Archive for May, 2012

20th May
2012
written by amber

Probability of Revenge

She thought it was nothing, my twin sister thought it was nothing when she stole my first boyfriend in Grade 6.

And my mother thought it was nothing too.

“Oh, for heaven’s sake, Audrey. You’re too young to have a real boyfriend, and I’m sure it was just a crush anyhow. You know how shy Steffy is. It’s easier for her to invite a boy she knows to the sock hop.”

Good demure Stephanie – at home. At school it was a whole other story. She didn’t invite Barry to the sock hop because she happened to know him from the times he walked me home from school and hung around talking to me, to us. She knew him at school, and she hadn’t given him a second look until he started being friendly to me.

“He was only hanging around with you to get my attention,” she hissed at me across the gap between our beds.

“And you only asked him to the dance to be mean to me,” I tried to hiss back, but couldn’t because I was blubbing too much.

It’s not fair for twins to be so different. I know, identical twins have their own problems, but it’s not easy being a short stumpy girl with bad skin and big ears having to watch people when they hear you’re twins and seeing them compare you to Stephanie, so tall, willowy, gorgeous. It’s not easy hearing them say, “I can’t believe you’re twins. You look nothing alike.”

After that, I took a different path, adopting a style she’d never stoop to, dating grotty boys with safety pins in their noses and ears, boys she’d never want to steal from me. And I never forgave her for stealing Barry.

And now it’s her wedding day. I’m still short but my skin is better and I wasn’t such a punk as to refuse when Dad offered to foot the bill to get my ears pinned back, I’m comfortable with my style and myself. Stephanie, on the other hand, is still gorgeous but that’s about all she is.

In Craig, she landed herself a real catch. He’s good-looking, on the path of a great career, and he’s smart. She’s smart too, but being pretty seems to have conditioned her to repress it.

I met him at their engagement party and we got into some deep discussions of current events, movies, art, the meaning of life. That sort of stuff. She seemed a bit miffed at me, but we weren’t shutting everyone else out. We were the heart of the party, but others could join in. Some of them did, I’m sure.

Mom noticed, of course. She called me the next day to warn me off.

“I have a boyfriend, Mom. I was just being sociable with Craig. Don’t you want me to like my sister’s future husband?”

“Just stay away from him, Audrey. You know how sensitive Steffy is. I don’t want her getting her heart broken. She’s not tough like you.”

Me, tough? Carapaced maybe, but hardly tough.

Stephanie had to ask me to be her Maid of Honour. Anything else would be unimaginable. And then she decided to have the Stag and Stagette at the same time. I suspect she wanted to keep her eye on Craig, but it threw the two of us together again, but neither of us were into the silly games and drunken flirting. We weren’t flirting, but I could tell. I could get him if I wanted to.

Seduce your twin sister’s husband on their wedding day to get back for a boyfriend stolen in Grade 6. That’s a pretty shitty thing to do.

I probably won’t do it.

Probably.

This story was inspired by StoryADay’s suggestion to write about revenge and also by a wedding here at the Ranch today (no twins, no revenge).

19th May
2012
written by amber

The Quest

This is not the best part of town, yet my trail has led me here.

I’ve been on the trail of my mother’s cat, Everett. He went missing five weeks ago and at first we feared the worst – his crushed body on the street or in the yard of the Rottweiler down the street – but Mother insisted on putting up a poster and soon reports started rolling in.

Our theory is that Everett’s new veterinarian-prescribed low fat diet sent the amiable but undeniably gluttonous feline on a search for better eats.

A woman two blocks over took him in; she said she thought he was a stray. Yeah, sure, a 16 pound perfectly groomed stray. He stayed with her only one day. She said that he never developed a taste for the vegan cat food that her two tabbies ‘adore.’

Three days later he was sighted in the elementary school yard where he benefited from innumerable tuna fish sandwiches the children seemed happy to donate to his cause until the principal put the run on him.

We had to widen our poster campaign to pick up his trail after that because it turns out he hitched a ride with the woman who delivers early morning newspapers. She was certain he resembled a cat missing in her neighbourhood. Everett is so car-phobic that she didn’t really get a good look at him – not enough to know he was a ‘him.’ One minute she was holding a purring affectionate pussycat, then she slipped him into her car and he turned into a yowling furry pinball rocketing around until she’d driven him to her neighbour’s house. When she opened the door, he shot out and hid in some bushes. She woke her neighbour who took one look and declared, “No, that’s not our Pusskins,” and went back to bed.

