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Two Stories

ONE

When he saw Diane with the heavy, black machine, something in him congealed and made a curling, downward descent about a vital inner ledge. He felt- he imagined- as an insect would do, moments before colliding with a spider’s web.

The day, it seemed, had progressively been bullying him towards this dark-wood corner of the Lodge where he was now wedged- another awkward ornament in the strange composition of objects that seemed to lend an odd, occult-like imbalance to the room. Despite his secret training in the lead-up to the trip, he had nonetheless played woefully on the lawns at tennis. His limp-wristed shots sailed over the net in an exaggerated gaiety, and he found himself insisting with a chivalry even he found tiresome that he run after every single errant ball. What’s more, he very soon realized that his washed-out denim shorts were far, far too small for such a sport. Straining his ears and upper-thigh skin-receptors for the slightest warning of tear, he scurried to the return in a manner both stiff and mincing, like an arthritic crab trying to dodge an invisible tide.

On the walk back, he could think about nothing else but his sweaty hands and the fact that his Y-fronts had encroached upon regions he felt nothing- not even she- should regard so inquisitively.

Back at the lodge, they drank lemon squash. In his haste to find his long socks before the game, he had forgotten to fill up the ice tray. The beverages, they agreed, were zesty, but not refreshing. No, not very. Lord, now I feel sticky everywhere.

He cursed himself.

I’ll play you something, he said, walking over to the cassette player.

What? she asked. No, who. I meant who.

Well, this one’s Bob Seger, he said.

Oh, well, if you like.

Yes?

If you like.

You don’t like him.

He’s all right.

He sat down by heavily by the television. His pale knees jut out, almost accusatory in their ghostly, bulbous pointing. Bob Seger whispered Night Moves to his groin.

I have a better idea! Diane declared.  Smirked the machine: “To be consumed,” and winked.

Story by Kate Prendergast

TWO

When I got back from Nam and started going to Morgan State on the GI Bill, I rented an apartment in a building on Northern Parkway. The thing was they only had two-bedrooms available so I had to find myself a roommate.

I’d lost touch with most of my high school friends, but one day I ran into Vinnie who was working at Fort Meade. He invited me to his regular Wednesday night basketball game in an elementary school near Perry Hall. That game was like church for me for a while. Afterwards, we’d go to some bar all sweaty and smelly and drink about 50 pitchers of beer.

Will was one of the basketball guys. He was studying psychology at Towson State and needed a new pad. He’d been in the seminary, but now had hair down to his shoulders. Mine was still growing out from the military.

Myself, I hardly ever went to class, but Will studied in the living room on a TV tray. He could block out all distractions, the TV, the noisy neighbors. Walls were so thin you could hear the guy downstairs splashing in the tub. One night I was smoking pot and suddenly got the urge to howl like a wolf. Will never even turned his head.

I smoked a shitload of dope in those days. One time I came back from a bike ride and walked into the kitchen, the bike up on my shoulder, and saw some strange guy stirring something in a pot on the stove. Took me a second to realize I was in the wrong apartment.   

One night I was playing James Brown real loud and the black guy next door banged on the wall, shouting, “Turn that shit down!” That got me real pissed so I took it out on the cassette, ripping out handfuls of brown tape which fell in coils on the floor. As I sat back, the empty cartridge in my hand, Will looked up from his textbook, mellow as ever, and said, “You know, you’re your own worst enemy, man, but that’s cool.”

Story by Fiona J. Mackintosh

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