Issue #75

Summer 2020

Two Stories

by Soren James

Hollywood 6000

Forcing myself into a seductive pose, I replaced my hands with chainsaws, my legs with jack-hammers, and my eyes with diamond cutters. The director walked around me twice, appraising my attributes.

"I've been a prisoner here," I said, "for five hundred and twenty-seven years, forty-two days and –"

"Yeah, yeah. I don't want your back story," said the director. "What I want is a front story. Make me believe in you. Show me what you can be, and why you should be in my movie."

I lifted my right chainsaw, fixed him with my diamond cutters, and stated slowly, "You see this mitt – it's taken the lives of over ninety bourgeoisie. And this," I lifted one of my jack-hammers "– this stamped the cutesy face off a child actor. And you see this," I pulled down my trousers.

The director interrupted,"What I really want for this project is charisma – something to distract audiences. I need them to accept ultra-violence as natural – even desirable. How would you make my audiences love you so much that they hate themselves?"

I considered for a moment, and replaced my hands with roses, and my legs with two poems about eleven lost oceans. "Better?" I asked, in the voice of George Clooney.

The director gazed at me thoughtfully, then said, "Tell you what. Give me back one of the chainsaws and use the voice of Schwarzenegger."

Unused to managing a separate presentation of my hands, I accidentally turned my right hand into a pastry brush and the other into an industrial refrigerator. The director shook his head, tutted, and turned his attention to a list he held in his hand.

As he was about to leave my prison cell, I managed to make my right hand into a red rose and the left into an even bigger chainsaw than I'd had in the beginning – mostly by accident. I acted as nonchalant as I could. "How do you like me now?" I said, attempting a seductive voice that unexpectedly sounded like Julia Roberts. The poem about eleven oceans was causing me voice mix-ups, and I soon found myself sounding like Brad Pitt, while brandishing a deck of cards and two bank vaults for legs.

"You've got range, I'll give you that. Range, though, is not in fashion these days. Pigeonholing is the big thing right now. If you can't coo quietly and fit in a cage, you don't belong in Hollywood 6000. I'm sorry, but you're out."

Scared and disappointed that my slavery may continue another five hundred years, I turned into a bulldozer and went on a rampage. The director ran round and round as I demolished the prison of lies enveloping me. But then the sun set and we forgot where we were.


A Dog to Dog Portrait of Unplanned Method

Don entered the front door, sheepishly closing it behind him. In the hallway, at the entrance to the living room, stood his wife, patiently waiting.

"Hello," said Don.

"How was work?" asked his wife.

Don took a deep breath. "I have something important to tell you."

With a raised finger, his wife said, "One moment. I've something equally important." She took out a book from her pocket, opened it at a random page, closed her eyes and dropped her finger indiscriminately onto the printed matter then read aloud: "Do you hear that? said Martha, It's cultural white noise. It gets everywhere these days." The wife closed the book. "Now, do continue with what you were about to tell me."

"I'm leaving," said Don.

The grandfather clock in the hall ticked its way through a long pause.

Eventually the wife asked, "What, or whom, are you leaving?"

"The dog," said Don. "I can't stand to be around it any more. There's something about its slavery, its total reliance upon us for –"

"Does this mean you will also be leaving me?"

"As you live with the dog, yes."

The wife pulled the book from her pocket, picked an arbitrary page, then a line, and read: "All these maps, and I still can't find my father." She replaced the book in her pocket, then added, "Would you perhaps stay if I had your children?"

Don shrugged. "Having kids lowers one's expectations about hygiene standards, so it's possible."

"There's hope?"

"I wouldn't go that far." Don placed his umbrella and hat on the stand by the door.

"Is it my hygiene, or that of the dog that offends you?"

"The dog is very clean."

"Yes, it is. Because I clean it – with my clean hands and my clean arms." She looked at him, her brow furrowed. "Is this really about the dog?"

Don looked at his feet, wiped his shoes on the doormat then slipped them off and placed them neatly against the wall. "It's about what happened last night. You were talking over my safeword."

"I see. Sorry about that. . . Look, I realise I hurt you –"

"Hurt! I could have died."

"Like god could have died, but he didn't?"

"That's debatable."

The wife paused. "That he could have died, or that he didn't?"

Don sighed. "I don't know – both. Either."

"You're so lame. Such a floater in this world. . . But we're getting a little off subject."

"Yes. Like it was off subject to quote from your book while I was shouting my safeword."

"You just resent that I believe in a book – and you don't."

"Resentment's not the word. Maybe bemused is more accurate."

The wife chose a random line from her book. "I am, at times, a dog to dog portrait of myself, chained." Satisfied, she nodded, closed the book and returned it to her pocket. "Don," she continued, "I think maybe you're lost. Have you never found your life's calling?"

"If I did I don't think it was so much a calling – more a screaming."

"For help?"

"For anything. A way out of the darkness, a pathway to something –"

"You need to believe in a book." The wife paused, looking down at her pocket. "I know a good book." She was about to reach for it, but Don interrupted, "Don't. It's full of nonsense."

"You are the one full of nonsense, Don. It is you who is mad."

"Don't do this. It's insane! I can't take it any longer! Where all this belief come from? And why?!"

"They made me an offer I couldn't refuse: either my brains or my signature would be on the contract."

"And your brain is still stapled to that contract? Is that why you're behaving like an imbecile."

The wife reached for her book.

"Don't do it!"

She began reading aloud: "I found myself elsewhere, in a domain of hardness. Then, more suddenly, flaccid. Drooping. Flopping. Lost. Languishing low in my pants –"

"Pineapple! Pineapple!"

"That's my safeword."

"I know. Mine obviously means nothing to you!"

"Don't be so churlish. Here, use this book. It's very wise. Maybe you can get over this emotional nonsense."

"Your book doesn't know what it's talking about."

"That's exactly the point, Don. Random, cut-up techniques are meant to free our thinking, undermine normality and disrupt the expected. Not like you, stuck with that fucking Bible of yours. If you're still hand-holding that imaginary friend of yours when we go skiing next week, I shall be very disappointed."

"Pineapple!" Shouted Don.

"I don't believe in safe-words. There are no safety nets in reality. There's no secret hatch that's going to let you out. When you're in, you're in for good." She removed her book and began reading, "Unless everything becomes the same, that really will be that, and the pie . . ."

Don put his hands over his ears and repeated as loud as he could "Pineapple! Pineapple! Pine . . . ."

Author Bio


Soren James' fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons, Black Scat Review #13, Urban Fantasist (Grievous Angel), Freeze Frame Fiction, Page & Spine, and Nanoism. His story, "This Is A Series of Words To Which You Are Condemned," appeared in Issue #60, "Waiter" in Issue #64, and Two Stories in Issue #68 of The Cafe Irreal.