CALIXIAN // The Hangry Woman

The bell tinkles so hesitantly that at first I pay it no attention. But then it tinkles again. And again. So I put the magic tweezers down in my dream, and shake my head awake. I bet I know who this is.

“Do you always visit people’s homes at the butt crack of dawn… whatsyaface?”

He mumbles something that’s supposed to be a name. I’ve had no complaints in regards to my hearing but the only thing I can catch is Zra. That can’t be right. I say the first silly word that comes to mind in the full conviction that this dolt will repeat his name and I’ll get it right the second time.

“Fizra?”

Why is he gaping at me like a fish that’s dropped its keys outside of its water tank? That was a good guess! I scratch under my arm as he mutters something and shuffles in. Okay, what’s this now? The suitcases. Are they fucking big enough? Are they even real? When he opens them up, can I expect a seventy piece orchestra to step out and entertain the neighbours? Jesus.

“Where the hell are you going to put all of that?” I point up the hall. “I don’t want any of your shit cluttering up the place, you hear?”

He mumbles again. Yup. I’m ready to suffocate the guy, good and proper. Or give him a royal kicking. At least I’ve understood him this time. Something about leaving his precious clutter outside. Such a boob.

“No, you boob, just put it in your room.” Oops. It appears I said boob out loud. Well, I don’t care. May as well complete the thought now that it’s dangling between us like an unsightly knob. “I don’t need to be tripping over your junk is all.”

Puffing and panting, he drags the suitcases along the hall. I decide not to waste time. I’ll quickly show him the rest of the flat on our way to his room. Then I can get back to some sweet, sweet shut-eye.

“Toilet.”

He glances in its general direction. Fuck that. I’m going to make a thing of this. Make him really take notice.

“I hope you’re a seat lifter when you’re doing a number one, otherwise I won’t be held responsible for what happens next.”

I study his face carefully. I want to see how he’ll react. He doesn’t. He seems to be going out of his way to remain scrupulously silent. Whatever. The tour shall continue.

“Kitchen.”

What I really want to say is: “Fucking kitchen.” I’m a tad pissed off. But I also have no desire to burn through my quota of fucks so soon in our dealings. It’s best to space these things out, so I keep my fucks up my sleeve.

Suddenly he says (suspiciously loud and clear), “Fascinating.” What? Is that… sarcasm? I don’t believe my ears! Well, if that’s how this smug little goofball is going to play it… then hell, I’m going to wrangle me a chance to have something better than mouldy pizza for breakfast. One question preceded by a slightly menacing pause should do the trick.

The thought of finally getting a decent meal cheers me right up by the way, and my stomach starts to growl in anticipation. Trying to stifle this treacherous sound, I open my mouth and ask Zra… Fizra… whatever his name is… if he can cook. All my fingers are mentally crossed.

“Well, I’m not exactly Heston…”

The rest morphs into a mess of blah blah blahs, the essential point being that he can cook… after a fashion. Good enough for me. As long as I damn well don’t have to do it. I conduct him to his room in a timely manner.

Yep, my plan has gone over easy… like an egg! The quicker he drops his fucking suitcases, the quicker he can cook me breakfast.

 

by TETIANA ALEKSINA & TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2020

DARWINIAN // The Key is Under the Mat

So, I’m standing on her doorstep, trying to recall details of my dream from the night before.

Carl Sagan was in the dream. I remember that much. He was living in a cardboard box in Buckingham Palace, and was a high level warlock with no access whatsoever to the Queen. This depressed Carl Sagan, so he created a Twitch stream to play Portal 2 while reciting poetry. The stream was very popular. It made the Queen very jealous.

This is all I can remember as the door opens.

Calix looks pretty sleepy. Actually, I’d go so as far to say she looks quite sour too. Early mornings certainly don’t appear to agree with her. And one strap of her singlet is twisted. My eyes can’t focus on anything else. My brain is telling me to reach out and fix it. Of course, I resist. No one needs to be killed at such an ungodly hour.

She yawns and steps aside, waving me in. “Do you always visit people’s homes at the butt crack of dawn… whatsyaface?”

“Ezra,” I say helpfully. Because, you know, I was raised to be polite. Even when others were mangling my name. Which they did. A lot.

“Fizra?”

I gape at her for a moment, wondering how someone with such an odd name herself could be so cavalier with mine. I shrug this off.

“Erm, yes.” Curse my politeness.

