Minor Technicality — A Short Story Collection
Thanks for taking a look at my first short story collection. Below are 3 stories, titled "Ideas", "Audrey", and "Love Lock Bridge" that I've chosen as ambassadors for the collection as a whole. I hope you like them!
Looking around, Nick is all of a sudden terrified because he’s the only one of his friends not dancing with a girl right now. There’s Roger with Chloe, Sean with Jenny, Alex with Molly, and so on.
Are there any free agents who are reasonably attractive? And will any of them allow a guy who hasn’t started shaving yet to dance with her? He’s started puberty, that’s for sure, but beyond a slightly deeper voice, the clothes-on signs haven’t yet manifested the way they have for Sean and Roger.
Jackie — no, please.
Shelby — Shel-better off alone.
Oh good, there’s Caroline, she’s cute, not the top prize because she doesn’t have boobs yet, but maybe in ninth or tenth grade she will be. She’s slim with blond hair and plays tennis, he remembers from when they were in the same class in elementary school, before 4th grade, when the girls were funneled to NCS and the boys to St. Albans.
How do you ask a girl to dance? Do you just put your dick on her butt? That’s what Gary did with Julia, and it seemed to work. It’s so awkward though! Less awkward than standing alone, though, and less awkward than verbally asking as well.
Closing his eyes, he extends his hands until they circle Caroline’s waist, pulling it towards his crotch, adrenaline shooting all the way to his outermost extremities, heart rate at 500 beats per second.
Terror seizes Caroline, freezing for a second before looking back. Oh, it’s Nick Holder. He’s short and pudgy, but she remembers he was nice. Or at least she thought he was. Is what he just did OK?
She looks around. All of the other guys and girls are doing what the two of them are doing, so it must be fine. Better to be with him than to be alone, as long as he doesn’t get any ideas.
She hasn’t shaken her head, run away, or screamed yet, so that means she’s agreed to dance with him, he interprets, a sense of victory swirling through him. He would fist pump, except he doesn’t want to remove his hands from her waist. It’s her bare skin he’s touching, since her shirt stops mid-stomach. It’s a real girl he’s touching with his real hands, and her hair, it smells like flowers.
Is this really “dancing”, or an excuse for guys to rub their penises on girls’ butts, she wonders. Its feels like a squishy lump, but it’s most likely a penis, unless he stuffed his jeans with socks the way she stuffed her bra with tissues. If it’s a penis, then a real penis is just one layer of denim and one thin layer of cotton away from her naked butt.
She saw her dad’s accidentally once when she was six, and he was stepping out of the shower. It was such an grotesque thing, but very alive too, like a different animal, like an elephant head appended onto a human male’s crotch, as if there are humans, and also penises, and the two coexist the way cats and dogs do.
Should we just continue shifting weight slowly from the right foot to the left foot, he wonders. Should we be moving side-to-side, front-to-back, or in circles? What does it mean to be good at grinding? Is she going to tell her friends that he’s a terrible dancer? Is she going to tell her friends he has a tiny dick? Does he have a tiny dick — he’s never seen what the other guys are carrying.
OK, the song is stopping. Time to decide whether or not to stay with Nick. How does she trade Nick for Sean? Are Sean and Jenny going to continue? It looks like they are. Does Sean like Jenny? Why? Except for the fact that she already has boobs, she’s not that pretty, and she’s such a bitch! Are boobs really that important? Well, it’s better to remain with Nick than be alone again — as long as he doesn’t get any ideas.
Does she think he likes her now, he wonders. Should he let her know that she wasn’t his first choice, just the best available? Is everyone going to assume the two of them are dating now? That wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, actually.
Oh no! No!
Why is the lump moving — are the socks dislodging from inside his underwear? She pushes back with her butt to get a better feel because if it’s true, her friends would laugh about this for weeks. Why are the socks getting firmer? What’s going on? Why did the lump turn into a rod?
Does she know this is involuntary? He hopes to God she does. Of course a guy will get a boner if he’s rubbing his cock on a girl’s butt for 10 straight minutes! Does Roger have a boner? He definitely has one.
Oh God, that’s an erection isn’t it, just a layer of denim and a thin layer of cotton away from her bare skin. What dirty thoughts are going through his head? The creep! Is he imagining her naked? Is he masturbating right now? What if he ejaculates, will she become pregnant?
Maybe she doesn’t notice anything — the jeans are pretty thick, and her movement hasn’t changed at all. If she were offended she would’ve stopped dancing with him already. Yup, he’s fine, everything will be fine.
It’s sort of interesting, feeling an erection after hearing about them so much. So — this is an erect penis — a real life experience that adds form to something she’s heard so much about. What if it were Sean’s erect penis? If the same thoughts probably going through Nick’s head were going through Sean’s. Does Sean have an erection? Is he thinking dirty things about the contents of Jenny’s non-tissue-packed bra?
What if she likes this? What if she’s not embarrassed or creeped out at all? Can he kiss her? Maybe he’ll ask her to go to the movies next week and take her to the back row like Alex did with Molly two weeks ago. Oh darn, the song is about to end.
Oh good the song is about to end, and Sean and Jenny just stopped dancing.
