Prickly

Prompt: Disagree

cactus

“While I disagree with you, I defend your right to express your opinion,” said Graham, and took a small sip from his glass of Merlot. “But you are wrong.”

“Thank you,” said Envy, and behind her sunglasses she rolled her eyes so hard it almost gave her a headache. She took a large sip from her glass of iced Sauvignon Blanc. The restaurant patio looked out upon acres of terraced vineyards, and was surrounded by grape vine trellises, and featured an extensive local wine list, and could not be more grape-y if it tried.

She didn’t want to argue with Graham any more. He considered discussions a cerebral exercise. He had no real opinions, except those that, for fun, opposed hers. This winery tour weekend had turned into an eye-roll extravaganza for Envy, who realized her radar for tolerable human beings was definitely rusted out.

He was adorable though, on first meeting. Very blond and thin, with mediterranean blue eyes behind large dark framed glasses, and a piquant comment to make on each of the pictures in the gallery on opening night. Envy was impressed, especially that the exhibit she had curated was so thoughtfully critiqued by such a charming person. Naively, as it turned out.

“While it is aesthetically resilient,” Graham said about Cena Navidad, “it is less a revival of a past tradition than, say, an act of meditation.”

“Do you really think so?” she asked him, tilting her head as she gazed at the print, as if that would facilitate some kind of revelation.

“Don’t you?” asked Graham, and took a small sip of his glass of Merlot.

Later on, he made love to her with a precision that was admirable, though may have been more a reflection of her need than his skill. And when he invited her on a weekend of wine touring and other decadence, she looked forward to a fascinating, and very satisfying, two days.

A winery tour was a decidedly unfortunate idea, not for Graham, who revelled in the private tastings and the opportunity to express detailed opinions, but for Envy, who had to listen to them.

Lightly smacking his lips (which also grew into an intolerable mannerism) after tasting, Graham declared the 2014 unoaked Chardonnay from one winery to be “parochially lean and sharply melancholy”. Envy was too melancholy to make love that night.

He found that a pleasant (to Envy) 2010 Merlot possessed “creamy tang overtones with a flippant cactus perfume too narcissistic for everyday consumption”. Envy was too prickly to sleep with Graham that night.

And on this, their last lunch in the valley before the drive home, he disagreed that he was an “over-dry, overrated white, with distinctly sour pickle notes and a uniformly weak finish.”

The drive back was scenic, past the crystal lakes, the dry hills turning into mountains, but inside the car it was quiet. Almost melancholy.

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Obsession

Prompt: Obsessed

creepy kitten

Marigold loved romantic movies, loved sitcoms about relationships, loved books about passionate love affairs. She knew the drill:

A real man doesn’t give up. He knows who he loves, and if she doesn’t realize it quite yet, then he is persistent. His passion is romantic, masculine; her hesitation is either false or fickle, and to be overcome. Love will conquer all.

Sending flowers, cards, messages and emails, appearing unannounced at his true love’s workplace, or flying across country and showing up uninvited on his true love’s doorstep, even though she has rejected him, is real love. She will see that, eventually. She will be flattered, understand the power of his love, and love him back.

Real men pursue until their prey acquiesce.

After meeting Jeanie’s “friend”, her views shifted. Jeanie did impress upon her that Guy’s attentions were unwanted, intrusive, and even threatening behaviours. As a friend, Marigold supported these perceptions, but in her heart she wondered what it would be like to have someone love you to such and extent that they simply would not take no for an answer.

Now she knew. He left gifts outside her door. They were creepy, intimate gifts: soaps, or body oils, or odd little figures of puppies and kittens, or postcards of exotic places he had never visited, or letters. The letters described what they would do together, when she finally loved him back.

She stopped answering the telephone, and he left messages, some so long that the tape ran out. He left messages on her Facebook page.

She could see him standing on the sidewalk across from her apartment.

Marigold contacted the police. She said he was harassing and stalking her. They said their hands were tied, as he had not made any explicit physical threats. He had told her more than once that he would kill himself if she wouldn’t see him. Jeanie told her to ignore him.

