Monday, March 29, 2010

Holly - Would Ya? - FFF#26

Another week of Friday Flash Fiction and another excellent starter sentence provided by our host/moderator/all-round swell guy, Cormac Brown. Provided with the opening sentence of "What do you see when you close your eyes?", I had no real idea where to take this. I hope that it is somewhat close to okay.


Holly, Would Ya?

“What do you see when you close your eyes? Take that image and make it real.”

This was the first thing Oscar had been taught about the world of film-making. He had successfully made that transition from daydream to blockbuster; dozens of awards and many industry accolades had proven that. He had since hung up his writer’s cap and become the biggest talent agent in the business. Stars from far and wide would come to him for representation; television, theatre and film actors would approach Oscar and he could make career-altering decisions on the spot – if he accepted them, the sky was the limit; if they were rejected, the movie-world would immediately know and the star would flame out. Such was the sway Oscar held.

Oscar tapped his toe to the constant ticking of the old grandfather clock in the corner of his office. Not usually an impatient man, he was beginning to have some reservations about his next client’s ability to deliver. His agency had been dealing with this family for decades but this latest member of the dynasty was becoming a problem. She had been slow in generating new box-office successes and did not seem to care. A bad sign, was what Oscar thought. Something that had needed to be dealt with for some time - and that time had finally arrived.

His musings were interrupted by the buzz of the intercom.

“Mr. Nelson, Miss Wood is here to see you. Would you like me to show her in?”

“Thank you dear - that will be fine.”

Leaning back in his leather wing-back chair, Oscar propped his feet up onto the corner of his desk and clasped his hands behind his head.

The door to his office opened slowly. Emma, his receptionist, poked her head around the corner and introduced his client.

“Thank you, Emma. That will be all.”

The secretary withdrew from the room and pulled the door closed behind her. Oscar waved his guest to the chair in front of his huge desk.

“Please, take a seat, Ms. Wood. Can I get you something? A martini? Shaken not stirred – of course.”

She dropped into the proffered seat and placed her handbag on the floor, resting it against the leg of the chair.

“Mr. Nelson, I would prefer if you dropped the formality. Please, call me Holly.”

Oscar was amused by her brashness. “If you insist, Miss...sorry, Holly. And you can call me Oscar.”

Holly only nodded slightly, weighing up the offer and finally deciding against taking him up on it.

“Mr. Nelson, is there a problem?” Holly bowed her head slightly, feeling like a schoolgirl being singled out in class. She quietly hoped that she didn’t get the proverbial caning.

Oscar removed his feet from the desk, leaned forward and rested his elbows on the expensive ink blotter in front of him.

“Holly, if I may be upfront with you, I am having some issues with your productions of late and am worried about the direction your films are heading.”

“Seven Academy Awards, five Golden Globes, two BAFTA’s and one Emmy that sits in the front office...”

“That’s Emma...she’s my secretary...”

“What? No, not her - I meant the award that is sitting pride-of-place on the mantelpiece out there.” Holly jerked her thumb over her shoulder. “What, exactly, is the problem with the direction of my films?”

“Well, for one thing, the casting has been a little - how shall I put this? – Uninspired. It has been seven years since your last major award and I am beginning to get a little concerned.”

Holly raised her eyebrows questioningly, daring him to continue.

“Let me give you an example. Richard Thomas is a wonderful character actor and is very popular, but to put him in a film with Bobbi “Big Boobs” Bracken was a bit of a mistake, I’m afraid. That’s why it was a flop. You can’t just sign big-time actors for any old film and expect them to carry it.”

“It was big in the Czech Republic...”

“Yes, that’s true, but so are Skoda and who in the hell wants one of those parked in their living room?”

“Well, what about The Greatest Story Ever Narrated? That was a great film; big cast, multiple camera angles and big budget. What about that one?”

“It made nineteen thousand dollars...but that was only in candy sales. Who knew that Maltesers would have been so popular for throwing at the projectionist? But I guess that the paying public had to find something to do for three and a half hours. Peter Jackson you are not!”

Holly was starting to get a little agitated. “But I have a huge film in production now. One of the most famous directors in the world has been working on this for years...”

Oscar had known she was going to pull this certain rabbit from her hat. It was the same tired argument from their entire clientele. The next one is going to be it, the next big thing...

