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Monthly Archives: May 2017

Dead Meat

About eight years ago, I worked as a meat-cutter at a grocery store. That’s how I got this scar on my pinky.

When I first started working there, I trained with this guy, call him Fred, he was pretty relaxed, no-nonsense kinda guy.

One day, he brought up the concept of a cutting glove. It’s basically chain-mail, and if you’re wearing it, you can’t cut yourself while you’re cutting the meat. The way he put it, “some guys” liked safety, but he preferred control, he preferred to be able to “feel the meat” (*snort*). To have some connection to it.

I asked him could I please use a glove, and he said sure.

Well, then there was this other guy came in. I suppose maybe he was relief or something. Maybe Fred went on vacation—I forget. Let’s call him Billy. I’m changing the names here, to protect the innocent. And other folks, as well.

Billy had a different style. When he saw me wearing the glove, he chuckled. “Nobody actually wears those,” he told me, and then expounded on the virtues of going bare.

I took the glove off. This here? Scar on my pinkie? This is the result.

But that wasn’t the only problem with Billy. Billy didn’t exactly have the greatest work-ethic. Once, after Fred had been off a couple days, he came back, and it turned out Billy hadn’t switched out any of the old meat. See, you’re supposed to put the older meat up front, so that people will buy that before it expires. He hadn’t done that. He hadn’t rotated any of the meat, and now all kinds of flesh would not be eaten.

It’s a shame, really, I thought when I heard. It’s like all those farm animals died for nothing.

“If he pulls any of that shit again,” said Fred, “I’ll kill him!”

I thought that was a rather strong reaction, but didn’t actually take him seriously.

The next day, though, Billy didn’t show up for work. Or the day after that.

He was fired, of course, for truantcy, or whatever they call it when it’s work and not school.

But then he was reported missing by his girlfriend.

She was recently pregnant, so he could’ve just run off, that was definitely a Billy thing to do, but no one else had seen him, either. I don’t know how, but the police ended up figuring he disappeared under “mysterious circumstances”.

Maybe they’d heard about Fred’s threat from someone else before they called on me to testify.

Did I think he did it? No. He was Fred. Nobody named “Fred” of all things, could kill another body. And there wasn’t even any other body to find.

They brought in another relief cutter, since one guy was missing and the other guy, quote, “probably did it”, end-quote. He was all right, I guess. I forget his name. Call him Carl. He was the one who found a patch of what turned out to be human flesh in the freezer confirmed through DNA tests to belong to Billy.

That was when I started to think, well, maybe Fred did do it.

But then I met the Cow-God myself.

Crap. Now you’re gonna stop believing me, ‘cause I didn’t set this up.

Well, yeah. OK. That’s fair.

So this is what happened:

One day, completely by accident, I did the same thing that Billy had done. I was in a hurry, I didn’t properly rotate, then I forgot about it and a bunch of the meat went bad. But when I say it went “bad”. Well.

Let me tell you about meat gone bad.

When meat goes bad, you’re supposed to throw it out, and we got a dumpster out back. So I’m taking all this expired meat out back and thinking, LITERALLY, Carl’s gonna kill me. I mean, look what happened to the last guy.

But as I’m carrying the meat, something weird happens. The meat starts to move. I mean, it’s always gross if meat starts to move like that, I’m thinking, holy fuck, what is going on with this? It hasn’t been out THAT long—are there maggots festering? Is it infested with bees? Is it infected with boils that are gonna burst open and cover me in goo?

But these aren’t bubbles like you’d expect from that, these aren’t boils. The actual meat was moving.

I dropped it, obviously, on the floor. And on the floor, it kept moving. At first, it was just twitching and messing around, but then it started gliding, like it was magnetic with itself,

attracting other pieces of bad meat. The stuff I’d already brought to the dumpster CAME BACK ON ITS OWN. It was the scariest—Oh My God, you don’t even believe me, I don’t know why I’m being so—

Anyway, these pieces of rotting meat all came together and then rose up, bonding themselves into this enormous figure that, I shit you not, looked like a minotaur. Horns and all. And I’m going, where the fuck did those horns come from? ‘Cause, really, that was the most disturbing part of it, right?

