Z is for Zipper

She trembled when she felt his body behind hers.  She closed her eyes, revelling in the sensation of him placing a kiss  onto the curve at her neck near her shoulders.  That was her sensitive spot.  He knew it.  She smiled and leaned back against him, letting him feel all of her.

This was risky, she knew it, but it had been a while since she’d been able to be alone with him like this.  Her sister Tara was right outside and could walk in anytime but at that moment, Cece just didn’t care.

He continued kissing along her back, left exposed by the bare back dress she was trying on in the dressing room of the department store.  “This dress looks gorgeous on you, babe,” he said.  She blushed.  She could feel his hands moving towards the zipper on the back of the dress and her heart beat double-time.  She looked at him in the mirror catching his eyes.  He arched one eyebrow asking for permission.  She hesitated, swallowed and gave a nod.  His smile melted her. He caught the zip and lowered it down slowly, the sound raising goosebumps all over her body.

“Hey Cees, I found the dress you wanted in fuschia! I’m coming in so you can try it on!”

Cece’s eyes shot open, his hand at her back stilled. “Wait Tar! I’ll come out to get it.  Don’t come in…I’m…I’m…err.. I’m not dressed!”

The curtain of the dressing room slid aside, Tara walked in juggling the dresses in her arm and said, “Jeez, I’ve seen you naked before, Cees.  It’s not as if we’re…” at that moment Tara looked up and in front of her was her sister, eyes in shock and mouth gaped open.  And behind her, his hand on the zip of Cece’s dress, obvious to any onlooker that he was trying to remove it from her, was Tara’s husband.

Tara threw the dresses she had down, whirled away and stomped off.  Tears already flowing down her face, her heart dislocating itself from where it should be.  Behind her she heard her sister cry out, “Tar, wait, don’t go, this was a mistake! Let me explain!”

Y is for Yarn

The wicker basket in Gracie’s spare room was filled with balls of yarn of almost every shade of blue.  The basket sat on the floor beside the rocking chair and also in it were a pair of knitting needles and a How To Knit book for dummies.  A light film of dust covered the book cover.

Some of the balls of yarn had already been used, they were less than half the size of the newer ones which still had the price stickers on.

A year had passed and the therapist suggested to Gracie that perhaps it was time to start clearing the room.  A step forward.

She walked in and her gaze fell on the wicker basket.  She’d forgotten they were there.  She tried to forget a lot of things this past year.  But failed anyway.

She took a deep breath and fell to her knees, gently touching the balls of yarn.  She remembered the day she went into the store to buy them.  She’d laughed and told the shop assistant that she wanted to knit but didn’t know how!  The shop assistant had laughed and showed her the books for beginner knitters.

She stroked the balls of yarn and sighed.  She dug beneath them, reaching the bottom of the wicker basket and pulled out booties, a hat and a blanket in shades of blue.

Her mouth trembled, she held them to her chest, willing the tears to stay at bay, ordering her hands to stop shaking.  Her heart rebelled and clenched with pain anyway.

X is for Xylophone

The xylophone sat in the corner of the room, so unassuming, so innocent.  The wooden bars gleaming beneath the gallery lights.

Which made Elise want to touch it all the more.  Despite the fact that the students currently touring the gallery as part of their Music Appreciation class, were told to Not Touch the Antique Instruments in the Gallery.

Elise snickered when she remembered how the Museum Guide, an elderly man with a head full of grey hair, hunched and a thready voice made them repeat this instruction after him.

The group passed an exhibit of various percussion instruments from Africa, string instruments from Europe and wind instruments from Asia.  The xylophone was part of the percussion instruments from Europe exhibit although the placard beside it explained that the instrument had origins in both Africa and Asia.  This particular xylophone was reported to be unearthed almost 200 years ago in a village, buried together with the Chief.

Elise thought Yeah, right.  Looks brand new.  Probably made up the rest of the description too.

The Museum Guide turned to Elise at that moment as if he heard her thoughts.  Elise rolled her eyes at him and stayed to the back of the group.  The further she was away from him, the better.  He gave her the creeps.

The group moved to the next gallery, Elise trailed behind near the xylophone.  Gosh, it’s so shiny.  How much lacquer did they put on the bars! She looked around, making sure the other visitors weren’t looking her way and inched towards the xylophone behind the red velvet ropes.  She reached out to touch the bars and smiled when she finally did.  Haha! Take that, stuffy Museum Guide!

