Time (part 12)

clock

Other me got up and began walking beside me.

“What where you going to do if I hadn’t shown up,” I asked her.

“I was just going to stay at the theater all day and night and then go have a meal at Denny’s at around 3:00 a.m. Then I was going to head back around sunrise,” she said.

“Well, for some reason doing that doesn’t end well,” I said.

“Right,” she said.

“We could just go back.”

“Together,” she asked.

“No, then there would be two of us. I mean you go back to 2013 and I’ll go back to 2014.”

“Yeah, I guess so,” she said.

“I mean, I think it’s probably the best idea don’t you? God only knows what happens to you.”

“Yeah,” she said.

“Is there something wrong,” I asked.

“Look, let me ask you this she said, what do you think of Tom?”

“I think…I mean he seems nice.”

“Really?”

“Well, he seemed a little standoffish…,” I began carefully. “But that’s probably because he didn’t get to know me …”

“I’m afraid you …I mean we just traded one abusive relationship for another.”

“Yeah, well he didn’t seem so thrilled when he found out we were together,” I admitted.

“Yeah, well I think that he was only ever with me in the first place because he was so grateful for my saving his job. He rewarded me with his willingness to be my boyfriend,” she said making air quotes.

“He’s never hit you has he?”

“No, he’s just really cold. I always feel like I’m in trouble. “

“Well, if we I mean one of us could break up with him.”

“Yeah, then no more time machine.”

“Right,” I said.

“Look, I think we could both stand to meditate a little bit and since the theater is out I wanna show you a places that’s really pretty cash as the kids say now-a-days,” she said.

We got on the bus and headed to the heart of Beverly Hills. We headed down Bedford Dr. to the basement of a small office building. “Sensory Anticipation Center.” the sign on the door said. We entered the office and other me asked for two tanks. The beautiful blond receptionist told us she had one appointment at 2:00 and another at 2:30 p.m. We reserved them and then we sat down in a dark waiting room that was surrounded by glow in the dark fish tanks.

“Where are we?” I asked.

“Remember when we were twenty five and we floated in that sensory deprivation tank?”

“Yeah, that was frustrating, I mean we couldn’t really relax enough to enjoy it.”

“Yeah, well the idea there was to put you in a place where you are unaware of your physical body and can get in touch with your inner thoughts,” she said.

“I remember. If you remember I remember, remember?”

She laughed and went on.

“Well about ten years ago they perfected the tanks and more people started using them. Well, pot use and floating go hand in hand and at first the pot growers association was thrilled at all the business they were getting. Float tank places sold brownies, even. After a while though, people began having epiphanies, they started becoming less materialistic. This scared advertisers and so they came up with these new tanks, you’ll love it trust me.

“Shelly,” the receptionist called.

She jumped up and told me she’d see me in two hours in the decompression room. I sat gazing at the fish, they were quit hypnotic and colorful, and they were also robotic.

The receptionist called my name and led me down a hall to a small room with what looked like a standard issue sensory deprivation tank. I showered and got in. for a moment everything was silent and dark.

Suddenly, there were stars everywhere and I began to have the sensation of floating forward though space. A tall handsome man was hovering over me. I felt myself being pulled upwards towards him and following him at an astounding rate of speed as the stars spun around us.

Waltz music began to play and we were dancing together in an opulent ballroom surrounded by beautiful revelers. I was no longer naked, but wearing a ball gown. He took me by the hand and pulled me out of the room and we ran down the street to a parked sports car. We got into the car and drove fast as beautiful scenery dashed passed us. The car stopped and he started floating through the stars again.

Suddenly, the sky turned pink and colorful cakes and candies began to float by. They looked close enough to eat and I tried, but they pulled away. The images turned to 3-D images of bottles of high end alcohol. The bottles spun very slowly. The stars returned and spun at an astounding rate until I felt dizzy. The darkness returned and again I floated there for a moment. I felt anxious I wanted the images back. Soft music played and the lights came up.

I climbed out of the tank, showered and headed towards the decompression room. Several people sat drinking tea and thumbing through magazines, but other me wasn’t one of them. I noticed a small local paper on the coffee table. I sat down and looked at the story.

Three Buildings in North Hollywood to be demolished today, the headline read. “122, 126 and 128 Van Nuys Blvd will be demolished with dynamite at 6:00 p.m. today. The city of north Hollywood elected to demolish the eyesores which have been abandon and uninhabitable for the last five years,” the article read.

I bolted up. My building was going to be demolished in two hour and so was the time machine. Other me must have seen it and run.

I went outside and looked for a taxi, but I didn’t see one. I jumped on the bus and headed back to NOHO. I wondered how I was ever going to make it up the stairs past a demolition crew; either one of me.

When I got there, there were cops and people everywhere. There were a couple of street vendors selling hot dogs and popcorn and souvenir construction hats. Two cops stood talking to a construction worker who appeared to be giving a statement. He looked up at me and pointed. They all walked over to me.

“That’s definitely her.” I heard one of them say. I turned to run, but they grabbed me. They took me to their car.

“What were you trying to do in there, ma’am?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said.

“Ma’am two people saw you run into the building and up the stairs.”

“When?”

“An hour ago,” the cop said.

