Story, The Best Results Blog

Anchovies and mozzarella pizza

Walt was famished and though anxious to inspect and perform any necessary repairs to the bag, he stopped at Arturo’s for anchovies with mozzarella pizza. The anchovy fascinated him, repulsive, yet savory, ill-textured for the tongue, but somehow irresistable when combined with a crispy thin coal oven pizza base.

He quickly downed the baked clams and garlic bread appetizer. Moments later, when the anchovy and mozzarella was served, he pre-sliced the pizza into small isosceles triangles in which the two equal sides were exactly three inches long. He stacked the triangles three high, stabbed them with a fork and removed them with his teeth one at a time, chewing each piece topping side down while holding the fork vertically, the next piece poised to be devoured as soon as the one in progress was finished.

In this method he efficiently devoured the pizza in eight minutes, downing a swallow of Peroni between triangles. He ordered a second pizza to go. By the time he arrived at his shop on Canal, auxiliary pizza in hand, he had already begun to feel better and belched to announce his entrance. He nodded to the woman and man who tended his storefront, and told himself that one day he would commit their names to memory.

In his haste to get Susannah Fontaine-Williams medical attention, he had not examined the scene following the energy pulse. Walt took the stairs down to his workshop two at a time, forgetting the nail on the 27th step. He hit it full force and the nail penetrated the arch of his left All-Star and the foot it contained, which he grabbed, stopping his momentum and causing him to trip down the remaining few steps. After crash-landing,  foot in hand, he removed his sneaker and looked at the small puncture in his foot. “Not so bad,” he said.

The extra-dimensional bag was on the floor where it had landed, just a few feet from the pod door. It was on its side and some of the contents had spilled out onto the floor. This was a bad sign as nothing should come out of the bag unless removed by hand. But there, in a fan-shaped array, were the objects Susannah Fontaine-Williams used move often: hairbrush, toothbrush, wallet, keys, mirror, pepper spray, various makeup and accessories, a paperback book, and so on. Everything appeared to have been singed and indeed, the odor of  burned plastic and paper hovered in the air. He reached to pick up the nearest object – the hairbrush, yet it had fused to the floor, along with everything else that had spilt. He grabbed for the bag handle, and a small spark arced from it to his hand.

Reaching again, this time slowly, he was able to touch it without getting a shock. The bag itself had not fused to the floor and he picked it up and carried it over to his workbench. He shook the bag, listening for the sounds of anything that was still inside. He heard nothing. He put his hand inside and it appeared to be empty.

He walked over to the storage pod and entered. There were still plenty of items inside, although a few had fallen out of the bins, including the floppy hat which was upside on the floor. He put the hat on top of a bin and returned to the bag on his workbench. Reaching inside again, he again felt nothing.

The bag must have malfunctioned.

He considered his assorted tools, meters, flibnars and nurjles, removed the articulating flibnar and inserted one pronged end under the lip of the bag’s opening. He was met with a shrieking, piercing shock that knocked him backward onto the ground. Though his entire body seemed to be vibrating, he stood and approached the bag. As he extended an arm to pick up the bag, another pulse met him and knocked him to the floor again. Tendrils of smoke rose from his sleeve.

Walt stayed put this time and thought two alternating thoughts: one was a blank, the other was about the pizza box resting on the table next to the extra-dimensional bag. A third thought crossed his mind.  It  doesn’t seem to like me anymore.

Story, The Best Results Blog

What about Bob?

Bob is standing next to Susannah Fontaine-Williams’s hospital bed. Macallan slouches in a chair on the other side of the bed, eyes shut, a crossword puzzle on his lap. Bob grasps her hands in his. A Dylan song plays dreamily, coming from someone’s phone or tablet.  (Bob backstory here.)

My love, she speaks like silence
Without ideals or violence

“What happened to you?” he whispers. Her hair is frizzed and tangled and the dividing line of a sunburn runs from her hairline to where it disappears at her neckline. Susannah stretches her legs and toes, yawning. She is too tired to open her eyes.

“Where are the kids?” she asks. “Are the kids here?”

“Mrs. Quackenbush is with them. They’re sound asleep.”

“More likely watching a movie and eating ice pops.”

“More likely,” Bob laughs.

“Bob honey,” she says. “You know that guy in Greece they found?”

“You mean the couple on the boat?”

“Uh-uh. The guy that killed that couple.”

“They’re still looking for him. They’re looking for the woman in the hat, too.”

“Oh, that’s good.” She drifts off and in a moment she snores herself awake again. She opens her eyes and sees Macallan. The dividing curtain is open and the handcuffed man is watching her.

She doesn’t have to say she’s faithful
Yet she’s true like ice, like fire

“Hello,” Susannah Fontaine-WIlliams says.