She could barely sleep at night, afraid the phone might ring. So she developed a plan, whereby she would return the attentions. She started a notebook, and jotted down ideas and strategies as she thought of them. Repaying Guy for the hell he had been putting her through, for the time and attention she wasted worrying about him, for the futile visits to the police— became an obsession. She wanted to ask Jeanie for help and suggestions, but feared Jeanie would not approve.

But she would go ahead with her plan anyway. She would leave scary things on his doorstep— truly scary things. She would call him at all hours and hang up— consistently. She would send anonymous messages to his employers, and she would hack his Facebook account. Her hands were not tied. She would act.

 


  • The subject isn’t really funny, but the satire is: The Onion.

True Deserts

Prompt: Desert

dusty road with cyclysts

“This is a desert,” Marcus said. “Probably the only one up here?”

They were relaxing by a pool of deep brilliant blue water, outside their guest room at the Grey Owl Winery. There was no one else by the pool. The rest of the guests were sipping cold wine in the cool dim interior of the restaurant, or siesta-ing under ceiling fans in darkened apartments. But Marcus loved the heat, and Envy loved what Marcus loved.

Still, it was brutally hot and dry, and they watched a stream of tourists in cars approaching the winery, leaving a trail of the finest dust in billowing clouds behind them.

They were celebrating their first wedding anniversary. It was one of Envy’s most cherished memories, despite all that was to come.

“It is the northern end of the Sonoran desert,” Envy said. She took a sip of her soda and lime, from a long straw poked into a frosted glass. “But really, not a true desert. It feels like it today though,” she conceded.

Marcus threw his head back to get the last drop of beer from the bottle. Then he stood up from his lounger, and straddled Envy on hers.

“Marcus!”

“Let’s go inside,” Marcus said. “I want to hear more about true deserts.” He leaned over her and kissed her neck, under her ear.

She felt heat and wetness on her skin where he touched her.

The room was cool, air-conditioned, and dimly lit with the curtains drawn. They listened to Ray Charles, and were oblivious to the sun and heat, and the scent of the vineyard, and the sight of the tourists in rental cars crawling along the dusty road that led to the Grey Owl Winery, leaving clouds in their wake.

Agony Ant: Neanderthal Poetry

Prompt: False

moose

Dear Agony Ant,

My boyfriend is a Neanderthal.

He keeps himself relatively clean, but has the worst teeth, as in some are missing, some are loose, and some are sharp. This means that our love-making is perilous and often painful and bloody, though is quite spectacular in other regards.

Yes, he should see a dentist, but is deathly afraid of them. He is also afraid of small spaces, lightning, automobiles, cats, plastic, and electricity.

He is also not much of a conversationalist, choosing to “do” rather than “say”. I can’t claim he doesn’t communicate well, but I am a bit of romantic, and love poetry. I really wish he would one day say in words how he feels about me. He has never told me he loves me, but I suspect he does.

We are trying to decide whether to live together. I am a bit of a neat freak, and he is quite the opposite. He rabidly sticks to his paleo diet, while I am vegetarian.

I am no spring chicken, and he might be my one shot at true happiness, commitment, and baby Neanderthals.

How can I tell if we should move in together?

Yours truly,
Sentimental Lover


 

Dear Sentimental Lover,

That’s quite a catch you have there. I am kidding. The heart has reasons, and all that.

If you are willing to overlook the little quirks, like his lack of speech and fear of plastic, because you love each other, then all the power to you. I’m sure he overlooks your flaws, like your use of electric lights and toothpaste.

But, he owes you some proof of his true affection and romantic feelings. Demand that he write you a love poem. If he can overcome his shyness about communicating his feelings, then I believe you can be a brilliant match, despite your differences in diet.

Peace and love,
agony ant


 

Dear Agony Ant,

He did it! He wrote me a love poem. It made me cry. Do you think it proves his sincerity?

I am hunter
You are womb
You are beautiful like skinned moose
Pink
Juicy
Fill belly.

