Read Stories by Sean Craven

Something Sweet

By Sean Craven

It was late afternoon, but the heavy weather outside made the bedroom so dark it felt like night. The heavy rain on the roof and window made Aaron even gladder to be where he was. How did it go...

Oh, Western wind, when will thou blow,

the small rain down can rain?

Christ! That my love were in my arms,

and I in my bed again.

 Or something like that. Too cold to get out of bed and look it up. Caroline, next to Aaron under the covers, ran her hand across his chest, and from under the duvet he caught the scent of their lovemaking. “Sweetie,” she said.

Aaron could tell from the tone of her voice she knew he didn’t want to do what she was about to ask him. He said, “Yeee-es?”

“I feel like something sweet. Could you get me a candy bar? A Milky Way,” Caroline said. She smiled at him with a cutie-pie face.

Aaron made a faint animal noise of discontent, and said, “Oh, you’re kidding, in this weather?”

Caroline threw a soft leg over Aaron, pressed her soft body against his, kissed him, and said, “Don’t you want there to be more of me to love?”

Caroline was the girl, and she was too pretty for Aaron. So it would be gallant to go to the store. But it was her apartment, and she had more money than he did, so it would be shrewd to do what she wanted. He wanted to be gallant, he didn’t want to be shrewd. Her request bothered him. It was as much about getting him to do something as what he was going to do. Aaron and Caroline hadn’t been together long, but he could already sense the lines of contest in the relationship, and he wasn’t quite at ease with them.

But Caroline was good company, and her blonde baby-doll good looks still took him by surprise, seeing those bright green eyes looking at him with pleasure. And she knew he wouldn’t mind a little more of her.

Aaron, with a flutter in his gut, rolled to face Caroline, and ran his hand down her curves from shoulder to knee. “Okay,” he said, “but on one condition.”

“What?” Caroline asked.

Aaron braced himself; this felt risky. “I get to feed it to you.

Caroline paused, and smiled. “Okay.” She bit his shoulder, gently, looked back at him, still smiling. “That could be fun.”

 

* * *

 

Aaron had met Caroline at a poetry reading. It was a slam type of thing, at a bar, and Aaron had come to support a friend of his. He’d noticed Caroline on his right, and had been just able to keep from staring. Pale, pale wavy blonde hair, a pink-and-cream complexion that looked as if it tasted good, wearing a blue satin bustier that was basically a breast shelf. God. Damn, Aaron had thought, and turned back to the stage. Does she know how she looks? Is she trying to kill me?

 A few minutes later, she was to his left, still looking toward the performer, but Aaron felt as though she was trying to get his attention. As if she wanted him to look at her. She was a little further away, and when there was a gap in the crowd, Aaron had a chance to get a full-body view.

 

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The Language of Women

By Sean Craven

 

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A Poor Man's Prayer

By Sean Craven

 

Slow Drift

By Sean Craven

On the first day, it seemed like nothing more than rest. Or laziness. It was between Christmas and New Year’s, and my wife was out of town visiting relatives. My friends and family were similarly occupied, and so I had more time to myself than I could remember ever having before.

I’d always thought of myself as a solitary individual, but rather than occupying myself with productive activity, I found the isolation sapped much of my general interest in life. What happened over the course of the next three days ended my illusion that I could live without people.

My appetite and ability to sleep had been waning, and now my mind was both brittle and sluggish, like a box full of broken sugar glass turned to syrup at the bottom, soaking into the cardboard. Without anyone around me, without any interest or desire prodding me to act, I gathered a stack of old humor magazines from the boxes I keep in my studio, and retired to bed.

It is a very nice bed. It is wide enough for two, and long enough for me, and it has a thick memory-foam mattress. I set the stack of magazines where my wife’s head usually rests, and began leafing through them. National Lampoon, Weirdo, The Nose, Hyena, and so on. I wasn’t able to focus enough to actually read anything - or to be more clear, I wasn’t interested enough in anything to bother focusing. I flipped from page to page letting phrases and images and numbers (page numbers, prices in ads, there are numbers everywhere) rise from the pages like flakes of ash in an open flame.

