CALIXIAN // Scarlet Stiletto

The bus jerks. Someone’s hand grabs the handrail right before my nose. No doubt it’s the Hand of Fizzuck Providence. It wields five huge scarlet stilettos, one of which is girdled with an ugly cruciate Swarovski that seems to be pointed at me. It’s as though I’m to blame for the cardinal sin. The sin of neglecting the nail care industry.

I quickly hide my hands under a copy of our magazine and assume a look of innocence. To be on the safe side, I silently begin to list every nail shape I can possibly think of. (Lucky for me, I had prepared an article on this very topic just last week. We’re reaching the deadline and, as always, have had major headaches with the magazine’s contents.) Square. Squoval. Almond. Coffin. Stiletto… please, let this nail pass from me.

It feels like the Hand of Fizzuck Providence is moving higher. I tightly close my eyes and try to recall every trendy shade that has been recommended for this season. Strawberry Margarita. Cajun Shrimp. Purple Palazzo Pants. Damn! What freak invents these poofy names?

Cautiously, I open one eye and peep. The Hand of Fizzuck Providence… is it hanging over me like the sword of Damocles? I think so. I imagine it piercing my top and going right through my body down to my anus. And then I’m twitching, pinned to the bus seat by a huge scarlet nail. Like a victim of the Almighty Bug Hunter. The other passengers are nodding in approval, and the most zealous of them take selfies in front of me. And now I’m squinting with a mixture of fear and disgust. Ugh! I shake my head in the desperate hope that this horrifying vision will soon vanish from my mind.

The bus jerks one more time. Then stops. Then moves again. When I finally have the guts to open my eyes, I see that the handrail is empty. What a relief! A narrow escape! I let out a sigh. I then open my diary with every intention of scheduling a manicure… Oh, no! Holy cuticles! I absolutely forgot that in about half an hour I have a meeting with a local farmer who has grown a gargantuan carrot!

I spring out of the bus at the next stop, and run the rest of my way to the office like a scalded cat. There’s only the note ‘Visit a mani…’ on my diary page, but I’m pretty sure I won’t soon forget what I meant.

 

by TETIANA ALEKSINA
© All rights reserved 2018

DARWINIAN // Circle of Life

Look, I get it. A bus timetable isn’t a binding contract or anything but I’d dearly appreciate it if the sodding drivers would stop fart-arsing me around. I’m convinced they’ve all conspired against me. How else would you explain what’s happening here?

Seriously, whenever I’m early, they’re late. Whenever I’m on time, they’re early. Whenever I’m late, they’re on time. Is this some kind of joke? Are their contrary little minds jacked into one central hive mentality decreeing that this Darwin chap mustn’t be allowed to get anywhere stress-free ever? How do they even know when I’m at the damn stop? CCTV? No, there isn’t any CCTV. Well, as far as I can see anyway…

I feel like a right goose as I stand here trying to type on my mobile phone, the cars whizzing past my self-conscious self. This godawful touch keyboard! Was it made for human beings or fucking pixies? Wouldn’t you think the manufacturer could have included a stylus or something? Of course you would. So would I. But they’re not us. They don’t consider the needs of us mere mortals. That’s not what they do. We pay for what we get and nothing more. Frankly, it’s a First World privilege to be using our giant, stubby forefingers to thwack clumsy smears of not-quite-predictive text all over our tiny screens, and they know it. We all know it. My white middle-class guilt is quite adept at making me shut up and put up with all kinds of shit.

How the hell is ‘contrary’ anything like ‘dairy’?

And suddenly I’m off thinking about American highways. The other day, Calix was telling me that they’re paved with an odd mix of stuff: asphalt, recycled tyres, and hospital waste. Why is that factoid popping into my head unbidden? Is it because I’m standing on the side of a busy road, watching a Vespa narrowly miss a Bond lookalike? She loves bringing up weird shit like this. I usually do my best bobblehead impression, nodding along to whatever Calix says, and wondering if these alleged factoids are even halfway true.

