The Importance Of Not Giving Up

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There was once a man who never gave up. 

When you picture the man who never gives up, you might expect him to be a successful athlete, or a heroic warrior, but this man was neither. 

If he were successful, his resilience would never have been tested, and nobody would know his name.  

But since he was a failure, his resilience was tested, and he was often successful only in showcasing his resilience, we all know his name to be Grant. 

Grant failed every day. 

He failed to maintain himself. He swore up and down to care for himself, but rarely ate and often forgot to brush his teeth. He had never made a traditional doctor’s appointment, but he would make over two hundred individual visits to the local emergency room over the course of his life. 

He was late to everything, and perfectly unreliable by reputation. On his ninth birthday, he was held up with responsibilities after school and arrived six hours late to his own party. He missed all the festivities, and only heard the clown as his oversized shoes squeaked out the door.

He failed academically. Attendance eluded him through the unfortunate side effects of the previous paragraph. Through the combined effort of his focus and his passion, he could eke out a passing grade, but the effort left him drained, exhausted and fully well spent. When he was sixteen, he dropped out of high school hopeful about his prospects on the job market. 

He failed professionally. Never once in his life was he paid fairly for the value of his work. In his youth, he suffered the indignities of retail and food service and never grew comfortable there. He struggled to communicate with customers, and often left bad impressions on people. Even worse, he struggled to connect with his co-workers. He toiled in professions unglamorous and underpaid, and worst of all, he worked the long hours feeling entirely alone. 

He failed personally. He married his high school sweetheart after a (later discovered to be false) pregnancy scare, and in most ways, they were extremely incompatible. They differed in class, race, religion, upbringing, and gender, and thus found it difficult to see any sort of common ground. At times, they got into explosive arguments that left both Grant and his wife doubting the integrity of their marriage. 

In many ways, life was exceedingly difficult for Grant. In his life were innumerable circumstances that could have embittered him to the joys of the world. Things that were out of his control, and unfairly made each step along the way more difficult than it was for the people around him. Grant did not see it this way, because he downed failure like cold glasses of ice water. 

He failed every day. To each, he said: 

“I have failed, but I will try again.” 

As he failed every day, he stopped worrying about the innumerable circumstances beyond his control. In exchange for his toil and trouble, a nascent wisdom bubbled within. When confronted with the oblivion of daily failure, that which was within his control was brought into sharp relief. This was his failure, and this was what he earned for it. 

The world had never taught him how to take care of himself. Grant arrived kicking and screaming, and blew out his voice shouting for attention that never came. In his youth, he ignored the holes in his self-care because acknowledging them would mean acknowledging the pain of his upbringing. Failure was the only stone that could shatter the illusion. 

Grant had failed because he set himself up for failure. He was angry at the world for raising him improperly, and spent his adulthood raising himself improperly. Since he had never been taken care of, he resolved to do it himself. 

He learned to listen to his body. Signals that had long been buried and ignored finally found purchase in his open mind. A torrent of symptoms surfaced across his body like the waxing moon and left him properly punished for his boldness. Laid up sick at the hands of all the pain he had stowed away, Grant could have regressed on his brave journey. He chose to accept this consequence, and in doing so, he started to feel better.  

He tried to remember everything, but everything was vast, and his mind was not. Since he could not remember everything, he wrote notes to himself about that which he could not remember. He made alarms at all hours and every fifteen minutes of the day, so that he might finally (sometimes) be on time. 

In all the excitement of learning to learn, Grant quickly applied to several universities, only to be quickly rejected. Community college was briefly on the table, but even now accustomed to the bitter ichor of failure, Grant was not cut out for school. He had a family to take care of, and the act of being tested filled his stomach with tangled knots of dread. And although he knew in his heart that school would only bring him unhappiness, the desire for knowledge called out to him like a siren wailing just beyond the fog. 

His experiences in school had taught him that he could not learn, and echoed as critical voices in his cramped noggin. These voices had always led him to ruin, and he wished desperately to prove them wrong. So although he would never receive a degree, and there would be nothing to show for it, Grant chose to learn anyway. 

He began with painting. He was terrible at it. In his firm fumblings, he frequently drove his paintbrushes cleanly through the trampoline of his canvases, and painted over the matte gray duct tape that held them back together. He spent ten years painting every single day, and even then, his paintings were unremarkable. He never sold a painting in his lifetime, nor did that particularly matter to him. In his living room, there hung a simple painting of a wristwatch he had done in his early sixties. When company would inquire about its content, he said: 

“My neurologist commissioned this one. It means I don’t have Alzheimers.”

Although Grant would never be paid fairly for his wages, he still worked as hard as he could. Indeed, for the first twenty years of his professional life, he hopped from sector to sector, doing his best but never finding passion or placement anywhere. Each oddjob and dishonored side hustle paved his resume until it was a well-rounded fortress. Finally, now with mostly grown children, Grant found something that could support his family in the waste management sector. He was the man who hung onto the back of the dump truck, and heaved all the junk into it. Unglamorous, and underpaid, but something worth doing, and worth doing well. 

Grant and his family led meager lives. Their house was cramped, and even once their children were numerous enough to field a full track relay team, they shared but a single toilet. They had what they needed to get by, and received few of the things that they wanted. But each and every one of their children were vibrant streaks of power, noise, and joy in Grant’s life. They grew up understanding how to take care of themselves. Frequently, Grant found himself on the receiving end of a lecture on the topic of cleanliness, manners, and honor from his children. He could give to them that which he could not give to himself. His children could have no understanding of how hard it was for him to learn these lessons, and as he watched them grow into brilliant iterations of his stunning failures, their ignorance brought a smile to his crinkled cheeks. But, strange as it is to say, they were not his greatest point of pride. 

Grant and his wife were magnificently incompatible, their marriage would be the great project of their lives. When their love was young, it survived under the cover of lust and their undeveloped frontal lobes, but as the embers of lust grew cold and the years flew by, they struggled even making simple conversation. In all their courtship, and through the better part of a decade together, Grant had not learned how to speak with the love of his life. And by this point, she had given up on communicating with him altogether. 

But by then, Grant had finally understood the realm of the things that were within his control. So just like he fumbled with his paints on the back patio, just like he toiled in the halls of countless corporate franchise businesses, and just like the failure of a boy she fell in love with, Grant made his first steps. At first, he bought her a potted plant. A prickly cactus that he laid on the kitchen counter one evening home late from work. When she saw it the next morning, a flower had bloomed out of the top and it made her sad tiredness twist into a hopeful little smile. 

“You got this for me?” She did not remember the last gift she had received. 

“Because I will never give up on you.” Grant said, and within him bloomed a thousand new ways he thought he might show it. 

In the winter, he bought her flowers each week, carefully asking her questions about each one and taking notes all the while. 

In the spring, he began making his own arrangements out of her favorites, and placing them at her bedside table while she slept. 

