Machete and the Witch’s Broom

The boys pleaded “C’mon Bobby, tell the story again. We can’t come tonight.” Tell us about the Knife Lady and how you got Machete. A long tooth dog in the corner did not lift her head, but her tail wagged at the sound of her name. The town of Sasparilla, Florida used to hound Bobby for naming this half Malamute, half Siberian husky Machete; but Machete preferred her new owner and her new name. Nevertheless, the dog grew up angry.

“Boys, you know I only tell that story once every three years now—on Halloween here at the restaurant. Go tell your parents it’s ok to come late—just before the story begins. And it’s the 15th anniversary, so it’s gonna be good.”

The Steak Out was known for miles around for their mouth-watering steaks and large rotating fans that kept patrons cool. In a time when air conditioning was scarce, the town of Sasparilla had one climate—steamy.

Bobby had advanced to manager of the Steak Out—the spot where the original story took place. He was just a youth then earning a few dollars for doing sundry jobs around the place. Despite insisting that he would not tell the town urchins the story right now, his mind drifted to that day when the legend became real.

“Bobby, remember to prop the back door open for Madam,” Dave commanded. “A little wider than you did last week. I could have sworn I heard her growling when she squeezed her food bags through.”

Every Friday at noon, the restaurant’s sharpened cutlery would be personally delivered through the back-porch door. The manager, Dave, finagled a deal to get our steak knives sharpened on a regular basis—and dirt-cheap.

“But Boss,” I whined, “the flies flock in after her.”

“What do we care? The flies don’t go in the kitchen. Her food pouches keep ‘em too busy. Get her in and out quick – with our luck, she’ll be here when fire safety has one of them surprise visits. And remember – have the leftovers ready,” Dave insisted. “She wants steaks for her pay, not money – and the owner likes that, too – wants her meat aged so pack it up right.”

Continue reading

Wii-Fit Plus

I’d been overweight so long that it felt like it was just the shape I was meant to be.  But then, a few months ago,  my friend Rachel gave me her old Wii-Fit device, complete with balance board.  I’ve never been into computer games but even I know that the Wii is no longer fashionable, and there’s much more up-to-date technology to help people exercise, but the thing was, Rachel herself had lost so much weight that I thought it was worth a shot.

Rachel was, if anything, even fatter than me when we met at a Weightwatchers’ meeting a few years back.  I join every January when they waive the joining fee – and I usually drop out by mid February.  But that year we managed to keep each other motivated until well into the summer before we both finally gave up and called in at the chippy on the way home from one of the meetings.  Neither of us ever went back.

But then, in the last few months of last year, Rachel started losing weight.   I mean really losing weight – not just the few pounds now and then which we normally achieved.  It was miraculous.  She was about half her previous weight by Christmas, and she looked great at the New Year’s Eve party we both went to.  She was wearing a sparkly dress that showed off her new slender body perfectly.  I’d never seen anyone lose excess flab so quickly.  She didn’t even have lots of loose skin, like people who’ve lost lots of fat often end up with. She just looked gorgeous and slim and sexy.  I was dead jealous.

Beside the buffet table, where I was just grabbing myself some sausage rolls and a piece of black forest gateau, I asked her what her secret was, but she just smiled and tapped the side of her nose mysteriously.

As the new year wore on, however, I didn’t see her for months – it was almost as if she was avoiding me, and when I spoke to mutual friends they told me she was doing the same to them.

‘Maybe she’s met a man,’ suggested one, with a knowing smile.  And perhaps that was it.  Falling in love can make people drop their friends, at least for a while.  It’s happened to me before with other friends. Or maybe she no longer wanted to associate herself with fatties like me – she’d moved on to the beautiful people?   Maybe, once the glamour wore off, she’d start seeing her old friends again, and if not, well, she’d’ve lost more than a bit of excess fat, wouldn’t she?

Still, I had to admit, I did miss her.  She’d always been up for a laugh – and it was nice having someone who was facing the same struggle with her weight as I was.  Though that wasn’t true any more, of course.

I have to admit  I was really curious to know what had helped her transform from chubster to hottie so quickly.

Anyway, a few weeks before Halloween, on my birthday, she turned up on my doorstep wearing a long grey coat that looked too big for her, and a pashmina over her head.  It was quite chilly but this seemed a bit over-the-top to me. I mean, it’s not as if we live in Alaska.  Her face – what I could see of it – looked thin and drawn, and there were dark shadows beneath her eyes.  Her cheekbones were very prominent and her lips were pale and dry.  She looked like she had the flu.

‘You asked what my secret was,’ she said, standing on the doorstep. ‘And it’s this.’  She placed the Wii console and balance board on the floor at my feet and handed me two bags of accessories: remote controls, nunchuks, discs.  I had to put the chocolate hobnob I was holding into my pocket so I could take the bags.

‘What is it?’ I asked her.  ‘Are you coming in for a cuppa?’

Continue reading

She That Devours The Tail

If you come upon this account, traveler, it means that some fraction of my discovery may yet enter the civilized world, and I am absolved of my refusal to be a messenger.

