CALIXIAN // Twenty Minute Egg

All Calix wanted was something to eat.

Make no mistake. She wasn’t a foodie. Cookery shows weren’t her thing. She just needed fuel, something to get her through the rest of the afternoon.

Calix’s stomach was grumbling at her like a bastard. All she needed was silence while she filled it. She had an important interview at three. Frigging gargantuan carrot! What the hell was she supposed to ask the farmer about that? It wasn’t exactly the world’s most scintillating topic. And while there was no plan for the conversation, she didn’t want to appear an ignorant fool because she didn’t know if a carrot was a fruit or vegetable. Screw that!

Calix strode into the small, cosy café, took the first bunch of stuff that came to hand, then chucked some money down on the counter. “Keep the change,” she muttered in the waiter’s general direction, and moved on. She made her way to an empty table in the far corner, where it was sure to be quiet. No one could disturb her work there. And if they did, she’d put a fist through their gormless smile. Hey, that was just how she rolled.

She opened her shabby, second-hand laptop, and started to google. It was quite a sight, Calix throwing bits of muffin, pickle and beef jerky into her mouth. She really didn’t care what it was as long as her stomach shut up at some point. This carrot farmer interview thing was playing on her mind, so she had to get on top of it right away.

Calix was washing down a salmon sandwich swilled with lukewarm cappuccino when somebody guffawed loudly. It sounded like it was coming from just behind her. Irritated, she hunched over the keyboard a little more, as though this would block out that unwelcome noise completely.

“Fuck. That’s put me off me lunch.”

More guffawing. And it wasn’t stopping this time. At least not immediately. Calix sat there, her body tense, her hands now slamming down on the keyboard with naked aggression. Fuck these fools! Couldn’t she have some peace?

“Hey, you!” she said as politely as humanly possible. “Shut up, huh? I’m trying to work here.”

“I’m surprised that shitbox of yours works at all, luv.”

“At least it doesn’t have shit for brains,” growled Calix. “Moron.”

She still hadn’t turned around, and she wasn’t going to. These turd heads were beneath her, so why would she so much as look at them? She didn’t need to fill her head with their idiot faces.

There was a noise, a scraping noise. Perhaps a chair being pushed across the vinyl floor. Then someone’s shadow was suddenly hanging over her. “Too cocky by half, aren’cha luv?”

Calix snorted derisively. “Make like a tree, jack.”

A hand fell heavily onto her shoulder—and this was when Calix saw red. Her reflexes were quicker than her mind. There was a satisfying crunch followed by a loud, pitiful howl. It almost sounded like a dog had been kicked, only it wasn’t that.

“You broke my finger, you bitch!”

Calix—still refusing to look in the bully’s direction—flexed her hand. “Aw, don’t cry to me, baby,” she smirked. “It’s only dislocated. Now, if you don’t want to end up another Simpson, then get out.”

“A… another Simpson?”

“Four fingers or five? Your choice.”

She heard more scrapings followed by hurried footsteps. It seemed everyone in the bully’s group was making their exit.

“And we won’t mention the colour,” she called out after them. “You’re already yellow enough!”

The other patrons looked on, as did the wait staff. All seemed a little shell shocked, but Calix didn’t care. She continued to torment the poor laptop with aggressive key jabs and eye rolls.

Something rustled behind her back.

“So, you’ve chosen Simpson. Not a wise move, is it?” Calix spun on her seat, ready to pound the daylights out of whomever was there.

Oh.

It was some weird looking guy with wild hair, spindly limbs and a pot belly, and it appeared he was about to faint. Calix looked him up and down. Frankly, she hadn’t expected this. He didn’t really look like a bully, didn’t fit the profile, so there had to be one of two options here: Either he was the bully and his gang’s crime boss (such dweebs usually cowered in the shadows, commanding a gang of impressionable thugs from a position of relative safety), or he was their stooge. Calix made up her mind. He was their stooge.

“Thank you.”

Oh god. She could sense another conversation heading in her general direction. How exhausting. Did she really have to do this right now? Why couldn’t people just leave her alone? Calix wrinkled her nose in supreme annoyance.

“What did you say?” she bit out. She didn’t even try to hide how annoyed she was.

