I “Unlike you,” the man retorted, “I don’t spend my life comparing myself to other people.” This caused me to fly into a rage and kill him, which all things considered probably wasn’t the best […]
“Lowest Ebb” is one of the short stories featured in 100neHundred, an upcoming collection of micro fiction by Laura Besley (Arachne Press)
I spot the sign in the shop window and tentatively open the door.
‘Yes, my dear?’ asks the old man behind the counter.
‘I… I’d like a new soul, please.’
Not until a month later does your mother ask about Hannah, and even then you are able to deflect her easily. She’s been out of school a lot, you say, and it isn’t really a lie. Hannah has missed some school. That isn’t the reason you haven’t talked about her to your mother, nor is it the reason you haven’t gone to her house for a sleepover since the one in February. And it certainly isn’t the reason you’ve been looking away from Hannah eating alone in the school cafeteria.
You have thought about how much better it would be if you could go to a different middle school. Just so you wouldn’t have to see her there, eating alone, most days. Your lunch periods are still the same, you and Hannah and the girls who shut you out of the clique last year and the white-trash boys who smoke cigarettes and hunt squirrels on the weekends. Travis Putnam got killed doing that on New Year’s Day. Didn’t come back to school after winter break. Shot in the head.
Helloooo, my lovelies! It’s so great to see you again. Thanks for coming back to my channel for my monthly beauty box unboxing. I can’t believe another month has already sailed by because what is time anymore, right???
Anyway, I just got my Glitzyglam and NailChic boxes from the package room in my building’s basement that smells vaguely like trash and sewage and I’m really starting to wonder if management is ever going to do anything about it, but let’s be real, the answer is probably not. Doesn’t matter, though, because I’m epically thrilled for this month’s video. I hate to disappoint, but I’m going to have to skip the Glitzyglam and NailChic unboxings this time because my mask box just came in, and I have to share it with you.
Bernard had planned for today to be the last day of his life. He stared out the window of his office on the 35th floor of the Maxwell building, overlooking the San Francisco Bay. If he peered through the telescope he kept near the window, he could see The Campanile of the University of California, Berkeley campus. It supposedly resembled St. Mark’s Campanile in Piazza San Marco in Venice. He didn’t see it that way. He saw it as an artifice, an historical pastiche derived from a tower in an ancient European city. As far as Bernard was concerned, it was a failure, same as him.
My mentor sits lotus-style on the biggest chair I’ve ever seen. It’s beet-red velvet, flushed absolutely crimson, and is dangled all over with golden silk tassels. The room is otherwise green, full of leafy plants that hang densely from the high glass ceiling or stand in terracotta pots on the floor. There’s a wet warm smell, somewhere between a greenhouse and a summer afternoon, deep in a mossy forest, after a hard rain.
My mentor is ancient and wrinkled like a root-cellar apple in April. Under his coarse gray hood his blocky head is stubbly with close-cropped hair, and his full beard is smooth and white. He looks a bit like a wizard.
But wizards don’t use guns, and my mentor has a revolver resting in his lap, both his hands laid across it like it’s a sacred text he’s praying on.
My mother always said it was my nursery got me started: citrine walls like sunshine that made my future bright.
As a toddler, I played with lemons, rolled them on the floor, threw them like a ball and nibbled them, the way that toddlers do. I liked the taste, craved more. I begged Mum for lemon chicken, lemon pancakes, lemon drizzle, lemon this, lemon that, lemon, lemon, lemon and, at the sweet shop on Saturdays, saliva pooling underneath my tongue, I watched Helen weigh my lemon sherbets on a silver scale.
I am the Ghost Light, the one who stands and watches the stage when the theatre is closed.
I am here for safety; you wouldn’t want to tumble down into the orchestra pit while fumbling for the light switch, would you? I watch the ghosts who come to entertain the empty seats at night; the usherette in her apron and cap, who drifts through the wall that wasn’t there when she worked here, long ago.
I never travelled as a kid but I did play “spin the globe”. It’s that game you play by yourself where you close your eyes and spin a globe, then use your index finger to stop it. When you open your eyes and see where your finger landed, that’s the next place you pretend to visit.
It seemed whenever I played this game, I landed on Russia. The largest country in the world, of course, but my 13-year old self took it as a sign. A sign I had some connection to this frigid, far-off place. And so began my Russian obsession. Mostly 19th century Russian stuff, since that’s all I could get my hands on, but I took what I could get. I borrowed books on Russian history, read all 800 pages of Anna Karenina. Ignored the strange looks of passers by as I sat on the beach with Crime and Punishment while other kids read Harry Potter. I imagined myself a Russian beauty with a pale, heart-shaped face and ever-blonde hair. I knew without a doubt I’d marry a Russian, study Russian in university. At night, Tchaikovsky blasted in my headphones while my mother and her boyfriend slurred daggers in the kitchen, diminuendos punctuated by crashing glass and the thud of bone on drywall. Sure, my pants had holes in the seams and I slept on the floor, but I burrowed in a dreamland, my own Nutcracker fairy tale, dancing the mazurka with a Russian beau.