In the summer, he searched his notes for all the flowers that aroused happiness in his love, and planted seeds for each one outside her bedroom window. 

By the autumn, the flowers had withered, but in their place was a grand affection grown from two who had chosen to love one another through constant failure and perfect incompatibility. Grant was an ungifted gardener, and without his love, he would have planted and killed a thousand shrubs, flowers, and trees. 

Even though they were incurably different, the two could build a life together that was altogether impossible on their own. Although they often failed, came from different places, and were imperfect, their choice to love and understand one another was a beacon of light even in the darkest winters.

That very next winter, the two of them made plans for a garden that still blooms today. It was never revealed or important who was responsible for which parts, only that when they peered out of their bedroom window each morning, they were reminded of what they could do together.

If Grant had not failed, he might never have gotten to truly know his wife, his children, or himself. Anyone could grow such as this when given the opportunity to profoundly fail.

It was difficult. It felt like a steep uphill climb, and in its infancy, understanding presented itself as continued failure. At many times, Grant felt hopeless, and when his greatest failures confronted him, he struggled to go on. And yet, even though he continued to fail, he tried again. And that made him very, very happy. 


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we sowed wild seeds in the pasture 
to make the cows more comfortable.
in the springtime, the pasture bloomed 
and we had happy cows on happy soil.

we laid a little farmhouse in the pasture 
to have a place in which to put a family.
in the summertime, we danced all night
drunken fumbling over trampled flowers.

we built a barbed wire fence in the pasture 
to make us feel less anxious about the cows 
stampeding through our house, but the cows
wanted nothing to do with the farmhouse 
where all the pretty flowers used to grow.

Tangerine Trip

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Tangerine Trip ran a very tight ship.
She trapped all her children like imperial gems.
In busy work days, she dazzled and dazed,
came home unamused, ego battered and bruised.
In busy weekends, her heart it would rend
to the tune of manic mirthful tender typhoons. 

Tangerine Trip ran a very tight ship
staffed with squat child therapists and little baby analysts. When the sea shook and swelled, she handled it well,
but in calm waters after she skirted disaster.
she dwelled in the depths of the hate in her head,
and blamed all her pain on familiar names.

Tangerine Trip ran a very tight ship,
til’ the stormiest days broke to fragile malaise.
her oldest (who loved her) and remembered their mother
as the woman she was, not the probable cause,
weathered her storms out of hope for reform. 
but left her one morn for a stormier port.

Tangerine Trip ran a very tight ship
through the sea of lost hope she weathered alone.

The Private Diary of Frances Gaspard by Margot Cherry

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The following is a collection of excerpts from the private journals of one Frances Gaspard, retrieved and put into evidence by the Port Saint Doortz Police Department after her unfortunate and untimely death. I am legally required to state that the PSDPD insists that there was no foul play.

May 5th, 1927.

I loved Margot Cherry. I really did. She was exciting, whip-smart, a spectacular cook, and always prepared. But that’s exactly what frightens me now about her. I could never know fully what’s going on in her twisted little head. 

I had a premonition before we came on this trip. A dream that felt as good as fact to me. A week ago, the night Margot invited me to come with her and the girls to this dingy little sand patch in the middle of nowhere good, I got a little drunk. Margot walked me home when I couldn’t walk straight and handed me off to my husband. Margot’s hands are gentler than my husband’s. I stumbled into bed and nodded off while he nibbled insatiably on my nipples. It’s like me feeding his children with them wasn’t enough for him. Or maybe he was trying to suck the booze out. It’s hard to say which is more likely with that man. 

In my dream, I had no husband. Margot and I were alone on the beach. Margot is holding my hand gently. She’s smoking what looks like a cigarette and offers me a drag. It smells like ammonia. Never one to turn down an opportunity to fuck off from reality, I accept. It tastes like brown poison death. I feel hazy. 

“What was in that?” I say. 

“Opium.” Margot says. 

I fall asleep within my dream. That never happens, I promise. I wake up in bed, entirely numb. This is the shack where we were staying. There are tiki torches on the walls that emit blazing solitary light all over the dim place. They are the only thing I can feel through the darkness. I am entirely numb. I am so unaware of my body I can no longer tell whether my eyes are open or closed. An ember is loosed from one of the torches in the blustery breeze and falls upon my arm and singes me. I feel nothing. I hear Margot’s voice. 

“Breakfast in bed. Romantic, right?” Margot lays a hot plate on my stomach, and I realize that I’m completely nude under the sheets. I lazily attempt to eye the food, but Margot places a gentle finger on my lips. 

“Don’t worry, I’ll feed it to you.” Margot says. She rends a tender forkful off the plate, and I hear the violent slipping of meat from bone. My jaw hangs on my neck, tired and wide open. Margot feeds me. It is delicious, with a bittersweet finish. 

“What was in that?” I say.

She unveils my body from beneath the covers and pries my eyes open to reveal the blood pumping stumps where my legs used to be. She kisses me. I wake up. There’s dried semen in my hair and on my chest. My husband lays in deathlike sleep beside me. The baby is crying, and it’s another fifteen minutes before the nanny gets here. I need a stiff drink. 

I was certain of two things: Margot Cherry was a heinous bitch, and she was going to kill me. 

May 6th, 1927

The first day of the trip. I feel exposed in my swimsuit. Each time Margot and I lock eyes, it feels like my skin is being lit on fire. She has eyes like a predator. Why am I here? 

We’re riding to the island on Margot’s yacht. She’s frying skewers of roasted meat on her hot plate below deck. I want to stay with the girls and watch the crashing of the water against the bow. She takes me by the hand and invites me into her kitchen. 

“Who are the gentlemen sailing this thing?” I say. 

“My husband and his boy.” Margot says. She takes the skewers out of the pan and lays them on a towel to let them cool. 

“I didn’t know you had a son.” I say. Margot smirks.

“We do not.” Margot says. She uses a fork to pry a piece of tender meat from the skewer and blows on it. I feel her sweet breath graze my exposed collarbones. She takes the cooled meat into her fingers and gingerly feeds it to me. I flinch at the thought of my dream. I push through. It is delicious, with a bittersweet finish when her hand pulls away. 

“It’s okay.” I say. 

“You’re a bitch.” Margot smiles at me warmer than the summer air. 

We share an entire bottle of wine in the darkness of the kitchen as the food cools, and inform the rest of our party that lunch is ready. We eat joyfully in the bright sun and the salty air. 

I am only a little drunk when we reach dry land. Margot fixes this by inviting me to share another bottle in the shadows of the deck below. I expect her to start holding my hand and offering me opium like she did in the dream, but it doesn’t come. My walk changes to a stagger on our way off the yacht, and she holds my waist softly like she did the week before. 

