Thursday, April 22, 2010

IN THE SHADOW OF HIS NEMESIS: A Gentleman Caller

The following is a condensed chapter from my serial novel but it is enjoyable as a stand alone piece.

____________________________________________________________________

A Gentleman Caller

(an excerpt for In The Shadow Of His Nemesis)

by


Al Bruno III



At seven minutes of five, Nick Schlegel turned off of Sand Creek Road into the Colonie Towers parking lot. He parked his black Camero and walked towards building A; his hair was hastily wet down and combed back, he was wearing a white shirt and tie with his leather jacket. He had come straight over from work without stopping for flowers or candy; he knew he wouldn't need either. For all she might insist otherwise, Nick knew that after just a few minutes of his puppy-dog eyes and expert charm that sweet, ever-forgiving Isobel would be cooing on her back. The thought of her legs wrapped around him made him start to grow pleasantly hard, Isobel might not be much to look at but like most plain girls she was a tiger in the sack. Nick always assumed it was because they never knew when they were going to get lucky again. He pushed the button for Isobel's apartment and waited.


And waited.


Finally the door buzzed, he pushed it open and walked through the lobby. Nick hummed to himself as he pressed the button for the elevator. Isobel hadn't returned his calls today but he wasn't worried. Where else would she be? Her parents were off on some kind of world cruise and he knew for a fact that her bitch friend Cheryl worked late on Thursday nights.


There was no doubt about it- she was in her apartment, waiting for him. Even if she didn't want to admit it to herself, even if she was doing housework or watching television, that's what she was really doing- waiting for him. It never failed, Nick thought, the worse you treated a woman, the crazier she was about you.


A soft bell sounded to announce the elevator's arrival, the doors opened and a trio of women with baby carriages trundled out. Nick watched them pass, a look of discomfort crossing his features. The air of the elevator reeked of baby powder and department store perfume. Nick pressed the 4th floor button and felt his stomach lurch as the car began its ascent.


When the doors re-opened, his view of the lobby was replaced with the main hallway of the fourth floor. Nick got out and walked quickly down the quiet, gently lit corridor to apartment 430. He paused, Isobel's door was open a crack. Had someone broken in? Nick didn't think so, the Colonie Towers was pretty safety conscious, any visitors would have to be buzzed in.


Maybe, he mused, she was in there waiting for him. Grinning Nick pushed the door open; it creaked slightly, underscoring his voice as he called her name.


Walking into the parlor, he felt a cold slap of surprise as he saw the slender too-handsome man sitting on the couch. Right off the bat Nick knew he was a cop, his suit and posture made it so damn obvious.


What the Hell is that little bitch up to? Nick wondered as he readied an all-purpose excuse.


The too-handsome cop flashed a jovial grin, "Well hello. Didn't expect to see you here."


"Then again…" A woman stepped out of the kitchen, her hair was an elegant tangle of loose curls, her suit was finely tailored. The sight of her made Nick's palms sweat. "We didn't expect not to see you here. I mean the girl’s got pictures of you all over the place."


"But those pictures were face down." The man chuckled, "My partner is such a romantic."


Nick shook his head, "Uh, what is this? Who are you people?"


The woman with the killer bod slipped behind him, for a brief moment Nick felt her press against him. As she closed the door she said, "But those messages on the answering machine, so pleading."


"But not too pleading." The man stood, "And look he's here empty handed. I think romance is the furthest thing from his mind. Am I right Mr.…?"


"Nick." He jumped again as the woman slid past him again to stand beside her partner. There was something predatory about her that Nick found unnerving, there was something predatory about both of them.


"Mr. Nick?" Her laugh was like his, just softer.


"You to have five seconds to stop dicking me around and tell me what the frig is going on here before I leave."


"See?" The too handsome man said, "He didn’t even ask about Miss Talbot once."


"Which means our Good Samaritan soiled her bedsheets last night with Galen." The woman shook her head with bemusement, "Trampy."


"Fuck this." Nick turned to leave, "And fuck you."


The too-handsome man lunged at Nick. His grip as like iron, with one hand he pulled Nick's arms behind his back and forced him to his knees. Nick started to cry out.


"Hush." the woman silenced him by pinching his lips together. The force of her grip drove the ends of her long red-painted fingernails through his flesh.


____________________________________________________________________


To read more of the story click here!


5 Second Fiction One Thousand Two Hundred and Thirty Three

Many were turned off by the sheer number of hairy warts on her neck but it was a positive boon to her career as a vampire hunter.