And then it starts to speak. This was a bull’s face and it was speaking to me. I felt like I was in a cartoon. Written by Stephen damn King.

It told me “You have been found guilty by the Cow God.”

I froze. I mean, seriously, what are you supposed to say to that?

“I’m uh,” I swallowed. “I’m sorry?”

“How do you plead?”

Well, it had already found me guilty—maybe it didn’t quite know what “plead” meant.

“Hey, man,” I started, “This is just a job, I’ll quit if you want me to—“ To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t excited about this job, anyway. I mean, four years of college, and I’m doing this? Fuck this generation. But then I started to think—hey, wait a minute. This is a cow. Like an actual cow. And every hamburger I’ve ever eaten flashed before my eyes in a blaze of glory, in a haze of gory mulch, and I mean, I’m not an idiot, I know not all hamburgers are made from cows’ meat exclusively, but some of them are, and cows do die in the process, so I fell on my knees and wept and sobbed and held out my hands to beg the Cow God’s forgiveness.

“What are you, an idiot?” he said. “This is not about you eating cows.”

Wait—what?

“Do you think we don’t know what’s good for us? We want to be eaten. That is our purpose in life. Think about it—human beings have kept cattle for thousands of years, just like horses and pigs. How many cows do you think there are in the world? And as long as you’re eating us, there is no way we’ll go way of the Buffalo. You’re keeping us around. And we like that. That’s why we founded cow-heaven. It’s the place dead cows go when they’ve been eaten by humans. Because that’s our religion, see? That is our core belief—when a human eats you, you have served your purpose for the rest of the species.”

I had never heard anyone but another human being give a speech that long. If I hadn’t been so dumb-struck, I probably could have figured out the answer to my next question, which was some non-verbal expression of “But why are you attacking me?”

“We’re attacking you,” said the Cow God, “because all of this meat that has gone bad has come from the same cow, and now no part of her gets to be eaten. She can’t go to cow heaven now, and it’s your fault! How Do You Plead?”

Holy shit, thought my idiot brain, I was right, it was because all those cows died in vain!

“Hold on,” I said. “What if I made it up to you?”

“Our Religion is as valid and as arbitrarily strict as your human religions!” the Cow God insisted. “There is no possibility for atonement!”

“But wait—what if I…” The prospect sounded gross, but not as painful as being eaten—or whatever—by a giant cow. “You said someone, some person, had to eat her… What if I did?”

“You would do this victim the honor?”

“Yeah, sure, what if I took… Like, say, that piece—“ I pointed to a piece of what looked like top round right over the monster’s heart. It was a little bit discolored, but looked edible enough to save my life in a pinch.

“You must eat the entire piece,” said the God. “Cook it first, obviously, since that’s what you humans do. But under no circumstances are you to vomit it back up. She must be completely digested. She must become a part of you.”

“I promise,” I said. Because really, what else could I do?

“Well, all right, then,” said the Cow-God, and I could see him—or was it her?—start to disassemble.

“Wait!” I said, and it stopped. “Fred is standing trial for murdering Billy.”

“Yeah. So?”

“So, if you killed Billy, shouldn’t you like…”

“I didn’t kill Billy.”

“Wait—what?”

“No, that guy Fred? He’s a psycho. He totally did it.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah, fuck that guy.” And that’s when he disassembled.

So it occurs to me now—‘cause I’m a fucking moron—that if the Cow-God didn’t kill Billy, I was probably never in any real kind of danger. But that piece of top round I was still holding in my hand didn’t look that bad. I’d thrown away all the packages, but it couldn’t have been that far past its expiration date… And it only made me a little bit sick, not enough to really throw up. I might have had a fever. And there’s a chance I have mad cow, but that’s a whole other story.

The next day, I nicked myself with the knife again.