“I was on the bus an hour ago and I can prove it,” I said. I showed him my bus transfer. He wrote out a report and let me go.

After another hour the cops determined the building was secured. I watched helplessly as the buildings crumbled to the ground and everyone cheered.

I realized I was stuck in the future.

Time (part 4)

 

clock

 

I got up at six and took another shower with the lilac soap. I started to cry not wanting to leave and go back to the tiny room in the shared apartment. I considered staying, but I remembered what Tom had said.

I ran to the train station and jumped on the red line. I made a run for the new apartment. I raced up the stairs and knocked on the door and hid in the stairwell, but no one came to the door.

I tried my key, but it wouldn’t work. I went back to the stairwell and sat there until I heard someone coming. I hid around a corner and saw the woman I’d seen coming out of the shower  yesterday. She was coming upstairs with a small dog. She went into the apartment for a second and came out carrying a bag of garbage and made her way down the stairs again. I ran for the door and was thrilled to find it was unlocked.

I ran into the closet as the dog barked. I pushed aside the large box blocking the door to the room. I pulled on the nob but it was locked, I panicked as I heard the door to the apartment open and footsteps coming to the door. I tried my apartment key in the door and it worked. I closed the door and locked it. I set the dials and pushed the start button. The room shook for a moment and then stopped.

I opened the door and stepped out into Tom’s closet.

“Tom ,” I said. I opened the closet door to find him stark naked and dancing around his bedroom.

He saw me and stopped dead in his tracks.

“I…”I began.

“What the fuck,”  He screamed.

“Tom, I’m sorry what time is it?”

“How did you know my name,” he asked throwing on a pair of jeans.

“Oh my got what day it. Or should I say what year is it?”

“You came in the machine,” he said trepidatiously.

“Yes,” I said relieved that he understood something. “what day is it?”

“It’s October 21, 2014.”

“And you don’t know me?”

“Should I?”

“I’m your roommate, I moved in a couple of days ago.”

“My new roommate is a guy and he isn’t supposed to move in until next week.”

For a moment we just stared at each other. I felt a bit happy, maybe what I had done made everything okay after all, maybe I could just go home to Beverly Hills.

“Can I use your computer?” I asked.

We went into the living room and turned on Tom’s laptop.

We went to Google and before I typed anything in I told him some of my story; that I had been a semi successful psychic to the somewhat well-known going by the name of Bethany Gayle which was a combination of my middle name and my mother’s maiden name. I told him that I had bought a used car and that it was a lemon that was a lemon that was always breaking down. I told him I’d taken the car in to have the transmission worked on. I told him that was where I met Steve, the man who was to eventually ruin my life.

We went to my old company web page and found that it was still there. I breathed a sigh of relief. something must have changed, because before my trip back in time for non-payment. I went to the old company Facebook page and found it still intact. The Twitter page was still there as well.

“Hey, look at something,” Tom said. “Your last Twitter post was October, 4, 2013.”

He went back to Facebook.

“And your last Facebook post was October 5th.”

“Can I look in something in private for one sec…just for one sec?”

“I guess so he said. He went into the kitchen to get something to drink. I attempted to go to my old secret blog, but it had been taken down.

I went to my old e mail and found that the last one I’d sent was on October, 7 2013.

Tom came back into the living room and I told him about the email.

We decided the best thing to do would be to go through each email looking for clues. There were a hundred and fifty of them and it only went back a month.

Most of them were just work orders, people asking for party bookings. From what I would tell I was still doing about three parties a week. We noticed there were about three E mails from a Katrina Faller that I had never responded to they were all just party requests.

“It would have been very unlike me not to respond.” I said.

He laughed and started a Google search under my stage name.

Time (part 3)

clock

 

 

I arrived at the posh apartment building at 8:30 PM. I was greeted by Mr. Peterman who led upstairs to the penthouse. I began setting up my table. My hands shook a little as I pulled out my old purple velvet table cloth. My eyes welled up a bit, I didn’t realized how much I’d missed this. It seemed so silly, I mean it was all a bunch of lies anyway, but as I set out my candles and my tip jar I realized what I missed the most was the respect I got when I did a reading.

I’d never gotten much respect back in the Midwest, they’d taken one look at my pale skin and noticed the tremors in my hands and thought that I was someone to kick. It was the same way in Los Angeles at first, in fact it was worse for the first year, and then I’d started doing readings. After I started getting well know, a rumor had started that my skin was so pale because of the light inside me and my hands shook when the spirits were speaking to me.

Although I always sniggered at the delusional minds of Angelinos, I secretly understood. I had always found reality to be horribly depressing. I wished that I could believe in magic, but I just couldn’t. The people who came up to my table always went away happy, knowing that something good was coming their way, that whatever happened, happened for a reason and that the universe was fundamentally a just place.

I knew what a bunch of hogwash I was selling. I knew that everything happened for a reason and that reason was that people were greedy shits. I knew how dangerous it was to think that everything that happened, just couldn’t be helped. I knew how lazy and complacent that way of thinking could make people. At the same time I wanted the money and I liked the power. Every time I thought of quitting I remembered what it was like to be poor. Every time I felt guilty about lying, I remembered how people treated me when I was honest.

