer board hadn’t gone far in several millennia now, it wasn’t going to crumble into dust over night. “Do you want to see if there’s a football game on?” she asked.

“I want to finish the game first,” Nasheed said, “Stampede!” She turned over one of the tiles on her side of the prayer board, a long one with seven counting dots and a pictogram of four bulls charging after stick figures.

Shareen looked to her, Malika nodded in ascent, watching the game play out according to the girl’s rules. She looked over the board as they had it set up, In the small drilled into the stone board, toothpicks had been placed, except where they were being used to peg the layers of the ziggurats. Shareen had three levels built, and Nasheed had one. When Nasheed turned over the tile, her sister laughed playfully and cleared off her pegs from the part of the board representing grain fields. Malika turned her head, “What just happened?”

“Stampede!” Nasheed said again.

“She had all the cows. So all my workers got chased away.” Shareen explained. She paid her grain tiles into the bank and took the toothpick-workers in exchange, then pointed to a pictogram equation on the edge of the board. “See, one grain gets one worker. And one worker in the field makes two grain.”

Malika laughed, and hugged them both. She shook her head, and watched as the game played out. She’d found nearly two dozen of these prayer boards, or similar ones, at dig sites and it had never occurred to her. They turned up in tombs, and in temple quarters, and in a palace foundation, they must have been important. But as she watched the girl’s finish the game, she learned why. Seeing the board this way, it was a relief, even when her mind turned back to work, this wasn’t a dour reminder of vengeful gods, it was a game for fun and a pastime. She thought to call Professor Witmore, but that could wait. She wanted to learn how to play.

ZorajitZorajit
Sep 15, 2013

No static at all...

Repeal
127 Words

Ted walked to his barn, a fifth of whiskey in his hand and a tobacco cigarette in his lips. He took a slug from the bottle and pulled the door open. The smell of hay inside was honest. He belched.

The tarp unfurled from his truck with a flapping like the stars and stripes over ...y’know, that hill they made those statues on. He had been saving foodstamps and bitcoins to buy the petrol, but now he poured it into the tank. The pickup revved to life and purred under him like -- like a woman.

He took the shotgun shell from the dash wistfully. They’d gotten his gun. But after fifty years, the Republicans were back in charge. And he’d never have to be gay married again.

ZorajitZorajit
Sep 15, 2013

No static at all...

My only talent is going IN.

ZorajitZorajit
Sep 15, 2013

No static at all...

Obsolete
1,042 Words

“Most of you probably don’t remember me,” the venerable man said from behind the podium at the head of the dining roomA smattering of polite laughter died down, “I hired Jerry on back in ’86, while we were still working on the Thunder Mega-Titan. His first month on the job, he had the rocket punch up and running better than ever. You’ll be missed, Jerry, welcome to retirement!”

The room applauded. Jerry sat beside the podium and sipped white wine. Half full of other staff, the country club looked out over the base. To the left of the dais sat the pilots in freshly changed, color coded uniforms. HR and Finance were sitting together, tittering away at the front of the room but smiling brightly whenever Jerry looked at them. IT had staked out a back corner, near the squat bronze statue of the base’s first titan breaking the neck of some extra-dimensional invader sent by Lord Kyton. Missing were the rest of the rest of the tech-mechs. They’d be below, Jerry thought, scrambling to get the thirty meter mecha back in fighting condition.

An “Ohhh” washed through the crowd as the sixth pilot, Greene, arrived in the back.

“Jerry!” she called over the crowd and held up a bottle of Fernet. At the dais, she passed around shot glasses and poured. The pilots were stood and held out their glasses. Jerry nodded, but his head sunk. “Jerry’s always been the man! I don’t remember a time we couldn’t get him into the tank to rewire bio-cabelling. You remember the time you pulled a thirty-six hour shift to degrease the plasma projector after that big slime guy came down? Remember, he comes in inna tux, lookin’ like he’s straight from a wedding. Here’s to Jerry!” The pilots barked in approval, but Greene cut them off before they drank, “Jerry. And absent friends.”

He swallowed the bitter liquor. Greene came down from the podium, collecting slaps on the back as she passed the other pilots to sit off the end of the table. The lunch service came around, carving soy-beef roast from brown and pink bricks and salads off flavorless hydroponic spinach. Jerry picked at it with his fork, the booze had gone to his head, he felt a migraine coming on.

A waiter tapped him on the shoulder, “Sir?” The waiter, a young enlisted man said, “Dietary said you wouldn’t want soy, so they had your meal sent over.” Before Jerry could reply, his plates swapped and a cloche swept away-- a bowl of quinoa sat steaming on the plate beside a pair of plastic cheater chopsticks.

