Garden Variety, part 3

What the one with the birthmark did next didn't surprise him but scared him instead. She climbed, quite quickly, onto a round table and stood up on her toes right away. She was reaching. He didn't know. He just grabbed her around the waist. Want it, she said. More of a cry, actually. What, he asked, did she want so desperately to risk her life at such a young age?

Book. Okay. Which book? And then the other one was on the table and that sent the whole thing over sideways because of course it wasn't actually designed to support the weight of two moving children. Swiftly over. He grabbed the other one as it happened. He held them like matching grocery bags, snatched from a store that was plunging down a sinkhole.

Damage control. The twins applauded. Cute, little open fingered claps. Maybe it should have made him mad that they were happy but instead he was happy. He had saved them. Not the table. The table was still teetering back and forth on the floor. Cheap card table, probably now down one functional leg.

He set them down, carefully. Back in. With everyone else. Let's stay in there, okay?

Okay, they both said.


Garden Variety, part 2

His imagination didn't go far. It rarely did. It was reeled back by irrelevance, as if leashed by a stranger, an owner who didn't own him yet but was training his attention. What was he trying to imagine, again? The twins? Yes, they were still somewhere in the room. He didn't know where exactly but so long as they hadn't gone outside he was doing a pretty reasonable job.

What is it you do? Someone was talking to him. Someone sitting at his table. Several someones were actually sitting at his table but not all of them had asked that question. One had. Not sure which. So he didn't know who to look at when he said damage control so he just said it to the middle of the table and then the man next to him said oh really and where do you do that? Maybe that was who talked before. Yes. It sounded like the same person.

This time he knew where to look, so he did look at the man. who had spoken. Wherever I am, that is what I do. Damage control. Everyone laughed of course. They always do. This Was the answer he provided and it made people laugh. He used to know why on a intellectual level. He used to understand the details of the joke but now it was just a response to a question and it was what he did. Just did. The laughter stopped and then there was another question what else do you do?

Luckily the twins saved him from that rabbit hole by starting to sneak out the door so he stood up and jogged over to them, following them into a hallway full of books that maybe were fake. Foreign, maybe. Just decorations to make the building appear to be a sanctuary for scholars or maybe real but if so no one touched the things they were too perfectly shelved for actual usage.


Garden Variety, part 1

He looked down at his shoe. It was a reference. A check made. A subtle cue. If anyone else in the room reacted, he didn't see. He couldn't see. The point was self referential though. A reflexive pronoun. A grounding action.

When he looked up, the twins had moved. The one with the birthmark on her forehead was trying to hide behind a potted plant. The other was crinkling large, brown dry leaves between her hands. That's not helping your sister hide, he said but she didn't look at him. He thought of trying to say something else but couldn't find the right words that might get her attention in the way hat he wanted to. Cleverly, he wished. Amusingly, he thought.

So that led him back to the food table. The dessert table first. He found his face holding an expression of annoyance then wondered if he was really annoyed or was feigning it for something or someone. What's wrong with dessert? This is a thing that people do. That people love. This thing. He walked to the next table. It just didn't make sense that it was the first table. That was his reason that he needed. It should be last. Should have been.

The one with the birthmark grabbed his leg from under the table cloth. Although it surprised him, he knew which one it was, even before he heard himself shout out. Someone laughed. He laughed. Both twins laughed. Then the laughter moved away into the back of the room. Disappeared. The twins did too. He wanted to say something before they did but he didn't. Again, he didn't.

So he talked to the food instead. Hello, turkey. You look delicious, cranberries. Ah, spinach salad, how are you? Mr. peas! Mrs. broccoli! So long since I've seen you. Glad you could come out tonight for the party. Someone snickered at his greetings.

As he sat down to eat, he wondered what he was supposed to say. He knew what he had said. He knew it was wrong. But what was he supposed to say? That was the thing. When the one without the birthmark come up to him chewing on a cookie, he was still thinking that.

What've you got there? As if he couldn't see what she had. As if he didn't really know what to talk about so asked an obvious question instead but maybe not obvious but tautological. Rhetorical? No. Obvious. Cookie, she said. Yes. And how is it? Good. Of course. Where's your sister? She shrugged and wandered off. Is she her sister's keeper? That must be worse for twins. You know, the one that looks just like you? Where is it? Did you lose it? Isn't that just you in the mirror? He imagined having a twin. Growing up a twin.


