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Take note that while I call this “fiction” I don’t call it a “story.” Is it one? What do you think?
(Also, please take the time to visit kellylynnthomas.com and let me know what you think of the new design!)
And without further ado,a nonstory:
A short list of strange things that I have seen during my job as an interior designer:
1. A giant squid vase. The glass made it look like it was moving when you looked at it out of the corner of your eyes, and it made me nervous. Everything else in the house was entirely normal, except for that vase.
2. Pantyhose wrapped around the base of a lamp. I wanted to ask why they were there, but decided my imagination did a better job explaining their presence than any truth could. At first I thought the owner might have a thing for erotic asphyxiation or wearing pantyhose on his head, but I didn’t get any erotic or sexy vibes from the rest of the house, so I decided that he had a secret lover who would come over when his wife was at DAR meetings and they would make love on the couch, and she wrapped them around the lamp so his wife would see, and he never noticed because he wasn’t attentive like that. I don’t even know if he had a wife, but I hope so. She would be the jealous kind, but he’s the kind of guy who doesn’t care, he just floats through life and waits for her to bring him a beer, and the only reason he took a lover in the first place was because she came to him and he was bored, so he thought why not?
3. An entire house covered in the letter Y. There were Ys in picture frames, wooden Ys, metal Ys, lamps in the shape of Y, other objects arranged into Ys, even a music stand that was an upside-down Y. The person’s name was Melissa Bracken, she didn’t even have a Y in her name. I did ask her why all the Ys and she shrugged, like maybe she didn’t have an answer, or she didn’t want to answer. I’m not sure why she even hired me, she didn’t want me to change anything, and every time I told her she needed to cool it with the Ys she rolled her eyes at me and put her hands on her hips like I didn’t know what I was talking about. In the end she asked me if I thought there were too many Ys, and when I told her I felt like I was drowning in alphabet soup with all the letters, she looked at me and smiled like a shark, like I had confirmed everything she ever thought.
4. A completely straight, single man in his 30s who had furniture shaped like human reproductive organs. There was a vagina arm chair, a penis couch, end tables that were shaped like the naked backs of muscular men and breast lamps where the nipples are the lights. I guess human shaped furniture shouldn’t weird me out, but it does. Especially the vagina armchair. I sat in it when he went to the bathroom and you sink so low into it, and the colors seem so realistic, and it’s made out of a slippery soft leather, that you really do feel like you’re sinking into a vagina. The penis couch isn’t very comfortable, in my opinion, because it’s so firm, and I had to keep reminding myself not to stare at the lamps so the guy didn’t think I was a lesbian or something. I’ve seen plenty of human shaped furniture and art, but having so much of it in one living room seems gratuitous.
5. Stuffed monkey heads in a bedroom. This woman had like 50 stuffed monkey heads, taxidermy, not stuffed animals, all different kinds of monkeys. They were mounted in groups on each wall, like a honeycomb but instead of bees and honey, monkey heads. I don’t know how she slept at night, with hundredss of dead monkey eyes staring down at her. I wondered why she didn’t have all the monkey bodies too, maybe in the basement or the attic, and maybe with a metal pole that she could screw the heads onto. Each monkey head was labeled, with its Latin name and all kinds of information, country of origin, preferred food, size, weight, everything. The stranger thing was, there wasn’t a single monkey anywhere else in the house, not even a figurine or a stuffed animal or a picture or even a book about monkeys. Just the monkey heads in the bedroom.
When I visit a house like that, no matter why they hired me, I seriously question my decision to enter this field in the first place. People are fucked up.
Against my better judgment, I’m participating in Story A Day May, in which I will attempt to write 31 stories during the month of May. I just found out about the challenge today, so I’m starting a bit late, but hopefully I can catch up this weekend.
Also against my better judgment, I’m sharing the first story I wrote with you. I hope it’s funny, because there’s more truth in this than I’d like to admit.
“Writing Is A Talent You Surely Have”
For the tenth time that day, she checks her email. Her Gmail inbox displays the same three messages it has since she posted what she considers to be her magnum opus, the greatest short story she’s ever written, that anyone’s ever written, on her brand new blog the night before.
The story is about a girl like herself, well it is herself, at least mostly, but prettier and with a nice car, who starts a blog and becomes instantly popular and basically shoves it to those publishing types who think they know everything, but they don’t, do they, or they wouldn’t have all rejected her novel, which is not about herself but about her mother’s childhood in New York City, except in the novel her mother doesn’t get pregnant at sixteen and instead becomes a Broadway actress.
