Short Story Friday

The Love of Each Other’s Lives

By

Arbor Barrow

 

Rudy is literally a fish. Rudy wants people to know that because when he implies that he is a metaphorical fish, most people are confused. Rudy is a fish and lives in a saltwater tank at a fancy restaurant on the west side of a big city. He only knows this because he can see a sign outside the tank that says “Welcome to the West Side” and beyond that he can see the tall and pointy skyscrapers of a huge city. In his tank is a miniature version of the city with little cubby holes he can pop out of. Before his time in the tank the little miniature had the name of the city printed on the side, but the salt water of the tank had long since worn it away all that was left were the letters R U D and Y. His name.

Rudy is literally in love with the owner of the restaurant. Rudy wants people to know that because metaphorical love is meant for poetry and Rudy is not a poet. The restaurant owner is a man named Finny. Finny is a part time chef, part time sea captain, and full time love of Rudy’s life. Finny comes to Rudy’s tank and feeds him every morning before the restaurant opens and every evening before the nighttime rush. But most importantly of all Finny tells Rudy stories about the outside world. The last story Finny told Rudy was about the time he was thrown into the “drink” (this is a term that Rudy has come to understand as a place called the ocean which from what he can gather is a very large fish tank somewhere out there in the world) and had to swim back to shore with nothing but his wits and the clothes on his back.

Rudy was born in a tank in a pet store on some other end of the city, the only thing he remembers about the pet store is the ceiling fan above the tank clacking noisily, he doens’t remember his siblings, they all looked the same honestly, and he doesn’t really remember his parents. What he does remember is the moment Finny’s face appeared before his tank and he said to the shop owner, “I want that one.”

Rudy was in love the moment he was lifted out of the tank and his second sight of Finny literally took his breath away. Though, if Rudy was being totally honest with himself, fish can’t breathe out of water so it might have just been a coincidence.

On a particular Tuesday morning, and Rudy only knows it’s Tuesday because his tank is right next to the flip calendar the wait staff use to mark special requests from customers, Finny came with a gift at the same time he came with breakfast. Finny reached down halfway into the tank, where Rudy took great fun in swimming back and forth through Finny’s very long arm hair, and dropped something in an open space in the tank.

The little ceramic piano settled to the bottom and Rudy thought his whole world was about to change again. He loved music. The piano player at the fancy restaurant could always play the most delightful tunes and now he had one of his very own. Rudy swam a couple circles around the tiny piano.

“Oh Finny!” Rudy sang enthusiastically. “You make my world so spinny!”
Fish can’t sing, but don’t tell Rudy that.

Finny grinned down into the tank. The tattoos on his very wrinkled neck stretched happily as he smiled. “Lookie here Rudy, happy birthday! It’s been a year since I got you!”

A year? A year was like forever! Had it really been that long? Rudy desperately wanted to give Finny a hug but was again irritated that he didn’t have legs.

“Alright, Rudy. Behave yourself!” Finny said as the last bit of fish kibble floated down from the surface of the water.

Rudy didn’t know how he could possibly misbehave, he was a fish!

Other than apparently being his birthday, Rudy didn’t expect a Tuesday to be anything more than a normal day, but Rudy and Finny, and most of the city that Rudy had pulled his name from was about to get a very interesting surprise.

+++

Rudy is a small fish, a yellow tang about three inches long, so it should come as no surprise that it was small thing that changed Rudy’s life. It wasn’t the new piano, it wasn’t the little kid who found his tank halfway through the day and decided that a fun game was letting Rudy follow his finger across the surface of the glass (as fun as that was), but instead it was the arrival of a magician. Not one of those run of the mill illusionists, but an actual wand and magic word magician. The guy showed up outside the restaurant and stared at Rudy through the glass. He looked more like a hobo than a magician but when he waved his hand across the glass Rudy was captivated. The man came inside, requested a glass of water and then stood above the tank looking down at Rudy with a thoughtful look on his face. There was glitter coming off his fingers and his wand was a bent metal straw. When the maitre d’ gave the man a cup of water the magician dropped his wand into it and sucked loudly at the straw. His eyes never left Rudy and Rudy didn’t look away either.

“You’ll do,” the magician said and when his cup of water was drained he tapped the metal straw on the glass tank. It was a small event in the scheme of things, a tiny tap on the glass, a little glitter magic falling to the floor beneath his tank. But that’s all it was. The magician left, the restaurant went about its business, and when the restaurant closed for the night Rudy felt the change begin. He started to grow, and at first he didn’t notice but when he was as big as the miniature city in his tank he knew something was wrong. WHen he was so big that the tank broke under him he knew he was in trouble.

Or so he thought. Instead, he found himself on the floor, and he had HANDS. Rudy stared at the hands like they were tumors. They were tumors, fish don’t have hands!
More than that, he was breathing IN THE AIR. Rudy stood up and stared around the closed restaurant. He was as big as a human person now.