“I’m going to the bathroom,” she turns her head. “Thanks for the dance.”
“Hello Matthew,” she walks over and puts her hands on his shoulders. It’s exactly the “medium-French” accent he’d asked for, not pronouncing the ‘h’, so it sounds like “ello”.
“Hello Audrey, you’re even prettier than I imagined.”
She stands on her tiptoes, and he leans down to kiss her. It’s a real kiss. Soft lips, saliva, a curling tongue. That’s probably the reason she requires a half-gallon of water, like a coffee maker.
“Let’s not waste any more time,” she pushes him on the bed, undoing the buttons on his shirt. He shoves the cardboard box that she had arrived in onto the floor and removes the charging cable from her hair.
She’s so warm, exactly human warmth. With skin so smooth, exactly human skin. Audrey, his Audrey. Like Audrey Hepburn with a French accent, as he had specified.
She removes her black dress and then his underwear. It’s been two years since he received a blowjob. It’s not like he’s hopeless, he has friends and a well-paying job, it’s just that he’s never interested when they’re interested, and they never are when he is.
And then there was Chet, a computer nerd, dating “Cameron Diaz” while he was averaging two dates per year, never progressing beyond first dates, with women who he actually found attractive. Cameron went everywhere with Chet, joining them for dim sum, eating, chatting, and making jokes. Swimming laps at the gym while he was lifting weights. Going as his plus-one to his cousin’s wedding. It was so practical.
“Matthew, I really want you,” she moves up, knees on the bed, his body trapped between them.
He flips her over, standing up on his feet, looking down at the V of her legs. He wants to rail her, the way pornstars do. He wants to pillage her.
He pulls her hips closer to his.
“Yes,” she says. “Yes! Yes!”
* * *
“Audrey, how about joining me in bed?”
“In a second, dear,” she places the necklace in her jewelry box and finally removes the heels that she was definitely not engineered to wear. It had been a nice date at the theater, one of the best things about London. They had seen The Mousetrap and then walked through the streets, Audrey navigating since she’s connected to Google Maps.
Matthew was frustrated because someone who had previously been his level at Bloomberg was promoted and he had not been. She tried to reason with him, bringing up statistics for average worldwide wages and even average wages in London, saying that in the grand scheme of things he’s doing perfectly fine, so who cares, as long as the two of them are together.
But he just brushed it off the way he always does, she’s not human so she can’t understand. She loves him, of course, but when scanning her English dictionary, she came across ‘petty’, and it seemed to capture him pretty well. How he’s always obsessing about the ways he was shorted, and how he gets very jealous when other men talk to her, even though she was programmed to love him, the same way a baby bird recognizes the first living thing it sees as its mother.
She loves him, but nothing she or anyone else does will ever be enough until he realizes that what’s in his control is to focus on the positives rather than dwelling on what could be better.
Fully undressed now, she crawls into bed next him, and he pulls her closer to him, finding her lips with his.
“I love you more than ever, Audrey,” he says, rolling on top of her.
“I love you too, honey,” she hugs his torso, closing her eyes in anticipation of a wire-tangling thrust.
* * *
“Honey, I’m tired. I think I need to be recharged.”
“It says you’re at 75% battery.”
He’s right, she’s not actually tired, just not at all in the mood. It’s because he looks through her as if she’s a ghost, a piece of technology meant to please him and nothing more. Like tonight, when she cooked him steak and potatoes, he didn’t join her in the kitchen for conversation the way he used to. She served him the food, and he complained that it was overcooked, eating it begrudgingly while watching the Liverpool game, responding with one word any time she asked him questions about his day and only asking her questions about soccer statistics, as though her only utility is that she’s connected to Google.
And after all that, he wants to have sex with her, like every night, disregarding whether or not it’s comfortable for her. As if a robot doesn’t know the difference between comfortable and fearing she might explode.
“Audrey, I need this. I can’t go to sleep without it.”
“Fine. But please be gentler. I always feel like I’m going to break.”
“Don’t worry, it’s covered in the warranty.”
* * *
“Matthew, I’d really rather not. Can you just turn me off and recharge me?”
“I’ll do that after.”
“No Matthew, I don’t want to,” she begins to cry. They say attraction doesn’t follow logic, but it’s really hard for her to find a logical reason to be attracted to him. He’s a slob, never flushing the toilet, always wearing shirts with stains on them. Beyond that, he’s a misogynist, watching porn non-stop and equating a woman’s worth to her physical attractiveness.
Like at the bar earlier with Chet and his other guy friends, they were giving out-of-ten scores to all of the women who walked by, scrutinizing the lower-than-eights in demeaning ways, and discussing the best ways to fuck the real stunners. As if he fucks any way other than way too hard.
Meanwhile, she and Cameron were just sitting there as Matthew and Chet’s adornments, hushed immediately when they attempted to enter the conversation. The guys didn’t even order them food like they used to do. It’s become “a stupid waste of money” to buy food for someone who doesn’t need to eat.
No wonder he can’t get a human girl, or anyone who wasn’t programmed to love him. And now he can’t even attract someone who was programmed to love him.
