Friday, December 4, 2009

"John's Mustache"

by Faye Honig


John Pierre, living in America with his wife Annmarie, has a mustache. It is a men's normal mustache, nothing special. He has had the mustache since he was 24, and he is now 42.

He has had a hard day at the office and is pacing in his bathroom. His wife is away for two days on a business trip. He turns his face and studies it in the mirror. He needs to change something. Grabbing his razor and shaving cream, he gets rid of his mustache.

He goes to sleep, feeling satisfied and calm.

* * *

When Annmarie returns from Boston, John calls out from the kitchen: "Honey, dinner's ready!" Annmarie walks in. She takes a deep breath. "Smells great, sweetie! Thanks!" She gives him a kiss.

"Notice anything different?"

"Umm... new shirt?"

"I shaved my mustache!"


"It's gone! See?"

"You had a mustache?"

"Ha! I've had it for eighteen years... I just decided I needed a change."

"Sweetie... you've never had a mustache..."

"What? You mean you actually can't remember it?"


"Look at all the pictures!"

John goes to their photo albums, shaking his head. He grabs one and flips to the first page. He looks at a few photos that he barely remembers, even though he took them.

"Where are all the pictures?"

"What? Those are the pictures."

"No. Where are the pictures with me in them?"

"Well, you've always insisted that you be the photographer... You've never been in any pictures, come to think of it..."

"That's not true! Wouldn't you think that was a bit strange?"

"Well, yes, I did at the time, but I never really questioned it."

"I can't believe this. I had a mustache the other day, I swear!"

"Fine, John. Look, it's getting late. Let's just eat dinner and go to bed. We both have work tomorrow."

* * *

The next morning, after Annmarie leaves for work, John goes looking for evidence of his mustache. He tries the bathroom sink, but he cleaned it out after shaving and there's no hair. He only ever used scissors to trim it, too, so there isn't any telltale grooming equipment.

He rips apart his whole house looking for a picture.

"My commencement picture!" He runs to his bedroom and grabs his folder of documents from Wesleyan. He frantically goes through papers, his eyes searching for himself. Nothing. He knows his picture with gap and gown (and mustache) is there, but he can't find it.

"Where did my life go?"

He has to go to work.

* * *

John drives as close to the speed limit as he can. When he arrives, he swipes his ID card through the scanner by the turnstile. It beeps. The guard calls him over.

"The system denied you."

"Oh. I... you just need to talk to my boss, Mister Ryan. My name is John Phillipe. I work here."

The guard presses a button on the phone on his desk. "Mister Ryan, a man named John Phillipe is here to see you."

"What?" a voice answers.

"John Phillipe."

"Huh? He was fired years ago."

"What?" yells John. He races out of the office and into his car. He can't take it anymore. He spends the next two nights in a motel.

* * *

The third morning John wakes up and finds himself in his own bed. He looks around, dazed. He jumps out of bed and runs to his folder of Wesleyan documents. His commencement picture is there. His mustache covers his wide, toothy grin.

He breaths a sigh of relief. He goes to the bathroom mirror. His mustache is gone.

"Oh no."

The lock clicks.

"John? I'm home from my business trip."


Annmarie walks into the bathroom.

"Oh, you shaved your mustache?"

"You remembered I had one?"

"Of course... you've had it for eighteen years!"

[This story reminds me of Mulholland Drive (2001). Also Franz Kafka's The Trial (1925). Good job Faye! --Ned]

Sunday, November 8, 2009

"Tech Support"

by Grace Rittenberg

"...In the auditorium, Mr. Jobs stood onstage in that powerful stance of his..."

"Damn it."

I hit and cursed my work computer. Violence toward technology didn't help, of course, but it made me feel a lot better.

"What's wrong?" Nick asked.

"It's still not really working."

"Did you call the tech person?"

"Yeah, I don't know where he is." Secretly I believed that the tech person was late so he could pretend he was busy.

"Well," Nick said, "he is pretty busy."


Nick is one of those Steve-Jobs-worshipping Apple employees. I took this job because there wasn't anything else I could do -- and it pays well. You can make more money at Apple than anywhere else since Bill Gates died.

"You called?" said a male voice. Oh, great.

