The Dinner Party

Luigi gently closed the door behind him until he heard the click of the latch. He removed a single key from his pocket and locked the door. Stepping gingerly down the stairs and away from the stoop of the red bricked colonial, he placed the key back into his pocket and set off down the street.

He was looking for his guest for the dinner party he was throwing tonight. Everything had been prepared already, and the rest of the dinner party was waiting for the special guest of honor to arrive. The sidewalk was full of the grey slush that accumulates during the wintery months in New England. Luigi’s feet crushed the snow and ice into darker grey footprints as he walked intently.

When he reached town, he looked around for his expected visitor. Dozens of people were walking throughout the streets of downtown, gaily walking hand in hand and gazing at the brightly lit windows showing their Christmas wares. The crowd was amassing towards the giant tree that would be lit tonight. Luigi’s gaze passed over these happy people with disinterest.

And then he saw her.

She was leaving the main department store with a large box under arm. Her hair was dark red, reaching her waist, and it swayed from side to side as she walked. Around her waist was a thick leather belt tied to hold her winter coat closed to the cold. He had seen her wear that coat years ago, when she had vacationed in Eastern Europe. She set off down the snow-filled street. A grin came across his face as he tried to catch up to her.

She was walking down the alley at the end of town when he finally caught up to her. Feigning a pant, he called out, “Hey, hey, wait!”

She turned around to meet him.

“Hello. Do I kn—“

Her voice was cut off by his hand covering her mouth and nose. Her fists beat against him as she struggled to escape his grasp. Luigi watched her eyes widen and felt her body writhe against his as she fought.

“Shhh…it’s okay. We have to hurry; everyone is waiting.”

A panic stricken look crossed her face before she collapsed into him. He caught her from falling and scooped her onto his right shoulder.

“Can’t have that pretty coat of yours ruined, can we? Don’t worry, I’ll get your package.”

He bent down to get the box she had dropped in the struggle. Putting it under his left arm, with her on his right, he set back off to the house.

When he reached the stoop again, he set the box down before gently leaning her against the door as he reached into his pocket for the key. Unlocking the door, he carried her over the threshold like it was their wedding night.

“Look, everyone is here, waiting on you.”

Luigi carried the woman and placed her opposite of the head of the table. Her wide-eyes looked directly ahead…until he walked outside to grab her box. When he came back in, he saw that her head had lolled back.

“Oh no, no, no, that won’t do. How will you entertain our guests?”

He placed the box on the table and ran to straighten her head. Once he was satisfied with her position, he looked around in alarm.

“Dinner starts at seven! I have to get started!”

His next moves were meticulous. It was important to place everything just so for the dinner to occur without a hitch. The wires were attached to small pads and placed in specific locations. The wires were then looped overhead and then connected to the control device at the head of the table. It was an intricate network of wires that ran down the length of the table.

Once Luigi was satisfied with the positioning of the wires and pads, he went to the kitchen and brought out the foods. Roast beef, mashed potatoes with gravy from the beef drippings, steamed carrots, and fluffy dinner rolls. He poured the wine, and as the clock struck seven, asked his dinner guests if they were ready to be served. With a slight touch of the control pad, everyone nodded enthusiastically.

“Wonderful, wonderful! Everyone, I’d like to thank you for joining me tonight to celebrate Emily and me as we begin our lives together.”

With a touch of the pad, everyone clinked their crystal glasses together. Luigi smiled at his guests, taking in each of their faces in turn.

There was Charlie and Diane, the owners of this lovely home who were so willing to let him use their telephone one dark night when he claimed to have a flat-tire. They were elderly and well-to-do. They were also very easy to overcome.

Next to them sat the neighbor’s gardener, Dillon. The garden shears had come in handy to take down the tall and in-shape man.

Facing him was beautiful Emily, wide-eyed.

