Fine and Dandi

Two sisters.

One, the oldest, as pretty as a model, blonde hair, blue eyes, a killer of a smile, a waist that never puts on weight. She was the smart one, and the one who never talked ‘cause she was shy. Her thing was music. She ate, drank, slept music. She played a kick-butt cello. Her name was Anna Belle. Everybody called her Fine.

Her sister, two years younger, was Mary Belle, but she was known as Dandi. She was the popular one, a little bit on the chunky side and long, stringy hair, a washed-out blonde. She had no particular bent for any of the arts. She liked people and people liked her. She had such an infectious laugh. And she could tell a joke that would have the listener rolling on the floor.

Fine and Dandi were inseparable. As the two grew up, no one could remember them having a disagreement. If a guy wanted to date Dandi, he had to find a friend for Fine. The guys didn’t mind. After all, she was the attractive one. But her attitude toward them made them conclude she was stuck up. She just didn’t reciprocate their affection while Dandi did. So there came a time when Dandi no longer was asked out. The guy couldn’t find a date for Fine.

Fine waited to go off to college until Dandi graduated high school. During the two-year interval between high school and college, she gave cello lessons to bring in some money to pay for the rent her mother charged. “It’s time you paid your way,” she told her daughter. “Can’t stay around here and twiddle your thumbs.”

Dandi managed to get through high school with a B average with her sister’s help. But it was just barely a B. Then she and her sister took off to college. They had a dorm room together. They went to the same classes. Decided they would become teachers. They both liked kids.

Soon they had their degrees and were interning at one of the local elementary schools. Both waitressed at the same restaurant and made enough in tips to keep a roof over their heads. They moved several hundred miles away from the college and found jobs as teachers at the same elementary school. They found a two-story house and renovated it over the next three years.

When the sisters went home for Christmas, their parents noticed the two were looking more and more like each other. Fine had long, stringy hair, a washed out blonde. She gave up the cello. Now she played guitar. Dandi lost weight and now strummed a guitar. Both had become shy but they had Dandi’s infectious laugh.

Then there was something else. When Fine left a room, Dandi worried that she wouldn’t return. When Dandi went off to the store to pick up some groceries, Fine kept looking out the window. It was as if each expected something bad to happen to her sister.

Sure they had always been close, but this was ridiculous. At least, that was what the parents said to each other. “We’ve got to do something,” their mother said to their father as they laid in bed, worrying. “But what?” their father wanted to know. He’d always been a man in control, except when it came to his daughters. So the parents conspired. The parents decided that the closeness was unnatural. It reminded them of people in a cult. What they needed to do was an intervention.

The holidays came to an end and the girls returned to their life in the town three towns away from their parents’ home. Their mother went on the internet and found exactly what she was looking for. It was a Saturday when the de-programmer showed up on her porch. The mother invited him in, told him what she had in mind.

“You sure you want to do this?” he asked the parents. “Once we start on this road, there is no turning back.” He told several stories of what happened when parents backed down after the process began. It wasn’t pretty. “This is what we want,” both parents agreed.

The next Friday night, two men sat in a van across from the sisters’ house. They watched. Saturday passed and both the girls stayed indoors. And the same for Sunday. On Monday evening they came home from work and began their usual vegetarian dinner. While Dandi cooked in the kitchen, Fine set the table.

The doorbell rang. “I’ll get it,” Fine called out to her sister, happiness in her voice.

She opened the door. A man in a dark blue suit threw a hood over her head. She screamed but it was too late. The two men had her in their van and they were down the road.

Behind the van, Dandi in the sisters’ red mustang was a block away and gaining. On the seat beside her lay the .38 the girls kept in the house for protection. Just as she came up behind the van, it started to rain. She almost touched the van’s bumper. Crying, she tried to think of what to do. Then it came to her. She pulled around to the side of the van and slammed into it. The rain was pouring. She pushed harder against the van with her car. The van hit a telephone pole. Dandi stopped her car and jumped out and ran over to the van.

The driver opened the van door. He looked stunned. The other man was slumped over in his seat, unconscious.

“Get out.”

The driver crawled out of the vehicle.

“Now where’s my sister.”

He pointed at the back of the van.

Dandi stuck her gun into his gut and said, “Open the back door.” He unlocked the door.

Fine was on the floor, tied up. “Untie her,” Dandi urged.

The man did as he was told. Fine crawled out of the van.

“Now turn around.”

The man did as he was told.

Dandi said, “Hands behind you.” The man’s large hands went behind his body. “Get into the van and lay face down.” He did as he was told. Dandi handed the gun to her sister, then tied his feet and hands together with his belt. She slammed the door, went to the driver’s seat and took the keys and threw them over into a nearby yard. Down the street came a police car with a flashing light.

Fine and Dandi got into their car and slowly drove away. Dandi left the lights off the car and the police did not follow.

Their car disappeared into the night. That was the last anyone saw them. Ever.