"Yeah, I'm having some problems with -- "

"Move!" he cut me off. The tech guy was thin and he instantly annoyed me. "Now, what are you having problems with?"

"Well, I don't know what printer to send this to, and I keep having to restart it because it freezes when I open Safari."

He let out an exasperated breath. "You're not supposed to use Safari."

"Then why is it there?"

"The printer on this floor is Z52720-Second-Floor. I don't know why your colleagues -- " he glared at Nick " -- didn't tell you. Please, only call me for important things."

This job has taught me one thing -- I hate tech people.

"Auditorium now, auditorium now," said a voice over the speaker system. "Director Jobs has an announcement. Auditorium now."

"If it's another new iPod, I'm going to be gutted, because I just got the new one," Nick said.

In the auditorium, Mr. Jobs stood onstage in that powerful stance of his.

When everybody sat down, he held something up and said, "This, everyone, is the first ever iPod!"

It was something we'd all seen before. It was pretty ancient -- only about 2 gigs, no touch screen, and it was huge.

"And these," he continued, "are all the iPods ever!"

He clicked his fingers and a curtain came down, uncovering a wall of iPods.

"I have called you all here today to tell you the news. Drum roll, please!"

He clicked his fingers again, and a drum roll started.

"Apple is the most powerful, influential, expensive and profitable company in the world!"

Everyone applauded. I joined in, because I'm pretty sure it was mandatory. But it made me wonder -- what would people ever do without technology? It could all crash in a second.

"And that is why!" Jobs said, "We are now entering... phase two."

The lights dimmed. A spotlight under his face turned on and lengthened his features. And then things started getting very evil...

Saturday, October 17, 2009

"Give It A Chance"

by Grace Rittenberg

Polly was obsessed with it. It was so easy. Eventually she would get kicked out of the stores, but she always had some time to do what she loved.

She walked down the familiar streets with a smile on her face. No one that she knew was around so it was safe. None of her friends knew about it. She told them that she had stuff to do on Fridays. It was a ritual, and she didn't want to break it.

She walked into the building and immediately went to the right section. There were a few other people around. Polly wondered if they hid from their friends also. It wasn't the most shameful thing in the world, but if your friends rag on something, you tend not to do it.

She had been at it for maybe an hour when she heard a voice say, "Polly?"

Polly looked up to see two very familiar faces. They were standing there with their mouths open.

"What are you doing?" one of them asked.

"Um... reading."

"In the manga section?"

Polly didn't say anything. She knew her friends would find out sooner or later, but she had hoped that it would be later. They were always talking about how dumb manga was, how people who read it are lame.

"I was waiting for my dad. And okay, look, there he is!" With that excuse, she ran out of the bookstore.

She knew it was stupid. She knew that her friends would like her whatever she did, but it was something that she wanted to do alone. She never bought the books; she just sat in the stores read them until clerks annoyed her about actually buying something.

Now she wouldn't be able to read these books in peace. Her friends would mention it whenever they got the chance. She would laugh it off, but it would still hurt a little, because manga was something she loved. Her friends just didn't give it a chance. That's all she asked for--a chance.

(prompt: write something about shame)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

"Morning News"

by Katie Waldron

Of course I had no idea. Plenty of people sit like that in this heat. Swinging your legs makes you slightly less hot, and any little bit is good… Her leg swinging did get faster and faster, but all I thought was: ‘Man, that girl has really fast legs.’"

I couldn’t see her whole face, but she was pretty--even from the side. I stared at her on the bench while everyone else stared at the empty train tracks.

A forced, comforting voice said, "The next--F--train has been delayed due to traffic ahead of us. Please be patient."

A voice in my head said, “Forget that message. You don't have much time. Talk to her."

After that, things got a little unruly and perverse in my brain and groin. I hate summer, but I like the look of it, and she wasn’t wearing much. I slid over to her so we could be on the same car at least.

Some suit looked at his watch. One would think the voice in my head telling me to talk would let me speak!

I plugged myself into some distracting music next to her and decided to look for the train, since I wouldn’t be able to hear it. It was the longest I’ve ever waited for a train.

When it finally came, she leaped up, rushed to the tracks, and jumped in front of it.

* * *

Later on, an MTA worker asked me, "Did you try to help?"