On the right of the table sat the twins, a boy and girl, who he had come across during one of his evening walks around the neighborhood. The girl had screamed as Luigi strangled her brother before she was silenced by a knife across her throat.

Immediately to Luigi’s right was the small boy he had lured inside with candy. The boy’s lips were still tinged blue.

Luigi looked around with pride. This dinner would be unforgettable.

“You may not know that I have spent years wooing this woman, and she finally said yes!”

More shuffling of excitement from the guests, expect for one. Luigi looked down the table to see that Charlie wasn’t participating in the responses. When Luigi reached Charlie’s side, he noticed that the pad that should be attached to Charlie’s right hand, generating his movements, had fallen to the floor. Shaking his head, Luigi reattached it to the proper muscles on Charlie’s body and walked back to his chair. He touched the control pad once more, and Charlie joined everyone else in clinking his glass. Satisfied, Luigi continued his speech.

“We have decided to get married immediately! Tonight!”

Luigi waited while his guests all showed a form of surprise. Emily’s face beamed with a wide-eyed grin.

“The ceremony will take place after dinner. But before we dig in, why don’t we see what sweet Emily has brought us tonight?”

Luigi picked up the box that Emily had been carrying when he picked her up for dinner. Opening the box, he revealed two ornate silver candlesticks, intricately woven to hold three candles each.

A touch of the pad and Emily smiled serenely, ever the gracious hostess.

“Emily, you have outdone yourself indeed.”

Luigi placed the candlesticks on the dinner table and placed six candles in them, lighting them with the lighter he had in his pocket.

“Candlelight is much better for a dinner party. Electricity is used in all of the wrong ways these days. There is nothing to compare to a lovely candlelit dinner among friends.”

Luigi smiled at his guests and raised his glass.

“To Emily, may she always bring such light to my life.”

The electrical wires buzzed as the rest of the guests jerkily raised their glasses.


Play It Again, Charlie

Charlie awoke and lay in bed without opening his eyes for a few moments, trying to retain the dream as it slipped away, carrying his happiness with it. He brought his hand up and rested it on the bed beside him. His hands traced the empty space on the blankets. He could almost imagine she was there, her dark hair sprawled out as she peacefully slept next to him.

His roommate dropped a pan in the kitchen with a crash, and Charlie groaned inwardly as his eyes flew open and the almost tangible memory of her dissipated. Boxes were piled around his room in varying stages of packing. Sheets of music were stacked haphazardly with scribbles of his writing below and above ledger lines. Clothes were piled on the floor. He had to finish all of his laundry today, at some point in between the packing and the lessons and the show tonight. There was never enough time.

He threw on an old comfortable tee shirt as he swung his legs out of bed. He tossed his long blonde hair back, shaking it out of his eyes before running his hands through it to smooth it slightly. He didn’t have a mirror in his room but he didn’t need one to know how he looked: tired. The past three months had been a marathon of events that left him stressed and even more excited that today was his last full day in the town he had lived in his entire life.

He had to leave. The music scene was stagnant here, and while the musicians were great, it felt like everyone knew each other and were running the same old songs gig after gig. Everyone with true promise had left for greener pastures in the last few years. If he didn’t get out now, he knew he would sink into the same schedule as the old men and women working the halls for years without a real break. Their lives weren’t judged by him, but he knew he could be more, and so he was leaving.

He rubbed his eyes viciously for a few minutes while he sat on the edge on the bed. Music floated through his head as he woke fully, and he immediately snatched up his guitar and played a few bars of what had come to him. He scribbled occasionally between playing. His bare foot tapped to keep time, right heel working up and down. An hour passed before he realized it, and he scrambled to write down his last thoughts before he grabbed his laundry and walked to the hallway and tossed a load in the washer.

His roommate had left during his morning musical musings so the house was empty as he headed to take a shower. He didn’t sing in the shower this morning. He hadn’t sang outside of a gig or a rehearsal in a few months, which was unlike him. He didn’t feel like singing since Daisy had her accident.