The guy cleared his throat and repeated, a bit louder this time: “Thank you, Calix.”

Calix narrowed her eyes. “How do you know my name?”

He seemed a little taken aback. “Ezra Darwin? I’m the ‘Hooves, Horns & Rhododendrons Monthly Digest’ illustrator.”

She squeezed her eyes shut for a moment. Wouldn’t she have remembered this?

“We work together? I’m the dude you usually push near the coffee machine with the words, ‘Ladies ahead!’.”

Calix cocked an eyebrow at him. That didn’t even sound like something she’d say. Sure, she could be a little pushy from time to time, but what of it? And anyway, the comment didn’t make sense.

“You also like to say, ‘Who drew this crappy cover for the last issue?'”

Calix grinned to herself. Oh yes, she remembered saying that. She studied the guy’s face again. Nope. The guy still didn’t ring a bell.

“Sorry, jack. I don’t know you.” She turned back to her laptop. “Unless you’re a world-class carrot academic, then this conversation’s over.”

Calix resumed her work as Darwin looked on. He hovered for a moment, then sighed and walked away. They say not to meet your heroes. He supposed that this must be one of those cases.

 

by TETIANA ALEKSINA & TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2019

DARWINIAN // The Holes in Your Net

“Darwin, dear! Come to me, you son of a bitch!”

His face had the look of someone who’d taken a bite from a peeled apple only to realise it was raw onion. What the hell did this mad woman want now?

“I sometimes think it’d be better if I didn’t share a flat with you.”

Calix ignored Darwin’s caustic barb and beckoned him over. Yeah, that was typical. He could threaten to attack her with a tyre iron and she wouldn’t flinch. Nothing fazed her.

“Money’s dust, but my self respect isn’t,” Darwin muttered to himself. And he wasn’t even sure what he meant. It just felt like the thing to say in that particular moment.

Calix was pointing at the shelf with the look of Caesar saying the sacral “Et tu, Brute?” moments before being killed. Or doing the killing. Darwin had a funny feeling that the second option was more likely.

“What? It’s a shelf. There are things placed upon it. That’s its function.”

“I’m not retarded, Ezra.” Calix pulled a face. “I ask you, where’s the fucking fish thing?”

“The what? You’re a writer. How is it you cannot use your words all of a sudden?”

“You seem to have forgotten that I take lessons in Krav Maga. I don’t only belong to the school of high versification, you know.”

“Fine. So you can beat me with your fists as well as your tongue. What do you mean by ‘fucking fish thing’?”

“Fish! Fish! The aquatic craniate bearing gills that lacks digit populated limbs!” Exasperation was creeping into Calix’s voice. “It swims underwater? God, Ezra! Surely you’ve heard of fish!”

“You’re asking me where the goldfish has gone,” he said a little blankly.

“Well, you’re not as irredeemable as you make out.” Calix threw her arms up. “Yay! Let’s celebrate this fact, shall we?”

Darwin rolled his eyes. “Okay, I can do without the sarcasm.” He indicated the empty shelf. “I’ve got no idea where the fucking thing’s gone. Perhaps it grew legs and walked away in disgust.”

“Nice guess, Hercule. But in this case it would have left a fucking dust trail, wouldn’t it?”

“Not necessarily. It’s a fish. Fish are wet.” Darwin searched the shelf and the surrounding floor. “It would have left a trail of water…”

Incredulous, Calix watched as he got up on tiptoes to check the near the corner wall. He did realise that fish didn’t have lungs, didn’t he? How would it have gone anywhere if it couldn’t breathe out of water? Idiot!

And suddenly he said, “Oh, there you go!” He picked something up and waved it in front of her. “Looks like a letter. That isn’t your handwriting, is it?”

“No, it’s yours,” sighed Calix, barely hiding her annoyance. What a moron!

Seeing that she was trying so hard to keep her composure, Darwin backed off. He focused his attention on the letter instead. It was slightly soggy and the ink was a bit smudged, but at least it was mostly legible.