“No! I didn't even see her move! Then I looked, and…”

“Thank you for your assistance.”

I did have an instant with her, though. She did glance at me when I put my headphones in. And she was pretty. I wish I could say I saw the “light leave her eyes."

But she was alive, and then she wasn’t. She just became something else. They’d have to clean off the tracks.

Another woman, an old one who was trying to show that she was wise, said, “You’ll hear a follow up on the news.”

She was right. She was on the next morning.

It was the longest I’ve ever waited for the news.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

"The Trees"

by Epifania Rita Gallina

That morning I woke up after a terrible nightmare, probably the worst nightmare I had ever had in my life.

In the nightmare there were trees around me, but they weren't normal big and green trees, they were terrifying, horrible trees that looked like they wanted to kill me.

You might ask, "How can trees kill you? They don't move!" But these trees had come to life and were chasing after me, until I fell into a big hole and died.

The moment I woke up, I felt like everything I had experienced throughout the nightmare was actually going to happen to me.

I felt my blood pressure rise and my heart fill with anxiety as I looked at my mirror, placed next to my head, and noticed the oddly pale color of my face.

I surely did look like a dead person, but thankfully I was still there, in my small, unspecial room, surrounded my silly belongings.

After I dressed, I came downstairs to the kitchen and saw my parents, who were usually drinking their coffee at that time, waiting for me in the living room, on the couch.

I faked a smile as I walked over to them, trying hard not to think about the trees, and sat next to them.

My mom, who was always readiant and beautiful, looked worried and fragile, and my dad looked like someone had totally offended him. He sat there in a state of shock with his eyes wide open.

As I sat next to them, they took synchronized deep breaths.

Then I saw them again. The trees. I saw them in my head as my parents faced me and started their conversations.

First, they asked me how I had slept, and I lied about that, and then they seemed to gather some fake courage to tell me the worst thing they could.

"Your blood test came back yesterday," my mother said. "There's something wrong."

My dad started crying. "You have lukemia," he said.

My mom turned to him and burst into tears with him.

But no one could have felt like I did. My heart raced worse than it had in any dream. Faster than a train. My head began to pound and my insides fell in on themselves. I was really going to die.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

"The Phlegm-Spitter"

by Miranda von Salis

What is with this kid? I think. I stand, freezing my ass off, on the train platform. It's filling up with people watching for the train, but I'm transfixed by the boy to my left.

You get to know the people who catch the same train as you. I have a number of people to watch, so what is he doing disrupting my morning schedule? He leans over and -- PHOO -- spits down. I will name him "The Phlegm-Spitter."


I always like putting my feet up on the seat next to me even though every person who walks by shoots me a horrible look. It's kind of funny to see people's reactions.

I sit behind him instead of in my normal seat. I think I'll just ride until he gets off; I want to see where he's going. There isn't anything worth doing in history class anyway.

He has his iPod on way too loud and he's gonna go deaf. I want to tell him but I know I won't. I don't want to hear his voice and plus --

It ruins the fun of it if they know you're there.


I look out the window and see his reflection. He's staring at the trees rolling past. He looks kind of wistful and I have decided it is because his parents just told him that they are getting a divorce.

Maybe he's running away -- his backpack does look really full. Yes, he's running away because his parents fight all the time. Now I have to see where he's getting off.

He taps his leg to the music -- not well. So I know he's not a musician. He doesn't look like a musician; well, maybe a piano player, but everyone plays piano. My parents tried to make me play it but they got sick of paying the teacher when I didn't show up.



Oh, wait, he's getting up. ("Tantown.") There is absolutely nothing in ("Tantown"). Where does he think he's going?

He is such a disappointment. I hope he knows it, too. Maybe he found something in Tantown. Maybe he's going to go and live in an abandoned warehouse and run a puppy mill.


He's gone. I can see him walk past the windows. Where is he going?

In a second, I get up and the doors close behind me. I can see his head moving away. I shoulder my backpack. I wasn't going to learn anything at school anyway.

Friday, June 19, 2009


by Zackary Kruskal

If your friend's birthday sucks, there is always a backup plan, a reason to say until the end, a purpose as you swing randomly in the air hoping to bring an animal hung up from the rafters of the cold barn. A cake!

