Projectionist

From her vantage point, Rebecca can see everyone. The reflected light illuminates enough that she can see their shapes and gestures. The couple directly beneath her think they’re in complete privacy, but she knows where their hands are.

The girl hates her parents, and is consenting to this boy’s affections not because she likes him, but because being with him is an excuse to stay out of the house. The boy isn’t as aggressive as he’s pretending to be, but something in one of these movies told him he’s supposed to push boundaries whenever possible. Neither of them feel safe in the other’s presence, though they are momentarily comforted by the other’s embrace, smothering and protective.

A few patrons are actually watching the movie, some po-mo sci-fi rom-com about love and robots and narrative dissonance. An older couple is using the two hours of movie time to delay their inevitable divorce by two more hours. They don’t dislike each other yet, but they feel no affection anymore and they’ve already had every conversation they could possibly have.

Her phone rings.

“I told you not to call me when I’m at work.”

“I’m sorry, baby, I just wanted to make sure we were still on for tonight.”

“Just text me.”

A few scattered souls have come alone. They distribute themselves entropically, though they came to the theater to participate in film as an event, to feel a part of something larger. Every one of them wishes they had someone close to them, but they separate themselves into makeshift booths and silently judge the couples around them.

If they only knew how pathetic they looked from up here. Rebecca starts the second reel and reaches for another fistful of popcorn.

#dramatic-irony, #microfiction, #movies, #relationships, #smug, #superior, #voyeur

Director

As a great admirer of the female form, Paul felt he had a good idea what women were supposed to look like. The proportion of leg and butt to neck and breast was supposed to form a golden ratio, but the more subtle parts of the fractal were in the curves of the ankles and wrists and nose, brachistochrones all three.

“Next,” he called. The woman in front of him, though beautiful, even strikingly so by some social standard, did not pass mathematical rigor.

“I’m sorry? I haven’t even started yet.”

“I’ve seen enough.”

He’d been at this all morning, and had started to find a pleasure in deflating the egos of these models who thought they were special. After thousands of sketches of the ideal woman, anything less was a disappointment.

“Are you casting completely on physical appearance? Is that what you’re doing? Because I thought you were looking for dancers.”

“Listen. I’m sure you’re very talented, but we have a clear idea of what we have in mind.”

The woman kneeled down to her boombox and started her track, a tango. Paul sighed, but allowed her to continue. Her routine was more rooted in ballet, but it fit the music in its own way. She simulated a partner out of air and gesture, and the two of them functioned in a necessary symmetry.

When she finished, Paul clapped for her, and she smiled, coyly. He looked her over again. Her proportions weren’t exactly phi, but better than his own, he had to admit.

As they switched consciousnesses, he felt pleased with himself that he had taken initiative, whatever she chose to do. Whatever her standards were, his were higher for himself.

“Next,” he heard behind him.

#closeted, #dysphoria, #microfiction, #misogyny, #psychics

Mr. Nice Guy

On his way into the grocery store, Kirk noticed a frail and elderly woman pushing her cart, and with a bow, he paused a moment to activate the automatic door for her. The poor woman had gone a bit senile, and eyes forward, face locked in permanent scowl, she rolled right past him. No thanks, no nod, but Kirk didn’t mind much.

He had company coming for dinner. A date, he supposed one might call it, their third, though they hadn’t yet used the vocabulary. Their first outing had been in the company of friends, their second in a museum. Tonight was the first time they would have real privacy, and he wanted the evening to be special.

  • Celery
  • Onions
  • Potatoes
  • Lamb Shank
  • Red Wine Vinegar
  • Red Wine
  • Scented Candles (Cinnamon? Guarana?)
  • Condoms
  • Vasaline
  • Playing Cards
  • Cucumber

He was about to check out when the old woman queued behind him. Though she hadn’t been appreciative before, he thought she might as well have another chance, and he waved her to the front of the line. As though he wasn’t even there, she shuffled forward and lifted her apples onto the conveyor one at a time. Kirk waited for any acknowledgment as she slowly filled out her check and made a note in the ledger. As she stomped away, he shook his head.

“Some people are just ungrateful,” the cashier said.

“Let’s just hope my date tonight is better.” The cashier did not laugh, though this was clearly a joke. He felt a little slighted.

#commerce, #entitlement, #idiot, #lonely, #microfiction, #misogyny, #resentment, #white-people

Homunculus

The Phoenix Lord was in the middle of some speech when Jocelyn received the order to strike. Even though she was newest member of the right arm, she was in charge of the killing blow, a complicated manual control that required finesse. The rest of the crew stood around her console, shouting encouragements. She could do it. As she began the crank, tension built, and she steadied herself. She spun the wheel faster, pulling out the pegs as necessary, in even intervals.

“You’ve got it.” Murmurs from all around her gave advice, but she maintained her concentration.

“Pull the switch!”

“You have to do it now!”

She waited. The official go-ahead hadn’t yet come through, and she couldn’t make a move without their say-so. A sudden quake knocked her from her seat.

“Are you going to finish the job, or do I have to take over?”

She looked up. The final lever was only a few feet away, and she leapt toward it. Her fingers fell into place around the shaft.

“Why isn’t she pulling the lever?” asked her head of operations. The crew around him made no suggestions, though they clearly had ideas of their own. “What’s going on in the right arm?”

“We’ve lost communications. Most likely, they’re waiting for our go-ahead.”

A hand pushed her back to the floor. Jocelyn looked up at her coworker, a stodgy fellow in a bird costume. “You had a chance to prove yourself, but that moment is over. You will have to defeat me if you want any professional glory, but as you can see, I’ve already won.”

As he yanked down on the switch, Jocelyn struck him in the eye, a perfectly tuned punch that knocked him cold. Her coworkers gasped.

“What’s gotten into you?”

#fractal, #mecha, #meta, #microfiction, #professional-rivalry, #science-fiction

New (The Fetishists – Secretary)

OBJECTIVE

Though new to the working world, Melanie Blackwell is confident she exemplifies the qualities necessary to thrive as a personal secretary. Typing and organizing come as naturally to her as eating and sleeping come to others, and she has always envisioned herself working in an office, answering phones in a courteous and efficient manner. Maintaining a pleasant and professional demeanor, she is eager to begin her career and service at your earliest convenience.

QUALIFICATIONS

Experience with Microsoft Office Suite

Unquestioning loyalty to authority

Typing speed: 120 wpm

Looks really good in heels

Desperate

EXPERIENCE

N/A, but inexperience can be its own asset. A talented beginner works harder than a veteran, and she can be trained to perform as best pleases her employer. Please accept my vocational virginity for the opportunity it is, for both of us.

The man who came into the lobby had soft, wet hands.

“I’ve really been looking forward to meeting you,” he said, shaking her hand, touching her shoulder.

She followed him into his office and sat where he invited her to sit.

“I just want to thank you again for coming. Would you like some coffee?”

Melanie shook her head. The man poured a cup for himself, and thanked her again.

“Thank you,” he said, taking a long gulp from his tropical coffee cup.

She waited for the interview questions she’d prepared to answer. What makes you a good fit for this company? Where do you see yourself in ten years?

“How long have you worn glasses?”

“They’re new.”

He nodded, as though this was interesting information, and made a note in his journal. “You’re over eighteen, right?”

Melanie nodded, and moments later had a job.

What a gentleman, she thought.

#50-shades, #creepy, #cv, #male-gaze, #microfiction, #misogyny, #naivety, #paraphilia, #resume

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

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