There was something wiggling at the back of his mind. An urge to walk out into the street and just destroy everything around him. But that didn’t make sense to him. He was very fond of all the sights and things around him. He didn’t want to destroy anything, especially not this restaurant. It belonged to Finny, the love of his life… FINNY! Rudy looked around the restaurant and tried to get a sense of where Finny might be. He usually only saw Finny in the restaurant but he knew Finny had a home somewhere with his wife and three children.

Rudy didn’t want to break anything more so he found a seat in the restaurant and waited. He would wait for Finny to arrive.

+++

Finny, short for Finnegan, had worked really hard to building his restaurant, his brand, and his life. And he didn’t realize just how lucky he was that a tiny fish named Rudy, his favorite yellow tang, loved him as much as anyone could. When he arrived at his restaurant to open up that Wednesday morning he was startled and shocked to find Rudy’s tank demolished and a tall yellow man sitting in a booth drawing on the back of a menu with some crayons. When the man saw him, he stood and grinned crookedly.

“Finny!” The young man yelled.

“Uh… Who’re you?”

“Rudy,” the man said.

“Rudy,” Finny said, and stared at the man. He was as yellow as his Tang, but he was a MAN. He looked between the destroyed tank and the yellow man. It was impossible. But there was no way he could have gotten in here without breaking anything and the only thing broken was Rudy’s tank.

Finny blinked a few times, then wandered to the back where the security cameras could tell him the real story. And the real story was just as the yellow man said. In the camera he could see Rudy growing and bursting open the tank and slowly transforming into a human-like creature. He turned to see that Rudy the former fish was standing behind him, naked as a jaybird.

Finny sighed and wondered what he had done to deserve this oddity. He pulled out the lost and found and retrieved a sweatshirt and an apron from the kitchen.
“Oh! Clothes! I’ve always wanted clothes! Thank you, Finny.”

“You’re welcome Rudy.” Finny helped Rudy get sort of presentable and started to clean up the mess from the broken fish tank. A shadow crossed the window outside and Finny looked up to see the old hobo from the night before staring into the restaurant. His face was a mask of anger and confusion.

Finny poked his head out of the door. “Can I help you? Do you need another glass of water?”

The man pointed past Finny at Rudy and shook. “You! Where have you been? What have you been doing all night?”

Rudy blinked and then pointed to the table where he had sat all night. “I was drawing a picture for Finny. Who are you? Where were you all night?”

The old man balked. “What… why… I am a chaos magician! You’re supposed to be wrecking chaos!”

Rudy just stared perplexed at the magician. “But that would destroy things. I don’t want to do that. Also, Finny told me to behave, I think that falls into the territory of misbehaving.”

The magician stared at Rudy incredulously. “What is wrong with you!”

Rudy frowned at the old man. “I’m a fish that is now a human person, what isn’t wrong with me?”

The old man made an angry squeak and turned on his heel. He limped down the street and shouted nonsense into the air.

Finny glanced back at Rudy and laughed. “You know, I knew I picked well when I saw you at the pet store. You are a special fish, Rudy.”

“Oh, thank you. I’m sorry about the tank.”

“It’s alright.”

“I don’t have to go back to the pet store do I?”

“No, I don’t think they have a tank big enough for you. Besides I think you deserve to be family.”

“Can we go fishing? Can I meet your family? Your kids?”

“Of course. I think they’d love you just as much as I do.”

Rudy is a literal fish. But he has the heart of a human, and the soul of someone who loves the people who love him. Things could have been different, and for another unfortunate fish in another part of the city they were. Because not a few days later, a huge, hulking puffer fish the size of a barge wrecked up the east side of the city and shouted angrily at everyone “how about I puff you up!”

 

♦The End♦

 

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Short Story Friday

The Gala Event of the Season

A short story by Johi Jenkins

Words: Cater waiter, Suspicious, Architecture, Money, Switch, Imagine, Yawn, Blot, Lilac, Program

 

The grand hotel ballroom is prepared. Dinner is ready. The servers have their instructions. The guests have arrived.
Someone will die.
I know this, and now you know it, too.
One person in the party knows it.
The gala has begun.

***

The cater waiter nearly trips over his own feet. The flutes filled with champagne atop the silver tray he carries sway dangerously for one second, but miraculously remain upright and not a drop spills. He stops for a minute to compose himself, with the pretense of offering his tray to a cluster of nearby guests. He’s not usually clumsy but he’s nervous today. He’s helped cater important fundraising events before, but never one like this. This is the gala event of the season. So many important people and celebrities are here tonight, and so many of them are gorgeous women. The waiter must be flawless, obliging, and ingenuous. He straightens his vest with his free hand and carries on with his job, equally nervous but confident no one saw his near stumble.

Except his boss did. The gala director shakes her head at the awkward blond waiter. Where did her hiring staff find such incompetence? If anything went wrong today her ass would be fired quicker than you could say Well fuck you I hated this fucking job anyway.