I sat down at the table and the party began. As people came up to me I started to remember details of this particular evening.

There was the guest of honor, a short man who reminded me a little of Dustin Hoffman. He wanted to know if he should start his own business. I had Googled him and I knew that he was a manger of music for a big company. I had remembered that five years ago I told him he should wait another five years before starting his own company and if he did wonderful things would happen. I wanted to give him something to look forward to. This time I told him that he should start the company in one year.

A lady with auburn hair came up to the table and sat down. I greeted her as if we were old friends. I remembered that she had started off by asking if she should buy a beach house and then confessed that she thought her husband was having an affair. I told her that no matter what the universe would provide for her. I also told her to get the beach house and put it in her name.  A year later she’d found a receipt for the Beverly Hilton in her husband’s wallet for December 2nd when he said he had to work late. She confronted him and he left her and she was living in that beach house. This time I was more specific.

Before she could even ask about the beach house I said, “I see a woman with blond hair and green eyes, she and your husband are at a play. I’m getting 12’s and twos after that.”

She turned white when I said it. She grabbed a drink off a passing tray and began to cry. I told her that amazing things were going to happen to her as a result of this tragedy.

The next man I talked to was a producer of reality television shows. I told him that I was picking up on a vibe that his next big star was a soon to be divorced trophy wife who was somewhere in the room with us.

I headed home in the cab with $600 in my purse. The next day I sat in my old apartment all day. As far as I knew all I had to do was simply not buy the car.

While I waited I watched TV and surfed the net remember all the various celebrity scandals that had happened five years ago. I checked e mail and was glad to see that I didn’t have anything that need attention that day. I hesitantly went to my old blog. There it was, Confessions of a Fake Psychic. The only picture was that of a pink hat that I found at the bus stop the first night I did readings. I kept my identity and the identity of my clients well hidden, it was the only place I could really say what I thought and it was my way of reminding myself who I really was. I read a couple of the entries. I hadn’t even written THAT entry yet. I looked at the blog hits, it was pretty ironic how I hadn’t even gotten twenty hits a day. I thought about erasing everything, but I thought better of it. If I didn’t buy the car it wouldn’t break down. If the car didn’t break down there would have no reason to go to a mechanic, if I hadn’t gone to the mechanics, I wouldn’t have met Steve.

I lay in bed that night waiting for the 6:00 AM alarm to go off. I wondered how I checked to make sure I had the key to my future apartment at least 30 times. I hoped the key would work, I tried to make a plan if it didn’t.

Sales and Marketing

 

craig

 

 

Kleinman sat across from Lucy Fisk his new boss at Fisk and Peterman as she greedily shoved Greek salad into her mouth while washing it down with giant gulps of the triple Sambuca that she’d ordered. Kleinman sipped daintily at his, as he was afraid to get drunk so early in the day.

“So, we’ve got this kid whose been working in our department. Some hipster from Dumbfuck, Goddamn Idaho. You know the type; He was the smartest kid in his high school class of twelve people. He thinks his an intellectual because he’s heard of Gertrude Stein even though he’s never read her, which to be fair is more than the other Dumbfuckians know. He started out as an intern and he banged Agnes so she went and hired him.”

“H’mmm, that’s too bad,” Kleinman said unsure of why she was telling him this.

“He messed up the Hacha Spice account, by fucking posting the fact that our “fan videos were paid for. Spacha Sauce got hold of It and it was all over Twitter. Agnes feels he should be given another chance, I say, bullshit fire him.”

“Wow, that is a really tough position to be in,” Kleinman commiserated trying to think of a way to change the subject.

“So I said okay, but if he screws up again he’s out and she said okay.”

“That seems fair.”

“I think it’s not fair at all, I mean he really fucked up. Kids today feel like they have to put their whole lives on the internet. I don’t get it, are they trying to get their identities stolen? Do they want to be blackmailed?”

“People are getting more tech savvy and less sophisticated,” Kleinman said feeling uncomfortable with the way the conversation threatened to become philosophical.

“Anyway, that’s where you come in. Ya see I have a little favor to ask. You better drink up, it’s a dozy.”

He gulped down his drink as she ordered two more.

“I want you to get him fired.”

“You want me to fire him,” Kleinman asked feeling quite dizzy.

“No, no I want you to get him fired.”

“How?”

“Up to you.”

“I’ll get fired as well.”

“No, I’ll protect you,” she assured him.

For a moment he just sat there in his drunkenness, wondering what to do.

“Look, he should never have gotten his job in the first place. He gave Agnes some nauseating smelly artist bullshit about how he wanted to learn from an older woman; when really he was just a horny kid who’d fuck a dirty sock. He never demonstrated any talent for the job and we almost lost our shirts because of him.

“Is this why you hired me,” he asked not wanting to know.

“Not entirely, but we may need to trim the fat in six months if you know what I’m saying.

The pair returned to the office quite drunk. They pretended to work for four hours and went home.

Kleinman saw the kid in the elevator. He attempted to strike up a conversation, but it didn’t work.

He went home and looked at the want ads on Craigslist, but no one wanted a forty year old copy writer. He watched TV and wondered how he could get the boy fired without it being obvious.