The accident itself was sudden and unremarkable. The effects of the accident were anything but unremarkable. There was bleeding around her brain. The blood pooled and affected her ability to communicate coherently. Because of who he was to her, he had to wait for her texts instead of running to her while she was hospitalized. Her sudden absence from his life after three years had shocked him into realizing how helpless he was to help her as she recovered from the surgery.

The water streamed down his face as he remembered how adamant she had been about him staying away from the hospital while she recovered. Some might argue that shame humiliates a man the most; it weakens his drive in life as it is revealed to everyone how incapable he has been to adhere to social or cultural norms. But Charlie would argue that helplessness is worse than any shame. His helplessness in this situation had humiliated him more than any shame. Perhaps his helplessness would evolve into shame and even more humiliation, but his helplessness stayed between Daisy and him. There was no public shame that he wasn’t there for her, but it was glaringly evident to him that this situation had taken away his ability to be a man. A man is a protector, someone who will fight the rest of the world to defend his home and loved ones. What does a man do when he is forbidden to show the rest of the world that he loves and is willing to protect someone? If a man can’t protect and defend, is he even a man?

Charlie had spent days trying to find a way to get to the hospital without Daisy’s husband finding out. The ideas were harebrained and irrational and never came to fruition. Daisy had to recover without him. What happens when a woman realizes that the man she loves is unable to protect her fully? It doesn’t matter to a woman that he might be trying to protect her from ruin. Women want complete and utter proof of protection for their love. If a woman suffers and isn’t protected, a part of her will always remember that he wasn’t there. The love will crumble, at least hers will; his love will suffer from the knowledge that he was helpless. No one wins. How can such an unremarkable accident tear apart a love that was so…good? Even if she recovered fully, their relationship wouldn’t.

He turned off the water and let the last drops leave tracks of slippery wet down his chest. Toweling off, he looked at the time with alarm, threw on some pants, and quickly head into work to teach his students.

He was late. Par for the course with these poor students. Charlie was ever the creative artist who didn’t like being tied down by a schedule. The world didn’t work like that though, so he had tried to adjust his inattention to time over the years. On days like today, when his head is in his music and on Daisy, it was easy for him to lose sight of the time and hard for him to care.

He went through the day in a funk, telling each student at the end of their lesson that he wouldn’t be teaching them anymore. Each upset face only fueled his mood, and he was glad when the last student dejectedly walked out of the studio. He had promised that he would try to make it to their recitals as he wasn’t moving too terribly far away, but the students knew, and he knew, that it was an empty promise. Creative humans are terrible at keeping commitments.

He rushed home to grab his equipment for the gig he was playing that night. It would be his last performance in the town for the unforeseeable future. When he walked in the door of the house, he remembered his laundry and quickly threw it in the dryer. Luckily it hadn’t mildewed.

He played that night to an amazing crowd of energetic people who swayed and danced and sang along. His mind stopped worrying about his future, about Daisy, about how he would scrap up enough gigs in the coming months to pay rent…. He felt each note travel through his mind and out of his hands and he let himself go. Everything would be okay if he had his music. Every emotion that he felt could be manifested into his music. He could play the feelings and get lost without getting lost in them. Music was good like that. You could lose yourself but only for as long as the song was playing. Once the song is over, the crowd wants a different tune. There are no repeats during a live performance.

So he played.

Punching the Clown

It started in the usual way when he was about twelve: with his hand. It felt okay, amazing even, but it never quite compared to the warm wet pocket of a woman, which, of course, he wouldn’t know until two years later, when he would lose his virginity to the trailer trash girl down the street. She tasted like Smirnoff ice and cheap cigarettes that she bought from the corner store. No one carded the sixteen year old; no one thought they needed to validate her age when her breasts hung like a thirty year old used up hooker. Her teeth were already stained from years of tobacco use, but he wasn’t focused on her teeth as he discovered the greatest feeling known to man.

