Short Fiction: Breaking News, Episode 3

Following on from the well-received and successful posting concerning local Oxford news, and after much cajoling from well-meaning readers, supporters, friends, family and financial backers, this next instalment turns the eye-glass lens toward current European news.
With fluency is 17 languages, including Swiss, Swedish and Swahili (usiniamini?), I have picked out and translated truthful media reports from a variety of viewpoints on the latest political storm to hit European leaders. As with my previous instalment, all now left for me to do, is to insist and encourage you to enjoy! reading this latest humble offering and get on with telling you the story. So… without further ado, in an un-matrimonial sense, I do.

DON’T LOOK, NOW
In a move that has stunned the civilised world, French Président Jean-Michel Macron (39), looks set to introduce a nationwide ban on men looking at their female colleagues in the workplace. In the wake of recent sexual harassment cases springing up across the western half of the globe only, many view this as a knee-jerk reaction. Some are saying the president’s wife Marie-Claire Macron, 28 years senior in age and now struggling to maintain her looks, may have used her widely acknowledged and significant ‘motherly’ role, to influence her husband’s decision. When I telephoned the Élysées Palace yesterday seeking verification of recent statements made in the media, Queen Marie-Claire, as she is known to close associates, informed me ‘Petit Poo-Poo’ remained unavailable for comment.
The German Chancellor, Angola Merkal, in a press statement issued to the press in the early hours of today, is quoted as saying “About bloody time!” While the Dutch Minister for Foreign Affairs has already tabled an amendment to any future EU-wide edict, proposing only looks proven as ‘lustful’, would actually lead to disciplinary punishment. The Italians, needless to say, are up in arms over the whole situation, with no one in a calm enough state to issue any intelligible response or be heard over the cacophony that marks a usual day in the Parliament Italiano. Further afield in Estonia, President Kersti Getlaid quoting from a much longer speech thought to be in support of France’s increasingly isolated top frog, remarked “We know few are interested, but we say let the people of the free world know the citizens of Estonia are riding up the behinds of our French counterparts.”
Editor’s Note: Although we feel the point made is valid and accurate, editorial pride demands we point out Ms Getlaid only began with her once-weekly English language lessons at the beginning of the year.
Even further afield, with his usual candour, the Australiana PM issued a statement through a senior official, which simply read, “HAH!” Asked to expand on this, the official returned minutes later with, “The Australianian Government believes Mister Macron is a prize prick and has no further comments to add at this time.”
The Former North American Territories are remaining tight-lipped, with Whitehouse officials seen pretending to ‘zip up’ their mouths when asked about the feudal feuds, brewing in the motherlands.
One thing for sure, the question people keep returning to and asking is how long before the ruling spills out of the office, out from the factory floor and TV studios, onto the streets, into bars, strip clubs and homes? When asked for his thoughts, a shady local businessman based in Paris on the west bank of the Seine, replied “Quoi? ‘Ow could I know? I cannot see it into the future! Imbécile.”
And there you have it, an excellent point to finish on. As a member of a group of predatory venture capitalists, my recent investments include a small start-up company working on a contact lens with an apparent fixed stare, meanwhile allowing the wearer to study an entire scene unnoticed. On a personal note, my stock in sunglasses has risen twentyfold.
“The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades.”

Next week, “Why?” At last, an answer to that age-old nut of a question.

A Lover’s Scar

Annie phones me in a froth, broken and emotional. “Annie!? Tell me what’s happened. Now listen to me, take some slo-w breathes in and out, and try to calm down.”

“I just can’t believe it. Just, can’t, believe it.” I hear the sound of rushing air mixed with telephonic white noise, while she fills and then empties her lungs. “I just, can’t believe it.” She repeats. I imagine her, head hung low, veiled in despondency, searching and unable to find new words to describe the same feelings.

“It’s okay, that’s better, take it e-asy,” I say, like I’m settling a twitchy horse spooked by a snake in the grass, “just calm right, on, down. It’s okay Annie.” It’s working, I hear the sound of a nose being blown hard into a paper tissue.

“He never noticed,” I just about make out, as Annie finishes dabbing at her nose, “in four and a half years, he never noticed.” Okay, this is about Jake, I conclude. Annie and Jake have not long broken up and Annie is finding it hard to come to terms with. Over the last eight and a half weeks I’ve received four or five calls from Annie in a similar vein.

“He never noticed what, Annie?”

“If I’d laid him on a sheet of paper and drawn around his whole body, twice – ”

“Twice? Why twice?” I’m asking, trying to fathom out where this is going.

“To represent both sides of his body, the outlines laid down next to each other.” Her tone tightens a little, “Beebie, could you just hear me out on this one?”

“Sure Annie, I just needed to get the image in my head right – you know?.”

“Okay, so I’ve got these two outlines, well you know what happens next?” I’m thinking this is a rhetorical question and remain silent. “Beebie! Are you listening to what I am saying?”

“Yes Annie, of course I am, please continue.”

“Well, it occurred to me recently, I could draw in each mole, every dark pigment, birth mark, blemish, contour and crease found in his skin. I could map out Jake’s body like the night sky and with the same degree of accuracy.” Although thinking it a weird idea, the words I chose said otherwise.

“Aww… that’s real sweet Annie.”