Raquel from HR had made her way to the podium while Jerry salted his bowl. “Hi everyone! Just a couple of announcements before we diiig in! The community picnic is this weekend, and free to anyone with a club card. Kids movie night will be next Thrusday at seven, come on out for a screening of Mecha City Ramblers. And on Friday it’s Hawaiian shirt day! So, wear your favorite Hawaiian or tropical shirt. But please no actual depictions of Hawaii, out of respect for the dead. Also no blue jeans, as we will be visited by the Hyper Wizard Yutuu. Okay, sorry Jerry! Enjoy!”

In the lull, Jerry managed to get to his meal undisturbed. The seat to his left sat reserved for the base commander, who shook his hand before lunch, but left to meet contractors today.

Captain Davies turned to him, “Pass the salt, sir?” Jerry reached for it, turned back. “Never mind. Have one down here,” the captain said.

Jerry fumbled in the breast pocket of his jacket and found the ribbed cap of the pill bottle. He felt his stomach churn. The cap stuck, and he wrapped a napkin over it, wrenching with recently diagnosed arthritic fingers. He grunted. The cap flew from his fingers and the bottle from his palm. A whine of feedback issued from the microphone as the cap struck it, the bottle hit the dais and rolled away, pills falling out and scattering under the table. All eyes were on him.

The moment hung in the air. Greene and the other pilots leaned over the table to stare. The roiling sensation in his gut kept up as Jerry got down on hands and knees under the table. He found the bottle lying on its side, the pills lost. He scooped some into his palm, letting the ones that had fallen onto the carpet go. The small of his back flared in pain as he shuffled backwards. In his seat he swallowed two of the pills, a hair catching in his throat. He hacked, swallowed water, hacked again into his napkin. Phlegm and blood stuck to the cloth.

When he looked up, it was over. The conversations picked up where they had left off. He was left with the remnants in his bowl. A sheet cake had been rolled into the back of the room, one of the waiters cut into it and had begun passing out cubes of yellow cake. Eventually one reached him, a corner piece coated in thick blue icing. He took a small bite from the corner where he could avoid the slathered sugar coating.

Two taps on the microphone signaled the last speaker, Susan Xi, his replacement. “Hi Jerry, hi everyone. Jerry, we wanted to get you a little something to remember us by. But the DOD won’t let us give out titan rides any more.” There was a little chuckle from the audience, and Jerry feigned politely. “So we got you a membership to the club. And not just because you were always the bottom seed at the invitational.” Another laugh, “We really do appreciate your service. You’re leaving the department in good hands, and as we transition your team to other projects, you can enjoy your retirement knowing we’ll keep the titans running, even if it does take us all to do.”

She stepped down as her speech ended, passing Jerry an envelope with the gold membership certificate. “We’ll need you back on the line tonight, we had to call in the reserve crew. At least you’ll have time to clear out your locker.”

ZorajitZorajit
Sep 15, 2013

No static at all...

Fix a passive verb in the opening line and end up buggering the whole thing. Well played me.

ZorajitZorajit
Sep 15, 2013

No static at all...

In.

ZorajitZorajit
Sep 15, 2013

No static at all...

Burning Bright
1,138 Words

A star burned at the end of the cigarette. Hydrogen fused into helium into heavier elements into a slag of iron plasma. Something like tobacco singed and smoldered and something like smoke blew out through the dark. An ember fell and a coronal mass exploded, burning away the fledgling atmosphere of an orbiting world.

The fingers held the cigarette unsteadily. They drew it back to the lips, which paused to consider before taking a short drag. Hot smoke bloomed; full of inspiration and a hailstorm of chemical life, disassembled. The finger flicked the butt and the Oort cloud tore away to fly into the void.

“I’m supposed to guard them.”

A muddy pool bubbled as a geyser erupted. The hurricanes split the sky with lightning as they whorled. A bolt drew a drunken line of ions up from the mud and down from the clouds. A singular moment, the very last one never to be remembered. In the mud, a strand of twisted acid stuck together, stuck to another and copied itself. The reaction sped up, the mud sloughed into the sea. It sank, sticking and copying and spreading. It shaped into bubbles in the sea.

At the bottom, the reaction clung to a vent. In total darkness, the world’s womb split and nursed the life on seething carbon.

“I thought entropy was supposed to break things down.”

The cigarette was nearly half burned now. In the bar, others puffed. Clusters of sparkling coals topped off hookahs. Thick stogies, a dozen times the size of the cigarette, smoldered sternly. Not one patron could remember the last time the Bartender had said a word. The Bartender just poured the drinks.