5 Second Fiction One Thousand Two Hundred and Thirty Two

No one knew the head of the bomb disposal unit didn't know how to set up his blue ray player.

5 Second Fiction One Thousand Two Hundred and Thirty One

He loved watching movies of women inhaling powdered tobacco but snuff films are hard to come by.

(Recommended Reads) "Nate Boi the Anthology" by James Turnbull

I sat on the curb, once more looking at the picture that sat in my hand. It was all I had. Everything I had to try to explain to Julie's family and work and other friends that she no longer existed. Except, they knew she no longer existed. At least, they knew that she didn't exist. I knew this because I'd been trying to tell them for the past three weeks. But they didn't believe me, because as far as anyone else knew, Julie had never existed. Her friends claimed they'd never met a Julie, even though they remembered everything about me. Her work said that they'd never hired such a person. Even her family showed no recognition, her home had no signs of her presence. It was as if she'd been unwritten from history.


I knew, though. I had this picture, and I had my memories of her. Whatever was affecting the entire world wasn't affecting me. And the only proof that I wasn't going crazy was this picture of Julie's diary slowly erasing itself while she held it in disbelief.


The day had started like any other day. It was mid-summer, and I had been enjoying my time off from school by sleeping in. Julie, of course, had other plans. She always did. So at the annoyingly early hour of nine in the morning, I awoke to the sound of panpipes whistling loudly in my ear. I sat up quickly, my arms flailing about, trying to get rid of the offending sound.


Julie hopped back, laughing that enchantingly playful laugh of hers. Her smile was bright and intoxicating, and though I'd been woken up long before I'd planned on doing so, I found myself laughing right along with her. I rolled my eyes, and shook my head.


"Holy hell, Jules. How did you get in?"


"Your parents let me in, just like they always do. Heck, I might as well have my own key by this point."


She was right, of course. Julie and I had been friends and neighbors since we were five. Now, twelve years later, she was like a sister to me, albeit a sister that used her love of exotic flutes to wake me up long before I had planned. Her treachery really only left me with one option, and I went for that option with relish. I grabbed my pillow, and threw it at her. It flew through the air, landing with a satisfying thump against her face. She grabbed the pillow before it fell to the ground, threw it back at me, and proceeded to run towards the door. I just moved enough so that the pillow sailed harmlessly through the air and hit my wall.


"Anyway," she said, as she turned and looked at me from the doorway, "get up and get dressed. We're going to the beach today."


"Why are we going to the beach today? And what's my motivation for doing this? Other than avoiding having you assault my ears with your flute again, I mean."


"Panpipes. And because going to the beach will make me happy. And you'll get to see me in my new swimsuit."


"Oh sure! Keep using your breasts to get what you want! See if I care!" I shook my fist playfully at her. She gave me an annoyingly cute grin.


"I'll stop using them when they stop working!" And then she bounced down the hall, presumably to make a nuisance of herself to my parents.


I dragged myself from my bed, and began fishing through my drawers for my swimsuit. The beach was only an hour drive away, so there wasn't much reason to bring a change of clothes. Upon finding my swimsuit, I headed into the bathroom.


It took me all of twenty minutes to finish my morning routine and grab my camera bag, and then I attempted to track down Julie. It wasn't difficult. I just had to follow the pipe music. Julie was sitting out on my front porch, piping away like it was going out of style. I would have listened for a bit, but as soon as I stepped out of the door, Julie was up on her feet.


"Ready to go? I already told your parents where we'll be."


I nodded, grabbing my keys from the key hook near the door. "Sounds like we've got everything covered, then. Your car or mine?"


"Yours, duh. That way I don't have to pay for gas." She shot me one of her 'I'm cute and can get away with anything' grins as she said it. I rolled my eyes.


"More like yours might break down and stop working halfway there."


"Yeah, that too. Anyway, come on!" And then she was bounding towards my car, next to which she'd already dumped a pile of beach gear. I unlocked the trunk, but she made no move to put any of the gear in the car.


"I suppose it's my job to put this stuff in the car?" I gave her a mock-annoyed look. She shot back the world's cutest pout, her deep blue eyes looking like they might tear up. Damn theater students. I sighed, and put the towels and the inflatable toys into my trunk while Julie got into the passenger's seat.


