Shelley (story)

Wrote this in half an hour, so be merciful. It was at a prompt by Meg Pokrass (link1, link2, and twitter)

Story challenge! Write a small story (under 400 words) using a real Craig’s List personal ad for inspiration!

I used this ad and wrote this story

I haven’t talked to Shelley in a week. She always used to call and tell me about her nights out, but for a week: nothing. She meets men on the internet and takes them home, telling me everything about it the next day. Sometimes I come and watch. Sometimes I listen in. I used to tell friends: one day I’m going to marry the Queen of Romania. I was little then, but when I saw her on the street, I knew it was her. At first I just followed her. I learned to distinguish her footsteps so I didn’t need to see her while still never losing contact with her. She works in a library, and the books she touches carry her light scent. I noticed that she gets upset when someone dirties one of her books, or rumples a page. She frowns and bites her lip. Small accidents started to happen, people stumbling down stairs, losing their keys. I became petty, stealing toilet paper, drowsing people in sticky fluids. She knew. I know she did, because one day I wrote her and she said: it’s you, isn’t it? The Queen remembered me. Recognized me. We started talking, and after a while, she called me every night. She went out with all kinds of men, but that wasn’t a problem. She’s young, why shouldn’t she have her fun? Whenever she calls, I wear just a touch of perfume, dabbed behind my ears, and a dotted dress, like the one my mother bought for me. The first time I wore it, I think the Queen knew that I was especially pretty. I heard it in her voice. But now I don’t hear her voice at all. I swear, it will never, ever happen again. Last night was different. I wore a cab driver’s outfit, and drove her and her man of the night to a nice restaurant. She suggested it, on my advice. My ex-husband runs the place and for all his flaws, he’s a magnificent cook. Something went awry. The man demanded attention, bellowing, but you don’t speak to a Queen that way. I was happy to see she didn’t answer him. In the restaurant though, he suddenly stood up, left money behind, came out, threw a wad of money on my dashboard and said: Listen, dyke. She will come out any minute now, take the bitch back where you picked her up. I shot him two days later. She called me the night after: it was you, wasn’t it? That’s the last thing I heard from her, but she will call. She has to. It’s fate.


Elberfeld (short story)

She struggled with the bedcover, as she tried to reach for the alarm clock. His semen trickled out of her, and was starting to cool on the bed beneath her. Irritated she stood up and kicked the nightstand, which did not appear to contain her alarm clock. He was propped up on an elbow and read a magazine. He always brought them and then he left them at her apartment, leaving it to her to discard them. At first she kept them, neatly stacked in an empty corner, but he never asked for them so she started to dispose of them, so as not to clutter her apartment needlessly. It was bad enough as it was, books strewn all over the floor where she had last opened them, cups and dishes, too. Once a month he swept all of them up and he washed and dried them and put them in her cupboard. He was good that way. Impossible to talk to, however. Not that he wasn’t a good listener, he was, he was like a dog, lying by her side as she mumbled about a story she was writing or a poem she considered reworking into a sonnet, nodding and making friendly noises but he couldn’t contribute anything, of course. He was such a nice boy, if it wasn’t for him no one would cook around here and she would be even thinner than she was already. Her mother stopped nagging about her weight half a year ago, thanks to his efforts. That’s something, isn’t it? When he wasn’t there, he called about five times a day and every other time she took his call. She wasn’t sure whether he would come if she took every call and was nicer to him, he might feel smothered, she’d read something in one of his magazines. As it was it was fine. It worked. The sex was ok, she guessed, they’d tried role-playing, but he was too much of an idiot for that, so now they did just the usual. He started to rub against her, in what he probably considered a seductive way, letting her know of his erection and with a sigh she let him do his routine. Come to think of it, she was surprised that that sigh had never turned him off. Maybe he was used to women sighing. The alarm clock was still gone and the idiot was still reading. Supportive as he was, he never helped her when she needed his assistance badly, he’d merely establish a help routine of sorts, cooking and cleaning at regular intervals. Why wasn’t he using condoms? That sticky fluid on the bed was annoying. A few months ago she’d tried to get him to have sex only on the floor where she could wipe it away easily, or rather he could, and it did not bother her. This, however, interfered with his rubbing come-ons, so they had a week or two of infrequent, awkward sex, which was made worse by the fact that doing it on the floor hurt her knees, which was too much, really. She looked at him, raising an eyebrow. He was good looking, that much was true, but she sure was glad he did not live in her town. He lived in Münster, and she lived in Wuppertal, and it was a one hour’s drive from here to there, the perfect distance. Wuppertal was an old working-class city, with a long tradition of art, industrialism and Nazis. No, really, as she used to explain to her friends, it was always worthwhile to parse German history for those who quickly embraced National Socialism before the majority jumped on the bandwagon. Wuppertal was especially eager to become a Nazi center, with a short-lived concentration camp soon established, one of the first in the Reich. Before it was destroyed, one of the most famous regional Jewish temples was located in Elberfeld, the distict she was currently living in. Quite a rocky history, but try telling that to him. When she moved here and found out about all this, she’d tried to get him to visit the memorials but he didn’t want to. He started to talk about the Holocaust Industry and at that point she’d left the room. She gave up looking for the alarm clock now and went out of the bedroom and walked to a window in the living room. She sat down on the bare floor and picked up a book, absentmindedly. Some German writer, she started to read it until her eyes glazed over. The floor wasn’t cold at all, for a brief moment she wondered about this before she falling asleep right there. As she woke in the morning, he lay next to her, cuddled against her back, with a blanket draped over both of them, but largely over her. He shivered a bit, it was always cold in her apartment in the morning, she didn’t know why. She extricated herself from his embrace, brought the second blanket from the bedroom, covered him with it, wrapped herself in the other blanket and lay down again beside him, not sleeping. She wondered whether this might make a poem.