A nebula of whisky spilled over the lips. The nebula painted the night sky of the world with a streak of red-gold, near enough to be seen by the first set of eyes to crawl back onto the land. The muck stuck to her fins, and she drew a breath, surprised to feel comfortable. She crawled up the beach. Crawled under a plant that was like seaweed but at its top was no floating sac mooring it to the ceiling of the sea. A ceiling that now, seemed so easy to breach. She shoveled mud with her fins to make a burrow. Looking up at that streak of ichor in the sky, she opened herself. Her eggs spilled into the mud, then she coughed out a breath and died for them.

Other patrons contemplated their orders. They listened to the music playing, iit had played since drinks immemorial. There wasn’t anything before that steady hiss of modulated static. That sense of time was only for the Bartender to understand. For the patrons in the bar, it could only be approached, divided by half and then by half again. Forever getting closer to the beginning but never reaching it.

Laser shone out from the jukebox in tune with the music. They drew lines and shapes around the bar. Charged photons to create art, light which did not illuminate but illustrate. The light vibrated much faster than other waves. Faster than the frenetic dancers. Far removed from the infrared, the waves could pierce through smoke and sheer barriers.

That light extinguished life on the world. Nothing understood. Nothing expected it. A torrent of gamma rays hurled forth from some pulsar at the other end of the universe, where the galaxies spun with violent avarice and black holes consumed greedily and what they discarded fled with all the speed and terror due it. Gamma rays fled that terrible maw without regard for where they went, only that they should be away. And the world, small and blue and just now beginning to think burned away when they arrived.

“Something always survives. They cannot be quelled.”

Life came back up from the sea. Different this time. Hardened. In bare eons, the life had conquered its world, and reached the endless deserts within its endless land bordered by its endless sea. The life flourished. The sun churned. The smoke drew into the lips through the cigarette and blew away again and thoughts came.

They thought of themselves as a family. Their leader kept them safe from harm, their mother showed them where to dig for roots with horn and tusk and where to drink water when the days grew long. They sang songs because it made them feel closer. Sometimes the young one thought about scattering seeds along the river, and then coming back later to eat the grasses that would grow. Could the river be drawn out to make more good places to eat grasses?

Never mind. Evening came much too early. A second sun blazed through the sky and then everything was on fire. The young one nuzzled its mother as it died.

“It is not my place to ask why. It is not my place to ask why.”

They poured the contents of the jug into hollowed gourds. It smelled of hops and honey. They ate onions and ground makeup to shield themselves from the sun. When the day came, the masters came with whips. They stacked stones and praised God.

Here, they had reached the bottom of the world. Though they did not know it, if they could go any farther past the jagged cliffs, they would reach a frozen continent, but there could be no home there. This was the end of the world.

Atoms split. A city vanished. This was the end of the world.

“They’re so small. Don’t they understand how useless this is? They could have such joyous lives but all they choose to do? is unleash new horrors and tortures. It is not my place to ask why. Protect them. They are praising God.”

The sign said so. It clearly delineated that the man holding it was blessed by God. He drove the sign into the man that was not, and God saved the sign. Red guts spilled onto the floor. A decade later, the man holding the sign was a joke. The survivors of that day proved it to a courthouse that did not have God’s words scrivened on its door.

“They always survive. Now they want to spread past their world. They fear that they have consumed it.”

The angel looked to the Bartender, who was lighting another patron’s cigarette.

The cigarette inched closer to the butt. The lips took a long drag.

“That’s all for it then.”

The cigarette tipped down, rushed toward the sand at the bottom of the ash tray. The world spun, unknowing. The star would blink out, it would not survive. Nothing else to hurt.

The patron stopped, rested the cigarette on the lip of the tray. It burned low now, it would extinguish itself when it reached the end. The angel got up, and walked away.

ZorajitZorajit
Sep 15, 2013

No static at all...

In. But you're not gonna like it.

ZorajitZorajit
Sep 15, 2013

No static at all...

The Hyena
937 Words (Google Document count.)

My sister had a lemonade stand; a down home, hokey, little kid lemonade stand.

Once, we walked to the store to buy more lemons. I found the yellow plastic bottles of “Lemon”(TM). I put the fruit back. She whined.

Twenty years later, my secretary buzzed me to tell me my eight o’clock appointment had arrived.

I kicked my feet up onto my desk and set a cigarillo between my lips. The Sheik was tailed by a pair of men in WBD, Uzis under their jackets. He nodded respectfully, I lit up.

