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.

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.

The Fall

Prompt: Translate

woman-bath

The worst part was the ride back across the river in that little wooden punt. The stream was high and jostled them, and the rush of adrenalin that had earlier blocked out the pain had subsided, leaving her to feel the intense pain in her foot, and in her right elbow, where she had landed so hard, and in her upper rib cage, which had borne the impact on the massive tree root as she landed. The scrapes on her hands and legs she didn’t yet feel.

Paul was concerned and apologetic, though why he kept saying he was sorry was a mystery to Catherine. She had fallen under her own steam, if not intentionally. Colin wondered where the nearest doctor might reside, he rambled on and on about it. Emily took her left hand and squeezed it encouragingly. That hurt, and Catherine winced. Everything hurt.

Back at the Soulis house, Mme Soulis greeted the three healthy hikers and the one battered one with her usual aplomb, as if it was to be expected that one of them should pitch down the dry waterfall. Colin wanted a doctor but she ignored him and summoned old Soulis, who gave her a rather personal, and painful examination right there in the front foyer; twisting her ankles and arms, poking her abdomen and asking questions in French that Catherine could not understand.

“I think he asked if you have a headache?” Paul said, from his position beside her chair, a large carved piece of furniture more like a throne, and completely out of place in the hallway. He put his arm around her shoulder as he bent over to ask.

Dammit, she did have a headache, she hadn’t noticed until he asked. Dammit. Colin took it upon himself to feel her scalp for bumps, and found none.

“I want drugs,” Catherine said.

“Nothing is broken,” Paul said, “He says you are fine.”

“What?” said Catherine, who felt for the first time the sting of a scratch on her cheek.

“It is probably a sprain, that left ankle,” Paul continued.

“A sprain can be worse than a break,” Colin said unhelpfully.

“And maybe a nasty bruise on the elbow,” Paul said, wincing in empathy.

“We need some stretchy bandages for the ankle,” Emily said, and Mme Soulis, whom they hadn’t notice had left the foyer, suddenly reappeared as if on cue with a roll of beige stretchy tape. She also had a bottle that suspiciously looked like Iodine, which Catherine, remembering it from her childhood, planned to resist.

Mme Soulis spoke, and Paul did his best to translate. “Your condition is not serious, and you do not need a hospital, but your own doctor when you get home. Something like that.”

“It feels serious,” Catherine said sulkily, her eyes welling with tears. “Ow, I might have broken a rib!”

“Can you breathe?” Paul asked, on old Soulis’ behalf.

“Um, yes.”

“No broken ribs then,” said Paul morosely, as if it would have better if she was right even if it meant broken ribs.

Mme Soulis disappeared again and returned with a cup of hot herbal tea. Catherine sipped while old Soulis wrapped the tape expertly around her left foot, under the watchful eye of Paul and Emily, who had done many an impromptu ankle taping. Someone handed her a kleenex to blot her tears. Then old Soulis took the nefarious little bottle from Mme Soulis’ hand, and dabbed it on a square of folded gauze.

“I’ll do that,” said Colin. And as he dabbed, painlessly, at her legs, arms and cheek, Catherine sipped the last of her tea, suddenly drowsy, aching, spent. “You’ll be ok, baby,” said someone. Colin?

Later, she slept. The soft, cool dry sheets of their bed felt heavenly against her aches; she didn’t think she had ever felt so comfortable, the fall notwithstanding. She awoke when she heard the door close tentatively. On the bedside table was another cup of tea, and a large ceramic basin, steam rising from warm water, a pale yellow sponge floating on its surface. She didn’t have the energy to give herself a sponge bath. Where was Colin? She tried awkwardly to heave herself up into a semi-sitting position, and saw she was naked and pulled a white sheet up around her chin. Not before noticing one large rib bruise and two small purple smudges on her right breast. Ouch.

Catherine took the cup of tea in her hands and sipped—it was obviously medicinal in some way, some crazy magic Soulis way, and the closest thing to drugs she was likely to get here— and stared out the window at the clearing around the house, and the forest beyond, edging closer. It was grey, and she had no idea of the time and no idea where her watch was. It must be late— dinner time? Was Colin with Emily and Paul, enjoying a gourmet dinner while she suffered with a basin of water and a cup of indeterminate tea?

Colin burst in to the room at that moment, flush faced and a glass of white wine in his hand. “Ah, you’re awake!” He sat in the desk chair that had been brought close to the foot of the bed. Catherine hadn’t noticed it there before. “I’ve been sitting here for ages, honest! Just went down for a glass of wine. It’s happy hour. Emily and Paul send their love.”

She could tell by the flush in his cheeks and they way he unintentionally mimicked their English accents, that this was not his first glass of wine of the evening. Colin was what she would call a cheap drunk. Drinking was not his thing.

“Madam Soulis is making a dinner tray for the two of us,” Colin said happily. “I think it’s chicken.”

“With wine? I wouldn’t mind some wine. A lot of wine.”

Colin stood and set the almost empty wine glass down on the desk. “Is the water still warm? Let me give you the sponge bath of your life.”

The water was still warm, and he bathed every part of her body with the soft yellow sponge, silky and soothing, kissing all the tender places. If it hadn’t hurt so much, it would have been the most erotic moment of her married life.

 


Standing Up

Prompt: Squat

woman-explorer

“So you squat on a ceramic surface with a hole in it,” said Howard. “It’s actually healthier.”

“Shut the fuck up, Howard,” said Daisy, peeling a grapefruit.

“And some cultures only wipe with the left hand,” said Howard. “Very logical and clean.”

“Did anyone ask Howard to talk to us about toilet habits?” said Mitchell.

“No,” said Daisy.

“Women aren’t explorers,” said Howard, “because they can’t pee standing up.”

“Can you?” asked Daisy.

Grash, dressed in rags, broke from the sunlight into the shade of the tree, and said, “Time to get back to work.”

“Fuck you, Grash,” said Mitchell.

(Life as a volunteer worker on a southern kibbutz.)

I Always Sound Like This

Prompt: Sound


Good afternoon, Wednesday. Today the prompt is sound. Did you think first of:

a) The Danish Play: It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
b) Simon and Garfunkel: The Sounds of Silence.
c) Musical and title song: The Sound of Music.

or

d) Favourite cartoons?

I am going with d)!

cartoon-breathing


cartoon-rock-sixy-years


cartoon-frog-on-phone


Happy week!

~~FP