Nicole sits up in her creaky bed, waiting for the house to quiet down, which isn’t her house, nor her husband’s house, even though it will soon be his, if Carol and Christopher, her husband’s parents don’t change their mind once again, which is not at all implausible, because these two old birds have a long history of mindchanges, as her husband was not tiring of telling her, night after night, ever since a decade ago this obsession with his parents and their changes of minds had started and he was getting more and more obsessed, from the time on when Carol told him that they had wanted to have an abortion but changed their mind in the last minute, as the doctor was already lifting the shiny instruments up from the greasy looking table in that dirty shack which had made her feel all dirty herself and infested with lice, she had felt them crawling all over her body, enter all her orifices, ears, nose, later she even swore they were crawling up her arsehole, these dirty lice, she had heard them crawling towards her, even though the shack had been practically lice-less, as Christopher had been telling her over and over while she had mentally prepared to have that baby scraped out of her, but when a smell of something rotten had crept up to her nostrils and nestled there, she had screamed out loud enough to startle a bird on the roof of the shack and kicked at the doctor, in the course of which action she had irreparably broken all the fingers on his right hand and he had never been able to properly practice afterwards, which, according to Carol, was just punishment for letting his lice feed on the poor and frightened girl that she had been, and decades later, without having told him of the incident, Carol frightened her son with stories of a one-armed man with shiny knives who kept lice in a box beneath his bed and let them out whenever an unsuspecting traveler came by, the lice paying him in gold, which they miraculously produced in the place of ordinary feces, because, “the rich always feed on the poor, that’s the only way to make such a big amount of money”, a moral which put the fear of god in him every time he encountered his uncle afterwards, who was as rich as Rockefeller, and that’s not an exaggeration, his uncle was a pedant and he counted his money and calculated how much money Rockefeller would have had, if he had been his contemporary and, once a year, exclaimed triumphantly that, yes, he had more money than Rockefeller and everybody would come and congratulate him on his amazing fortune, because they all wanted a piece of it, except for Nicole’s husband, who was too busy cowering upstairs, waiting until the booming voice of his uncle was heard outside of the house, and he could be sure that his uncle would finally be gone, so it was surprising that Nicole’s husband inherited quite a substantial chunk of his uncle’s “blood money”, as he called it, and even though he knew, deep down inside himself, that his fear and disgust was based on superstition alone, he could not bring himself to touch that money and forbade Nicole to touch it either, which had been especially hard given their relative poverty, compared to her husband’s parents, who kept telling her that it was all her fault for not staying with the baby at home all her life, making her husband sacrifice his career for her fancy, they would have continued to attack her, in their quiet and sly way, which made their attacks hard to pinpoint, impossible to quote exactly and, thus, tough to make a reproach, if they hadn’t had that falling out with Nicole’s husband when he’d learned that he almost would not have been born, she would still be attacked on a weekly basis, so, until the obsession had set in really badly, some quiet had returned to their household, yet still, sometimes they did have to visit his parents, because they couldn’t keep their grandchildren away from them, and so they drove nine hours across Germany once each year, never on Christmas though, as that was the time when her husband’s uncle had chosen to visit his poor relations, many years ago and he couldn’t bear being in the house on that day, so they came on Good Friday, unfailingly arriving with half a dozen large suitcases, and his parents greeted them on the porch, large, portly Christopher thrusting out his hand, which had been half burnt at work, 30 years ago, when he had had a job welding beams in the large pits in East Germany, behind him stood Carol, white as a wraith, and fragile as an old book which has been too long exposed to the world, and just like that book she is full of words and the worlds created with them, and just as these she rarely steps out into the world, she has to be kept dry, behind drapes and cared for, a woman you’d never expect to have such a sharp tongue, and to harbor such an intense amount of mépris for anyone as Carol always harbored for Nicole, and because of that hate neither Carol nor Christopher ever looked at Nicole, because they were still mad after all these years, even though, years ago, Nicole had tried to explain to them that she as a foreigner needed to work herself into that new country, that she had needed to take that job and that she could not have stayed home for the kid, because all the paths which led into this strange country would have been suddenly barred to her, and under no circumstances could she have had a child that first time she was pregnant, Nicole and her husband barely having graduated from university, Jesus, they had been kids themselves, but his parents didn’t care then and they don’t care now, and now Nicole sits upright in her bed, stiff as a rabbit waiting for the predator to go by, barely even breathing, as she does not want Carol to notice her, so she waits and waits, afraid to death, maybe because of that recurring dream she has whenever they visit, in that dream she sees his parent’s house, painted in a sick mint color, leaking blood and the blood collecting in a pool under the large tree in the foreyard.