Before she could formulate her next thought, Elise felt a tug on her fingers.  And so she tugged back but found that her fingers were stuck!  She used her other hand to pull on the hand that was in contact with the bars but nothing.  She watched with wide eyes as her fingers disappeared slowly into the bars.  She looked around, calling for help but no one paid attention to her.  As the xylophone sucked her in, it made a slurping noise, enjoying the meal.  The Chief’s children it had the last time was 200 long years ago.  It was hungry.  After all of Elise disappeared into the bars, the xylophone let out a SMACK! And an Mmmmm…barely audible.

The Museum Guide came back to the gallery, looking for Elise.  He stopped at the xylophone.  Odd, the bars look shinier.  Hmmm…maybe Maintenance changed the bulbs in here.  Now, where did that shifty looking girl go to?

W is for Whistle

Billy walked gently and carefully onto the path that would lead him home from school.  It was old, surrounded by brush and trees, hardly a path at all, but it was there beneath his feet.  You’d miss it from the main road.

Billy’s neighbour told him about this alternate route when one day, he saw Billy bawling his eyes out behind his house.  The neighbour had gotten the entire story from Billy amidst his sobs and gulps about how a group of boys had taken to following Billy home, throwing stones at him, beating him with branches, calling him names.

He was excited that day.  Surely, Jonah and his other minions would be wondering where he went to.  He skipped a little down the path.  Feeling almost happy.  But it was a premature happiness.  Jonah and the gang jumped out of the bushes and pounced on Billy.  He was too surprised to evade them.  “Haha! Thought you could get away, eh?” Jonah declared with glee.  They wrestled him to the ground and proceeded to kick the heck out of Billy.

After what seemed to Billy like hours of enduring their beatings, they stopped.  Billy lay there on the path, bleeding out slowly, moving in and out of consciousness.  His hand closed over something buried in the ground as he tried to crawl away.  It was a silver whistle.  He gave a small laugh, he didn’t know why and he hurt all over.  No more laughing, he silently reminded himself.

What the hell, he thought, and brought it towards his lips.  Maybe someone will hear it and chase Jonah and the other boys away.  They were standing a few feet away, smoking, catching their breaths before round 2 started.

At first, Billy didn’t have enough breath to blow the whistle.  All that came out was a wheeze.  He tried again and you could hear FWEEEEET…FWEEEET…FWEEEEET.  The sounds only caught Jonah’s attention.  Oops, thought Billy and he dropped the whistle to the ground.

The sounds along the path ceased.  No birds chirping.  Then, the earth started rumbling and quaking near Jonah as he approached Billy.  Jonah fell to the ground, trying to get a grip but the quaking intensified.  Then to Billy’s shock and horror, a hand as big as a house burst out from the ground directly under Jonah’s and the other  boys’ feet.  They shrieked and screamed as they were elevated above the ground on the giant hand.  Some of them tried to jump down.  But they were too slow, the hand closed into a fist.  The shouting cut off.  Bits of bone and trails of blood fell to the ground beside Billy.  As suddenly as the hand emerged, it retreated back into the ground from where it came from.  The ground undisturbed.

The birds came out again.

V is for Vacuum Cleaner (again)

Beer cans – crushed, un-crushed, half-filled, empty, unopened – littered the top of the coffee table and also beneath it.  Marianne dutifully picked them up and threw them into the garbage bag she was hauling around the living room.  Bags of chips beckoned at her from between the sofa cushions.  She sighed and fished out maybe 10 bags.  She was tempted to just upend the garbage bag into Jason’s beloved classic Jag, the only place he cleaned up after himself.  But stopped herself.  Afterall, she’d been picking up after Jason and his messes for the past five years.  Why stop now?

Jason was a world-class slob.  In the beginning, she nagged at him to pick up after himself.  She was his wife, for God’s sake, not his cleaner.  That first time, he’d left a bruise on the left side of her face.  And a split lip.  She started dialling 911.  He grabbed her, apologised and said that it was the stress of work that day.  He’d never do that again.  She believed him and hung up.

The next time when she asked him to please wash the dishes he’d been using because she didn’t have the time right then.  She got a dislocated jaw and 2 weeks medical leave.

So, she did what she had to do.  Shut up and clean up.  This was five years ago.