He went on Facebook and looked the kid up and found him quite easily. There were several pictures of the young man enjoying himself at various event. Going back in the kid’s history he noticed there were several pictures of him with an attractive young lady with dyed red hair and a nose ring and then there were not.  Kleinman chuckled at the fact that He’d listed a litany of famous novels as his favorite.

He started to friend the kid, but then he thought better of it. Something like that would be too obvious and may even be harassment.

He began to create a new profile a woman named Lolita, with pink streaked hair and a love of old movies.  He found a picture in one of his own more attractive Facebook friend’s archived photo albums. He created the profile, sent a friends request and waited for the games to begin.

The Ringtone

cell

Belinda lay in bed staring at the ceiling. That morning marked her third straight month of unemployment. She was reviewing all the interviews she had in her head and wondering what she did wrong. Her benefits would run out soon and they weren’t really enough to live off of. She realized she should probably plan on going to sell plasma that afternoon.

She heard her phone buzz and she fished it out from under the bed and looked at the text. “I might not make it tonight…may have to work, Bill” the message said. For a moment she was confused; she didn’t know a Bill, it was obviously a wrong number.

“I really want to do this, would tomorrow night work?

 

She chuckled a bit she wondered what the circumstances were. He was Identifying himself, so whoever he was texting was obviously new in his life or he would be programmed into the phone he was attempting to text. She wondered if it was a date, or maybe a special professional meeting.

“Let me know,” said the next message.

She realized that she should text him and tell him he had the wrong number. She decided she’d do it as soon as she officially got up. She fell back to sleep for a bit. Then she got out of bed made coffee and took a shower. While she was showering she imagined what Bill must look like. She envisioned someone not very handsome, but very well groomed. Possibly the sort to wear designer clothes, go to the gym daily and get $100 haircuts on his balding head. She was sipping the coffee and looking at Indeed.com when she heard her phone buzz again.

She picked up her phone to see yet another message from Bill.

“Please do let me know if you’re getting these texts,” the next message said.

‘God, desperate much,’ she thought.

“I got them,” she texted back.

“Cool, is tomorrow okay?”

“Are you sure you won’t have to work again,” she wrote back.

“Yes, this was a one time emergency. Thanks for being cool.”

She wondered if he was being sarcastic or if he was simply trying to kiss her ass.

“It’s just that I canceled plans for tonight.”

“It’ just that I can’t do six. I can do eight if I drive like a maniac?”

“eight is fine.”

“Still want to go to Zorba’s,” he asked.

“Tots” she wrote back with a wink and a smile.

She went back to applying for jobs and surfing the net. She walked to Walgreen’s and bought some Dryel sheet which she used to clean her best interview dress. She put it on and drove to Zorba’s where she arrived at 7:50.

The bar was sort of dead that night two old men sat at the bar not speaking to each other. There was a married couple having dinner and talking about their lawn behind her and there were two women at a booth chatting quietly. One of them, a pretty, thin brunette was devouring an enormous piece of cake and appeared to be quite drunk. Her plump blonde friend appeared to be comforting her. Belinda attempted to eavesdrop on their conversation.

“It’s better to find out now than once your actually..” the blonde’s voice drifted off into the distance.

Belinda strained to hear what the brunette said, but only heard part of it.

“…took one look and walked out?”

With this a tall thin man with brown, thinning hair walked into the bar. He was wearing a nice suit and seemed to be in a big rush. He glanced around the bar looking right past her as he went. He walked over to the two woman.

“Bethany,” he said to the Brunette just as she was stuffing a giant piece of ice cream and fudge covered cake into her wide open gape.

“Bill,” she said when she could speak.”

“I’m sorry, if I’m a little late there was traffic and..”

“A little late, try two hours.” The blonde said. “I’m sarah.”

“”I thought we said six,” Bethany said.

“No, I texted you and told you I couldn’t make it until eight?”

“I never got it. Why didn’t you just Facemail me?”
“I don’t know I thought that since you gave be your cell I should just text, besides I…”

”You know what, Bethany exclaimed. I really don’t want to hear it. I’m really sick of cyber dates that I never hear from again. And every single plan being tentative, and saying lets hang out instead of do you want to go out with me? I’m sick of saying ‘it’s no big deal’ when it is a big deal. I sick of sleeping with people and acting like I wasn’t expecting anything. I ‘m sick of it! How dare you be two hours late, you dumb schmuck! What’s with the suit? You want everyone to think you have money? Learn how to spell if you want to impress people.  I’ve never texted with anyone who made so many mistakes.

Bethany got up and through some money on the table. The two woman stormed out. Everyone stared at Bill. He checked his phone and pushed a button. Suddenly a National Anthem ringtone went off.  Belinda instinctively turned to reach into her purse, but then realized she couldn’t answer it. Bill hung up and dialed again, this time when the Anthem played he looked around the bar, his eyes landing on Bethany.

He hung up his phone and the ring tone stopped. There was dead silence in the bar everyone stared at Bethany as he began to walk towards her.

Casual Encounters?

 

 

 

craig

Melody took a deep breath and pushed the elevator button. Her heart raced as the elevator rose to the tenth floor. She’d made sure to take a picture of the hotel and post it on her Facebook page with no comment, she wanted to let people know where she was without telling them, just in case anything went wrong.

