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Ever wonder what happens to short stories when they die? They apparently curl up on my hard drive and await an autopsy.

I was digging around for some reviews I did 452 years ago and I came across a folder with a bunch of unfinished short stories. I think I know where I was going with this one, but never seemed to get there. Go figure! Me? Unfinished ramblings? No way!

Anyway, I figured if Disney can toss things in the old vault and then release it years later for 75x the price, I can do it too. Only without the whole charging thing. Besides, it’s not like there’s anything else going on around here. Below you’ll find an excerpt from Unfinished Work #19 titled, “The Shadow of Ex.”

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to write half a short story so I can find it 15 years later and post it on my website.

The Shadow of Ex
The restaurant, his favorite he said, was neither romantic (thankfully) or cozy which couldn’t be surprising for anything slammed between Theo’s Tropical Fish & More and a Jo-Ann Fabrics in suburban strip mall forty-two miles from my home. Inside, Derek thudded onto the chair with so much regard for gravity that a mighty gust of air escaped the pleather cushions causing a mild breeze on my kneecaps and a varoosh sound almost loud enough to mask the exact same sound that escaped from Derek.

Oh God, he didn’t!

“Jesus!” I said. The fact that I was on a date with a guy whose choice dining establishment’s seat cushions could give me a complimentary leg wax on a hot day was enough of a reason to call it off, but now this? “Can’t you at least try to impress me?”

“I’m sorry,” he said and watching his face morph various shades from a dusty mauve to a brick red to the same winter plum of my new duvet cover made me believe him. But come on!

“It’s the cold medicine,” he continued and added a hearty nasal snort for realism. “Messes something awful with my stomach.”

“Where the hell do you get your cold medicine?” I asked. “Taco Bell?”


He was trying to look into my eyes but I wouldn’t let him. I couldn’t see anymore of this. He’d look pathetic and challenged and I’d have to see how much he wanted this to work out. Just moments before in the car, (my car because I drove,) he told me he couldn’t sit through an hour of dinner without kissing me once before we went inside. He saw potential while I saw a prescription.

“If we go Dutch will you be satisfied with a handshake?”

I kept my eyes on the door, on the white and burgundy trellis that lined the two sides and housed irrelevant birds like swans and robins and other couples that didn’t belong together. The swan looked away from the robin and towards the door. She was so close, so close. Fly away little birdie…

“Do you like honey mustard?” Derek asked. “Because you’ve never had honey mustard like this.”

“Can swans fly?” I asked.

I was still standing and realized now looking down at Derek in every sense of the word. The waiter, a tall, jutting college student, came by and was as perturbed as I that Derek was sitting before myself. We both stood while Derrick looked up knowing he’d done something terribly wrong but not quite sure what it was. The waiter called me ma’am (which I found mildly offensive) and made a lavish production out of pulling out my chair, unfolding my napkin and tucking in me in like a two year old with a teddy bear. I felt a familiar tug in my belly. This was more like it. The waiter began clearing the extra place settings.

“Only two today,” he said commiserating with me, like he wished he could find someone join us. There is safety in numbers.

“Yes,” said Derek.

No, I thought. Simon would be here any minute. And I was right.

He showed up between sips of warm tap water and the arrival of cold bread with roasted garlic. Derek peered under the giant terracotta clove where the warm garlic was housed like he was Gargamel spying on the Smurfs. He poked at a piece of garlic, was alarmed by it’s mushiness and asked for pats of butter instead. I could feel Simon’s warm breath on the back of my neck as he laughed softly.

Oh ha, ha yourself Simon, I thought. You might as well take a seat and enjoy the whole show.

Oh, Bunny, he whispered. You made me wait five dates before you even let me walk you to your door let alone kiss you. And for God’s sake, a little wine or at least an ice cube wouldn’t hurt.

I forced down a sip of water. “Leave me alone.”

“Huh? What?” Derek asked. “Linguine?”
“Could you pass the bread?” I asked.

Shelly Mazzanoble

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