It always repairs any situation. Weddings, parties, or even a solitary night at home can be enjoyed with the presence of cake. You don't need a specific utensil (or any utensil at all) to breach the icing and indulge in the sugary goodness beneath the surface.

Of course not all cake is good. In fact, cake is a very hyped-up affair. Just saying "cake" sets the bar pretty high. When it fails to deliver, however well the party was going beforehand won't matter, because after the cake, there is talk, and if everyone has just had a piece of tough rubbery plastic instead of the lush red velvet they were promised, what are you going to talk about: the weather? Or how, out of politeness, you ladled piece after piece into your protesting mouth?

Bad cake is social depression and no one will want to come over to your house anymore.

However, a good cake might just fix that slow-moving bat mitzvah or remedy a bad relation with that aunt who makes the sweaters. Forget home-baked muffins; a cake is way beyond anyone's expectations and will break the ice no matter how thick it is.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

"She is Such a..."

by Fatima Said

I stood outside the front door, glaring at her. She stared right back at me. I intensified my gaze but it did no good. She refused to go away. I decided to ignore her, thinking that eventually she would get tired and leave me alone.

She didn't. I walked up the front steps, went into the house, and slammed the door. She stared at me through the window. After twenty minutes of trying to wish her away, I finally snapped.

I barged outside.

"You! Here you are, new in town, and you're already trying to get your paws all over David! You just can't resist trying to steal him, can you?! And now you get all stalkerish, standing outside of my house for hours!"

She sniffed at me.

"Oh-- Oh yeah?" I shouted. "Well you can't have him, you, you, you FEMALE DOG!"

I stomped back inside and slammed the door. I gave her another long glare from my window, and finally, the little wench of wenchiness turned and started back toward her house. She reached her door, turned, looked back at me, and wagged her tail.

Then she disappeared into the doggy door.

I turned to see David standing at the doorway, staring at me. I smiled at him.

"It's just me and you, hon."

We both walked into the living room and curled up on the couch in front of the TV.

I let out a sigh. It was just me and my dog again, alone at last. That's the way I had always thought it would be until she came along.

Betsy had moved in across the street with the new neighbors. She was a golden retriever, like David. On the second day, I found her in my back yard, cuddling up to David on the grass. I kicked her out, but almost every day after that, for two weeks, I found her somewhere on my property. She was either in my yard or she had somehow managed to end up INSIDE my house. After the two weeks I started to suspect she was trying to steal David. You want to know why?


That's right, my bedroom. This is apparently what female dogs do.

Monday, April 20, 2009


by Jessie Baum

The playground was covered in children, all cutesy clothes that would have been tacky on anyone else but were unbearably adorable on tiny people on monkey bars. To the mothers (and occasionally fathers) that lived near 9th Street, the playground was a place to let their children off of their little leashes and chat with friends. Only one man didn't know anyone else at the 9th Street Playground. The dirty man lying on the bench.

He was technically breaking rule #45-A of Parks Service Public Conduct (“only guardians and their children may enter”) but he didn't care and the police weren't about to bother him. They weren't eager to encounter him again.

The parents, for the most part, ignored him, though occasionally they'd snatch their children away from his radius. He was tired, and wanted to sleep, but as soon as he drifted off, a child's shriek would rouse him. He was about to slouch off when a little girl, thin with slip-on-shoes and droopy socks, danced up to him.

“Are you his daddy?” She pointed at a little boy trying to do the monkey rings.

“Go away, kid.”

“'Cause he says he don't got a daddy and I said everyone has one and that's when I saw you, and you look like him.”

He squinted at the boy. He did look like him.

“What's your name, kid?”


“Song, if that's your real name, I don't got a son, okay? So leave me alone.”

She cocked her head. She actually looked a bit like a bird, with bright dark eyes and dark hair. He closed his eyes and prayed Caroline wasn't the child's mother.


“Why what? Go.”

“Why should I go?”

“Cause I don't like kids.” He did his best fierce homeless-guy face.

“Why? You were a kid too, right? And why don't Oliver got a daddy?”

“I don't know. Someone's not a daddy unless they're in a family.”

So I can't be the kid's father, he added silently.

“Why is your voice so scratchy?”

“'Cause I used to smoke. Don't smoke.”