“Hey,” he says. His voice is scratchy and he coughs.

Macallan stirs. “Susannah, you’re awake.”

“Mac… What are you doing here? What am I doing here? Where is here? I’m in a hospital,” she concludes, satisfied.

“Apparently you were electrocuted.”

She squints and scrunches up her face as if she’d just bitten into a lemon. “I was electrocuted?”

She runs her fingers in her hair, or tries to. “My hair,” she says. “Is there a brush anywhere?”

“Who were you talking to just now?”

“The gentleman in the other bed. Would you mind handing me my bag?”

“No, there was a visitor. You called him ‘Bob.’”

“Bob was here? He’s just imaginary, silly. He’s my make believe husband. We have make believe triplets.” (More about Bob here.)

“Really?”

“Two boys and a girl. I think. Maybe it’s the other way around.”

“He’s tall…telegenic, like you.

She props herself up on her elbows and stares him down.  The effort tires her quickly and she shakes her head and drops back down onto the pillow. “You were dreaming. Hand me my bag, please.”

“I saw him too,” the stranger rasps. “Good lookin’ guy. Tall. And them kids weren’t with no babysitter neither. Swear to god, they were sittin’ right outside the door, cute as buttons, makin’ faces at me.”

Statues made of matchsticks
Crumble into one another
My love winks, she does not bother
She knows too much to argue or to judge

The man coughs again. “Allergies.”

Story, The Best Results Blog

Visiting hours

Macallan doesn’t mind hospitals the way other people do. He gets some peace, some quiet, finds some meditation in the beeps and blinks of monitors and equipment. Hospitals are interesting mixtures of folks either waiting to die or desperate not to, sometimes sharing the same hospital suite.

Susannah Fontaine-Williams, still unconscious, lay in the bed next to the window. Mac sat beside her, the unstarted Monday Times puzzle in his lap. He listens to the sounds coming from outside the room,  cart wheels on the hard, polished floors, the hushed voices, the buzz at the nurse’s station. He doesn’t care about the time; nevertheless, it is early evening.

He had answered his phone a short while ago, Susannah Fontaine-Williams’s name on the display, yet a strange man’s voice speaking with an accent he couldn’t quite place. “She is in the New York Downtown Hospital…there was a power surge.”

“What kind of a power surge?”

The man was impatient. “She was caught in a burst of electrostatic energy. Difficult to explain. She will be all right.”

“Who are you?”

“Not important. A friend. She will tell you. Maybe. Come. She should not wake up alone.”

Walt did want to explain. But how does one explain the paradox that would be created by bringing the exterior of an extra-dimensional object – the bag – into its own interior, which had nearly happened. This is all speculation, but that might very well turn the universe inside out on itself. He couldn’t know for certain; it was a theory he was too afraid to test. What did happen is that she stopped at the bag’s side entrance, a flash of energy knocked her backward and she crumbled unconscious on the spot.

Walt hoisted her over his shoulders in a fireman’s carry, took the stairs up to street level two at a time, and sprinted her to the nearest hospital, the Downtown Hospital, nearly a mile away. He raced her straight to the desk in the emergency room, screaming, “she’s been electrocuted!” This got a lot of attention and two attendants lifted her from his shoulders, dropped her onto a gurney and rolled her away through a pair of swinging doors. He shouted, “Susannah Fontaine-Williams…she famous…has a TV show,” as he ran back out of the emergency room, away as quickly as possible.

Racing back to his shop in a zig-zag pattern, he looked at SFW’s recent call list on her phone, and pressed Macallan’s name. He didn’t think anyone had followed.

Macallan sits patiently at her side, watching her breathing, zoning out to the rhythmic beeps. It makes him sleepy. He should call Alethia soon. He pulls out the Monday puzzle, the easiest of the week and just stares at it, seeing the clues, but not registering them. He falls asleep.

He awakens to the sound of voices next to him, a cop talking to a nurse. “Do you have to cuff him to the bed like that? Between the morphine and that leg wound, he’s not going anywhere.”

“Sorry,” the cop says, “it’s procedure. ”

“What did he do anyway?” she says.

“This clown goes into a drug store to get allergy medication. But he doesn’t have ID. He roughs up the girl at the counter, takes the stuff – he actually pays for it! Then he runs away, gets clipped by a car and goes off into the woods.”

“So he didn’t actually steal anything?”

“No, and he nearly bleeds out. Sumbitch could have died, and for what?”

Macallan chuckles to himself. The nurse looks his way and says, “Visiting hours are over soon. You have about 15 minutes.”

He nods, “Thanks.” He scans SFW. She has what looks like a bad sunburn on the right half of her face and on her right arm. He thinks that if he pulled back her covers, he would see that her right leg is burned as well. Her hair is a tangle. “Think she’ll be OK?”

