A Taste

Her broken-in jeans and threadbare shirt, through which he could make out a dark bra, clashed delightfully with his antiseptic decor. “Fancy,” she said.

“Yeah,” he replied, “fancy.”

“Must be nice being rich.”

“Indeed it is.”

She glanced around the apartment and asked, “Somebody actually lives here?”

He slung his jacket onto his easy chair, threw himself onto its matching slate gray sofa, loosened his tie, and kicked off his wingtips. “I fully intend to ignore your vague insult.”

“Nothing vague about it,” she told him. “Thanks for letting me stay over.”

“Think nothing of it. It’s a long cab ride to your place of residence.”

“I wish you wouldn’t use that kind of language around me.”

“Request denied.”

She grunted.

He pointed to a hallway. “The bedroom is through there. As I am, if anything, a gentleman, I will sleep out here.”

“And if I don’t want you to sleep out here?”

“Then you are welcome to use the sofa.”

“You are such a doofus.” She rolled her eyes. “Got anything to drink here?”

“If you’ll recall, I’ve been sober longer than you’ve known of me.”

“People have been known to change,” she said. “You did.”

“Not as much as you think.” He popped out his gold-plated cufflinks, tossed them into an empty ashtray, and rolled up his sleeves. “Besides, alcohol was responsible for these.”

It had been years since she’d seen the scars that ran down the underside of his forearms, and their presence almost seemed to comfort her. “You think it was the liquor that did that?”

“I’ve chosen to believe so.”

“Fair enough,” she sighed. “Mind if I have one?”

“Perhaps I should have been more clear regarding the absence of potables in this place.”

“I brought my own.” Sure enough, there was a stainless-steel flask in her purse. “Got any place to put this?”

“There are highball glasses in the cabinet near the refrigerator.”

“I thought you told me you still don’t drink.”

He shrugged. “I pretend.”

“You are so weird.” After pouring herself a few fingers of whiskey, she leaned on the counter, as casually as if it belonged to her, and took a long swallow, locking stares with him. They said nothing for what could have been hours until she asked, “Miss it?”

“Every day.”

“Still? It’s been, what, seven years?”

“In my defense, I enjoyed alcohol a great deal.”

“Fair enough.” She studied him for a moment. “Remember what it tastes like?”

He frowned in concentration. “No,” he replied sadly.

She strutted over to him, taking her time doing so. “Want a reminder?”

“Perhaps I should have been more clear regarding my sobriety.”

Propping her knee on the sofa next to him and steadying herself with a hand on his shoulder, she took a deep drink of the whiskey. Her lips brushed against his, and instantly he recognized the sour sting of the rye. He leaned hungrily toward her, but she backed away.

Without a word, she dipped a finger in the glass, traced her lip with it, and kissed him again. Eager for the flavor of the drink and of her, he licked and nibbled, causing her to moan.

“More,” he whispered when she pulled away again.

But when she raised the glass, he snatched it from her hand and placed it on the end table behind him, not caring that there was no coaster. Her hand, now free, stroked his cheek, drawing him in.

He brushed a lock of hair from her face. “More,” he told her again.

Winding Down

Checking In on our old friend, “The Grind.”

Emma tapped the pencil against the kitchen table and frowned. This was getting her nowhere. The words on the monitor read “Blah, blah blah. Blah blah,” and the scribbles on the piece of paper sitting beside it weren’t doing that much better.

Anyway, she’d rather pay attention to her boyfriend, who was darting through the apartment, sweeping up and donning his wardrobe. While he popped his collar and slipped an already knotted tie around his neck, he caught her eye and smirked that smirk.

She was such a sucker for that smirk.

“Whatever will you do without me for the rest of the day?” he asked.

She waved her hand at the laptop. “This, for the afternoon,” she replied. “Tonight I think I’m going to fuck a Russian sailor. Maybe two.”

“Sounds exhausting.”

“Do you have to work on Sunday?” She drew out the have long enough for him to know she was serious.

“Yes,” he reminded her. “Just like the other fifty-one Sundays since this time last year.”

“You didn’t really work all those Sundays, did you?”

“I was supposed to work the other fifty-one Sundays,” he admitted.

She bounced in her chair. “Exactly! You have no sense of personal responsibility!”

“It’s true.”

“So play hooky!” Folding her hands in prayer, she added, “Please! I’ll give you a blowjob!”

