Issue #86

Spring 2023

Six Drabbles

by Ken Poyner


Council passes an ordinance that every family must possess at least one unicorn. Quibble had thought unicorns were mythical, but Council must know what it is doing. Not wanting to invest much money, Quibble asks within his circle of neighbors where a used unicorn might be found. No one knows. After a few weeks, he admits he will have to spring for a new unicorn. But no one will tell him where new unicorns are sold. Quibble decides his neighbors must silently already own unicorns. He begins skulking about nights by other people's sheds and basement windows, leash in hand.



The Saintlies are out in front of the mixed couple's house again. Marriage between AI entities and biologics has been legal for some time, but many still consider it an abomination. Hounding this or that couple solves nothing. Nonetheless, they come prepared to stay, blocking my driveway with a sandwich cart, parking a charging station curbside. Taking protest breaks, the AI units plug periodically in, the biologics square off in almost picnic formation. The more protests like this, the more AI personalities and biologics will mingle, the more fond matches casually evolve. From protesters one week, to protested the next.



Saturday nights the crocodiles invade Quibble's basement for their traveling poker game. Crocodiles playing poker might be a rare and magical sight, but Quibble likes them better as simple talentless, and absent, crocodiles. When they are about – shuffling and dealing and squandering bets – Quibble cannot use his basement. This basement is where he hides from his family. They leave him alone while he fumbles self-absorbed about down there, fearing the crocodiles. They do not know the game is only on Saturday nights. Besides, there are no crocodiles hereabouts: they are all alligators. But the family does not know that either.



One does not make monsters innocently. There is an expected outcome for every wickedly completed build. Even if only the horror of others, there is an end that drives which elements are selected for the monster. Often the focus is on a specific subset of potential victims: a segment of society the monster forces to believe they have done the monster-maker intended wrong. Revenge makes the best monsters. Particularly if it is revenge upon the innocent. Build the monster, imbue it with the builder's grievances, listen for the monster's random violence. Believe that it is vengeance. Believe it is accurate.



The button read, “Push for Happiness”. Quibble looked for some apparatus that might be activated by the button. It stood on a bleak metal rod settled in a corner of the parking lot, a box wallet-sized, with its red button, and the sign directing action above. Quibble had to park fairly deep into the lot to see it at all. What would be happiness, Quibble thought. He skidded nearer the button. He could see no warehouse or portal from which happiness might be dispersed. He decided he would hedge his expectations by turning around and backing unmindfully into the button.



You left your face in the basin beside the nightstand. As you cleaned sleep from your eyes, dabbed dry spaces, it looked up at you happier than you can of late remember, so you left it there. When you showed up at work without a face, the guard refused to let you in, but you had the proper key code, so he relented. Co-workers stole glances at you, but did not stare directly. Needed interactions were at an angle, your shoulder or hands in focus. Nothing you did required a face. Home, you went to the basin. You were smiling.

Author Bio


Ken Poyner offers currently four collections of poetry, and four collections of flash fiction. The two newest collections of poetry, Stone the Monsters, or Dance and Lessons From Lingering Houses emerged July/August 2021. He spent 33 years working in the information arts, and lives with his power lifting wife, several rescue cats, and multiple betta fish in the lower right-hand corner of Virginia. His stories have appeared in The Cafe Irreal ten times previously, most recently "Eight Drabbles" in Issue #84.