She didn’t always hate her job. Her bachelor’s degree is in Architecture, but she found her calling in event planning. She loves envisioning perfection and making it happen—part of the reason why she wanted to become an architect—but, she regrets that her talents were “discovered” somewhere along the way and she was offered a huge salary (which is still nothing compared to what these rich people make) to put together these extravagant parties. She was so delighted and proud at first, of course, but then eventually realized that she sold out. Her supposed glamorous job is just well-paid servitude, really, ultimately for the benefit of entitled assholes. Today the biggest of them all is coming. The CEO of Sarang Industries, Daniel Hoffmann. She hates that guy and his giant tech company, his gigantic money, disgusting influence, and how he pretty much gets away with whatever the hell he wants to do.

Grumbling internally, she continues her rounds, smiling and pretending. She wears the mask to the world. The mask of complaisance.

The top aide is expertly multi-tasking on her phone getting updates on the CEO’s whereabouts, reviewing his schedule for the next twenty-four hours, and confirming his daughter’s lodging situation when the event planning director approaches her. Yes, everything is going great, she affirms to the overly helpful woman. Thank you very much for your attentions. She dismisses the other woman with a polite nod and goes back to her phone to fix the CEO’s daughter’s small mishap. The daughter arrived this morning from her year-long overseas trip and her penthouse hadn’t been cleaned. But this aide was currently fixing that; she was always on top of things when it came to the CEO’s business, and often took care of his personal matters as well. She took pride in being such an important part of such an important corporation. Sarang Industries provides energy to millions, even to those who can’t afford it. For over two decades the company has been the lead in energy technology, always in the quest for fossil-fuel independence by the use of truly clean green energy. The multi-billion-dollar company often sends relief to poor economies after natural disasters. One such disaster struck her hometown when she was in high school, and she and her family saw firsthand the benevolence of Sarang. Right then she decided she wanted to work for them, and indeed she was able to join the company right after college. After a few short years her dedication shot her right into an executive assistant position to the new CEO. The aide may be biased, but she truly believes she works for the best company in the world. She smiles as she fixes the daughter’s issue in mere minutes and moves on to the next item in her endless list of tasks. The CEO is arriving soon, and she needs to be in position, ready for him.

The limo pulls up to the front of the majestic Victorian hotel and Sarang Industries CEO Dan Hoffmann frowns at the small gathering waiting outside. He was expecting a bigger reception; but then again, he was an hour late and probably all the flaky leeches had already gone inside. He puts on his billion-dollar smile and steps out of the limo. Time to give them what they craved—his presence, his attentions for a few hours. And a small speech, probably. His top aide was good at handling those. She would have the teleprompter set up and all he would have to do was read. She was quite resourceful, the young assistant. Very pretty, too, in a nerdy type of way. Too bad the world had suddenly turned to shit and a boss couldn’t just fuck his staff like he used to—someone finds out and waahh, they go all out crying harassment. A resourceful man worked his way around that, of course, but it was still an inconvenience to have to go through all that trouble—he pretty much needed a sort of dealer and all the secrecy that came with that, just to get some ass these days. Gone were the days when he could just smile at whomever he wanted and get his way with her in his office within the hour.

But on the bright side, staying out of his aide’s panties meant that he could keep her as a real aide, and she was very good at her job. She’s already waiting for him as he enters the building; she quickly approaches him to go over the details of the program. He fights the old instinct to smack her ass when she finishes; instead he smiles at her warmly as a compliment. The security men follow him into the ballroom and he’s announced with a grand flourish. The guests clap and cheer for him while he gives them his best smile and a classic presidential wave of his hand. The show has begun.

The blond waiter fixes his eyes on the super classy girl in the lilac dress clapping softly along with everyone else. He’s carrying a tray of hors d’oeuvres now, the all-time greatest appetizer dish out of the hotel’s five-star kitchen: spinach and feta mini pies. He can already imagine her smile as she would gasp in happy surprise. Oh, these are my favorite! What’s your name, so I may thank you for this wonderful treat? He would tell her, and offer to keep them coming, so that he could be by her side all night delighting her with his finger foods. His fantasy playing in front of his open eyes, he jumps in shock as his boss appears right in front of him, blocking his path.
“Where do you think you’re going with that?” she whispers furiously. “You’re going to offer those to Minerva? Did you forget she’s vegan?? Where the hell were you yesterday when we went over this? The one dish you’re not supposed to offer her? Fucking feta cheese!” She tilts her head slightly to the left and points with her eyes. “That group of suits over there will eat your fucking spanakopitas. Go!” And she all but pushes him in their direction.

Ugh, that woman was so mean. But the waiter complies, hurrying to empty his tray so he may switch to something vegan. Yes, it was his fault; he’d forgotten the instructions they’d all received last night. But he’d been high as usual during these power trips of his boss, the events director, who was always up somebody’s ass about something, always dropping F-bombs for no reason. She was a micromanager and perfectionist and nobody liked to work with those people. He thought she could use a joint to chill down. She had anger issues, dude. She needed to control those emotions or someone was going to wind up dead.