The shack is nothing like I had dreamt. More like a palatial mansion made of seashells and paved concrete. The bedrooms are spacious and comfortable. The windows cut squares of hot light and cool breeze into the chambers of the home, and Margot insists that they never be closed. Mister Cherry and his boy retire to their bedchambers and Margot invites us all out to the water to lounge in the gentle sun beneath the happy clouds. 

“I had a dream about Margot.” I whisper to Norma. Norma is not my friend. She’s a secretary for General Electric. We are not close. She used to work in the mailroom before she started blowing her boss after hours. Her hair is tightly permed and looks like shit. Her son is ugly because he takes after his mother, and he’s loud because he is growing up without a father. I hate this working slut’s guts, but I’m only a little drunk, and I need something to talk at. 

“What about?” Norma asks. Her eyes are bright and alive with the glory of love. She pisses me off. 

“She drugged me and cannibalized me and fed myself to me.” I say. 

Norma laughs awkwardly and removes herself from my conversation. I am alone. I feel the weight of nine glasses of wine upon my beating heart. The waves lap on the shore gently, like my lips upon gentle fingers. I want to throw myself into the crashing water. Margot creeps into my periphery and sits beside me with our feet tickled by the oncoming ocean. 

“Isn’t it beautiful?” Margot says as she points out the sheer cliff faces that envelope the curves of our sunny beach. “Like a postcard. A wonderful place to die.” 

A chill runs down my spine as she traces it with her plaintive fingertips. 

“You look beautiful.” Margot says. Her eyes caress and prepare my body like a butcher’s knife. Her words cut into my chest and reveal my bleeding heart. I excuse myself from the beach and return to my little room in this big concrete shack. I hear Mister Cherry’s passioned grunting through the thick walls, and I wonder if he heard me climb through my open window. 

I write this passage. I need to drink more. Margot Cherry is a heinous bitch, and she’s going to kill me. But she is not going to kill me sober.

May 7th, 1927. 

I wake up still a little drunk from the night previously and mourn the hangover that never came. I am sprawled on the wicker couch in the living room. Tiki torches illuminate the dull morning light like nascent suns. Margot Cherry’s head is laid daintily upon my chest. My clothes are loose and I feel numb. I search for my legs. They are trembling, but still there. I lift Margot’s head and return to my bedroom. 

I cry into my pillow. I reread this journal. What would my mother think? If only I had a mother to think judgmentally of me, perhaps I would not be so perplexed by my own thoughts. What would my husband think? Or my daughter? They would take away my husband and my daughter if they knew the depth and perversion of my thoughts. 

I think of the sheer cliffs by the beach and the rocky shoals beneath them. How simple it was to imagine Margot Cherry pushing me into the sharp rocks. I could not stand to think of doing it myself, but maybe with her help. Margot hangs on the threshold of my door. She smiles at me. Her teeth look sharp and cunning in the moonlight. I’m going to tell her I’m going on a walk. I wonder if she’ll join me. 

The frequent mentions of Margot Cherry in these diaries led to her questioning by the local authorities on suspicion of murder and homosexuality. On lack of evidence, they released her, and she never returned to Port Saint Doortz. She still thinks about what could have been, even though she shouldn’t.


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When I said I was going to cut through Egypt, Raleigh TOLD me that mummies were going to happen. I thought "Nah, I'll just be driving through. Even if there happened to be some mummage occurring in Egypt, it's not like the people of the world recognize my name as a symbol of hope and resistance against the oncoming figment invasions, and it's not like I'm going to have to use a debit card with said name to buy gas as I'm driving through literal Bum Fuck, Egypt. She said sarcastically. 

Typically, despite my reputation, I'm not one to seek out monster trouble. I just try to live my life in a low-key sort of way, what with my cool candy-themed t-shirts and backpack filled with items of only tangential monster-slaying potential. In the form of mean as shit townspeople like the gas station attendant that guilted me into helping. 

"What do you think I'm just wandering the earth so I can find people to help at random?" I told him, angrily, after he went into overly extensive detail about the plight of his community. 

He fell silent, as people frequently do when you sarcastically claim that they thought the thing you actually thought as if it were impossible and that they were an idiot for thinking it. Which he was. But that's not the worst thing to be. His silence was given flavor by the intense sadness and disappointment radiating out from his eyes and onto my life. 

"Please?" He said. 

"Fuck." I said. He didn't follow what the contextual meaning of this "Fuck" meant, as people often do when you speak cryptically. So I explained. 

"Fine, I'll help. But I'm not going to like it. And you've got like candy in that convenience store over there, right?"

"Yes?" He said, using his question mark to denote confusion. I figure he thought the candy had something to do with mummy-killing. Which it does. Indirectly. 

"I want many candy. Now. If I die by mummy, I refuse to be on a diet." My arabic was and is rusty, but that's pretty much the translation of what I told him. 

He gave me the directions to the local bastion of civilization and some peanut butter cups. Generic stuff, nothing to write home about. At least they didn't use that weird peanut butter they use in Reese's that has a consistency suspiciously similar to dried up clown feces. Clown feces is particularly harsh a condemnation on my end because your typical clown has a very nutritionally sparse diet (mostly cotton candy and blood) that wreaks havok on your digestive system. 

I didn't really know what to expect as far as architecture for the society I was heading to, but it turns out that civilization in the part of Egypt I was heading through looked a lot like a camping trip. But with a little more fighting and a lot more mosquitoes. Or maybe they were fairies? I don't exactly understand how this "figments of mankind's inner cultural dreamscape coming into vivid life" works, but either way that shit was trying to suck my blood, it had wings, I squished it, and it screamed out in pain with all the terrible innocence of a child. 

Speaking of children: The local leaders of this settlement were in a big old fashioned fistfight when I arrived! Turns out the generally accepted leader of the town had pocketed an ancient and valuable relic from the local cemetery and he was now paying its price in bruised face and ego. I was informed of all of this by the new generally accepted leader of the town, Vespo. 

“Why are you here?” Vespo said, in a way uncharacteristic of his incredibly silly name. 

“One of my little birdies told me y’all were having trouble with a mummy?” I said, sounding as typically cool and attractive as always. 

“I don’t typically like accepting help from your type.” Vespo said. 

“White people?” I said, ready to agree with him 100%. 

“No. The bourgeois. Don’t think I haven’t noticed that golden stallion made out of actual gold, consumerist pig. God has struck down the nations of the world for their avarice, and we will be struck down for our capitalist greed in due time.” Vespo said this in English, as to improve my comprehension of his term paper on Marx. I was thirteen the last time a global economy was really in practice, so maybe my opinions would change based on experience, but I’m not partial to ranting about power systems that don’t really exist anymore.

“Listen, I’m not in the business of imposing corporate values on functioning communities.” I tried to get on Vespo’s good side. I don’t think he was thrilled with my use of the word business. 

“I’m not in the business of anything. When I slay ancient evil for fun, not profit. I am dragonslayer.” 

