Independent Thought

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Kat arrived at the boutique where Melissa was waiting.

“Sorry I’m late. I just had the strangest thing happen,” said Kat.

“Don’t worry ‘bout it,” replied Melissa, glaring at her late friend.

Sitting down, Kat continued, “Some random guy told me I was pretty…”

“An unwanted sexual advance is harassment,” interrupted Melissa. “It’s like verbal rape.”

Kat stared blankly at Melissa. “Let me finish. He said I was pretty- in my own way.”

“Wait, what? Is that supposed to be a compliment or an insult?”

“I know right? I have no idea. I didn’t know what to say,” said Kat.

Melissa sat up in her seat. “Yeah, well, men. Who needs ‘em?”

Kat tilted her head. “I’ve always wondered about that.”

“What? We don’t need me to be happy or fulfilled,” said Melissa.

“Does that mean all we need are other women?”

“Exactly.”

A pained expression spread across Kat’s face. “I’m not sure that’s right. I mean, it don’t think I wanna be that way.”

“Be like what?”

“An all-or-nothing ideologue.”

“But we’re feminists,” declared Melissa.

“Most feminists I know are angry. Who wants to live like that?” asked Kat.

Melissa folded her arms and sighed. “So you want to deal with chauvinist pigs the rest of your life?”

“No! But I’m not naive enough to believe all men are pigs, or foolish enough to think all women are wonderful.”

“You’re delusional,” dismissed Melissa.

“I’m just tired of being told what to think. Even by women. I can make up my own mind, thank you,” said Kat.

Melissa’s jaw dropped. “Don’t tell me you’re abandoning the sisterhood!

Kat got up to leave. “Just call me an independent.”

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Sick Day

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The very first thing Vernon noticed when his alarm went off was a burning in his throat.He tried swallowing, but it felt like choking down broken glass.

He also couldn’t breathe through his nose. He felt alright the night before. How could this happen? He was always so careful to use hand sanitizer. It was like his body betrayed him.

“Not today,” he said out loud. His words were muted and rough. It made him cringe. Pain radiated across his chest. Vernon closed his eyes. Even his eyelids burned.

He was sick.

Vernon got out of bed, hoping things would improve as he worked through his morning routine. A shower didn’t revive. Brushing his teeth made him gag.

Coffee. He rested his hope in the heavenly stimulant. Although too congested to taste it, the warmth soothed his troubled throat. Sadly, the benefits were temporary.

He sat at the table, wondering what to do. Nobody at work would want this, he reasoned, but he really couldn’t afford to take a sick day. Then again, if he takes today off, he might feel better tomorrow. If he goes to work, he might only prolong the agony.

Vernon made a second cup of coffee. As it brewed he looked in his medicine cabinet. It was empty except for a box of outdated laxatives.

Back at the kitchen table, Vernon rubbed his eyes. When he was a boy, this sort of thing was simple. His mom would take one look at him, feel his forehead and make the call.

Vernon grabbed his phone. He told his boss he was sick. His boss told him to get better. He reminded Vernon they need him for the Albertson Project. Vernon said he’d do his best.

He felt horrible.

Vernon went back to bed. As he lay there, he couldn’t help wonder what was worse, the cold he had or the quilt he felt skipping work. He sighed. Sometimes, being an adult sucks.

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Human Genome Project

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“So he started his key note address with, ‘without further ado’. Can you imagine? Everyone at the banquet was completely befuddled,” said Gerald. He slipped on a Tyvek suit.

“I can’t believe you used the word befuddled,” replied Angus as he zipped up.

The two scientists at the Human Genome Project entered the lab and settled at their work stations.

“I love it in here,” said Angus.

‘It’s the best job in the world. We’re laying the foundation for a perfect humanity. It’s mind boggling,” said Gerald.

Angus stopped what he was doing and looked at Gerald. “I thought we were isolating genetic anomalies for the purpose of establishing therapies.”

“I know that’s what you’ve been doing, but this is bigger than that. Our current genome is irreparable. It can be improved, sure, but mutations and decay are flies in the ointment. The entire batch is ruined.”

“Are you saying I’m wasting my time?”

Gerald held up his hands in defence. “No. Your work matters in the short term. I’m focusing on the big picture.”

“Which is?”

“A new humanity built on a perfect genome, free from flaw and defect,” explained Gerald.

Angus raised an eyebrow. “Sounds like you’re playing God.”

Gerald laughed. “Are you kidding? Of course we are. We’re scientists. God is dead, so we’re filling the void.”

“I’ve never thought of myself that way,” mumbled Angus.

“It’s not my fault you lack vision. Don’t worry, you can have a place in my new world. Oh wait, you’re flawed too, so I guess you don’t,” joked Gerald.

“Are you listening to yourself? You sound crazy.”

“The cutting edge of science always seems that way to mediocre minds. No offence,” said Gerald.

Angus rolled his eyes. “None taken. Besides, what you’re suggesting is years away.”

“Don’t be so sure. I’m very close.”

“Seriously?”

“Very.”

“Who else knows? You’ll need to be peer reviewed,” said Angus.

“I reveal nothing until I’m ready. My security is virtually foolproof,” bragged Gerald.

“Good to know,” said Angus. He casually walked over to Gerald and stuck him with a syringe.

“What was that?” demanded Gerald.

“A lethal dose of warfarin,” explained Angus.

“Why?” choked Gerald before falling to the floor.

Angus towered over him. “Because we of the Fallen race aren’t ready to step aside for your utopia.”

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Close Encounters

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Oliver fought his way through the mall, shopping for Christmas presents. Pressed shoulder to shoulder with the crowd, he was swept helplessly along until he came face to face with Wes, an old school friend.

