Saturday, September 24, 2011

Liz Stratton Closes the Store: Chapter Five

Liz A. Stratton Closes the Store
Chapter Five
Maren Bradley Anderson

This is the fifth chapter of Liz A. Stratton Closes the Store.
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Published by Maren Bradley Anderson
Copyright 2011 Maren Bradley Anderson

PRUDE ALERT: This book contains ADULT CONTENT. Enjoy!

All we have to do is idly sit indoors

With smooth roses powdered on our cheeks,

Our bodies burning naked through the folds
Of shining Amorgors’ silk, and meet the men

With our dear Venus plats plucked trim and neat.

Governor Bill Ostrem eased his flabby body down into an easy chair and groaned as his feet throbbed in relief after bearing his weight all day. He’d been pressing the flesh all night at a $2,000 a plate fundraising dinner. He hated those things because the food was always terrible and a tiny part of him was ashamed that he was too cheap hire caterer who would do a decent job.

He watched as his mistress, Honey, padded around the room in her short skirt and plunging neckline. He liked her better than most of the mistresses he’d had over the past twenty years. She was a treat to watch as she bounced atop him since her breasts, though large, were actually real. He’d popped in tonight unannounced, so she was “straightening up” the apartment.

“That’s enough,” he said gruffly as she passed by. “Come here.” He pulled her down and kissed her.
She smiled as she pulled away. “Oh, this place is still a mess, Billy,” she cooed. “Let me just pick up a little more.” She squirmed away and dropped to all fours to pick up some magazines on the floor, pert ass waving in the air. Bill cursed his fat when he realized that his dick would never reach her in that position.

Instead, he reached over and fondled her ass. “Come on, pet. That can wait. Papa can’t.”

Honey sat up on her knees and smiled at him. “Oh, but I’m so ashamed of the mess!” she said. She rolled up onto her feet and fetched a duster. She began dusting the bottom shelves of her bookcase by bending at the waist, not the knees.

“You little minx,” Governor Ostrem moaned. “You’re killing me. Come here!”

Honey moved toward him, but dropped the duster. She bent to pick it up, flashing him a grand view of her cleavage. She pivoted and sat primly on his knee, but repelled his hands gently.

“Bill,” she said sweetly. “I know you think I’m a bit dim...”

“Nonsense,” muttered Ostrem absently. He was inches away from her best parts.

“Could you please explain to me why we’re at war in the Middle East?”

“Later,” Bill had one hand up her shirt.

“Now,” she said, pulling his hand away. “Please?”

Bill looked up in Honey’s face and was mildly surprised that she had brown eyes. He’d thought they were green. “Uh,” he began. “It’s complicated. Can’t we do this later?”

“We could,” she said. “But this question will bother me so until it’s answered, I just don’t know if I can get into the mood.”

“Harumph. The Iranians made a land grab and we repelled them. Now we have to stabilize the region. Satisfied?” He lunged for her shirt again.

Honey parried. “No, not really. I thought I heard the TV say that the Iranians hadn’t invaded anyone, but we thought they might, so we invaded.”

“Mebbe,” Ostrem said. He tried kissing her neck, but Honey moved away.

“You mean we invade a country without provocation again?”

“Mebbe,” he muttered. “Please, Honey, can we just forget this for now?”

“Sure, Billie,” Honey cooed and cuddled up to him. “Just cause I know you’ll fix it once you’re President.”

“I’ll fix it,” he murmured into her hair.
“How?” Honey looked up at him with those...brown, yes, brown... eyes.

“Oh, I suppose we’ll stabilize the region and pull out eventually.”

“Eventually? Why not right away?”

“It’s complicated, Honey.” Bill snapped. “Lots of people, powerful people, rich people, don’t want the war to end right away!”

Honey hopped out of Bill’s lap. “Billie! You’re not making money off the war, are you?”
“Not as much as some,” he huffed. “Now come back here.”

