Vegetables

“I hate you,” Joan announced, walking out of the kitchen.

Tabi’s eyes went wide eyed at the plate of crackers and dip her girlfriend carried. “Holy shit,” she said, “You’re insane.”

Joan just glared back. “I’m insane? What kind of a sicko puts googly eyes on a tomato?”

Tabi at least had enough sense to restrain herself from snorting with amusement, but still said, “When you told me you wouldn’t eat anything with a face, I didn’t think that included fake faces.”

Joan settled into the armchair with an emphatic flop. “Well when you said you like my ass in skinny jeans, I didn’t think you’d suddenly start sabotaging my waistline by turning all the vegetables into adorable little fridge friends.” She punctuated her retort by shoving a fistful of crackers into her mouth.

Crunch!

“It was a joke. I thought it would be funny.”

“Maybe it is,” Joan replied, “but I still end up feeling like I’m the joke.”

Silence.

Crunch!

A sigh.

“You’re right,” Tabi said. “I’m sorry. I’ll go chop some vegetables.”

“No,” Joan insisted. “Let them live their lives.”

Tabi’s eyes narrowed. “You named them, didn’t you?”

“It’s not my fault! You made them too cute.”

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox

Image: Keri Lee Smith on Flickr

Visions

“Do you want to talk about what you saw?” I asked softly

She nodded, wringing the hand that had shaken his.

“Now?”

Hesitation, eyes watery and unfocused. She nodded.

We made our way to a quiet corner of the party where we could pretend to look out a window at the city. I was quiet at first, wanting to give her the opportunity to speak first. My imagination swirled with possibilities either tragic or gruesome enough to trigger this sort of reaction from her. But I had learned early on not to press her about her visions. She couldn’t help glimpsing a person’s final moments, but that didn’t give her the right to share them. Even after nine years together, she still hadn’t told me anything about my own death.

So I waited. She remained too shaken to speak “It was a bad one,” I said, more an observation than a question.

“Not exactly,” she answered. “He’s . . . happy. Maybe a decade older. He’s in a hospital bed, but he’s surrounded by people. Mostly family by their looks, but friends too.”

“That sounds beautiful.”

“I’m there too,” she added. “But . . . you’re not. By then . . .”

Understanding, cold and merciless, opened my eyes.

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox

Wave

The feeling that had been tickling my feet, enticing me to go deeper, suddenly withdrew. I was used to the coming and going of these bubbling feelings. It was fun to feel each new surge of excitement. And knowing I could never hold onto them anyway, I let those feelings trickle away without mourning. Whether I waited for it or not, there was always another wave on its way.

I thought I knew what love was.

It’s not like I had never waded out past the shore to immerse myself in that vast mystery. Liberating, exciting, breathtaking – all of it yes. But also exhausting and dangerous. Better to chart my own course than to get lost in the currents, though it’s not like the sea cared at all about my opinion on the matter.

Should I have seen it coming. What would I have done, what could I have done if I did?

It withdrew farther than it ever had before. I only gradually became aware of what I was missing. And by the time I did, nothing could prepare me for what was coming.

I thought I knew what love was.

And then a tidal wave swept me away.

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox

Hot

“Balls!” Joselyn hissed. She clenched her fist tightly and pounded the counter waiting for the burning to subside.

“Everything okay?” Eddie called.

“Oh yeah,” Joselyn called out wincing, “just dandy.” Moments later she stepped into the room holding two mugs of tea, steam rising in wisps and curls. “Careful,” she said, holding out one of the mugs “it’s really hot.”

“Oh,” he said gingerly accepting the proffered mug. “Thanks.”

Joselyn settled into the couch beside him and blew on her own cup of tea. She glanced over at Eddie to see why he hadn’t pressed play to resume the movie and found that he was staring at her instead, a slight grin tugging at his lips. “What?”

“You sipped my tea,” he said.

Joselyn panicked. “Is that… I thought it would be okay. I mean, we’ve already made out, I figured… but I know it’s different with drinks. I’m sorry—”
“It’s okay.”

“I just thought—”

“No, no,” he insisted. “That’s not,” he paused, gathered his thoughts, looked at her with a tender smile. “You burned your tongue for me.”

Joselyn suddenly felt warm all over, and not from the tea. “I… I guess I did, yeah.”

“I love you too.”

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox

Vision

He had never understood why people cried at weddings, not until he saw her.

All his life he would remember that moment when his vision blurred. He would try to understand what pieces of himself fell into or out of alignment allowing the emotion to come forth so freely. He would wonder what he really saw in that moment when he suddenly had to blink away tears.

Did he see years of tender smiles and loving glances? Did he see angry comments, painful silences, apologies, reconciliations. Did he see crying babies and sleepless nights, hugs from children, children grown and leaving. Did he see hands interlocked, heads on shoulders, the endless kisses, tears wiped away, a lifetime of companionship.

Could he have seen? Could he have known?

It lasted just an instant, a hazy, warm, love-lit vision.

He knew.