“They call you the Laughing Hyena, that you are a crazy person,” he started. Formalities, pah.

“Newsweek calls me that. The rest of the liberal media calls me worse. But Newsweek will be going under soon and, like them, if you continue to call me that, you’ll never work again either. What do you want Salami?”

The Sheik flushed. Keeping the meat off guard was important. He forced a smile, his goons did not. “Your government is threatening significant fines, regarding our ongoing deep water fracking …incident.”

“You’re wasting my time,” and he was. It was all over the news, even the decent news feeds wouldn’t shut up. I had already made the smart move – I short sold fish futures. But an idea had formed in my head already. The best kind of idea, one that would tear apart the whole idea that the spill was even criminal.

“I’ve also been informed that the gulf coast states will be passing new regulations.”

“You’re already running campaigns: it was over-regulation that lead to the explosion, I don’t see how this is relevant. Hell, you’re outspending both candidates put together and forty percent of your voters now believe that the spill will be a useful fertilizer for wetland restoration,” I couldn’t help but laugh. I’d already had Charlie send an Aggressive Hiring team to get that ad exec for me. “Out with it.”

The goons started sweeping the room and spoke gibberish to their boss. I cut them off, “I own the building across the street. It’s a façade; no one works there except for the security team I keep on hand. There are no bugs or laser mics pointed at this room. There is a drone, but it’s my personal traffic manager.”

The Sheik looked defeated. Good. “There was fissile material on the fracking ship. When it’s found, our campaign collapses. Maybe the whole industry with it. We’ll never be allowed in the gulf again.”

Unlikely I thought, but he had a flare for the dramatic, didn’t he. I grinned a slow, hungry grin. If I was given to frivolity, I would have kissed him. Affection – second most useless thing. “Have a public offering tomorrow.”

He scoffed, recoiled back. He didn’t get it – he was a slow old man that had long since used up any business sense he had. “You’re crazy!”

“Precisely!”

I daubed a silk handkerchief to my nose. The bleeding had stopped, but the red still stained. I threw the thing away: antiques, third most useless thing ever conceived. Suppose it’s somebody’s market.

I buzzed my secretary – I’m sorry, administrative assistant. As if the useless bint could assist in some way. I kept her on because she knew where to get momma’s nose candy, and didn’t touch it. “Charlie!”

“Yes, Ms. Eiger?”

I changed my name when I was fourteen from something less Eurocentric. It made meetings easier, clients and victims didn’t have to stumble over my old name, all consonants.

“Have my trash burned tonight.”

“There’s a shred and burn tomorrow, ma’am,” she replied.

Like I said, Charlie was useless. “Burn it tonight or find a new job.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Charlie mewled.

“The bell will ring, and I’ll scoop up your company’s ragged viscera. CNBC will do spit takes,” I said: it hadn’t dawned on the idiot yet. Or his chins. I laughed harder, “Once you’re on public offer, I’ll sue for due diligence!”

He was shaking his head. I kicked my feet off the desk and slammed down the heels of boots that cost what the parasites of the country thought a car cost. “They find the, what, uranium?”

“Plutonium.”

“They could find a bag of severed baby heads for all I care. It proves our corporation is doing everything in its power to generate value. If we’re lucky, we can roll this on up the SCOTUS and get a century-and-a-half of regulations gutted. We’ll have the Wild West back!”

The Sheik nodded a slow ascent. He looked broken, fearful. In truth, he looked like he didn’t have the stomach for it. He didn’t deserve his money. He lived on top of oil. It was a crude industry; pardon the pun, extracting wealth from labor. I extracted wealth from where it really comes from: wealth. I deserved it. When his door closed, I did another line. The junk wouldn’t even be illegal after this. I could sell it to babies! I love capitalism.

As it kicked in, I opened the mini fridge under my desk and took a slug from the bottle of lemoncello. It reminded me of the first dollar I ever made (I didn’t keep the crumpled trinket; of course, I invested it. Unlike the poor – I love America.)

That bottle of Lemon-flavored juice drink made more lemonade and made it faster than juicing. My sister whined that we charged too much, she whined that I made her stay out too late. She whined until her kidneys gave out. She still refused to pay for one of mine. Family? Most useless idea ever conceived.

ZorajitZorajit
Sep 15, 2013

No static at all...

I'm not in this week. I'll provide three line-by-lines to any takers.

ZorajitZorajit
Sep 15, 2013

No static at all...

In for one last job.

ZorajitZorajit
Sep 15, 2013

No static at all...