That other guy—what was I calling him? Chad? Carl! Whatever his name was, he looks at me, he goes “Dude, why’d you do that? Why don’t you wear a glove?”

I looked at him, somewhere between incredulous and sheepish. Like a cow caught eating grass where it shouldn’t, only dumber. “Because Billy made fun of me?” I offered.

“Billy made fun of you for following standard safety procedures?”

“And Fred said I probably didn’t need one.”

“Well, Fred for sure is an idiot, and Billy sounds like a dick. Wait here, I’ll get you a band-aid and some chain-mail for your hand.”

I liked that guy, but I still wasn’t gonna keep working there. Never work in a place where there’s a Cow-God made from rotting meat who could kill you if you fuck up, that’s what I always say.

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“All I Wanted”

My sister was already in love with Kyle Niedermeyer. I use the term loosely, of course—the way she did. She’d had a crush on him since their freshman year and it had only gotten worse for her the more she realized he just wasn’t interested.

I think it might be that she was coming on too strong. Kyle liked a challenge—not romantically, per se, but intellectually. Someone stimulating. Someone he could argue with. Aly was not that person. She would argue, but over stupid stuff. The big questions, she’d just shrug and assume they were beyond her.

Then when Dad left, things got worse still. I guess Aly always had kind of a daddy issue—don’t we all?—or maybe just abandonment fears from the thing with her mom, that then transferred over pretty damn smoothly.

I don’t want to say that my sister was only after attention. I don’t think attention was the goal. It’s not like she adventised (much), she wasn’t extraordinarily theatrical or bombastic. She just wanted affection. Dad had never really been good at that, but having him there was still better than nothing and once he left—well, what’s a teenage girl to do when her dad leaves and her crush won’t go for her?

She turned to his best friend. Not Mickey—hell no, she wouldn’t touch Mickey for all the weed in Portland. But Tommy was easy enough to wrap around her finger. What with his own insecurities, a lot of them bound up with the knowledge that not only were both his brother and his best friend far more talented than he was, but they would probably get along better with each other that they did with him, and then where would he be?

Or maybe none of that actually mattered to him. I guess it doesn’t have to matter to a teenage boy why he chooses to sleep with a girl—it probably doesn’t even matter to the girl. Most girls, anyway. Or some, at least. Most guys.

Just like it wouldn’t really have mattered to him, in that moment of being seduced, that it wasn’t really him she wanted. Later, of course, sure. Later everything mattered much more. But in the moment, all there was, was flesh and the hormones that steered it.

What really mattered, later on, was that Aly got pregnant.

I remember seeing the look on Jasper’s face when he found out. I already knew, of course. I’d had front-row seats, like it or not, to the main event at a preview before it even opened, but I got to see on Jasper’s face the awkward revelation that our sister had been having sex, how his brain rewired itself, in the way teenagers’ brains have a way of doing, to drag and drop his image of his sister from the folder marked “fellow-virgins” to a locked folder of “prophets of the bedroom”. He didn’t want to imagine the event, of course (not that there’d been much to it, to be frank), but yet he coveted the imagery with morbid fascination.

Mom wasn’t surprised. She was furious, of course—“God dammit, Aly,” she sighed. But she wasn’t surprised. “What are you gonna do now? We can barely afford—“ She groaned aloud in frustration.

“I’ll get a job,” Aly promised. “He’ll probably get a job…”

“Was it Kyle?” Mom knew about that particular crush, because she paid attention, but had never actually realized Kyle didn’t share the feelings.

“Tommy,” Aly corrected, and I’ve rarely heard two syllables contain so much conflicting emotion.

“Well, I hope you’re fucking satisfied,” Mom sighed as she gathered up the plates to put them into the sink. As if those words meant a damn thing.

About a week later, just when Aly was coming around to the idea of an abortion, she miscarried. It was hard, even though having it would have been harder, but the damage had been done. She’d outed herself for nothing. Now not only did everyone at school who mattered know she was a slut, she knew that when push came to shove, she couldn’t really count on her stepmom to side with her if it meant any kind of inconvenience to her real kids.


