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“And how long do you plan to keep doing this?” Elaine asked as he replaced the bottle in the bucket.

Henry looked away. “I haven’t really thought of that.” Then he looked into his client’s eyes and smiled. “This is just the night job. I write fiction during the day.”

“Really? What do you write?”

Henry maintained his smile. “Still working on that part. A toast: to success in this endeavor.”

“To success.”

The two glasses clinked in the candlelight.


Standing high on a cool mountaintop all alone, looking down on all below. But no, can’t see a thing through the clouds between, the white cotton shimmering in the sunlight from above. But now it’s not cool, it’s cold, and the sunlight burns the eyes if you look too closely, no, if you look not at all...

“Dick, are you okay?”

Henry came to and felt the small form stretched out against his and separated from him by a thin layer of his perspiration. “Yeah, fine.” He nudged his partner away and pushed himself up to a seated position on the edge of the mattress.

“Must’ve been a terrible dream.”

“It was, but it’s over now.” Then, more gently and with a backward look, “Sorry to snap.”

Elaine was holding a sheet of satin close to her perfect bosom. “It’s okay. I was prying.”

“Let’s just get back under the covers.” The partners became prostrate once more beneath those covers, albeit now with a void between them.

The two heads sticking out from beneath the sheets looked first at their own reflections, then at each other’s. “Tell me about the women you’ve slept with, Dick. Were they beautiful?”

“It’s Henry. Call me Henry.”

“What about Dick?”

“Dick’s just a pseudonym.”

“I thought pseudonyms were for writers.”

“Yeah, for when you write too close to home.”

“What about the others?”

Henry stared into the reflection looking back. “They were beautiful,” he told her. He turned onto his side. “But not as beautiful as you.”


Henry stared at a nearly blank computer screen, as he had almost every afternoon during the previous five months. His fingers moved to the keyboard to add something below the byline of the untitled story, then they moved away in hesitation. His fingers approached the keys a second time, and then there was a knock on the door.

s.t.u.d. by W.R. Hammons:

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