The Interlopers by Robert Buckalew

I clung to her leg like a cowering koala. Crouched at her feet I was passive, self protective. The other woman talked to her only. She was proposing to me through my wife. She wanted me to become her betrothed. I listened as the women stood facing each other until the proposal was over. When they were through and in agreement my wife graciously looked down at me for any response I might have. I looked up at her and silently nodded, then nuzzled the apex of her jeans in appreciation, wishing I could do more through the heavy cloth material. I was ecstatic.

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Three Girls in a Hut by Joe Giordano

Silvia said that from some angles I looked handsome; she left me when another man convinced her that she was beautiful. I tore her picture and put on a kettle of tea. I munched a corn muffin and contemplated my fate. I’d exposed my heart like a puppy’s underbelly. Emotional involvement was the problem. I’d begin a no-female diet. I’d tone down all my relationships and avoid acquaintances whose neck veins bulged in discussions over gay marriage, climate change, or how to cultivate tomatoes. I’d develop a Solomon’s coolness in the face of thorny disputes. My wisdom was often ignored, so I’d stop giving advice. I’d be cheerful because likeability was the most important quality. My superiors would dote on me. Even better, I’d enter politics. Why sweat when I could earn money for flattery and smiles? I’d inflate others’ self-importance. Praise would be the opiate I dispersed; I’d seek people for whom no complement was too grandiose to swallow as truth. My face would be a smiling mask; no one would see behind the image. Insult and injury would be swirled and swallowed. Like a jagged rock plunged into the belly of life’s giant mixer, I’d smooth myself into an indistinguishable shape.

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