After a few more minutes, we were on our way. It wouldn't be so bad, going to the beach. It was a nice day, and there were always plenty of people to photograph. Plus, Julie was good company. The entire way to the beach, we talked about nothing in particular. No different from any other conversations we'd normally have, except near the middle of our trip, she pulled out a small spiral notebook.


"What's that?" I asked, glancing from the road towards her.


"My journal. I've decided that I need to leave my wisdom and experience for future generations. I've been keeping the thing for about a month, writing in little notes and thoughts that I've had while doing whatever random thing."


I arched an eyebrow at her, chuckling lightly. "For future generations, huh? I suppose now you'll tell them what a horrible person you are for waking up your best friend before noon on his day off?"


"Actually," she smiled cutely at me, "the way history will remember it is that I saved you from a prison of your own mind, and guided you to your victory in the real world."


I would have responded, but I had to pay attention to the road since the exit was coming up. I rolled down the window before pulling off the freeway, breathing in the salty scent of a beach town. In a few more minutes, we were pulling up to a parking spot along side the boardwalk.


"First things first, she of the incredibly loud panpipes. I want a hamburger." I spoke in a mock-stern voice. She simply laughed, and saluted.


"Yes sir!" and then she was sliding out of the car, slinging her backpack onto one shoulder.


I stopped at the trunk to get my camera bag, and then we were walking across the street to a conveniently placed fast food joint. It was a tourist area; there were always conveniently placed fast food joints.


It was as we stepped in that things started going strange. The first thing I noticed was that a large number of men in black suits and sunglasses stood inside. Normally, even one or two would be weird to see in a beach-front fast food joint, but there were five of them in this one. They all sat at one table, drinking soda and eating hamburgers as if it wasn't the least bit out of the ordinary.


I turned to make a snarky comment to Julie about the oddness of it, when she gasped loudly.


"What? You alright?"


She held up her journal, and my jaw dropped. As I watched, the words were disappearing backwards, as if an invisible hand traced the letters and made the ink go away. I looked at Julie, and she simply shook her head in confusion.


My hand immediately went to my camera bag. This was too strange to not document. In seconds, I was snapping pictures while Julie kept turning the pages so that I could get pictures of the whole thing. I only got a few before things went haywire.


I heard the frantic moving of chairs, and saw the movement of the black suits out of the corner of my eye. For reasons I can only guess at, I stopped photographing, grabbed Julie's hand, and pulled her out of the restaurant.


"What...what are you doing? What's happening, Eddie?"


I could hear the confusion and fear in her voice. I was at least equally upset and fearful. But I kept steady, hoping that the people moving up and down the sidewalk would mask us.


"I don't know, alright? All I know is that in any Sci-Fi movie you can name, when something weird happens, and there's men in black suits and sunglasses nearby, it can only end in bad things!"


"This isn't an SF movie! Maybe they can explain it!"


"And maybe they're going to drug us so that we'll forget we saw anything. I don't want to find out!"


Sadly, the idea of people masking us turned out to be a false hope. We weren't even a block away before I looked back and saw the black suits moving quickly after us. They weren't running, but they were certainly moving at a quick pace.


"Run!"


I tugged on Julie's wrist and began running for all I was worth. She grunted and followed. I hated the look on her face. A look that spoke of confusion and fear made worse by my own reaction. I glanced back, and saw the black suits had begun running as well. I cursed, and shoved my camera into it's pouch so that I didn't drop it while running.


"Come on! We'll try to loose them in the alleyways!"


I turned down the first one that came up, and Julie followed. A few moments later, I could hear the sound of our pursuers' footsteps echoing about the alleyway. And then, like something out of a bad movie, the alleyway ended in a dead end. We turned to see that the black suits had gotten close enough to make a wall of bodies. There was no escape...



click here to read the rest

(Recommended Reads) "Dispensable..." by Karen Schindler

Dispensable.....



You tore at me
separating heart
from mind and body

You sucked my juices
til I crumbled to dust

Swept me under the rug

Mumbling words when
you tripped over
the lump

Not one of which was
sorry
click here to visit her site

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's ...SPECIALMAN?

GEEKOLOGIE gives us some Chinese knockoffs...

Isn't that special?

Spader-Man

Spader-Man

Does whatever James Spader can...

"You stuck my flash drive in your vagina" Another headline I never thought I would post.

The following post from Craigslist gives us more mystery and drama than a dozen episodes of LOST...

