Tag Archives: fiction

Short Story: Awkward Timing for a Conversation

Last night, rather than work on my novel, I decided to write a short story.  I decided to cross-post that story here to my blog.  I hope you enjoy.

I walked into the restaurant and scanned the dining room. I spotted Trent sitting at a table for two near one window. He spotted me and waved, shooting me his patented smile. I nodded to the host and gestured toward my boyfriend. She nodded in response and said, “Enjoy.”

I crossed the thirty feet and sat at the empty table. “Well, hello there,” Trent said as he absentmindedly ran his hand through his meticulously combed hair. He already had a beer sitting in front of him.

“Did you order me anything yet?” I asked.

“I wasn’t sure what you’d want, to be honest. But if you know, I’ll call our waiter.” He raised a hand and shouted toward the server station. “Cody!”

A young man about five years younger than me walked over. He had blonde hair, was about 5’9” and a somewhat slim build. “Hi. You must be Alex,” he said to me. “May I get you something to drink?”

“A virgin daiquiri, please,” I said. I was a bit taken aback that the waiter knew my name.

“Certainly. I’ll have that for you in just a moment,” Cody said as he hurried away.

“Thank you,” I called after him. I turned back to Trent at that point. “Have you been here long?”

“Ten or fifteen minutes maybe,” he replied. “Just long enough to get to know our waiter a bit.”

“That’s cool,” I said. “Sorry to keep you waiting. I got hung up at work. Sue asked me to review a short document right at four.”

“No problem. Cody was a dear and kept me entertained.”

I tried hard not to wrinkle my nose. Was he trying to make me jealous again? “Well, that’s good. He seems like a sweetheart.”

“I didn’t flirt with him, in case you’re wondering,” Trent said in a tone that was almost too nonchalant.

“Oh, okay,” I said as I tried to resist the urge to rise to the bait.

“So, were you wondering?”

“Not really,” I said. It amazed me that I was being honest when I said that. Even one month ago, I would have been wondering. Hell, I would’ve been paranoid.

“It’s tempting though. I bet you he’d call me if I gave him my number.”

“It’s possible,” I said. This was getting irritating and I didn’t want to make a scene in the middle of the restaurant. “So, must be you mentioned my name to him?”

“Yeah, I said you were meeting me. And yes, I told him you were my boyfriend,” he said.

“Ah, okay.” I still wondered why he’d give a guy who knows he’s taken his number, but I had quit trying to understand Trent’s actions a few weeks ago.

Cody returned with my drink. “Here you are. Do you both know what you’d like?”

“Is the chicken in the chicken caesar salad grilled or fried?” I asked.

“Oh please, Alex. Like it matters. Having grilled chicken for one meal isn’t going to magically make you lose twenty pounds,” Trent said. He was often annoyed with my finicky food choices.

Cody stood looking at Trent with an astonished gaze. “It’s grilled.”

“Then I’ll have that. I prefer the taste of grilled chicken to fried chicken,” I said.

“And you?” Cody asked Trent.

“Oh, I’ll have a small order of ribs. Standard barbecue sauce.”

“Alright. And for your potato?”

“Baked and loaded.” Cody nodded and left to enter our order into the system. Trent commented to me, “I really think I will give him my number. Just to see what he does.”

I took a sip of my drink. “Okay.”

“You’re not going to object?”

“No, I’m not,” I said.

“So what? Are you going to punish me with the silent treatment?”


“Oh,” he said, his face a mix of relief and confusion. “So, what did you want to talk about?”

“Let’s wait until after dinner, shall we?” I said.

“Oh, it’s going to be one of those conversations!” he said. “And here you said you weren’t going to make a big deal over me coming on to Cody. You just need to accept that this is the way I am already.”

I set my drink down. “I do,” I said trying to keep the irritation out of my voice.

“Well, good. It’s about time you just accept the relationship the way it is.”

I sighed. “I didn’t want to talk about this in the middle of the restaurant, but you keep pushing. So maybe it’s better if we just get it out of the way. I do accept this is way you are and the way our relationship is going to keep going.” I took a deep breath, then added, “That’s why I’ve decided that it’s time to end our relationship.”

Trent laughed. “You can’t be serious.”

I nodded. “I am.”

“You’re dumping me?”

“Yeah, I guess you could say that. I just think we’re in different places in our life and we both need to accept that. I need to accept that.”

“I can’t believe this. I’m the best thing that has ever happened to you.” I shrugged. I felt that point was debatable, but didn’t feel like debating it. I just wanted this conversation to be over. He pressed, “You’ll never land someone as good looking or as sexy as I am again.”

I shrugged again. “You might be right. I’m willing to take that chance.”

“I’ll replace you by the end of tonight! You’re likely to be alone for weeks or even months.”

A thought occurred to me. “Are you really trying to get me to stay with you by trying to get me afraid of being alone?”

Trent stuttered. “What? How can you accuse me of that?”

“I’m not. I’m asking.”

“Whatever. This is all your therapist’s fault. She’s been turning you against me, hasn’t she?”

I laughed out loud at that one. “You mean the therapist that you insisted I go see in the first place because you felt I was just too paranoid?” Another thought occurred to me. “You wanted her to convince me I was just fucked up in the head, didn’t you? It’s just another way you’ve tried to manipulate me.” I paused, then added, “And yes, that one was an accusation.”

Trent sputtered. “I don’t have to stand for this. I’m out of here. He stood up and stormed toward the door.

