This week’s show has it all: vampires, evolutionary biology, and quivering jacked up Taylor Swifts.
We bring you three flash fiction pieces about the complications of being in love: Taylor Swift by Hugh Behm-Steinberg, The Evolution of a Breakup by Etgar Keret, and May I Come In by Adrienne Ryan.
Narrations provided by Avery Alexander, Adam Pracht and Norm Sherman.
by Hugh Behm-Steinberg
You’re in love; it’s great, you swipe on your phone and order: the next day a Taylor Swift clone shows up at your house. It’s not awkward, it’s everything you want. She knows all her songs, and she sings them just for you. When you put your Taylor Swift to bed (early, you got a big day tomorrow) you peek over the fence into the Rosenblatt’s yard, and the lights are blazing. Your best friend Tina has three Taylor Swifts swimming in her pool. She has a miniature Taylor Swift she keeps on a perch, a Taylor Swift with wings. You’re so jealous. She’s not even paying attention to them, she’s too busy having sex with her other Taylor Swifts, they’re so fucking loud it’s disgusting. You hate Taylor Swift.
So you wake up your Taylor Swift and put her to work doing your chores. Why are you being so mean to me she asks you, but you won’t look her in the eye. Instead you ask your mom for an advance on your allowance now that all the chores are done, and with the money you get three more Taylor Swifts. When they arrive you make them do nothing but cardio and kickboxing training for weeks on end. And steroids. They look all sweaty and hard and sexy but, unlike some people, you know all about delayed gratification. You make your Taylor Swifts sleep in separate crates.
You call your best friend Tina and say wouldn’t it be great to have a Taylor Swift party? We could bring all our Taylor Swifts, drink Diet Pepsi and smoke pot. Tina says that sounds like fun; let’s do it this weekend, my parents will be gone all weekend.
Saturday, you let one of your pumped up quivering Taylor Swifts ring the doorbell and who answers but Taylor Swift. Come on in, we’re all by the pool. By the pool all of Tina’s Taylor Swifts are naked, getting tan, they all look so sweet and lazy. They’re drinking Diet Pepsi while Tina is lighting an apple bong. So, she says, passing you the apple, what shall we do with all these Taylor Swifts?
You look at her, she’s just glowing, you’ve never wanted to be with anyone else but her in your entire life. And there goes your plan to have all your Taylor Swifts beat the crap out of all her Taylor Swifts. Let’s go to your room, you tell her. There’s something I want to show you.
A little later, the Taylor Swifts smile as they hear the two of you. The one with wings stretches and practices her nightingale routine. She knows that one day the real Taylor Swift will see the videos she uploaded, and the videos will be so beautiful, so perfect, that the real Taylor Swift will send her limo driver to pick her up and take her to the real Taylor Swift’s tower in New York City, where at last she too will be loved.
Evolution of a Breakup
by Etgar Keret
At first we were a cell. Then an amoeba, then a fish, and after a very long and frustrating era we became a lizard. That was the era when, as we recall, the earth felt soft and unsteady beneath our feet, so we climbed a tree. Up there in the treetops we felt secure.
At some point, we climbed down and started walking upright and speaking, and as soon as we began speaking, we just couldn’t stop. After that, we watched a lot of TV; it was a fantastic era. We always laughed in the wrong places, and people stared and said, “What’s so funny?” And we didn’t even bother answering-that’s how little we cared. We promised ourselves we’d find a job we’d love, and when that didn’t work out we settled for a job we didn’t hate, and we felt lucky, and then unlucky, and then lucky again. And suddenly our parents were dying. Then they died. A second before they departed we held their hands really tight and told them we forgave them for everything. Everything. And our voices broke when we said that, because we weren’t convinced we were telling the truth and were afraid they could sense it. Less than a year after that, our son was born, and he also climbed a tree and felt secure up there, and he came down at some point, too, and went off to college.
Then we were left alone and it started getting cold. Not like it was that other time, eons ago, when we hid in burrows and peered out while the dinosaurs froze to death, but still cold. And we went to an acting class because our friends said it would be good for us. They gave us a series of improv exercises, and in the first one we poisoned each other; in the second, we cheated on each other; and in the third, theinstructor, who spoke English with a heavy, indistinct accent, said, “Now switch partners.” And within seconds it wasn’t us anymore, it was just me.
The new woman who was my partner said, “Let’s do a sketch where you’re a baby and I give birth to you and nurse you and protect you from all evil.” And I said, “Sure, why not?” But by the time she’d finished giving birth to me and nursing me and protecting me from all evil, our time was up and the instructor with the strange accent asked if the exercise had brought back any primeval memories; and I said it hadn’t, because I didn’t want to admit that it had brought back ancient memories, from millions of years ago, from before we even emerged from the water.
Afterward, at home, we got into an argument over something really dumb and had the biggest fight we’d ever had since we were created. We yelled and cried and broke things, the kinds of things that if you’d asked us a day earlier we’d have told you were unbreakable. Then we packed up our stuff in a suitcase and shoved whatever didn’t fit in the suitcase into plastic grocery bags, and we dragged all that behind us like homeless people to the apartment where a very wealthy friend of ours lived, and he put a sheet out on his plush sofa for us.