Yours truly,
Sentimental Lover


 

Dear Sentimental Lover,

It made me cry too. Anyway, the sincerity is definitely there.

Good luck as you start your romantic adventure cohabiting, and possibly, marriage, children, and growing old together.

May I suggest you relocate to a city with legalized marijuana?

Peace and love,
agony ant

Sacrifice Canyon

Prompt: Sacrifice

buffalo

Andrew, his mother, and his mother’s new boyfriend, Randy, were spending a week tenting on the lake. The campsite, Sacrifice Canyon, was full of families, in rows of nylon tents separated only by cedar picnic tables with peeling yellow paint. Toilets and shower stalls were located in a brick building near the entrance to the campsite, by the office; showers were a dollar for seven minutes of hot water. Toilets were free.

There was a gang of kids thrown together by their parents’ choice of vacation, a group that raided orchards, made a lot of noise on the big raft the campsite floated on the lake, took long walks to the nearest grocery store, which sold popsicles and pop, and gathered around a large bonfire on the beach each evening after dark.

His new grandpa, Bernardo, had given him some girl advice, because he could tell that Andrew was a late bloomer and a bit shy, just as he was as a boy. Pick a quiet one, he said. Be nice, and don’t push it.

It turned out to be pretty good advice.

Andrew and Sophie were a couple for the week. When they walked with the gang, they walked hand in hand. When they hung out around the fire, he draped his arm over her shoulders. He didn’t push it.

Talk about things you really like, Bernardo suggested. “I really like hockey,” Andrew told Sophie, one blistering sunny day as they sat on a log on the sandy beach. Sophie liked hockey too; at least she said she did.

Give an honest compliment, Bernardo said. “You have the shiniest hair I’ve ever seen,” Andrew told Sophie. She blushed– the reddest blush he had ever seen, though he didn’t say so.

Be genuinely curious. “Does your mother blush?” Andrew asked. Sophie wasn’t angry or embarrassed by the question. She laughed out loud.

On their last night, they made plans to see each other when they got home, maybe go to a hockey game or a movie, and they exchanged text numbers, though he couldn’t text her right away because her parents had confiscated her phone for the week. Which was kind of annoying.

He lay in a sleeping bag in the backseat of Randy’s car, a Toyota Camry, which is where he slept each night (not in the tent with his mother and Randy), wishing he could text Sophie and tell her he couldn’t sleep. He’d never done that before. He thought it would probably feel good. He felt good already. He wished he could share this good with Sophie. He closed his eyes.

No, he could’t sleep, that last night at the campsite, so he slid out of the sleeping bag, and crept down to the beach, as quietly as he could, since the camp had a strict, enforced curfew.

On the way he listened to a sea of sound: snores, sighs, whispers, grunts, and coughs. It was the Sacrifice Canyon nightly, summer symphony. And when he reached the beach and the log that he and Sophie had shared in the shimmering heat of the day, he looked up and saw another sea, another symphony, of stars. It was quiet there, with only the muffled sound of the waves slapping the shore.

I really like the sky, and Sophie, and hockey, and Bernardo. Andrew stared at the stars reflected, rippling, in the lake. It might be possible to be happy, he thought. It might be possible, after all.

Then he saw the buffalo. The lake was no longer liquid– it was a vast plain of scorched yellow grass. The herd was huge, hundreds, maybe thousands of animals, dust rising in a massive cloud around them as they thundered towards the shore where Andrew sat. The sound of their hooves pounding on the hard, dry ground was deafening, surely enough to wake the world. Instead of running, Andrew stood up and faced them.

What he always remembered most vividly was their eyes. They became ghosts, spirits as they reached the sand, but for their ghostly eyes. Eyes as expressionless as a shark’s, until you looked inside, was how he described it to his grandpa.

“Andrew?” It was Randy, with a flashlight. Andrew heard the waves again, and somewhere an owl called to its mate.

They walked back to the Toyota Camry in silence and darkness, so as not to disturb the other campers.