The Perfect Way

Prompt: Quicken

vodka-ice-water-ice-8493509

“Only you make my heart quicken,” said Kenneth, sitting on the edge of the bed. He had loosened his tie, and his shirt, a size too big in an attempt minimize his weight gain, bunched around his abdomen. He was pale and white.

They were in the Presidential Suite at the Four Season’s Hotel. Outside the windows, city lights twinkled and dimmed. Lydia was seated in a dove grey, faux suede sectional couch, long legs crossed. She was, as usual, fresh, fragrant, and immaculately groomed.

“Thank you, Kenny,” said Lydia. “Will we be in bed tonight, or simply talking as we did last time?”

“In bed, Lydia,” said Kenneth. He went to the bar and poured them both a vodka, brilliantly clear over brilliantly clear, crystal, half-melted ice cubes. “You know my story. I’m in danger.”

“I do,” she said. She stood and walked to where Kenneth sat on the crisp linen bedspread. She stroked his thinning hair. “How is Magda?”

“She’s good, the kids are good,” he said. “Everything is good.” He then spoke quietly and precisely, as if he’d prepared a speech. “If you leave quietly later on, so much the better.”

“I understand,” said Lydia. “But I’m not sure.”

“I can’t think of a better way.”

“For you.”

“Yes, for me, but I am also sparing Magda,” said Kenneth.

Lydia raised her eyebrows as if to say, Now?, and Kenneth had the perception to blush. It had been a difficult six months. The salacious scandal, the humiliating reveals, the financial losses, the intense stress, the devastating health problems, and the loss of face and reputation, all while clinging to the deadening belief that enough lies would temper the pain.

They made athletic love in the king size, pristine white-sheeted bed. If the dead have memories, then Lydia provided lots of those. He left in the perfect way that only those who choose can know. His heart quickened, and he died.

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A Good Daddy

Prompt: Jiggle

jelly-2

Virginia was out go-karting with Envy, so Cash was left alone with baby Echo, who was sitting contentedly in her high chair, using her fingers to dissect a blob of strawberry Jello. Some of it made its way into her mouth, but most was pushed around the table top, dropped to the kitchen floor, or smeared on her face and bib.

Cash just watched, fascinated. He knew a good daddy might spoon-feed the jiggly Jello, maybe play the “Zoooom, an airplane!” game, which Cash had seen on TV. His father had certainly never played “Zoooom, an airplane” with Cash, and now he desperately wished he had. Was it too late? Maybe he’d wander over to the house when Virginia got back, knock on his father’s office door with a bowl of Jello, and ask his father to please play “Zoooom, an airplane!” with him.

His father would probably dial 911 and have his son discreetly committed. He didn’t like scandal.

There was no point, really, in playing “Zoooom, an airplane!” with Echo. She was really too young yet, this being her first week of solid food. She didn’t know an airplane from a tube of toothpaste. She barely understood that the high chair scenario, wherein delectable goods were placed in front of her, was for eating. It was merely another play opportunity; a chance to explore and experiment. That’s what fascinated Cash.

That, and his very neglectful father. The thing was, how could his father not have loved him? Cash had only to glance at Echo, no matter if she was screaming red-faced, being divested of a dirty diaper, asleep, drooling— and Cash felt his heart swell and then break into a million tiny pieces. The kind of broken heart that felt so good it hurt like hell.

What had his father seen when he saw Cash’s dirty bum or drool? Repulsion? In that case, very similar to what he saw in Cash now, despite his many, many attempts to please his father. How could they not fail, when his father’s utter lack of faith in him could only rub off on Cash? His venture in China seemed a good idea, but his father thought it a joke, though he did not swap a scowl for a smile. It was a tragic joke, a bit like Cash himself.

Echo started earnestly pushing daubs of strawberry Jello up her nose. Cash’s heart broke again, and he reached for the washcloth to gently wipe her hands and face.

100 Miles

Prompt: Arid

desert

The sky is the same color as the sand, a luminous Photoshop-layered, grainy, noisy, soft-focused, glowing, diffused, warm, creamy, grey-and-yellow. There is no safe horizon to guide me on my journey, no compass, only the feel of unreliable sand beneath my feet and the sure knowledge that I must move, or die. I am halfway there. I smell my own stale, dry, hot, recycled breath through the scarf wrapped like bandages around my nose and mouth. Move, or die. Finally, finally, I am there. I have travelled the 100 miles. I have travelled the 100 words.


  • From a 100 words challenge

Baby Love Not

Prompt: Baby

honest-diapers

Why did I agree to this? I hate kids, and I hate poo. I want to take the kids to the bridge and toss them over, or jump into certain death myself. It’s not my fault. Who would hire me? I have a tattoo of a rat on my neck, where everyone can see it, and a rusted heavy gothic rod pierced through the left side of my nose. I think it’s a beautiful thing, but my mother now pretends she is childless. I overheard her tell my father she would like to have children someday. I will never have kids. I hate them. Especially when they poo into paper. This is NOT worth twenty dollars. Who would hire me?

 


  • From a 100 words challenge

Agony Ant: Completely Normal Dude

Prompt: Hideout

raccoon-plush-toytabby-cat-plush

Dear Agony Ant,

I am an 18-year old man currently living in a winter hunting cabin in the woods, almost a mile from the city limits. Fortunately, I have Internet reception, which has allowed me to complete my high school education via online courses, where I did particularly well in chemistry, grammar, and gymnastics (though the latter grades were mostly honour system).

I hunt, fish, and visit the Safeway to meet nutritional needs. I have several different indoor, hunting, foraging, and public clothing sets, so I am presentable when picking up prescriptions from the pharmacy, for example, as well as properly attired for hunting rabbits. The cabin has a generator but no heat, but I find the wood burning stove adequate for my warmth needs.