Faceless Perceptions

CHAD CHETWIN: Hey, there.

LILY LASSITER: Oh, shit, really?

CHAD: Um… I’m sorry?

LILY: No, I’m sorry, it’s just… All right, fine, let’s hear it.

CHAD: Hear… what?

LILY: The line. Come on, give me the line, what is it?

CHAD: What… line? You mean a pick-up line?

LILY: Yeah! What, you don’t have one?

CHAD: I… no–

LILY: What kind of guy comes to a bar and doesn’t have a pick-up line ready?

CHAD: I don’t know, they usually just… happen.

LILY: Well, you’re an attractive enough guy, you probably don’t even really need one, you probably got women falling all over you all the time.

CHAD: Well, I mean… I don’t know, I like to think it’s more ‘cause I’m… you know, I’m a sensitive guy.

LILY: A sensitive guy? A sensitive guy? Oh, wow! Oh my God, that’s adorable.

CHAD: What? I am!

LILY: Is that why you came over here? Is it? Is it because you’re a sensitive guy?

CHAD: Well… yeah, I mean, why not?

LILY: Is it because you sensed that I was in some kind of distress and needed your company and while you’re at it, maybe even your cock?

CHAD: … Do you?

LILY: You are just too freaking much.

CHAD: What? You looked lonely.

LILY: You didn’t come over here because I looked lonely.

CHAD: Well, then why did I come over here?

LILY: You tell me.

CHAD: Can I buy you a drink?

LILY: Nope. Not until you tell me why you came over here. Why me? What can you tell about me just by looking at me? From across the room, what can you tell about me?

CHAD: What do you want from me?

LILY: Answer the question.

CHAD: You’re in a bar. A singles bar. You’re at the bar. And you’re wearing that.

LILY: Oh, so it’s what I’m wearing, now?

CHAD: What do you want from me?

LILY: What do you want from me?

CHAD: No, I answered your question, things I can tell just by looking at you from across the room–

LILY: That wasn’t an answer, and it’s not what I asked–

CHAD: Wasn’t an answer? Jesus!

LILY: No, you weren’t being honest with me.

CHAD: Oh, I wasn’t bein–so now you know me better than I know me? OK, answer me this. What kind of person comes to a singles bar just to be a bitch to guys trying to be nice to her?

LILY: You see that girl over there? She’s been sitting here longer than I have, you’re the third guy who’s come up to me, care to guess how many drinks she’s gotten? See how her eyes keep going around the room–no, don’t stare, that’s rude. See how she’s looking around, though? I’m here waiting for my publicist, who wants to meet me at a bar because guess what, she’s not the kind of girl guys go after either. Now she’s late, and I have to deal with assholes who think that just because I’m pretty means I need their attention. Have a nice life, asshole.


Chuck Norris vs. Your Mom

The Chuck Norris facts here come from the Internet, for the most part. A couple of them are hearsay. The responses are mine. There is also an earlier version of this that isn’t as good, that’s available on request.

When Alexander Graham Bell made the first telephone, he had three missed calls from Chuck Norris:

A warning, a plea, and finally a wedding invitation, all of them concerning Your Mom. 

Chuck Norris once fought Bruce Lee and survived.

But will he survive Your Mom? 

Chuck Norris is “what Willis was talking about”.

And Your Mom is who he was telling it to.

The original title for Alien vs. Predator was Alien and Predator vs. Chuck Norris. The film was cancelled shortly after going into preproduction. No one would pay nine dollars to see a movie fourteen seconds long.

Except Your Mom. She would buy it, and she would watch it over and over and over again.

Chuck Norris can touch MC Hammer.

And Your Mom? She’s totally touching Chuck Norris.

Chuck Norris’s tears cure cancer. Too bad he has never cried.

Yet. But I bet Your Mom could make Chuck Norris cry.