Honey stood in front of him for a moment, and then said loftily, “Bill, I think you should leave now.”

“You’re kidding,” Bill said. His eyes grew wide. “You’re not kidding. Honey, you can’t do this to me!”

“Can’t I?” she said. “Just watch me!”

A few days later found Ostrem in Washington D.C. where he had a known penchant for strippers and masseurs. But when he’d gone looking for some entertainment the other night, he’d found that all the girls at his favorite place were sick with the flu. The next night he’d tried a different place, but those girls were sick, too. Tonight, in desperation, he’d called his state’s congressman for ideas.

“I’m having the same trouble you are, Bill,” Congressman Less Nausbaum said. “I’ve got three numbers and everyone is sick, or on vacation, or found religion. I’ve talked to Keller and Whiskerman and they’re out in the cold, too.”

“Do you mean that D.C. is fresh out of whores?” Ostrem said, astounded.

“It looks that way,” said Nausbaum. “You don’t suppose your lively little tart of an opponent is behind this, do you?”

“I don’t know,” growled Ostrem. “If she is, she’s going to pay.”


 All Jack Riddel wanted was his customary blowjob before he started his 12-hour shift at the factory. His wife, Amy, had been good for one every morning of their married life. Even though she wasn’t the prettiest girl he’d ever dated, her warm heart and willing tongue had won him over all those years ago.

But today, Amy was taking a long time in the bathroom. Jack sat on the bed with his pants folded beside him, waiting impatiently. He was going to be late for the bus. Finally, he called out to her.

“Amy? I’m going to be late!”

“One moment, dear!” The door of the bathroom opened and Amy stepped out, dressed in some sort of polyester uniform. She was putting in an earring and walked past him, even though he was naked from the waist down.

“Ahem,” Jack said. When Amy turned, he tilted his head and asked, “Aren’t you forgetting something?”

“I’m sorry, honey. I don’t have time today. I’m late, too.”

“Late? For what?”

“I’m late for my first day of work. Isn’t it too, too exciting? I’m the new day manager at the Burger Hut!”

“You don’t need to work. I make plenty of money. Now, please...”

“Of course you do, my darling,” Amy cooed and kissed the thin spot on his head. “I just have nothing to do now that Mark and Kyle are at college, and I wanted to save a little money for a cruise next summer. Won’t that be fun!”

“Still,” Jack said. “Don’t you have time for...uh, me?” Jack resorted to pointing at his stiff member.

“Not today, dear!” Amy called as she sailed out of the bedroom. A moment later, Jack heard the door slam behind her.

He was two minutes late for the bus and got an earful from his equally frustrated boss.

Liz was washing her hair in the sink when someone knocked on the door of her room. “Come in!” she shouted. She watched in the mirror as Zeke stepped in. “In here!” she called. “I’m almost done!”

Zeke closed the door and sat on the bed to wait. As he did, he allowed himself a little fantasy that he was sharing this room with Liz and that she was getting ready for a night out on the town with him. He knew exactly which dress she’d wear: the little strappy blue number she wore to the Daytime Emmys once. They’d dance, share some champagne and then end up back at the room for a game of twister, sans mat.

“I’m nearly ready,” Liz said as she came into the room wrapping her hair in a towel. She was in the hotel bathrobe and it killed Zeke to think that she was naked under there.

“You don’t look ready at all,” Zeke said crossing his legs nonchalantly.

“Pooh,” she said. “I just washed my hair. It’ll take five seconds to put in a ponytail. I just need to find my hair bands.” She bent at the waist and rummaged through her suitcase.

“Damn,” Zeke said to Liz’s heart-shaped ass.

Liz looked over her shoulder at him. “What?”

“Oh, television,” Zeke lied. “Uh, that CNN story was just, so...damn!”

Liz frowned at him and found her hair bands. “I don’t know why I keep that channel on. Everything that’s on it makes me angry.” She turned it off as she passed.