One of the emails is from her mother, one is from the writing forum she joined so she could talk about how much she hates writer clichés and people who THINK they’re writers but are really posers who hang out in coffee shops with laptops, and the third email is from WordPress congratulating her on setting up her very own blog.
She sighs, and thinks that this is the cross she was meant to carry, loneliness, and the purgatory of being an unrecognized genius, because she is a writer and no one, not even her mother who was always very supportive, understands, and she gets up from the computer to make another pot of coffee, even though it is two in the afternoon and she isn’t the least bit sleepy.
A new story will make her feel better, she thinks. And she has quite a few ideas, too many in fact, so she donated a few ideas to her friend Sheri who will probably butcher them, but that’s to be expected since Sheri isn’t a real writer, just one of those posers who became a writer only because she, the Mark Twain of this century, the future most well respected and well known author in America, decided that she must write, it was her true calling, and her career in business, which wasn’t going anywhere anyway, be damned.
She puts her coffee into a travel mug and takes her laptop to the library, where she knows the smell of musty books, the smell of adventures, of fiction, and the people who come and go with the strangest selections, like how to build a transistor radio and 101 things to do with green wire, will inspire her to write another magnum opus she can post on her new blog later that night, by which time her first magnum opus will have already made her famous.
When she wakes up in the morning, she yawns, stretches and reaches for her phone on the table beside her. An envelope icon in the upper left corner indicates she has an email. Her heart skips and with a quick intake of breath she checks the message.
Her heart leaps again: It’s from WordPress! She clicks the message, her finger trembling, but immediately she can see it isn’t a comment notification, but a chipper message encouraging her to post more. Well, I certainly will post more, she thinks, and checks to see how many views her second magnum opus, a story about a girl who goes to the library for a book but finds a boyfriend instead, got compared to her first.
The numbers aren’t great. Only five people looked at the second one, and only two looked at the first one. Maybe the second one is better, she thinks, but quickly dismisses the idea, because the first is so clever, and the second simply a study of life and circumstance, and of course a celebration of libraries. That story will be sure to get young girls and boys reading, she thinks, and then it occurs to her that people are suckers for romance, so of course the second story has more views than the first.
She yawns again, puts her phone down and decides to go back to sleep.
Midway through a third story, this one about aliens, she has the uncontrollable urge to check her email. She has a Feeling. But this time when she sees the new email from WordPress, she suppresses her excitement until she reads the whole thing.
And when she reads that she has a new comment, no, two! comments, waiting for approval, she tries not to smile too smugly, even though her computer probably can’t register her facial expressions.
Here we go, she thinks, here come the praise and adoration, although she immediately regrets thinking that, because what if it’s actually a negative comment? What if some girl met her boyfriend in a library and he abused her and then dumped her for a more beautiful, blonder, bustier girl and she’s angry because the story made her relive all her horrible memories and now she needs counseling and she’s going to sue…
Her mind cuts itself off when the comment page loads. The first comment is on her first story, the one about the girl who starts a blog in order to become famous, from someone named ubieranki that says, “Nothing really to talk about…” She snorts in indignation and hits the reply button.
“Did you even read the story I wrote, Mr. (or Ms.) ubieranki? What kind of name is that anyway? If you take another look, I’m sure you’ll find plenty to talk about.”
The second comment is from someone with a crazy German-sounding name, hausmittel kopfshmerzen, and it says, “Simply want to say your article is stunning. The lucidity inside your post is merely striking and that i can assume your an expert on this field. Well together with ycur permission let me grab your rss feed to keep up to date with succeeding post. Thanks millions of and please keep up the fabulous work”
She smiles, although wonders why someone would use the word “lucidity” to describe what’s going on inside a short story, but chalks it up to the fact that the reader obviously isn’t a native English speaker, and she’s tickled anyway. “Thanks! I’m glad you liked it. I don’t know if I’d call myself an expert yet, more like an explorer, trying to forge my own path through the publishing world. Of course you have my permission to subscribe to my RSS feed, you’ll be my second subscriber (after my mom, LOL).”
The comments pour in. She probably doesn’t need to write anything else, now, right, because so many people are reading what she’s already written and it would be a shame to distract them from her magnum opuses, but she might as will finish the story about the aliens, because after all, she’s already halfway through and she hates leaving things unfinished.