I should text her. Let her know I’m going to be late. Ah, sod it. She’ll find out I’m late when I get there. Tumours, severed limbs, other bodily organs… bus. I guess a lot of Americans splat on highways at any given opportunity, eager to donate their good selves to the advancement of the automobile. It’s the circle of life, baby. All terribly pointless and wasteful. Thank god for America. Thank god I don’t live there.

Oh, shit! Was that the bus? Fuck! Shit!

 

by TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2018

Privilegee (based on a true story)

I jumped into a marshrutka and climbed onto my favorite corner seat in the back row. It’s a bit higher than the other seats and you feel like you’re sitting on the upper circle at the theater. You can see and hear everything without attracting a lot of attention. Today, though, I wasn’t about to watch passengers.

I untangled the headphones that always managed to tie themselves into mysterious reef knots. It never mattered how carefully you packed them before. Then I found the next MP3 file on my phone and delved into an audio book in English. It required a hell of a lot of effort to recognize formerly familiar words now disguised in quirky pronunciations. I don’t know who invented the rules of English but this person definitely must have had an upset stomach. I had no another logical explanation as to why they mocked the human race so cruelly.

While still in a state of shock over how the word ‘cautiously’ sounded in actual fact, I hadn’t noticed that the marshrutka had not moved in a while. And I eventually realized that the leaflet advertising lessons promising guitar playing virtuosity in record time had been hovering near my nose for a suspiciously long time. I turned my head from the window that the leaflet was stuck to and looked towards the passenger compartment. Something was happening near the driver and it wasn’t a pleasant scene, that’s for sure.

An old man was standing there, waving a pensioner’s card in front of the driver’s nose. He was insisting on a free ride but the driver would not comply. There were only two priority seats, and unfortunately both were occupied. The driver suggested that the old man get off the bus and wait for the next one. This suggestion obviously wasn’t to the old man’s taste.

The old man looked highly strung, while in contrast the driver was the very image of calm. The old man threatened to write complaints to all known authorities, from the boss of the driver to the president of Ukraine. The driver, wordless, offered him a pen.

And the bus still didn’t move. Passions were rising.

The passengers quickly divided themselves into sides. The first side eagerly supported the old man, cursing the driver and government for being so heartless and humiliating poor, defenseless pensioners. The other side wisely reasoned that the bus wasn’t made of rubber and that the driver was duty bound to fulfill the daily revenue target. There was no place on Earth where a retired person could be late on a Saturday morning.

I sat on my VIP loge in the back row of this bus theater. I was not enjoying this stage play at all. The perfect voice with posh English pronunciation was still whispering something in my ear but I was no longer listening to it. The ugly La Comédie humaine had grabbed all of my attention.

The crowd started to demand that the bus continue on its route. Someone yelled at the driver while someone else threatened to help the old man to leave the bus if he couldn’t do this on his own… and suddenly I felt unbearable shame for everything that was happening here. No. I refused to be a part of this crappy play!

I left my seat and approached the driver, holding forth a five-hryvnia note. He took it without a word, tossed it into the money box, and shut the door. The bus moved ahead.

I was back at my seat. No one said a word. The other passengers went back to their private affairs. Someone poked a nose into their phone. Someone looked out the window. Someone else continued their conversation. I tried to concentrate on my audio book again.

“Stop here!”

The bus stopped at literally two hundred meters. The old man disembarked. Only he. No one else. And when he was passing me, our eyes met. I was ready to see any emotion in his stare… gratitude, embarrassment, surprise. But hatred? What the fuck?!

A bit later, I understood the reason. At the time, however, I was dumbfounded at the unpredictability of human nature and just went back to the book. Moominmamma had called everyone to the dinner and I didn’t want to be late.

 

by TETIANA ALEKSINA
© All rights reserved 2017