Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Rain Man

Only five people in the world knew what I was. She wasn’t one of them. She did, however, think she knew who I was. Arthur Miller.

No, I said, not Marilyn Monroe’s ex. Staring blankly, she ordered another vodka. Dead American playwrights obviously weren’t her thing. Vodka was. The next would be her second in under five minutes.

Мороз! From the freezer, this time, she said without looking at the dark-skinned waiter, an Uzbek, perhaps. As he turned to leave, her eyes flicked up and she held her forearm towards me, tapping her pale skin. An insulting gesture that could earn her spittle in the glass. He didn’t look like a man who was happy taking orders from a madam, but he wasn’t paid to be happy. I’d chosen a Manhattan. An old school choice that came with an old school smile to thank him. And hold the spittle, I was tempted to add.

She waited until the waiter was two tables away before saying her name: Svetlana.

Same as Stalin’s daughter, I said. Miller she didn’t know, on the other hand “Stalin” earned me a look as cold as the coming vodka.

Can I call you "Sveta"? I asked, using the friendlier, shortened version.

She told me I could call her “Svetlana”.

Drawing a gold lighter from her handbag, she lit the cigarette she’d been holding since I’d arrived. She took a shallow draw. She didn’t appear to be enjoying it. Perhaps it tasted of the last man she’d kissed. Lucky him. She may have been a bigoted boozer but there was a hot Soviet sizzle to Svetlana. She’d put a lot of effort into that hard body. What I was planning to do to her seemed a shame.

Her sudden question was like a tap with a cold spoon. “How many girls can you bring me?”

“There’s not a lot of foreplay with you.”

She repeated the question. I made a show of slowly pulling a Moleskin notebook from my inside jacket pocket. The movement caught the attention of two bulky men at the bar. They reached into their jackets too. It was unlikely they could write. When the notebook came out, they relaxed.

Flicking through the pages, I paused, touched a scribble and said: “Eight by Monday. Delivered to you in Moscow.”

She was impressed. “Clean girls?”

“Lysol fresh.”


“Well, virgin-ish. After all, they are from Bulgaria.”

We talked business. The vodka came and went. My Manhattan had been made with rye. It was the first surprise of the night.

Watching me sip it, she ordered a third drink. This time she left it on the table. My insistence on half the money now, half on delivery earned me a scarlet lipsticked pout: “Bозможно, 25/75?”

“Nyet. Half now.”

She told me that men never said “no” to her. I could believe it. Leaning forward, she whispered an offer that would’ve made the Devil blush. Svetlana took my hand. “Let’s walk back to my place, the cool night air will take the heat out of your cheeks.”

With the rain beating down and under a single umbrella, I could feel her shoulder pressing into me. I chanced a glance back at the bar. The bulky men had wisely chosen warmth over wet socks.

Now. I had only a minute or so to do it to her. My hand went inside my jacket. No Moleskin notebook for her. Her eyes widened. Genuine shock. I had her. I pushed the badge closer to her face. “Interpol.” Over her shoulder I could see the heavy black limousine moving quickly, almost a blur in the rain, back lit by arc lights over sodden tennis courts. The gun I held against her was small, unobtrusive. The car, brakes on, jolted to a halt. An arc of water sprayed from under the wheels.

“ZIL,” she said, climbing in. “I would have thought you more of a Mercedes man.”

“And I wouldn’t have taken you for a sex trafficker.”

“There is a reason for that.” Sliding to the far side of the limousine, she pressed her back into the seat and jerked at her hair. The wig came away, revealing a gamin-cut. I didn’t see her left hand reach for her bag. There was a glint of silver plate. I recognised the badge in her hand: National Central Bureau. A Politsiya. “My bureau takes precedence in this jurisdiction,” she said. “Give me your gun, Interpol man.”

“You screwed a beautiful plan to smash a trafficking ring,” I said.

Turning my gun over in hand, she shook her head. “A hairdresser’s weapon.” A pause. She handed it back. “No one in the bar saw your stupid move. Let us return there and continue what we started.”

“As a team?”

The wig was in place. “Of course. And please try, Mr Miller, to look as if you enjoyed screwing me for my 25/75 offer.”