She was fairly new to Craigslist. She’d looked for jobs there before, but she’d never looked at the personal ads. It had been almost a year since her horrific break up with Sam and she still could not stomach the idea of having an actual boyfriend again. For several weeks all she could think about was sex or her lack of it. She spent her evening reading Erica Jong and Anais Nin and trolling the internet for subtle but thought provoking videos. She’d started reading Craigslist casual encounters the week before. At first she’d just looked at them never intending to do anything. At night he would fantasize about doing everything in the ads. She imagined the men as being ruggedly handsome, not wanting to think about what the men looked like in real life.  She realized that it was just a fantasy and she was sure a murder, rape or mugging awaited anyone who would answer such a thing.

Then on Saturday she saw an ad that she couldn’t get out of her head. “Let’s just make out I’m in town for a week, come to my hotel room! I’m staying at the Plaza.”

Something about the ad sounded safe and sincere. They had exchange e mails. He had sent her a picture of himself, but it was very shadowy and distant and in it he was wearing a “No Fear” T-shirt. She’d asked how recent it was and he admitted it was ten years old. He told her he was forty and she’d confessed to being thirty five. They arranged to meet the next afternoon at one. She’d told him she was too paranoid but described herself, a petite brunette, considered fairly attractive.

She got off the elevator and walked towards his door. She stood there for a full five minutes before getting up the courage to knock on the door.

“Come in, “a voice said.

She walked into the room leaving the door wide open as she went. There, in bed, wearing a vintage Spud’s Mackenzie tee shirt and acid washed jeans was Ryan Bisc a partner in the law firm where she worked.

For a moment they did not speak. He looked as though he was trying to place her.

“Do you work for me?”

“Yes,” she said. “I’m Melody, I work in research”

“So you saw my picture and you decided to come and maybe work some kind of deal or something?”

“No, the picture wasn’t very clear and it was old. I work in a different part of the building and I only see you like one a month. I thought you said you were from out of town?”

“I guess I just…I’m sorry. Could you close the door.”

Melody closed the door and sat down.

“Are you married,” she asked.

“Why do you ask?”

“Because, I don’t know I just thought that…”

“Are you married,” he asked.

No, I’m not even…no.

“Well, I should go..”

She got up to leave and he walked her to the door. On impulse, she grab him and kissed him. He resisted and first and then pulled her towards the bed. Suddenly his cell phone went off.

He jumped up and answered it.

“Uh, huh…..Okay…okay. Did we ever get the witness statement? Well, it’s a lot different if she actually broke something. Before we were told she just had a black eye….uh huh….uh huh.”

Melody sat up. She tried to signal to him she realized they were talking about the Robinson file which was sitting open on her desk. She tapped Ryan.”

“Ryan, I…” she began she slapped a hand across her mouth.

“Well get it to me as soon as research finishes it.”

He hung up the phone.

“Were you working on that file.”

“Yes, I have the witness statement on my desk.”

“Oh well the defendants attorney needs to see what we have,” he said.

“Um, I said I would be back from my dentist appointment at 3:00.”
“Oh, yeah I guess it would look kind of suspicious if you went back now.”

They sat there in silence for a moment.

‘Dentist” he said with a chuckle, “did you ever see the movie M.A.S.H?”

“I didn’t.”

Oh, Well you should.”

She looked at him confused.

“Wanna watch a movie,” he asked her.

They sat on the bed and watched Rain Man until it was time for Melody to go to work.

When she got home she went on Craigslist again, this time looking in the legal assistance section.

Evidence

 

 

 

 

ssProfessor Applebaum drove down the dark, highway barely able to keep his eyes open. He was still about two hours away from the small, college in Ohio where he was to deliver a lecture on the significance of linguistic evolution in modernist and post-modernist poetry. He could barely keep his eyes open and his stomach growled with hunger.

He saw several signs advertising sustenance of the greasy spoon variety. He got off at the advised exit and drove down a dark winding road that seemed to go on for miles. He saw a sign that said Billy Bob’s Truck Stop.  He speed up a bit at the thought of the delectable food he was about to eat when all of a sudden a bright light flashed in front of him and he felt an enormous thud. He got out of his car in a daze. Standing before him was a little green man with antennas. He had his hands on his hips and was looking at the enormous dent that Professor Applebaum’s Honda had left in his small, square shaped space craft.

“Look at this!” The creature exclaimed. “What are you going to do about this!”

“Um, I….I mean I have insurance its Allstate. Just let me get my card.”

“Are you being series, what mechanic on this planet is going to know how to fix a craft like this, huh, answer me that?”

“So then you are a …an, um I mean a space alien.”

“I prefer the term non sapien earth resident.”

“I see. Well perhaps I can just give you some money and you can go to a planet where you can get it fixed. Is it still flyable?”

“Not to where it will make it to another planet. Someone will have to come down and help me. I’m afraid he won’t take your currency.”

“Well, I really am sorry.”

“Look, there is a way you can help me. I trust you were on your way to the truck stop.,” the creature said.”

“Yes, I was.”

“Well you can buy me dinner. I’m just going to hide my craft in the  forest. I’m Squark, by the way.