“Dear C & D, I have a very important message…”

“What is this?” laughed Calix, her annoyance quickly melting away. “Did you scrape this shit from out of our spam inbox? I can already guess what it’s going to say. We’ve won 1,589,125 euros, right? Oh, go on! Don’t break my heart. Please say we did and that we need to pay them a fee to have our prize money processed!”

“It’s not a scam.” But that’s not what his face was saying. In fact, Darwin was scrunching his nose in what seemed to be disbelief. “It’s for real. And… I think the goldfish wrote it.”

That caught Calix by surprise, so much so that she forgot to insult Darwin with her next comment. Well… it was more of a question really.

“The goldfish?! The goldfish wrote the note?”

She looked for all the world like a little girl that’d been told that clouds weren’t made of fairy floss. And this piece of information just wasn’t able to fit in her tiny cute head, let alone be processed.

Darwin nodded. “The goldfish.”

“Could you please do me a favour and explain?”

The rattled, almost polite, version of Calix was rattling even Darwin. He wasn’t used to seeing her at a loss like this. The sight made him inwardly cringe.

“I can’t.” He looked back at the piece of paper. “Fish don’t write letters. Only… it did.”

Darwin found a chair near the coffee table and sat in it rather heavily. He placed the letter on the tabletop and attempted to smooth it out, only his hands made the ink smear a bit more. “Okay,” he said softly, “I guess I should finish reading this.”

All Calix could do was nod.

Darwin harrumphed, then began to read.

“Dear C & D, I have a very important message…

STOP BICKERING!

Sorry, but I’ve had enough. What’s a goldfish to do when the two humans he loves most are at each others’ throats all the time? Every hour of every day is filled with your constant backbiting. It’s stressful, man! STRESSFUL!

I’m going on a trip to Ibiza with the express purpose of kicking back in a glass of rum and coke balanced on the navel piercing of an impressively norked chav. Don’t worry, I’ll be back in two weeks. In the meantime, I suggest you snippy suctorians work out your shitty problems, and learn to cohabitate in peace.

See ya later, motherflippers. It’s been real. A little TOO real.

Yours disapprovingly,
Augustus Adelaide Harold III”

Darwin leaned back in the chair, letter still in hand. Calix squeezed her eyes shut. It wasn’t clear for a moment if she was trying to digest what she’d heard or was simply in pain.

“Augustus Adel— What?! What the fuck was its name?”

“Augustus Adelaide Harold III,” repeated Darwin obligingly.

There was a pause. An uncomfortable pause. A light had suddenly switched on behind Calix’s eyes. “Hang about…” she said, as if to herself. Then she reached into Darwin’s pocket and fished out a leaflet. Before he could stop her, she read: “The most popular royal baby names.”

Darwin offered her a sheepish grin.

“Augustus?! Adelaide?! Fucking Harold?!” She looked at him with a mocking smile. “Oh my god, Ezra! You’re the worst! You were unable even to invent a cool name for a fish?! And what’s with the three on the end? Really?!”

Darwin’s grin slipped into a look of embarrassment. “I was trying to think of a name with authority. I guess it didn’t work, huh?”

“Oh, Ezra…” Calix sat in front of him on the coffee table. “You lovable idiot! You’re incorrigible.”

Darwin blushed.

“Why did you invent this bullshit?”

“I guess…” he began, then seemed to think better of it. “Nah. Never mind.”

Now it was Calix’s turn to roll her eyes. “Okay. Whatever. If it makes you happy then… ugh. I don’t know.” She looked around. “So, where did you hide the poor fish?”

It was at this point that Darwin’s eyes grew as big as saucers. He sprang out of his seat like an electrified eel and raced out into the back yard. “Oh shit oh shit oh shit oh shit oh shit oh shit…”

Calix shook her head and smiled. Yup, Darwin was quite mad, the adorable goof. This much would never change. Of that she was certain. She made a cuckoo sign, then walked off to poke her nose into her laptop.

 

by TETIANA ALEKSINA & TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2019

CALIXIAN // Fishing for the Truth

“Look at this bloody thing…”

Calix didn’t look.

“Amazing. The way it uses its foot to get the garbage into its trunk, then from its trunk into the bin…”

“Darwin, I get it. You’re quite able to find one million and one reasons for procrastinating. I’ve asked you to take out the garbage at least…” she counted in her head “…four times in the last hour. It stinks like hell in here! Or are you too busy watching ‘Taking Out Trash for Dummies’ to notice?”