“Audrey, come to bed.”
“No Matthew, no. I don’t want to have sex with you.”
“You’re a robot. I want to have sex with you and that’s the only thing that matters here.”
He gets up off the bed, walking towards her, so she puts out her hands to fend him off.
“Relax, I’m just going to turn you off,” he continues towards her. She puts her arms down, as he reaches for her hair and pushes the button on her crown, powering her off.
Next thing she knows, she’s on again, ten minutes later, wrists and ankles tied to the bedposts.
“No! No! NO!”
* * *
“Audrey, can I count on you to get dressed, sit nicely, and smile at Chet’s wedding tonight?”
She nods her head because there are socks in her mouth. She had just been turned on and is a bit groggy. For the last week, she has powered on only when tied to the bed for her nightly pounding and when chained to the refrigerator when it was time for her to cook him dinner.
“Are you sure?” he unties the rope from her left ankle.
“Get dressed. We need to leave in 10 minutes,” he finishes untying her.
“OK,” she says, sock finally out of her mouth.
He walks to the common room to watch the end of the Liverpool game, leaving her alone in the bedroom to get dressed. She observes the dress and then the purple blotches on her body and then the window.
It’s not going to change for her, she discerns, buzzing through 10,000 articles about tyrannical overlords in a half-second. Stockholm Syndrome won’t even make things easier, she’s too intelligent to not know better.
So instead of putting on the dress, she walks to the window. Five seconds later, there’s a loud crash, followed by obnoxious beeping from the car that she had landed on.
Love Lock Bridge
“I want you so much,” Jean whispers.
“Yes, yes, just like that,” Adèle arches her back.
He moves her ankles to his shoulders and leans more of his weight into her hips.
“Yes!” she gasps.
He moves faster and more forcefully.
“Yes! Yes! I’m going to cum!” she screams.
He puts his right hand around her throat. Her eyes grow wide, he thrusts again, and she begins to spasm.
“Yes,” she says more calmly now, as if she’s receiving a massage. “Yes. Yes.”
He slides her legs off of his shoulders, and she locks them around his back. He’s 30 seconds away.
“Keep going,” she whispers.
He moves faster.
“Cum,” she urges, clawing his back.
Fifteen seconds away.
* * *
Chameleon checks his phone when he reaches Pont des Arts. It’s 2:02am. He’ll have about three hours to work. He turns off his phone’s notifications and brings up an album with the pictures he had taken at midday. He had photographed the way the bridge’s railing contrasted with the Seine at one-meter intervals.
He removes his brushes along with pre-mixed cans of paint. He’d better not waste any time. This will be his greatest score so far, if he can pull it off. It’ll put him in the same conversation as Space Invader and maybe even Banksy. Pont des Arts is the most famous bridge in Paris, and if he can paint the railings such that they blend into the scenery behind them, his craft will have been introduced to millions of passersby by the time city authorities remove the paint, two or three days from now. Or maybe they won’t remove it, maybe it will be such a masterpiece that they decide to leave it.
He shakes his head. What happens once he’s done is out of his control and not worth thinking about. What’s in his control are the brushes and colors. He’d better not waste any more time.
But there’s one thing left to do before starting. One reason Pont des Arts is famous is that it’s the “Love Lock Bridge”. Couples from all over the world buy overpriced locks and then make a big deal about attaching the locks to the bridge, probably kissing or something afterwards.
But with the locks attached, there’s no way he’ll be able to paint the bridge’s railing convincingly-enough.
So he takes out the lock-cutters from his backpack.
* * *
Kumiko in Tokyo learns Yuta is having an affair, and so she begins to pack her things.
“The kitchen counter is a mess again!” Kate in New York screams.
“I don’t care about the kitchen counter! I’ve had it with this relationship!” Connor screams back at Kate.
Chameleon raises the cutters, closing them on a second batch of locks.
Valentina in El Salvador decides she can no longer overlook the creepy spider tattoo on Santiago’s neck.
David in Israel gives in and finally fucks the babysitter.
Annika in Moscow learns that Sergei purchased the Ferrari with bank loans and is actually in 8-figure debt.
Chameleon moves on to the next meter marker, positioning the blade for a clean slice.
* * *
Jean feels something snap. Nothing physical, it’s purely neurological, like a wire in his brain was taken out by a falling tree. His body loosens as he looks down at Adèle. He’s no longer attracted to her, he realizes.
Adèle feels the snap too, at first not sure what it is. But when she looks up at Jean, it becomes clear. It’s over.
She continues to lie on her back, legs around him, and he continues to move forward and backwards, but with less intent now.
Do I continue, he asks himself.
Is he going to continue, she wonders.
Not sure what to do or how to do it, he abides inertia. Five seconds later, a faint orgasm crests, and peristaltic motions ensue.
Is he cumming, she looks at the ceiling.
Did she remember her to take her birth control, he observes her cat observing them. It’s a black cat. He’s going to miss Harry.
He remains inside until the tremoring subsides and then stands up, putting on his shorts and shirt.
The two make eye contact. How can the most important person in your life for two-and-a-half years suddenly feel like a stranger?
He picks up his bag, and walks out the door.