The waiter shakes his head as he enters the kitchen and is given a tray of little rose-shaped savory pastries. This time he makes sure to ask if they’re vegan, only to get a glare from one of the handlers and a condescending reminder that everything is vegan except for the spinach and feta pies. Oh, right. His boss had said that yesterday, too. Ugh. He grabs the tray and goes back out in the ballroom in search of a lilac dress.

But the girl in the lilac dress won’t be eating the rose-shaped tartlets. She has seen them being passed around and the pain has already settled again in her heart, like an old friend. Those were her mother’s favorite, and she has avoided them since her passing last year. The loss of her mother wholly changed her; not just her party food preferences but also the way she saw the world. Her mother’s husband was to blame for her death, the girl knew; now she’s distrustful and suspicious of everyone. Because if her stepfather, whom she had thought of as an honorable man, had deceived her for so many years, how could you trust anyone ever again? The memory of her mother brings wetness to her eyes. She excuses herself from the people surrounding her and retreats to find a washroom.

The gala director averts ten other possible mini crises before it’s the megalomaniac’s time to open his disgusting mouth and spew out his lies as usual. Her mortgage looms over her head each time she feels a little stabby, and she reminds herself that even though money is the root of all evil, it’s also pretty useful and she benefits from having it, so she should not lose her cool and say what’s really on her mind. Her eyes roll out of their own accord, though, as the CEO delivers a beautiful speech that makes him sound like the country’s personal savior. She has to admit that Sarang’s energy initiatives help the world in several ways, but all their charities are probably just a facade to give them the appearance of a good, generous company. She knows what’s up. She can see through the CEO’s bullshit every time he speaks without a teleprompter. Maybe Sarang had good beginnings, but what was the benefit of a good company in the hands of someone evil? The CEO finishes his speech and her trained staff work flawlessly under the cover of a standing ovation (really?? A fucking standing ovation? So many ass kissers!) to pick up the empty toasting flutes and relocate the prompter that the guy was reading off of.

Smiling to herself for yet another well-received speech entirely written by her, the top aide waits for her CEO to sit down at the head of the large table on the raised dais, before crouching quietly next to him and reminding him of the names and positions of the most important people at his table. He’s gracious as ever, and thanks her for doing her job. He always flatters her this way.

“And my daughter?”

“She’s busy with the mayor, but she should be free soon and come take her place at the table. And her home is ready.”

“Good. Tell her to come say hi to her old man. I’m more important than that fairy in that ridiculous toupee.”

“At once, sir.” The aide moves away to the last place she saw the CEO’s daughter, grateful for something to do. She didn’t like the slur the CEO called the mayor regarding his sexual preference. He often said offensive little remarks like that but she always reminded herself that he was from a different generation and he likely didn’t mean any of it in an unkind way. However, it didn’t mean that she had to like it. She looks around and spots his daughter just coming back into the ballroom, holding her hands together. She quickly approaches her.

“Ms. Hoffmann? Your father would like to speak with you. You’re sitting at his table three places down, but you may sit at his right for the moment, if you don’t wish to stand while you talk to him.”

“Lovely. Thank you, Jane.”

The CEO scowls at the dish someone placed in front of him, not even caring to try it. He’ll have to go out for steak as soon as this fundraiser is over. He has to laugh at all the idiots in here today that paid thousands of dollars for a dinner of rabbit food. But that’s what some wise aide said was needed in order to please the environmentalists. He was so tired of those tree-huggers. Again, different times. He sighs, longing for the good old days when you could run down a hippie with your excavator. His daughter slips into the seat next to his, interrupting his reverie.

“Minnie!” he exclaims. “I couldn’t believe when the aide told me you were coming. How are you, dear? You’re looking so pale. Is something wrong? Are those liberal Brits mistreating you?”

Minerva smiles lovingly and reaches out with her left hand to grab his right, turning it palm up on his lap. He feels a small sting on his wrist where her finger touches him. “I’m quite well, Father. I’m just tired from the trip. I missed you so much while I was gone. You’re the only family I have now, so I’ve decided to stay. This time for real.”
“But you won’t take your place at the Board of Directors, right? You don’t need to worry your pretty little head with family business matters.”

“Oh, that is so sweet of you. But I want to. This company means as much to me as it did to my mom and my father. Well, I mean Charles. You’re my dad.” She smiles at him to assuage his jealousy. She knows he’s in a constant battle with her real father, even though her dad has been dead for six years. “Changes are coming. I’m here to stay.”