Before she finishes the alien story, though, she reads through all her comments and replies, because she loves the stories about authors who take the time to answer their fan mail, and then wind up changing some little boy’s life because his parents abused him and no one ever loved him and his only friends were books, and then the author.
Comment from hotels in hong kong: “Dude… I am not much into reading, but somehow I got to read lots of articles on your blog. It’s amazing how interesting it is for me to visit you very often.”
Reply: “Thanks! If you ever come to the United States, let me know and you can visit me for real, and we’ll have lots of fun.”
Comment from detoxing your body: “I just want to say thanks for communicating such excellent work. You have opened our outlook to new and exciting topics which not many speak about. It is always great to read about another writer’s ideas.”
Reply: “Expanding horizons is important work for a writer. Thanks.”
Comment from tv through internet: “Nice site you have here… though I have a question I’d like to ask you, preferably through email. How can I contact you?”
Reply: “Thanks! My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to getting in touch with you!”
She wonders if she should send all her comments to the agents who rejected her novel, but decides to wait until she gets multiple pages of comments on all the stories, including the alien one. That’ll show them, she thinks, pages and pages of readers who love my work, and you were dumb enough to reject it. She imagines the looks on their faces, but then feels bad and decides to check her forum for writers to see if anyone else is having the same kind of break away success she is.
After agonizing over the ending to the alien story and posting it, wondering when an appropriate time to start selling ad space on her blog will be, and how many ads she should put up, and how selective she should be, and whether or not she’ll let any of the agents who rejected her buy ads, she reads the latest comments on her first two stories. Most of them are similar, so she writes the same response again and again until she gets bored and finally comes to the greatest comment she has ever seen in her five days of blogging.
“Writing is a talent that you surely have,” wrote kinoki foot pad scam. “All your great work is clearly obvious when you state yourself through writing. Your one of a kind writing will always be remembered.”
She smiles smugly and doesn’t even care whether or not her computer can recognize facial expressions. Finally, someone who gets it. Someone who recognizes her genius. She forgets to respond and instead prints out the comment, clips it off of the page and tapes it to her computer monitor, for inspiration, for the times she’s feeling a little down on herself, she can look at what kinoki foot pad scam wrote and remember that her great work is obvious when she states herself through writing.
Suck it, publishing world, she thinks.
I wanted more and more to go on an adventure. My People played with me every day, but I was restless.
“Would you like to hear a story?” the Moon asked me one night.
“I’m tired tonight,” I replied. “My people took me to the park and I played with the other dogs and swam in the lake.”
I felt the Moon smile—a slightly warm feeling that only came over me after I’d done or said something that made her happy, and only if I could see her through the window.
“I’m glad you’re meeting new friends. Goodnight, Little Ruby.”
“G’night,” I woofed.
I was tired, but the truth was that I didn’t really want to talk to her. I was busy planning, and sometimes it felt as if she could read my mind. I wanted to keep my plan a secret.
The next morning, after my People left for work, I jumped out the open kitchen window. Once I was free, I sat down in front of my house and looked at it, not sure what I should do next. I hadn’t planned much farther than getting out.
I decided to make my way over to the dog park, since I knew the way. Usually on walks other people would comment on how pretty I was, or how big I was, but that day no one noticed me—I felt invisible. Normally those feelings would have made me sad, but today I was glad for going unnoticed.
Being outside without my People or a leash exhilarated me. I sniffed everything on the way to the park, and when I got there, sniffed and rolled around in the grass like I’d never been there before.
I had the park to myself, so I chased every bird and squirrel I saw. In the middle of a chase, I heard music coming from far away. The sound of barking and meowing followed it. A strange scent came to me, also from far away, so I followed it, wondering where such a strange combination of scent and sound could come from.
As the scent grew stronger so did the noises. Almost out of nowhere, I stumbled over a large hole in the ground that hadn’t been there before. I put one paw into the opening, and the music grew louder. I put another paw in and again the volume increased.
My heart raced but curiosity drove me on into the tunnel. As I walked further and further in, both the smells and the noises got stronger. Now I could make out other dog, cat and animal smells, as well as something new, something I hadn’t ever smelled before.
After a minute of walking I found a poster pasted onto the tunnel’s dirt wall. It read “Corgo the Great: Magician Extraordinaire!” and showed a Corgi with a magic hat with eyes peeping out from the inside. The poster scared me a little, but I felt it was too late to turn back now. I had to prove my bravery and cleverness to the Moon, or she would never respect me.