He seemed considering it, but his shoulders fell in resignation. “Em, I have to talk to my editor. For real this time. I’m getting too old for this kind of life.”

“Dude, you’re not even thirty.”

I can’t spend another night in a holding cell,” he sighed. “I just can’t.”

Reluctantly, she agreed. Sure her initial attraction to him was that whole bad-boy thing, but that was going to wear thin soon. Hell, it was already starting to. She was sick of worrying all the time. Creases were already forming on her forehead. Besides, it’s not like she was one of those harpies who lived to control and emasculate; growing up was kind of his idea in the first place. She should probably be encouraging him.

Still, she was sitting here, wearing the pajamas that never failed to turn him on, yet he was halfway to the door. Couldn’t he talk to his boss tomorrow? Or, like, a half hour late? What did she have to do here? It was time for a Hail Mary. “But it’s Valentine’s Day!”

“It’s March.”

“It’s my birthday!”

“You’re a Leo.”

She grunted, “You just had to be one of the attentive ones, didn’t you?” Her fingers snapped as something occurred to her. “That reminds me: what’s a nine-letter word for ‘Kipling’s Kitty’?”

“Shere Khan,” he said. “Is that something you’re required to answer for a job listing?”

After a moment of intense concentration, she replied, “Yes.” As subtly as possible, she flipped over the newspaper to the side that didn’t feature the crossword.

“Anything else potential employers need to know about racist colonial literature before I go?”

Her eyes widened, and she sat straight up. “Dude, you should get a cat!”

“I don’t like cats,” he reminded her.

“You should get a cat for me.”

“Why don’t you get a cat for you?”

“Because you’ll end up being the one who has to feed it and take it on walks anyway.”

He shook his head. “You don’t take cats on walks.”

“See?” she said. “You know shit like that. I promise I’ll come over and visit it every day.”

“I don’t want a cat.”

She sprang to her feet and ran her hands seductively over his chest. “For me?”

“Not even for you.”

With a pout, she slipped a finger between a pair of his buttons and tickled his skin. “If you loved me, you’d get a cat.”

“Are we really using that word, Em?”

Fuck. That was a really good question. That’s the word that ended her last relationship, and he had his own hang-ups about it. But really, the only problem here seemed to be those letters strung together in that particular order. Everything else existed already–for her, it had set in just before they got together for real back in November; she was pretty sure he’d made it there even earlier than that.

They should say it soon. This was getting ridiculous.

“I was kidding,” she told him.

“Of course you were,” he replied.

It was time to change the subject, and since her hands were in the general area: “You should lose the tie.”

“Oh, hell no!” he snorted.

“Why not?”

“It’s my thing,” he replied.

“I had this denim jacket for years,” she said wistfully. “I wore it all the time, even under heavy coats in the winter. It was my thing. I totally grew out of it.”

“You used to be smaller?”

She narrowed her eyes. “I’m not that small.”

He shrugged.

“Jesus, dude, we’re almost the same height!”

He shrugged again.

“Listen,” she continued, “when you get to be my age, you’ll find that things aren’t really that big a deal.”

“Your age?” he laughed. “Em, you’re thirty-two.”

“I’ve crossed the threshold, dude!” She pointed at her forehead. “I have wrinkles!”

He kissed her there. “So?”

“The boobs go next, you realize,” she told him. “I know how much you like the boobs.”

He gestured to her computer. “Find a job with insurance, and we can fix that.”

“Lose the tie, Max.”

“Never.”

“For me?”

He pulled it over his head and handed it over. “For you.”

Emma bit her lip.

“Anyway,” he concluded, “I kind of want to get this thing with Myron over with. He yells a lot, and my nerves are shot from getting arrested this weekend.”

After she released him, they retreated to her bedroom, and she tossed the tie onto the mattress, where it would probably be used later as a restraint. She slapped him on the ass. “Go be an adult, dude.”

Before he crawled out the window, his preferred exit, he said, “My name’s not Dude, Em.”

“My name’s not Em, dude,” she replied.

He smirked that smirk again.

They had to say it soon. This was getting ridiculous.

Coprolite

previously…

When her alarm went off at six a.m., her first impulse was to smash it to death with the table lamp. Instead, she held the urge back, picked up the phone, moaned, and shut it off. She rolled out of bed and rested her heels on the hardwood, cold-as-fuck floor and came close to crying out the dirtiest word that came to mind that day, just like she wanted to every morning. And, just like every morning, she swallowed it. This was her own fault for moving to goddamned Canada after growing up in a goddamn desert.