My companion in the cabin is my large tabby cat, named Ferdinand. He is a competent mouser and watch-cat (alerted me to a blockage in the chimney one night, which saved us both), and is also quite affectionate. There is also a particularly friendly and persistent raccoon, who visits daily, and recently had a litter of babies, who now also visit. Unfortunately, the cat and the raccoon have not become friends, and in fact are quite hostile towards one another.

But, that is not the problem for which I am asking advice, Ms Ant. It’s my high school graduation ceremony and subsequent prom. Since I live alone (Ferdinand notwithstanding), I have very few acquaintances of either gender, yet I long to escort a date to the celebratory dance and whatever festivities might follow (specifically, sexual contact and loss of virginity).

The correspondence school is sponsoring a modest gathering in a city 55 miles from here, in the grand ballroom of the Best Western Motel there, and they need confirmation from me about my attendance and food allergy information, as well as how many rooms I will be booking for the evening.

So my questions are: a) Where does one find a non-psychotic date who is willing to attend a correspondence school prom and who is also not averse to having sex with me, a stranger, afterwards; and b) is there an outlet that will exchange a carefully fitted and stylish suit rental for dried huckleberries and 20 lbs of assorted cured squirrels, pigeon, and blue snake (which tastes a lot like chicken)?

Yours truly,
Completely Normal Dude


Dear Completely Normal Dude,

Yes, you are normal, despite the surface aberrations of living like a hermit and serving tea to raccoons. You are a horny elderly teenager who desperately wants to get laid, and even went so far as to study online so you would have justification for this compulsion, since you are so socially inexperienced that you equate prom attendance with loss of virginity.

If you are financially able (maybe shoot a few more squirrels), I suggest hiring a pretty youngish woman from a reputable escort agency to dress appropriately as your date, play the role, and initiate you into the wonders of fornication after a few grinds on the dance floor. This is a win-win-win situation: A win for you, getting your cherry picked by an expert; for your date, who will make quite a lot of cash for an easy, though time-consuming, assignment (don’t forget she will likely not want to spend the night with you at the Best Western Motel, so you will need to provide transportation at the end of your liaison); and a win for the unsuspecting young woman, identity unknown, whom you were prepared to inflict your illusory impulses upon.

As for the suit, have you considered shop-lifting? Many big box stores, which some say harm local economies, now sell jackets and pants which would suffice. Keep the berries and snake bacon for yourself, since you never know what might happen.

And may I commend you on your exquisite grammar.

Peace and love,
agony ant


Dear Agony Ant,

How did you know about the tea?

Completely Normal Dude


Dear CND,

It is my job to read between the lines. Do not become too attached to the raccoons, and not just because it could alienate and cause a breach of trust with Ferdinand. I see heartbreak ahead if you fail to realize that raccoons are wild, free spirits who will also overturn your garbage can.

Peace and Love,
agony ant

Stefan

Prompt: Blur

dinner-napkin

Another restaurant meeting, but this time an assassination.

She arrived seven minutes early and was escorted to a red leather booth separated from prying eyes by a deep red velvet curtain. She noticed two bodyguards by the double door entrance, trying to be subtle, but failing. They were dressed in severely dark suits, and looked around the room in a kind of silent desperation, as if aching for trouble. Another one stood motionless in the shadows near the entrance to the restrooms. The restaurant was about half full, diners murmuring in soft tones, a sound as silky as a love song. It was perfect.

She remained standing behind the curtain, waiting, in her white silk dress and pearls, a large beaded bag holding cosmetics, cigarettes, and other necessities, pearl earrings dripping from her earlobes, and two diamond rings, glittering in the candlelight. She was blonde this night, a luxurious, shimmering blonde, with painted lips as red and rich as the velvet drapes.

He’d spotted her at a diplomatic dinner, as they’d hoped, and very discreetly arranged a rendezvous. She didn’t mind being bait— it was part of her job— but she didn’t like the idea of being a prop in this drama. She wanted a leading role, and she was given it.

They ate rare steaks, they fed each other dessert, flirting and giggling. She called him “Stefan”, much to his delight. He bragged about his closeness to the President, while stoically and repeatedly telling her that he could not discuss state issues, then proceeding to do so in order to highlight his significant role in such affairs.

“The President relies on you,” she said, reaching across the table, extending a delicate finger and intimately dabbing the corner of his mouth.

He took her hand and kissed it, then inelegantly wiped his mouth and chin with the white linen napkin. “He does— and when he doesn’t he comes to me to clean up the mess.”

She smiled, and took a small sip of champagne. He was not a handsome man, but had the arrogance that power brings, and the confidence that power would always ensure liaisons with beautiful, otherwise untouchable women.

“I have a small suite booked at the Palisades,” he said. “Shall we?” He stood and extended a hand to help her to her feet. “Just let me alert the guys, and hit the toilet.” He kissed her on the top of her head, and disappeared through the curtain.

While he was in the gentleman’s room, she swiftly took a clean white linen napkin from her bag, wiped her fingerprints from utensils and glassware, then put it on his plate, taking his napkin into her bag.

There was suddenly a commotion from beyond the curtain. She heard many voices, and the flash of cameras threw shadows across the wall and onto the corner of the table. One of the bodyguards came through and said, “Sorry, miss. Someone must have tipped off the press. If you come with me, you can leave through the kitchen. A taxi is waiting to take you home.”

She eschewed the taxi, pulling her cashmere shawl around her shoulders, and walked a few blocks in the brisk air, before hailing another cab and climbing inside.

Early the next morning, his wife found him dead in his Sealy Posturpedic bed. An autopsy was pending, but no foul play was suspected.