Posted on: June 19th, 2010 Recalculating

By Tina Connolly

Proceed 20 feet and arrive at your destination.

Scanning…. My sensors affirm there is no human female, 36, in this house.

Yet again.

New destination___? Speak up, please. Remember my audio receptor was damaged, and there are no replacements left within a 300 mile radius.

Recalculating.

The battery is capable of completing this journey. Please affirm you have the necessary equipment: Scuba Gear. Wetsuit, preferably your least favorite. One pound fresh produce, tightly bagged, state type___? Long-cherished dream of co-worker, describe wistful imaginings___?

Cease. That is plenty to go on

Take on-ramp to Hwy 101S.

Continue 32 miles, avoiding potholes. Though potholes are ubiquitous, some of these could swallow a minivan. Be alert.

The off-ramp sign is gone, but you will see a broken billboard reading White Sands Mall. Take that exit and drive until the water is too high to continue.

Suit up, put me in your fanny pack, and wade out. Though I am capable of self-propelled motion, you will need me near.

Crawlstroke when necessary. That patch that sparkles is the blacktop roof of the mall. They have pipes there to run the oxygen and catch seagulls.

They also have booby traps. Stay away from the roof.

Dive down and frogkick 220 feet to the right.

The mall has one landlubbers’ entrance, through the Nordstrom’s. If you see the Cinnabon you’ve gone too far. Grab the N of the Nordstrom’s and lever yourself down three flights to the front door.

It will be dark on the inside. Show them your spinach and the guard will let you in. They still have sneakers, and are willing to trade.

The Nordstrom’s floor is generally wet. The carpet got soaked when the first wave hit and never really dried out. If you are allergic to fungus, get a move on.

The further in you go, the better sealing job they’ve done. Nobody lingers in the Nordstrom’s.

You will have to navigate several layers of waterproofing devices. It will seem like no one is watching you. This will be untrue.

Near the Topsy’s, you will meet the inhabitants. Though they seem an average cross-section of humanity, this is not the case. 90% of them have agoraphobia. Another 8% are afraid of the ocean.

You will recognize their leader by the amount of Claire’s Jewelry he wears. He will likely be scented with Warm Vanilla Body Wash from the Body Shop. Even his agoraphobia hardly dims his lustre. You may find your interaction goes more smoothly if you tell him how brave he is for keeping his tribe alive and thriving in the mall under the ocean. He will pretend he is too modest for compliments. He would rather interest you in a fine selection of colognes in exchange for your spinach.

You’re still interested in the girl? Yes, my sensors have located the likely target. But she is a small mousey thing, saddled with acute shyness in addition to her other fears.

Very well.

Recalculating.

Proceed 80 feet to the Women’s Shoe Locker. She has made a home for herself behind the Nikes and Adidas, and she is not likely to go with you, even if you produce an extra wetsuit that you have brought.

It does not matter that you have thought her name in your dreams.

It does not matter that you think you knew her when you were both young, and foolish, flipping ice cream at the Cold Stone Creamery in the Food Court.

That is a different girl. That is a girl who left. This is a girl who stayed.

And she is not so much a girl, is she? In your dreams she is still 19, and she laughs when you sneak over to the Chick-Fil-A and drop scoops of ice cream in the fryer. But here in the mall she is 36, and she prefers rubber soles and aglets to the world above.

You take her by the hand (a moist, under-the-sea hand) and you say softly, come with me.

Time passes and the water pools in your flippers. The leader will come soon, and want to exchange Mrs. Doubtfire DVDs for your spinach.

You are waiting.

You must decide, and I cannot stay here forever. The sea air will ruin my processor, and I have a vested self-interest. You cannot blame me for this, where this is leaving you with a mall of stored dreams, vacuum packed against love and foreseen apocalypses.

Recalculating.

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Posted on: June 6th, 2010 Barrenness

By Jackie Jones

I haven’t spoken to Georg since the Anschluss.

When we met, he was still married to the daughter of the torpedo inventor.

When we parted, he had married the fat maid.

A woman has a certain window, if she is beautiful. She must act before the window is bricked up forever and she is on the other side, just like that horrible Poe story, only without the wine.

When the Fuhrer fell for me at the party, of course I agreed to stay. He had a long history of suicidal blondes, but some did very well when they lived. Long ago, in England, Anne of Cleves got a nice settlement and lived. But then again, she was ugly.

Georg was naturally distraught. “What about the children?” he asked.

“Maria can take care of them,” I assured him.

“They hate her, you know that.”

“Yes, I know. Maria is a brute, a Panzer. Oberkommando of the scullery with a piercingly flat soprano that could shatter more than one Jewish business. She is a monster. But how can I turn down the Fuhrer?”

“He makes you a whore, then.”

“He doesn’t sleep with women. Max told me. And I’m your whore.”

Events happened quickly then. Eva the idiot was constantly in the way. I suppose stupidity leaves less of an edge on a face, giving one more time. She was half my age when he met her, after all, and hidden away from the light like a mushroom. She was so like Blondie, his Shepherd, patted and put away.

I thought perhaps I was turning into an elegant antique that one showed friends; something one found on one’s travels. And so I was.

I would hear terrible news from the children. Liesl saw Rolf kissing Max in the Gazebo. Maria drank in Georg’s private chapel almost every night. In the day she woke up to drill the children relentlessly. But they did not like her as they loved me.

People respond to beauty; it launches ships and sinks them equally. Does it encourage talent? A muse inspires, but perhaps does not train. You’d need an Austrian cow for that, apparently.

Later, after the war, when they all ended up in America, Brigitta contacted me from Hollywood, California and told me she was offered exorbitant amounts of money to act in a Space Show – was I interested?

I went, but the window had been bricked up. I was too old. Too old even to play the mother.

Beautiful people are meant to be in entertainment. The rewards are faster than government, but sometimes people confuse their purpose in life. I should have gone with them all along.

There was a brief moment when I could have escaped with them. When Max came to me breathlessly and said there is, in fact, a way.

“Do you sing?” he asked.

“No,” I said, “Not a note.”