Don’t ‘aww that’s real sweet Annie’ me, Beebie!” You see? This is a clear demonstration of why I’m no good with women and long term, remain single: I just don’t have the skills to read them. “Do you know what he said to me shortly before we split up?” I plump for this as a question requiring a response, but keep it simple.

“What did he say, Annie?”

“We were cuddling in bed together on a bright, sunny morning and Jake’s holding my hand. Moving his fingers through mine, he suddenly says ‘I’ve never noticed this scar on your hand before‘. He sounded genuinely surprised, peered at it up close, turning around my hand in the sunlight to get a better look.”

“Okay, that sounds sweet Annie, so what’s up?” Instead of a prize of yellow cheese filled with holes, I get the unforgiving cold steel snap across my back as the high tensile spring of the mouse-trap is released.

What’s up with that?! What’s up?!” To ease the strain, Annie pushes up into fifth gear finding cruise-control, her voice takes on a calm-but-serious tone. “The scar is on the stop of my hand, it is white, two inches long and the original incision was held together by eight stitches, each having left their own, distinct perpendicular marks. And in four and a half years, he’d never noticed!”

“I’m sorry Annie, I don’t know what to say.” I genuinely didn’t.

Sideways Face, short story 869 words

“So?” I’d asked, “You have a sideways face. I couldn’t care if your face was upside down, or on the other way around, I would still like to buy you a coffee.”

“Thank you, I’ll need a straw.” she replied graciously.

“Yes, I understand.”

Returning to the table and taking my place in a chair opposite her, we chatted about the weather and a recent election result for the presidency of a fledgling democracy.  With the conversation flowing, I began asking questions from an orderly list I’d compiled inside my head.

Question: Had she been born this way or was it due to an accident, later in life?

Answer: It’d happened when she was young.

Question: How old was she when she realised she was different from everyone else?

Answer: About 6 years of age.

Question: Had she discovered any advantages of her situation?

Answer: None she could be sure of.

Question: Was getting a good fitting hat, a problem?

Answer: Yes, headscarves were favoured.

Question: What was it like to kiss on an x and y axis?

Answer: Did I want to try?

“Do I want to try?” I couldn’t believe my luck, “Really?”

“Here,” she said, motioning with her hand, “move a little away from the table.”

I did as I was told and as the chair legs scraped across the wooden boards, we both screwed up our respective faces, wincing at the uncomfortable sound.

“That’s better.” she said, after positioning herself on my lap and sliding her arm around the back of my neck. I placed my hand on her knee to add stability, while my other arm travelled around her lower back and finished, resting on her hip.

“There, this is good.” I said, satisfied with the completion of the manoeuvre. “Right; down to business then.”

“Look, I know you said you wanted to try the kiss on the x and y axis, but to be honest, it’s better if we both pucker our lips slightly.” She puckered her lips slightly, to demonstrate.

Gazing into her right eye I smiled, before moving in closer while holding my breath. As I did this, an involuntary reflex caused my head to tilt in an indecisive manner, first one way and then sharply to the opposite side. I could see her smooth, glistening lips puckering up, drawing me onwards to my goal.

Yet somehow, the intended objective was derailed as my mouth crash-landed onto the tip of her nose, slipping across her nostrils. In a vain attempt to correct the trajectory, I jerked my head sharply away to the left and plunged forward again. This time, with eyes closed, my lips landed squarely on her medial cleft. Much to my relief and exercising outstanding deftness, she grasped hold of my chin between her thumb and index finger, giving it a gentle wiggle, until both my top and bottom lip finally slid over hers and suction took over.

Taking breaths between kissing, she whispered to me asking “What do you think, are you enjoying yourself?”

“Of course I am,” I replied, “You’re out of this world.”

Shortly after this, I lost consciousness, feeling the strength dissolving away from my bones as she held my head between her hands and with one swift movement, rested me gently onto the table top.

Imagery of this incredible woman, filled the next few hours of a delirious dream.  As seated, North African musicians produced a rhythmic, looping and hypnotic drone, her body moved swirling through the flickering haze of leaping flames. In the pungently perfumed air all around her, glowing embers floating up from the campfire danced with flying insects drifting across the twilight sky. Finally, the sound and vision melded together into a blur and I found myself awake, once more.

While establishing focus, I was able to make out her form, standing proudly in front of me, her chest pushed out and displaying a broad smile across her face. Why hadn’t I noticed what a gorgeously engaging smile she had? What’s more, her eyes sparkled with a pure sense of joy and excitement. Why hadn’t I noticed this before? I kept asking myself. As my sight cleared it became blindingly obvious, she had the most perfectly balanced facial proportions I had ever come across.

Then, raising both hands to rub my eyes, I felt instead the knuckles simultaneously twisting into the jowl of cheek and sleek widow’s peak where hairline meets forehead. In response, gripped by cold fear and a terrifying sense of fright, I spread out my hands across my face, fingers frantically searching the seemingly unfamiliar bone structure and order of my features.

“W-w-what, have you done to me?” I stammered.

“Well, it is rather difficult to explain,” she replied, admiring her handiwork, “I guess you could call it a complicated kind of swap. You have what I had and I have what you had. You’ll be fine with it, I could tell when we met.” She gave me a reassuring wink and continued, “I have been waiting a long time, for the right person to come along.”

After a short pause, she turned to leave the cafe, taking one last sideways glance at me, and then she was gone.

 

 

(photo credit: Mahyar Tehrani)

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