“My mommy smokes. But I love her. She showed me how to cartwheel. Look!”

Song stepped back and ran a little and gave a jump, but tripped and skinned her knee.

“Oh no! Hey! You okay kid?!”

“Yeah.” She smiled bravely.

He smiled.

“Song!” A woman called form across the playground.

“I gotta go.” She looked at him almost wistfully.

“I'm here all the time,” he called to her as she skipped away.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

"Dark, Lugubrious..."

by Silvan Carson-Goodman

"Embarrassment is a superfluous emotion. Given the choice, I would do without it. It's like fear in that respect, which is interesting considering that fear most often shows up when tied to embarrassment. Either through fear of shame or shame of fear."

The slightly round man sat down and after hearing his inspiring words I knew that I was in the right place.

I didn't want to be in the right place.

Being in the right place filled me with dark lugubrious shame. All these people looking at me, judging me with their distasteful eyes. Just by my being here they all knew what was wrong with me. Regardless of the fact that they were here for the same reason, deep down they knew that I was worse than them.

I am a lower being, something to be spit upon. Oh it all just made me feel so awful.

The slightly rounder man sitting next to the slightly round man looked at me and said:

"Harvey, would you like to share with the group?"

I reluctantly stood and said, "Hi, my name is Harvey and I'm a shameaholic."

Sunday, February 1, 2009


by Linda-Carolyn Hansen

Once upon a time, there was a girl named Emily. She was always late.

One day she had to make it to an interview that was going to start at three in the afternoon. The interview was going to be in Manhattan. Since she lived in Staten Island, she had to leave at one-thirty, considering the train, bus and ferry. Well, that day, Emily overslept and didn't wake up until twelve-thirty.

As soon as she looked at her clock, she gasped. But that did not prevent her from going to her kitchen to get breakfast.

After having a Pop Tart, a glass of orange juice, and an apple, she decided it was time to hit the shower. As Emily was walking up the stairs, she heard her phone ring.

"Emily, my darling, it's me!"

"Lilian! Where have you been? I haven't seen you for months! It's as if you disappeared!"

Somehow, Emily melted into conversation. Hours and hours of "oh my gods" and "no ways" and "did you hears" followed. Little did Emily know how much time was passing.

When she finally reached upstairs, right before getting into the shower, Emily checked the time. FOUR-THIRTY!

Emily was furious!! Being the kind of person that would never take the blame for anything she did, she started to think of someone to yell at. It didn't take too long before "Lilian" popped in her head. She ran downstairs and grabbed her phone.

"Hello?" answered Lilian.

"Why do you always ruin everything?" asked Emily.

"Excuse me?"

"You know exactly what I mean!"

"What happened, are you okay?"

"Don't play the innocent card! If it wasn't for you I wouldn't have missed my interview!"

"What on earth are you talking about?"

"Your big mouth! That's what I'm talking about! You always call and talk so much! Gosh, Lil, do you ever shut up?"

"How dare you blame me for making you late? If you didn't get so carried away with talking then you wouldn't be late, Em!"

"Whatever! I'm so sick of you, Lilian," Emily said, and she clicked off the phone.

Furious, Emily started pacing back and forth. After making about ten circles around the kitchen, she became tired, dropped to the floor, and began to think her day through. It got her upset.

She decided she'd have lunch, since her breakfast was small. So she went to her fridge. But before reaching for an ice cream, she looked at her calendar.

Her cheeks turned red and she burst out laughing. She had her interview scheduled for tomorrow, not today!

She picked up the phone again.

"What?" Lilian asked.

"Oh, I'm so sorry..."

And for the rest of the night, she was on the phone with Lilian. Laughing. This time with more "omgs," "did you hears" and "no ways."

Thursday, January 1, 2009


by Jomo Farrier

A crimson pool of life. The first thing that comes to mind from the moment I wake, to the second I rest. It even haunts my dreams, turning them into nightmares that tease me with my desires and reward me with sorrow. I loved her, ya know. And now, anytime I think of her, those peaceful thoughts are tainted. Corrupted by that crimson pool of life, slowly leaking out of her chest.

We're supposed to be immortal. But if we really were, how did I watch the love of my life die?