I generally don’t like to brag about the whole “I killed a dragon with a child’s tinkertoy” thing, but I’m not afraid to use it to get my points across. Also, good god, I need to work on my arabic.

Vespo eyed me over for a moment, considering his options and weighing his own odds against the horrific ancient horror beset upon his town against mine. I’m pretty sure he saw something that he liked because he jumped at the opportunity to have somebody else risk their life trying to protect the town from this mummy-type thing, and then shook my hand. From there, my first stop would be the disgraced tribal leader who couldn’t leave an ancient cursed reliquary alone. 

The fucko’s name was Pardo. And what a tremendous fucko that he was. Barry was shackled to the pavement in the center of town with a sign hung around his neck labeled something in arabic that roughly translates to “Fucko Jail”. He was wearing a potato sack that he didn’t choose. His skin looked like the peeled, dark, and scorched surface of a dying planet. His eyes were tender pools surrounded in shadow. The cloud cover above us seemed to be giving him a lucky break from his traditionally heat-stroke inducing circumstances. 

“Why’d you take the shit?” I said. 

“It’s what was necessary.” Pardo said, his voice hoarse for want of water. 

“You do realize what was necessary might have killed this town?” I was accusatory, but I don’t know these people. They might be a bunch of assholes as far as I know. 

“I did what was right. That’s the deal I made.” He coughed. A strike of encompassing thunder shook Pardo’s shackles. A flume of gray smoke and vapor drifted upon the town. And all of this was climaxed by a spectral bloom of coiling leviathans in the shape of a face dripping from the sky like a corpse resting on a trampoline. In a shallow whisper that was akin to rubber across a violin, the face spoke. 

“My tomb has been defiled. My property has been stolen. You have violated the ancient rites of my race…” Pardo looked up to the face with detachment, but I could feel its undulations like a tendril through my ear. 

“There is no recompense for what has occurred, but my retribution is inevitable. I can feel the desires in the depths of your hearts, as thoroughly as I can sense the quivering fear that has overcome your function. I can grasp and twist the threads that house your vitals as simply as the snake devours the mouse. I am only limited by the quality of my word, which is as erudite and stable as the mind that conjures it. So I offer to you, the huddled and weak, a simple bargain. Bring me all that has been stolen as if its condition were anew by sundown, and I shall only kill most of you. Elsewise, you will be culled as mercilessly you were put into my grasp.” The face remained hung in the sky, a constellation of fear, but its only movement were the respirations of the serpents that constructed it. 

“What did you do?” I screamed. But Pardo was as silent as the colony of head snakes that threatened to wipe us away in the span of an instant.


Punk ass relic jockey. 

Listen, when I was a kid, I wasn’t completely involved in the pop cultural zeitgeist of my parents’ youth, but I saw Indiana Jones.  I get the appeal. There’s a spooky castle, a shiny antiquity, and an appetite for wealth and adventure in some people that can’t be quenched by just any old act of grand theft. But the optimist in me would like the believe that when people started getting rotisseried by scaly nightmare monstrosities and curses of their ilk, they’d be at least a little more careful in the presence of anything that might even have a left-field chance of being haunted. 

And yet here we are. Ancient curse. Hallowed reliquary. Punk ass relic jockey. All the ingredients for a spooky nightmare village haunted by the sins of its least thoughtful member. I think Pardo summarized his thought process best as I rattled him by the skim of his neck. 

“I didn’t know what I was doing.” Pardo coughed. Yeah, no shit. 

I let him go. His face was turning purple, and in my experience violence doesn’t do much more than make you feel better. 

“My daughter was sick and-”

“Don’t twist this to fit whatever fairy tale is going on in your head. You are not a hero. Your daughter is not the world. By stealing whatever it was, you’ve only served to put your daughter and anyone else in your blast radius in danger.” I said. 

He was very still. 

“The relic is buried in a shallow grave behind my house in the south of town. I was always told that what the pharaohs kept in their tombs was valuable,” he said “but all I found was a shriveled corpse in tarnished jewelry.” 


Pardo’s house was easy enough to find, mostly because it was the one covered in pig entrails and obscenities. That's what you get for being a punk ass relic jockey. 

Around the back where I assume grass used to be was a conspicuous pile of unsettled dirt. I wondered if that was where he buried the relic/corpse. Sarcastically. Stop projecting stupidity on me, future me. Internalized misogyny isn’t cool.

“Pardo?” I said, motioning to said pile of unsettled dirt. 

Pardo swiftly found himself imbued with having a shovel and digging up the corpse he’d buried-ness for fear of being strangled by a dragon slayer again. 

I thought about staying, but quite frankly, it was exhausting seeing him do all that work, so I slipped into the dilapidated home in search of anything that might resemble sweets. 

“Aren’t you going to help?” Pardo asked, taking time away from his busy schedule of righting his mistakes. 

“And deprive you of this excellent opportunity to atone for your mistakes?” I said, slipping behind his porch door and out of the gloom of the serpentine face dominating the sky. 

Fortunately, Pardo’s home had two rooms, kitchen and bathroom, and I had landed in the marginally less pungent of the two. First place to look would normally be the fridge, but the closest analogue was the type of cooler you’d normally see at a thrift store and wonder “Who would buy a cooler from a thrift store? Aren’t coolers luxury items purchased and used by the bourgeoisie in their increasingly limp attempts at reconnecting with some sense of fraternity with the natural world? Also, what is that strange burgundy stain across the side and is it from blood or vomit?” Okay maybe that last detail was specific to this cooler. 

White rice. Yellow rice. Wild rice. Bread knife? Pardo had no idea what he was doing with his cabinet situation. Either devote them all to loose rice, or devote them all to weird knives. Egypt is a second-world country at worst. There was no excuse for his inability to properly organize a kitchen. 

“Are you one of the people that chained my dad to the center of town?” 

I looked behind me. Standing there, as spunky as the day she was conceived, was a teenager as grumpy as she was short (very).

“I’m from out of town. Your dad’s outside digging if you-” 

“Are you here to deal with the mummy?” She asked. She didn’t even sound impressed. Kids these days are so disaffected with the issues of our time. 

“I think we’re all kind of dealing with the mummy in our own way.” I said. What? I didn’t want to go into my whole dragonslayer thing. I had candy to find. 

“If you’re gonna raid our cabinets, at least be honest with me. White lady comes to town for mysterious reasons immediately after the snakes start rising out of the sky and it’s all a coincidence?” She said. And I didn’t appreciate her tone one little bit.

“Yes.” I answered, returning to the mostly barren cabinets.

“What are you looking for?” She asked. Finally, a question I was interested in answering. 

“I need… Damn it, ما هي كلمة للسكر؟” I said, asking where the sugar was, except the english part was in arabic and the arabic part was in english. Damn, my arabic is rusty. Note to self: buy rosetta stone. 

