Set Straight Like A Perm

Oh, hello.

I didn’t hear you come in.

I’m Peck. You might know me from High Priestess. You might know me from my world-class lambada technique. You might know me from my collection of limited-edition Murphy beds. Whatever the case may be, I’m glad you were punctual. I can’t tell you how often photographers feel like I’m supposed to be on their schedule. Can you imagine? Can you even imagine?

Oh, that scent? Yes, pungent, isn’t it? It’s a fragrance made from lavender, space diamonds and endangered Condor eggs. It’s new. And by new, I mean I possess the only bottle. No, you may not see it.

Of course, just set your gear down anywhere you please. That’s a handsome strobe system you’ve got there. I did a shoot a while back where the photographer only brought hot lamps. “I want you to have a more natural glisten,” he told me. Do you believe it? Me, looking unnatural. What did I do? I showed him the body oil I have made of glacier water and pure Norwegian amniotic fluid, then I rubbed a thimbleful on my ample biceps, then I had him banished to one of the Mars colonies. That’s just how I roll. Oh, you didn’t know about those? Forget I said anything.

I’m ready for my close-up now. Best of luck.

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One Last Tournament

Tears welled up in her good eye. She’d finally tracked him down. It had taken her years, cost her countless hours and untold dollars. And now? He couldn’t even look at her.

“I never thought I’d see you again,” she whispered.

“I hoped you wouldn’t,” he told her. “I deserve to be alone.”

“It wasn’t your fault,” she said, adjusting her eye patch. “Polo is a dangerous sport. I knew that going in. We all did.” She paused. “We’re getting the team back together for a tournament. One time, big payoff. We want you in.”

He felt a chill go through his body. “Why me?” he asked.

“Because,” she said, “you’re the best.”

“Even if I wanted to, would the club let me back in?”

She pursed her lips into a tight smile. “I think we could pull some strings.”

“I don’t know,” he said. “What if I just don’t have it anymore?”

“John,” she said, “I don’t even need one good eye to know you’ve still got it.”

“One time?” he said, adjusting his tie.

“One time.”

His eyes narrowed into a steely and determined glare. Muscle memory informed him that his arm could still pull off that legendary swing. The blood in his veins was freezing over into ice water.

“First things first,” he said, “let’s go get my horse out of hock.”

(Photo of _Stigmata_ and Lady Diabla.)

Eh, Maybe Texas

Burgh heard the screams, the cries, and before he ever saw it, he knew exactly what had happened. He ran out into the backyard and there it was: His daughter, Sophie, on her first birthday, had killed and eaten a Smurf. Look at that face, that uninhibited bloodlust. Why? Who knows why. Sophie’s not talking. And not a jury in the world is going to convict a baby.

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It’s you.

I knew you would find me. I just didn’t know when. Or where.

We’ve known each other for so long. This battle has raged for centuries. Do we remember why we fight? Does it matter anymore? When all you know is perpetual war, is it worthwhile to stop? Is it possible?

So be it. It is our destiny.

[draws sword]

[eats bagel]

[puts on "Ride of the Valkyries" on iPod]

Let’s do this.

(Tattoos on Steven by Garth at Unique Tattoos in Subiaco, Western Australia, Australia.)

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Ray turned to Philip as they sat atop the fleshy, sensitive summit. “We made it,” he said to Phil. “We made the climb that nobody thought we could.”

Philip scratched his chin. “Lost a lot of men, though,” he said. “A lot of good men.”

“When Freddy slipped into the navel, I just …”

“Hey,” Philip said, his hand on Ray’s shoulder. “There was nothing you could have done. OK? There was nothing. You saw how smooth the skin was there. It could have happened to any of us.”

“You’re right.” He exhaled heavily. “It’s beautiful up here, though. You can see the other peak so clearly.”

“Maybe we’ll climb that one some day, too.” The men smiled at each other. “So,” Philip said, “what do you want to do?”

“What we came here to do,” Ray said. “I’m gonna pinch it.”

The clouds broke then, and at that moment, it felt like the sun was shining just for him.

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