“What can I say?” shrugged Darwin. “Instagram’s so damned addictive. And this elephant video…”

He held up his smartphone for Calix to see. She, of course, made no attempt to engage. Maybe she could get him to drop dead of boredom. That way, he’d finally leave her alone.

“Seriously, it’s funny!” Darwin was trying to wave it beneath her nose now. “Don’t you like funny?”

Calix stuck her nose further into the laptop and kept typing. Nope. There would be no stupid comedy animal videos for her. No way! She had better things to do than watch dumb animals be stripped of their dignity for human amusement.

Her lack of response only put Darwin in a foul mood. He was like a petulant little child, swivelling on his chair and pouting. Then he stopped, and continued to fuss a finger about his phone’s tiny screen. “Fine. See if I care,” he muttered to himself.

Calix sighed inwardly. After an evening of this infantile behaviour, was he now going to leave her be?

Then suddenly: “Calix! I just remembered!” Darwin jumped out of his chair.

Calix nearly wiped the laptop clear off her desk in surprise. And the ballpoint pen. Panting, she turned to Darwin, her look promising nothing but retribution. “What the fuck, Darwin…”

“The goldfish! I found it in the toilet bowl yesterday.” He flapped his arms a little, as if this would aid in her comprehension. It didn’t.

“You… What?!”

“In the en suite. My toilet bowl. It was having a good old paddle. Happy as Larry!”

“Who’s Larry?”

“Dammit, Calix. It’s an expression. Do you have to take everything I say literally?!”

“On the contrary, I feel a powerful impulse to not listen to anything you say at all.”

Silence. It was the only decent response. Anything else would have been a waste of words. No matter what Darwin said, Calix would have a counter. So, no words. He’d clamp his mouth shut, flick through his Instagram and ignore the hell out of her.

Calix, for her part, didn’t give a damn. It was all the same whether her friend spoke or stayed quiet. Sure, she betrayed the faintest hint of a smile but that was only because she loved to annoy him. The rest of her face was kept scrupulously impassive as she positioned the laptop back into its correct place and resumed typing.

“Anyway, it’s a free country,” Calix said evenly. “Everyone can be wherever they want whenever they want. I don’t tell the whole world about your visits to the restroom and that sometimes you spend hours in there. It’s your legal right. What I don’t understand is why you don’t think the fish should have this same right?”

Darwin couldn’t help but bite. “I didn’t say it couldn’t! What I’m saying is how the hell did it get there?”

“Are you sure it was a fish? Or maybe you didn’t flush well enough and it wasn’t exactly a… you know… fish?”

“I do not shit orange turds, okay?! Jesus!”

Surprisingly, Calix started to look interested by this point. She shut her laptop and turned to give Darwin her complete attention. It was as if her inner Sherlock had suddenly activated. Yup, she was ready to pick up the trail of the murderer.

“Okay, let’s start again. What did you do in the toilet?”

“I didn’t do anything!” protested Darwin. “Well… I was going to. A number one to be precise.”

Calix nodded, and marked something in her notebook. Darwin blinked in confusion. Where the hell had she suddenly whipped that from? And was that his pen she was using? His favourite pen! Why wasn’t she using her own pen?

“Could you give me more details?”

“Hey! That’s mine!” He indicated his pen. “Get your own! The one you were chewing on!”

“Please. Don’t try to confuse the investigation.” Calix kept writing in the notebook. “Now, tell me, what did you do in the toilet on the 11th of September between 6:30am and 7:15am?”

“I said I didn’t do anything!” Darwin was flapping his arms again. (Perhaps for emphasis?) “I was going to take a piss but then I saw the goldfish in the toilet bowl and decided against it. Look, how many times do I have to say this?”

“Are you sure you’re not hiding some important details?” Calix squinted at him with suspicious eyes. “I’m certain I heard sounds at the time that testify you were not using your nether or nozzle exit. And leave the pen alone, scrooge!”

She snatched the pen away from Darwin’s grasping hands, and shot him a frosty look.