“That is true. You do have this film, currently in post-production - where it has been, incidentally, for the last three years. However,” he said, standing now, “I cannot afford to keep pumping money into a film that has so far taken more than a decade – in filming time alone; countless millions of sponsors’ dough and the biggest plot hook you have come up with is a bunch of little green fucking monsters running around for no apparent reason. What the fuck is that all about?”

“But the special effects are awesome...” Holly’s cheeks were beginning to blush from anger and frustration.

“Holly, let me put it to you like this: to recoup the money my company has spent on this film - and working on the current price of cinema tickets – every person in the world would have to watch this film...six fucking times.”

“But Mr. Nelson, you’re just not seeing the big picture...”

“Frankly, my dear Holly, we’re not seeing it at all, and probably never will. I hate to say this but I am going to have to let you go. No hard feelings and all that. Just business, you know how it is? No business like it – show business.”

Rising from her seat, Holly withdrew a shiny .44 Magnum from her handbag and pointed the business end at Oscar.

“It seems like we have a bit of a problem here, Mr. Nelson. I may not be Peter Whats-his-name, but I am closer to Harry Callahan, I believe.” Holly stared at Oscar for a moment, ready to pull the trigger.

“My dear girl, I think you may be over-reacting just a tad. Not to mention being slightly melodramatic. You just don’t seem to have the...”

Without warning, Oscar dropped and rolled, hitting the floor and grabbing the Buntline Special that Kevin Costner had presented to him after scoring him a fine deal. Peering around the corner of his desk, Oscar saw Holly pull back the hammer on her pistol. Ducking as low as he could, he covered his head and waited for the explosion.

Opening up a Magnum inside any office was bound to be bloody noisy, but inside Oscar’s office, it was cacophonous. His ears ringing, his eyes watering, Oscar jumped up levelled his gun at Holly.

“Would you mind standing still? I am having a hard time focussing on you.”

Holly rubbed her eyes with the heel of her hand. “Where the hell are you? When I can see better, I am gonna – how do they say it in those tacky gangster movies? – pop a cap in your ass?”

The office door flew open and Emma raced in.

“What in the blue hell is going on in here? Sounded like gunshots.” Emma gasped at the sight of Oscar’s desk. “And what the hell happened to your desk?”

“If it sounded like gunshots, Blondie, then there is a good chance it was.” Holly, still seemingly disoriented, swung around towards the sound of Emma’s voice. “You have one chance to get out of Dodge alive or I am gonna give you lead poisoning.”

Emma needed no further encouragement. As quick as she had entered, she had gone. Lucky for her, as it turned out as Holly let loose another hellish explosion of gunfire, taking a sizeable chunk from the doorframe where Emma had been standing.

“...and stay out!”

Oscar had used this distraction to come around the desk and stand immediately behind Holly. Edging up closer to her, he placed the barrel of the Buntline against her ear and whispered, ever so softly, “Bang!”

***

Oscar Nelson sat in his leather chair, feet up on what remained of his office furniture and re-read the contract annulment with Holly Wood. He laughed to himself – in nervous relief, if the truth be told – and wondered what exactly had happened. In the end, he supposed, all’s well that ends well. Reasonably well. Partially okay, even.

“And to think, that Buntline was only a replica...”

“Sorry, boss,” came the reply from Emma.

“Never mind, was just talking to myself. By the way, on your way out tonight, can you throw that Emmy in the trash compactor out back?”

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Morten Bay Fig - SexyTouch Challenge (6S)



...And now for something completely different...

Over at the Six Sentences Social Network, there has been a challenge issued to use the image above to write something "sexy". This challenge came from Absolutely*Kate (of At The Bijou fame...well, famous to those who know her!) Those who have been reading my writing of late know that this would be highly unusual for me, but a challenge IS a challenge. So, here is my piece:


The Morten Bay Fig

The peal of the church bell reminded her of Richard. They had first met under the Morton Bay Fig in the edge of the shopping district; her searching for another pair of shoes, he buying flowers for his long-dead wife’s grave. She didn’t believe in coincidence – she believed in fate and kismet and providence. So they had chatted, laughed and drank take-away coffee and ate home-made sandwiches under that same fig tree every Sunday morning, watching the good-at-heart and god-fearing population attend Mass and plan for a future they both so desired. Now, sitting alone on a bed in a hotel miles from that fig tree, she remembered him again; his touch, his smile, his soft, warm lips upon every inch of her body. She also remembered their last night together - his proclamations of eternal love, her offering herself to him; his cooling body beside her on the bed and she crying silent tears and longing for the man she had loved.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Breakout! - FFF #25

This week at Friday Flash Fiction, we were given the starter sentence "He had been told crawling would get him nowhere." I had a hard time coming up with a story for this, even though it was my starter sentence!! Anyway, the story is below, entitled "Breakout!"