That day she was in the middle of furiously vacuuming the entire living room. The carpet was peppered with bits of chips, hair (ugh) and other unmentionables.  It was a sty.  The door opened and Jason walked through. He’d had a jungle trekking event that day and came right home.  Marianne watched, aghast and eyes wide, as he tracked mud through the hallway and onto the carpet she was painstakingly vacuumming.

She snapped.  Like a twig.  And hit him with the vacuum handle.

Jason collapsed onto the floor, holding his hands up to protect his head and still she continued hitting him.  Then she put the vacuum on full power and pointed the nozzle towards him.

You could hear cracks and whooshes.  Jason’s skin began to peel off from his face, sucked into the cylindrical vacuum pipe. He reached out towards Marianne and his fingers went in too.  Then his entire arm.  Marianne stayed steady.  Bones were breaking as Jason’s body resisted the pull of the vacuum.  He held on to the sofa with his remaining hand, the other lost in the suction.  But it was futile.  The vacuum was determined.  His other arm succumbed.  Soon, both arms up to his shoulder were in the pipe.

Eyes wide, his head flattened then narrowed into a point into the vacuum. Jason’s ear-splitting scream arrested.  His head in, the rest of his body soon followed.  Cracking and breaking.

Then, there was no more Jason.  Not even a speck of blood remained.  Hmmm…what a neat freak at death, thought Marianne.  She switched the vaccum cleaner off and went into the kitchen.  She mixed herself a cocktail and settled down on the sofa, switched on the television.

Aaahhh…she thought and sipped her drink, I love a clean house.

V is for Vacuum Cleaner

It took them a long while but finally, they found a place to settle down.  And not just any place but a REAL good place.

When they first saw it, they had to pinch themselves in case it was a mirage.  Afterall, they had been travelling such long distances for a duration too long to recount.  Several in their caravan didn’t make it.  So long and arduous was the journey.

This place that they found was  everything they’d hope for and more.  It was large enough to accommodate all of them and they were many.  It sheltered them from the elements, which was important because many of them died from heat exposure.  Most important of all, their food source was nearby and the journey to get there was without obstacles, safe.

And so, they began the process of putting down roots for the long term.  It was safe now to fall in love, start a family, be someone else.

After several happy weeks, an unusual event was noted by their perimeter watch.  The watchman ran to the centre of the space where they gathered everyday and shouted at all of them – “Move! Everyone, move!  We have to go!”

Some of them asked, “What is it? What is that sound?” and before they could finish the rest of their thoughts, they disappeared and those around them only had the time to express their shock when they disappeared too.

Pop. Pop. Pop. Each one of them disappearing in turns.

Within seconds, all of them were gone.  It was as if they never existed at all.  Their little community.  There was no one.  And no one left to mourn them.

“Honey!  When was the last time you vacuumed under this couch?  There were a ton of ants underneath there!  And it looked as if they had settled in for the long run!”

U is for Ukulele

She sang and her voice was golden.

Everyone on the dance floor stopped for a minute to stare at the source of the honeyed melody.  They stood in awe, she drank it all in.  It fed her, their adoration.  Made her stronger, more powerful.

And after that minute, they resumed dancing, talking, catching up, whatever they were doing before they stopped to stare.

She went on singing, letting her voice cuddle the people, relaxing them, allowing their guards to drop.

Then he appeared.

She held her hand out to him while she continued her song.  He took it and kissed her knuckles.  They looked at eachother’s eyes and she gave a nod.  He bowed his head and held up the ukulele he brought with him.

It gleamed beneath the lights, polished, smooth to touch.  Astonishing actually, considering it had been around for a thousand years.

He brought it up to his chest and plucked the strings.

He strummed and she sang.

And everyone in the room fell down dead.

T is for Thumbtack

He pushed the red thumbtack in firmly and surely, making sure his hand was steady as he applied pressure.  Once it was in place, he picked up another red thumbtack and pushed it in again.  Blood gushed out a little, he took a cottonball from the stash he prepared next to him and pressed it against the puncture.  It would stop flowing in a while.  It always did.

The following 10 thumbtacks were red too.  He made sure that they made a neat line, with but a hair in between.  Sometimes, there would be resistance – the bone and all.  But he was patient and knew just how much and when to really push.  He also made full use of the mallet.