That’s when his addiction began. Once he knew what the warm and gooey inside of a woman felt like, he spent every waking moment trying to recreate that sensation. He tried going back to his hand when the slut dropped him and went onto her next pimply-faced project but it just wasn’t the same. He tried to add in lotion, but the bottle on his mom’s bedside table smelled like the inside of a nursing home and nothing killed his desire faster than images of wrinkles, denture cream, and long-forgotten hard candies floating through his mind.

So he had to get creative. Foods were simple enough to experiment with; he was a growing boy so no one in the house blinked an eye if an entire jar of peanut butter went missing. But he found that peanut butter in a jar was too stiff compared to the slippery shelter that haunted his dreams.

Pineapple was next. He didn’t know why he wanted to try it, with its prickly outside. His mother had bought two at the farmers market on Saturday. When everyone sat down at the dinner table to partake in cottage cheese and slices of the first pineapple, he imagined filling the hole where the core had existed. So he waited for everyone else to go to church the next day (he was excused from attending as a surly teenager), and he snuck down to the kitchen to core the second pineapple to the right size.

There’s an enzyme in pineapple that disintegrates flesh. 1/10

So he kept it safe with non-organic materials for a bit.

The end of a trumpet was difficult and cold, and left his brother confused at what leaked out of his instrument during “Turn the Beat Around”. 3/10 would recommend.

Silly putty molded nicely, and heated up really well. Unfortunately, it became too smooth and caught his skin roughly. 7/10

Soon, it became a game. As he eased into his twenties, nothing was off limits. The occasional girl would enter his bed for a few months and the desire to explore would abate. But the moment she inevitably left him, he was at it again, with a tube full of the Orbeez balls. Those were perfectly slippery and slightly gooey but didn’t grasp him the right way. 8/10

There was a nice pipe that provided just the right amount of pressure if he pressed downwards while he worked it, but his roommate became too suspicious. The pipe next to his bed stand could easily be explained away as a security defense but the roommate was uncomfortable. 7/10

Jello was nice but broke apart easily. The red jello in particular would dye his skin into a rod of fury. Orange made him jaundiced and scared the ladies. 6/10

But one day…one day he found the best…fit, so to speak.

He was twenty-five and visiting his parents during Christmas break. The whole family was there to exchange presents and light the tree and participate in other ordinary traditions expected of a Midwestern family. His parents had purchased a new couch.

He noticed it the moment he walked into the decorated living room. Its texture was so soft and its structure was so firm. There were multiple pillows that could easily be arranged in the most pleasurable position, from his past experiences. It was gray.

He waited until everyone else went to the Christmas Eve Service before he approached the couch. He was considerate enough of his parent’s purchase and placed a towel between the cushions to prevent…spillage. He fashioned a hole and filled it with lube from his last girl. She liked the strawberry kind.

As he stripped down in his parent’s living room, he gazed upon his latest object of desire and knew that this was going to be good.

And it was. Oh, it was. It was the first 10/10 he had ever felt, and he let out a tiny moan as he desecrated the main focal point of the living room.

There was a sound behind him of a quick gasp, and he whipped his head around to see his entire family standing in shock just inside the doorway.

“Elizabeth forgot her gloves.”


A Blue-Eyed Beginning

His eyes were a piercing blue. I know that sounds cliche, and well, it is cliche. But I would be lying if I identified them in any other way. From the moment we locked eyes, it seemed like that blue cracked open my soul and tossed it into the air for further dissection. His eyes were piercing and deep, and I still shudder to remember how he looked through me.

He was dangling over the edge of the security barrier at the concert we were both working with his back to the band. I had been yanked from the main stage, where Prince was performing, to conduct security at one of the side stages. Prince said I made him uncomfortable so I was removed from his security team in a rapid display of star appeasement. I was placed about six feet to the right of this man’s position. The blue-eyed man studied me with those eyes and said nothing. Of course he couldn’t say anything from that far away; the music was too loud.