A thank you to Cormac Brown for his continual hosting of FFF as well...a great job!!


Breakout!

He had been told crawling would get him nowhere. Somewhere in the back of his jittery mind he remembered being told this. It wasn’t going to do him much good now, though. The rain pelted heavy on his head, his stringy hair pasted to his face as he continued on his hands and knees down the open canal that ran beside the outer wall of the penitentiary. He could feel stones and other sharp objects – possibly glass - digging into the heel of his hands, causing him to wince then instantly shake his head in quiet determination – absolutely nothing was going to deny him this break for freedom.

***

Planning had taken months; arranging for the right people to look the other way had taken more than greasy palms and a promise; he had had to debase himself, demean himself, to get the wheels in motion. He had humiliated himself but, he reasoned to himself, it would be worthwhile once he had cleared himself of his current inconvenient predicament.

Earlier in the evening, he had hidden in the projection room after the screening of some mind—numbing feature film. When he was sure that he was alone, he exited and made his way through 4 Division, skirting the edge of the compound wall, knowing that the guards would be watching the other inmates who were out for evening exercise before being locked away for the night. With his back to the cold, wet bricks, he slid his feet inch by inch along the wall, until coming upon the twelve foot drop to the fields below. He had sighed with relief when he saw the thick rope had been provided as arranged – he was amazed what a little blowjob could achieve.

Once down, his hands red raw from the rubbing of the damp rope, he kept to the shadows of the prison walls, until he rounded the south-east corner. The rain seemed heavier here; somehow denser. He understood it had something to do with the design of the roof and the runoff from a storm typically flowed down here, collecting finally in the canal that flowed along the eastern wall of the prison.

He waited for the siren to signal yard-time over, and, knowing that the guards would be otherwise distracted, headed for the bushes that lay just fifty yards from the perimeter wall. Keeping as low as possible and not daring to stop for fear of being he spotted, he broke out of his well-protected hiding spot and ran for the tree line and quickly dived head first into the murky, dirty water of the canal. Coming back up for air, gagging on silt and other filth that was more than likely present, he shot his gaze toward the outer wall, checking to see if his charge had been spotted. He had dragged himself for one hundred yards, crawling on all fours, whilst waiting for the opportunity to move once more.

***

He hadn’t heard the klaxon wail yet, so he figured those in charge hadn’t noticed his disappearing trick. He realised that their ignorance wouldn’t last long. It was almost time for lockdown and lights out and then – then – he knew that, without a shadow of a doubt, they would be scouring the nearby surroundings for him. And there would be very little in the way of concern about what method they used to recapture him.

A flash of lightning revealed a large concrete wall in front of him. It was the end of the canal that he had been warned about. He was exhausted; there was no way he could physically drag himself up and over such a large obstacle. That left him only one option – to make a break through open ground. He lay on the muddy bank, assessing the best direction in which to head. Looking back over his left shoulder, he could see the guard tower quite clearly but, to the right, the guards would have very limited visibility, especially with the rain and spasmodic flashes of lightning.

Crouching now, he watched for the lightning, trying to time his run. Waiting for the next period of darkness, he kept one eye on the towers, making sure that they were still partially blinded to his escape route. He could feel his muscles tense as the moment approached but he was then shocked by the sudden brilliance of the jail spotlights and sudden sirens. They had discovered his escape.

And now the chase was on...

'A Hike in Bad News' up at 50 To 1!

My short piece 'A Hike In Bad News' is up at a very cool site called 50 to 1.

50 to 1 is "an ezine that posts only 50 word stories and first line inspirational sentences that are meant to get the reader hooked into the rest of the story."

Go and have a look and if you like micro-fiction, be sure to have a dip. It is a great site.