After he was done with the red thumbtacks.  He began with the blue ones.  His favourite were the yellow ones.  But this is art and he had to use the colours which suited the situation.  He was perfectly aware of it.  He is an artist after all.

Six hours elapsed and finally he was done.  He leaned back on the chair that he was sitting on, folded his arms across his chest and admired his handiwork.  This one’s quite good, he thought.  Perhaps it was because there was less struggling this time around.

He picked up his glass of water and picked up the day’s newspaper.  The headlines read ‘Thumbtack Man Strikes Again!’ and below it an article detailing how the seventh victim was found in the alley behind the embassy with the French flag all over its face.  A flag made out of thumbtacks.

He grinned to himself.  He quite fancied that piece of work, truth be told.  He remembered when he did France, gosh, the blonde was thrilling.  And when he pushed the first thumbtack in right between her eyebrows, she fainted.  He giggled a little.

But this one, yes, this one was the best.  He made a note to himself to increase the tranquiliser dosage next time.  Less struggling equals better art.

Yes, this was his best work to date – Puerto Rico.

S is for Sweater

The sweater Elise bought for Daryl was deep blue.

They were walking past the store late last Autumn and the mannequin in the window was wearing it and he stopped and said to her, “Hey, that’d look good on me.  What do you think?”  Elise looked at the price tag and said, “Well, anything that costs that much should look good on anyone, even my grandpa.”

“Well, I like it,” declared Daryl.  And with a shrug, they continued on their way.  Elise got the hint.

She saved every tip she got working at the coffee shop and sold some of her old textbooks to students to make up the rest.  She even gave (and charged) for haircuts to unsuspecting souls.  Eventually, she had enough for the deep blue sweater that Daryl coveted.  And just in time for Christmas too.

Elise bought a gold wrapper that had red ribbonny patterns on it and also bought a red velvet ribbon so that everything matched.  She painstakingly wrapped the sweater and put it into a paper bag to bring over to Daryl’s place for dinner that evening.  When he opened the gift, he beamed and engulfed Elise in a hug so big.  She did good, she thought.  He immediately removed the sweater he had on, which had a reindeer on it, and put on the deep blue sweater she bought for him.  They took a picture to commemorate the event.  Oh, Daryl got her an apron.  He’d forgotten to remove the tag which said ‘90% off’.  She was okay.  Mostly.

The next time she saw the deep blue sweater was on the floor of Sarah’s room.

Sarah and Daryl were sleeping in bed together and didn’t realise that they’d forgotten to lock the door.  Elise only went in to Sarah’s room to let her know that she’d just got home from her late shift at the coffee shop.  She took the scissors on the dressing table and plunged it swiftly into the sleeping bodies on the bed.  They didn’t even have time to shout out.

Elise took the deep blue sweater off the floor, the sweater she’d spent hours at the coffee shop slaving for until her feet were blistered and swollened.  She put it over her shirt and hugged it to herself.  It still smelled of him.  But reeked of her.  She held it close anyway.

The police found her later, holed up in her room, rocking, stroking the deep blue sweater.

R is for Ring


I looked around, what WAS that sound?

“I think it’s coming from inside your glass,” said Simon who was sitting beside me. I peered in – that can’t be, it’s only juice with ice. What in the world would make that sound?

Wait, one of the ice cubes looks weird; metallic. Ugh.  I took it out of the glass and looked at it. There was something in the ice.  “It’s a…a ring!” Simon said. Huh, he was right.  I was turtle-slow that night.  I picked at it and removed the ring.  The stone was turquoise, heart-shaped.

I lifted my gaze and looked at the boy who was standing in the doorway. “Phew, thought you were going to swallow it.” He said and smiled.  “Put it on, I want to make sure it fits!”  It fit my finger like a glove.

Five years later.

Simon held my hand “Are you sure about this?” he was worried for me, about me.  “I’m fine.  I’m good.  I’ll be okay,” I answer him and put on my best smile. “Don’t give me your best smile,” Simon chided, “I know it’s fake.  But it’s a good fake.” I let myself giggle a little.  He knows me well.  “Come on, the ceremony’s about to start,” we walked into the church.

I hear the priest saying, “Repeat after me.  With this ring, I thee wed.”  The boy who stood in the doorway a lifetime ago repeated the words, “With this ring, I thee wed.” And slipped the turquoise, heart-shaped ring onto the finger that was not mine.

My hands clutched Simon’s arms tighter.