“Thomas Applebaum,” the professor said putting out a hand.

Applebaum and the alien arrived at the truck stop about fifteen minutes later. Applebaum was certain that someone would see them and think that his companion was a child in a costume or they would get out a shot gun and kill them both. Instead they walked in unnoticed and sat down in a corner booth. They each ordered large meals with a big basket of onion rings to share. Squark drank beer while Applebaum drank coffee.

“So what do you do” The Squark asked stuffing an onion ring in what Applebaum had assumed was his ear.

“I’m a professor of English at the University of Chicago.”

“Wow, I’ve heard of that place. Are you just taking a road trip?”

“I’m giving a lecture at Oberlin. But, more importantly what brings you here?”

“I’m a research scientist. My planet is dangerously underpopulated. I’m here to study mating habits of earthlings.”

“I see, well we are a rather populous species. How do you go about getting subject?”

“Craigslist, mostly. Occasionally I’ll find people on Facebook or a local watering hole.”

“I’ve noticed people who’ve had encounters with ali…I mean with non sapien earth residents, often hail from the south, is that why you chose Kentucky?”

“Actually, I chose it because it was centrally located. But, that’s actually what I wanted to talk to you about. You see the demographic of the people we normally abdu…recruit tends to be low income, middle-aged Caucasians who are not particularly well educated. We’d like to have more educated test subjects.”

“I see, “said Applebaum uncomfortably.

“We in the non sapian community also need to have more credibility and respect and we can really only do this if we affiliate ourselves with more sophisticated people.”

“Uh huh,” Applebaum gulped his coffee.

“I’d like you to participate in a study. It wouldn’t involve anything more than answering a few questions.”

“Well, I’m very flattered, but it’s just that I’m awfully busy.”

“Well, you did ding my ship.”

“How long would it take?”

“A few hours. Of course we would also asked to, you know go on the news and talk about your experience taking the test.”

“I’m afraid I wouldn’t be willing to do that…”

“Why not?”

“Well, I mean a lot of people you know, doubt your existence and well, I have a certain reputation to uphold.”

“That’s why we want you. You’re very credible.”

“Well, I’d like to keep it that way. I don’t understand this, if you want people to know about you why don’t you just tell them yourselves.”
“We tried that on YouTube, but we only got twellve likes. People said our costumes were stupid. We can’t go on the news, someone would try to kill us.”

“Well, I will take the test, but that’s all.”

Suddenly Applebaum began to feel dizzy. The room began to spin and so did the faces of the dozen or so bearded strangers that were in the restaurant.

When Applebaum awoke he was lying on a comfortable bed in a dark room. He looked out the window and so stars flying by him at an astounding rate. He sprang to his feet and hit his head on the ceiling. He sat back down and Squark came into the room carrying a note pad.

“Okay, Mr. Applebaum, now maybe we can begin.”

Aesthetic Inequity

heart

 

 

Claire sat in her apartment waiting for the doorbell to ring. She had spent most of the day cleaning her apartment and the last two hours trying to make herself presentable. Her stomach knotted when the clock struck 7:00. She’d told the service to send him over an hour before the party, so they could get their stories straight. She’d seen the Rent a Buddy ad in LA Weekly and called out of desperation. She hoped he wasn’t too good looking, she’d instructed them to be realistic.

She got up and looked at herself in the mirror again. There she was, plain and pale with thin blond hair and bad skin and ten pounds overweight to boot. She wasn’t sure what was more ridiculous, the problem she was having or the solution to the problem.

The bell rang and she opened the door to find a tall dark haired man with perfectly chiseled features standing in the door way.

“Claire?” the young man asked.

“Are you Tim,” she asked without a smile.

“Yes,”

She stepped aside and he entered. He sat down on the sofa and she offered him a root beer. She studied him suspiciously as he drank it.

“How old are you.”

“Twenty Seven,” how old are you?

“Thirty three, If anyone asks I’d like you to be thirty.”

He shrugged.

“How much do you pay for this place,” he asked.

“$1000 a month.”

“Am I supposed to live with you?

“No, we’ve only been dating for a month.”

“Are you trying to make someone jealous,” he said with a note of judgment in his voice.

“No, I’m trying to discourage someone. My boss wouldn’t leave me alone. I’m not used to that sort of thing and I didn’t know how to handle it. I told him I had a boyfriend.”

“Why didn’t you just sue the company?”

“Well, It’s only a temp job and, I don’t know It didn’t seem worth it I mean sometimes those things make the news and they make the woman sound nuts “She said looking at the floor,afraid to meet his glance.

“Look, I could use something stronger. Do you want some whiskey,” she asked.

“Sure,” he brightened. “So tell, me about myself. What’s my name what do I do?”

“You’re a paralegal.”

“Not just one,” he chuckled and she looked confused.

 

“I told them you worked in the legal department of  BOA. I didn’t want them asking too many questions. Your name is Greg and you just moved here from Denver and you moved here to be closer to your family.”

He took a moment to absorb this.

“What is it you do,” he asked emptying his glass.

“Telephone customer service for a video production company. Their normal girl is on maternity leave she’ll be back at the beginning of February, “she said refiling both of their glasses.

“How did we meet,” he said draining his glass and pouring another.