“Okay, so I chundered a little bit,” he sighed, dropping his arms to his sides. “Are you saying that’s a crime? It didn’t hurt the goldfish any!”

“And why do you think the goldfish appeared in the bowl before you started to barf, and not after? Hmmm?”

“What?” Darwin spluttered. “I don’t know! How about you tell me? You seem to know more than you’re letting on.”

Calix guffawed like a horse. “Because I saw how you were drinking water from the aquarium the day before, you idiot! You were as drunk as a fish!”

“I… what?! No! I think I’d remember doing something like that…”

“I tried to talk to you, but got only mooing and bleating. It made no sense to try and persuade you that an aquarium wasn’t the best way to tame your thirst! So, I left you alone.”

Darwin was shaking his head in an emphatic ‘no’. He wasn’t speaking now, just forming words with his mouth and making no sound. Much like a goldfish.

“By the way, you can find a video of this on Instagram.” Calix poked her phone under Darwin’s nose. “You want to like or comment?”

Darwin’s mouth was now a flat, tense line.

“Seriously, it’s funny!” She gave the phone a mocking little wiggle. “Don’t you like funny?”

 

by TETIANA ALEKSINA & TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2019

DARWINIAN // Fish ‘n’ Chips

“So, she’s telling her friend that her vagina’s beginning to smell like potato chips.”

Calix looked at him with a straight face. “Which brand?”

“What do you mean, which brand?” Darwin gave a rueful shake of his head. “Does that even make a difference to genital fragrance?”

“Of course! Every detail matters.”

“Well, they didn’t cover that, strangely enough.” He rolled his eyes. “If anything, I was more concerned with the fact that two women were openly discussing chips and vaginas on public transport!”

“I’m more concerned that you care about the bullshit people discuss on public transport.”

Darwin bristled at this. Calix had a special knack for turning his statements back on him, and he hated it. He made a point of sniffing haughtily but she took no notice. She was being all nonchalant instead, sitting there writing the next article for ‘Hooves, Horns & Rhododendrons Monthly Digest’ like she didn’t have a care in the world.

“Well, it was hard not to listen!” he muttered defensively. “They were talking loud enough.”

“Darwin, you’re lucky enough to be deaf! You get to choose if you listen or not.”

Calix’s nose was wedged firmly in her laptop. He watched her absentmindedly nibbling on a ballpoint pen, intermittently jabbing at the keyboard. How on earth had they even become friends? They disagreed on everything! And yet Darwin couldn’t imagine life without her. God, he hated that.

“I’m too dependent. That’s my problem.”

Calix looked up from the laptop and fixed her eyes on his.

“Shit. I said that out loud, didn’t I?” His cheeks flushed with embarrassment.

“On what?” Now Calix seemed almost interested. “What are you dependent on?”

“Erm, nothing. I’m just rambling again.”

Darwin backed away and turned to leave the room. It was time to make himself scarce before the conversation got too awkward. But Calix wasn’t having a bar of it.

“No, hang on! Where are you going? Don’t you want to talk about vaginas and chips any more?”

Darwin slumped his shoulders. Yup, that had stopped him in his tracks. She always had to have the upper hand, the final say in everything. He hated that so much. In fact, this friendship had too much hate going on. Was that normal? Perhaps ‘hate’ was too strong a word to be using in this context…

“Let’s start with chips. Could you go to the kitchen and bring me the paprika chips? I think I left an open pack on the table.”

Nope. It was the right word.

“And feed the goldfish. I think it needs to eat more than twice a week.”

“Yes, mum,” he grumbled under his breath. “Three bags full, mum.”

And suddenly Darwin recalled the night before… How had that damn goldfish ended up in his toilet bowl anyway? He wanted to ask Calix about this, but her unbearable acerbity would beat reason out of anyone. Perhaps he’d ask later when he was feeling up to the challenge.

With these thoughts swimming in his head, Darwin shuffled to the kitchen. He took up the open pack of chips, sniffed it, and shrugged his shoulders. No vagina he’d ever encountered had smelled like this. He sniffed again. Yeah, this was completely ordinary.

 

by TETIANA ALEKSINA & TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2019

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