Zeke repositioned himself when she disappeared in the bathroom but denied himself the urge to peek in her suitcase just to see if any underwear was on top. Oh, she was killing him softly.

Liz appeared in a ponytail and trim pantsuit, looking as professional and polished as ever. “Let’s go have breakfast with rich people!” she cried and stepped out into the hallway. Zeke trotted at her heels like an ever-adoring shi tzu.

Shame could do really awful things to people. The first three times Zeke had asked Liz out, he was serious. He had fucked up the timing or the tone or the situation so badly, though, that Liz hadn’t taken him seriously, and now she never would. He kept asking her out because now it was just expected. They would laugh about it and then go on with their days. He could tell himself and his therapist that he had tried again (though the therapist saw through this), so he was off the hook. Liz always got an ego-boost when Zeke asked her out, though she’d never admit it. The days she didn’t see him and no one else asked her for a date, she felt a lot less confident.

Not that either of them would admit that they needed each other. Ever. To anyone.

Senator Oscar Beckinger was home in Indiana briefly from the campaign trail, and he was frustrated. He’d come home in a good mood because the campaign was going well. The Democratic party was behind him and the Ostrem, the Republican candidate, was a parody of himself, easy to ridicule. The campaign platform of helping the country by caring for the least fortunate was working like a charm. Compassionate Democrats were lining up to work on the campaign.

He found a little hole in the campaign schedule so he could go home and “recharge,” as he put it. He wanted to spend time with his wife and kids, he said. The boys would be glad enough to see him, but they were both in high school, so they were off with their friends most of the time. His wife Megan, was always loving and told him how much she missed him. She was still delicious, and he was all set to ravage her affectionately as soon as his suitcase hit the entryway.

Then, of course, he’d ring up his mistress and ravage her, too.

But Megan wasn’t at home when he got there. His dog Salvadore, a black pedigreed standard poodle, was ecstatic he was home, but it wasn’t the same. Salvador bounced around him happily, which lightened his spirits and gave him an idea. He’d call his mistress Rebecca. She was always happy to see him, too.

He picked up his cell phone, pushing away Salvador’s amorous advanced and dialed Rebecca’s number. The phone rang and rang and rang, but then clicked over to voicemail. “Hi!” it said. “This is Rebecca! Please leave me a message.”

“Rebecca, this is Ox. I’m at home. Please call my cell.”

Oscar hung up and flung the phone onto the bed in frustration. Now what was he going to do? He didn’t want to jerk off in case Megan or Rebecca came back soon. But he was antsy and grumpy.
Salvador jumped up on the bed, and Beckinger shouted at him. Damn dog probably hasn’t been outside all day, thought Beckinger. He’s going crazy all cooped up in here. We need to get out.
He changed into his running clothes and loaded Salvador into the hybrid SUV he’d bought “green up” his image, and drove to the dog park for the people who lived in his gated community. When he was home from sessions of Congress, he ran here with the dog all the time. It was safe enough that the Secret Servicemen could follow at a leisurely distance, as they did now.

Salvador was nearly mad with anticipation when they pulled into the parking lot. He spun tight little circles in the cargo area of the car and whimpered piteously. When Beckinger opened the door, the dog launched himself toward the gate of the park. “Don’t go running off, Sal,” Beckinger called after him, knowing it wouldn’t do any good.

As he approached the gate, a ragged man appeared before him.  Beckinger realized he wasn’t going to be able to avoid talking to him since the hobo had Salvador by the collar.

“This yer dog?” the man asked. “He’s mighty fancy.”

“Yes, he’s mine,” Beckinger said. He took Sal by the collar and shoved him into the dog park gate and tried to follow.

The homeless man stepped in front of him. “No ‘Thank you’?” he asked.

“Thank you,” Beckinger said and tried to push past him again.

The hobo stood his ground. “Can you spare a dollar, mister, since I caught yer dog?”