“We met at a party of a guy in your building. We bounded over a love of Robin Williams movies.” She paused to refill her own glass.

”That was how I ended up mentioning you, actually. My supervisor, is this really creepy guy and we were talking in the break room and the subject was 80’s movies. He said he loved Mrs. Doubtfire and that it was playing at the Beverly, I panicked and said something like you know who love’s Robin Williams, my boyfriend! Were gonna have to go see that movie! Thanks for telling me about it. I said something like that. So then he started asking me about you. I just got deeper and deeper into the lie.”

She began to feel a bit more confident and everything in the room seemed softer, even their aesthetic inequity,

“I did like that movie.” He smiled.

She smiled to herself feeling a bit superior in knowing that the film was a trite piece of shit.

”Do you have any smoke?”

 

They both sat in silence for a moment smoking from Clair’s cheap glass pipe. More alcohol was consumed.

“So, how did you get this job,” she asked with a laugh.

“I just came here and I was looking for a day job while I pursued acting. My roommate told me about the company, he said fighting of a slur.

They both began to giggle.

“We should go,” she said. She staggered to her feet.

Realizing they were too drunk to drive they got into a cab a rode to the restaurant where the office Christmas party was being held. By this time they were both quite jovial and a bit speech impaired.

Tim laughed at the sight of palm trees with lights on them.

“I miss snow,” he said.

There was a light rain that pounded the cab and made the filth on the street shine and rise and run into the gutter. The lights from the cars seemed bright and magnetic to Clair she wanted to follow the light itself as it sank back into the world of the car.

They arrived at the party fifteen minutes after it had started. They made a bee line for the bar to get their two allotted free drinks, they ordered Jamison’s and went over their details as they drank.. After a moment, Randy the supervisor that Tim had been hired to fool walked. In the door. He took off his hat to reveal that a bare pate sat above the chubby exterior which was clad in a cheap, powder blue suit.

“He’s here,” Claire jumped up and almost fell to the ground in the process. Tim giggled hysterically and caught her. Claire felt a warm rush go through her body as he pulled her to her feet and put his arm around her, leading her towards Randy.

“Hi, Randy” Clair said.

“Hey…” Randy began.

“I’m Ti…..Greg! How ya doin’ man!”

“I’m doin’ well. So you….

“I’m a paraplegic in a firm.”

Claire looked horrified.

“You’re a what.” Randy said confused.

“I’m from Denver” Time screamed.

Clair began to laugh. Tim slapped her butt and kissed her with an open mouth.

Randy looked confused but a little aroused.

Clair and Tim stagger out into the street. Tim began to run along Melrose Ave as fast as he could. Weaving in and out the passers by who regarded him with curiosity. Clair chased after him trailing a block behind. He stopped at a vintage store and waited for her to catch up.

“This store sells Fruit Loops T-shirts for fifty dollars apiece” he said. “Throw a rock!”

“I don’t think so,” she said.

“Do it and I’m free”.

“I already paid,” She said.

He kissed her, this time more seriously. She picked up a rock and aimed at the window.

.

Cleaning Up

sheets

 

 

Desdemona looked out the window as the underground bus drove swiftly from stop to stop. She wished she’d taken a different line so that there would have been traffic. She watched the unsuspecting faces of the people boarding the bus, wondering what they would think of her if they knew. She arrived at her stop and walked toward the address as slowly as possible, maybe they would fire her if she was late to her first day of work.

She had been unemployed for nine months and her unemployment had ended several weeks before, she’d had no choice but to take this job. She could hear the music thumping when she got there. She wrapped her shirt sleeve around her hand and opened the door.

Abigail, her new boss was waiting for her behind the bar. Desdemona thought she looked even heavier than when she’d met her a week ago. The many tattoos she sported on her flabby arms seemed to swing around with reckless abandon as she cleaned glasses and shelved, the bottles of fancy booze on the wall behind her. Abigail looked a bit thicker and her glasses appeared to be dirtier than they were last week.

She smiled warmly and told Desdemona to take off her coat and hang it in the storage room. No one had arrived at the bar yet. The DJ, a tall thin man who looked like he had just been thawed out from a cryogenic freezing that had taken place in the mid-seventies, was preparing his set for the night. He danced around enthusiastically to the Britany Spears tune that he was currently spinning.

“Glad to see you made it on time,” said Abigail. “Let’s go downstairs and I’ll show you where everything is.”

Desdemona’s stomach tightened as the older woman led the way down the narrow staircase that led to the basement. The walls were lined with old Playboy and Penthouse center folds. They walked into the lounge area which contained several sofas and a couple of easy chairs.

“So this is where people generally sit when they first come downstairs she said. You want to keep a close watch on this area. You have upholstery cleaner in your bag. If anything gets stained scrub it up before the next person sits there.  The private rooms are back here.  As soon as one couple leaves be sure to change the sheets and spray everything down right away. It can get tricky if it’s crowded, because sometimes they’ll be so many people around the viewing window that it’s hard to see what’s going on. Also sometimes one couple will get started and others will join in, if that happens wait until its twenty minutes after the original couple leaves. Remember there’s no nudity at the buffet and no sex on the floor. If anyone breaks a rule come upstairs and get a security guard.”

