"Go home, Violet," said Uncle Cornelius when he opened the door. "I haven’t heard from a single one of you in over ten years." His eyebrows were storm clouds in his craggy face, just as she’d remembered.
"I shan't," she said calmly, lifting her chin.
"Shouldn’t you be off at college?"
"I flunked." She’d avoiding practicing this conversation in her head too much, so her responses would be more natural.
It was late on a normal Friday evening, and Dan and I were sprawled out on the sofa in our little flat above the Cutting Edge hairdressing salon watching Netflix. Suddenly, a weird sound filled the room. Kind of like FFFFT! closely followed by the tinkling of falling glass. For what must have been a couple of seconds, everything stopped. Then Dan threw my arm off his midriff and jumped up, yelling, “What the fuck was that?”
“Um… Jingledeep?” said the barista. She was a tawny-skinned woman, scrunching a beautifully bejeweled nose as she scrutinized the name on the cup. She looked at the man next in line at the counter. He was middle-aged with a hairline that was losing both ground and color. He wore a perfectly pressed gray suit and black leather loafers that he probably paid someone to polish. He was looking up at her from his phone with a whole-body frown.
“I have a coffee for…Jingledeep?” she read, half an invitation, half a question.
It was a strange spring, the spring the bimbos appeared in Magnolia Close. The magnolia outside number six had been nothing but a whitish, ashy looking stump for years. But this spring a living crown of thin, whippy green branches burst out of the dead tree. It was as incongruous as a withered old man suddenly putting on a luxuriant blonde wig. The blossoms soon followed, fist-sized and creamy, giving off great wafts of scent. All the trees on the Close were laden with blooms; the branches sagged under the weight of them. Barbara said I was exaggerating, but it was true.
Keith left the community centre early, since his talk on the history of housing development in East Anglia had attracted an audience of just two people — and they turned out to have got lost on their way to the Mature Ladies’ Erotica Reading Group.
Arriving home to find Chet waiting on the doorstep did not make him feel any better.
(This story was originally printed in Curiosities Magazine)
So you’re drowning in gambling debt and you have pissed off a girlfriend or three. On your smoke breaks between acts, you’ve been jumped by said girlfriends’ spurned boyfriends one too many times. The only thing left to do is disappear—with a bang, of course. You are, after all, a showwoman.
Taril felt a sneeze coming at the worst possible time.
The target saw him, jumped up and screamed. Bloody mould, he thought, pulling away from the pink-infested wall.
The floating ball of light, which he had been about to swipe from the air near her shoulder, returned to her body and was reabsorbed.
The girl scowled. She was about his own age with a cloud of black hair around her sharp face. Her right hand was still on her inner left forearm, a pinch-mark raging red and hurt.
First off, she wasn’t exactly my grandma. Everyone in town called her that, a term of respect for those fortunate enough to survive to middle age. Though perhaps, given the realities of my youth, the word ‘fortunate’ does little justice to the everyday brutality of our lives. ‘Hardy enough’ is possibly more accurate. We killed what we had to, ate when we could, and survived the vagaries of our environment to the best of our ability. Most folks were ready to die when their time came.
What sounded like the burners firing from a hot air balloon roared overhead. Melia ran out into the yard, hoping to see it up close. She loved the balloons. On pleasant summer days like this one, they gave rides over the river valley to tourists. The balloons hardly ever came in this far, and when they did were so high up as to be dots against the sky. This one, however, sounded low to the ground. She imagined it a kaleidoscope of color, its basket skimming the trees, almost within reach. She needed some joy about now, even if it was fleeting.
Tomorrow you will wake to a new galaxy humming pleasant sounds that make you smile, plush planets orbiting concentric circles around a clicking sun. You will spend your days reaching for them, never catching them, but you will not yet understand the frustrations of failure so you will keep trying; until one day you learn how to make yourself taller, and you will reach into that galaxy, grab that sun, and it will burn, but you will be happy, having made yourself the center of a little universe.