Her stepfather smiles awkwardly, probably not sure what to make of her words. He hates change, she knows, unless it’s change for his own benefit. Well, this one is definitely not for his benefit. She watches with satisfaction as he absent-mindedly scratches at the small blot that has appeared where she touched him. It will take his life in about twenty minutes. He will go into cardiac arrest and die, and go back to the hell from whence he came. Her mother will be avenged, and she will help return her father’s company to the righteous place it used to be, not the festering cesspool of greed and malevolence that it has turned into since Dan Hoffman swept right in after deceiving and marrying her mother. Her stepfather stifles a yawn as his body begins the process of shutting down, unbeknownst to him, compliments of a deadly substance called batrachotoxin cleverly delivered by means of amazing new technology she researched this past year while abroad. She smiles and excuses herself, and takes her designated place at the table three seats down from him.

The aide approaches the CEO to check on him, because from where she stands it looks like he’s having trouble focusing on the conversation he was just having with the president of an agricultural mega corporation. Perhaps something is troubling him? He barely touched his food. Maybe he didn’t like it? Everyone else seems to be enjoying it. She’s about to ask him if he would like something else, but before she reaches him, his eyes close.

They don’t open again.

Shouts and chaos ensue in the ballroom, but the aide just stands there in shock. Her boss, dead? Wow. Her position as top aide suddenly vanished. Whoosh, just like that. But maybe she could also serve the next CEO. Maybe the next person would be someone better. Like maybe his daughter.

The gala director curses in several languages. There is just not getting over this. It would always be known that it was at her party that the Sarang CEO died. Even if it was just a heart attack and had nothing to do with the gala itself. She couldn’t live this down. Her career was ruined.

Or was it? Maybe she could sell all her shit and move back to her hometown, and exercise her creativity there. That was a cool thought. She could make her local people happy throwing the best parties for them. Go back to what really made her happy. Yes. That sounded like the best thing ever.

She looks at the body one last time and gives a tiny shrug, then retreats into the kitchens to find a bottle of champagne to celebrate her freedom.

The waiter so wanted to comfort the girl in the lilac dress as she fell to her knees next to her father, crying loudly, the pain and disbelief evident in her face. But they were worlds apart, and all he could do was watch her as his heart broke for her. She looked so lost and stricken. But as the paramedics carried the CEO’s body away, he saw her lip twitch in a weird way for a split second, and he had to do a double take. He could have sworn he had seen her smiling.

The END

 

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Short Story Friday Night

Tension in Suburbia

by

Victoria Clapton

 

Recorded church bells sounded at the end of the gated community, muffled by the siren sounds from an emergency medical team approaching the street. Animals, pets and wild alike, cried out into the cacophony of noise, announcing that the reign of Amanduwilla had come to an end.

Refuse and one lone shirt were all that remained of it’s subpar existence. It’d even snatched the lone orchid straight from its neighbor’s kitchen. Amanduwilla had gone, leaving terror in its wake.

Throughout the tree-lined streets of suburbia, the remaining residents grinned in silent cheers, happily emancipated from Amanduwilla’s nasty sneers.

 

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Short Story Friday–Birthday Edition

Trash Talk

by

Anne Marie Andrus

 

Gentle wisps of September breeze swirled through The Beach Haunt reminding Ajay of summer’s magic at the Jersey Shore. A single sharp gust warned him of the season to come. Flicking his eyes from the empty inbox on his smart phone to the televisions and back again, he zipped the collar of his sweatshirt up to his chin. Outside, his part-time cameraman wandered the abandoned boardwalk, puffing an electronic cigarette.

“What can I get the master of local turmoil tonight?” A lady with blue hair and an enormous dolphin tattoo slapped the bar in front of him. “Earth to Ajay!”

“Sorry, Gilda. I applied for a ton of newsroom jobs—they’re all playing possum. I’ll have ice water with a slice of lemon, please.”

“Freakin’ boring.” The bartender flashed a frown that rippled into a smile. “What’s really got you so distracted?”

Ajay stared at the screens surrounding the bar. Dressed in a navy pinstriped suit, the global affairs correspondent flashed her perfect teeth and plunging cleavage.

“You know her?” Gilda sopped mystery liquid off the bar and squeezed the rag over a rubber mat. “Oooo…you do. How well?”

“I went to journalism school with her, that’s all.” Ajay chuckled. “Pretty much.”

“She’s living the life, that’s for sure.”

“Chasing the dream.” Ajay pointed to the television and then to himself. “Eeeking out an existence.”

“Come on, you’ve turned YouTube tabloid commentary into a distinguished art form.” Gilda tapped her nails on a tequila bottle. She flashed the lace of her bra and leaned forward. “I’m sure your classmate had surgery. I’m just dying to know how much.”

“I’ll never tell. No swill.” Ajay pushed the cheap tequila away and winked. “Or l might…what else do you have?”

Gilda jingled her keyring and fumbled through a hidden cabinet until she found a green and gold bottle. She puffed dust off the cap, poured a shot for each of them and then filled a third.
Ajay waved the cloud of sand and ash away. “I’m not drinking all that again.”

“Just think about the parade of drunks you’re about to interview.”

“Sinking to new depths of stupidity every Sunday night, yet I still need to speak in coherent sentences.” Ajay grabbed the salt shaker and fished the lemon from his water. He licked the back of his hand before tapping out a healthy dash of salt.