I walked around another corner in the tunnel and suddenly it opened up into a huge theater. All sorts of dogs, cats, mice, squirrels, deer, birds, turkeys, moles and things I couldn’t identify filled row upon row upon row of seats, and all were stomping and barking and cheering at a spectacle on the stage at the front of the theater.
A Corgi in a black cape with a black top hat performed magic tricks on stage. I watched in awe as she cut a cat in half and then put him back together, and as she turned a long string of colorful handkerchiefs into live doves that fluttered away, cooing. The show so enthralled me that I didn’t even want to chase them.
I found a seat by two cats near the entrance. They must have been able to tell I was new to this, because one purred, “Is this your first time here?”
Alternating stripes of dark and light gray stretched across her back and tail, but her legs and face were white. The other cat was bigger and had black and brown stripes all over his body like a small, dirty tiger.
“Yes, I just found a hole in the ground and followed it here!” Even as I spoke I couldn’t take my eyes off the stage. Corgo had just pulled a volunteer up on stage and pulled a card, a coin and a cup out from behind her large dog ears.
“Ooo, the best part is coming up,” the tiger-striped cat said.
Corgo took a small bottle of glitter and threw all of it out into the air above the stage. She aimed her wand at the glitter and it froze in mid air. The crowd gasped. Then, the Corgi drew a stick figure human. She waved her wand at it again, said a few words that I couldn’t hear clearly, and the figure grew into a life-sized human man. My jaw hung open and I was too stunned to speak, but the room erupted in cheers.
“Oh, just wait,” said the first cat. “It gets even better. You’ll never believe what she does next.”
Corgo waved her wand again and the man started chasing her around the stage. He had a long stick with a loop of rope at the end. I’d never seen one before, but I knew right away it was meant for catching stray dogs. I could hear the man’s feet banging on the stage as he stalked Corgo, and my heart beat a little faster.
With each stomping footstep a little of the glitter that floated in midair fell to the stage floor. The man closed the gap between him and Corgo, until finally he had the magician cornered at the back of the stage. I was sure he was going to catch her, and had to keep myself from shouting out a warning. Suddenly she appeared behind the man. The crowd, including me, gasped again.
Corgo jumped up on the man’s back and used his head as a springboard to jump to a trapeze hanging above the stage. The man shouted in rage and surprise, and turned around in time to see Corgo leaping from the trapeze to another across the stage. The man ran below it, clearly without a plan. Corgo did a few mid-air flips and somehow her hat remained on her head.
She landed on top of a ladder at the other end of the stage and climbed down. I let a long breath out, not realizing I’d been holding it.
The man was waiting at the bottom with his dog catching rope, but Corgo didn’t walk into him like I feared she would. Instead, she took her wand, which had been tucked in her cape, and struck the end against the floor. A huge bouquet of flowers popped out of the end and flew straight up into the man’s face. The crowd laughed uproariously.
Corgo used the distraction to run under the man’s legs as he screamed in frustration once again. He recovered from the flowers quickly and caught up with Corgo in the middle of the stage. She stood on a raised platform, calmly looking out at the audience. The man began to creep up to her, thinking she didn’t see him. A wicked smirk on her face told us that she knew exactly what the man was doing.
Just as he was about to pounce on her, she leaped up, took off her hat in midair, and threw it down on top of the man. The hat landed squarely on his head, but it kept going down over his body until he completely disappeared within it! I barked in surprise and approval.
Corgo landed on all four paws, recovered her hat, and took a bow. The crowd erupted in noise. Everyone stamped, stomped, barked, meowed, chattered and yelled at Corgo’s amazing trick.
After her bow, she flipped her hat around so the audience could see inside—it was completely empty. She reached in, moved her paw around and came out empty handed. She shook it out on the stage, and nothing fell out of it.
The hat had swallowed the man entirely, which was even more amazing considering the small size of the hat and the large size of the man. I couldn’t believe it, and could feel how wide my eyes grew.
Then Corgo tapped the hat with her wand, reached in with her mouth and tugged. A different man’s head popped out, and he looked around bewildered. Corgo shook her head and shoved the human back into the hat. She tapped it again and repeated the motions. This time a woman’s head came out, and the crowd laughed. She shoved the woman back into the hat, tapped it again and once again reached in with her mouth.
This time the original man’s head appeared and Corgo waved her wand at the crowd, enticing applause for her trick. She pulled the rest of him out of the hat, but before he had the chance to start chasing her again, she tugged on his shirt sleeve and he collapsed into a giant white handkerchief.