“Oli, how ya been?” asked Wes. Spittle flew from his mouth. That was the second thing Oliver noticed.

The first thing that greeted Oliver was his breath. The aroma was a complex blend of rotting flesh, faces, and skunk spray. Oliver tried to pull back, but the crowd pressed them together.

“I’m good,” said Oliver.

“You’re well. People do good things, but they are well,” laughed Wes.

Oliver turned his head slightly to avoid direct contact with the spit and stink. “I stand corrected,” he mumbled.

“Christmas shopping, eh? What a racket. I tell ya, the stores see ya comin’,” said Wes.

Oliver groaned. “Yeah, but you gotta do it anyway. Speaking of that, I gotta get going. I’m kinda in a hurry.”

Wes laughed. A spit bubble landed on Oliver’s shirt. “No worries. I gotta go, too. Merry Christmas, eh?”

“You too,” said Oliver, already elbowing his way out.

“Just one thing,” said Wes as he leaned in close, looking uncomfortable. “I didn’t wanna say anything, but you might wanna toss in a mint or somethin’. You’re breath could stop traffic.”

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Advanced ESL

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Nathan bumped into his new neighbour while he was raking leaves in his front yard. Raul was staring thoughtfully into space as he returned from his adult English class.

“How is your ESL course?” asked Nathan.

Raul frowned “Not very well.”

“What’s wrong?”

“English is a crazy language.”

Nathan shrugged. “I guess it’s best you come to grips with that now.”

“Nothing means what it says. People drive in parkways and park in driveways. How does that make sense?” asked Raul.

“I hadn’t really thought about that,” said Nathan as he gathered a pile of leaves.

“What about this? One goose, two geese. But not one moose, two meese.”

“Sure, but how often are you gonna use that?”

“Oh yeah? If I refuse, am I speaking of garbage, or that I don’t want to do something?”

“It depends on how you say it.”

Raul helped Nathan fill the yard bag. “Sow, lead, wind, tear all mean something different if you say it differently. Why can’t it mean only one thing?”

“Don’t worry. It’ll gets easier the more you use it,” said Nathan.

“Why are there no apples in pineapples? And things burn up and down at the same time?”

“I’ve never really understood that either,” said Nathan.

“You know what else confuses me? People say one thing and they mean the opposite,” said Raul.

“I don’t follow.”

“Take the phrase ‘don’t take this the wrong way’. That means they want you to take it the wrong way. It’s kinda like saying ‘don’t be offended.’ What ever they say is going to be offensive. Get it?” asked Raul.

“That’s called irony.”

Raul frowned. “I don’t like it. It’s very confusing.”

Nathan thought for a second. “I suppose it depends on the context. It could also be sarcasm, or maybe metaphor. Oh, and then there’s slang. ‘Cool’ and ‘hot’ are terms for something good.”

Raul sighed.

“Are you okay?” asked Nathan.

Raul’s shoulders dropped. “Maybe it would be easier if I learned sign language.”

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Foutrageous!

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“Did you hear what the government’s going to do?” said Brigitte. Her faced was flushed. She was surrounded by a group of hyperactive protesters.

“What?” asked Amber.

“They’re gonna dump a billion dollars into a new arena complex,” said Brigitte.

“No!” spouted Amber.

“I know, right? It’s a waste of taxpayer dollars. Think of all the other things it could go toward,” explained Brigitte.

“Somebody should do something,” added Amber.

“We’re going down to city hall to protest. Wanna come with us?”

“I’m good, thanks,” said Amber with a shrug.

Brigitte’s jaw dropped. The crowd was growing restless. “You just said we should do something.”

“I was just expressing my foutrage,” said Amber

“Don’t you mean ‘outrage’?”

“No, I mean foutrage. Faux outrage. Get it?”

“Not really,” said Brigitte.

“Like the world needs more protesters. You can’t be that angry all the time,” said Amber.

“I’m not always angry,” said Brigitte, defensively.

“Last week it was a protest over the overfishing of Belgian mackerel. Last month it was urban light pollution. Didn’t you once protest the excessive use of emergency services?” said Amber.

Brigitte’s lower lip curled. “Their sirens and flashing lights frighten urban wildlife.”

Amber put her hand on Brigitte’s shoulder. “Face it. You’re a professional whiner. As far as I’m concerned, you’re one of the reasons society is such a mess. Seriously, don’t you think it’s time to grow up a little?”

Brigette pushed Amber’s arm away. “You have no right to say that. How dare you and your micro-aggressions! Thanks for giving me something to be angry about!”

Before Amber turned to leave, she smiled. “As long as you have a valid reason.”

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Voice Doppelgänger

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When Burt arrived at the curling club, the first person he looked for was Marv.

“I was in line getting coffee and I met your voice doppelgänger,” announced Burt.

Marv looked at Burt suspiciously, “Are you making fun of me?”

“I’m serious,” said Burt. “The guy ahead of me sounded just like you. I mean, exactly.”

“I guess they say everyone has a twin somewhere in the world,” reasoned Marv.

“But voices?”

“I hand’t thought about that before,” mused Marv.

“They say I sound just like my dad,” said Burt.

Marv nodded thoughtfully. ‘That makes sense.”

“When I was a teenager, I impersonated my dad on the phone. Just to see if I could,” said Burt.

“What happened?”

“I ordered duct cleaning for the house. You shoulda seen the look on my dad’s face when the truck pulled in the driveway. After I confessed, dad grounded me for a month. I don’t know why he was so mad. Our ducts were filthy.”

“I hope you learned your lesson.” said Marv.

“I sure did,” said Burt. “Confession sucks.”

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