When the Boogeyman goes to sleep at night, he has to check the closet for Chuck Norris.

And when Chuck Norris goes to sleep at night, he has to check the bed for Your Mom.

Some magicians can walk on water; Chuck Norris can swim through land.

And it’s a good thing, too, because Your Mom has eyes and ears everywhere, and she does not give up. 

Chuck Norris can light a fire by rubbing two ice-cubes together.

But he knows that now is not the time to do that. No matter how cold the fire is, he knows Your Mom is like a heat-seeking missile. 

Chuck Norris made a Happy Meal cry.

The liberal media was all over that shit. That’s how Your Mom finally tracked him down. 

When you’re sitting in class, look to your left, then to your right, then behind and in front of you. Chuck Norris had sex with that kid’s mom.

So why not with Your Mom? 

There is no chin behind Chuck Norris’s beard–just another fist.

There is, however, a beard right now on Your Mom’s chin–and it belongs to Chuck Norris!

Chuck Norris goes to the Bermuda Triangle on vacation.

And he takes Your Mom. She likes the palm trees. 

Chuck Norris IS RIGHT BEHIND YOU!

Doing unspeakable things to Your Mom. 

Chuck Norris always has sex on the first date. Always.

Because yes, Your Mom is in fact that kind of girl. (And good for her, too, that’s a woman who knows what she wants!)

Chuck Norris doesn’t need to swallow when eating food.

Neither does Your Mom. Not when it’s food she’s eating…

Chuck Norris once drank a Red Bull and the can grew wings.

The only thing that gives Chuck Norris wings is Your Mom. 

Chuck Norris isn’t on the Earth, the Earth is on Chuck Norris.

Chuck Norris is on Your Mom. 

Chuck Norris is the reason why Waldo is hiding.

Waldo said some stuff about Your Mom. Nasty stuff, too. Ooh!

Chuck Norris can round-house kick someone through a window without breaking the glass.

Good thing, too, because Your Mom would have to clean it up–and she’d be pi-issed! 

Chuck Norris drinks napalm to cure his heartburn.

Which he got from eating Your Mom’s delicious chili. *gulp* Yum. 

Chuck Norris cuts his steak with his fist.

But Your Mom doesn’t like that because it’s not exactly sanitary.

When Chuck Norris eats at a restaurant, the wait staff tips him afterwards.

But Your Mom doesn’t let him keep the money—I mean, have you ever tried living on restaurant wages? This is Chuck Norris we’re talking about. 

Bloody Mary is afraid to say Chuck Norris three times.

Chuck Norris now wishes he hadn’t called three times for Your Mom. 

Chuck Norris can slam a revolving door.

And that’s just what he did. Now Your Mom is all alone in that hotel room. 

There used to be a street named after Chuck Norris, but it was changed because no one crosses Chuck Norris and lives.

Your Mom moved to that street. Just so that she could be close to the memory of him. 

Death once had a near-Chuck Norris experience.

But Your Mom knew what was going on—Moms are like that—and she grabbed him and pulled him back just in time. 

Chuck Norris died 20 years ago, Death just hasn’t built up the courage to tell anyone.

And who could blame him? Your Mom’s still in love with the guy. 

Chuck Norris can cut through a hot knife with butter.

But that knife… That was Your Mom’s knife. And he suddenly finds he doesn’t want to. 

Chuck Norris counted to Infinity—twice.

The first was in an attempt to prove he was smarter than Vin Diesel (which didn’t work, because it turned out Vin Diesel also included every number between all the integers, but that’s not the point). The second time was standing outside Your Mom’s window, just being silly to make her smile again. 

Chuck Norris can win a game of Connect Four in three moves.

But he lets Your Mom go first. Because he knows that she’ll beat him in two.


Grace and Glory

Once upon a time, there were twin sisters named Grace and Glory Goodkind who did everything together, especially once they realized that they both had special powers.

