Thin Blue Line, by Eric J. Smith

“Why’d you get into this line of work?”

“I wanted to help people.”

“Really? You could have been a firefighter or enlisted in the Coast Guard. They help people who’re in the jackpot.”

“Yeah, but they’re specialized. We never know what’s going to happen. Whenever someone’s in any kind of trouble, they call us.”

“I suppose.”

“You don’t sound convinced.”

“It’s the attitude I don’t like. You guys always assume the worst about everyone—automatically you figure we’re lying, guilty lowlifes.”

“Yeah, but that’s the job. We deal with the worst every day, all day.”

“That’s what I’m talking about.”

Playing Favorites, by Russell Conover

“It’s a simple question, Tom.”

“No, it’s not!”

“Yes, it is. Just tell me who your favorite past coworker is.”

“When four of them are standing right in front of me?”

“That’s the job.”

Tom gulped. He knew he risked unleashing hell if he said the wrong name, and he had a three in four chance of doing just that. He spoke very carefully.

“I can’t pick just one. They are each a favorite in their own way.”

His subtle wink was at Mary, now that “they” could be singular, and only she noticed. She tried to contain her smile.

The Other, by Ann-Louise Truschel

“Chief, you wanted to see me?”

“Eileen, I have an assignment for you. It could be dangerous; it could also earn you a Pulitzer.”

“When do I leave and where do I go?”

“You’ll be embedded in Syria for six months. You leave tonight.”

“What can I say? Of course I’ll go.”

She leaves, high on excitement. Shortly thereafter her husband Mel comes into the Chief’s office.

“You’re sending Eileen into Syria, Ralph? Is she coming back?”

“Her cover will be blown shortly after her arrival, and, unfortunately, she’ll be killed.”

“I love you Ralph.”

“I love you too, Mel.”

Leean Marie 01/29/2012, by Jo Oldani-Osborne

I’ve been sitting on this one for a while for obvious reasons.

Leean Marie 01/29/2012, by Jo Oldani-Osborne

We faced each other in matching Pink Hope shoes. Five years, five anti-cancer walks.

We weren’t here to walk.

“I asked you out here because Doc said I have to get my things in order,” Leann rasped, haltingly.

She asked to meet early, alone. “What would you like me to do, Lee?”

Instinctively, I reached to comfort her. She blocked my embrace.

“Take care of Mom. The kids. And – um.” I heard resignation. Regret.

“About visitors. I hate tears.”

“Okay. If they can’t keep it together,” my hope exhaled.

“That’s all.”

The shoes sit on my shelf.

Nell and Digby, by Emma Baird

Nell and Digby met at university. She was a student and he was a young entrepreneur, flogging sandwiches to students staggering out of the uni disco.
Thanks to an earlier white-out, she was ravenous. Thanks to to that white-out she was skint.
“I’ve no money,” she wailed. Digby’s assistant dismissed her. Digby made a sandwich up anyway.
“Do you have a boyfriend?” Directness contributed to Digby’s entrepreneurial success.
She took her time answering. The term end beckoned, as did Camp America. No point in beginning something.
She took a bite of the sandwich. It was heavenly.
“No,” she smiled.

The Boot on the Other Foot, by Gordon Lawrie

OK, now the original story for this week. This one has a sliver of non-fiction in it, together with a fair dollop of wishful thinking. I’m not “the author”, by the way.

The Boot on the Other Foot, by Gordon Lawrie

Amelia, a second-year history student, reviewed books for the student magazine.

Seeing an advert in a local bookshop, she’d signed up for a free author event offering pre-event wine and requested a free review copy.

Not taking to the author – a distinguished academic publishing her first novel – Amelia admitted in her scathing book review that she’d been biased accordingly. However, she was entitled to her opinion.

Months later, it transpired that the academic/author worked part-time in the history department, had marked Amelia’s exams and – not thinking them much good – had failed her. Naturally, she too was entitled to her opinion.

A They Walks Into A Bar … by Gordon Lawrie

They cut an imposing figure in the bar-room doorway; from their mouth they blew a giant pink bubble. When it popped, everyone spun round to look.

“Goodness,” the newcomer said. “They’re playing our song.”

The pianist was playing ‘Is you is or is you ain’t my baby’.

Suddenly the newcomer became animated. “Which of you is Spartacus?” they said.

One stood up immediately. “They are Spartacus!”; then another “No – they are Spartacus”; then another until all the bar was yelling “They are Spartacus.”

The newcomer sighed. “Doesn’t matter,” they said, drew their sub-machine gun and despatched everyone. Even the pianist.

(Untitled) by Amy Friedman

Did you know you’re now “them?”
Yeah. If you don’t want to pinpoint gender in writing, you now can use “they.”
No kidding.
Washington Post says so. It’s part of their style now.
Can you refer to non-people as they?
What do you mean?
Well, you just did.
You called the Washington Post “they”.
Oh man. Are you gonna nitpick me on that?
I can’t believe they want to toss out gender pronouns.
And there you go – you’re using they!
Think they’re gonna come get me for it?
One never knows, do one? It’s definitely gonna save time.

Popularity, by Russell Conover

You beat me to this topic, Gordon, although I’m taking mine in a slightly different direction.

Popularity, by Russell Conover

Jim, quite the ladies’ man, had a world of trouble on his mind. He’d been thinking about seven different women, all of whom wanted him, and he couldn’t take the pressure anymore.

“Take it easy,” he told himself. “This will work out somehow.” He tried to think of a way to keep them happy while not letting his wheels drive him crazy.

Suddenly he heard footsteps. Glancing back, he saw the women pursuing him.

Before long, the women had plastered themselves on his truck’s hood, grinning like idiots. He sighed. “A lover who won’t blow my cover. Like THAT’LL happen.”

(P.S.) Whoops–just noticed that you, Eric, also wrote on the same theme that Gordon and I did. Sorry … hadn’t read all the stories this week before posting mine. Interesting to see all the different interpretations, though, isn’t it?

Jackson and Glen, by Eric J. Smith

When I was in Winslow, Arizona—I was probably only near it where the Greyhound Bus stopped. Anyway, there were no corners in sight—just a road stretching into nowhere surrounded by dirt—no buildings, houses, or even fences. So when I hear that song I think, “Jeez, how could the protagonist be standing on a corner?” And I always have trouble with a guy having seven women on his mind simultaneously. He did classify and group them for simplification, but still, seven? Three I could see. Then again, turns out Winslow was somewhere else and it did have corners.