He remained standing with his foot up on the barrier and with his arms resting on the ledge. He made the gaudy bright-yellow “Security” tee-shirt look good. His arms were tan and muscled, but his physical prowess wasn’t what drew me to him. It was his presence. A crowd of over 100,000 drunk and screaming fans were laid out in front of him and he looked like he was hanging over the fence at his ranch at sunset to see his cattle home. The crowd, the noise, the pulsing vibrations of the multiple stages seemed a million miles away from him. He studied me hard before returning his attention to the crowd.

The night went on in a blur of light and noise. One particularly rowdy concert-goer began to yell obscenities in my direction. I had been forewarned by the security lead to ignore the comments that were sure to be yelled at me. They don’t get many small females to volunteer for the security teams for a reason. I acted as though I couldn’t hear the comments containing phrases such as “slut-fucking” but my face turned red and my eyes began to well up with hot and unwelcome tears. Unwilling to let the man see how his words affected me, I turned to watch the stage briefly to try and regain my composure.

I felt the beer hit my back in a slosh of sticky liquid. My overly large yellow “Security” shirt clung to me as I whipped around to face the offending party. My fellow security guard was already standing between me and the beer welder. His voice was calm as he told the man to step back. The drunk was so inebriated that he wasn’t able to see how strong my defender was as he continued to try and grab at me from over the barrier. The guard calmly lifted the drunk up into the air by the front of his shirt with both of his fists…and threw him. A group of other guards, who were motioned to the area by the man who protected me, picked up the guy and carried him out of the concert.

Kurt stayed by my side for the rest of the night, calming scanning the area continuously. We carried on a conversation out of the sides of our mouths as we watched the crowd for more trouble. He would bend down and speak into my ear. His breath was hot in the cool desert night air.

By the end of the concert, amid the piles of trash and drug paraphernalia, we were both dangling from the barrier, laughing and exchanging life stories. We were so engrossed in each other that we missed the bands packing up around us. When people asked us to move from the barrier so they could pack it up, we glanced up to an empty venue, and people from our respective sections were looking for us.

It was four in the morning before we had to part ways onto separate buses. He asked for my phone number, and I gladly gave it.

The Swell

The men sat around sipping coffee in their bright yellow windbreakers. They were a familiar crowd of retirees, lazily enjoying their coffee and conversation. The sun wrinkled faces smiled and argued over the topics of the day: the value of hardwork and something they vehemently disagreed with: Bitcoin. One man’s jowls shook as he waved his hands around to argue with the man directly across from him at the pushed together tables.

“Kids these days can’t even count cash anymore! How are we supposed to trust our money to the damn computers?! The end is coming, I tell ya!”

I smiled silently to myself and sipped my Mexican mocha. I sat by the coffee shop’s single window and watched the waves come in as I eavesdropped. Pulling out my phone, I checked my investments, including bitcoin, and felt good about the returns. The new age is here, my friends.

Finally seeing swells of six feet or so, I downed the rest of my drink and scooted to the edge of the booth. I grabbed my notebook and stood up, tossing my cup into the trash can by the door on my way out. Swinging by my car, I dumped my phone and notebook in the passenger’s seat and crawled in the back to haphazardly change into my wetsuit. The water was too cold for me to risk going out without it. No one was around my car in the parking lot, but I liked to go nude under the suit and needed to show some semblance of modesty for the men in the coffee shop across the street, lest they tired from their bitcoin argument and decided to watch the ocean. I struggled to pull the suit up, my legs sprawling into the air as I wiggled the tight material onto my body.