Grace was the first to realize what was going on. She noticed something was up one day in Math class when the teacher gave her a D on a test, but then changed the grade to an A once Grace started to express her opinion. From that day on, she knew (after a couple of other experiments) that she ws able to convince people to do things against their will simply by exerting her own.

Naturally—because they were twin sisters and allies—she spoke to Glory about this, convinced that, if she could do something extraordinary, they both must be imbued with the same abilities.

Sadly, though, her hopes proved unfounded as it seemed Glory could not even make their mother absentmindedly put that extra teaspoon of vanilla in the cookie recipe. It was only after several months of careful observation that Glory discovered where her power truly lay.

It became apparent over time that everyone felt about Glory exactly the same way that she felt about them. Now, obviously, this effect is very subtle and as such Grace herself was, at first, reluctant to admit it (as was Glory). But the truth of it became undeniable when they remarked that the neighbor from across the street whom both sisters hated was nice to Grace but rude beyond accounting to Glory. This was exceptionally striking in that this particular neighbor had never been able to tell them apart.

By the careful application of these two Talents, Grace and Glory were able to secure themselves quite a bit of comfort generally denied to high school students.

That all changed the day that Ralph came to their school.

Ralph was, despite his name, the most singularly astoundingly shaped and proportioned boy that the two girls had ever known in person. This was a problem, of course, because the girls both felt the same way about this beautiful boy. And it’s amazing how long it took these two girls, who had always shared everything, to realize that this was a very big problem.

The problem stayed hidden, in fact, until the day that Ralph walked up to Glory as she was standing in line with her sister and completely ignored Grace.

Grace noticed and took exception, whereupon she immediately flung Ralph the singular thought: Talk to me. The reaction was, as usual, instantaneous. Ralph broke off in mid-sentence and turned on his heel, stopping shortly thereafter with a frown on his face to wonder what he had just done. And why.

Later that day, the sisters spoke to one another of the incident by way of review. “Well, obviously we can’t both have him,” argued Grace. “You went ahead and proved that.” She was annoyed because “yours” and “mine” had always been “ours” before and she was getting the feeling that that was changing now.

“Then I guess there’s just one thing to do,” said Glory. “We have to ask him which one of us he likes best.”

Any sane outside observer would have expected Ralph to be confused and unable to distinguish between these identical twins, but Ralph didn’t miss a beat. He didn’t need to say “Glory is the one I want” because it was all in his eyes as he said simply, “Grace,” then closed his eyes and shook his head with a look both dazed and confused. “I meant—Glory. Glory. Sorry.”

Glory glared at her sister.

“Well, it’s only fair,” Grace said later. “You’re obviously using your powers on him to get him to like you. It’s like this whole contest is rigged!”

But Glory couldn’t accept that rebuke. “Grace,” she said, “You can have any other guy in the world—all you have to do is think it. Just let me have this one love of my life and I won’t need any more.”

How is that fair? Thought Grace. How is it fair she gets the guy just because of her power? Well, if she’s gonna use her power, by golly, the game is on!

The next day was when Glory was expecting Ralph to ask her out, but when he came up to the two of them at lunch, though he had been looking at Glory, it was to Grace he turned, wearing that same puzzled look on his face as he flirted with her and ultimately asked her out.

Glory was not pleased at having lost. She remembered the look he had had in his eyes as he’d approached her—her, not her sister. She remembered the silky tone in his voice the one time he had spoken to her, the one time she had seen him when Grace hadn’t been there, which Grace didn’t know. It was the only thing Glory knew that Grace did not.

That was how Glory knew something was afoot and just before class, she excused herself and chased down Ralph, but once she’d caught up to him, she found herself utterly tongue-tied. And she didn’t know why. Until she turned around and saw her mirror image, smiling.

That night, Grace met up with Ralph to go out on a date while Glory stayed home, in tears, much to the amazement of her family. But out on the town, Grace started to notice that though he was out on a date and, more importantly, a date with her, Ralph wasn’t smiling. So she told him—or, rather, though at him, to smile. And he did, he smiled; yet the smile wouldn’t reach his eyes. So she taught his eyes how to smile properly, the way she wanted them to smile, and they still did, but there was something wrong behind them.

