When I was little, I lived in the big tank, an enormous empty space with hundreds of other fish. The girls told me how to attract the customers. ‘Make yourself look pretty,’ they said. ‘You want to be chosen.’ I groomed my scales and fluffed up my tail. I perfected the art of flitting this way and that to show how streamlined I was. There was a particular place about halfway along the tank, where a spotlight hit it. That’s where I turned. I folded gracefully over myself, let my tail fan out and trail behind me, paused for a moment, gave a quick, shimmering pulse and darted away. I practised that move again and again. It worked. I was hired by a modelling agency. It was the happiest day of my life.
I don’t believe that things necessarily happen for a reason. I mean, I believe in cause and effect, which usually boils down to basic science. You know, equal and opposite reactions? I think that things should be “rewarded” with a resolution befitting of the action. It doesn’t always happen, though. I know it hasn’t been that way with me. I just keep taking what the universe keeps throwing at me with the wrath of a three-year-old who missed nap time.
Jess sat on the front porch rocker between her dad and Uncle Jimmy. The fall evening air was thick and sticky, almost as if summer hadn’t ended. All three members of the Honeycutt family were sweating as their chairs moved back and forth, back and forth. It was closing in on midnight and the thirteen-year-old felt lucky that she was being allowed to stay up. Her mama and two younger brothers had been asleep for hours. But it wasn’t a school night and the more her daddy and uncle sipped from their mason jars, the less she worried that she would be told to run off to bed.
Where are they? They’ve been gone forever. Wait, I know that sound. Oh my gosh, they’re home!
The door opens. Melody bends down to pat me. “Who’s a good boy?” She rolls me over and scratches my belly. She knows just the spot.
I’m too excited to lay still. I struggle to my feet and run over to Ash. I sniff at his cuffs. He’s been in the park. I jump on his thighs. Say hi to me! I’ve been waiting all day!
Between half-filled composition books, dust bunnies and balled up socks, the skeleton eases its way out from the space beneath Rosie’s bed and asks: ‘Are you gonna tell him?’
Rosie tugs her baseball tee at the neck and pulls the paisley-patterned comforter higher. She’s can’t count how many times they’ve done this. Maybe sixteen, since summer started. It’s the first time the skeleton has had to hide under her bed, though.
‘I can’t tell him,’ Rosie sighs.
After twenty-two years of performing vasectomies, Dr. Kenneth Longman was disenchanted with his work. Whilst he was not yet conscious of his ennui, it had become disturbingly apparent in his behaviour.
In earlier times Longman’s clients had remarked upon his charming eccentricity. Recent patients were more likely to wince at the mention of his name. In fact, a growing number of men harboured a bad memory of Kenny – a memory triggerable by the vaguest of testicular references.
At 9 AM each Saturday I come here, to the laundry. It’s a ritual. After getting any coins I need from the change machine I empty my clothes into a washing machine, pour in some powder, push in five dollars’ worth of coins and hit start. At the vending machine I pick up an energy drink. By the entrance there are some tables you can work at. I take a seat at one, setting down my drink and emptying my pockets beside it. A small pile of dollar coins. My keys. It is the last time I will come here before I leave for a new city on Thursday. My mind begins to wander, and I find myself sifting through all that I have seen at this laundry, looking for something meaningful among the empty episodes that have taken place beneath these bright lights.
The castle was the most magnificent building Helias knew. He was a cook boy and he lived in the strongest and the safest castle in the world. It was so strong that people even claimed it was alive, protecting its inhabitants. Helias believed that. He had whispered to the walls.
“Are you alive?”
“Can you feel my touch?”
The cuckoo clock on the wall sounds its hourly alarm, despite being three-quarters past the given time. No one knows whether the lifeless plastic bird with startled eyes is fifteen minutes early or if the clock is behind. Sometimes it is silent for days on end, though the residents swear they still hear it singing.
‘Good morning, sister,’ calls Agnes, descending the stairs and humming as she goes; her hand gliding gracefully down the old banister, pale alabaster skin against the dark wood. She is burgeoning on seventy, but the lithe figure beneath her knee-length floral dress is that of a younger woman.