All I could do was watch. Sacred chains restricted me to the body I possessed. And the mythical blade... the one that wasn't even supposed to exist... it proved it existed, and then some.

I knew three things:
  1. The blade's name was Ultimus. The knight in shining armor yelled it as he impaled the one who I was destined to be with.
  2. The hero's name? Pride. He shouted that too. Announced his arrival, as if he was important to anyone but himself.
  3. I wanted revenge. And no force in heaven or hell could stop me.


I never liked heroes. I mean, neutral characters are ok. Indecisive, but ok. Heroes, though? The scum of the earth. They aren't comfrotable with living their own lives and dealing with their own problems. They always need more; they want to solve everyone else's problems. But how can people learn from the mistakes they make if another person fixes it?

Exactly. They don't.


Pride killed Destiny. He restrained me first, with those enchanted chains that made my body useless, and then he delivered one swift stab to the heart. But you see... Destiny had my heart. And when Pride stabbed hers, he killed all of my remorse.

All sympathy, all chance of forgiveness.

For I am Consequence. You can hold off Consequence, but you will never be able to stop it. Me.

Man, thinking like Pride has me speaking in 3rd person. Ugh. You have to think like your enemy to know his weaknesses, though. And so it begins.


John Taylor. The name of the man I possessed. A fair-skinned male, light blue eyes. Muscular. The rest is unimportant. Because he's dead now.

I stared in the mirror for hours after Destiny died, locked in the chains. I realize that I didn't describe these chains before. They aren't your normal linked pieces of scrap metal. They are more like bracelets, beguiling to the eyes. Covered with cryptic symbols. It's impossible to describe their feel, though. Because every time I touched the chains, I felt empty, alone. Those human emotions that don't usually cut as deep. Maybe the loss of Destiny made that happen. But...

Every time I tried to break out of John Taylor's body, the chains glowed crimson and made me stay. So, since the bracelets wouldn't come off, I had to take a leap of faith, from the 20th floor of my hotel room, and get out of the body permanently.


The one mistake that heroes always make is to not get both sides of the story.

They think everything is black and white. A damsel in distress--and a villain. A village of civilians--and a monster. What they fail to realize is that everyone makes decisions that put them in the predicaments they need to be saved from.

That damsel in distress probably did something to piss the villain off. That monster? Probably lived where those civilians built that village. If someone kicked you our of your home, wouldn't you be pissed?


Now I was free, drifting for a purpose. A body to possess, to reach Pride. But as I drifted, something stopped me. Another spirit. Her name was Knowledge.

So of course, she knew everything. She looked into my blank eyes and told me the rest of the story.

Love was Pride's wife. She died. Why? Because Destiny killed her. Love was the foolish little sister of Knowledge. So of course, she knew nothing. But anyway.

Love and Destiny, the two women, had come up with a plan. A test for Pride. First, Destiny killed Love with the blade: Ultimus. Pride walked in and Destiny fled, leaving the weapon in Love's chest. I wish Pride had made that mistake with me. But anyway. Pride took the blade, chased after Destiny, and caught and killed her in front of me.

And then Knowledge gave me the most crucial piece of knowledge: where Pride was. He was now possessing the President of the United States of America.


That coward! I knew what I had to do. I flew to the White House entrance and possessed one of the agents of the Secret Service: Nathan Whitaker. I went on break and walked into the Oval Office. There was the President, staring as if he was waiting for me.

He thrust his hands forward and force erupted out of his palms, attempting to lock me within that body. I was smart, though. I left the body at once. The force threw Nathan into a wall, cracking his neck with great momentum. That must've hurt. I dove for Pride as he got out of his chair, running. I reached him and breached his mind.

There I stood, in this white, blank room. Pride held Ultimus in his hands.

"Are you stupid?" he asked. "This blade is unstoppable."

"Don't you understand?" I asked. "They tricked us both. Your wife and Destiny just used you, to see if you would crack. And you did. Pride had to be a hero and kill Destiny. And now you're left with me: Consequence."

"Then I'll kill you."

"You can't," I said. "Pride only has the power to kill its own destiny. It doesn't have the power to do anything else."

I walked up to him and grabbed the blade of Ultimus. It melted in my hands as he watched in horror. The big bad wolf lost his balls.