Thanks to Geekologie for oversharing

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

5 Second Fiction One Thousand Two Hundred and Thirty

She was leaving on a jet plane- assuming she could get through security, afford to check her luggage and there wasn't a volcano

5 Second Fiction One Thousand Two Hundred and Twenty Nine

No one ever realized the only prayer God paid attention to was the Hokey Pokey. I guess that really is what it's all about.

5 Second Fiction One Thousand Two Hundred and Twenty Eight

He clarified that when he had bitten the inside of his cheek but he hadn't meant his mouth. The doctor had to excuse himself.

5 Second Fiction One Thousand Two Hundred and Twenty Seven

The villains tried to imprison him not knowing you should never try to put Amoeba Man in a single cell.

5 Second Fiction One Thousand Two Hundred and Twenty Six

Zeth discovered that the secret of the wax museum was not murders but that they were sculpting their statues out of human earwax.

5 Second Fiction One Thousand Two Hundred and Twenty Five

Little is known about Jesus' childhood friend Stinky of Nazareth.

5 Second Fiction One Thousand Two Hundred and Twenty Four

In a bid to the record for only man to put his penis on an anvil and hit it with a hammer he set the record for loudest scream.

5 Second Fiction One Thousand Two Hundred and Twenty Three

The Local Heroes faced their deadliest challenge, a dinosaur with rabies. Amazing Ed paused to get a photo for his scrapbook.

5 Second Fiction One Thousand Two Hundred and Twenty Two

Karl liked to take credit for inspiring the Suicide Girls because most women said they would rather die than sleep with him.

5 Second Fiction One Thousand Two Hundred and Twenty One

The cook hated using equipment that wasn't from his home state; he wished they all could be California grills.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

In The Shadow Of His Nemesis chapter sixty

In The Shadow Of His Nemesis


Chapter Sixty


BY AL BRUNO III




Thursday November 28th 1996




Warren smiled, “It doesn't even feel like Thanksgiving does it?”


Not at all,” Isobel said. They were out walking the perimeter of Laurel House, enjoying the cold air and bright sunlight. The path they walked was an old one, there were dozens of footprints in the snow, sometimes a set would branch off into the woods or pause at a gazebo but it never strayed far from the shadow of the building. “I wonder if they do anything for Christmas around here.”


I'm not sure the baby Jesus would be welcome here on Monster Island.”


Monster Island! You’re bad.” Isobel laughed. She had forgotten how funny her brother could be- or maybe it was that they had finally remembered how to talk to each other. Well, what else was there for them to do here but talk? It made her wonder what her parents would be like at Laurel House, with the comforts and grudges of Albany torn away from them.


Where's Galen anyway? Usually you two are joined at the hip...” he paused, “...that sounded dirtier than I meant.”


Oh sure...” Isobel said, “And he's talking with Jack about... something.”


Something? Planning a surprise party for me?”


They were at the part of the snowy path that ran closest to the woods, Isobel looked around as if she thought there might be spies everywhere, “It's about Magwier.”


You're planning a party for him? Count me out,” Warren said.


Galen thinks-”

“You know, Greg said that Magwier was there when everything went down with Tristam, that he was somehow a part of it.”


She had been upset before but now she was growing angry; things had been good here, why was this... this weirdo trying to ruin it all? Isobel thought of Galen's talk of going away, of asking her if she would wait. Was Jason Magwier going to drive them apart? “What do you mean by a part of it?”


Greg wouldn't go into specifics, he didn't like talking about that night. In fact even when he did go into specifics he didn't always make a lot of sense.”


They started walking again, keeping silent until another lap of the house had been completed. Warren spoke again, “I'm not angry with you.”


That stopped her in mid-step, What?”


Sometimes I see you looking at me... or looking at my hand... and I can tell you're hating yourself for what happened but don’t.”


You should hate me. I got a lot of people killed.”


You didn't kill anyone. You just helped some poor guy and fell in love with him.”


It shouldn’t have happened this way- you shouldn’t have gotten pulled in.”


Warren nodded, Let me tell you something sis, I think I was always headed for this place.”


What are you talking about?”


Some of the things that happened with Tristam were just as crazy as what we’ve got here. And as for Magwier? When he was playing janitor he practically stalked me. It’s like he was waiting for me to tell him something. I don’t know what though.” In the distance a flock of winter birds were flying in formation, as they drew closer to Laurel House they scattered into a chaotic swarm only to reform a back into their familiar pattern once they were some distance away. Warren said, “Even in my dreams haven't been right for years.”