The crowd went wild again, and I joined another dogs’ howls. Corgo took one last bow, placed her hat on her head and threw the giant white handkerchief over her head. It settled over her, but kept settling, until it lay flat on the stage floor—she had completely disappeared!
“Wow, that was absolutely amazing!” I said to the cats next to me.
“Every show is better than the one before it,” the tiger-stripped cat said.
The white and gray cat said, “Corgo always has the best tricks. I’m Cleo.” She preened at me a little as she spoke.
“And I’m Tony,” the stripped one added, rubbing up against my legs and purring.
“Uh,” I said, a little surprised. I’d never met a cat before, and wasn’t sure what he was trying to accomplish. “I’m Ruby. It’s…nice to meet you.”
“Well, Ruby, where are you headed off to now?” Tony asked.
“Home, I guess,” I responded. “My People will probably be home from work soon, and I don’t want them to worry about me.”
“I see,” said Cleo. Maybe I imagined it, but she sounded disapproving. “We can disappear for days at a time, and our People don’t mind at all. They give us catnip when we come back. They know it’s silly to think they can keep us cats locked up all the time. We need room to roam and hunt, but I guess dogs are different.”
“Dogs need room too,” I blurted. “That’s why I’m here. I was tired of being stuck in the house all the time.”
“That’s rare,” Cleo purred. “We’re going to go look for an adventure, but I guess you need to get home to your People, so we’ll see you later.”
The two cats waved goodbye and started walking away. At that moment I felt proud of myself for discovering such a wonderful place, but also like it wasn’t enough. I chased after them.
“Can I come with you?” I asked the cats.
Cleo shrugged, but Tony smiled at me. “That would be great! You can be our bodyguard!”
“Oh, will it be dangerous?” I asked, suddenly feeling a little scared.
“Nah, we’ve never run into trouble before, just with some nasty alley cats. But they’d never bother us if we’ve got a big, scary dog with us, right Cleo?”
Cleo purred her agreement. “Let’s go, then.”
“Where are we going?” I asked.
“Oh, nowhere special. We’re just going to wander around the city and explore a little,” she said. Relief flowed through my body. I was okay with exploring, but the thought of going too far still scared me.
“Sounds like fun,” I said mostly to myself.
“This way!” Tony pointed at what I thought was the same tunnel I used to enter the theater.
Tony led the way, and we walked back out through the tunnel, past the same scary poster and up, up, up until finally I saw light ahead. When we came out of the tunnel, though, it was dark. I knew immediately something was wrong.
“Where are we?” I asked. “This isn’t the city at all. It shouldn’t be dark already.”
We looked around, and saw nothing but a meadow full of grass and wildflowers, scattered with a few trees, extending all around us into the darkness.
“Tony! You led us out the wrong tunnel!” Cleo meowed. She batted him in the face with her paw. “Goodness only knows where we are now, or how we’ll ever get back!”
A squirrel popped up out of the tall grass and startled all three of us, though we all tried to hide it from each other. “If you’re wondering where you are,” he said, “you’re in Lexiana’s Meadow, in the Kingdom of Wales.”
“Whales? Don’t Whales live in the ocean?” I asked.
The squirrel looked surprised and a little annoyed. “Not, the animal, you silly dog. The country. Wales? South of England? Across the Atlantic Ocean from North America? You must be from America if you’re so ignorant of geography.”
“Oh, lovely,” Cleo said.
Worry and panic filled my body. “We have to go back.”
“We can’t,” Tony said. “The entrance closes once you exit. We’ll have to wait until the next full moon to get back.”
I turned around and looked for the tunnel, but it was nowhere to be seen. I dug frantically at the spot it had been, but all I found was dirt and a few small rocks. I gave up, and let despair take over. “We have to wait a whole month?” I asked, panting heavily.
“That’s no way to talk about a royal country like Wales,” the squirrel cut in, puffing out his chest. “You should tour the country, enjoy your stay.”
Cleo eyed up the squirrel the way I imagined she eyed up her dinner. “You’re annoying,” she said right before she pounced on him.
Somehow he escaped her claws and bounded away into the meadow. None of us felt like giving chase, so instead we lay down in the grass near where the tunnel had been.
“Now what are we going to do?” I cried, feeling very little and very foolish, the Moon’s words of warning echoing around in my head, teasing me.