Thanks to Glen and Sam for accepting my first piece.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Fit For A King

The blade had been long in the making; two years had passed since the smith first gathered together the Damascus steel and enough coal to keep the forge burning bright. A painstaking job to be sure, but something he approached with respect and dedication. Sweat rolled down his soot-darkened face which he wiped away with the heel of his palm, revealing a jagged scar that ran from eye socket to jawbone. He held the sword aloft, as if in triumph, marvelling at its beauty and weight, and then carefully laid it down upon the wrought-iron anvil in the centre of the wooden smithy. Sure that this magnificent weapon was ready for the task ahead, the blacksmith wrapped the blade in some old woollen blankets and managed a wry smile. The King – his former ally and closest friend - was sure to appreciate the workmanship and artistry of the sword; he would marvel at the weapon that had been created for him alone - he would get to appreciate it up close and personal.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Dance We Shared - FFF #24

Another week in the Friday Flash Fiction, and another curveball thrown at the willing participants. Cormac Brown, host of FFF, challenged us this week with the starter sentence "A Kiss As Sweet As..." and, much to my bemusement, he added the clause "Oh, and just like a nightclub? There will be no guns or knives allowed this week."

So here we are, with something completely different for me and, I am sure, for you, the reader. Here is my piece, entitled:



The Dance We Shared

A kiss as sweet as cold water on a hot summer’s day awoke from my slumber. She stood before me, a vision of beauty unmatched in my life until this moment – in fact, her beauty swelled with every passing moment. I had been bewitched by this woman from the first time I had laid eyes on her several months before and I am still captivated by her.

I rolled over and beckoned to her, hoping for another kiss of life - another taste of her full, red lips and hot breath on my neck. Instead, she sashayed across the living room, her red heels clicking on the bare hardwood floor, her curvaceous derriere straining to be free of the tight denim skirt that held it captive. She spread her long, pale arms and pulled the heavy curtains closed – the whoosh seemed loud in the silence of the early morning – then spun on her heel, hands already releasing the buttons on her silk blouse.

She began a deliberately erotic dance, moving to music that only she could hear. The rhythm of her swinging hips and heaving breasts had me sitting up, accidentally knocking over the empty coffee cup that I had placed on the edge of the coffee table. She didn’t seem to notice and the seductive shimmy continued. Step by step, button by button, she inched closer to me, finally removing her middy to reveal the low cut swimsuit she had been wearing at the beach the previous day.

We had spent a long time on the beach; swimming was only one of the activities we had taken part in, and it was also not the most pleasurable one. After collecting her from the airport, we went to the beach to watch the sunrise, and ended up staying the whole day, enjoying each other’s company and other pleasurable things. We had kissed, cuddled, fucked and made love; on the sand, in the water. We had been waiting a long time for these moments, and we took full advantage of it. Our time together was going to be brief – just a few weeks – and we were going to make sure we made the most of every minute we had.

Reaching out to me, she took my hand and helped me to my feet. Pulling me close, we shuffled around the living room, completely unaware of whatever may be going on in the outside world. I leaned in against her, taking in the sweet scent of her hair, drowning in the depths of her cool powder-blue eyes.

Finding my feet, I gently swayed with her toward the bedroom door. She pulled back from me for a moment, smiled the mischievous smile that I had quickly grown to love, and continued to let me lead her in that direction. I could feel her ample breasts against my chest and her hands running up and down my back, pausing only occasionally to stop and let me taste her tongue and lips once more.

The dance slowly came to an end as we reached my intended destination. Leaning across me, she flicked on the light; the deep crimson illumination had caught her attention the previous evening as we had made love on the floor at the foot of the bed; her smooth skin lustrous in the glow. She pushed me into the room, sending me spread-eagled onto the bed. I looked up in mock surprise at her sudden playfulness, as she ran her fingertips against her soft, sweet lips and flung the door shut behind her.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Do Yourself A Favour - John Wiswell Reading

Recently, I came across this excellent piece by John Wiswell. A fantastic story that was made even more brilliant by the reading by the author. If you have the time, do yourself a favour and check this out - you won't be disappointed!!

Possible Origins For Him.1. - The Bathroom Monologues

Possible Origins For Him.1. - At The Bijou

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Duel To The...