Once my arms were through the wetsuit sleeves, I climbed out of the car, glad of the cold wind that brushed over my face and blew my tangled hair into my eyes. The water may be cold, but the wetsuit made my body hot in the wintery air. I reached behind my back and pulled the long strand of coarse fabric that was attached to the zipper that ran up the back of the suit. The zipper closed the tight fabric up my naked back; I wrapped the velcro seam around my neck closed and my body’s suffocation was complete.

Grabbing my board, I locked my car and tossed the keys behind the right front tire. It was just me, my board, and my wetsuit. Stepping barefoot onto the cold sand, I closed my eyes and deeply breathed in the salty brisk air. I wiggled my toes, sinking a little as the sand moved around my feet. Opening my eyes, I started walking towards the smaller swells that were beckoning me. The water was completely clear, with gold flecks of sand that were reflecting off the early morning sun. It looked like I would be stepping into King Midas’ tumultuous bathwater.

I stepped in, gasping at the sudden freeze that enveloped my feet to the ankles. They went numb rapidly, but the numbness stopped at the beginning of my wetsuit. I kept walking, thankful that my numb feet couldn’t feel the smooth rocks that I was stepping on and scraping against. The water reached my waist, cooling my body down significantly before I threw my board onto its surface. My board was perfect, light orange with white swirls that mimicked the waves I had caught on big island ten years ago. I had gone to the local board maker with my design idea. He had taught me how to carve the board, smoothing out the roughness and ensuring the board’s dynamics were perfect before sending me off to enjoy it.

Front end towards the ocean…

The words of the boyfriend who had taught me how to surf echoed in my head as they always did when I would first go into the water. He had chastised me for walking out with the fin end forward and I had mocked him and stuck out my tongue as I turned the board around. I never failed to chuckle at the memory of him rolling his eyes at my childish behavior as he taught me to surf.

Decades ago…

Perhaps he was why I continued to surf. I felt close to him when I caught a wave, as close as I could get to a man who had disappeared three years into our relationship. He was always a drifter; I could feel his itch to walk out every time we sat too still on my couch. He stayed with me for longer than I thought he would. But that one fight proved to be too much. I never saw him again after he walked out that time.

Jolting back to the present, I swung up onto the board with both hands and began paddling out to meet my warmup waves.

The first few were good waves, solid and easy to ditch when they lost their power to the whitewash. My hair was completely wet, dangling around my face. I was nicely warmed up, my breath was quickened and the wetsuit was a perfect temperature of solid cool. Flipping my hair out of my face, I started towards the bigger swells. They had started to reach eight feet, which was no big deal; they were nothing like the thunderous swells the typhoons brought in.

I reached the right area during a period of calm, and I closed my eyes as I sat on my board with my feet dangling into the water. The water swirled around my feet, making my legs weightless and easing them of aches. I felt giddy and opened my eyes to a large swell. I pushed my board through, relying on my weight to force the board through the wave and prevent the board from popping up and getting dragged to the shore. I sat up and shook the water from my face as I spun my board around to catch the next wave.

I started paddling to stay within the right part of the swell. My right shoulder began to ache with the old injury, but I ignored it as the wave lifted my board and I was able to quickly pop up to my feet. I began to ride with the wind pushing drops of water into my ears as I traveled quickly down the face of the wave. The water was wrinkly and smooth between the wrinkles. I smiled as I gained speed and shot down through the wrinkles. My board rode diagonally across the wave smoothly, and I uncharacteristically felt the need to glance up at the shore.

He was there. He was on the shore, watching me. It had to be him; no one else would be in sandals on this freezing wintery day with a light jacket on. He always said he never felt the cold; years of surfing with the old school wetsuits that didn’t protect him from the elements seemed to have permanently damaged the cold sensitivity receptor nerves of his body.  He watched me surf without any emotion on his face. He simply studied me.

