With Child

WTH. He has a kid

What do you mean? Like, with him???

Yes. At the table w him.

omg ABORT ABORT

            Christina put her phone away and pulled her scarf up over her mouth. Her date, met on some app or other, had claimed one of the plaza’s round tables. “Between the coffee truck and the ostentatious Christmas tree,” per his text. And he was cute enough. Clean-shaven, sharp nose—and a sort of thoughtful look most people didn’t have when they didn’t know anyone was looking.

            But he’d brought a little boy.

            He hadn’t mentioned a son. Certainly not that he’d be bringing one to their meetup.

            Kind of a glaring omission.

            She kept walking, right past the park and into a bookstore. Change of plans.

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Going Away

            Ben had these little soaps I’d pick up and smell in his bathroom. They were like little seashells. Looked like white chocolate, smelled like I don’t know. Flowers or something. I’d always take one into my hand when I was peeing and think about taking a bite out of it. The night of Ben’s going-away party, I was like, I don’t know, maybe I should really do it this time. I’ll never be back here. I’ll never hold this little scented conch again.

            But somebody knocked on the door and I flushed and left.

            Everyone was there. People I hadn’t talked to since freshman year. People you wouldn’t think even remembered or gave a shit about Ben. But I guess everyone was pretty curious.

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Accommodations, Pt. 2

NIGHT

            Her new room wasn’t ready yet when she returned to the Inverness. That was just fine, she told Jordan, shivering in waterlogged clothes. She left the lobby and went past the bar, which was unmanned and off-limits by way of red suede stanchions. Teeth chattering, she poured herself two coffees in the self-serve lounge and tried to do a little work.

            Nothing from her boss. No email. No check-in. No “don’t bother coming in Monday.”

            Between refills of the hot motor oil the café had to offer, she began researching funeral parlors. Most were closed, unavailable to book.

            Like the dead had nowhere to go, either.

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Accommodations, Pt. 1

NIGHT

            Andi checked in laughing.

            “Room at the inn?” she joked of the desolate lobby. Her voice, smoky and worn for someone in her late twenties, bounded off marble. Chandelier crystals tinkled overhead.

            “Might be able to squeeze you in.” The man at the desk smiled before raising a paper mask over his mouth. It puffed and contracted between words, like a lung. “You’ve got your pick,” he said, scratching at his scalp through tight, short curls. “If you want a view, we’ve got rooms with a view. If you want to be close to the pool, say the word. Heck,” he snorted, “if you want to sleep in the pool, I’m not gonna stop you.”

            “Just something quiet,” Andi said. She adjusted the duffel bag on her shoulder, twisting brown tendrils of her unruly hair in the strap. “Not facing traffic, if you can. A little private.”

            “That’s easy,” the clerk said. His soundless fingers bapped at a rubber keyboard. “There’s only one other guest in the hotel tonight. Only guest we’ve had all week.” He yawned, pulling his face covering taut. “He’s way up in the penthouse. I’ll put you…” He drew close to the screen, nose an inch from the monitor. “Hmm. In a central room on the third floor. Insulated, near the gym.”

            “Sounds good,” Andi said. She pinched the metal clip of her own mask at the bridge of her nose. “Only two of us, huh? In the whole hotel?”

            “It’s been a slow season,” the man said.

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101 Reasons to Hate Dogs

with thanks to Bill, Bob, and Dodie

 

“Not to state the obvious,” Selina said, “but I don’t really do dogs.”

Bruce’s mouth tightened—not a smile; never a smile. The German Shephard at his feet let a strand of slobber patter onto hundred-thousand-dollar loafers.

“It’s one night,” Bruce said. “I’ll be back from Santa Prisca in the morning. I see no reason why you can’t—”

“I can think of a hundred reasons,” she said. “One: It smells.”

“He doesn’t smell.”

Selina’s lips curled. “And you don’t think it’ll raise any eyebrows?” she said. “Me, traipsing around with Batman’s dog?”

“Batman doesn’t have a dog,” he said. “Bruce Wayne has a dog.”

“How the hell is that better?” she asked.

Bruce kneeled, scratching the dog behind one ear. “Ace is a good dog,” he said. “You could just stay in with him tonight.”

Selina snorted.

“You do realize who you’re talking to, right?”

“Ah.”

“Bat,” she said, and bent to face him.

Gray eyes locked onto green. “Yes, Cat,” he said.

“Because I love you, I will be a dog person for twenty-four hours. That’s what a saint I am.”

“Hn,” he said.

A sudden wetness at Selina’s fingertips: the animal, slurping. She shuddered but didn’t withdraw. “Reason Two,” she said. “The licking.”

“Cats lick.”

“Yeah, but you don’t need a mop after.”

“Thank you, Selina.”

“Mmm.” She stood. “And I promise if anything happens, I will not replace your dead dog with a lookalike and pretend nothing happened.”

Bruce held out a black leash. “I’d know,” he said.

“Right,” said Selina. She took the leash.

“World’s greatest detective and all.”

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