“There’s chocolate in this house.” She said.

“Wait, هل تتحدث الانجليزية؟” I asked, hoping that she could comprehend the statement “Do you speak english” in english. Because that was the language in which I asked if she spoke english.


“So you don’t speak english?” 

“Of course not.” 

“Then how did you know that I wanted sweets?” 

“You have a chocolate bar on your t-shirt.” 

Damn. Made an idiot by my own renegade sense of style. I never thought it would betray me this way.

“Where’s the chocolate?” I had no intention of sharing the tale of my incredible journey with a kid that had gotten the best of me.

“How are you gonna kill the mummy?” She had no intention of not being a dick about any of this. 

Fuck this kid. Pardo walked in. He looked like he had upturned most of the soil with his clothes rather than with the shovel. 

“I finished digging up the corpse.” He said. 

“I’m finished talking with this lying woman.” She said. Her father wound up the turncrank on his back. 

“You will not talk to her that way.” Pardo said. He stepped purposefully towards his young to the tweenfull daughter. 

“What has she done for us? She’s raiding our home!” His daughter said. 

“She saved me from the stockades-” He interrupted his explanation with a swing at his daughter. She didn’t catch most of it, and kept yelling. 

“Maybe you were better off there!” Her face was red in the way that a baby’s leg gets when they take a fall. 

Before our good friend Pardo could get another swing in, I knocked him out cold. Child abusers tend to be weak shit like that. 

“Isa, the world is a scary place. Especially when you’ve got a dad who seems to be as dead weight as yours is.” Said the girl on an intercontinental quest to find her deadbeat mom. “What’s your name?”

She wasn’t talking. The bruise from where her father had slapped her was dripping down into a frown, and she looked vacantly at what remained of her father’s dignity in that way that children often do. 

“If you think I wouldn’t guilt a child into telling me their name,” I said, with finger outpointed for emphasis. “You’d be wrong.” 

“Isa.” She said. 

“Samantha.” I said.

“That’s an ugly name.” She said.

“And?” She said.

“I killed a dragon with my bare hands.” I lied. I used a sword, but who’s counting? 

Isa squinted skeptically.

“That curse will kill us all.” She said. 

Pessimist. She was probably right, though. 


“So what’s the plan again ?” Isa yelled from across the square in the center of town where the face still hung. 

“I’m gonna call this thing out. Beasts go running scared when they hear I’m in town.” I said. 

“Make sure we don’t die at this thing’s hands earlier than we normally would.” Isa said. Little shit. 

“Hey. Watch it.” I said. 

I had brought my sword with me. Back before all of this, I used it to chop a dragon in half, and before that, I used it to LAARP and just generally be a fucking nerd. My best guess would be that the dragon I beat the shit out of was also a huge nerd. Does that make me a bully? I didn’t exactly know that the dragon was going to be a huge nerd when I tried to slice it in half with my replica sword, so I wasn’t like targeting it or anything, so if it was bullying, it wasn’t because I was targeting him or anything. Also I totally murdered him, and I feel like it’s not completely clear whether murder is a form of bullying. Wait, what was I talking about? Oh right, mummy.

The snakes in the sky coalesced into a circular rim around where I stood. No Isa. No town. Just a hurricane of spectral flying snakes. I held my sword up and taunted. 

“Hey fucksnakes, there’s a new sheriff in town and her name is me!” 

The face opened its eyes and revealed stormy azure skies from beyond its clutch. No response though. Probably was still reeling from the fucksnakes insult. This was my opportunity for a sick combo. 

“I’m Samantha Gagarin. I watched Paris burn when I was nine years old. I watched everyone I ever loved get ripped away from me. I cut a dragon clean in half with this sword right here.” I readied my sword in his general direction. “This town ain’t big enough for the two of us.” 

The face was still, but then what could generously be described as a mouth contorted into a twisted smile thin and long like a crescent moon. First came silence, then a laughter dark and gruesome like the crackling of a fire. 

“You amuse me.” It whispered. “Small and insignificant. Clinging to what remains of your fractured identity. As if saying your name loud and strong enough can ward off the darkness. They have called me the abyssal trickster. The immortal falsehood. The lying horror. These were given to me because I have found no need to say otherwise. Power comes by reputation, not introduction.” 

The face laughed again and brought the rim of snakes closer to me. 

“I see you found what remains of my treasure. Do you expect me to spare you in exchange for its return?” It said. 

“I expect you to take it and leave, or eat shit and die.” I said. 

“I can spare you, if that’s what you choose, but I cannot do the same for the rest. They must be punished for their complacency.” 

“Same offer I made earlier. Take the corpse and leave, or eat shit and die.” I said. 

The face was silent and still for a moment, as if beneath its horrifying forehead of serpents and clouds was a brain in midst of deep thought. 

“Eat shit and die, then?” I said, and made my best “I’m about to swing a sword” face. 

“We both know you’re not as strong as you say you are, but I’ve always had a soft spot for pluckish overconfidence, so I’ll make you the same offer I made that corpse’s idiot mother.” It said. 

“Which is?” 

“Tell me my name, and I’ll go.” The face looked at me expectantly. I didn’t think he expected me to know who he was, which was honestly a pretty good assumption. 

Okay so all those fancy titles made him sound like he wanted me to think he was the devil, but that’s had to have been a misdirect. If he were the devil, he’d just tell me he was the devil. Also, big obvious snake face in the sky isn’t exactly the devil’s style. So I can safely rule out the names Lucifer, Satan, Beelzebub, Ronald, and Heather. But he’s still a figment, so I’m pretty certain I’ve heard of him somewhere. All of his titles had something to do with lying, and he really seemed to be attached to a corpse covered in jewelry. Goldilocks? No. 

“Wait,” I said. 


The face imploded in a flash of green light and the hurricane of snakes vanished.

“What?” Isa said. She looked up at the clear sky as if she were expecting the face to return and wreak its certain doom over everything she ever knew. 

“I told it who I was and it went running like a little bitch.” I lied, again. I mean, who’s counting.

Isa’s jaw dropped. 


When everything was said and done, I had kind of saved everyone’s lives. When the other people in town asked if there was anything they could do for me, I told them to take care of Isa in lieu of her scumpuddle dad. When they asked me if I wanted to stay, I told them that I still had parts of the earth left to roam as I gazed off into the middle-distance. Pretty cool, right? 

It was nice being wanted, though. 

As I loaded back into my car, Isa approached. 

“I appreciate what you did for us.” 

“When you’re as awesome as I am, it’s your responsibility to take care of weaker people.” I said, ruffling her hair playfully. She didn’t think it was funny. 

“Even if you were as strong as you’re pretending to be, you still wouldn’t have to.” She said. 

I smiled. 

“And I know that you’ve probably got other places to be, but I know for a fact that we need you here.” She said. 