Your dreams?”


“Sometimes I dream that I’m swimming in black water, there’s no sign of a beach anywhere and I’m so afraid of going under the water. But not because I’ll drown. I’m afraid that if I go under the water when I go back up I’ll be different. There’s something under that water, something that I don't want to see.”


Isobel shivered, “I don't what to say.”


What is there to say? I’m afraid of changing but maybe I was always meant to change,” he said, “maybe that's why this is where I needed to be. Maybe I was meant to be a part of Hao’s world all along. I could learn a few spells or something...”


She raised an eyebrow, “Warren Talbot Man of Mystery?”


I like that,” he grinned, “I like it a lot.”




Click Here To Continue

5 Second Fiction One Thousand Two Hundred and Twenty

After the explosion at the dildo factory it wasn't exactly raining men but for some folks it was close enough.

5 Second Fiction One Thousand Two Hundred and Nineteen

He liked to refer to himself as 'the loyal opposition' but he never did when his wife was in earshot.

5 Second Fiction One Thousand Two Hundred and Eighteen

The river overflowed and swept up the Girls Gone Wild bus in its wake causing flash floods everywhere.

5 Second Fiction One Thousand Two Hundred and Seventeen

He used his fortune to send his sons to business school; his sons used what they learned in business school to steal his fortune.

5 Second Fiction One Thousand Two Hundred and Sixteen

As part of his mad plan Killjoy used obese men in water soluble bathing suits to clear the beaches.

5 Second Fiction One Thousand Two Hundred and Fifteen

The thieves hid from Hrothgar the viking in the one place he couldn't go- the Wal Mart. Once again he cursed the restraining order.

5 Second Fiction One Thousand Two Hundred and Fourteen

Karl joined the book club once he heard they were studying OF HUMAN BONDAGE. Once he started reading it he felt ripped off.

5 Second Fiction One Thousand Two Hundred and Thirteen

After a certain age your idea of afternoon delight becomes a long nap.

5 Second Fiction One Thousand Two Hundred and Twelve

Rusty Johnson tried to save the day but Killjoy's pack of trained toothless pit bulls gummed up everything.

5 Second Fiction One Thousand Two Hundred and Eleven

She became the manager of the cookie factory once they realized she was someone they could rely upon when the chips were down.

5 Second Fiction One Thousand Two Hundred and Ten

Someone was turning River City's Qwick Stop stores into giant robots and Captain Hero didn't think that was very convenient at all.

5 Second Fiction One Thousand Two Hundred and Nine

They were crazy in love; actually she was just crazy but he didn't find out until after she painted his toenails and hid his shoes.

5 Second Fiction One Thousand Two Hundred and Eight

Magwier knew they were hot on the trail of the eldrich beast when they started finding deposits of non-Euclidean scat.

5 Second Fiction One Thousand Two Hundred and Seven

Lorelei had been tortured before but none of it was as bad as when her mother tried to have the talk about the birds and the bees.

5 Second Fiction One Thousand Two Hundred and Six

While Abner Deggent couldn't prove the existence of the Legion of Evil Librarians but there were whispers everywhere.

5 Second Fiction One Thousand Two Hundred and Five

He worked as a parking attendant, it was his lot in life.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The latest made for TV turd from the SyFy channel

MY SUPA LIFE hits 100 installments!

The Eleventh Doctor and Jo Grant will be appearing on THE SARAH JANE ADVENTURES


And my daughter is super excited (so am I really) she loves Sarah Jane.


The BBC Press Office has announced that The Sarah Jane Adventures will have two special guests when it returns for a fourth series this autumn. In a special two-part story written by Russell T Davies, Matt Smith will appear as the Doctor, and Katy Manning will guest as the Doctor's former companion Jo Grant. Manning starred in Doctor Who opposite the Third Doctor, Jon Pertwee, from 1971 to 1973. Manning has recorded audio adventures for Big Finish Productions, but this will be the first time she has played Jo Grant on television in thirty-seven years...


Thanks to THE DOCTOR WHO NEWS PAGE

And since I'm geeking out- here is the trailer for the upcoming Doctor Who story!


A new installment of Juan Santapan's THE SECRET KNOTS is here!


A single installment of Juan Santapan's work can be more involving than some novels!

stop by THE SECRET KNOTS to see more.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Fries And The Fury part six

Price Breaks and Heartaches

a journal of retail and failed romance

Chapter Two

The Fries And The Fury

part six





Autumn gave way to winter and winter brought Ranya.



