Wednesday, 22 September 2021

How My Wife Reads a Book

by Gene Goldfarb

Caipirinha

 

First thing I must tell you is that you have to pick the book you want to read. You have to get passed the cover. For me it’s always a problem. I have to have a feeling that I’m about to consume something delicious or great. So I’m very picky. Not my wife. I like short books. Small investment of time if it stinks.. Also I wouldn’t have sunk in much psychic energy. 

 

My wife usually contracts out her reading to me. Length of a book is irrelevant. She’s a serious person. So, curiously she confines her reading to fiction. Her non-fiction is almost exclusively newspapers and magazine articles. She will not tolerate serious reality reading for too long, it depresses her and she knows what she wants and needs no edification on gruesome tragedy or quotidian depravity. Only exception to serious matter for her is spy novels, and Agatha Christie murders.                                                                                                                                                                                                               When she seems to have the time and is aware that I’m going to the library, she suggests I get out a book for her. If I ask her whether there’s any book or title she wants, she always says, “get me something interesting.” When I follow up in exasperation, about something more specific, typically says, “You know, something I’d like,” so you can see there’s no point in asking. The best I can do in this situation is to remember to pick up three books for her, nothing too way out. So one time I picked a Belva Plain, a Sidney Sheldon, and an Ian Trevanian. And she could suit herself. It was like winning a trial by picking a jury where you couldn’t lose unless you personally attacked every member.

 

There is one clue that you may come upon in my wife’s reading. If the ending is happy or at least not gruesome, she will tell you “Get me another book by that guy who wrote the last one I read.” And that will be a fantastic time saver. Hopefully, you’ve found that Holy Grail of what your wife likes, potato chip heaven, until you run out of potato chips or the author is a one-hit wonder, or only had very limited success.

 

Once my wife starts a book she attacks it with rare diligence, reading on and on for several hours at a time. It’s at times like these I have to admire her, and remember not to wait for apologies about when supper will be ready. Rather, I confine myself to the prospect that I will have to cook for myself or just fix a sandwich and maybe warm up a soup in the microwave, and be happy with that.

 

She is such a neat person, but regularly dog-ears the book she’s reading as a bookmark. I can’t stand it because it’s a loan from the library, and I like to return things I’ve used with a minimum of wear and tear. Look, I’m no angel. I like to read a book in the bath, and have warped my share of tomes, till I finally stopped after causing too much damage. But that’s a whole other story.

 

Once she finishes a book she doesn’t review it for me so much as tell me I can take it back to the library and to get out another one. If I ask her what she thought, all she says is that she liked it. If she doesn’t like it she usually doesn’t finish it. If I read it despite her putting it down she asks how I was able to read it; it’s usually a rhetorical question. I still answer her, trying to point out that the book was indeed boring to a point, but picked up after page 50 or so and had some great insights.

 

She’s her own editor. She made it through J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series by skipping the elf songs. In her opinion they were too boring and didn’t advance the plot or the action.  It made me realize how “business” she was. If things went bad in a real business situation, according to her the owner was an incompetent, or he had too many family members on the payroll, or exclusive of the other two, it was just a case of bad luck.

 

You wouldn’t want her in your book club. Then again, she would have quit before being asked.

 

About the author 

Gene Goldfarb lives on Long Island, writes short fiction,essays and poetry, loves reading, international cuisine, and movies of all kind. His fiction has appeared in Bull & Cross, Twenty-Two Twenty-Eight, Fallow Ground, Adelaide and Cafe Lit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, 21 September 2021

Eyes Opened

 by Allison Symes

raspberry and lemon juice

Bloody hell, what now, Liza thought. What more do they want? Can’t they see I’m tired and some help would go a long way?

Liza gazed around the living room with books and papers everywhere. Between her husband, with his novels, and the children with their homework scattered as if to the four winds, Liza could just make out a tiny patch of sofa which was, as yet, unclaimed. So she went and sat on it. 

Perhaps tonight the others could do the cooking. They were old enough now. Her husband moaned about having the same old thing all the time so he could do something new. And maybe she would get to read a book for once.

They ended up having takeaways, the night before Liza’s weigh-in at her slimming club.

 

***

 

‘Course I’m not happy. I put on three pounds last night. Why couldn’t you have made me an omelette? I have shown you how often enough.’

Liza wasn’t surprised the replies ranged from not wanting to come home after work and have to cook to having far too much homework to do. Besides Liza could’ve had less of the takeaway if she wanted to keep her weight down.

Liza thought of several things she wanted to say but most of it would have been swearing and she wondered wearily what would be the point. What was the point of anything… if her family couldn’t see all she did for them, would it matter if she went away? They’d have to manage then. Maybe they’d manage better.

Liza went up to have a bath before her tears got the better of her. She couldn’t face an interrogation about why she was crying, assuming they bothered to notice. She wasn’t sure what would be worse - the interrogation or the not noticing. She did know she didn’t want to find out.

 

***

 

A week later, Liza woke to find she was in hospital. Her head hurt, she ached all over, and she felt so tired. Oh yes. She’d been rushing across the road to get her bus for work when something hit her. She thought it was a cyclist. They hadn’t stopped.