New Mexico. Shit. What did she have to go thinking about that for?

She closed her eyes, took a breath, and restrained the thoughts that wanted desperately to run there, steering them in the direction of the day ahead.

Shit. That didn’t help.

She focused on the next ninety minutes.

That did it.

As she shuffled into the bathroom, her hand instinctively swept up a bottle of mood stabilizers and fumbled fruitlessly with the childproof lid. She barely kept herself from hurling it at the wall. After a great deal of concentration, she finally got the pills down her throat, leaving her free to speculate on the person watching her on the other side of the sink. Five years ago, that person would have been hung over. Ten years ago, she would have been crying. Twenty years ago, she would have been whining. This morning, she was calm, naked, and Zen with the events of yesterday.

She shook her head before wrapping her hair in a ponytail, slipping into a pair of track pants, pulling a sports bra over her head, making the necessary adjustments, zipping up a thick hoodie, and lacing up a pair of sneakers. On her way out the door, she leaned over to kiss the boy in her bed on the cheek. She wanted to tear off her clothes and fuck him, but she told herself she couldn’t.

“Pete,” she whispered, “I need to go to work.”

“Why?” he mumbled.

“It’s work.”

“Oh.” He rolled over. “Call me later?”

“If I feel like it.”

Poor Pete–her perpetual rebound. She could tell he had been falling for her for a while now. She should probably stop calling him after days like yesterday, but she hated sleeping in a cold bed. Maybe she should just get a goddamn cat, like every other librarian.

It didn’t take long to get to the gym, where she wrapped her hands and stretched. Here, in front of the heavy bag, her weight on the balls of her feet, her gloves up to keep from getting hit in the face again, it was okay to give in.

Five years ago, someone who maybe understood her more than anybody in the world–the person she hated most–walked out of her life.

One, two, one, two, one, six. Jab, straight right, jab, straight, right, jab, right uppercut. One, two, one, two, one, Sean.

Ten years ago, the closest friend she ever had up and quit on her.

One, two, three, two, five. Jab, straight right, left hook, straight right, left uppercut. One, two, three, two, Fuentes.

Twenty-five years ago, her mother was gone before they ever had a chance to get to know each other.

One, four, three, four, three, four, three, four, three, six. Jab, right hook, left hook, right hook, left hook, right hook, left hook, right hook, left hook, right uppercut. One, Mom, Mom, Mom. Mom. Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom! DAD!

Yesterday, her boyfriend said something she could only think of as a deal-breaker, leading to a pretty dramatic public breakup.

One, one, four, three, two, seven. Jab, jab, right hook, left hook, straight right, nut-punch. One, one four, three, two, Brody. Okay, so she made up seven.

She bounced back for a second and had to admit that she and love just didn’t get along.

Over her shoulder, she caught a glimpse of some person bouncing around in the reflection of the room. Teeth clenched, sweat and tears stinging her eyes, muscles tight, lightning searing her bones, she looked like someone she used to know.

One more round to go: Six. Right uppercut. Me.

After a long shower, she didn’t have to worry about holding anything back anymore–the medication had kicked in, taking care of most of it; the rest had been rinsed away. It had taken a long time for her to stop hating herself so much that the world wanted her gone; simultaneously, it had taken a long time for her to stop loving herself so much that the world wanted only to do her bidding. Now, with her collar straight, her hair swept back, and her makeup alluring-but-subtle, she was just another twenty-seven-year-old on her way to work.

A long day beckoned. She needed to have a talk with her more-likely-than-not-ex-boyfriend, she needed to figure out whether or not to keep stringing Pete along, and she needed to pick up her phone and call the man who’d told her specifically never to “ever fucking dare” ask him for anything ever again and ask him for something. In other words, she needed to clean up a series of messes she’d made. In other words, it was business as usual.

She studied the woman in front of her, through the rouge, the eye-shadow, lipstick, and brushed-out hair. “Yeah,” Lisa Green said. “I’m still in there.”