But what if they turned real?

Monsters aren't real.

I know because my daddy says monsters are only real in stories.
He says that people make up monsters to give names to their fears.

But what if they turned real?

If monsters turned real, I would make friends with the good monsters and stay away from the bad monsters.

If monsters turned real, then magic carpets would turn real too, and I would ride one.

If monsters turned real, then I would dress like a ninja and carry a sword so I could fight the bad monsters.

If monsters turned real, I would wear my magic glasses that tell me which ones are nice and which are nasty, so I don't get tricked and eaten.

I wonder if monsters get magic glasses too?


Dead not dead

"I've done good work." Nathan coughed out the words, his voice gurgling on seas of unseen phlem.

"You have, love. You have." Vicky squeezed the dying man's hand.

"Then why cry?" He said it to his wife, to the room and to the world.

"For me, love. I will miss you. I cry for my own loss. For our children's loss and for your friends loss... for us. Not because of business unfinished." She smiled and touched his face.

Nathan lost consciousness and did not wake again. Instead, in his fevered dreams, he saw a black cord stretching into infinity and heard a voice he did not recognize.

"Dude! How was it? Can you hear me, man? How was it?" A young man dressed in orange and black looked expectantly at him.

He looked down and saw his own young body. It hit him. He was 23 years old again - or rather always had been 23 years old and his name was Demetrius. He was still alive. He was not Nathan and he had not just died. He turned at looked at the sim-bed from which he had just arisen. A primal holler of joy flew from his throat.

"Fuck yeah! I'm not dead." Demetrius gave Austin (the previously unknown man in orange and black) a whallop of a high five. "That is the most awesome thing ever!"

Austin blinked. "Which part, man?"

"Dying and then not being dead." He cackled. "That, my friend, is a fucking amazing thing."



John touched the hilt of his sword nervously. There were too many people involved... too many variables. The barbarian tribes weren't following the discussion at all, if they even wanted to. The Hungarians were suspicious of everyone. John's own officers trusted him as a war leader, not a diplomat.

"Look." John gave his most sincere look to the barbarian envoy. "We can't just give you the lands east of the river. We have allies there. Allies who trust us to look after them."

The barbarian envoy crossed his arms and grunted. "Then you can pretend to fight us for it again." He laughed heartily.

The Hungarian jumped in. "But that's exactly why we're here... so we DON'T fight. Don't you get that?"

The barbarian took a step forward. "Don't you get I was joking, little man?"

John stepped forward with arms outstretched. "Everyone, please. Calm down. We're here to talk, not fight."

A skinny man from the Hungarian retinue stepped forward. "None of this is real."

John raised an eyebrow. "Who is this?"

"You all know this, right? You're just a bunch of zit covered kids connected to the dream vats." He draws his sword. Everyone takes a surprised step back and draws their weapons, including the main Hungarian diplomat.

"Bela, what in the devil's name are you talking about?"

"Control your minion, Zoltan!"

Bela makes a noise like an annoyed horse, jumps about and throws his sword to the ground. "This... is... not... real."

Zoltan, the Hungarian diplomat, stabs his own man in the low back. "Silence, scoundrel!"

There is a low rumble of arguing and then the scene fades, replaced with raucous laughter.

Bruce shoots out of the vat as if he had been stung by a thousand hornets.

"None of this is real!" His fellow fare employees taunt him.

Bruce shrugs. "Fucking dorks."


Is The Only

Spare change waits for no Main Street man mole hole and I mean it this time because the presence of present presents is all I have, kind sir. All I'll ever have half heft of so get off my back, shirt of my broken back I will keep my half and half money thank you very mooch much monkey moniker. I can justify anything, you bring it and I'll string it straight bent broken curved wormholed whichever page I turn to that doesn't say sway what you want the end I will land there land ho ho no for you means yes sum zero sun hero game for me.

Win? Won already steady hand meets heady fate late fashionably so elbows and wrists wrapped with the latest, the presentist petitioners for lengthening waistcoats to turncoats and about faces that brings us to places, people, let's get this moving body going to pieces. Why? Known already through and too it is to a matter of practice, a hat man made madder by intuition inhibition and exhibition extuition if you can believe what you believed before I'm sure you can't not in this prehensile moment, this gasp in gasp out grasp at past's tale.