Compliment (The Fetishists – BBW)

Shortly after Valerie hit thirty, some of her friends started making playful jokes about her body. “Who’s the father?” was a favorite, and the least subtle. Her friends were terrible and she hated them, but she could not deny the motivational merit of their abuse. She started going to the gym, and even after the comments stopped, she maintained her routine every morning.

“Excuse me,” someone said, poking her in the shoulder. His finger was now covered in her sweat, but he didn’t seem to mind. Valerie almost apologized, and she hated that that was her instinct.

“What is it?” she said. “People don’t usually talk to each other in here. There are rules.”

The man looked nervous. He was young and a little chubby, though not in the way men usually are. All his weight went straight to his chest, and he tried to hide his figure by slumping his shoulders.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I just wanted to let you know that I think you’re beautiful. Don’t think I’m hitting on you or harassing you. I’m not. I just like seeing a confident woman. You have a good day.”

Valerie resumed her workout. Her earbuds blared Ride of the Valkyries as she climbed the final mountain of the elliptical’s Himalayan Trek. What the hell did he mean by confident? She wiped down the machine and changed in the locker room. The flaps of skin that poured over her waistline could suspend her in water like a jellyfish.

“You’re beautiful just the way you are,” a towel-clad stranger said, noting her distress. It was just the sort of thing they tell fat people.

#abuse, #aging, #awkward, #body-issues, #haters-gonna-hate, #misogyny, #negging

Advantage

In her recent interview with Success magazine, Ruth-Allen Kapoor related the advice her father gave her time and time again throughout her childhood. “If you give anyone a chance, they’ll take advantage of you.”

Following this adage, Kapoor founded her first company, a local bakery, at age nineteen. In but a few years, her cutthroat business instincts had made her cupcakes a household name, and following that empire, she expanded into tech. Whatever else might be next for Kapoor, we know she’ll come out on top.

As the news blathered on, she set her cat on the floor again. “When will you learn? You’re not allowed up here.” The cat looked up at her, and in a minute had forgotten the upheaval, back on her lap. Ruth-Allen stood up.

Her husband would be home soon. If he wasn’t, he was sleeping with his boss. According to their email correspondence, they met once or twice a week, usually during business hours, but sometimes they liked to do something nice to pretend they were a couple. Confronting them seemed pointless for now, but someday, the knowledge would come in handy. Ruth-Allen had the emails archived.

The cat mewed at her. “No. You don’t get anything unless you’re quiet.” The cat mewed again.

Her father was dying. He wanted help with medical bills, but then who knew what else he’d want?

As the cat mounted its designated sitting spot, Ruth-Allen rubbed its fur in even strokes. “Don’t think I’m going easy on you,” she said, feeding it. “Don’t think I’m not in charge.”

#authority, #business, #cat, #cupcakes, #cutthroat, #cynicism, #microfiction

Original

“Thank you all so much, thank you. Thank you. That was I’m Looking Through You, by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. The Beatles.” Neely wasn’t sure what else to say. Someone gave another whoop when he said that band’s name, the most famous band that had ever been.

Epochcalypso was less well-known. Nevertheless, they had managed to fill this venue. Whatever role the half-price drinks might have had, a crowd of this size felt like a mandate.

“Thank you. You’re a beautiful audience. Does anyone have any requests?”

No one shouted anything, but most audiences are shy. If they weren’t, they’d have their own acts on their own stages. Signaling to Rugal, the drummer, Neely started Take It Easy, always a favorite. A few people sang along with the chorus, which was always encouraging.

“Thank you, that was Take It Easy, by The Eagles. Good song. Good advice, too. You guys like taking it easy?”

Waiting for a reply, Neely scratched the microphone against his chin. The feedback turned a few heads in his direction.

“Excuse me. So we’re going to switch things up a little bit now. We’re going to play you one of our originals—“

“Do Take It Easy! came a shout, and Neely chuckled a fake chuckle. The applause that followed prompted Rugal to start drumming. Donalds and Merchant followed the cue, and Neely had to join in too. They played the song to its completion, and the crowd applauded more vigorously than they had a moment ago. Maybe they’d played it better.

The next time they played Take It Easy, they got a standing ovation. The fourteenth time, a record contract. Once they’d played it enough, it had become their song.

They played it again.

#annoying, #cover-band, #mediocre, #revisionist-history

Trophy

For the past several years, Nicole had won the club’s annual tournament, though the competition hadn’t been exactly fierce. Most of the other girls at the club snubbed their noses at athletics. “Oh, I hear you’re playing the games again. Do you actually enjoy it?”