The nurse glances at her monitor and takes her pulse. “Everything seems normal.”

“Then why hasn’t she woken up?”

Story, The Best Results Blog

Drain clearing nano-bots

“What’s this?”

“Oh, these are next big thing.” Sometimes Walt spoke that way, omitting the simple adjectives just for kicks. “Drain clearing nano-bots.”

“It just looks like metal filings to me,” she said and picked up the vial with the label that read in tiny, neat script, DCNB.

“Very observant. They are… until you dump them into a drain with standing water. I have programmed them to activate when wet. They will float down until they encounter a clog and then in a matter of seconds shred it apart. When that happens, my little robots float away with the cloggy stuff, die and dissolve. Very short life.”

“You’re going to put a lot of plumbers out of business.”

“Not for public – only plumbers.” He skipped subjects and verbs too. “I want to stop people dumping lye and other chemicals in their drains. Makes no sense what you people do. I’m working on a variant to replace gardening chemicals that will eat specific weeds and bugs then degrade into a useful soil nutrient.”

“I never had you pegged for an environmentalist,” Susannah Fontaine-WIlliams said.

“It tricky programming … a lot of much math for me. I’ll get it though.”

“It’s odd, Walt,” she said. “How linear the narrative has become. Here I am in your workshop looking at your gadgets and toys slowly coming closer to this secret you have for me.”

“Agree. I prefer it when it jump around more too. I don’t like speaking this way either. Very unnatural. You have very shapely legs.”

“That’s not your kind of dialog, is it,” she said and slapped him once. “Not for being fresh,” she said, “just to snap you out of it.”

Blood trickled from his nose. “Ooooh, sorry,” she said.

“Not your fault. I bleed easy.”

“What were you going to show me?”

“Ah, yes. Come over here.” He led her to a door with a round port window like you’d find on an old boat. “Look inside.”

She put her face right up to the glass and cupped her eyes with her hands to keep out the glare. “I can’t see a thing.”

He flipped a toggle switch and the room on the other side of the door lit up. There was a table on a glass floor and on the table were a half dozen or so bins. She couldn’t see inside them, but she did recognize the floppy hat that rested across the top of several bins. “My hat!”

She reached into her bag and grabbed the hat and it disappeared from atop the bins. “Why didn’t I see my hand when I pulled out my hat?” She put the hat on, twirled and smiled, “You like? Say… did you put the hat there when I needed it on that jerk’s yacht?”

He shook his head.

“The knife?”

He shook his head.

“Mind if I go in and look around the inside of my purse?” She opened the door and stuck a leg in before she heard him yell, “No! Wait!”

Story, The Best Results Blog, Uncategorized

Customer service

Susannah Fontaine-Williams landed at JFK, ambled quickly through customs, and isn’t the new system great, and saw the man holding her sign, S WILLIAMS. Her driver, Rodrigo, led her to the black car waiting at the curb, held the door open and in she climbed, escaping the sweaty New York City morning.

Walt sat in the back seat behind the driver; though she saw him she didn’t acknowledge him. Let him speak first.

“Home?” Rodrigo said. She nodded to his sunglassed reflection in the rear view mirror. The glass partition began closing and she said, “Let’s drop off your other passenger on Canal first.” He nodded and the partition closed.

Skippable pleasantries:
“Hi Walt,” she exhaled.
“Hello Ms. Fontaine-Williams,” he said. “Good flight?”
“Slept through it.”

On with the story:
She thought for a minute how badly she’d wanted to see Thomas Jefferson’s copy of the Declaration of Independence at the New York Public Library. She’d landed on July third, the last day it would be on display, but this post didn’t get written for nearly a week and by now it had returned to from whence it came. “Damn,” she whispered. “My fault,” I whispered back, that voice in her head we all have, only hers is mine.

Walt fidgeted beside her, uncertain where to start. He didn’t like being a passenger in cars. He never knew what to do with his ungainly long arms. The limo had handles above the doors and he grabbed the one on his left allowing his left arm to hang. But the right arm, what to do with the right arm? On the ride to the airport, it spread wing-like over the top of the back seat. Very comfortable. Now, with Susannah next to him an extended arm would drape over her shoulders – and that would require explaining – so he crossed it back in front of him and now held the handle in a two-fisted grip.

SFW reversed her position on who would go first and said, “Walt, it’s very kind of you to come meet me at the airport. Not many people would do that, especially for just a customer.”

“How is the bag working out?” Walt said.

“It has exceeded my every expectation,” Susannah said. “You have no idea how much I crammed in here for my trip.” Despite the ever-present construction,  they soon were entering Manhattan via the Queens-Midtown Tunnel.

