The Pressure Cooker

by Lisa Martinovic

Constance Snow came home from the market with the world’s biggest pressure cooker, finally realizing her dream of stewing an entire cow. She was determined to make a memorable dinner for Tom Bridge, the man she hoped to marry.

Alas, Constance was so flustered by Tom’s early arrival that she didn’t notice him climb into the pressure cooker for a catnap.

She began peeling carrots and potatoes. Tom was so cozy, so lulled by the scent of oregano, he didn’t notice vegetable chunks raining down upon him.

Before long, Tom was done.

Constance made the best of it.

 

The Open House

Abby Mandel loved meeting people at open-houses which she never intended to buy. 63 Cherry Lane was a precious little number owned by Pierre Androuet.

His answer to her knock opened the door to a world of hedonistic possibility for the timid Midwesterner.

“Oui, Madame?” he purred.

“I, uh, came to see the house,” Abby stammered, certain that her tumescing genitalia was obvious through crimson ski pants suddenly too tight.

Pierre pretended not to notice, wondering: “Can I get this hungry hausfrau in and out of bed before Georgette arrives?”

Abby’s ripeness made it worth the risk.

“The bedroom, Madame?”

 

Two Bushes in Europe

Calliope Bush felt she’d already spent quite enough years distancing herself from her not-distant-enough cousin George W. Bush. The Universe felt otherwise, for here at the Maison de Couture du Jour in downtown Milan she was being pestered by journalists certain that Calliope could provide information as to the whereabouts of the ex-president who had vanished one week earlier while vacationing in Biarritz.

A clot of reporters congealed around Calliope as she exited the shop in her new designer frock.

“Isn’t it more than coincidence that two Bushes are in Europe at once?” shouted a large women with Jackie O. sunglasses and a French accent.

“Tell us where he’s hiding and we’ll leave you alone” yelled an indy-media guy with a mohawk and an Obama T-shirt.

Calliope swatted them away like gnats. “You guys are on a dead end here. Buzz off.”

As she hurried round the corner, a dapper man in a discreet black suit appeared before her so suddenly she gasped.

“Not to worry, Calliope,” Zachary Zavislak assured her in an accent thick as bratwurst. “I’m here to help you.”

Something in his manner was so confident and reassuring that when he moved to usher her into a waiting Alpha Romeo, it all seemed to make sense. She arranged herself carefully in the bucket seat so as not to wrinkle her precious frock, then buckled up.

“You Americans” Zachary snorted as he popped his ride into gear and zipped down the back streets of Milan.

At an extreme stop Calliope came to her senses.

“Who are you?”

“I’m the man who kidnapped your cousin. Give me the frock or he dies.”

The universe loves me after all, Calliope thought to herself while surreptitiously unbuckling.

“I’ll be getting out here.”

 

A New Face

Mona Blanche’s face was swollen from decades of drink. This morning she was finally too tired to care. Appearing at the office without makeup unsettled her coworkers. They offered her coffee, and extra bathroom break, a hairbrush.

Mona moved through the day unmoved by their discomfort. She stapled and collated and alphabetized with her customary lack of zeal. But something inside her had changed. Without lipstick and concealer and false eyelashes she could no longer pretend that this was an acceptable facsimile of life.

Mona walked smartly into the boss’s office, her gait steady for the first time in years.

“Mr. Wildebeest,” she beamed, “I quit.”

 

The Day Spa

Ginger Fox looked nothing like the lively flirt her name implied. She clomped through life in a heavy body and looked out at the world through a tired, rumpled visage. She’d never had a date and, at age 45, fully expected to go to her grave a virgin.

Though the world cared little for Ginger, she cared well for herself and today she was splurging on a massage at the Grand Opening of the Bellissima Day Spa.

“Right this way, ma’am,” said the attendant in crisp whites. “I think you’ll find everything you need through this door.”

Odd, thought Ginger. The door was painted a playful purple, the only color in a spa that was otherwise unrelentingly white. She opened the door a crack and was instantly sucked into a swirling black void. Though tossed about like so much mixed greens, Ginger felt strangely light and at peace.

She landed in what appeared to be the Bellissima Day Spa, except that everything—the walls, chairs, curtains, and massage tables—everything was purple.

A man in purple robes approached her. He was heavy of body, rumpled of visage—but in a purple parallel universe way that translated: HOT!

“Welcome, Ginger, I’m Donald Anthrop and I’ll be your lover for this evening.”

Ginger rose to the occasion like a sunflower.

“Tell me,” she began, “about your specials.”

 

A Traveler Decides

Gary Sconyers yearned to travel. Thirty years as an accountant for a bank in a dreary Midwestern town had not succeeded in fully extinguishing his desire.

When the Depression hit and his job was “consolidated” away, Gary took his parsimonious severance package and blew it on a ticket to the first place his finger landed on when he spun his childhood globe: Kanazawa, Japan.

Twenty-four hours later, cherry blossom petals drifted into his hair at an outdoor tea ceremony. A dark-eyed enchantress walked directly to his table and sat down across from him.

Petra Cohen didn’t bother with introductions.

“We need your skills, Mr. Sconyers.” Her murky Baltic accent clashed with the ambience of the delicate ritual.

“I’m just here for the tea, ma’am,” Gary said softly.

“The resistance needs untainted accountants to break The Monolith. This is our last chance to free America from the tyranny of the bankers.” Petra stared hard into his eyes. “This is your moment Mr. Sconyers.”

Gary put down his cup of tea and exhaled. He gazed into the distance, taking in the snowcapped mountains and lush forests, the lovely geisha padding about the grounds. He took another sip. He liked it here.

Gary turned towards Petra, then looked away.

America was going to have to muddle through without him.

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