Everett meanwhile slunk away, no doubt afraid another car ride was in the offing. He stayed on that block four days, each day taken in and fed (usually cans of human-intended salmon or tuna, once he got canned shrimp) by someone who thought he was Pusskins. Then they’d kick him out, each and every one with the apology to me that he seemed well-fed so they thought he’d find his own way home.

An old widower on the next block was Everett’s next port of call. The man had every intention of taking him to the animal shelter, but the girl who comes in to cut his toenails told him that they euthanise most of the cats and dogs, so he followed her suggestion that she take the cat to live in the factory downtown where her mother sews knock-off handbags in an attic room with 30 or 40 other women. The place is plagued with rats, so they figured a cat would be a good idea.

And so it might be, but not Everett. He’s afraid of mice. A rat would be his worst nightmare. He spent one night in the sweat shop and bolted out the door when they arrived at 5 a.m.

And now he was downtown.

And soon he was in the area of flop houses and soup kitchens, pawn shops and back alley drug deals. So I’m here too.

The people here call him ‘Boss.’ He’s been here less than two weeks, but everyone seems to know and love him. They boast about finding tasty tidbits for him in dumpsters, the ones who sleep on the street try to tempt him to sleep under their blanket and share his warmth and gentleness with them.

“Angie, she loves him best,” a social worker told me. “She really shouldn’t be on the street. She’s a 22 year old schizophrenic, pregnant with her third child. She’s such an addict, they took the first two away from her pretty much at birth. I’ve never seen her as calm and, well, normal as she is with that cat. She came by and asked if I could get her a new prescription for her meds – she’s afraid she’ll have an incident and…”

“And what?”

“She said she was afraid she’d lose that cat’s respect.”

I watched as the social worker brought a meal to Angie from the soup kitchen (no pets allowed inside). I watched her eat and share her food with Everett aka Boss.

“I found a room for her where the cat will be allowed,” she told me, and gave me a look.

Mother still has Pablo and Essie. I wonder if I can convince her to do without Everett.

StoryADay’s challenge to us today was to write a story about a quest.

18th May
2012
written by amber

The Hermit – (a teaser)

After seven years on his own, the hermit came into town but there was no one there.

The doors hung open, sagging on their hinges, the walls had lost their angles, the windows were blinded by tiny pits from the eternally-blowing sand.

The hermit walked into the first house he arrived at. There were bowls on the table, each with a dry wizened mess in the bottom. There were leathery dead people on the chairs at the table, their clothing in rags and their bones poking through their desiccated skin.

The hermit walked out of that house and along the street toward the centre of the town. He didn’t go into any more houses. The wind made shushing sounds as it siphoned fine sand from one place to another. The wind made creaky metallic sounds as it worried at the ragged edges of the houses.

Dear Readers – this is just part of a story. One of the problematic aspects of Story 365 is that many of the markets to which I usually submit stories will not accept previously published stories. Stories on my blog are considered to be previously published.

StoryADay gave us the assignment today to write about a loner, and I had the first line in my head all day. I’m quite pleased with the story that resulted, and it’s a little longer than many of my stories, so I’m giving you just the first few paragraphs and I’m going to submit it to Daily Science Fiction. I’ll let you know how it is received.

Meanwhile, if any of you want the entire story, I’d be happy to email it to you, as that is not considered to be publication. Just leave a comment with your address.

17th May
2012
written by amber

Running Away

Allie darted through the woods, as fast as she could go. Dusk was descending, making shadows stretch across the path, as solid-seeming as fallen branches. She leapt over each one. She could not afford to trip.

The Undead were close behind her. She didn’t dare look, but she could hear their panting breath, smell their sweat. Their thudding footsteps pounded, as once her heart had pounded when she was one of them. Undead.

But now she was one of the Dead. And the Undead feared and hated her and tried to drive her from their midst.

This was not what she’d expected being dead to be like. She thought she’d be someplace else, or no place at all, or if still around, at least insubstantial. But she still had her body and it worked the way it always had, except that she couldn’t hear her heart beat and she didn’t seem to need to eat.

She didn’t think she looked all gross like a zombie, but she hadn’t had a chance to look in a mirror. Her hands, her feet, her torso – they all looked fine to her, the brief glances she’d had of them ever since she’d found herself lying in the ditch in broad daylight, in the very spot she remembered flying from her car after hitting that moose. There was no sign of her car, so she’d started walking toward town, only to have a carload of kids – kids she went to school with – stop and scream and throw rocks at her.

They threw wadded up pieces of paper too and yelled, “Go back to the graveyard!” Then they drove away.