Find out what’s next for Lisa, or take a look back for perspective)

Sticks & Stones

She stared at the ceiling. It was easy last night to avoid thinking about the afternoon phone call, but here, hours before the alarm would go off, there would be no avoiding it. Maybe if she reached over and played with the boy snoring next to her, she could put it off a little while…

She sighed. Now that the phone call had taken root in her mind, she wouldn’t be able to focus, and, given the boy’s condition, she’d have to do most of the work. Fuck.

Lisa Green?” the man at the other end of the line had asked yesterday afternoon.

“Speaking,” she’d told him.

“This is Steve Hartmann? From CUNY? In New York?”

For just a second, her heart and lungs had just stopped. “Hi?”

“I wanted to talk to you about your CV and letters of recommendation. Do you think it would be possible to schedule an interview sometime this coming Thursday or Friday?”

“Yes.”

“I know it’s short notice,” he’d apologized.

“I can be there.”

“But we need to fill the position next semester.”

“I can make it work.”

“And you live in Montreal, and most of the applicants live in the area, but you are extremely qualified, and we’d really like to meet you in person.”

Ordinarily, she’d pick that time to shout to get this guy’s attention, but this was someone whose good graces were crucial to her future. She decided to wait until he finished.

She was glad she did, because he had good news: “We’re aware of the hardship this will be, so we’d like to reimburse you for your airfare.” And bad news: “But due to budget cuts, you’re on your own for sleeping accommodations.”

“I’ll see you Friday.”

Clearly, she hadn’t thought this out. She couldn’t really afford to get a motel–the flight would come close to maxing out her credit card. She could always stay at a friend’s place, but she didn’t have any friends in New York. She did know people there, but one she didn’t want to see again, and the other didn’t want to see her again.

Fuck.

As quietly as she could, she rolled out of bed into a her jeans, pulled on a pair of heavy socks, shrugged on a parka, and tiptoed to her balcony. She stopped when, for a just second, and for the first time she could remember, she thought the weight in her jacket pocket was a half-empty pack of cigarettes with a lighter stuffed into it. And for just a second, she was so relieved that she didn’t have to ride out the sting of this bitch-slap of a day alone. And then she realized it was only a phone.

Not long after Steve Hartmann had called her, she’d met her boyfriend at that franchise coffee bar, just like they always did after classes, squirming in her seat.

Her grin echoed in his face as he sat down and asked, “What’s got you all worked up, babe?”

“I’m going to New York!”

He’d frowned. “When?”

“This weekend!” She shrugged. “Well, Friday.”

“But…”

She always found his confusion adorable. Even more adorable was how easy it was to make him that way.

“But,” he continued, “we’re going to that dinner party at Gabe and Marilyn’s this weekend.”

“They’ll understand.”

“I don’t understand.”

She’d fought off the urge to keep herself from squealing like a little girl, because that’s something Lisa Green never did. “CUNY!

His eyes widened in disbelief.

“It’s only an interview,” she clarified, “but they practically begged me to come in. That’s a great sign, don’t you think?”

“What if they make an offer?”

“I’ll pretend to play hardball, but I’m going to take what they can give me.”

“Oh.”

It was then that she recognized that the disbelief wasn’t the kind of giddy excitement she deserved.

“What do you mean, Oh?”

“Aren’t we going to discuss this?”

“We already discussed this,” she reminded him.

He didn’t reply.

“You told me I should go for it. That I needed to go for it. You know how much this means to me.”

“I don’t know if I’m ready to deal with this,” he breathed. “This changes everything.”

“You said…”

“It was easy to say that when I didn’t think you’d get the job.”

She set her jaw and took a deep breath through her nose. “Brody, that has to be the coldest way anybody has ever dumped me.”

“Wait a minute,” he said. “I never said anything about dumping you!”

“You did just now.”

“We can’t end this because of that!” he pleaded. “We’re going to move in together!”

“You just saved yourself some trouble then.”

“Come on, babe! I’m sorry!”

“So am I.” She stood up and whipped her jacket off the back of her chair.

“But I love you.”

She loved him too, but, Jesus. Did he really think that? She had to get out of there.

“Don’t go, Lisa.”

But she did.

Now, as the cold air burned her lungs, she asked herself if she’d overreacted. The answer was easy; she had. Still, this simplified things. Five and a half months was hardly enough of a relationship to bear the burden of long-distance–or even a mutual move. And it sure as hell wasn’t long enough put up with that kind of shit coming out of his mouth. Besides, he hadn’t called at all over the past nine hours. He was probably waiting for her to apologize. He didn’t know her at all.