“One for me, one for you, plus the emergency ration.” Gilda grabbed a fresh lemon. “Here we go. Lick, slam, suck.”

Ajay followed her instructions, gagged and groaned. Outside, a bus boy dumped three huge bags of garbage on the corner, turned around and flashed him a thumbs-up.

“My stage awaits.” Ajay closed his eyes and drained the back-up shot. “I’ll make those network execs sorry.”

“Enough of this crap.” Gilda snagged the television remote and hit mute. “Go out and smash it.”

♦♦♦

 

AnneMarieAndrus.com

 

Short Story Friday–The Tuesday Edition

On The Campaign Trail

by

Christian Terry

 

The ringing of the phone echoed throughout the entire oval office. President Hunter rocked back and forth in his chair. His thumbs fidgeted as he twirled his campaign pencil in his hand. “Mr. President, sir?” His secretary called out to him. “You need to answer the call sir.” She said sternly. President Hunter had been thinking about this call since he made his decision to press the button earlier.

The decision that he made when word eventually got out to the public about it, would leave a lasting impression on the minds of millions of his supporters. The president began to tremble at the thought as the phone continued to ring. His mind dove into the potential backlash of executing the order. Images of this fateful day in various news columns. There would be riots and protest in the street.

His opponents would milk this in every debate. He would probably need to wear body armor at all times. The country would never be united when they found out what he had done. “Mister President?” Jocelyn the secretary asked.

“I’m answering.” President Hunter assured her as he fumbled with the phone. He then took a deep breath. ” Hello?” He answered and he was met with silence. “Hel…hello?” He said again, this time he was met with a young squeaky male voice.

“Um hi, uh we received your order but I’m sorry we’re out of pineapples for your pizza.”

Oh thank goodness, Hunter thought to himself, the pizza place didn’t have pineapples. America would never know about this. “That’s fine, my finger must’ve slipped on the order button on your site, I actually wanted cheese. Pineapple on pizza, that’s pretty ridiculous. You might as well put chicken noodle soup on there, am I right?” He chuckled nervously.

There was a long pause before the pizza guy replied. “Um…so yeah, that’ll be twenty bucks even.”

“That’s fine, have a great day. ” Hunter said slamming the phone down on its base. He was relieved but couldn’t help but wonder what might have been if his pizza had pineapples.

 

♦♦♦

 

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Short Story Friday

Political Machinations

by Vicky Holt

appointment, dangerous, cost, empire, kitten, mug, converter, essence, tennis, poke

 

“Come here, kitten,” the Senator said with a glint in his eye. “I need your help with this spreadsheet converter.”

Uh huh. I knew exactly what he needed help with, and it had nothing to do with my customized software application. But it was the price I had to pay. For now.

“What is it, Senator Blake?” I sashayed to his desk and leaned over his shoulder, staring at his laptop screen. “Blinking out on you again?”

There was nothing wrong with his software. He poked a thick finger at the touchscreen, blurring the liquid display where he pointed. I noted the numbers on the spreadsheet, just a jumble of inconsequential figures, but his hand up the back of my thigh demanded my focus.

I swallowed the razor in my throat and licked my lips.

“You’re treading dangerous waters, Senator,” I said. I leaned closer, so the essence of my perfume penetrated his nose. “These numbers don’t make any sense.”

He squeezed my thigh under my skirt and rumbled in his throat.
I continued. “Would you like me to refill your mug?”

I was a software developer intern, not a damned secretary, but I was so close to winning this tennis match.

“I’m not thirsty, kitten,” he said. “Just hungry.”

I stood up, letting my arm brush against his shoulder. “That’s too bad, because I brewed some coffee just for you.”

I presented my mug to him, the press of my red lipstick forming a crescent on the rim. “Taste it.”

His wolfish grin sent acid straight to my gut. I grinned in spite of it. He kept eye contact while placing his flappy lips on my lipstick mark.
10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2…the mug dropped, bonking off Senator Blake’s fat thigh, and spilling black coffee all over his trousers and office chair. It rolled until the handle stopped its inertia.

“Senator Blake!” I screamed. I dialed the emergency number and shouted again, all while moving his body to the floor so that I could perform CPR.

That’s how the paramedics found me, and they took over.

“I don’t know what happened,” I cried. “He has an appointment in fifteen minutes!” My emotional blather continued until I was ushered into the HR offices.

“We’re so sorry,” the HR person told me from her desk. “We’ll move you to a different department. Do you need to take the rest of the day off?”

I sniffled and took her offered tissue. “That’s probably for the best,” I said. She told me to come back the next day and which department to report to. “Thanks.”

It could have been any department; it wasn’t important. The computer virus had already been planted, and my empire was about to triumph.