“You’ve insulted me for the last time you lily-livered rapscallion, you...you...cowardly, sniveling little, little man, I challenge thee, I challenge thee to a Duel and let death be the end of you!”

“Dear Sir Whine-A-Lot, the only thing challenged here is you and the death of me will be your whiny voice, but, in the interest of chivalry and all things ass-kicking, I accept thy challenge, and furthermore, I demand that this duel be completed in the next seventeen minutes, with both our hands tied behind our backs!!"

“Both hands behind our backs? That's childs play; I say you face certain grisly death no matter what appendages are left at my disposal, therefore I see your hands tied and up the ante: we shall bind our legs as well and how DARE you call me whiny you scum sucking son of an ass-kicked mule!”

“Oh contraire, you son-of-a-motherless goat, it is the bonding of my limbs that make me even more dangerous, and I will henceforth reduce you and your long-winded gas-bagging to nothing more that a faint memory of something quite distasteful... prepare to meet your destiny, fate and many other clich├ęs!!!”

“Ahhhhh, you shall die!!!” As the two misguided miscreants hobble towards each other in slow motion hobbled fury, clouds gather above and the air is charged with electricity; all life on Earth has stopped to observe the outcome of this apocalyptic fracas.

With buzzards circling overhead, each man more determined than the other, they hippity-hop-scotched into one another, clashing heads and stumbling to the ground, they flounder about on the desert floor until Sir-Whine-A-Lot rolls onto his back and exclaims “How does one win one of these contests....”, to which the arrival of a very ravenous buzzard gave him his answer.


(My thanks to my friend, Daniel Stine, for his participation in this piece. We wrote this awhile ago and I thought it nice to re-visit.)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Do Yourself A Favour - Sal Buttaci's "Flashing My Shorts"




I know, I know...shamelessly plugging other people's books can be a bit of a pain in the you-know-where but I feel this one is worth it.
I came to read Sal's writing over at 6 Sentences and was taken immediately by his sense of style and place, genuinely warm characters and sometimes heart-rending tales. Here, in all their glory, are over 160 pieces of flash from Sal, of all genres and styles. Do yourself a favour and go and check it out.

FLASHING MY SHORTS - by SALVATORE BUTTACI
or HERE.

For more info on Sal and some of the other outstanding work this man has done, go and visit his site HERE.


Monday, March 8, 2010

Leap Of Faith - FFF #23

Thanks to Cormac over at Friday Flash Fiction for his continued hard work keeping this site running.
This week's starter sentence was contributed by MRM.



Leap Of Faith

Dave Jackson had to kick out the back window to escape. The collision had crumpled the driver’s side door, and the resultant flips had crushed the front window of his beloved Mustang. He hadn’t seen the truck coming and he doubted he would have had a chance to avoid it, anyway. He suspected this had something to do with the trouble he had gotten into a few weeks back, although he wasn’t sure. Not sure, that is, until bullets started disturbing the air around his head and thundering into the old eucalypt he had leaned against to regain his composure.

Low cloud hung in the air, making visibility hard for attempting to locate the shooter. Jackson summed up his options and quickly decided that heading into the heavily wooded area on the side of the road as his best choice. The gums and oaks here were wide and offered plenty of protection from any incoming ballistic barrage. Ducking low, he started running.

The fog proved to be just as big an enemy as the unseen individual behind him. Low branches lashed his face and body as he scrambled through the ever-thickening underbrush. The moss and soft, springy ground made quick movement near impossible, as did the invisible tree roots and stony outcrops. He paused for breath behind a massive scribbly-gum. He poked his head around the tree and through a group of wattles, he could see movement; one man, as far as he could tell.

He was preparing to move off when a voice gave him pause.

“Jackson. Give it up. There are officers of the law arriving every minute. We would hate to see something nasty happen to you.”

Jackson issued a snort of disgust. He knew the voice and he knew exactly what would transpire if he was caught. He vowed to make sure that didn’t happen.

Moving slowly but quietly in the direction he had first started, he noticed a break between a cluster of stringy-barks. The sun was starting to break through the cloud and the fog was lifting. This offered him hope, but also made him more wary; up until now, he had used the mist as a manner of protection. If he couldn’t see his pursuer, it made perfect sense that they couldn’t see him.