The friend told us that it might seem like the end of the world now, but by morning all the rage and hurt feelings would melt away and everything would look different. And we said no, something had been broken, something had been torn apart, something we would never be able to mend or forgive. The friend lit a cigarette and said, “Okay, maybe so. But can I just ask- why are you always talking in the plural?”
Instead of answering, I just looked around and realized I was alone–I mean completely alone.
May I Come In?
by Adrienne Ryan
Fluent in sarcasm, Film major, Wanderlust- ask me about France.
I did. She “lived” there for a month over the summer, 10 summers ago.
I took her to a wine bar and watched her fumble through the pronunciation of Beaujolais.
She wasn’t interested in casual hookups, then divulged too much about her personal life.
“Not here for a long time, but here for a good time”
She was not here for a good time. She wanted to go for brunch.
Certified Foodie. Let’s go on an adventure!
She recommended a place that was popular with other influencers. It was a restaurant where, every few minutes, a waiter would appear wielding a knife and a partially melted wheel of cheese. They would position themselves at the table and, with a flourish, run the blade down the length of the wheel.
The novelty wore off very quickly.
“You haven’t touched your food,” she remarked, bathing our cheese dinner in the glow of her phone’s ring light, “Not hungry?”
I was starving.
She took her food to go, and later told me she didn’t feel a spark. I told her the feeling was mutual.
Dog mom. Feed me tacos.
Her dog met us at the door, ears pinned back and emitting a low growl.
“She’s usually pretty friendly…” she said before asking for a rain cheque. Later on she texted me about how her dog is a good judge of people and that she wasn’t interested in another date. I congratulated her on her intuitive dog before she unmatched me.
“Are you my appendix because my stomach’s feeling funny and I want to take you out.”
Despite going to a cocktail bar, she offered a nightcap at her apartment.
She was 3 drinks in, dreamy-eyed and swaying in a pair of heels.
“Yes,” my senses sharpened, picking up on the mixture of sweat and booze that perfumed her skin. “I’d like that very much.”
She kicked off her shoes as she entered, and I felt the familiar barrier rise up as I tried to cross the threshold into her apartment. She was midway into her living room before she noticed I didn’t follow her.
“May I come in?”
She turned, the drunken haze from earlier lifting off her as she looked at me. For a moment I thought the opportunity passed, and she would tell me to leave. I couldn’t read her face, if any anxiety or regret lingered there. But she smiled, tersely, and invited me in.
“Have a seat,” she gestured to the couch before disappearing into the kitchen, her gait now steady, “I’ll make something for you.”
The walk must have sobered her up, which was disappointing. Not that I particularly savor a high blood-alcohol level, but it’s always easier when they’re drunk. The reaction time is slower, usually they come to a dim realization of what’s happening right before they succumb.
I wanted her final moments be a slightly pleasant, slightly disorienting experience. I didn’t want her to feel fear.
…until I felt the tip of a crossbow bolt sink into my sternum a few inches away from my heart.
“Shit!” she pulled the crossbow lever back, ducking back into the kitchen as I wrenched the bolt out of my chest.
The blood shot out like a geyser, sinking into the area rug. I made a mental note to clean that up later.
Change of plans: knock her out and finish her off in the bathtub. Tear out her throat and stopper up the tub to collect any runoff. Then I’d clean up the mess on the rug. I asked aloud if she had hydrogen peroxide.
I followed after her, calmly side stepping another bolt that would have hit my shoulder.
“You’re a terrible shot.”
“I am!” she called back, disappearing into another room, “and alcohol is a performance enhancer too!”
“Is that why you drank so much?”
“I also like that bar.”
The kitchen was wreathed in garlic, I pulled down a garland as I passed, tossing it into the hallway after her.
“For future reference, these don’t work.”
Though she won’t need it for future reference.
I decided it was time to end it. I sharpened my senses, catching her scent tangled amongst the reek of garlic.
“I’ll remember that.”
She met me as I turned the corner, her hand gripped around a bottle in mid swing, aimed at my head. I pulled back and let it smash against the wall, caught in an explosion of glass and liquid.
Liquid that, on contact, blistered and peeled off the top layer of skin.
I forgot what pain felt like, regarding the skin burning off my hand with a mixture of wonder and shock before it registered.
That was enough time for her to take off down the hallway.
I lunged forward, giving myself a burst of speed to close the distance. She barreled through the last door in the hallway, swinging inside to reveal walls adorned with apotropaic symbols: crosses, octagonal mirrors, bells. Looking up, there was a nazar painted above the door.
I recoiled, locking eyes with her for the first time since she invited me in. The corners of her mouth twisted into a smile as she raised her crossbow.
“This again?” I asked.
In response she fired, but the bolt lay in the chamber. Without looking down she sighed, dropping it back to her side.
“I don’t want to ruin the night by saying something trite like, ‘I see we’re at an impasse.’” I said.
“No don’t, things we’re going really well until now…”
I smiled back and gave a cursory wave before smashing in a window leading to the fire escape.
“Another time then.”
I found her profile again. Different name and different pictures but it was still her. The last picture was of her on an archery range. She switched to a recurve bow.