***

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Short Story Friday

OFFICE INTRIGUE IN THE FUTURE

a short story by Elizabeth Lemons

5 JULY 2019

WORDS TO USE:
time travel, trousers, supervise, identity,
mustard, kitchen, successfully, law, fly, tooth

Picture, if you will, a futuristic hub of legal counseling and representation. It is the year 2050, and our scene begins in a very posh, upscale law office that is located in the Plutonian Upper Galaxy, inside the central super dome which holds inside the prestigious legal firm known as DEWEY, SCREWEM, and HOWE.

If you are equipped with just a bit of imagination and I-GGPS (inter-galactic GPS) for precise time travel expedience, perhaps you can imagine true masters of the Universe as they daily gather around the water cooler-tablet dispenser, wearing the latest in expensive spacesuits, trendily colored in purples, cobalt blues, or mustard golds. They are complete boring-ass clones of one another, there is no speck of personal identity amongst their entire gathering.

The notion of doing one’s own individual “thing” unfortunately died tragically over thirty years ago in an Earthly city called New Orleans when a priestly dude called Dr. John exited human existence and vacated the great Blue Ball, taking with him all his mystical and voodoo-y powers of human exclusiveness. Since earth is no more, he and all other musicians, artists of all types, chefs, and writers (now eternally converted to their astral mo-jo selves) have been sent to daily rule in the Misfit Realm on Planet Funky. Untouched, unbothered and still unaccountable, these artistic Uniques, to this very day, continue to create amongst mellow hippie vibes, bathed forever in the scents of patchouli, surrounded by fresh icedrop sky flowers, and are forever content in a secreted place located remotely far from the Galactic Daily Grind.

So, the unspoken rule of the Undulating Universe these days is to simply fit it and make no intrusive waves of any kind. Unseen and unheard is the accepted best policy. Aloft here in the Galaxy, making fortunes off the misfortunes of others, are each of our attorneys, who dress and accessorize his or her own ensembles with prerequisite “men-in-black” sunglasses which hide emotion and permit planetary apperation. Heartless, blood-sucking attorneys, just the same in today’s time, as in days of old. Only concerned with the bottom line and filling their pockets. These lawful gods and goddesses of destruction daily wake inside their personal pristine monotone and meteoric dwelling pods, and stare into stardust mirrors, purchased illegally, (they “know” someone) on the bootleg market, completely enthralled with how their own “personal flare for justice” will surely successfully save the solar system from foreboding doom that is sure to come. Then, just before they fly from home dome back to another work day, they usually flash a fake smile at themselves as a gold tooth sparkles back at them from the looking glass. “Ding!”

They have forgotten what happened on Earth when their precedents attempted to do the same.

Between the dull-roar hours of 10am and 11am SST (Stardust Standard Time), a daily work meeting convenes in the Conference Room/Kitchen at this place of prestige on weekdays other than Friday. On this particular morning, a Tuesday, several of the lawyers have grabbed a bagel tablet or two, cream cheese tablets, with coffee pastilles, and some of the younger suits chose Taco tablets because Taco Tuesday still remains a thing, even in modern times. It is more than fine to consume a couple of jumbo Margarita tablets for the purpose of washing down the combo pills of chips and salsa. Alcoholism and DUI’s are a thing of the long-ago past, and now a person can consume anything without fear of disease, weight-gain or other stigma. They sit in an oval circle, around a pellucid table, with an actual live view of the Aurora Borealis surrounding them through the crystal-clear outer wall. Many an intended thought has been forever lost in that kaleidoscopic abyss of starry gas and neon colour.

A particular tall attorney whose job it is to supervise the group (some think he resembles the earthly actor known as Will Smith) calls the work meeting to order. Beside him sits his assistant, Atreya. He clears his throat and begins, “Good morning, team. Glad you all found some nourishment. I know you all have a busy day ahead, so we will jump right into things on our agenda.” Felbar gestures towards the pad of notation known by today’s techies as a Warrior Z that lay on the floating invisible table before him.

“Atreya has just completed our evidence room inventory and she has reported back to me that a sensitive object is missing from its secure housing. Is there any reason that one of you might have relocated the evidence ID’ed as item # ERTH-69-VMP for an ongoing case? I can’t imagine what that might be.”

Not a sound can be heard in the room. Felbar continues with a smirk. “OK, alright…or possibly maybe one of you has borrowed it for your own personal naughty role-playing use (he winks) and are now afraid of reprimand should you get caught returning this item?” Non-response continues to prevail, except for the shuffling of one of the attorneys boots on the floor. Each of the legal eagles who sit gathered around the stardeck table begin to look everywhere but at their leader, Felbar. Some fidget, some pretend to be thinking, some look from one lawyer to the next or at their fingernails, desperately trying to guess who is to blame.

After what seems like light years of uncomfortable silence, one of the younger and newest attorneys (normally they ignore her at all cost) raises her left hand up in an acknowledgment wave. “Look, I know I am new here and I admit, I have just begun to take my “better-than-human” conversion meds which I agreed to do upon hiring, and so you may or may not believe me when I tell you about something that I have witnessed. But, I swear, it is absolutely true.” Felbar casts his intense gaze onto the woman who looks both eager and simultaneously scared.