He saw her, dressed in white, walking toward him while the melody of La Vie en Rose surged around them. Then she was there with him at the altar. He knew exactly why he was there, and exactly what he was promising. Their hands met, gripped each other tightly. Her eyes shone, wet with tears as well.

“I do.”

“I do.”

Story by Gregory M. Fox
Photo by Mandy Whitaker

Better

“What are you doing here, Paul?”

From within the glare of the headlights, a thick voice answered, “I’m gonna kick Matt’s ass.”

Stacy stood in the doorway of the bar, arms crossed. “And you really think that’ll make Annie want you back?”

Seated on the hood of his car, Paul answered, “No, I think it’ll make Matt regret being such a piece of shit.”

“Well you’re wasting your time. He’s not even here.”

Before Paul could retort, another voice said, “It’s fine.” Matt stepped outside into the headlights. “I’ll fight my own battles.”

Paul leapt from the hood and charged. “Damn right you will.” His punch knocked Matt flat on his ass. “Get up,” Paul growled, and Matt obliged. Another furious swing Stacy screamed, others poured out of the bar. Paul kept swinging, meeting no resistance from his opponent. “Come on, fight me,” he roared as Matt once more hauled himself to his feet. “What’s the matter with you, asshole?”

Matt’s lip was already swollen and split. He answered, “Annie.”

“Don’t talk about her,” Paul raged, once more knocking Matt to the ground.

“She would want me to be better,” Matt coughed. “She would want us both to be better.”

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox
Photo by Eugene Triguba on Unsplash

Destiny

This is it, Magda thought as she nervously approached the visitor standing before the altar, it’s meant to be. “Have you come to the goddess seeking love?” she asked.

“Wha—” the young man jumped. Recovering, he noted her acolyte’s robes and answered, “Oh, uh . . . yeah. I’ve heard that on her feast day—”

“She guides an earnest heart to its ideal partner,” Magda said excitedly, “Yes!” Steady, she thought. Don’t rush.

The man smiled—a beautiful smile. “So, how does it work. Does she just . . . appear in front of me?”

Destiny, Magda thought, a hopeful smile plastered on her face. “Perhaps,” she said, “your heart’s perfect match has already appeared before you.”

His eyes went wide. “You think so?” And like an untrained horse, he swung his neck from side to side, looking every direction except for straight ahead. “Where is she? Is she hot?”

Magda blinked. She blinked again. She looked up at the statue of the goddess which dominated the space beyond the altar. It loomed shadowy and silent. The young man, apparently disappointed by his prospects, turned back to Magda. “How do I know if I’ve found the one?”

Magda sighed. “I guess, sometimes you don’t.”

Story by Gregory M. Fox
Photo by Natalie Breeze on Unsplash

Promised

Lucy used the spare key hidden on the porch light to get into his house. What she found was a disaster. Smashed furniture, the smell of rot, a shape curled up in the darkness. A long, low moan. “Nooooo.” As she swung the door open, that shape began trying to drag itself away. Away from the light.

Away from her.

“William?” Lucy said, afraid of the answer.

“Go,” the voice hissed. Then, in a pitiable whisper, “Just . . . just go.”

She looked at the debris scattered around her, saw the broken chair leg with its jagged point next to where she had first seen him. He had stopped trying to crawl away. Instead, from that misshapen mass, two eyes stared back at her. Dark and beady, Lucy could only catch the smallest glint of light reflected in them. Gradually, as her eyes adjusted, she began to make out more details: bony hands, clawed fingers, back twisted into a hunch, papery skin, sparse white hair in lank clumps. Fangs. They caught the light too, vicious, dangerous things.

“What . . . happened to you?” she asked, already knowing the answer.

The vampire answered anyway. “No blood,” he said. “I promised . . . for you. No more blood.”

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox

Fart

They were together at the table, just finishing their meal when it happened. “What the—” Andrew started. “Did you just . . . fart?”

“What . . . ?” Sara replied still looking at her food. “I—maybe. Yeah, I guess so.” She stabbed fiercely at the last baby corn in her stir fry. “Everyone farts. Why are you making such a big deal about it?”

“Because until today,” Andrew said, “you had never farted in front of me.”

Cheeks flushed, still avoiding eye contact, Sara said. “You’re being gross, and super awkward. It was just a fart. Can’t you let it go?”

Andrew shook his head slowly, deliberately. “I will never let it go.”

“Fine,” Sara shouted, slamming her fork down on the table. “Sorry for ruining our relationship with my flatulence. I guess you’ll just have to dump me and keep looking for that fairy tale woman with no bodily functions to date.” She pushed away from the table, but Andrew grabbed her hand.

“Wait,” he said. “You don’t understand.”

“Don’t understand what?” Looking at him for the first time, she saw his eyes wide, brow furrowed, jaws tense. “What is that face?”

Pthhhppuuuurbbbbt, he farted. “I love you too.”

“You’re disgusting,” Sara said smiling.

Photo by Ishan @seefromthesky on Unsplash

Story by Gregory M. Fox