Having left this journal interned below a dais in the windy, eagle-peopled places at the edge, I have no illusions about how long my words might gather dust. By then absolution will be behind me, and this unburdened land will perhaps have been claimed and colonized. But if you are reading this account, you now face the same choice I did, and all civilization and all understanding has gone out behind you like a tide.

I believe this choice will destroy you, or else you will destroy yourself to avoid it. But let me tell first my journey and how I came to the road under stars to the lost fathoms of the world, and you may begin to understand what you face.

Continue reading

Splintered

Katy stumbled across the muddy field, her heart still beating hard in her chest. Adrenaline from the battle still pumped through her veins.  The raid had ended, but it always took hours to bring herself down from the rush of war.

The area between where the rebel coalition called Ahuva had set up fort and the occupied city of Rostislav sat empty of human life.  Other than herself and a handful of retreating soldiers, only the crows occupied the dead zone between the city and the rebel camp.  In the darkening field Katy couldn’t tell what uniforms the stray soldiers wore so she didn’t fire at them, but she did suspiciously watch them until they disappeared. Dusk had fallen, and no one wanted to be out alone in the war-torn mud pit after dark.

Her feet ached from running on the concrete inside the city for hours. Her neck and shoulders ached from tension. Her stomach ached from hunger. Her bones ached with utter exhaustion. Parts of her young body she had never before acknowledged ached. Even her teeth hurt from grinding them in anxiety. Not even her previous life as a farmer punished her body the way her life as a rebel soldier did.

Again and again Commander Hayim sent them in to raid small strongholds of the Teodor Empire’s army in Rostislav, with little rest and little planning.  She didn’t mind the many chances to avenge Victor. But anger roiled in her stomach anyway, because she knew she and her fellows were being used until collapse or death. And then their new commanders would just be replaced them all with someone else who would be driven just as hard. The days of being a family…of being a small band of cheerful rebels throwing off an invading power were gone.

Now she was so tired she could hardly see straight. Her heavy feet caught frequently on pieces of broken tanks and trucks, and occasionally she even stumbled over a body.  Only her anger at Hayim and her hate for the Teodor kept her upright.  One dirty hand absently rubbed at her face, the other hand loosely clutching her gun as she made her way across the field towards the lumpy cot she knew waited for her.

Her mind focused on the glorious idea of a few hours of sleep, she didn’t notice the figure crouched in the mud and destruction in front of her until she saw movement in the corner of her eye. She had almost passed an entire human being without noticing them at all.  Suddenly the adrenaline that had been slowly flushing out of her system rushed back full blast, making her head spin.  Her other hand came around and tightly clutched the gun that had been held limply at her side.  She jumped back slightly, training her gun on the living body, blinking furiously to clear her vision of the dizziness brought by the adrenaline.

She looked closely at the figure in front of her.  A woman dressed in muddy clothes crouched in the increasing darkness. Katy could see the faded mark of a medic emblazoned across the chest of her jacket.  She also wore the white and red scarf denoting her rank as a doctor, but the strips were more a brownish gray now than white.  Dark, curly hair covered her head and hung around her shoulders, obscuring her face for the moment. Katy realized she had to be very short as well; all these things made her nearly invisible until Katy had almost tripped over her. The medic crouched low over a gurgling and squirming Teodorian soldier.

“Hold it!” she shouted, cocking her pistol at the top of the medic’s head.  She had to be a doctor for the Empire, or perhaps the Wojciech. Katy couldn’t let them go.

Continue reading

At The Noise of Battle

Sirat watched as Thennor haggled with the butcher.  “Sixteen fanad for four kilos of meat?”  The butcher nodded.

“What, will dewy-eyed maidens cook it for us?”  Thennor held their moneybeads.

“No, but I will, for a fanad more.”  An Emth merchant with heavy shoulders and back, the butcher wore a leather apron and a kilt. Meat lay on the merchant-wagon’s table in double gobbets. Above the table hung two gareep carcasses, plucked and gutted.

“Elephant-pig, you say?”

That’s too pale to be elephant-pig.  Or was it?  It was too big to be rabbit or woolbeast, and primates weren’t eaten, of course….

Sirat probably looked less than her thirty winters, her arms muscled from weapons practice, her light tunic and jerkin cool in the firstday.  Since Pendleton’s World has a day 140 hours long, folks worked, then slept, and spoke of firstday and secondday, firstnight and secondnight. It was twenty hours to the noon eclipse.  She wore linen breeches and moccasins of woolbeast-hide. Her crossbow was inside with the men, but she wore the saber beside her that was called Whiteflame. Around her neck on a chain was a little monocular, a magic seeing-thing that the wizard had given her.

“Aye, it’s elephant-pig, hauled here in the dawn.  Make you a good stew, she will. Better than when she was alive!”

Thennor’s eyes widened. “Alive?”

“Alive, the beast can’t cook at all!”  The butcher laughed. Sirat did not. She noted the scars on the man’s hands and arms and wondered if he had been a soldier before he took up cutting meat.  “Now, do you want four kilos, or five?”

Continue reading
1 2 3 10