CALIXIAN // Long Tails & Boozy Tales

Write drunk, edit sober.

I look at those empty cans in the trash bin. Then I look at the empty screen with its blinking cursor. So far it’s three to zero for the cans. Words are trailing far behind. But I won’t give up. It’s only a matter of time and patience. I open the next can.

“So, it turns out that the average number of blinks made by someone getting their photo taken is ten per minute. The average blink lasts about two hundred and fifty milliseconds and, in good indoor light, the camera shutter stays open for about eight milliseconds. Exciting, huh?!”

Oh, shit, really?

“This way, photographing thirty people in bad light would need about thirty shots. Once there’s around fifty people, even in good light, you can kiss your hopes of an unspoilt photo goodbye. Listen now, this is the most interesting part…”

Gosh, what a load of cack!

“To calculate the number of photos you’d need to take for groups of less than twenty, divide the number of people by three if there’s good light and two if the light’s bad. Hey, Calix, buy me a camera? Please, pretty pretty please! I’ll take a photo of you and Darwin!”

I take my eyes off the screen and point them at the tank sitting on the book shelf. The goldfish goggles at me from there, its own eyes pleading, magnified through the dirty glass.

“You got a smartphone at Christmas, didn’t you? Use that!”

The goldfish pouts and turns its luxuriously long tail towards me. I give a nonchalant shrug and get back to the throes of creation. I don’t have time for silly chitchats. It’s about one in the morning, four to zero for cans, and I’ve still no fucking idea what I’ll write for tomorrow’s advice column. Nasty egoistic sprat! Instead of babbling various nonsense about blinking and winking, it would be better if he helped me with the task at hand.

Absently, I pull a book from the shelf and open it at a random page.

He called out to the golden fish
and the fish swam up and asked him,
“What is it, old man, what do you need?”

Yes, I know what I fucking need now, but where can I find a bloody talking golden fish? This is life, silly Calix, not Pushkin’s fairy tales! I gloomily open the next can. At least the beer is real.

My last thought before my head droops on the table is that I need to wake up early and take out the trash. I don’t want Darwin seeing this mess. After all, every accomplished woman of letters has her own little secrets.

 

by TETIANA ALEKSINA
© All rights reserved 2018

DARWINIAN // Feeding the Fish

“Y’know, me dear old nan used to say that it isn’t normative for a god to reveal itself supernaturally. And she was a nun!”

Bleary-eyed and rat-mouthed, Ezra Darwin squinted up at the ceiling, wondering why the clock radio wasn’t there.

“Which begs the question: What would you do to provide for your loved ones in the event of your untimely demise? Would you leave their fates to fate, or would you step up and take charge?”

Oh. That’s right. It wasn’t normative for clock radios to dwell on ceilings. Ezra turned his head. His cheek rolled into the soft, fresh swell of a pillow. God. That soothing coolness felt so damn good.

“Death can come a-knocking at any moment, so instead of praying for resurrectal intervention, why not hop on the blower and give Miracle Life Insurance a call? We’re true blue, and we bloody care.”

And there it was. The clock radio was a bit blurry and a bit… vertical, but well within reach. Ezra extended his arm and arced it downward, silencing said device with a decisive thwack. Goodbye annoying ad, and hello annoying new day! Ugh. It was time for his morning wee.

Ezra rolled onto his side, swung his feet to the floor, and sat up. Okay, so he wasn’t going to throw up yet. His head felt like a block of marinated wood with buzzing, nightmare insects for eyes. Maybe he shouldn’t have downed that fifth Balkan last night.

He jerked to a standing position. Well, Ezra thought he was standing. He hoped he was standing. And why were the walls dancing around? Were they celebrating something? Surely it was too early in the morning for celebration? He tried not to move his head too much, and concentrated on aiming himself at the ensuite door. Once he was vaguely lined up with its somewhat sideways edges, Ezra lurched forward in one gangly, awkward motion.

It didn’t help that everything was too small in this apartment. Space was at an absolute premium, and there were boxes and other shit absolutely everywhere. Ezra hadn’t unpacked since his arrival nearly ten months ago. Time was slipping by at a rate of impossible deadlines and boozy binge sessions punctuated by episodes of extreme anxiety, and nothing had improved. There had to be a better way to make a living.

Ezra fumbled with himself. Shit. Was it just his imagination or was it getting harder to piss? Or was he simply dehydrated from the previous evening’s impressive, alcohol-fuelled train wreck? He should get his prostate checked. Prostate was remarkably like prostrate, which all of a sudden seemed like an outstanding career move. His junk still flapping from his trunks, Ezra resisted the impulse to fall back, and flopped forward onto the toilet bowl instead.

He was in the process of disgorging the contents of his stomach when he noticed the goldfish looking up at him.

Huh?!

 

by TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2018

CRACKED FABLES // The Hedgehog and the Cactus

Hieronymous Hedgehog was extremely picky, it was true, but he never could see the point in settling for second best. Bothering to get out of bed each morning was his tacit agreement that he’d engage with the world, but that didn’t mean he had to take its rubbish as well. Crooked spines? Short legs? Sparse whiskers? No freaking way! His future wife would be the epitome of style and echination, and that’s all there was to it.