“Do tell”, Felbar encourages her.

“Well, a few weeks ago, I was assigned a pro-bono case with one of the FUNKS, from Planet Funky, the artsy types. It was not a greatly desired case, you know, but I agreed to listen, due, naturally to my inexperience, and also, you know, with being expected to learn and work my way up (you know, without standard pay, as all entry-levels do who are learning the legal ropes),” she stammers.

Felbar interjects, “yes, yes, we know.”

“Well, yes,” Aurora continues, “and so I spent some time one afternoon discussing this rather weak case which, to me, sounded like something unfounded, as if it were from a long-lost memory from Earth. A middle-aged couple came to me, wanting me to somehow help their daughter. They claimed she had been kidnapped, been violated and then, subsequently had a child. Because of this vicious accosting. I know we are to forward any of these old-school crime cases down to Legal Aid for Ancient Grieviances. Rape, kidnapping and children being born outside of ideal two-partner marriages are forbidden here in our modern world, I know this, but, well…as I said, they came here from Planet Funk. And, well, ugh, you know, they still have IDEAS about ways and means from older times on that planet. You know what I am speaking of… Basically, I just listened, recorded their concerns, and told them I would investigate and get back with them.” Aurora is practically out of breath after venting her tale.

Felbar holds his face with the fingers of his right hand as he thoughtfully responds. “And this has to do exactly WHAT with the missing evidence?”

Aurora sighs. “I don’t exactly know.”

Felbar rolls his eyes. “Please don’t waste our time, Aurora.”

“Look, all I can say is they came, and they said they thought a..,um…well, sir, they actually believed that a vampire had taken their daughter, the father was absolutely convinced that this was true. He thought someone had to be protecting this vampire and any others, and was vehement in that he would do whatever he could to stop this from ever happening again to any other young woman, or man, I guess. I suppose, under these horrific circumstances, that any father would. I am not saying this so-called vampire-person took the evidence for sure, but doesn’t it seem like it’s possible he might be the one who did?”

“Alright, Aurora.”, Feldar says soothingly. “Thank you for your …,” he smiled, “insight.” “Since we have no actual proof at this time, let’s table this for now, and move onto the next item on our agen—”

Actual giggles are heard around the table. No one believes that any of the past-known supposed fictional “mythical monsters” have outlived the downfall of Earth. Vampires, werewolves, ghosts, even mermaids have not been seen nor heard of in over half a century and are now, by most intelligent beings, deemed extinct. There have been absolutely no sightings, nor reportings or any reason at all to believe that they have somehow followed humans into the future, into space. It is believed that they all remained and consequently perished long ago on the vast, empty, lifeless, dry and brown tundra…Earth.

A lawyer called Taurean speaks with a bemused tone. “Where would they be hiding, the bloodsuckers? Here we have no cemeteries, certainly no coffins! We have no haunted houses, we have no blood banks any more. This is laughable, just so archaic!” No sympathy appears from anyone towards the possibility of Aurora’s sincere supposition.

“But, wait! Please listen, Sir! Even I know what # ERTH-69-VMP is! It is a vampire hunting box, a kit complete with holy water and stakes! Who else would want it, for that matter, how in the world would this client who came to see me even KNOW about this kit’s survival? If these and other creatures don’t exist, sir, then why in the stars would we have retained such an exhibit as evidence? Sir, why are you not taking this seriously? We need to call in experts, we need to try to find this father, before he snaps! He might remove his monitoring collar and attempt to capture this violator all on his own! What if he IS right? And what if he has decided to take things into his own hands, to hunt and kill? Sir, what if there really IS a vampire situation in the current Plutonian Galaxy?” Aurora practically shouts in her enthusiasm to help solve the case of the missing evidence.

Feldar, always the fearless leader, looks at Aurora, He slowly makes visual eye contact with each of his look-alike attorneys still sitting around the floating table. They express nothing, reveal nothing, and basically are just drones of protocol, now filled up and sanctified with salsa and coffee. Feldar turns to his ever-by-his-side assistant Atreya and he asks, “tell us, Atreya, exactly why do you think the missing item that was contained in this forever hidden-away trove has our Aurora so unhinged with fear?”

He looks at Atreya, then he turns his eyes towards the room full of attorneys, whose eyes were now like lasers, glowing a bright red. Feldar charmingly smiles. It is at that precise moment two very prominent, sharp fangs are revealed from inside Feldar’s mouth. You can hear the clicking..first from Atreya’s mouth, then from each lawyer as each of their fangs dropped and popped and who now hungrily stare at this tender young solicitor.

Aurora faints.

And thus, another daily gathering of the Inter-Galactic Plutonian Upper Galaxy law firm known as DEWEY, SCREWEM and HOWE dismisses their morning legal duties and proceeds to convene into their favorite activity of the day. What some people might call a Power Lunch.

THE END