In ancient Greece, there was a story of two brothers, Castor and Pollux. When Castor died, Pollux prayed to Zeus, the king of the gods, to let his twin share his divinity, so that they would never be separated. Zeus agreed and they were made into the constellation Gemini. Perhaps the next time you look up to the heavens with your telescope and see Gemini, you will think of Fine and Dandi. I know I do.

Scheherazade: A Halloween Story

This one’s for Halloween.

A dark room, small, white, no windows, only a door. A woman in her mid-thirties in the far corner, in a fetal position, crying. Footsteps, the clicking of new shoes outside. She manages to stifle her crying and cringes more into the corner.

The clicking comes closer and closer. It reaches the door. Stops.

A key slips into the lock and turns. The door opens. The light from the hallway floods the room, blinding the woman.

A man steps into the room. Lights a candle on the table. Closes the door behind him. He reaches over and pulls a chair from the table. He turns the chair with its back facing the woman and straddles it.

He doesn’t tell her not to be afraid. He doesn’t tell her to take off her clothes. Instead he leans forward, smiles and says, “Tell me a story.” There is ice in his voice. So much so his words turn the room chilly and put shivers on her skin.

She responds, her teeth chattering. “Leave me alone.”

He leans closer and raises his voice slightly. “Tell me a story, or—well, the choice is yours.” She can feel the frost on her face.

She swallows hard. “I don’t have any stories.”

An avalanche of words rolls out of his mouth. “Of course, you do. We all have stories. Stories of ancestors and parents and brothers and sisters. And the first time we had sex. Now tell me one. Just one.” The blizzard is coming for her.

She turns away from him and tries to protect her face from the freezing wind.

He rises from the chair and kneels before her, pushes back her hair, then says, “I told you I wouldn’t hurt you. Have I hurt you?” He smells of Old Spice and his breath smells like rotten meat.

“Why have you kept me here for so long?”

He reaches under her chin and turns her face to meet his. “I was waiting on the full moon. Now it’s the full moon. It’s time for a story.”

She takes a deep breath, taking in the cold air, then, “This is a story about a farm.”

He lets go of her face and smiles. “I like farms. My uncle owned a farm once. He lost it when he went bankrupt.” Then he is up and in his chair.

Trying to fight the ice, she breaths warmth on to her hands. “It was my grandparents’ farm,” she says, her voice as calm as she can make it.

“See, I told you that you had a story. And I’m liking it already.”

“It wasn’t a large farm. My grandparents had five chickens and a rooster.”

“Plenty of fresh eggs.”

“And they sold what they didn’t eat.” She sat up and leaned forward. “And they had a cow and a horse and two pigs. On top of that, Grandfather had a red tractor. Used to grow corn and fresh tomatoes and lots of potatoes.” The ice begins to melt from the warmth of her words.

“You must’ve loved visiting there.”

“I did. Every summer when I was a girl, my sister and I would go and stay. It was a lovely farm. I have such good memories,” she says, then she whispers, “Especially of my grandmother’s pies.”

He leans forward. “What did you say?”

“I have good memories of my grandmother’s pies. They were the best.”

“I love pies.”

“And so did my grandfather’s goat. He kept eating her pies. She would sit them on the windowsill to cool. And up popped that little goat head.”

“Why didn’t she get rid of the goat?”

“She wanted to, but it was my grandfather’s. He loved that goat.”

“Guess all your grandmother could do was close the windows.”

“That’s what my grandfather said. But my grandmother was having none of that. ‘Why should I have to accommodate a goat?’ she kept asking.”

“Any story with a goat in it is my kind of story.”

“One Saturday my grandmother made three pies. Two for the neighbors and one for Grandfather. She sat the pies on the windowsill and kept an eye out for the goat. Unfortunately she left the kitchen for less than five minutes. When she came back, one of the pies was gone. She knew exactly who the culprit was.

“She went to the hall closet and got out the rifle. She checked to make sure the rifle was loaded.”

“Guess it’s by-by goat,” he says, bringing his chair closer to the woman so that he can hear her soft voice.

“She ran outside and up aways, took one look at that goat, raised her rifle and fired.”

“Eating a pie was no reason to kill that poor goat. What would your grandfather do?”

“She missed but the goat didn’t. He lowered his horns, rushed passed her, accidentally knocking her off her feet. And went straight for the two pies. By the time she got to her feet, the pies were gone. And so was the goat. Grandfather rushed over. ‘Are you alright?’ he asked.

“‘Of course, I’m alright. But that fool of a goat ate my pies. Now I’m out of my secret ingredient and we won’t have pies till next month.'”

The man leans closer toward the woman, the two almost touching. His hands grab her wrists and they squeeze. “What was the secret ingredient?”

She moves so close to him that her chest is touching his chest. Then her mouth is against his ear. She whispers, “The secret ingredient is fresh human brains.”

Her teeth sink into his ear. They rip it off. She knees his groan. Then her teeth plunge into his skull, their poison freezing his body.

The room has turned hot as a summer day.