Startled, my body jerked backwards and my board shot forwards. I fell into the wave as it broke over me. The wave had me firmly in its grasp as I tumbled over and over in its break. It held me at the bottom of the ocean, pressing my face and hands into the smooth rocks that were rough with impact. I went limp, willing the ocean to take me in whatever fashion would get me to air the quickest. I had learned long ago, from him, that you couldn’t fight a lost wave; the ocean will always win. If you struggle against the wave, you will lose precious energy in the fight for a sense of direction as you are dragged under, over and over. He had taught me to go limp and let the ocean have me, and hopefully the ocean would determine that it wasn’t my time and let me go. The ocean had always let me go in the past.

My lungs began to burn and in my panic, I started to fight to find my way up to the water’s surface. Scratching, clawing, my shoulder muscle ached with shoots of fire as I tried to swim.

I was able to briefly surface, and as I rapidly drew in a strangled gasp of air, I saw flashes of what looked like a yellow windbreaker running down to the water before I was dragged back under by a second large swell perfectly timed to crush me.

I hadn’t seen him.

My last breath wasn’t enough for me to remain limp during the pull and crashing of the second wave; my body panicked immediately and I tried swimming to the surface again. My nails scraped rock. I was swimming the wrong way with no oxygen left. Panic overrode my entire body as I realized what was happening.

As everything darkened around me, I thought I felt his arms grab me into a strong hug, just like the ones he used to give me as I lay in his arms those many years ago. I thought I felt his body pressed against mine, his naked skin clinging to my wetsuit as he pulled me in tightly…tight enough to be safe, tight enough to return me back to the girl I was when he first loved me, tight enough that I couldn’t breathe, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to breathe anymore.

The gold-flaked waves continued to crash repeatedly, unconcerned, pounding onto the smooth rocks and dragging my orange and white-swirled board to rest alone on the unmarked sand of the shore.

A Brush With An Alternate End

When I crossed the street was when I saw her. It was her hair that caught my eye. She had just exited the rundown nail salon ran by Vietnamese sisters that was in desperate need of a remodel into this century. She looked at her nails admiringly before she pulled out her phone and snapped a picture of them with her shiny pink iPhone. She was so engrossed with her nails that she didn’t see me gazing at her for longer than I would normally gaze at a girl openly.

Her hair was a gold that shone and sparkled in the sun. It fell midway down her back in waves and swayed as she walked. Most men would probably be focused on her ass as she walked but not me. That hair was mesmerizing. Of course, I glanced at her ass and saw that it was athletic and worthy of a look. But my eyes kept getting drawn back to her hair.

I turned to the window on my left. It was a window to a store filled with antiques that the beach town had collected over the years. While I tried to look interested in costume jewelry draped over red velvet covered armchairs, my peripheral vision strained to see her. She had changed direction and was heading towards me, typing on her phone, oblivious to the world. Her toned legs trailed down out of her maroon skirt as she walked in the sway that caused the river of gold to cascade back and forth.

As she approached the antique store, she looked thoughtfully into the window next to me. She didn’t seem to have a pressing schedule, which was good for me. Her phone was clenched in her right hand. Her nails did look good. There was no ring on her left hand.

She walked to the entrance of the store and tried the door.

“It’ll be open in about 10!”

A man called to her from across the street.

“Alright, thanks!”

Her voice was assertive and had a slight accent that I couldn’t place. It was magical. I wondered what it would sound like when she was scared.

She continued past me and briefly made eye contact as she passed. She looked away rapidly and her demeanor changed. Could she sense me? She quickly ducked into the next shop, a surf shop.

This wouldn’t do.

I looked down at myself. I was dressed adequately for this town full of bums and drugged up hippies. What else could she want?

I walked to my car that had a full view of her chosen hideout store. I would give her time to forget about me, as they always did. The others would briefly recognize me before they fully understood what was happening to them. Maybe girls like her should pay attention to men like me. Maybe they would live.

Fifteen minutes later, my girl had exited the surf shop. She was carrying a wetsuit and had completely forgotten about me as she practically bounced to her car. She got into the vehicle, a blue Jetta, and tossed the wetsuit in the backseat with a nonchalant attitude. She didn’t see me watching as she pulled away.