And so it happened one beautiful morning that Hieronymous Hedgehog awoke early and couldn’t get back to sleep. He’d tossed and turned incessantly, only to eventually give up, sit up, and get up. He stretched, scratched his big round belly, and wended his way downstairs to the kitchen on his short bandy legs. Okay, it was time to get this show on the road.

Hieronymous Hedgehog slammed the pantry door. It was empty again! No bugs, no worms, nor any rotten apple or nuts. He needed to end this barren reality that was his bachelorhood, and quickly, but he’d have to swing by the drycleaner first. He needed to pick up his pinhole suit with the natty pinstripes, then he needed a coffee while the shoeshine beetle got to work on his Testonis. He had a lot to accomplish today. He had to buy a newspaper to tut over the state of the world. He had to dominate his neighbour at chess. Oh, and he had to choose a wife.

Forgoing breakfast, Hieronymous Hedgehog combed his whiskers, then polished his spines with a big woolly caterpillar. He perfumed his armpits with amber musk, took an umbrella cane from the hatstand near the door, and plucked a big red hibiscus from the outside garden to garnish his suit lapel later on. He looked at his reflection in a random car mirror and snorted with satisfaction. Ruggedly handsome as always!

The dating agency was called ‘The Romance Factory’ and had a very good reputation. Its hostess, Miss Musquash, had been married about twenty times, and every one of those marriages had been very happy and successful. That’s why Miss Musquash could be trusted with the romantic business of everyone else in existence. She was clearly a true professional with years of relationship experience.

A short while later, the bell gave a little tinkle as Hieronymous Hedgehog burst through the front door. His stride bespoke purpose. Well, it was more of an amble actually, but at least it was a confident one. The office was very small and cosy, full of flowers and spider webs, and there was a drowsy secretary in the corner. Hieronymous Hedgehog could almost see the zees floating off her head—that’s how out of it she was. However, he would not be swayed; he approached the secretary and knocked on her shell.

“Sirrah!” he announced. “Is anybody in there? I need a wife, and urgently!”

The secretary jumped with a cute hiccup, and when she’d composed herself, peered at him over her equally cute glasses. Her beaked face then broke into a knowing smile. “Would you like a coffee?” she asked in a slow, nasal drawl. “A tea? Cocoa with worms? An orange?” But Hieronymous Hedgehog didn’t have time for silly chit chat or noticing others’ genders. He wanted a…

“Wife!”

Without further ado, the secretary pressed a button on her intercom. “Miss Musquash? Your three o’clock is here.” She looked up at him briefly. “A Mr Hieronymous Hedgehog.” The speaker crackled, then there was an audible intake of breath.

“Let him in.”

Miss Musquash was sitting on a sofa, chain smoking like lung cancer hadn’t been invented and there was no tomorrow. Around her were tossed folders full of the photos and profiles of potential fiancées. She gave a helpless shrug.

“Dear Hieronymous Hedgehog, you have gone through all of our applicants!” Miss Musquash indicated the folders. “Lucia was too short, and Maria was too tall. Helga was too fat, and Geraldine was too skinny.” She wrinkled her nose in distaste. “Too hairy, too squeaky, too lascivious! I don’t know if there is anyone alive that could meet all of your requirements! It’s not possible!”

Miss Musquash picked up a sheet of paper and shook it in Hieronymous Hedgehog’s face. It contained a long list of criteria that his potential future wife must fulfil. He ignored it, and began filing his nails instead. She sighed. It was clear that he wasn’t going to budge. In fact, Hieronymous Hedgehog even went so far as to sit himself down and plonk his short bandy legs on her desk. He then ever so ‘politely’ remind her that he was a respectable client and a chairman of the Forest Retirement Fund to boot. She shook her head and let out another sigh.

“Look, why don’t you come back tomorrow? I promise I’ll have something for you then.”

And so it came to pass that Hieronymous Hedgehog grudgingly left and the light stayed on in Miss Musquash’s office the whole night through. By four in the morning, the ashtray was full of stubs and a decision had been found, and it was the best of an impossible bunch.

A week later, all of the forest’s inhabitants were invited to a wedding. Yes, that’s right… Hieronymous Hedgehog’s wedding! He was the happiest groom. His future wife was the epitome of perfection—height, weight, prickliness. And, the most important thing of all, she was never going to argue with him.

This time, Miss Musquash sighed with relief. She closed Hieronymous Hedgehog’s case file, and called the secretary into her room. She asked her to empty the ashtray and order a new cactus for the lobby. And then business would carry on as normal at ‘The Romance Factory’.

 

by TETIANA ALEKSINA & TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2018

100 WORD SKITTLE // Leaving the Dream (Follow-up to Living the Dream)

It came to life in an expensive arty-farty Moleskine—maybe I fancied myself as the next Hemingway. I even bought a posh Parker pen. Only the best tools, right? But as time went on and times got desperate, the Moleskine got swapped out for paper from bins and skips, and the Parker for biros I’d stolen from cheap snack-bars and post offices.

But I didn’t give up. I continued to scribble beneath dim streetlights, in dingy alleyways, and as close to the neon glow of storefronts as their owners would allow. Come hell or high water, I’d complete this book.

 

by TETIANA ALEKSINA & TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2018