Desdemona sat upstairs waiting for the first guest to arrive and hoping time would freeze. She looked in one of the many mirrors at herself. Short, a little plump, nice long dark hair clad in a white shirt and black skirt she was told to wear, she looked like a secretary.

An elderly couple made their way down stairs, smiled at her and sat on one of the couches. She watched in horror as they began to finger each other. More people began to arrive. She stood in the corner and tried to go unseen emerging only when absolutely necessary to do her job. She tried not to   look at the collection of paunchy, middle aged people who were coupling all around her. Fortunately there were not that many people around the viewing windows and she was able to see when a couple was leaving.  She dashed out of the shadows and made the bed as quickly as humanly possible. Several men eyed her and a few asked her if she wanted to go into a room. She had never been the most attractive person in a bar in her life. She told them she couldn’t and went on about her business.

While dashing from a room back to her corner she noticed a man walking around the room looking at everyone and masturbating as he walked. He was slightly more normal looking than the rest of the men there. He was tall and skinny, with a long plain face, but his face was shaven and he appeared to have showered. She suddenly realized she’d seen him before. It was her high school history teacher Mr. Kramer. He caught sight of her and the two of them stared at each other for a long moment. He zipped up and ran out of the club.

She got off of work just as the sun was coming up. The swingers were enjoying their breakfast buffet as she left. As she rode the bus home she thought this might not be such a bad job after all.

The Story Of Her Life

powell

 

 

Bettina stood outside of Powell Books staring in amazement and horror at the crowd that had gathered to see Emily Popman the author of the bestselling novel Adonis of The Cactus Manor Motel.

The line extended half way down the block. The crowd consisted of a good mixture of men and woman, they all appeared to be thirty and older. They had a vaguely hipsterish look about them. Bettina’s stomach tightened. They were the kind of people that always made snide remarks about her writing and gave her vague condescending smiles when she tried to join in the conversation. They stood chatting with each other in the cold morning drizzle, sipping fancy coffee brewed from sustainable, organic beans and recommending restaurants to one another. A few of the braver street derelicts begged for coins and most were politely rejected.

She remembered the first time she’d met Emily, they’d been coworkers at a temporary telemarketing jobs. They had called people and attempted to get them to donate clothing and toys for a charity right around the holidays. They had gone to lunch several times and chit chatted on breaks. They had a few things in common they both liked to write and they loved Katherine Anne Porter’s stories. At the end of the temp assignment they had become Facebook friends. They spoke of getting together for a drink, but they never had. They had spoken chatted a few times on Facebook and they’d like and commented on one another’s post occasionally.

Once Bettina had come home to her small dumpy apartment building in the North East District to find that she had a handsome new neighbor. They’d introduced themselves and she’d help him carry his coffee table into his unit. She noticed several young girls checking him out in the parking lot. She’d gone on Facebook and said she had just met the Adonis of The Blue Bird Studios.

From time to time she’d mentioned things about the job she’d taken right after the temp job she and Emily had together. The job was at a payday loan company on W. Burnside just blocks from Powell’s. She had often posted about the job and sadness she felt when someone came in and was happy and relieved to get the three hundred dollars they offered. They all had a month to pay the loan back at a thirty five percent interest rate. They were usually able to pay the first loan without much problem. Almost every one of them would come back for a second loan a week after they paid off the first.But then the trouble would start. They would get behind in their bills again and end up having to get a second loan to pay the first. Soon all they would do is take out loans to pay them. They had no choice but to pay them as the company would just keep trying to put the charge though their empty bank account causing them to get so many fees the bank account would be closed.

She’d gone one Facebook saying that she was a Snap On tool of the oppressor; peripheral and easily replaced. She realized that she was one step away from being one of the loan people herself and they were one step away from the street.

Emily posted movie clips and the occasional poem. Bettina secretly thought she was a bit corny, but she admired her for posting them.

A year after their temporary assignment ended Emily posted a link to her book on Facebook. Bettina felt annoyed when she saw the title, but she figured it was just a self-published e book. Curiosity had gotten the better of her and she’d bought the book and downloaded it. She read it in one sitting, not because it was so good, but because it appeared to be the story of her life.

The book told the story of a failed songwriter who came to Portland after barely being able to survive in New York. She had written about the failed relationship she’d had in New York with a man who was a paralegal and secret coke addict. She wrote about the job at the payday loan company. She’d made it look like she was obsessed with the handsome young man in her building.

“I mentioned him once,” Bettina said aloud as she read.

What infuriated her more than anything was the fact that she’d only told Emily general things. She did tell her she made an attempt at song writing and lived in New York right before Portland, but she’d hardly said a word about her ex-boyfriend. She realized that Emily must have gone back in her Facebook history to find the posts and pictures of him as she had described him to a tee.

A few months after Emily E published the book, it had been picked up by a real publisher. Just before the hardcover came out the talk show appearances had started and then the tour. The movie deal had been finalized two days before her appearance at Powell’s, hence the long like.

Bettina pushed her way past the news crew that was beginning to set up. She walked to the back of the line, ignored by the people who were about to buy her life story. She stuck her hand in her pocket and smiled to herself at the comforting feeling of a cold aluminum handle.