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A Cindr-ella Story

couple

I sat nervously in the restaurant, alternately checking the time on my phone and surreptitiously checking my breath. This is so cliché, I thought. Waiting for a blind date in a restaurant. Why didn’t I ask her to meet in the park across the road? That way, if she didn’t show up I was just some dude sitting in a tuxedo in the middle of a playground, not here in the restaurant like a weirdo.

I met her on Cindr, the app for the bottom of the dating barrel. Their slogan was, “Feeling burned out by the dating scene? Sounds like you’re a Cindr!” You got matched up but could only swipe right on everyone. All the personality questions when I was setting up my profile only had the option to choose Yes. Apparently, I was really into ballroom dancing and crocheting tiny hats for abandoned kittens.

Then I saw her enter the restaurant, tall and slim with long hair cascading down around her shoulders. She walked sensuously towards me and my heart started to pitter. She smiled and it pattered a little as well. She walked past me to a table with a handsome young man sitting alone and my heart cracked a little. Just a hairline fracture on the right ventricle, nothing serious.

Luckily, I kept watching because the handsome young man looked confused and they had a hurried conversation that consisted mostly of questions. Then the woman stood up. She scanned the room and with a look of melting expectations, her eyes rested on me.

“Terry?” she asked, the question punctuated with a cringe mark.

“You must be Aspen,” I said. We shook hands. Her hand was warm, which made me think that my hand must feel cold and clammy.

“You’re wearing a tuxedo,” she said. The four words contained a whole encyclopedia of subtext in a language I couldn’t read.

“You’re wearing jeans,” I replied.

“This is a diner,” she said. I didn’t know if this was a real conversation or if we were just swapping declarative sentences.

“I wanted to look nice,” I said. “I got this free at work. My clients are very generous, not to mention the strong silent types.” I chuckled, if only to encourage her to laugh.

A look of horror gripped her face like an octopus. “Please tell me you don’t work in a morgue.”

“No,” I said, laughing in a sweaty way. “That’s crazy. A morgue. It’s actually, uh, a crematorium.”

She tried to stand up way too fast, and her epic legs hit the underside of the table, knocking her back into her chair. I seized the opportunity, as well as the sides of the table.

“I’m an environmentalist,” I blurted out. She blinked. “I believe in recycling,” I continued. “I have my own charity where I take the clothing from bodies about to be cremated and donate them to young people who can’t afford formal wear.” I rewound the conversation in my head, just to see how I had gotten to the point of describing stripping corpses of their last earthly possessions before we’d even ordered dinner.

“But you’re wearing it,” she said. She wasn’t trying to run away; we were making progress.

“I guess I’m a charity case too, eh? Hey, I’m on Cindr.” I stopped just short of winking.

“Yes,” she said and frowned in a very attractive way. It suddenly hit me that she was gorgeous and yet she had found me on Cindr. Since I have the social tact of a rabid hyena, I asked her.

“So, why are you on Cindr?” I asked. “I mean, what’s your crippling defect?”

She picked up the menu and studied it a moment. “I’m a kleptomaniac,” she said quietly.

“Well, you’ve already stolen my heart,” I said as gallantly as I could muster.

“And a pyromaniac,” she added.

“And you’ve already set me . . . set me on fire,” I said. I was getting a bit lost in the metaphors, but forged ahead anyway.

“Don’t worry, I only set fire to the things I steal,” she said quickly. “I’m not a monster.”

“You got any other manias?” I asked, feeling suddenly hopefully.

“No.”

“Oh. Just checking.”

After we had ordered, I went to the bathroom and came back to find my wallet smoldering under the table. Honestly, I was just impressed she had been able to take it without my noticing. Plus, this meant she was definitely paying for the meal.

We sat there eating and talking for hours. Every so often Aspen would steal a napkin from another table and light it in her French fry basket. The owner was lurking behind a standing fern with a fire extinguisher but as long as we kept ordering, he didn’t seem inclined to blast us.