Still, she felt like such an asshole.

Goddammit. How the hell was she supposed to dazzle the folks in New York with this Brody-shaped hole sucking her in?

She took her phone out of her pocket and checked the time. Four thirty. Her alarm wouldn’t go off for another hour and a half. The best way to pass the time would be to get her mind off of things she couldn’t fix right now, and the only idea she had to do that would be to go inside and fuck the boy in her bed.

to be continued…

Waking Dream

previously…

The mornings were always the hardest. Everyday he had to ask himself why he needed to continue living. He was never sure what the correct answer might be, and so he promised himself he’d figure it out later on. But everyday he rolled onto the floor, put on some pants, generated some coffee, ignited a cigarette, consumed the coffee, and determined the class to which he would devote his attention today, and gradually he’d forget the question entirely.

Some days, though, didn’t fit into this otherwise ironclad routine. This was one of them. Slowly he drifted to partial consciousness, and as soon as he realized that the pillow pressing against his skull wasn’t his own, he woke the rest of the way up.

Oh. Right.

So instead of clothing, coffee, cigarette, and class, he was reduced to deciding whether he should wake the woman beside him on the full-sized bed.

Lying facedown, her slightly matted, blond–but not naturally so, as he found out recently–hair splashed across her shoulders, a heavy snore rattling out of her nose, she still looked like your typical college sex kitten. Sean smiled.

When they’d arrived at her apartment last night, they skipped the pretense of a cup of coffee or small talk, and instead headed directly for the bedroom. She shrugged off her February coat, tied her scarf on the doorknob to let her boyfriend know she had company, and giggled, “Lose the sweater, or you’re sleeping on the couch.”

Sean didn’t want to sleep on the couch, so he tossed his once-white-but-now-more-of-a-brown, stretched-out cardigan to the floor. It occurred to him that the thorough examination her eyes performed on his body might be due to the fact that she’d never actually seen him without it before. He felt kind of naked now, and he still had a lot of layers to go.

Blushing, she asked, “Is this really crazy, or is it just me?”

It wasn’t just her. “Perhaps you’d feel more comfortable if we simply retired to our corners for the night.”

Shannon bit her lip in thought before crossing her arms in front of her and whipping her T-shirt over her head. “It’s Valentine’s Day,” she replied, “and if I don’t romp with someone tonight, I will not be happy.” She began to pace deliberately, like a cat about to rub up against him. “And you like it when I’m happy, right?”

Most men who were knew her were endlessly fascinated by her cleavage. She accommodated them by making it highly visible, regardless of the weather. A part of Sean wondered how wearing a push-up bra at least three-hundred-and-sixty-five days a year could possibly be comfortable, but the other part was just grateful. Given the snug fit of her blouses, he didn’t expect to be surprised by what he’d see when he was finished blinking. His imagination had always been able to speculate how her bare skin might curve and glow and tease, and it turned out that his imagination had done a pretty good job. It even got the goose bumps right. But it hadn’t counted on her bra, though, which wasn’t lacy, or see-through, or even all that interesting. And because of that, it occurred to him that this was really happening.

“Yes,” he replied.

With a grin, she told him, “Okay, now you go.”

Fumbling with the baggy T-shirts he always draped himself in, he asked, “I don’t get why you don’t just fuck Rocky then.”

“You are such a weirdo, you know that?” Balancing herself carefully, she kicked off her fashionable boots. “I can think of four hundred and thirteen guys off the top of my head who would trade places with you so fast.” She stepped forward, penetrating his comfort zone. “You don’t think I’m a weirdo, do you?”

Flailing and backing away, he attempted to reply, “I…” He lost his balance and fell onto the bed. “I don’t often find myself in this situation.”

“Really?” This revelation seemed to utterly baffle her, and so she put all of her concentration into sorting it out. Unzipping, dropping, and stepping out of her skirt didn’t seem to require any thought at all. “Because you’re totally rompable.”

“That’s something I don’t hear a lot,” he told her as she crawled onto the mattress next to him.

“Are you sure?”

“I have problems…” His sentence stalled when he realized that she was unbuttoning his pants. He tried again. “I have problems being intimate.”

She stopped mid-zip and frowned. “Who said anything about being intimate?” She turned her attention to untying and yanking off his shoes. “You don’t need to be intimate to have sex! My boyfriend and I are totally intimate, but he’s at the bar tonight, looking for lonely girls to comfort.”