Jackson changed direction, making for the clearing that he had spotted moments ago. Edging around a rocky outcrop, he discovered to his dismay that he had stumbled upon a cliff face. He cautiously stepped back and leaned against the stony ledge. Breathing deeply to clear his head, he heard footsteps approaching from behind.

“Well, now, what do we have here? Thinking of taking the plunge?”

Jackson turned and came face to face with Sheriff Thomas. The lawman was holding his pistol in both hands, pointed downwards. He took measured and calculating steps as he approached his quarry. Without taking his eyes off his prey, the sheriff reached into his pocket with one hand and withdrew his radio and gave his location to the deputies. Replacing the radio in his pants pocket, he turned and addressed Jackson.

“So, boy, no more running now, nowhere left to run. You are cornered. You are out of options.” Thomas grinned, the corner of his mouth crooked; a bar brawl had turned vicious; the sheriff had been slashed with a broken bottle. Jackson had been the one who did it. But that was just the beginning. The sheriff had a bug up his ass about something else.

“Did you think that I wouldn’t track your ass down? For what you did to my little girl?” Thomas glared at Jackson; his face reddening, veins popping on his forehead. “You are gonna pay – oh, yes, you are gonna pay big time.”

“Sheriff, you got it all wrong.” Jackson opened his arms in a pacifying gesture. “I ain’t done nothing to your little girl.”

Sheriff Thomas lifted his pistol, aimed it at Jackson’s head. “You call kidnapping, beating and raping my daughter nothing?” He took another step towards Jackson. “I’m gonna make sure you get the V.I.P. treatment in jail, son. You are gonna be everybody’s bitch.” He spat out the last word.

Jackson nodded towards something behind the sheriff. “I think you have more to worry about at the moment...”

Thomas spun around; gun in front of him, searching for trouble. Confusion flickered across his face as he saw nothing but his deputies standing a respectful distance back. Turning back, he was suddenly aware that Jackson had disappeared.

“What the...?”

The sheriff twisted his body left and right, trying to work out what had become of the prisoner who had been standing before him just a moment before. Sizing up the situation, Thomas knew that his adversary couldn’t have just made a run for it – his deputies would have been aware of it. That only left one available option. Edging forward again, the sheriff peered over the edge of the lookout. There, twenty feet below him, waving back to him, was Jackson. The drop wasn’t as far as Thomas had first thought. Obviously Jackson had known better.

“Sheriff, we ain’t done, you and I. Next time, though, it will be me tracking you.” With another wave, Jackson dashed off into the undergrowth of ferns and was gone before the sheriff realised what was happening.

“Don’t just stand there, go find him.”

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Diving Into Trouble - 3WW Post

This week's 3WW words were scared, frail and amaze.


“You never fail to amaze me with your stupidity.” She could be venomous, my wife, but this time it was more than deserved. “Tell me again what happened.”

I shuffled my feet, head down, looking more like the frail old man that I had sent to the hospital, rather than the strong, virile thirty-something male that I am.

“As you know, Cyril rang this morning. He said he wanted to go and watch one of the grandkids compete in the diving championships today. Being that he is your grandfather, and that you were busy, I agreed to take him.”

A grunt was all I received in reply, and when my wife offered nothing else, I continued on with the story.

“I met him out in front of his house and I drove him down to the beachside lookouts – thinking that this was where they would be having the competition.”

Raised eyebrows greeted this and, although we both knew that marriage was both sacred and forever, if I didn’t put forward my best argument, there wasn’t going to be much ‘forever’ left for me.

“Anyway, we got out of the car and Cyril wanted to know what we were doing here. I told him that this is where they were holding the diving and that he needed to get a little closer if he wanted to watch the competition.”

“Why did you presume a local diving competition would be held at a local beach lookout?” She is clever, my wife.

“Well, it’s all the rage nowadays, isn’t it?” I raised my hands to ward off the invisible daggers heading my way and continued the story. “Cyril edged closer to the railing, mumbling something. I asked him what he said. He replied that he had never experienced cliff diving before. So I showed him.”

I held my hands out to her in a gesture of peace. I could see the anger and fury building in her. Once more I feared for my own personal safety.

“For the last time: Cliff is our nephew. Pop said he had never experienced Cliff diving.” Another set of daggers flashed my way.

“You really are brain-dead, aren’t you?”