|This week in SHOWCASE|
|An Indelible Feast by Alex Shvartsman|
|Stanhope’s Finest by Natalie J. E. Potts|
|Allegory at Table Seven by Jarod K. Anderson|
|Badger & Vole Review: THOR: The Dark World|
|Learning Experiences: Appliancé|
Story and comments by Bruce Bethke
|Editorial: Show Your Work|
|Previews of Coming Attractions|
|Support STUPEFYING STORIES|
|SHOWCASE Back Issues|
|Frequently Asked Questions|
|Return to Front Page, Latest Issue|
|#9 - November 8, 2013|
|#8 - October 29, 2013|
|#7 - September 6, 2013|
|#6 - August 26, 2013|
|#5 - July 26, 2013|
|#4 - July 12, 2013|
|#3 - June 28, 2013|
|#2 - June 21, 2013|
|#1 - June 14, 2013|
|Like us on facebook:|
|Email the editors:|
feedback@this site dot com
|How to submit a story:|
READ THIS OR ELSE!
|Visit the mothership:|
|All contents ©2013 by their respective authors, unless otherwise noted.|
|STUPEFYING STORIES is a trademark and STUPEFYING STORIES SHOWCASE, STUPEFYING STORIES MAGAZINE, STUPEFYING STORIES PRESENTS, STUPEFYING STORIES: THE LUNCHBOX, STUPEFYING STORIES: THE FLAMETHROWER, etc., etc., etc., are productions of Rampant Loon Media LLC, P.O. Box 111, Lake Elmo, MN 55042.|
|By sending email to feedback[at]stupefyingstoriesshowcase.com, you implicitly consent to having the contents of your email made public at the sole discretion of the editors, with no compensation due you for this publication and no matter how much personal embarrassment or humiliation this may cause you. So be nice, and remember: submissions go to the submissions address, not the feedback address!|
ALLEGORY AT TABLE SEVEN
by Jarod K. Anderson
Julia Riggs plucked a single kalamata olive from her half-eaten salad and set it on the tabletop. It wobbled and rolled toward the wall, coming to rest against the chrome napkin holder. Julia hadn’t noticed that the table was so slanted. Her lip curled involuntarily in an ugly little smile.
She extended her right hand in a pointing, accusatory gesture at the tabletop and traced the wet track of the olive with her fingernail, finally letting the chipped black enamel of her nail press against the plumb-colored skin of the fruit—supple and shining. Her left palm involuntarily rose to her belly and the dull ache of hunger that was growing there. She spat a wordless curse at the olive and stabbed her finger straight through it, toppling the napkin holder in the violence of the movement.
Barking out a satisfied little exclamation, she recoiled from the table and bumped her wooden chair against the wall of the café.
Looking up, she found that a crooked old man in a pilling grey sweater was staring at her from a nearby booth. Her left hand had wandered up to cup her right breast. She didn’t smile at the man. Neither did she shrink or blush. She simply met his gaze with an even, neutral stare and crossed her arms on the table.
The old man rose stiffly, shuffled his way towards Julia with the aid of a polished black cane, and after what seemed like a great deal of effort, finally planted himself in the chair across from her.
His eyes were too tiny for his broad, white face, and their irregular faded blue surface made Julia think of curdled milk. The rest of the man looked dried and stiff. He made her want to drink water, flex her joints, maybe even go for a jog. Something with movement and pumping blood. “Ok, I give up,” he said. “I had my guesses, but you got me stumped.”
Julia knew the man, though she didn’t know why she should. Looking past the shriveled old man she saw a server begin gathering up the money he had left and bussing the table. She silently asked her to drop one of the bread plates, and she did. It crashed to the floor and shattered.
“You giving me the silent treatment?” asked the man. “I don’t see that very often. You know, I was fairly sure you were a preta, but that’s not right, is it?”
Julia raised her eyebrows and began tearing a napkin into tiny pieces.
“I don’t know what that is,” she answered.
The man nodded. “Welcome to the conversation.”
She nodded back at the old man. She didn’t mean to. It just happened.
“Still,” he continued, “not knowing what a preta is wouldn’t disqualify you from being one. But, you’re not. I’m sure of it now. You’re a little too… pleased with yourself for that.”
Julia cocked her head, trying to determine if she had just been insulted.
“You aren’t quite a person though, either… are you?” he asked.
“I have a mom and dad. I poop and cry and I just ate some salad,” she answered matter-of-factly. Then she raised a cupped hand full of napkin shreds to her mouth and blew them at the old man. A few of the pieces caught in his bushy eyebrows and hung there like snow. Julia sniggered.
“I don’t think I like you,” said the old man.
“Well, I think you’re a flabmar,” retorted Julia. “And the grim reaper shouldn’t be anything like a flabmar.”
“What’s a flabmar,” he asked, brushing some napkin bits from the front of his faded sweater.
“It’s sorta like a preta, except I just made it up and I already forget what it means. So now you’ll never know what you are.”
The old man turned his head and a twinkle came into his eye. “Entropy,” he said nodding to himself and pointing a leathery yellowed finger at Julia. “You’re Entropy.”
“I’m Julia Riggs.”
“Yes, fine, but I’m not wrong, am I?”
“Of course you’re wrong. I just told you that you’re wrong. ‘Julia Riggs’ doesn’t even sound like ‘Entropy.’ Does it? Say them both. You’ll hear it.”
Julia poured the last inch of her coffee on the floor beneath the table as if to punctuate her point.
“Okay, Julia. Well, where have you been? I haven’t seen you… not in person anyway, for… well… have I ever seen you?”
“Are you asking me where babies come from, Mr. Death? Because frankly, that doesn’t seem like your department. Also, it’s kind of an embarrassing conversation to have and you should really talk to your gym teacher.”
“Stop deflecting. I know all the major personifications: Father Time, Mother Earth, Night, Day, Greed, Sleep… Hell, I know a little guy named Jeff who represents lost keys. So?” The old man held up his hands in an open-ended exhortation. “Where have you been?”
“I’ve been going to night school to be a dental hygienist,” answered Julia.
Death stared at her blankly. “We have meetings, you know. Protocol. All the major personifications are needed. We have responsibilities. You have responsibilities.”
“Yeah, but how could I come to a meeting?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, do you all sit in chairs and talk… like we’re talking now?”
“Yeah, that won’t work for me.” Julia shook her head emphatically, but laughter was creeping into her voice.
“Why not?” asked Death.
“Because I’m a Koi pond.”
With that, several hundred gallons of water suddenly occupied the space where Julia Riggs had been seated. The table, chairs, and the wizened old man were all thrown back into the restaurant by a surge of water. The startled kitchen staff rushed in to see most of the café covered in a half-inch of water and maybe a dozen colorful Koi fish, each the size of a housecat, flapping desperately on the linoleum floor.
Death shook off a waitress who had rushed to his aid as he jerkily came to his feet, and trudged toward the door.
“Definitely Entropy… Maybe Chaos,” he grumbled to himself as he shuffled out onto the sidewalk. “Ridiculous.” He looked up and sighed as a fish-shaped cloud swam in front of the summer sun. He reached up and ran arthritic fingers though limp wet hair and set off in the direction of anywhere else.
Julia Riggs never paid for her Greek salad.
Jarod K. Anderson is a writer of speculative poetry and fiction. His poems and stories have appeared in numerous online and print publications including Daily Science Fiction, Escape Pod, The Colored Lens, Electric Spec, Fourteen Hills, Star*Line, and Stupefying Stories. Read more about him at JarodKAnderson.com.