She didn’t see me pull out after her either. Girls like her are so self centered that they never look around to see the world and how it truly views them. Pretty girls glide through life with no struggles while everyone else scrambles for a gentle smile from them on the streets. I wonder what it must be like to be so free of concern as everything is handed to you.

She pulled into an apartment complex less than three minutes later. The lazy bitch could have walked. I parked close behind her and watched her sway up the steps to her apartment. She glanced down before she went inside and shook her head, tossing the gold back and forth gently.

The door closed.

I turned off my vehicle and got out. I didn’t need a disguise. No one ever remembered me, remember? Peter, the forgotten one. That wasn’t how the Bible put it. My mother would be so ashamed to see how I have soiled my namesake.

I walked up the same steps as she had, but with much less grace, and walked to her doorway. Reaching for the doorknob, I glanced down to see what had caused her to shake her head so gently before she had entered.

It was a pair of children’s shoes.

I couldn’t. Not a mother.

As I walked back down the stairs, I heard her singing happily.

“Come on, baby, don’t fear the reaper…and she ran to him…”

A Beer And A Hotel

Here. This one. It’s close to base.

I pulled into the parking lot and parked in a well-lit area. As I turned off my car, I began to shiver slightly and steeled myself for what I was about to do.

I should have had another beer. Or two.

I walked into the hotel lobby and approached the front desk. The man at the desk looked up at me in cautionary surprise as I leaned over the counter. His face was pockmarked and slightly disfigured. I bet he wasn’t used to seeing an attractive girl by herself in this area of town at this time of night.


How should I put this without coming off suspiciously?

“Uh, I was wondering if you have someone staying here by the name of Lucius Vorenus.”

The man didn’t even glance down at the ledger. He stared at my blonde hair as it fell onto the counter.


“Are you sure? He would be staying here long term…”

“Why do you want to know?”

“I’m looking for him. Old family friend. He mentioned he was staying in a hotel around here.”

I could see a pizza box covered in grease stains that was filled with half eaten crusts. Three cans of Dr. Pepper were next to the box. There were greasy fingerprints all over the counter.

This fat ass wouldn’t help me with anything unless I turned on the charm, and even then I bet he cares more about food and his fleshlight than any tangible girl who would most assuredly leave him the moment he took off his shirt to show the hairy belly that sags over his tiny penis.

I smiled brightly at him and tossed my hair.

“Look, he’s tall and dark haired. He would be staying under a long term contract with the government.”

I pulled out my phone and flashed a picture of Lucius at the man’s greasy face. His eyes never lost their suspicion.

“I don’t give out details of people who are staying here.”

“Well, can you just tell me if he’s ever stayed here long term?”

Maybe I could find out how long ago I had missed him; how long ago I should’ve started looking.

“No. I suggest you leave.”

“Alright, thanks for your help anyway!”

I grinned at him nonchalantly to cover the panic and fear I suddenly felt at the prospect of being reported to the cops. I turned on my heel and my hair flung out in a fanlike pattern. His eyes watched me until I left his sight.

I hope he enjoys the rest of his miserably lonely life.

Walking to my car, I quickly got in and turned on the heat. My shorts were not suited for this type of detective work in December, even if California’s winters were mild. Goosebumps rose on my flesh as I searched for other hotels nearby.

Why are you even doing this? You saw how that man looked at you. This isn’t a detective movie. This is real life. Did you expect him to tell you, “Oh yes, he’s in 112, here’s an extra key”? What happens if you do find him? What do you even have to say to him?

I gripped the steering wheel until my knuckles turned white.

You. You’re fucked in the head. Go home. You’re just asking for trouble. You have no business looking for him.

I peeled out of the parking lot quickly. I fought the urge to pull into the next hotel and got onto the highway pushing 110 before the next exit appeared.