Allie didn’t remember being at the graveyard, but the paper turned out to be a funeral notice. Her own funeral notice. And it said she was to be buried at Hilltop Cemetery.

So she headed there, and found a field of yawning holes. No wonder people were upset. Had all the dead come back to life?

She heard a commotion in the trees at the edge of the graveyard and saw a group of people beating something with sticks and shovels and baseball bats. Then someone shouted, “There’s another one!”

She ducked down, certain that they meant her, but they stampeded toward an old woman walking slowly along in the older part of the cemetery, weeping. Allie recognized her as a retired teacher from the high school who had died the year before.

Aside from her clothes, which were too dressy for anything but a party and a bit dirty, and her lack of shoes, Mrs. Gladstone looked exactly like the living. At that moment, Allie realized that she too was wearing one of her nicest dresses, not what she’d been wearing when she hit the moose, and no shoes.

She ran out of the graveyard, noticing the limp body which had been pummelled by the mob. It was a young boy who’d been killed on the train track when Allie was in junior high. There was no blood, but Allie was pretty sure he was now deader than dead.

She didn’t want to be dead again.

If she could find some shoes and make her way to another town where no one knew her to be among the deceased, she might be able to stay alive long enough to understand what was going on.

She’d felt a sense of freedom when she smashed the window of the shoe store and grabbed a pair of Nikes. I’m dead, she thought, I can do whatever I want.

But now, wearing the running shoes and running for her refound life, Allie doesn’t feel free, she feels desperate, and hunted. This is the third town she’s tried to infiltrate, but the Undead don’t trust anyone.

And then it happens – she trips. Her feet fly out behind her and the ground rushes toward her face, then a hand grabs her upper arm and a running figure yanks her along beside him.

“Keep running!” he shouts. “My friends will be here soon and we’ll chase those Undead back to their town. What were you doing, trying to stay in that town anyway?”

She gasps out, “I didn’t want to be alone.”

He pulls her down beside a stone wall. She can hear the Undead shout as a large group of the Dead come pounding toward them. Her rescuer says, “Alone? There’s more of us than them. You’ve got friends forever, girl.”

Today’s assignment was to write about someone fleeing something.

16th May
2012
written by amber

Prom Night

He’s so handsome with his little horns.

And he’s polished his hooves and put on his best jacket. His hair and beard are neatly combed. The corsage for his date is in his pocket.

My son, the goat boy, ready for his prom. And favouring me with a mild look, not quite a smile, but not a glare.

These last few years haven’t been easy. We thought things were bad when he was a baby. All the publicity, the outcry when we refused surgery, his first day of kindergarten and the way the other children mocked him. But puberty has been a whole new ball game.

Probably all parents of teenagers go through something like this. Probably we’re kidding ourselves (pun inevitable) that our experience is the worst possible.

Sometimes I wish the other children at school still ostracized him, instead of this popularity he has now. Of course, he’s not the only hybrid human any longer – he’s just the first.

No one believes us when we say that all we were trying to do was fiddle with the human digestive system a little, biohack a way for us to be able to eat more things, ideally to eat our own garbage instead of filling the land with landfills. I didn’t know I was pregnant. I certainly didn’t know the modification would affect my son the way it did.

Billy (we didn’t name him that – we named him Bradley – he chose that for himself) lost his driving license last week and he says he’d be mortified to have us drive him, so Ashleigh, his date, is picking him up in her car.

And here she is and the few moments of unaccustomed peace in our house end as he yells across the yard “I’ll be right out, Ash!” and turns to us with a scowl, “I suppose you think that even tonight I should come home by a certain time.”

“No, son,” my husband says, “You go out and have a good time. This is a special night for you and we’re really proud of you for graduating.”

“Surprised you, hey?” he says, hovering in the doorway. “Maybe you should have been tinkering with a way to make people smarter all those years ago instead of aiming for a human trash compactor.”

He’s off then, trotting across the yard, and I am filled with so much love for him. He never shows us how much his differences have brought him pain. He always seems to revel in his individuality. I’ll cherish this night for many reasons, but most of all for this rare moment of candor.

I wasn’t able to get on the internet earlier today, and so I wasn’t able to find out StoryADay’s prompt, therefore I didn’t have a chance to think about it prior to logging on this evening and discovering I was to write a love story. And I totally went blank on it. Then I looked out the window and saw a deer stroll by in the pasture, with short little horns. So I wrote the first line and carried on from there. And I was able to put in something about biohacking, which I heard about on CBC this morning and thought would work well in a story.

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