“I don’t have my wallet with me. I’m going for a jog,” Beckinger snarled. “Let me by or I’ll call the police.”

The homeless man backed away from Beckinger muttering an apology. Beckinger let himself in to the dog park, and whistled to Sal who ignored him gleefully. Beckinger had to chase Salvador down and clip on his leash before they could began jogging around the well-groomed park.

The homeless man went back to his own mixed-breed dog who had been waiting patiently for him by his pack. He patted the mutt affectionately and picked up his belongings and began to walk. The dog fell in beside his master without a leash, and the two marched on in search of their next meal.
Beckinger didn’t feel less frustrated after the jog, though he was more tired. Once Salvador was on the leash, he behaved well enough, as long as he was in front and they went where he wanted to go. Catching him was very challenging; the only reason Beckinger had been able to get him at all today was because there weren’t any other dogs at the park.

Salvador didn’t seem tired at all. He spun circles once they were in the driveway, and was out of the car like a bullet racing to the front door. The house was still empty, and no one had called. Beckinger turned on the television and then turned it off again. He lay down on the couch and closed his eyes. He hadn’t had a nap during the day in ages.

He woke to find Megan sitting at his feet on the end of the couch watching a talk show. He sat up, rubbing his eyes. “Hi honey,” he said, kissing her cheek. “Where were you?”

“I’ve been at a meeting,” she said vaguely. “I didn’t know you were coming home.”

“It’s just for the day. I’m off again tomorrow. I just wanted to see you,” he said, shifting so he could lay his head in her lap. “Where are the boys?”

“Practice until four, then they usually hang out with their buddies until six.”

“What time is it now?”


“So, we have time,” Beckinger grinned and slid his hands around his wife’s waist and buried his face in her belly.

“Oh, now, I couldn’t,” Megan said, pushing him away.

“Why not?” Beckinger whined. “I came home just to see you!”

“It’s that time of the month,” Megan lied.

“No it’s not,” Beckinger said. “It was that time last time I came home.”

“I have a headache.”

“I won’t touch your head. Please, honey?”

“Oscar, stop it. I don’t want to. Isn’t that enough?”

“Not really,” he said, sitting up and pouting. “I’d like a reason, please.”

“Well, there’s a war on...”

“The war’s been going on for years. So what?”

“Well, I’d sure like it to end.”

Beckinger blinked. “Oh, hell, Megan. You’re not doing that silly sex-strike thing, are you? Are you? Christ Almighty!” He stood and began pacing the room. “I don’t know what you silly women think you’re proving by doing this, but I’ve been horny for days—days!— and now my own wife is denying me even though all I’ve done is pine for you! My lovely! My wife!”

Megan looked at her hands for a moment, and then stood up. “Please don’t shout at me,” she said, eyes on the floor.

Beckinger stopped and looked at her. “What?”

“Don’t shout at me. Every time you’re unhappy with something, you pace and shout at me, and I’m tired of it.”

He squinted at her as if it would help him understand. “What?”

“You shout at me, you never call the boys when you’re in Washington, and you only come home when you’re horny. I’m sick of it, Oscar. So, I’m cutting you off.” She took a breath and met his eyes.
“You’re what? I can’t believe my ears. You’re what?”

“Cutting you off!” Megan’s adrenaline was ringing in her ears. The words spilled from her as if she had rehearsed them. “I do care about the world and the damage this war is causing, even if you fucking don’t. I don’t want our boys drafted into this stupid endeavor. You do realize that they’ll be eligible soon, don’t you? Don’t you? They’re your boys, your sons, for Chrissakes!”

“So, you’re actually following my opponent’s sex strike? Really, Megan? You’re betraying me this way?”

“Betrayal? Don’t talk to me about betrayal! You’re the one who voted to reinstate the draft, you fuckwit!” Megan screamed. “You aren’t sending my babies to a war and then having your way with me! No. Either this war ends or your dick shrivels up and falls off from disuse! And don’t think you’ll just go to that tart Rebecca, either. She and I are in complete agreement on this.”