I got up to go to the bathroom a couple of times, but I didn’t consider eating or drinking. I passed out for a couple of hours that night, the horrible bleak void that replaces sleep when the insomniac’s body breaks down and imposes unconsciousness. I showered when I woke up in the middle of the night because my earplugs weren’t staying in my ears; too greasy. When I came back to bed, the new earplugs and clean ears worked fine, but I wasn’t able to get back to sleep.

I turned the light on, and spent the time until dawn looking at the same magazines, still unread. My lips stuck to my teeth, my tongue stuck to my palate, and my saliva was like drying eggwhite, and when I went to the bathroom, my urine was dark and smelled like cooking organ meats.

I showered before bed, but it didn’t help. That night was spent twitching and rolling over. I must have been unconscious at some point, but there are times when it seems as if the mind is determined to burn through the body as if it were a fuse. Compulsive thoughts of violence, memories of misbehavior and humiliation, fears of the future, bizarre and absolute visions of my body twisted and broken, everything the night holds for me was there.

So I gave up trying to sleep, and went back to my magazines.

 Any hunger I may have felt days ago was gone, replaced by a sense of anxiety that filled my belly like a stone. My mouth wasn’t sticky. Everything was slick, as though it had been varnished and was now ready for use. As the bars of light and shadow cast by the sun through the Venetian blinds appeared and moved across the wall and I slowly, purposelessly turned the pages, nothing seemed out of place. I could do this forever.

 I could do this until everything stopped.

 That changed when the long muscles in my thighs started to tremble, and I could sense their eagerness to lock into a spasm powerful enough to actually hurt me, to tear flesh. It happens. And as the blade-edge of pain started to draw itself across me, I imagined my wife coming home in a week.

 

Alternatives

By Sean Craven

thud
thud
thud
pause

thud
thud
thud
pause

The tiny skull hit the door over and over, turning the bathroom into a drum so tight the beat was felt. The rhythm was brutal and insistent, the music of a tribe that ate strangers.

thud
thud
thud
pause

The repeated impact was sharp, immediate, but the door blunted the high-pitched chant, which was why the door was shut.

“Mommy,
Mommy,
Maaaw-
Meeeeee,” Suzie sat on the floor in the hall and banged her head against the bathroom door in time to her chant. Suzie’s voice was flat, dopey, an attempt to sound like a cartoon character, and there was no question in her words, no request. It was a statement of ownership. Carol was afraid Suzie might be an actual stupid person. Suzie was pretty and happy, and you just don’t want to believe that a pretty, happy little girl could be dumb, but Jesus. Thud, thud, thud.

Carol was on the toilet, slacks and panties draped over her shoes, iPad resting on her knees. Donald was at work, Kenny and Jen were at school, and this was as much privacy as Carol had known in the last eight years. A few weeks back, Carol had realized she couldn’t even remember what it was like not to hear someone calling her, not to feel some sweaty little body pressed against her. Not to feel the endless suction of need and selfishness.

 Carol had hoped things might be easier when it was just her and Suzie.

thud
thud
thud
pause

“Mommy,
Mommy,
Maaaw-
Meeeeee,” Suzie chanted. She was going to give herself a bald spot if she kept this up.

Carol couldn’t believe it was Torrey Small who was had shown her a path to hope. Carol had thought Torrey was a would-be porn-star turned professional nut. She’d had a child who she’d unconvincingly labeled as severely learning-disabled, and since then she’d roamed the talk-show circuit yelping endlessly about the conspiracy that was modern medicine. Her position wasn’t argued so much as repeated, and the sight of an educated, articulate woman acting to prevent things like vaccination gave Carol the same kind of nasty little thrill she felt when she found out about a particularly repulsive sexual perversion. People listened to Torrey Small, and there were children dead and disabled as a result; the situation was so appalling Carol had to know more.

 When Carol finally saw Torrey on TV, Torrey hadn’t looked like a mommy at all. She had the glossy, wonderfully hygienic prettiness that results from the collision of perfect genes and tasteful surgery. Torrey had been talking about her son, and immunization, and ADHD.

 It was the photo of Torrey’s son that nailed Carol. He wasn’t what you expected from a perfect pink person like Torrey. He was a little meatloaf. Carol imagined him grown up; his house smelled like beer and cigarettes and an ignored cat box. There was a mildewed porno magazine on the floor of his imaginary bathroom, right next to the toilet.

 

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