“I don’t want to steal anymore,” Aspen slurred into her fifth root beer float. “I can’t help it and it’s exciting and all, but I don’t want to get arrested. I live every day in fear of prison. It’s so hard to set things on fire in there.”

“My charity is a failure,” I said. I was getting maudlin too. “Sure, I get the stuff, but no kid wants to go to the prom smelling like embalming fluid.”

“That stuff burns pretty good though,” Aspen said. Our eyes met, and I thought I hear cherubs singing above us at our mutual epiphany. It turned out to be the smoke detector.

That was four months ago. I still have my charity going but I don’t actually donate any of it. Aspen just steals all my dead people clothes and sets them on fire in the abandoned parking lot behind the self-storage place I use. Sometimes I join her and we snuggle up in each other’s arms in front of a pile of smoldering formal wear. We’re not always the perfect couple, but hey, we met on Cindr.


GoMotivateMe.com

Jorge woke up an hour before he had to leave for work and found that all his motivation to get up had leaked out during the night. Lethargically, he looked under his pillow. No motivation there.

Five minutes of staring at the ceiling yielded no motivation. Its creamy, stucco surface was like a desert of motivating power. He thought about calling in sick but could not build up the necessary will.

As usual, the Internet saved the day. Jorge did have motivation to check Facebook on his phone and while he caught up with the witty adventures of the children of high school acquaintances, he noticed an ad on the sidebar.

GoMotivateMe.com: let crowd-sourcing fuel your wildest dreams, where drive, will, and ambition are the only limitations. With a shrug, he clicked on the link.

It took five minutes to sign up and create a new campaign. “What would you like motivation with?” the pop-up asked. Jorge typed: To go to work today.

“How much motivation would you like?” the next box asked. It was an odd question and Jorge was not sure how to quantify his necessary motivation, but luckily there was a drop-down menu. Jorge chose A lot of motivation.

And that was it. The screen showed the number of donors (zero) and a progress bar. A few seconds later, the donor number jumped to 1 and a message from skwirlz0495 popped up at the bottom of the screen: “I will text you and say ‘Good job!’” The progress bar moved a millimeter.

This was fun; a lot more fun than getting ready for work. He watched as another donor message popped up, this one from chunkylover53: “I will bring you half a dozen doughnuts.” The progress bar moved to 20%. Jorge could feel it working: he was starting to want to go to work.

Then another message popped up. It had multiple paragraphs. The username was skullpunch_drunk_love.

“I have traced your IP address. I know who you are, Jorge. If you do not go to work today, I will come and find you. I will urinate in your mailbox. I will tell your neighbors your cat is a Fascist. I will steal the family of garden gnomes in your front yard and burn them out in the desert.

“If you do not email me a note from your boss saying that you went to work today, I will be there in 24 hours, Jorge. You will not see me coming. I will break every window in your house, one each day and I will cut the tops off your tulips. Your car will only have three tires every day when you come outside. Go to work today.”

The progress bar shot, improbably, to 114%. Jorge put down the phone and went to the bathroom to take a shower, a funny feeling in his stomach.

On his way to work to work an hour later, he looked at his family of garden gnomes. “I’m doing this for you,” his whispered. Then he wondered vaguely how he was going to get his half dozen doughnuts.


Three Writers on a Bus

A group of friends, Mike, Tom, and Kelsey were traveling to a writers’ meeting when there was an accident. Here are their accounts of the incident.

Mike’s Account

It was raining—not a happy little drizzle, but a carwash set to Super Premium, hold the hot wax. We were traveling down a lonely highway halfway between Nowhere and Who Cares City and had been for over two hours now.

I was doing a crossword puzzle and failing miserably at it. Who the hell knew a 7-letter word for domicile goatee anyway? The broad across the aisle had been giving me the sweet-eye for an hour now and I kept giving it right back. She had legs like the Amazon River: long, with lots of curves.