I sighed and pulled out my phone and sent a text message to my friend, Sally. “It’s done. It wasn’t pretty, but thank god it’s done.”

I had just hit send when I heard Cody’s voice from beside me. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I will be. Hey, can you do me a favor? Can you try to put a stop on the ribs?”

“Sure, no problem. Um, do you want me to cancel your salad too? I mean, if you need to leave after that, I understand.”

“Actually, I think I’d rather stick around and enjoy a pleasant meal.”

“That’s cool,” Cody said. “Let me run to the kitchen and take care of the ribs. I thanked him as he ran back to the kitchen.

Sally responded, congratulating me and asked when I’d be seeing my therapist next. I told her I had scheduled an appointment for tomorrow afternoon, though I was feeling surprisingly good about it.

Cody came back. “I was able to cancel the ribs. I also talked to the manager and he agreed to take the beers off your bill.”

“Beers? So he had more than just the one.”

“Yeah, he finished one before you got here. So, not that it’s any of my business, but I’m sorry.”

I shrugged. “Thanks. But I’m glad it’s over. I wish I had ended it even sooner. Putting up with him for ten months was just way too much.”

“No doubt. You certainly deserve better.”

The host came over and spoke to Cody. “When you get a chance, I need to talk to you.”

I smirked. “Let me guess, my ex gave you a business card to give to Cody.”

She blushed and shuffled her feet. “Yeah. I’m sorry. That was a really shitty thing of him to do.”

Cody asked her, “You tossed it, right?”

“I figured that’s what you’d want me to do.”

“Damn right. Are you sure you’re okay, Alex?”

“I’ll be fine. To be honest, I’m feeling kind of relieved. And I hope you didn’t turn him down just because of me.”

Cody snorted. “Hell no. He was an ass. Besides, at the risk of being too forward, I’d rather have your number.”

I blinked. “Are you serious?”

His coworker laughed. “Honey, he’s serious. Besides, he’d never play you after the experience you just had. He’s not like that.” Cody just nodded in agreement with her.

“Well, I’m flattered. But I think I need a bit of time. I’m feeling good about breaking up with him, but I still need to sort through things.”

“Understandable,” Cody said. “Though if I gave you my number, would you hold onto it and consider using it when you got things sorted?”

I considered this for a moment. “Sure. Though it’s probably going to be a few weeks.”

“That’s fine.” He tore a page out of his pad, scribbled on it, and handed it to me. It had his name and number written on it. “Thanks, Cody. And could I get another daiquiri? Non-virgin this time.”

“Coming right up.” He walked away. I smiled, surprised that the night wasn’t a total disaster.

C.S. Friedman and Religion

Last night, I finished reading C.S. Friedman’s final book in her Magister Trilogy, Legacy of Kings.  It was a compelling and captivating end to a fantastic (pun not intended) series of books.  In many ways, I feel sad leaving behind the world of Souleaters and Magisters and the people (and creatures) that inhabit those worlds.

However, as I think of the series as a whole and her equally excellent Coldfire Trilogy, what really gets my notice is the skill, criticality, and sensitivity with which she writes about religion.  In both series, she writes about characters who follow diverse religions and yet work together.  And in both series, she describes one religion (though unique to each series) that is monotheistic in nature and, in my opinion anyway, bears numerous similarities to Christianity (or at least certain expressions of Christianity).  Whether it is the authoritarian church created by Prophet-turned-traitor Gerald Tarrant to tame the chaotic and deadly fae or the Penitent Church of King Salvator that believes the soul-devouring ikati are the punishment of the Destroyer for mankind’s sins, the monumental religion in question takes on trapping that are reminiscent of the dominant monotheistic faith in our own society.

What I find interesting about Friendman’s treatment of these religions is that she offers a thoughtful and critical — yet not damning — analysis of these monotheistic religions, and Christianity by analogy.  She seeks to explore what she clearly believes are both strengths and weaknesses of the faiths of her creation, offering a commentary that is neither too harsh more too fawning.

One of the methods she accomplishes this is through the stories characters who practice these faiths.  She explores how their faith influences their actions and how the trials they face challenge, strengthen, and occasionally alter their faith.  In effect, she creates deep characters of substance to occupy and portray these religions rather than strawmen to prop them up or tear them down.  Damien Vryce, Gerald Tarrant[1], and King Salvatore are all (relatively, in Gerald’s case) sympathetic characters who put humanity to faith.

Of course, their actions and portrayal of the monotheistic faiths are strengthened by their interactions with people of the other religions in these two worlds, the polytheistic, pagan idol-worshippers[2].  The monotheists sincerely struggle with how to interact with the other people who make up their world, even when confronted with things that are forbidden by their own faith.  In turn, the polytheists are given voice by Friedman to express, explore, and revise their opinions of the monotheistic religions and how those religions affect those followers.

In effect, Friedman writes a beautiful yet realistic world in which the realities of pluralism are negotiated and dealt with.  If only we could do so well here in the real world.

[1] Granted, one might argue whether Tarrant can still rightfully be called a follower of the Church he founded.  But I seem to recall that he arrogantly claimed at one point in the Coldfire trilogy that he still served the Church in his own way, and I’m inclined to grant him that conceit.

[2] Interestingly, neither Friedman nor her characters seem to use this term in a derogatory manner, but in a more technical manner.  And while I might nit-pick whether people actually worship their idols in the technical sense, I applaud Friedman’s apparent lack of denigration.