Comfort

Greta didn’t have a key anymore to the old house, and though her parents lived far away from civilization and had nothing worth stealing, they kept their estate secure. She’d grown up in this unfamiliar place. As she waited for her mother to walk herself to the door, she looked across the wasted farmland to the nearest semblance of a landmark, the tombstones of her grandparents.

The door opened. “Oh it’s you,” her mother said, neither joyful or dismissive. Greta followed the pace of the walker to the back of the house and her father’s bed. His deathbed, soon enough. Her mother collapsed in her favorite chair, and though she didn’t sleep and hardly ever did, Greta felt like she was alone in the room with her dad. He wasn’t awake, but he was breathing. His breathing was loud and augmented by machines.

“You’ve never felt pain,” her mother said behind her, “so you don’t understand.”

Her dad had always snored, and it was strange to see him sleep without snarling. Now that he was quiet, she wanted to talk to him.

“We kept you comfortable all your life,” her mother said. “You never so much as scraped your knee. All you know about suffering is we made you brush your teeth, we made you eat broccoli. You were spoiled, child, spoiled rotten, and you never recovered.”

Greta grabbed her father’s hand, though she couldn’t remember touching him before. He had a warmth to him she didn’t expect, because he wasn’t yet dead. Machines were keeping him alive in a way he’d never been able to do himself.

“We never beat you like we should have. We loved you too much.”

Greta never beat her parents either. And soon it would be too late.

#death, #memory, #microfiction, #parents, #sickness, #weird

Judge

The office was somewhat colder than the air outside, and he kept his jacket on even though he had been told he could take it off. Mr. Jennings would be just a minute, the receptionist had told him. He shivered. The room must have been less than fifty degrees, and he didn’t have anything to do but shiver.

The man came in like he’d been skiing, in full parka and followed by a St. Bernard. Terrence felt out of place in his business suit, especially as the dog came over and rubbed itself all over him.

“Down, Bully! Down!” shouted Randall Jennings, CEO of FullStop Software. “I’m very sorry, but you’ll be happy to know she’s an excellent judge of character.”

Terrence gathered enough composure to nod. The dog’s prolific slobber had made him wet, and he felt colder. “It’s quite all right,” he said. He cleared his throat. “As I’m sure you’re aware, I represent an up and coming team of developers who, though they may not command the resources you—“

As the dog started barking, Terrence forgot how he’d phrased his proposal. He’d spent all morning rehearsing it.

“Bully! Don’t mind her, Mr.… what did you say your name was again?”

Terrence was about to answer the question when the dog revealed her fangs. The sight was startling, as a St. Bernard’s jowls rarely recede. Her bark was deafening, and her growl shook the room.

“Do you mind if we lose the dog?” he yelled.

“I never do any business without her,” Mr. Jennings yelled back. “She’s an excellent judge of character.”

She lunged forward and tore into Terrence, who had no time to react. The medics came quickly. Jennings did all the talking.

“Bully wouldn’t hurt anyone,” he said. “Get him out of here.”

#animals, #business, #character, #inner-demons, #microfiction

Best Friends

The concert was sold out, but Charlie got the last two tickets. The box office shut down right behind him.

“Great,” Steve said when Charlie told him the news. He hated country music, and he hated Charlie, but he knew where he was spending Friday night.

“I know a little place where we can get good, cheap lap dances, if you’re interested,” Charlie mentioned on the drive over. Steve found the prospect disgusting and sad. “I don’t think we have the time for it,” he said.

When Charlie pulled into the parking lot to The Bube Toob, Steve considered not being polite, but Charlie was so sensitive. “Maybe I’ll just wait in the car,” he said.

The frustrated anxiety on Charlie’s face made him reconsider. Steve followed behind, making sure to look reluctant. He wasn’t sure whom he was impressing. They sat in a booth, and were quickly approached by a pair of dancers.

Charlie slipped the taller, darker one a five dollar bill and whispered something to her, gesturing toward Steve. Steve shuddered as the woman moved on top of him, moving her body without moving her face.

She was working hard. Her eyes were closed in focus, and her mouth drooped as much as the rest of her. That wasn’t fair. Steve regretted the thought. “I’m sorry, I’m going to need to be a lot drunker for this,” he said, pulling himself out from under her.

Charlie had to assure the staff that everything was cool. On the way to the concert, he lectured Steve, saying, “You really embarrassed me back there. You’re lucky I was around to bail you out.”

Steve apologized, and was forgiven. He felt wrong.

The concert was loud and twangy, but at least they didn’t have to talk.

#awkward, #friends, #man-on-man-action, #microfiction, #politeness, #strippers, #what-people-do