I glanced out the window and saw a car was coming up on us, like it wanted to make our acquaintance in a hurry. The passenger side window went down a crack and the barrel of a snub-nosed Luger told me they didn’t want to chat. The bus driver—O’Malley, by his nametag—saw it too and threw the wheel to the left, trying to give the other vehicle the old cold-steel shoulder. The car swerved but O’Malley kept right with him. The front fenders scraped with a shriek of steel like the devil’s nails going down Hell’s blackboard.

There was a boom as the Luger fired, hitting our front wheel. O’Malley did his damndest to pull it back under control, but the bus tipped and started to roll. The Amazon across the aisle fell into my lap. I put an arm around her waist and held on as passengers and baggage got thrown hither and yon. I knew I was probably going to die, but what a way to go.

Tom’s Account

The Imperion-class space frigate, Reyhoun, rocketed down the warp-path towards the Orion nebula. Captain Dax Harflux piloted the 800-ton frigate with cool confidence that came with eight years of experience in the Galactic Commonwealth. This was his last trip of the cycle, transporting dignitaries and Fagullian wine to the nebula colonies.

A beeping sounded from his instrument panel. Holy meteors! A Narullion pirate craft had been detected 40km behind them and coming up fast. He had to evade it, but how? He was locked into following the warp-path until he hit the nebula jump-gate. He accelerated, sending sparks of anti-matter shooting from his proton-powered nacelles.

The Narullion pirate was approaching rapidly on his port side, firing crackling beams of scarlet energy. Captain Dax strengthened the shields but they had already lost half their power. Another beam hit and the ship lurched to one side. The pirates had gotten the gravity generators and inertial dampeners! The whole ship started to roll and with a burst of white light, they flew off the warp-path. With his last burst of energy, Captain Dax hit the emergency distress button. He might die with his ship, but the pirates could never get their filthy hands on the dignitaries or his cargo of Fagullian wine!

Kelsey’s Account

I sat listlessly by the window and watched the rain glisten down the glass. Today was the one-year anniversary of my beloved being killed in action but my heart still yearned for his gentle touch and the feel of his strong arms around me. Life had been drained of color since I had watched him leave for basic training in a bus much like this one.

There was a flash of yellow next to the bus and I saw a convertible pull up next to the bus and stay there. I was seated directly behind the bus driver and I saw him slow to let the slick sports car pass, but still it stayed with us.

Then to my astonishment, the convertible’s roof began to retract and a man stood up in the passenger’s seat. He was wearing a battered Army uniform but his head was bare and the rain soaked his soft brown locks in seconds. I let out a gasp as I saw that it looked like my beloved.

He smiled and I knew it was him. That smile, even seen through a rainy bus window going 50 miles an hour, still filled me with chills. I did not know how, but it was he, back from the dead. I flung open the bus window and leaned out, heedless of the rain and extreme danger.

“My dearest love!” he cried, “I have come back for you. Not even death can keep me from your side!”

“But how?” I shouted back in wonder and joy. “They told me you had been killed at Dieppe. I received a telegram.”

“A clerical error!” he shouted joyfully again.

I let out a sigh. Clerical error. From then on, those two simple words would be the happiest words in the English language for me.

He pulled a box out of his pocket and opened it, proffering the contents. “Would you do the honor of marrying me?” he shouted.

I fear that I fainted at that point and, it seems, collapsed onto the bus driver. With my last sensation, I felt the bus swerve and then I was thrown into weightlessness, like an angel settling gently to Earth.

I woke up in the hospital, with my beloved sitting next to me, a diamond ring on my finger. Oh, but I was the happiest woman in the world!

Bergerville Herald, June 20, 2012

A Greyhound bus traveling westward on highway 16 side-swiped a car, hit the curb and rolled once. The cause of the crash is said to be mechanical. Nine people were treated for minor injuries at the Bergerville Central Hospital.


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