“How...Rebecca? Rebecca, too?” Beckinger stammered. He staggered backward and collapsed into one of the stuffed armchairs. “How do you...know Rebecca?”

“You’re not so smart,” Megan said, sitting down and glancing away. “It’s not like she’s a secret.”
A moment passed when all Beckinger could do was blink, and all Megan could do was count the seconds until he exploded in his usual tirade. She prayed nothing she cared about got broken this time, but the seconds kept ticking and nothing happened. Finally, she ventured a peek up at him.
He was staring at her with a new look of, was that respect? It made her blush. “What?” she said.

“Jesus, you’re sexy when you’re mad.”

“Thanks, but that won’t work, either.”

“Damn. I do mean it.”

“Thanks,” Megan said. Then she stood up. “I’ll set up the guest room for you tonight. I’ll explain this to the boys if you’d rather not.”

“No, I’d better,” he said. “Don’t want them to get the wrong idea.” He watched her leave the room, admiring her motherly ass and wondering what had happened to bring back the spitfire he’d married. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d slept with the dog in the guestroom, but it was the first time he’d done so with an increase of desire for his wife.


Fifteen years ago, Jerry Albright was a rangy, bearded hippie in a power suit when Cal first saw him on the UMASS campus during an Activist Fair. He was running the Amazon Rainforest booth and was surrounded by long-haired, not-recently-showered  hippie kids who were doing their sophmoric duty by spouting rhetoric from their Bible, a book called So Few Trees, So Little Time. Jerry had written it while he was doing research in the jungle.

He stood self-consciously behind the pile of books as his late-teen disciples bombarded passersby with unanswerable questions:

“When are you going to stop supporting the rainforest’s destruction by eating meat?”
“How many trees have to die before you stop buying wood furniture?”

“Stop wasting paper!” a hippie chick hollered at Cal, as she shoved a leaflet into Cal’s hands. Hundreds of leaflets were strewn on the ground in front of the booth. Cal found this extremely funny and stood for a moment giggling.

“Yeah,” Jerry said from behind the wall of books. “That one gets me, too.
Cal looked up into his clear brown eyes and giggled again, shaking her head. “Talk about no self-awareness!”

She felt both very mature and a little self-conscious saying this since she was only a little older than the chickie. To cover up her awkwardness, she thrust out her hand.

“Calliope Talmadge. I’m running the WAP booth.” She pointed to the far corner where the WAP banner was visible next to a PETA display. “I needed to take a walk to get away from the tortured bunny pictures.”

“Jerry Albright,” he said, shaking her hand. “I totally understand. I don’t have the stomach for that, either.”

Cal fingered one of the books and glanced at the small table display. She said “Oh!” when she saw his picture on the poster. “You’re that Jerry Albright!”

He smiled. “That makes me sound like a celebrity or something.”

Cal smiled, too. “In some places, you are. I read this book last year. It was required reading for WAP interns.”

“Really? Why?”

“You outline techniques for getting attention—media attention. They work for most issues, I think.”
“So, you’re not at all concerned about rainforests?” Jerry sounded disappointed.

“Oh, no. I mean, yes. It’s on my top ten list after reproductive rights and shattering the glass ceiling.”
“I like people who fight for causes,” he said. “People who care passionately. I think those are the best kind of people, Calliope.”

Cal looked up at him and found that the note of interest she heard in his voice was reflected in his eyes, as well.

“Me, too!” she said once she realized she had been staring. “I like passionate people, too, Jerry.”
After a first date at a Vegan restaurant that ended with them skinny-dipping in a lake in a city park, Cal knew she was in love. Jerry was about five years older than she was; Cal was still in graduate school when they met. He lobbied hard for her to quit (“What does one do with a Ph.D. in Women’s Studies anyway?” he’d ask) and follow him to Brazil on his long research trips. Even though it had been difficult to maintain the relationship over those years, Cal was later very, very glad that she had stuck to her guns and finished school.