*




Ranya had a figure that caused over a dozen accidents in the kitchen during her first day of work. She had reddish-blonde hair, candy-green eyes and a Greco-Serbian accent.


She was a college student working at Empire Burger to earn some extra money and by the end of the first day all the guys were hot for her and all the women hated her. Since I was still fixated on Lilly I was the only one of her co-workers not hitting on her or making catty comments. As a result she spent a lot of time talking to me. As we talked and she opened up more and more I came to realize something that I think no one else did.


Ranya was crazy.


Now I don’t mean lovably ditzy, or artistically eccentric, the girl was nuts.


“And that is why I carved my name in his arm.” Ranya whispered as we washed out the metal fry baskets. The store was closed and everyone was hurrying to be finished. Mr. Prowse was pacing around looking for someone to yell at, since he had forbidden employees to talk to each other while they were on the clock he had a lot of material to work with.


“Carved?” I asked, “You’re kidding.”


“No I carved. Carved. Carved. Carved. I used one of those big kitchen knives to do it. What else could I do? He gave me such a good orgasm.”


“I don’t know, a nice gift basket?”


Ranya shrugged, “I wanted him to do the same for me but he just ran out of the house. He broke up with me the next day but I showed him I rubbed one of my tampons under the door handle of his car. Isn’t that funny?"


“Well, it’s original.” I said trying not to stand too close.


Suddenly one of the twins barged in between us, “Hey Ranya, how’s it going?”


“Good.” She smiled toothily, “Great. How are you Stuart?”


“Uh, actually I’m Cyril.”


I piped up, “You know you guys should really wear your name tags.”


Cyril just gave me a glare, “Not wearing our name tags is how Stuart and I stick it to the man.”


“Oh really?” Ranya leaned forward until Cyril’s eyes started to bug out of his skull, “I like a rebel. You want to help me take the garbage out to the dumpster?”


He offered her the crook of his arm, “It would be my pleasure.”


I turned my attention back to my work, idly wondering if twenty years from now I would deal with my mid-life crisis by trying to turn these events into bad comedy.


Natalie sidled over to me, “You two seem chummy.”


“Chummy?” I said, “We were just talking. Well, she did most of the talking.”


“Oh and what about?”


“Apparently she is an existential Satanist,” I explained. “I’m not really sure what that means except for getting into fights and random nudity.”


“You don’t like her do you?” Natalie watched Ranya and Cyril bantering over bags of garbage.


“I like everyone, except for Skippy.”


“Rick took her out last weekend. He told me she bit off his St. Christopher medallion and swallowed it.”


I had to think about that one for a few moments, unsure if what Natalie was describing to me was blasphemy, foreplay or performance art. “How did Rick take that?”


“I think he bought her jewelry.”


I asked, “Was she still hungry?”


“I don’t know what guys see in her.” Natalie said.


“She’s pretty I guess.”


“I don’t think much of her personality.”


I laughed, “I don’t think any of the guys are thinking about her personality. I bet they don’t pay attention to any of the crazy things she says. You know the new guy, Pete?”


She nodded, “He’s that Born-Again Christian guy that works a split shift right?”


“Yeah. Anyway he was chatting up Ranya and she told him she was a Satanist? He told her he totally respected her decision.”


“Huh.” Natalie sat on the damp counter and crossed her arms, “Guys never seem to see what’s right under their noses.”


“Yeah.” I smiled in agreement, “Lilly is the same way, we were supposed to go out for lunch on Sunday but I guess she overslept.”


Mr. Prowse strode up to us. “You two lovebirds are being paid to work, not talk all night.”


Natalie got off the counter, “I finished up ten minutes ago.”


“And we are not lovebirds!” I said indignantly.



*





There were times in my youth when I wondered if the heartbreaks and humiliations that made up my love life were some kind of karmic payback. After rereading this story I’m now convinced of it.


I became as adept at navigating around my co-worker’s foibles as I did at dissembling a functioning broiler. They all thought of me as a friend and after my experiences at Nice Shopper it was like paradise with special sauce on top. December flew by, I had to work Christmas Eve but my father picked me up afterwards to take me to a family gathering. We were late to the party because he wasted an hour trying to get Ranya’s phone number. Trust me, the most dangerous place in the world is between my old man and a college aged hottie with daddy issues.






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