Golf and tennis were the reasons Nicole had consented to join the club in the first place. Greg didn’t care what she did, as long as she made appearances from time to time, so she took long walks on the golf course, and practiced her forehand and backhand against various walls. She wasn’t sure what the other wives did, but they spent all their time at the club at the clubhouse. Playing bridge? Sipping margaritas? They probably sat around talking about what a disgrace she was, to the club, to the aristocracy and womanhood. She hoped that’s what they talked about.

“Hey,” came a voice behind her at the tennis court. “You want to go a round?” Nicole turned. Her first thought was, “I didn’t think they’d let a black girl in here,” but that was an acknowledgement of their racism, not her own. She said, “Sure!” and introduced herself.

Bethany had an amazing serve. Once they got a rally going, they seemed evenly matched, but Nicole could barely get to the ball from a standstill. “Where’d you learn to hit like that?”

“Oh, I sleep with the tennis instructor,” the woman said, but she was joking. She was tall and beautiful and quick-witted. Nicole smiled.

“Looks like I’m going to have some competition this year.”

“Wish I could say the same.”

She was only joking, Nicole told herself. She was only joking, she told the other wives, her cards face-up on the table, her cocktail salty.

#athletics, #big-fish, #classism, #jealousy, #leisure, #microfiction, #racism, #sexism, #small-pond, #sports, #the-best

Empire

Even as often as she went out to the woods, Amiril had never seen a creature like this one. Whatever it was seemed born out of the earth, a tree come to life. She stood still, and so did the forest.

The dryad shifted its weight, though it didn’t seem to notice her. Instinct made her back away, and she stayed hidden in the underbrush. She crawled across the dirt, staining her dress. When the creature was out of sight, she returned to her feet and sped through the woods, calling, “Mom, I think I saw something, come quick!”

Her mother grabbed the axe and followed. The tree man was where he had been. He turned to them and bowed magnanimously. Amiril watched her mother’s grip tighten and relax along the hilt of the axe. The creature moved slowly, so slowly that he could never be a threat, and they waited for any excuse to attack in self-defense. The creature straightened its back and stood tall, which wasn’t enough.

Back home, they made the dryad comfortable. They let it sit in a basin of water, and shone sunlamps on it. Amiril read it poetry. Usually, they lit a fire in the evenings, but that seemed insulting to their guest. They sipped soup quietly.

A few days later, more tree people were standing outside their door, and while they seemed to have come in peace, one of them seemed interested in the axe.

“Oh, that’s not for anything,” Amiril’s mother said. The trees conferred.

“Did we upset them?” Amiril asked.

“Not yet, my darling, but we will.”

The trees dispersed from the house and ventured to the village, where they were honored guests in various homes. One of them had taken the axe; as a gift, of course.

#allegory, #fairy-tales, #microfiction, #misogyny, #passivity, #politeness, #trees

Robustness (part 9)

The glass sign that said “Emergency Use Only” wasn’t necessary pointing to the emergency lever underneath. Without more clarification, Ezekiel couldn’t be sure it wasn’t referring to the bench beneath it, or to the train itself. Not to mention, whatever constituted an emergency was unclear. If one of these passengers passed out, one should probably not pull the lever. Better to let the train run its course. The only emergency worth stopping the train that Ezekiel could think of, was if the train would not stop.

He looked out again, to make certain. If it flew past a station, he would feel better, but he saw nothing but the flashing lights, evenly spaced along the insides of the tunnel. No one else seemed upset, but nothing assured him that this trip would ever end. He examined the glass again.

To reach the lever, one had to break through the panel, but no tool was provided. Ezekiel flipped his backpack over his shoulder, and grasped for any hard object inside. The Rubik’s cube would shatter, and almost everything else was soft, except the automatic. He had forgotten it was in there, because it shouldn’t exist. He forgot about racism, misogyny, classism, jealousy, Coca-cola. He held the backpack in front of him, his hand inside, clutching the pistol. With the bag against the glass, he tried jostling the gun forward, and it made a hard tink that might have echoed around the cabin, might have commanded attention. He didn’t look to see. As far as he knew, no one could see or hear him, and that was for the best. He shouldn’t exist. He should have been gone a long time now.

Tightening his grip, he held the muzzle against the glass. Oh well.

#cognitive-dissonance, #fiction-in-parts, #guns, #isolated, #robustness, #train