“Cut the bullcrap. I know you’re not ‘roaming the earth’, and unless you can give me a better excuse than that, I’m not gonna forgive you.” Isa said. 

“I’m looking for my mom.” I said. She stared at me, as if that weren’t enough. 

“We were in Paris when it fell, and she left me there. She wasn’t perfect, and I don’t even know if I’ll be able to forgive her, but I won’t know until I meet her and try.” I said. 

I saw a little bit of myself in Isa when she didn’t completely understand, but I think she respected it. 

“See you around?” She said. 

“Only if I don’t die first.” I said. 

“No way. You fucked up Rumplestiltskin.”


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Lighting fires is more complicated than it used to be. Back when I was a kid, even for want of a match, you could use a magnifying glass and get what you came for. 100% satisfaction. No rules if you looked innocent enough. No punishment if you could put up with the looks of adults who think you don’t know better. No practical considerations if you’re smart enough to stay dumb. At least, that’s the way I remember it. Nostalgia is complicated like that. 

Family dog strayed close to my frantic limbs and got singed in the fireplace. I don’t remember what my parents thought his name was. To me, he was only Sparky. 

“Only superficial burns.” The veterinarian said. How could he dismiss something so beautiful as superficial? I remember Sparky’s congealed face better than I remember my mother’s. I watched him best that I could after that because I owed him everything. When I would stroke his coat, he would hemorrhage fur between my fingers like each time we parted the inches between us were small doggy deaths. My dog. My friend. My forgiver. That’s not nostalgia, that’s just the way love worked. 

Caught in smoke. I dropped the computer and it shattered into a mess of hot pieces. I could smell the burnt linoleum from the hall. The flames held close to me as I ran through the apartments. I thought about how Sparky’s eye was partially closed on one side from the burns. The smoke caught me fully. Intoxicating and breathless. The tarmac was warm, then too warm on my cheek. 

I wished I had been able to steal more. Empty houses, tripped security alarms. People assume what I take was lost in the fire. Do you think this hobby pays for itself? Matches, lighters, tinder, kindling, gasoline, transportation, scouting, strategy, time management, location, acting lessons. And those are just the supplies if you’re white. Not every satisfying hobby can be cheap. 

The first time I felt her touch was when she was compressing my stomach in a vain attempt to limit the damage of the fire. Ha. She did cute things like that. I coughed black crap on her face without the hint of a flinch. She smiled, and I was warm.

“Am I going to die?” I said. 

“You’re going to be okay.” She said. Her voice: indulgent and active. Like a dancer. 

They put me an ambulance paid for by health insurance I wouldn’t have the money for after the charges on my credit card went through. The firefighter stayed with me. Attempting to limit the damage of the fire. 

“What’s your name?” I said.

“Phoenix.” She said.

“Isn’t that a little on the nose for a firefighter?” I said. 

She laughed. That was when I knew that I’d miss her when she died. 

Everything got colder and foggier as they took me away from the fire. As they closed the doors and separated us, the room was struck by a chill.

Sometimes, when I’m alone or when I’m passed out in the back of an ambulance, I hope if people remember me that it’ll be for the fires and not my face. People look at you different once you look like you’ve been through an oven. They think you’re one too many burns away from being a normal person. People were bastards. I don’t know if I could look people in the eye if I didn’t have the burns to look forward to.

Six weeks. I could have completed an online traffic school in the amount of time I spent in the hospital. Instead they taught me how to use two-fifths of my hand and how to properly air out the remains of my face too unsettling to be left in the public eye. 

They told me I was highly motivated to complete my physical therapy because I was. I was close. I could taste it. I needed to be back on the streets lighting fires again. 

They told me I was one of the most motivated patients they’d ever seen because I was. Hospitals are cold. Hospitals are laminated. Hospitals are in desperate want of any sort of clutter. I would never burn a hospital. I would never go back to one. I didn’t need medicine, I had obsession. I longed to be in the public eye.

I was out in five and a half weeks. I was back where I belonged.

They gave me a name. Not an interesting one like the Crispy Bandit, or the Angel of Screaming Flame. The “Cottondale Arsonist”. I didn’t even set that fire in Cottondale. That was a gas fire and any amateur could tell you that. I’ve ramped up. Three fires in three weeks. They think I’m scaling up to practice for the solar eclipse, but that’s just a fun coincidence. 

Sometimes people will see my face and ask me if I’m one of my victims. As if the only thing that pops into their mind when they see me is how they can connect me to passing information they’d just as soon discard if given the chance. I make notes of these people’s names so that I can steal all of their favorite things from their houses while I light the rest of their things on fire. People ask me that question a lot. I’ve been busy. 

But she wasn’t at any of them. I broke ritual and waited at the fire for fifteen minutes. None of the firefighters who arrived even looked excited to be at the fire! I mean, the nerve of the thing. What’s the point of being in the business if you don’t love your craft?

I called all of the Phoenix’s in the phonebook and left voice messages on all the ones I didn’t creep out voice-to-voice. I wondered if she would approve of my hobby and promptly purchased three hundred dollars worth of unscented candles. She called me back promptly and I felt my heart vacate itself losslessly. 

Coffee followed by lunches. I thanked her for saving my life. Dates followed by late phone calls. Sometimes on days when she’d touch my face, I didn’t light the candles by my bedside. Delayed gratification preceded by immediate connection. In moments, I could feel only where she wasn’t as if my skin were calling out for something recognizable as one and itself.

Life burned its pace relentlessly. 

“Do you like your job?” I asked.

“Do you like yours?” Phoenix asked. 

“Unemployment? Absolutely.” I said. Phoenix smiled in the polite lovely way that good friends do at mediocre jokes. 

“I mean, it’s dangerous and challenging and the pay is bad and I hate all of my co-workers but-” 

“You love it?” 

“… Yeah.” Phoenix said. She laughed and I knew for certain in that way only love could. 

“I know the feeling.” I looked deep into her. 

“I have something I want to tell you.” I said. She frowned. 

“Don’t.” She said. 

She took my hand and loved it as closely that she could. 

“You look so beautiful.” She said, reaching for my face and touching my scars. Warmth. Volatility. Burden. 

“There’s something wrong with me.” I said. 

“It’s okay.” She said. 

“I love you but-” Phoenix clenched something in my hand. 

“Love is more complicated than putting out a fire.” 

A lighter. 

I lit the whole world on fire. The sun turned a lighter shade of bright to better the bloom that was in the air. I stole things people didn’t deserve while Phoenix saved the things they did. Standing water and metallic bowls stopped smelling like guilt. Even the burning buildings stopped smelling like joy. Eventually, I only ever cared to burn the things which meant the most to me. Life became uncomplicated. We lived life ceaselessly as we slowly backed away from the fires and closer to each other, drawn like moths to an open flame.