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Copyright © 2012 GREG FLYNN

Monday, October 15, 2012

Greeting, Earthling

Stepping from the Transubstantiator 6000™, Xxott glanced at his reflection in the liquid crystal mirror and sighed. “Are you certain this is correct, Commander? It seems a little tight.”

“Not to mention hairy,” said the Commander. His lead tentacle came up, its suction cup twitching. The tentacle caressed Xxott’s arm.

Xxott wasn’t certain whether the Commander was indulging in a comforting gesture or making a pass at him. It’d been a long, lonely trip from their home planet but Xxott wasn’t that type of Zlpqltrion. Turning, he caught sight of his bare backside beneath a truncated tail. “I hardly look like the most advanced species on Earth.”

“Our research is impeccable. You’re wearing the height of Middle Palaeolithic simian chic. It’s a perfect disguise.”

Xxott appeared unconvinced.

The Commander played the Saviour Card. “You’re the hope of the human race. Without you, humanity is doomed.”

Xxott’s tail hung down, swinging miserably. “Why should we care?”

“As Intergalactic Caretakers, we’re Zlpqltri’s gift to the Universe. Stop moping. Your mission starts now. We’re sending you back in time to impregnate a protohuman with your Zlpqltrion DNA which, over the millennia, will spread across the globe and change the course of history. Humans will become smarter and more civilised. The planet will be saved.”

With a flip of his tentacle, the Commander gestured for Xxott to come to the spacecraft’s window. Far below lay a blue planet, clouds sweeping over the oceans. Thanks to a cloaking device, the craft was invisible to Earthlings except for the flashing, vivid green logo of the device’s manufacturer “F.U.” – a technical hiccup the manufacturer claimed would be ironed out in the upgraded version.

“How accurate is our time transporter?” asked Xxott.

“Pinpoint. Let’s see. By Earth’s Gregorian calendar, today is 25 May 2012. You’ll be whisked back 200,000 years to the minute.”

Peering at Earth, Xxott didn’t like the look of all that water. “Can you guarantee I’ll materialise on dry land?”

“Of course. What could possibly go wrong?’


Switching on his Tele-wrist-or (Patent Pending), Xxott reported to the Commander. “So far, so predictable.”

The swim to shore took an hour. Just as Xxott attempted to leave the surf, a wave picked him up and flung him on the white sands of Cottesloe Beach.

Thump, thump, thud. The bare, brown legs of a jogger clipped Xxott, sending him back into the water. Heave. Toned arms lifted him onto the sand. He was saved.

Xxott chanced a whisper into his Tele-wrist-or. “So,” he hissed at the Commander, “I’ll be the most advanced species on Earth, eh?” He looked up at his rescuer, a young woman. “What’s the date?”

Showing no surprise at either a talking monkey or the fact the creature didn’t know the day, she replied: “24 May.” Then she pre-empted his next question: “2012”.

Transported back in time just one %$#@ing day, thought Xxott. He gritted his teeth, forcing to him to spit out beach sand and seaweed. He may be out by 200,000 years but he had a job to do. He gave the woman his never-known-to-fail-pick-up line. “Greetings, Earthling, I’ve come to impregnate you.”

“Are you in the mining industry?” she asked.

He shook his head.

“In that case,” she said, “the answer’s ‘no’.”

His chest came out. “Then take me to someone who’s a little less fussy.”

“I’ll see if I can find a visitor from the Eastern States.”

Reaching down she took his paw and led him across the hot sand towards a sloping, sunburnt stretch of grass. On the edge of the grass, a plinth held aloft the life-size marble statues of a naked man and woman. They were holding hands and staring in the direction of the city of Perth.

“Ah, your gods,” said Xxott knowingly.

“Too right,” said his guide. For luck, her fingertips touched the well-polished feet of Gina Rinehart and Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest, the latter statue’s proud member standing tall in anticipation of the opportunities Western Australia provided.

Xxott gave a shudder. Calling into his Tele-wrist-or, he gazed skywards: “Beam me up, Commander. Sadly, I’ve come too late.”

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Copyright © 2012 GREG FLYNN