When he took her home, he dropped her at the front door and turned to leave with a wave of his hand, but she stopped him and made him come kiss her. It was her first kiss and she felt a fluttering of pride at having beaten her sister once again, and yet the kiss was not as she’d imagined. When she let him pull away from it at last, he gave an awkward smile and a bow, turned tail and she allowed him to go.

Still, she gloated her way up to her room.

Over the next couple of days, she saw Ralph constantly and made a point of making out with him every time, just to see if it got any better. But no matter how she instructed his mind, there was simply no way for her to feel the magic she was supposed to have been feeling.

Then finally she realized the problem.

“It’s you!” she told her sister. “You’re doing this to me! You can’t stand it that I’ve won and he’s with me, so you’ve decided to ruin my fun, is that it? Is that what you’ve been doing?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Glory replied innocently.

Grace screamed: “Don’t lie to me!”

Glory fell silent.

“Are you messing with my emotions?”

Grace stayed silent.

“Did you make me fall out of love with him?”

Still, Grace stayed silent.

“Answer me!” Grace commanded.

“You were never the one that he wanted and you never wanted him, you were just trying to get back at me for being the one that he wanted when you thought you had all the power!”

“I do have all the power!” Grace gloated. “He’s with me, isn’t he?”

“Is he?” said Glory. “Is he really?”

And Grace shut her up again. “The only reason that he loves you is because you’re making him love you!”

“How do you know?”

“Because it’s what you do!”

“How do you know?”

“Because I’ve seen you do it!”

“How do you know that’s not just how people think of me? As opposed to you. Could you love someone who you knew was forcing you to date them?”

Grace left the conversation angry, and yet, deep down inside, she knew that her sister was right. Even if she was forcing him to love her, he still loved Glory, not Grace, and Grace was the one keeping him from what he wanted. She didn’t love him, but she did love her sister and she was hurting both of them by using her powers for selfish ends.

So, yes, maybe it was unethical for Glory to force him to love her and to make Grace fall out of love with him, but no more so than what she was doing. And, most of all, none of what she was doing was making her happy, in the end. So she decided to let him go, to accept defeat with grace and to leave her sister all the glory.


The Man on the Bus

The dark figure rose the slight step onto the bus from the pavement. The long, black trench-coat, the black gloves that quietly flexed and unflexed with every breath he failed to take and the boots that seemed to fall so lightly in his tread, the perfectly black sunglasses he wore in spite of the gloom that day…

But they were unphased. No matter how bad the road, no matter how sharp the turns, how sudden the stops, no one noticed how firmly he kept his feet planted, his poise perfectly balanced as he stood in the empty space at the very back of the bus.

But no one joined him, either, until after a few stops, a woman got on at the back with a baby stroller. A kind-hearted gentleman outside was good enough to lift up the end of it on his way in and nodded his welcome when she smiled and offered her “merci”. The dark figure moved out of her way, twisting in one broad motion and spinning to join back his feet.

The woman with the stroller muttered to the infant child something about staying quiet and what a good boy he was. Though no one on the bus could see the man’s eyes through the dark sunglasses, they had been following the young woman and her stroller in a steady sweep from the moment she had boarded to the moment she sat down. Now those eyes rested on the child.

The child craned its neck—his neck—to look at the dark man. The man’s face seemed imperceptibly to have pointed itself down and in his direction. The little boy, too small to speak, smiled. A goofy, open-mouthed smile. Not just the smile of the innocent, but the smile of the precious. The dark figure raised an eyebrow, but quickly lowered it again in discretion.

The bus started moving again. The little boy waved his arms. His mother tried to tell him to keep himself still, though, after all, the little boy only waved his arms in excitement. It was then the figure smiled.

