CuiousPages - fiction and nonfiction
CuriousPages - fiction and nonfiction
I was sitting across a restaurant table from Roger, whom I had never liked. Every so often, in mid sentence, his tongue would creep from his mouth and lick his lower lip. For years I analysed this and so far had not managed to fathom his peculiar habit, for “peculiar” to me it did seem. Each time he paused his speech, I carefully considered the word on either side of his lick. I watched his tongue tiptoeing over his lower tip and tossed the words around in my mind, ever more frantically, as if my solving of the riddle might magically beat his tongue into retreat. But no, I could see no reason and was left to endure the torment of that sight—unexplained.
We were arguing over who should wear the red sash on 6 August, which was seen as a great privilege in our village. I had no interest in wearing the sash but since Roger did, I was arguing with him.
“I am six foot tall and walk in a dignified manner,” he said.
He paused after the word “walk” to lick his lower lip. I certainly winced internally at the sight but hoped I maintained an unruffled exterior, for I prided myself on my diplomacy. Nevertheless, I told him:
“There is nothing dignified about your walk.”
“How dare you,” he said.
“I have noticed, for years, that you walk with a stoop.”
“I do not.”
“Yes, you do. Walk up and down in front of that mirror and look for yourself.”
“I’m not parading back and forth for your gratification.”
“I would not be gratified, I can assure you,” I told him.
“I seek no assurance from you, of anything. I can assure you,” he told me.
“And what makes you think I want assurances from you?” I asked.
“Well, you’re not getting them, anyway,” he said.
“Well, I don’t want them,” I told him.
“Good.”
We seemed to have settled the question of assurances and we each sat back and attempted to look dignified and uninterested in the other party.
The waiter arrived and placed a dish in front of me.
“What’s this?” I asked.
“Trout stuffed with celery,” he told me as he placed a delicious-looking meal before Roger.
“I didn’t order this,” I told him.
“Just eat it,” he said and walked away. I watched him strut around the restaurant like an undefeated stag.
Roger paused his eating and asked, “Aren’t you going to start?” nodding at the insolent trout lying on my plate.
I took my fork and began toying with the trout’s left eye. Its mouth seemed to hang open, reminding me of Roger’s creeping tongue. I felt like stabbing it in the eye but managed to restrain myself, not wanting to reveal my annoyance to Roger, lest he managed to derive pleasure from it. Instead I limited myself to nudging the trout in its ribs with my fork, shifting its position on my plate now and then, but showing no other interest in it. I ate a potato and tried to look satisfied.
“Red has always looked good on me,” said Roger. “You’re not touching your trout.”

In the goldfish bowl, Bruce and Sheila Softly were hovering side by side. For the past ten minutes there was nothing but silence, and—to Bruce, anyway—the silence seemed to deepen with each minute.
For one further time, Sheila looked accusingly at Bruce; and Bruce could not stand this any longer. He turned to swim off, when Sheila said, “Where do you think you’re going, Bruce?”
Bruce opened his mouth to speak but there did not seem anything to say, so he just watched Sheila with his mouth hanging open.
Sheila demanded, “Well?”
Bruce said, in an experimental tone, “For a swim—?”
Sheila snapped, “Get back here—I want a word with you.”
Bruce turned back and sighed.
Sheila said, “And just why can’t you see me as a bus driver?”
“That! you’re asking me about that?”
“Come on, why?”
“I don’t know.”
“Yes you do, Bruce.”
“No, I don’t.”
“You do!”
“I don’t!”
“Do!”
“Don’t!”
“Do!”
After a pause, Bruce said, “It was only an example—that’s all.”
“But why pick that?”
“No reason, Sheila; it was just the first thing I thought of.”
Sheila scowled at him and said, “You think that’s all I’m good for, don’t you?—driving busses.”
“Of course not.”
“Why then?”
“It— er— it just didn’t seem like your style, that’s all, Sheila, not your style.”
“Not my style?”
“No.”
“Why not?”
“I just pictured you doing something better.”
“Something better?”
“Of course, Sheila.”
“Like what?”
“Like whatever you wanted to.”
“Anything?”
“Anything.”
“And what if I wanted to be bus driver!”
Bruce shouted, “Be a bus driver, if that’s what you want!”
“But you said it wasn’t my style, Bruce.”
Bruce glared at Sheila for several seconds—his glare steadily intensifying—then he turned and darted away.
Sheila called, “You said you couldn’t really see me as a bus driver, Bruce.”
Bruce circled the bowl, going quicker and quicker, trying to block out the sound of Sheila’s taunts.
Sheila kept shouting, “—Saying that’s all I’m good for—that’s what you were doing. I can see exactly what you’re thinking, so don’t think you’ve fooled me. No, you’re just pretending it’s not what you were thinking, Bruce. That’s it—I can see everything you’re thinking—I can see it in your face!”
Bruce was now so enraged he was in danger of deliberately leaping from the bowl to escape Sheila’s taunts.
But Sheila then seemed to have finally emptied his whole head of words, so he turned, peered silently through the glass of the bowl and continued watching the view in the living room—but this time smirking smugly.

Links

Some links to other sites of literary interest.

Project Gutenberg. The first internet archive of free electronic books. There are now over 25,000 books available free at this site.

eBooks@Adelaide. The University of Adelaide Library’s collection of Web books. The collection includes classic works of Literature, Philosophy, Science, and History.

ReadPrint. Online books, free to read. From all the classic authors, though with some authors, only the most well known of their books are yet added. The books are nicely laid out easy to read.

Complete Works of William Shakespeare. The Web's first edition of the complete works of William Shakespeare. The texts are clearly and simply laid out, making them a joy to read. Navigation within each play is also straightforward.

The Literature Network is a vast store of online texts: books, short stories, poems. The full texts are included but the more popular works are peppered with advertising. If you don't mind that, happy reading.

Gaslight is an archive of classic short stories which were originally published as an internet discussion list. Genres include: mystery, adventure and The Weird.

East of the web. A growing collection of classic and newly-written short stories made available on the Web. Stories are organized by theme: fiction, romance, crime, sci-fi & fantasy, humour, horror, hyperfiction, children's, and nonfiction. Includes works by many famous authors.

George Boeree. This site contains many fascinating nonfiction etexts introducing every aspect of psychology. George's writing is clear and straightforward.

The Internet Classics Archive. An archive of works of classical literature in English translations. The works are mostly Greek and Roman, with some Chinese and Persian works.

Online Magazines

TheAtlantic.com. Current affairs magazine with short stories, essays and poetry. See the archive of short stories.

Narrative Magazine. Fiction, poetry, short short stories, nonfiction, features. Good quality writing. You can subscribe to the site free of charge, which will allow you to read the full text of the stories.

The Oldie. This magazine was created by a previous editor of Private Eye, as: an antidote to youth culture but, more importantly, a magazine with emphasis on good writing, humour and quality illustration.

Zoetrope All-Story. A short story magazine. You can read samples from many of the stories online, but will need to purchase a subscription to read the full text.

3:AM Magazine. Containing fiction, nonfiction, interviews, poetry, opinions.

Resources

How to Write a Story is a blog consisting of articles on how to write.

Refdesk.com. Today's news stories from around the world. And other similar reference material.