Crit for Thalams, "Only one Brother"
Google Drive Link Let me know if that doesn't go right. Also, it just hit me that my first edit is erroneous. Please disregard the first comment.

ZorajitZorajit
Sep 15, 2013

No static at all...

Due to a personal crises, I must respectfully bow out this week.

ZorajitZorajit
Sep 15, 2013

No static at all...

In.

Elle FR Velez, late night DJ. Elle's show is the sounding board for half a hundred crazies, advertisements for quote-unquote massage parlors, and the very best music in the world. Somebody broke Elle's heart in her youth and she never got over it.

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ZorajitZorajit
Sep 15, 2013

No static at all...

Heavy Baggag
869 Words

“You’re listening to LGDO After Midnight, and what a night it is,” Elle crooned into the mic. She swirled the coffee in her cup, watched rain patter against the window outside the booth. The rain was finally coming down, unless maybe it was stopping. “I’m all alone here, why don’t you call in, I’d love to hear from you.”

She smiled and rolled her eyes, conflicted. She could admit to herself that she liked to play up the sultry hostess when it suited her. But it made her skin crawl if she thought about the listeners fantasizing about her. She queued up the next three tracks and left the booth.

The studio buzzer rang, grating and electrical. It rang again, and she remembered that the intern had gone home early, just after 2AM. Enough time left in the tracks, she huffed over to the door. The jackass was covering the peephole.

The porcelain slipped in the loop of her fingers. The coffee sluiced out, like the trail of a comet in reverse as the cup began its tumbling fall. It splashed her cheap, beaten tennis shoes. The cup hit on an edge and cried out with a crack and a ‘ping.’

“Ray,” she gasped.

He looked like a ghost. A soggy ghost in a rain soaked tan trench coat. But she’d never seen a ghost gain weight. He nodded, asked, “Can I come in?”


She lead him into the booth. He set the attache down, looked a little nervous around the equipment. She breathed uneasily, heart all panicked thunder. He wore a smirk somewhere between coy and oblivious. She busied herself with work, pretending it would make him go away. He took out a flask.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

She shrugged. It was scar tissue now. It didn’t hurt, not really, but that platitude was empty and poked her and called her ugly. She sat, he stood. She took a nip of cheap Jack, swallowed hard.

“-- for showing up like this,” he went on. When she looked up at him his eyes were hard, his face cut like stone. There was a shade of the man she loved once in there. A wraith chained into the man he became. What had he gotten into now? Did she even care? She must have, she hadn’t slammed the door in his face. “I -- I really need this from you, Elle.” (of course he did) “Things got kinda messed up” (didn’t they always).

The phone rang. Elle didn’t have time to listen to the man talk about the lizard people in the sewers or the fluoride in the water. She hung up before he could get going. “I can’t Ray. I won’t do it any more. Please leave.”

“We all listen to the show,” he said and like that he was gone again. She saw him cross a puddle in the street, hands shoved deep into that stupid, sex-offender coat. He had left the case behind.

She hefted it and set it beside her broadcasting equipment. It weighed far more that it should have. She scribbled the combination down before checking to see if it opened. It did. Her eyes widened. She snapped it closed, whirled the wheels and stuffed it under desk, piling her coat on top of it.

The microphone swung smoothly into place. The song ended and she switched the feeds, “We have a little impromptu contest tonight, kittens. So, this one goes out to Ray, if you’re listening. Give a call, whoever’s got the winning number, your prize is waiting for you.”

Did he want her to have it? Of course he couldn’t just admit what it was he wanted, the bastard.

Ray had been charming, picaresque once. He cared in his own way. He had stood for something, been a strange sort of resistor to the city’s slide into something worse than anarchy. Or so she had told herself. Those halcyon days of loving Ray boiled away, the spirit evaporating into the air and never condensing again. It left her with the sort of hangover that didn’t split in two, but slowly drilled and held pain to the mind. He was the flask of cheap Jack of lovers, and there had been a time she had wanted that.

Was she really so foolish? Did she, even for an instant, want that back?

She answered a call: wrong answer, terrible come-on. She hung up. Played another song.

When Ray walked away the first time, she felt the pain of it in her heart. The second time, in her head. And now, she wanted to tell herself she felt nothing at al. That it was finally over and he could go on being “Mopey” and schlepping around with whatever two-bit villains he liked. She hoped that was the case.

For the rest of her show that case sat there under the coat and the desk, out of sight, waiting for its owner. But as the early morning traffic report guy arrived to take over, it fell to her to carry it out. She groaned as she lifted it. It felt like it had gotten heavier just sitting there.

This time, she left it in the rain.

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