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I had been here before. This is the law office where my wife and I are negotiating the specifics of our divorce. Helen sits across from me. She is looking in my direction, beyond me. 

“Is there a reason you decided to dress like you were receiving your diagnosis for diabetes?” I say, the first time. 

“Is there a reason you decided to wear that smug look on your fucking face?” She says, probably the ninth time. It doesn’t have the same warmth that it used to.

 We are only in the same room as a matter of convenience while we wait for our attorneys to arrive. If we had both arrived on time, this wouldn’t be happening, but we both arrive early in the hopes that we can get this over with. We are both wrong. 

I shuffle through my papers, as if to look like I know what I’m doing. She browses her phone. We’re both frightened and curious as to what the other plans to do. I want what’s best for us. I don’t know what she wants. The door opens. 

Helen is sitting across from me, avoiding eye contact. 

“Do you think we’ll still talk afterwards or will it be mostly passive aggressive text messages?” I say. But Helen wasn’t game for anything more than another round of insults. She was always harsh like that. It wouldn’t be much longer. Today we’d finalize the divorce. 

I probably won’t ever see her again. The door opens. 

“Do you?” I say, and she almost looks confused, but she doesn’t acknowledge me. That was the source of a lot of our fights. I’d try to talk, she’d ignore me, and then it would get worse from there. 

We’re silent together in the room for another five minutes. The door opens. 

It’s like I am waking up from a dream. Helen is sitting across from me. It’s just her and I, again. I am scared.  Helen sees this, and I don’t know if it’s concern or sadism in her eyes. Either way, I understand where she’s coming from.

“Is this happening to you?” I ask. She doesn’t answer, probably thinking I’m talking about the divorce. I frame most of my insults in the form of questions, and that bites me on the ass. 

“Helen, I’m not trying to fight with you. Is this the first time that this is happening? You and I, in this room, I mean. ” I say. My voice is shaky. Helen’s jugular tightens. She doesn’t break eye contact with her phone. 

“Fuck off, Cecil.” She says. 

“Is there any particular reason that you decided to-” The door opens. 

“-be such a…” It’s like I stepped down a staircase when I didn’t know one was there. The room is hazy and moving like water down a drain.

I am angry. She is browsing her phone. Her frigid head floating gently above her shoulders. Her hair is refracting light and tainting it blackly. The door is thick and shut tight, but I hear the same somethings that I’ve heard every other time through. 

I leave my seat. I am close to the door. I can feel the handle. I twist it to my will. The door opens.

I’m sitting across from Helen. The world feels flat and dull. This room seems to fit in perfectly. Helen is a snowy mountain beset upon a sea of misty darkness. She is every pain to me. She is all I have. 

“You mean nothing to me.” I say. She captures droplets of moisture in the air with her hair and they freeze like black snowflakes on dry ice. 

“Cecil, be honest.” She says. The door opens.

“I love you.” I say. For a moment, I can see her color and her shape coalescing into some measure of a lifeline until:

“Cecil, be honest.” She says. The door opens. 

What a colossal bitch she is. I spend the next time around fantasizing about ripping her head off. The door opens. I make a concerted effort to rip my own head off, only to pull out a chunk of my hair. Helen looks on in bewildered amusement. The door opens. I walk back and forth from one end of the room to the other. I firmly press my hand against the nuevo-textured wall in an attempt to filter out my testosterone. She doesn’t see that the vessel that runs across the back of my hand is straining not to pop. I look for the words to solve the problems that we share. The door opens. I fail. 

“What do I need to say to you?” I reach.

“There isn’t anything you could say that’d set this right if that’s what you’re asking.” I make contact!? And then Helen returns to browsing her phone. 

“Then what’s the point in us talking at all?” I say.

“Exactly.” She says.

“Helen, the fact of the matter is that there’s something here. It’s harsh, and I hate it, but I can’t keep sitting across from you knowing that this table might as well be the fucking vacuum of space for as close as we’re gonna get.” 

“Then it’s a good thing that this is the last time that we ever have to see each other.” She says. I rub my eyes. I rub my temples. The door opens. 

It isn’t. I’m still seeing her. She isn’t the same. The colors in her coat and face are washed out from one cycle too many. I see where a bruise used to rest across her icy cheek. I see the tanlines on her ring finger that seemed to be the only evidence that we ever might have loved one another. 

Helen is sitting across from me, but I miss her. Not the way she was at her best nearly as much as any conceivable shape of her. I miss her on our first date; throwing up off the side of the tilt-a-whirl like the world’s most horrifying sprinkler system. I miss her accidentally waking me up as she left for work. I miss talking to her without it being diplomatic warfare. 

At this point, I am daydreaming about the possibility of me having to explain why the toilet isn’t going to work anymore, I would be thrilled to tell her that I ran over her cat pulling out of our driveway, but I would settle for a conversation as I walk in on her and Pierre viciously fucking on the ottoman that we compromised on.

In my heart, she is not my enemy. She is just somebody I haven’t forgiven. The door opens. 

I’m looking at her. Her face is an anti-chromatic refrigerator. Her hair forms stalactites of black ice. The depth is lost from the room. We feel close in that way, I think. I wonder who will stab first.

“Why?” I say. Quiet. 

“Why are you divorcing me?” I say, and she is gracious enough to leave me a silence. 

“It’s just important for me to know exactly why, I think. You’re not looking at me, and that’s okay… But it’s really important for me to know why we’re here. And why you filed these fucking papers. And why we can’t see each other again.” I say. 

“You weren’t the best wife. And I’m not a good husband. Hell, I’m not even a good man… And we weren’t ‘better together’ but… Why?” I ask, and she sees me right in my eyes. The room shivers. Helen is standing, and our faces could touch if our shoes weren’t quite so frozen to the floor. 

“I mean, pretty much all of those things you just said.” Helen says. Tearing me down, just like we used to. 

“What? Just because we’re not perfect doesn’t mean we can’t love each other!” I yell, just like we used to, and I can feel that soon the door is going to open and it’s all going to start again. So I jam the door shut with my body.

“This isn’t okay! This can’t be all there-” 

“Cecil.” Helen interrupts me. 

“I cheated on you. And you beat the shit out of me. It doesn’t take a divorce filing to figure out that one way or another, we were going to end up separate.” Helen says. 

My shoulders loosen. I look into Helen and my eyes well up. There’s a knock from behind the door. 

“For what it’s worth, I think that with time that you might be a good man, but I will never see you that way again.” Helen says. 

“I’m sorry.” I say. 

“It’s okay.” Helen says. 

“Not just for today, for…” 

“It’s okay.” Helen is there for me. The cold tendrils of ice melt dry like we used to when we were in love.

“Are you ready to let them in?” Helen asks. I feel the brown light from her hair catch me. I’m stuck in its embrace.

“Just a minute.” I say. 

Drifting coarsely on the breezelines of the past.