Liza looked around as far as she was able. She seemed to be in a room on her own. There was no sign of her family. Liza felt tears well up. Where the hell are they when I need them? Why have they left me alone?

‘Hello, good to see you back with us, Mrs Manners.’

 The cheery sounding voice seemed to come from Liza’s right. Liza turned to see a nurse standing by her bed.

‘Now what’s with all the tears then?’

‘Err… my family…’

‘Have been in every night and every hour they can waiting for you to wake up. Indeed, your husband went home only fifteen minutes ago when I told him he needed to get something to eat and some rest. Look, they’ve put up some lovely pictures.’

The nurse picked up a couple of photo frames and showed them to Liza. One was of Liza and her husband on their wedding day. Another was of their three children on the swings at the local park.

‘There is a card too, Mrs Manners.’

The nurse held a huge flower festooned card out and opened it up so Liza could read it.

It read. We’re so sorry. Get better soon. We miss you so much.

This time, Liza didn’t bother to hide the tears.

 

About the author

Allison Symes, who loves quirky fiction, is published by Chapeltown Books, CafeLit, and Bridge House Publishing.

Website: https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com/

Books: http://author.to/AllisonSymesAuthorCent.

Her latest flash fiction collection, Tripping The Flash Fantastic, is out in Kindle and paperback.

Her Youtube channel, with book trailers and story videos, is at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPCiePD4p_vWp4bz2d80SJA/ 

Monday, 20 September 2021

Dirty Secrets

 

by Lara Hahn

fizzy Chardonnay

 

'All right, Cass, spill it. What’s this serious matter you wanted to talk to me about?'

Cassandra stirred her coffee, her gaze fixed on the cup. We had met at university fifteen years before and been best friends ever since, but I had never seen her so uneasy.

'Is something wrong with Miles?'

'No, Miles is fine.' She let go of the spoon, which clattered against the rim of her cup, and finally looked at me. 'Julia, you know you can talk to me, right? About anything.'

'Sure, I know. Why are you telling me this?'

She stared at me as if expecting me to say something. I had no idea what she was getting at, so I just stared back; her strange behaviour was worrying me.

'Okay,' she sighed, 'I guess I’ll just have to say it then.'

'I guess you’ll have to.' I tried to defuse the tension with a grin that she rewarded with a stern expression.

What the hell was going on?

'Last night, Miles and I were too lazy to cook, so we went to this pasta place in Covent Garden.' I knew the fancy restaurant she was referring to and wondered if this was all about the silly discussion on expense cutbacks her husband and I had got into at dinner last Friday.

'Look,' I threw up my hands in an apologetic gesture, 'it really wasn’t my intention to tell you how to spend your money and if I offended you, I’m really sorry.'

'What are you talking about?'

'This isn’t about the money discussion?'

'What? No.' She sipped her coffee and placed the cup carefully on the table. 'Anyway...Last night, there were no parking spaces in front of the restaurant, so we had to park a few blocks away in Bedford Street. And when we got out of the car, we saw you leaving the Blame Gloria...'

Damn. 'So?' I kept my tone casual.

'So? What the fuck, Julia!' Her voice became Shrill. ‘There was a man with you who was obviously NOT Ben. I saw you kissing him!'

Heat sloshed against my chest and crawled up my neck. 'Please, calm down. I can explain-'

Her hand shot towards me and covered mine, gently squeezing. 'Sorry, I didn’t want to scream at you. It’s just that Ben and you always seemed so happy together and seeing you with this other guy… I’m still so shocked!'

'I know, but it’s really not-'

'Do you love him?'

'No, of course not!'

'But why did you kiss him?' she asked, confused. 'Was it for the thrill or something?'

'Among other things,' I said.

Cassandra pulled her hand away as a crease formed between her puckered brows. 'Ben will be devastated if he finds out you’ve been seeing someone behind his back.'

'No, he won’t.'

'How can you be so cool about it?!' She cleared her throat, then slowly ran her palm over the wooden table top. 'Look,' her voice softened, 'it’s not that I don’t understand. You married young, and maybe you think you missed out on certain experiences.

'I know relationships can be tough and that sometimes you just want to break things off. But is a little sexual adventure really worth giving up everything you have?'

'Stop, Cass, listen for a second. You’ve got this all wrong. Neither is Ben going to be devastated, nor is our marriage at stake.'

'If you think you can keep this affair a secret, think again. Miles and I have already seen you; someday someone else will see you and they’ll tell Ben- '

'Which won’t be a problem, because Ben already knows.'

She blinked. 'What does that mean he knows?'

'Look. At first, we weren’t sure if this lifestyle would work for us, so we kept it a secret. And later, somehow the opportunity to talk about it never came up.'

'To talk about what, Julia?'

'Ben and I ... we ... we live in an open relationship.'

'What? Since when?'

'For a little over two years- '

'Two YEARS?!' Her eyes widened in disbelief. 'Are you kidding me?!'

'That must be quite surprising, I guess.'