“My memory isn’t so good – I wrote it down.” He pulled out a slip of paper.  “Six dresses, two pair of shorts, a few tank tops, a dozen panties and bras, six pair flats, four pair of heels, some gifts which I see you’ve brought back with you. Six skirts, six tops, two dozen…”

“How do you know all that?”

“Hard to explain. Maybe it’s better I show you.”

She turned to look out the window and watched the buildings of Midtown Manhattan roll by. This should be taking much longer. Where’s all the traffic? And she wasn’t sure if it was her voice or mine asking those questions. If he knows the contents of my bag, what else does he know?

“Am I in trouble, Walt?”

“May I see the bag?” he said. She tilted her head slightly and it reminded me of what a golden retriever does sometimes. It’s a quizzical thing. “I just want to check it out. I’ll give it back.” She handed it to him.

He held it up by the handle at eye level, slowly turned it, rubbing its surface and closely eyeing it. “Amazing!”

“What?!?”

“No damage, no signs of wear. It’s held up remarkably well. May I open it?” he said while opening it. He peered into its black interior, shook it, turned it upside down – nothing came out – and put a hand inside and rooted around.

“Anything you want to tell me…about the bag’s performance?” he said. “Anything odd?”

Oh, she thought, like a shoplifted Vera Wang disappearing? Like a hat and a knife conveniently appearing just when I needed them? 

“This bag saved my life.”

The car pulled up to Walt’s place in Chinatown. Walt handed back the bag to her. Rodrigo came around and opened Susannah Fontaine-Williams’ door, and helped her out. She signed the receipt – her show would be billed, or the station would – and handed him a fifty. “Shall I wait for you?” Rodrigo asked.

She looked to Walt for guidance. It must have been a combination of the sweaty air, a growing psychic disorientation, and standing too quickly that made her dizzy and she leaned against the car until the feeling passed.

“We’ll be awhile,” Walt said.

Story, The Best Results Blog

Selective vow-keeping

While Susannah Fontaine-Willliams slowly medicated herself into an undreamingly refreshing sleep, Walt considered the events he’d witnessed through the storage pod’s window into her realm. The lurid double-murder story had made its way to the United States quickly and was getting its momentary share of traditional news coverage, as well as tweets, likes, comments, and speculative theories. But he was the only one who knew what happened.

And that made him a witness. He considered his options, and as a man of great integrity, coming forward was, in a black and white world without portal-enabled extra-dimensional handbags, the right thing to do. He’d also considered the vow he’d taken long ago to abide by the laws and customs of each place he inhabited. He had also vowed not to give away technology, and not to get caught. That – on impulse – he had given Susannah Fontaine-Williams a powerful handbag with still to be discovered properties spoke to what he feared was yet another crippling crush on a beautiful, unattainable creature that had impaired his once impeccable judgment. Again.

Discussion question: What is about Walt that the writer is intimating but not saying? 

Story, The Best Results Blog

Errors, omissions, clarifications, and corrections

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Susannah Fontaine-Williams thought about dipping her toes in the pool.

A few details have fallen through the cracks of this leaky story, so the editorial board and I agreed (I was coerced) to use this post to clear up a few matters and and to address some errors and omissions that the both of you may have noticed.

First, before boarding the ferry, SFW wrapped a scarf around her neck to cover up the bruises left by the serial killer, Dr. Morose – I’ve forgotten his name, but if you read back a post or two, you’ll see it.  Glenfiddich notices SFW’s bruises while chatting with her on the ferry but says nothing.  Second, SFW cut her finger on the blade of the knife while fiddling with it in her purse just before using it to stop the attack of the evil Dr. Morose, ending his villainous life. Perhaps he should have been dispatched earlier in life before he entered this tale.

It’s likely that the cut on her finger means nothing and has no effect on the story. Of course she daubed it with neosporin and a waterproof bandaid, just two of the many supplies tucked away in her extra-dimensional handbag/medicine chest. So no need to worry about infection.

Next, not only does she feel no remorse for killing Dr. Morose, the up close life or death combat left her exhilirated, as do most of her experiences. Fun fact:  remorse and morose are almost but not quite anagrams.

One of you asked if SFW would end up in a threesome with the store detective and his wife. Kudos for picking up on the subtle sexual tension between the lines involving Glenfiddich, Alethia and SFW. Short answer, doubtful, but yes, why wouldn’t she? Consenting adults and all that jazz.

Bob from Jenkintown points out, “this started as a kind of sexy sci-fi thing, but has veered into uncomfortable territory for me. I’m sticking with it though in the hopes that maybe there’s some time travel or aliens.” Bob raises a valid point.

Now, on with the narrative:

After she had explained everything, omitting the extra-dimensional qualities of her bag, the three of them sat on the Macallan’s villa terrace in bathrobes, limbs entwined, and watched the news.  “Authorities are investigating a yacht found docked unattended on the island of Delos…”