He proposed to her on the one trip to Brazil she made before they were married, bending on one knee under an enormous tree in an endangered forest. She panicked when a little snake bit Jerry’s calf as he slipped the ring on her finger, but their guide said that it wasn’t poisonous, after he had wrung its neck.

A month after Cal graduated, they were married barefoot on a beach in Maine—a spot they found when Jerry was home from the jungle and Cal was between projects for WAP. The ceremony had a shaman instead of a minister and the invitations were printed on hemp paper. Liz thought that the whole thing was out of character for Cal, but Cal was in L-O-V-E, so Liz kept her mouth shut.
Later, Cal was embarrassed to admit that they only actually lived together as man and wife for 11 months, tops. For rest of their three years of legal commitment, Jerry was in some part of Amazonia, and Cal was fighting the right-to-lifers or corporate America somewhere in the States.

They parted ways when Jerry found a nubile Brazilian who also liked passionate people. Cal didn’t really blame him for wanting a partner who was not only passionate about him, but was passionate about his chosen cause. However, she was angry with him for telling her of the affair via email and his filing for divorce from Brazil. She hadn’t figured him for a coward, but there was the proof.

Liz and Cal took a week’s vacation together when the divorce was final. They put a boxes of Jerry’s things in a van and drove from L.A. to Yellowstone and back. They left piles of books and records and clothes at any charity shop they passed. On the way back, they left piles of things in front of the bathrooms at the rest stops. Cal returned to her half-empty apartment feeling cleansed.

She was dismayed, but not surprised, to see Jerry’s name on the list of people working for the Democratic campaign stop scheduled just after the WAP rally at the Nevada State Fair. She’d expected more Green Party work from him, but she wondered if he were actually radical enough for them.

Every time she walked into a building where the Democrats were holding a rally, especially an environmental rally, Cal held her breath and prayed that Jerry wasn’t there. Now who’s the coward? Cal berated herself. She was ashamed that she hadn’t spoken to her ex for eight years; she didn’t want to confront his crushing rejection in person. Plus, his new wife might be with him, and Cal was terrified that she’d be pretty, and twenty-five, and possibly admirable in other ways. Cal was torn between hoping she was an ugly hag and hoping that she was “better” than Cal in some ways so she could understand why Jerry left.

Cal hated herself for still having these feelings all these years later. She practically spat on the ground whenever Jerry’s name came up in conversation, and she hated being the bitter ex who couldn’t move on.

Still, when she saw him standing in the crowd at the Ohio State Fair, waiting to listen to Liz speak, Cal nearly swallowed her tongue. The woman standing with him was not his new, young wife—she was in her fifties and was consulting a clipboard. Plus, Jerry was openly enjoying watching the women in the crowd. He was never so crass as to do that in his wife’s presence.

He looked good, although age had thickened his middle and thinned his top. His eyes still twinkled, but she could picture him in ten years with a paunch and long hair, balding on top, with streaks of grey in his beard. That look might be ridiculous on some, but Cal suspected that Jerry would be able to pull it off as somehow dignified and rebellious at the same time, just like when he wore that suit with his hippie beard to seem more like an “author” and less like a radical who couldn’t sell books.
Her blood froze when his eyes found her, and he smiled and walked directly toward her. Cal’s first instinct was to flee, but realistically, what would that get her? She gulped and willed herself to smile at him as he approached.

“Calliope! Fancy meeting you here!” Jerry said, pulling her into a bear hug.

“Mph,” Cal said, somewhat grateful that she could have this moment to pull herself together. She was disappointed when his familiar scent caused her knees to jellify.

Jerry held her out at arm’s length. “You look good enough to eat!” he declared. “How have you been?”

“I’m really good,” Cal managed to say.