“Just a minute.” I say. 

If only to make this moment last.

Generosity, a flash fiction

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I don’t typically like to talk about my hobbies. In my line of work, anything that makes you particular can prove to be a liability. And it’s not like investment management brings any exceptional amount of passion into my life, but it affords me the opportunity to live the lifestyle I’ve been accustomed to. 

In my experience, most people see a natural disaster and they post about it on facebook, send a letter to their congressman, or if they’re incredibly generous, they donate about $7.50 to the Red Cross. But none of those are practically my disposition. My mother tells me that when I was a kid, I used to watch out for the small kids when I could so they’d take less of a beating from the bigger, richer, meaner kids. I don’t remember many specifics, but I think that was when I learned that if somebody is unimportant enough, people will figure out how to ignore just about anything. 

But I’ve always been nothing if not proactive. Over the years, I squirrelled away what I could, and eventually I was able to purchase my own private helicopter and disaster relief team. So now, when I see a disaster, my ass isn’t nestled at home in the loving embrace of my office chair. I do what I can, because I’m not like you. 

Wherever there’s a hurricane, I’m there on the streets with food and clean water, when I see an earthquake, I haul generators and doctors to the epicenter, and wherever there’s a camp of homeless vagabonds, I hook them up with showers and job applications, followed by affordable housing. My only reward, and possibly the only satisfaction that I’ve found in this world, is the stunned look on their faces as I strangle them with piano wire. The same piano wire. The same look. The same motivation. 

When I was a kid, at first I charged the smaller kids for everything they were worth in exchange for their protection, but eventually I realized that they carried with them something a lot more valuable than their pocket change. And so for a very small price, their dignity was mine. They’d do anything if I told them about the consequences of their inaction, and they did. And my mother still praises me for it to this day. 

What can I say? I do what I can. 


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The first thing I noticed about Evelyn was that she didn’t have a head. But I was in no place to judge. Most faces hadn’t been really been making much in the way of expressions lately anyway. 

She had an aura of mosquitoes (read: congregating strangers) surrounding her like a team of professional surgeons whose looks held just as much blank intent. 

I couldn’t gauge much from her eyes, mostly because she didn’t have a face, but there were tight kinks festering in her shoulders. Her arms were bound to her torso like a death at a festival. What appeared to be an inordinate amount of blood was pumping out of the pulp where her head should’ve been. 

She wasn’t at a pleasant gathering with friends. Someone had trapped her there. Her spluttering heartbeat was a longing tap on the bars of the human cage that surrounded her. I had read online about how to help strangers out of awkward situations. 

“Evelyn! There you are, it’s been too long.” I said, cutting through the crowd of observers and weirdos, and at least hoping her name was Evelyn. 

Evelyn perked up. I could feel a real smile start to burn its way up through my gut like any other piece of bile. 

“How’s life treating you?” I said. 

Evelyn’s neck arched down. She gently clasped her back in her hand. I think she knew what it was like to ache. 

“Hey, we don’t need to talk about stuff like that.” I said. “Let’s get out of here.” 

She was upways when she realized I was here to save her. I reached out to her. When our hands touched, a spatter stained my shirt. 

“Don’t worry.” I said. “You’re the only thing I care about.” 

We walked out. Away, together. Our hands stayed held long after we knew we didn’t want to walk away. 

The inches we’re apart feel like a formality. There’s an energy that bubbles where it didn’t before. When I say her name (repeatedly), it feels like she’s embracing my throat like good soup. We share each other’s driver’s licenses so we can find out each other’s full names. The popcorn at the movie theater tastes better. I can feel happy all the way down to my toes. When she sees me looking at her, her legs cross and she gets shy. The telltale spatter on my cheek lets me know when she likes me most. 

“I’ll miss you.” 

The second thing I noticed about Evelyn was that I was in love with her. Before I kissed her goodnight, her heart beat like the wings of a hummingbird. She walked away and the lights hugged her as tightly as I wanted to. 

“Write me every day.” I joked. I would only receive one piece of written communication from her after this moment. 

I don’t know why you keep messaging me. I worry for your sanity. In the back of my head, I can’t help but worry for my safety. I don’t hate you, and I would never wound your feelings with intention. I’m not interested in the sort of sordid statements with potential to break your heart. But you have never met me, and I have only been in your company to the extent that you’ve blocked my exit. I hope sincerely that you do well, but also that you put me in no position to see it. In this respect, I hope to see you exactly as you see me. Either a stranger in passing, or not at all.

A Morning With Calvin

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I was too hungover for how bright it was. Even my gaudiest jacket (crumpled in a heap by the bed) seemed overexposed in the soft overwhelming beams coming off the noon sun. I turned my head towards the window and found that I was sharing my bed with a twelve-foot long dragon that seemed to be awkwardly laying on his back on as much of the bed as he could fit. 

“What?” I said accurately. 

“Yeah, I don’t know.” He said, seemingly ignoring the fact that he was a dragon. Wait, was he a dragon? I mean, he looks pretty wyvernly. Would it have been rude to ask him if he was a dragon? 

“I’m not racist but,” I threatened “what’s your name?”

He laughed. His name was Calvin. 

I offered him breakfast and cooked him the laziest ham omelette since god created man, the stars, the sky, and the universe. All things considered, he wasn’t the worst thing I’ve woken up next to. 

“Do you remember anything from last night?” He asked. 

“Not really. Any luck with you?” 

“I get bits and pieces but most of what I’m getting is yelling and this vague sense that I got punched in the face.” Calvin took a bite out of his omelette direct off his plate. I guess he didn’t like to use his claws.

“I’m not usually into partying, you know?” He said. Dragon, please. 

“I am. As you can tell from my collection of antique condoms in the bedroom.” I said. I don’t know if my pregnancy chances would be better or worse if I used one of them last night. I mean, I guess it’s not a given that I fucked this dragon. Still, safety is important.

“Not the worst thing to collect.” Calvin took another bite, and that omelette was gone. 

“What’s that?” I was smiling.

“Treasure. I have a few friends who invest in gold and stocks or jewelry. You should spend money on things you like not making more money. That’s how you end up alone in the end.” 

“What about the future?” I said. 

“Who wants to live in a future that’s just filled with a bunch of useless crap that’s glued to you?” Calvin said. 

“Poor people.” I said. We were having a good time, I promise. 

“Are you aware of how much of a dragon you’re being right now?” Calvin said. 


“Next you’re gonna throw all those vintage condoms on your belly and start hoarding other sexual antiquities in a big pile with syringes.” Calvin smiled. I think. 

We exchanged pleasantries. He said he had lunch with his parents, and I had things I said I needed to do too. I obligatorily wrote my number on a slip of paper for him and sent him out the door. 

As I looked out my window, I saw him flying off presumably to his cave and hoped he would call me soon and try to retrieve the sweatshirt he left behind.