“Ah.”

After yanking off his socks, she added, “And he’s not being intimate with them.”

“Your relationship confounds me,” he told her.

“Well, I’m not confounded.” She freed his pants completely from his legs with a sharp tug, but sacrificed her balance in the process. He leaned over the edge to find her on the floor, laughing uncontrollably. “Never tell anybody about this,” she pleaded.

With a smirk, he hauled her back onto the bed and kissed her, hard.

Her back arched, her hips rose, and her throat moaned. As soon as she could speak again, she sighed, “So I have to be a total doofus to make you brave?”

“You just had to remind me why you’re one of my favorite people in the world,” he replied.

“Because I’m clumsy like a clumsy lizard?”

He shook his head. “That you’re not even remotely the person you look like.” This close to her face, and with this much light, he could make out crow’s feet around her teal eyes, which was odd, considering that she was two years younger than he, and he was only twenty-three. “So who are you?”

“I’m Shannon, weirdo.”

“Seriously, who the hell are you?”

“Shannon Veronica Heidebrect?”

“I mean…” he began.

“No,” she told him. “I am not going to tell you my whole poopy story so you can fall in love with how deep you think I really am.”

“I don’t fall in love that easily.”

“But you fell in love with her.”

He sighed. “That was an accident.”

“You want to talk about the scars on your arms?” she asked. “The ones that don’t look like an accident?”

“No,” he admitted.

“Well, I don’t want to talk about my poop.” Her fingers crept under the elastic of his boxers. “So how about you take these off, and I’ll get a condom, and we can romp.”

He couldn’t argue anymore. “Okay.”

She crawled delightfully toward him. “A lot.”

With a grin, he said, “Don’t you have to remove something to make that work?”

She looked back at her own underwear. “Oops!” she giggled before rolling her eyes innocently. “Um, could you do me a favor and take care of that for me?”

This morning, he had no idea what to expect from tomorrow, or the day after, but today, he had an answer to his daily question. His finger tickled the small of her back, and she squirmed.

“Good morning,” he whispered.

She replied by reaching for his waist and pulling him closer.


… And now…

Drowning

Sean studied his drink carefully. Not a day went by that he didn’t think about his old friend, scotch. They went way back, and it was really too bad things had to go the way they did. He flicked the glass, and a dozen bubbles scurried to the surface of his ginger ale, breaking the spell.

If he could, he’d walk backward, past one hundred and ten weeks of sobriety, and then twenty-something weeks further, until he reached a time when he still enjoyed drinking. While there, he’d order a double and toast tonight, which happened to be the worst Valentine’s Day of his life.

He loved her more than anything. He hated her even more than that.

“Last call,” said Craig the bartender. “Not that it matters to you.”

Sean grunted.

Craig slid a glass over to him. “Here’s your ginger ale, big spender.”

Sean pointed across the room to the bar’s only other occupant, a buxom blonde with a thousand-yard stare. “What’s she drinking?”

“Gold-label tequila,” he replied. “Top shelf. The sipping kind.”

“I always took her for a daiquiri girl; maybe a margarita if she wanted some fire in her water.”

Craig shrugged. “She’s usually a gin and tonic. Must be a special occasion.”

Sean threw a ridiculously large bill onto the counter. “Get me one more of those.”

“Gin and tonic?”

Sean picked up the bill and threw down a different one. “The denomination will go down every time you ask a stupid question.”

“Seriously?”

Sean replaced the bill again.

Without another word, Craig poured a glass of gold-label tequila. Sean replaced the bill on the bar with the one he’d originally left, flashed him an ambiguous smirk, and strolled over to the blonde with the drinks. As he sat next to her, he asked, “Thinking about him?”

She blinked, but didn’t look up. “Thinking about who?”

“Shannon,” he replied, “we both know who I’m talking about.”

“What makes you think you’re talking about the person you think you know I’m thinking about?”

“Same way you know who I’m thinking about.”

She relaxed and turned to him. “Apples.”

He was used to the way her mind careened from topic to topic, like a caffeinated pinball. “Oranges?” he replied.

She slapped his forearm with a weak grin. “No, weirdo; I bet his lips taste like apples. Granny Smith apples.” She sighed. “I hate that he goes home with her every night.”

“I both hate and love that she goes home with him.”