“I’ll say! I’d love to know how you convinced Liz of all people to run for President! If I remember correctly, in college you couldn’t get that girl to run for Dorm President.”

Cal smiled at the memory. “Well, honestly, I ambushed her.”

“I heard,” Jerry said. He looked at her again appraisingly. “I meant it when I said that you look great.”
Cal was mad at herself for dropping her gaze. “Thank you,” she managed to say. “It’s nice to see you, too. Where’s your wife?”

Jerry rolled his eyes. “Brazil,” he said. “That’s where she always is. She’s come to the States to visit my family once. I can’t get her out of that country. It’s like we’re only married when I’m down there. I’ve got a life up here, too!”

Cal managed to turn her ironic grin into something that resembled a sympathetic moue. “That’s too bad,” she said. “Long-distance relationships are difficult.”

“Too true,” he agreed. He looked her in the eye. “So, would you be up for drinks later?”

Cal’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. “Really? Why?” She didn’t mean to sound so incredulous.

Jerry scuffed the dirt with his shoe. “I don’t know. Re-live old times? Be adults and keep each other company for a while?” He glanced up at her hopefully, a method she recognized from when they were married.

“I’ll have to get back to you on that,” she said. “The campaign has absorbed every second of my time, and promises to for the next several months. You understand,” she finished.

“Oh, yeah, I understand,” he said. He fished out a business card and jotted a number on it before handing it to her. “My cell,” he explained. “Just give me a call when you want to get together,” he said. He stepped up to her and gave her a kiss on the cheek. “I’ve missed you,” he whispered, warm whiskers tickling her ear. Then he turned and walked back into the crowd.

Liz came up behind Cal once Jerry dissolved into the audience. “Was that as weird as it looked?” she asked.

“Yes,” Cal said.

Liz took the business card from Cal, tore it in half, and handed one part back to Cal. “I’ll keep this,” she said. “If you really, really want it back, ask me for it, and I’ll spend the next hour reminding you of all the crap he put you through. Then maybe I’ll give you the other half.”

“Sure,” Cal said, too stunned to protest or thank Liz. “I’m going to go sit in the bus, okay?”

“Good idea. We have everything under control here,” Liz said.

The bus was dark and quiet, exactly what Cal wanted. She turned the half-card over and over in her hands. One side had words like “environmental consultant” and “Jerry” on it. The other side had an area code and a “4” written in black ink in Jerry’s surprisingly precise hand. She knew that Liz’s trick of tearing the card in half was only a symbolic gesture: five minutes on the Internet and Cal could find Jerry’s contact information. That wasn’t the point, though. The point was that she shouldn’t.
Cal dropped the scrap of cardstock onto the table and sat back to stare at the ceiling of the bus. She peered into the dark corners of herself and asked, “How do you feel, Calliope Talmadge? How do you feel about Jerry Albright?”

Ugh. It was dank and cobwebby in the corner of her heart where she stored the pain Jerry caused. She opened up that box and stared into it hard. She found hard little bits of anger and bitterness, dried up like currants. There were the little pips of the desperation she felt when she wanted him to love her again so badly. There were even the dried-up peels of her love for him. But nothing juicy or fragrant or viable still lived there. She had moved on, after all.

But she still wouldn’t have a drink with him. She shredded her half of a card and sprinkled the pieces in the bus’s commode and flushed it with ceremony. That was the end of that.


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About the Author
Maren Bradley Anderson is a writer, teacher, podcaster, blogger, and alpaca rancher who lives in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. She has written short stories and plays for years, and has recently taken to writing screenplays and novels. She teaches live and online classes on literature and writing at Western Oregon University. She has Master’s Degrees in both Literature and Teaching Writing from Humboldt State University and a B.A. in English and Studio Art from Mount Holyoke College. Maren hosts a podcast about alpacas (Paca Talk) with her husband, and blogs about alpacas and writing. Her alpacas win ribbons for conformation and fleece, plus she thinks they are darned cute. 
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