Calix scratches her smooth underarm as I shuffle in, a suitcase under both of mine. She’s clearly goggling at the hugeness of said suitcases—almost in awe in fact. My stupid imagination quickly jumps to a conclusion it oughtn’t. She’s thinking that I’m an eligible bachelor of substantial means. Can’t wait for her to see the mountain of boxes I’ve got stacked on the kerb!

Anyway, the next moment kills all of that.

“Where the hell are you going to put all of that?” She points down the short hallway. “I don’t want any of your shit cluttering up the place, you hear?”

“I… I’m sorry!” I’m stammering now. “I can… I can just leave it out… outside?”

Calix scowls at me. I’m coming to an understanding that she’s the master of looks that humiliate and wither before swooping in for the kill. If I wasn’t such a sad excuse of a man, I’d be feeling emasculated right now. Thank heavens I’m not much of a man!

“No, you boob, just put it in your room. I don’t need to be tripping over your junk is all.”

She leads me to my room, poking her finger at different doors along the way, commenting on this and that with the tone of a hungover museum guide with a pathological hatred of visitors.

For my part, I’m carrying my suitcases with pathological ease. No way am I going to let this ill-mannered wench see me as some weedy, pathetic cookie pusher! I’m a man of freaking muscle!

“Toilet.” Yup. It’s a toilet. “I hope you’re a seat lifter when you’re doing a number one, otherwise I won’t be held responsible for what happens next.”

I want to ask if I can at least shit with the seat lowered—you know, to avoid putting my bare arse on the cold porcelain rim. It’s a sacred process, the shitting. Just saying. But I don’t say. I maintain a discreet silence. We keep walking. She keeps pointing.

“Kitchen.”

“Fascinating.”

Calix stops dead in her tracks. Fuck. Have I said that out loud? Panicked, I nearly drop my suitcases. But her voice suddenly softens. “Can you… errrmm… Fizra, yes? Can you cook?”

“Well, I’m not exactly Heston,” I respond nervously. “I’m not in the habit of serving up broiled harp seal snouts in exotic amphoras filled with Namibian pygmy batter or anything. But I get by.”

I’m ready for the worst, but for some reason well, Calix noticeably cheers up. The rest of our ‘sightseeing tour’ breezes quickly by, and is almost… friendly. As it turns out, there’s not a lot to show actually. Near a shabby white door, Calix slaps me on the shoulder and says, “Welcome home, Fizra!”

I cautiously push open the door and step inside.

 

by TETIANA ALEKSINA & TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2020

CALIXIAN // Nice Girl Without Bad Habits

My budget was tighter than a goldfish’s anal sphincter, and there was no way I could make it stretch any farther. I’d slashed my expenses to the barest minimum. It was ridiculous! And no matter how I looked at it, I still wouldn’t be able to afford the flat. There were two options to make the rent they were asking for, and I hated both. After considering the pros and cons, I made a very difficult decision.

‘Nice girl without bad habits looking for flatmate. Phone 409 828 2690 during social hours only.’

I sighed like I was about to walk the plank. I didn’t want to do this, but needs must as the devil drives. I approached the bulletin board and stabbed the leaflet into place with a hairpin I’d found somewhere. I couldn’t even afford a thumbtack. That’s how skint I was.

“Hi, Calix!”

I nearly jumped out of my skin. Seriously, you wouldn’t have needed to take an x-ray.

It was the guy from this morning. The café guy. The one who allegedly worked at the magazine with me. He was stood there with a shy smile, and a posture that reeked of unnecessary subservience. Naturally, I still couldn’t recall his name. Had he given me his name? I couldn’t even remember that.

Fuck this. I was going to be rude. “Hey, jack, are you following me?”

He immediately adopted a defensive pose. “Oh my god! No!” he squeaked. “I have to come this way to get back to the office!”

“You’re some kind of weird sex pervert, aren’t you? Admit it!”

“NO no no no no! I’m not! I promise!”

He was waving his arms like a cartoon character. Even sweating bullets like one. It was almost comical, but I was bored.

“I don’t have time for this bullshit.”

I turned away, and left him gawping there at the bulletin board. It was time to get back to the office. From the corner of my eye, I noticed him typing on his phone. It looked for all the world like he was silently mouthing words as he did so. Who was this guy?!

Never mind that, Calix. Just keep walking and don’t look back.

Moments later when I had turned the corner, my phone rang. An unfamiliar number popped up on the screen. I sighed and accepted the call.

“Hullo.”

 

by TETIANA ALEKSINA & TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2019

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