She lifted her fresh glass in a salute. “To unrequititude.”

He saluted back. “So,” he began by way of conversation, “what do you think you’d say to him if he were here and she wasn’t?”

“That’s a good question,” she said, furrowing her brow. “How would I phrase it?” She bit the inside of her cheek in deep concentration for a moment before lunging forward and kissing Sean furiously.

When she pulled away, Sean took a moment to fan himself with a beer coaster.

“Or something like that,” she concluded, averting her eyes with a blush. “So how did that taste?”

“Top-shelf tequila,” he replied.

“If I were her, I mean.”

“Copper.”

“Want to get out of here?” Shannon asked.

“Right behind you,” Sean told her and gulped down the last of his ginger ale, pretending it was scotch.

to be continued…

Haute

previously…

Before this ordinary duplex in the middle of this ordinary town, a bellow rose from the earth, deep and dark as if it had been mined by an army of industrious dwarves. Birds took flight from the surrounding trees as words formed: “Anybody home?”

The most reasonable reaction to this sound would be terror and retreat. However, baking in a cloud of ozone on the roof of this ordinary duplex were a pair who could not be described as reasonable; she knew no fear, and he just didn’t give a damn.

He shouted, “We’re on the roof!”

The bellow replied, “The door’s locked!”

“Please,” he muttered. “As if that would stop that.”

“You’re useless,” she told him with a glare. “Keys!” she announced before flinging them over the edge.

From beneath them came a roar of pain.

“You could have given some kind of warning,” he said. “Or at least aimed.”

Lisa punched Sean in the shoulder.

The building shook as it ascended the stairs, stomped across the threshold of the apartment, and approached the window, blotting out all light from inside. “You guys out there?”

“No,” he replied.

“Sean, is that you?”

“No,” Sean said before she hit him in the shoulder again. “Yes.”

“Cool.” Somehow, it pulled itself through the narrow window without breaking anything. When it was fully outside, the A-frame of the roof bowed, but held. This particular golem was named, appropriately enough, Rocky. “Smoking weed?” Rocky asked.

“No,” Sean replied, “we’re sitting here with bloodshot eyes, heightened appetites, and mellow demeanors, wondering where that smell is coming from.”

Rocky’s eyebrows slid together into a frowning shelf. “You think it might be coming from that pipe in your hand?”

“Care to join us for once?” Sean offered.

“I can’t,” Rocky replied.

“Why not?” he asked.

“I kind of…” Rocky started. “It’s hard to explain.” He tried: “I… change.”

“Into what?” Sean begged.

“Trust him,” Lisa said, “and just let it go.”

“Not now that my curiosity has been piqued!”

Rocky sighed. “Fine.”

She bolted to her feet. “You don’t have to do this, Rocky.”

“I’ll be okay.”

“No you won’t!” she pleaded. “Remember what happened last time?”

“You know Sean,” he told her, “he’s like a Chihuahua.”

“I’m more of a Shih Tzu,” Sean declared.

“He won’t let go until he sees for himself,” Rocky continued.

“While that is a softly blended metaphor,” Sean said, “it is accurate.”

Ignoring him, she asked Rocky, “Are you sure this is okay?”

Sean appeared between them. “Enough with all this foreshadowing!” He handed Rocky the hash pipe and a lighter. “On with it!”

After a few thoughtful, cautious tokes, Rocky sat down and exhaled.

“Well?” Sean whispered to Lisa.

“Wait for it,” she replied.

Rocky jumped to his feet and exclaimed, “Zut alors!”

Startled, Sean lost his balance, but she caught him before he could stumble off the roof.

Tu bien?” Rocky shouted at him.

While Sean gasped for air, she said, “He’ll be fine, Rocky. How are you?”

Comme ci, comme ça.”

Regaining his physical and mental balance, Sean cried out, “What the fart?”

“We warned you,” she said, “he changes when he’s high.”

“Changes into what?”

Je suis français,” Rocky explained.

“What?” Sean took a few deep breaths before asking, “Why?”

Je ne sais pas,” Rocky replied.

“Are you just fucking with me?”

“No,” she lied.

Rocky shrugged. “Ça va.”

Sean retreated through the window, mumbling, “I can’t deal with this.”

Rocky smiled an enormous smile and handed the paraphernalia back to her.

Tu es très haute?” Lisa asked him.

Mais oui,” he replied.


… And now…