The Broadcast Violence Was Thusly Amplified

He was watching the news. Something bad was happening in Syria.

She was in the other room getting undressed. She thought about what she had just read on her phone. Something bad was happening in Syria.

She used the master control to turn off the lights. The apartment fell dark and this had the effect of making the television seem somehow brighter. The intensity of the broadcast violence was thusly amplified. Something very bad was happening in Syria.

The television was muted. The only audible sounds were those made by the passing traffic twelve stories below and the impact of her bare feet as she walked toward him across the carpeted floor. She was wearing only a pale blue bra and matching panties. The light from the television danced across her bare skin. It was performance art. He was a captive audience. The pale projection of an explosion reflected across the small of her back. Something very bad was happening in Syria.

She straddled his lap and put her hands on either side of his face. The kiss that she gave him made him think of the first time they had kissed. Her lips had been pillowy then. Her lips were pillowy now. Her body was warm. His body was warm. She turned off the television.

Something good was happening.

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An Undergraduate Refilled Their Glasses

Neither of them moved or spoke. An undergraduate refilled their glasses. The horn of an unseen car honked succinctly, providing an auditory punctuation that neither of them could muster.

Short Story:
Modifications Politely Declined

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He wouldn’t have noticed her if she hadn’t been smoking a cigarette. That she was doing so while seated directly under a sign that read ‘Thank You For Not Smoking’ made him feel strangely anxious.

The barista announced that a flat white was ready for ‘Kyle’. This was the incorrect interpretation of his name that he had by now learned to listen for. This made him a better listener than the very high “dude” taking orders but that was of little comfort on this particular morning.

He claimed the mislabeled cup and scanned the room for an available seat. There was a vacant stool across the table from the smoking girl but he wasn’t particularly interested in sharing a table with a stranger and he was less interested in sitting within her cloud of smoke.

Rough timber boards traced the bottom of the walls, giving way here and there to too-small seats attached to the wall with too-rusty hinges that looked ready to buckle at any moment. The interior designer responsible for all of this had overshot both ‘authentic’ and ‘vintage’ and landed instead on ‘dilapidated’.

Not one of these rickety seats was empty. Nor were any of the cushioned couches that lined the wall just inside the door of the café. Nor were any of the milk crates that doubled as furniture on the front sidewalk. Annoyance blossomed into heartless surrender as he accepted that the stool across from the girl was the only free chair in the cafe.

He turned to reassess the stool’s availability and saw that the girl was watching him with a placid expression. She took a drag and then exhaled smoke, studying him dispassionately all the while. After a few seconds she motioned to the stool with the hand that held her cigarette. To not join her now would be deliberately rude.

She watched him take the two or three steps across the wooden floor and she kept her eyes trained on him while he sat his coffee on the small table and leaned his bag against the legs of the stool. He finally sat before her, unbuttoning the jacket of his suit as he did so.

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The Burning Intensity In Her Gaze

“Any fall from this height would certainly be fatal,” I said with a casualness that her response did not mirror.

“So jump,” she whispered just loudly enough for me to hear.

She turned toward me and the burning intensity in her gaze told me that her remark had been no parapraxis; she was ready to watch me fade from view forever.

One Thousand, Seven Hundred And Ninety Four

“The anxiety you’re describing is born from a desire to know the unknowable. You would have precise – and beautiful, for their precision – integers assigned to pointless quantities, such as the passel of cars parked in this garage. It’s not that you want or need to know the exact number, but you feel like there should be one; that such an enclosed and permanent structure like this parking garage should have a calculable capacity, that this capacity is the reason it exists not as a twelve-level structure, but as a ten-level structure.”

I could no longer remember why he was telling me this. Had I made the mistake of saying I was anxious? The thought of having potentially committed such a blunder was the only cause of anxiety weighing on me now.

“What I’m trying to say is: nobody knows or cares how many cars are parked here. It’s not relevant to any reality we occupy. So why worry about these things?”

The technician who had been working on the pay machine next to where Carl was lecturing me stopped his work and tapped on a device that looked like a phone.

“There are one thousand, seven hundred and ninety three cars parked in this garage at the moment,” he said with a sly but detectable smile.

I couldn’t help mirroring this smile and I turned to reflect it to Carl.

“That’s a beautiful and precise integer, Carl,” I said, but my smile had escaped my attempts at restraint. All of my teeth were showing as I finished with glee.

“Now we can all relax.”

Carl turned to the technician and spoke with obvious irritation.

“That’s not the point I was trying to…”

His voice stopped when the technician held up a solitary finger. Behind him the boom gate was raising to allow another car to enter the garage. The technician let his finger fall in time with the lowering boom gate. The tenor of his voice was unchanged from his first report, but his smile was noticeably wider as he spoke.

“One thousand, seven hundred and ninety four.”