'No shit.' She still made a face as if I had told her I was actually from Mars. 'Wow, I mean WOW. And here I was thinking you were just having a fling.' Cassandra took another sip and her cheeks flushed slightly. 'I know it’s Ben and your private business, but why didn’t you ever say a word? After all these years, I thought I knew you as well as myself, and suddenly there’s this whole other side of you I didn’t know about... It’s a strange feeling.'

'Yeah, I know,' I said, fiddling with the spoon that lay beside my cup. 'When I first started dating other men, it was a kind of experiment. I didn’t really know what to make of the whole open relationship thing myself... If it was okay to live like that. So I guess that’s why I kept quiet about it.'

'And because you thought I wouldn’t be okay with it.'

'No... maybe... I guess, I thought you wouldn’t understand. I mean, it’s not something married couples usually do, is it?'

She snorted. 'You mean those uptight, backward couples like Miles and I are?'

'No, I never said that!'

'Yeah, all right. I get it.' She waved her hand dismissively and gazed out the window. Two little girls on their bicycles passed by and their joyful laughter drifted through the tilted window.

'Cass, please- '

'You know what?' she turned back to me and looked me straight in the eye. 'You’re right. I wouldn’t sleep with other people and I would go crazy if Miles did. When I married him, I did so with the conviction that he would be the last man I’ll be with for the rest of my life. For me, sex is special and something I only share with him.

'But!' her voice trembled with anger, 'I would never judge you for having other desires, even if I don’t fully understand them.' She shook her head and said, 'I’m not one of those assholes who shames anyone who doesn’t conform to stuffy social expectations, and it fucking hurts to know you feel that way about me!'

'Of course I don’t think that! I was scared, okay?! You’re my best friend and I couldn’t bear the thought that you might see me differently.'

'Damn right, nitwit: I’m your best friend! So you should have had a little faith in me.'

'Nitwit? Really?'

Cassandra crossed her arms. 'If you act like one, I’ll call you one.'

'Fair enough, I guess.'

For a brief second, we just stared at each other. 'I’m really sorry,' I said, pressing a hand against my chest. 'I never wanted you to find out this way and I’m ashamed that I gave you the impression you weren’t open-minded enough. I didn't know what to make of it myself for a long time, and I think I was projecting my own insecurity onto you.'

'Sounds like something you’d do,' she said flippantly, but her lips twitched in amusement. She flicked her hair over her shoulder and leaned back in her chair. 'Since we’re on such a good roll now, are there any other revelations you’d like to share with me? Any kids I don’t know about, or are you hoarding millions in your bank account, perhaps?'

I felt my shoulders relax, which I only now realised had been tense all along. I shook my head and smiled. 'No, I’m afraid you know all my secrets now. Will you forgive me, Cass?'

'Eventually. But only if you spill some of your dirty secrets in more detail,' she said, winking at me.

I laughed. 'It’s kind of a relief that you finally know. Honestly, there’s so much I want to talk to you about.'

'And you have no idea how curious I am to hear it.' She smiled and looked down at her cup. 'But maybe we need something stronger for these kinds of stories, what do you think?'

'I think there’s an open bottle of Chardonnay in the fridge.'

'Great!'

I grabbed two wine glasses and the bottle from the fridge and put everything on the table.

'I’ll text Miles that it’s getting late,' she said, typing on her phone as I poured.

'All right,' she said and put her phone away before she reached for one glass. 'Tell me everything!'

My stomach tingled with excitement. Until now, I had never realised how much I had missed talking to her about my experiences. 'Where should I start?'

She sipped the wine, her eyes sparkling with delight. 'What a question, silly. At the beginning, of course!'

About the author

Lara Hahn lives in an inspiring area for young creatives in London. She aims to entertain and mentally stimulate her readers with her stories and is unafraid to be a little edgy. She holds Creative Writing certificates from Wesleyan University and a Master's degree in Economics from University of Heidelberg.

 

 

Sunday, 19 September 2021

Something

by Douglas Hockenberger

12-year-old single malt

“Don’t forget my playlist.” The last thing she said. The last thing I remembered her saying.

Nine months. ‘Ten months actually,’ I was reminded. She carried our something. Our something better. Through the thankless administrative job on the umpteenth floor. Along the bitter and littered streets of the lower east side. Amidst the sad blank faces scattered about the subway car. She carried our something until she couldn’t anymore.

I see now. What it’s like. I wish I didn’t. But I do. There you are, unfettered, ubiquitous. Nurses quickly, quietly taking you. Unsure of their exact intentions, but I release upon their experience. You are as beautiful as you were on that summer afternoon in the park when the sun lit your face, and the breeze lifted your auburn hair as if it were curious to what lay beneath. You stole my heart and still have it.

Now, with our something, a fraction of us together, but now our together is just me. Just me and our something. 

Just as the breeze glanced upon your brow, the realization of your never-ending beauty shines through the blue eyes staring back at me.

One life for another. An even exchange? I wish I could determine, but at this moment, it is undetermined. My love for you has compounded inexplicably to our something. Our child. Your child. My child. I will love her just as I have loved you. Maybe greater. Maybe.

About the author 

Douglas Hockenberger has always been fascinated by the written word. It wasn't until recently he has been able to explore it