Few enough people in this part of the world ever desire their child to be looked at, let alone flirted with, and understandably so. It was only natural that the mother start to shift uneasily. And yet this mother thought her fear irrational and so, set it aside as paranoia, trying her best to look the other way, leaving no more eyes to check the black-clad figure smiling now behind those glasses. So no one saw how, in response to the child’s grunts of excitement, the smiling lips curled back and the mouth opened to reveal its fangs and a tongue that forked and hissed.

But the child, still smiling, rocked back and forth and giggled, and a single eyebrow lifted itself up behind the sunglasses.


Too Soon?

HENDRIX: You got it?

REED: I got it.

HENDRIX: Well, that should make Tanner happy. You wanna tell him?

REED: You tell him. He gets too excited when I talk.

HENDRIX: Seriously? Didn’t you just move in with your boyfriend? He needs to back off.

REED: Are you gonna tell him that?

HENDRIX: Isn’t that such a sad situation, though? Wait, but you did move in with him, right?

REED: With Darryl. Yeah. Yesterday. We just spent our first night together in our new place. Well, my new place. His old place. But I’ve officially taken charge of the kitchen.

HENDRIX: Really? That’s so 1950s.

REED: You haven’t seen him try to cook. I’ll make him help me, though. Just because it’s my kitchen doesn’t mean he’s not my, like, slave. You know?

HENDRIX: Even if it was his kitchen, he should still be your slave. But seriously, though, how long have you been dating that guy?

REED: Two months.

HENDRIX: And you started dating, like, right after you met him, right?

REED: We spent a couple weeks flirting at the bookstore. Although, I had to tell him after the fact that it counted as flirting.

HENDRIX: Is he really that clueless?

REED: He’s really just shy. I don’t know. I like it. Better than the alternative, anyway.

HENDRIX: Which is what?

REED: Tanner.

HENDRIX: Good point. But, like, seriously, though, two months?

REED: I know. I know. It’s quick.

HENDRIX: It’s kinda crazy.

REED: That’s kind of how I feel about him, though. And I mean, you know me, I do not… I do not feel that way easily. I’m not one of those girls. I don’t know. He just gets me.

HENDRIX: But do you really know him? Like, have you met his parents?

REED: I have actually Skyped with his parents. So while I haven’t met them in person, I almost feel closer to them right now than I do to my own parents–

HENDRIX: And has he met your parents?

REED: No, but that’s my fault, I don’t want to introduce him to my parents.

HENDRIX: Yeah, OK, I guess that’s fair. Are we gonna use this?

REED: How many have we got?

HENDRIX: Like, umpteen. And a half.

REED: Well, we’re not using the half.

HENDRIX: Right, but what about this one?

REED: I think we got enough.

HENDRIX: You think so?

REED: Yeah.

HENDRIX: But you’re not sure?

REED: I am, like, ninety-five percent sure that we will not need that specific–what are you getting at?

HENDRIX: Are you more or less sure of this jam than you are about moving in with your boyfriend?

REED: Give me that! Bitch! That is not funny!

HENDRIX: I had you going there for a second.

REED: I cannot believe you!

HENDRIX: OK, so, on your wedding day–

REED: Oh, God!

HENDRIX: Because I will totally be your Maid of Honor, let’s face this. On our wedding day, this is going to be the story that I tell. And I am going to include–

REED: The fact that you did it just so could talk about it on my wedding-day?

HENDRIX: And I am going to include your answer. Are you more sure of this–what’s this called?

REED: It’s a brace! Honestly, you call yourself a carpenter?

HENDRIX: Are you more sure of this brace than you are of your current boyfriend?

REED: No.

HENDRIX: No? You’re not?

REED: Wait, what?

HENDRIX: You’re less sure about your boyfriend than you are about this brace?

REED: No! What? That’s not funny!

HENDRIX: This is gonna be the best wedding story ever!

REED: You are being purposefully confusing! And also, I am not getting married.

HENDRIX: Yet.

REED: Yet.

HENDRIX: But at the rate you’re going–

REED: Hey!