No Satisfaction by Cyle Talley

Beth, roused by her alarm clock, pulls back the covers and sits upright. Her slippers are on the floor, toes pointed out, so that she can step into them. Her robe hangs from the bedpost so that she can wrap it around herself as she stands.

Beth goes into the kitchen and starts the coffee pot. It gurgles and spits and drips. She puts the skillet on the stove top, drops a pat of butter into it, and turns the dial to hear that lovely click click click click whoosh sound of the flame igniting. 

Beth turns to the refrigerator for the eggs and finds none. Her shoulders slump as she recalls making the last of them yesterday morning. She'd made a mental note to go to the grocery store after work, but completely forgot. It had been a very long yesterday.  

This is frustrating. Now there will be no breakfast and no satisfaction and she has no one to blame but herself. She is the one who ate the last two eggs. She is the one who forgot to go to the grocery store. The cat is not culpable, nor is the ficus. There is no sibling, no roommate, no boyfriend. 

Beth goes into the bathroom, flips the light on, points at herself in the mirror and asks, 

"How could you do such a thing?" 

The Cookies Are That Good by Cyle Talley

I went to the bakery the other day because I wanted a cookie. This bakery makes, among other things, oatmeal cookies that are warm clouds of molasses and brown sugar, and I'm not ashamed to tell you that I wanted one for breakfast.  

The bakery is very popular and it is always filled to capacity with people waiting in line. Many of these people wear caps or tee shirts or fleece vests emblazoned with the call letters for the local NPR radio affiliate- swag from previous years' fund raising drives. 

I too was waiting in line when I noticed that the woman behind the counter was shouting, "I can help who's ever next!"

"Is that a contraction?" I thought to myself. "Who is ever?" Or is she saying "Whose ever", which would denote ownership, and so she would be announcing that she can serve someone's other- which is confusing, and maybe lewd?

She said it again and again, and each time it clanged like a broken cymbal. I wondered if it was bothering anyone else, or if any parents were concerned about their children being exposed to such language. I myself nearly walked out- but I just couldn't. The time came for my other to be served and I, despite my trepidation, approached the counter gladly.

The cookies are that good.  

We're Going For Ice Cream by Cyle Talley

It's a bright afternoon as my daughter and I emerge from the doctor's office. Her eyes are red, puffy, and wet. She's got a smiley face sticker on her ruffly pink shirt and a rainbow striped band-aid on her arm. My ears are still ringing. 

We walk across the parking lot to the car and, in a shaky little voice still tinged with hysteria and sniffles, my daughter says, "I fought hard, Daddy. I fought real hard."

The Pretty Woman by Cyle Talley

It is Sunday and the church bells are ringing and I am walking down the street and the pretty woman- brunette, tan, fit, statuesque- walks, strides even, toward me sipping a Starbucks and leading her dog- a really ugly mutt that looks to be corgi, lab, chihuahua, and terrier- on a short, bejeweled leash. 

I should stop and introduce myself. If the pretty woman's taste in men is at all similar to her taste in dogs, I stand a real chance.  

Go & Dig A Hole In Hell by Cyle Talley

 "What I'm trying to say is that I'm thinking about it."

"You are?" 

"Well of course I am." 

"What do you mean, 'Well of course I am?'" 

"How could I not be thinking about it? It's practically all we talk about morning, noon, and night!" 

"That just isn't so! We talk about plenty of other things: which movie to see, what we'd like to have for dinner, where we'd like to travel to, I tell you about my classes, you tell me about work and we-" 

"But those aren't the actual conversation we're having. Those are just warmups for the actual conversation. No matter what we talk about, it always ends up in the same place. I'll tell you something. I resent the hell out of it. I do."

"So you resent the conversation we're having now? Is that what I'm hearing?"

"That's right." 

"Well that's fine, John. That's fine. I'll tell you  something- I don't want your damned thoughts. You can take your resentment and  your thoughts and go dig a hole in hell to bury the both of them." 

"Now wait just a minute-" 

"Even if you were to finally, mercifully, graciously deign to make a decision and relieve me of this terrible burden of 'maybe' and-" 

"Terrible burden? Let me tell you about terrible burden." 

"No, you're going to hear me out, John. I've got as much to say as you do." 

"I didn't say that you don't-" 

"Even if you were to finally decide what you want, I'd say no." 

"That's a damned lie, Christine. Don't deny what you're after." 

"I've let you deny me what I'm after for months, why not just let it go?"

"Months?"

"I asked you in October. It's nearly April. A winter has passed. You said you would think about it then! What else would you have me do?" 

"It hasn't been quite that long." 

"October 16th. I wrote it down." 

"Alright, alright. I hear you.  I do."

"That's really all I want. Just think about how great it would be. It would be really great." 

"I know it would be. I'll think about it." 

"You will? It would make me really happy." 

"I said that I would. I will. Yes. I'll think about it." 

Knowledge by Cyle Talley

My father's father's father knew how to tend to the land, and goad it into bearing acres of produce. He knew how to shoe a horse, birth a calf, fix a wheel, stockpile for winter, raze a barn, and be married to the same woman for 61 of his 80 years. 

My father's father knew how to go to war. He knew how to storm a beach. He knew how to come back. He knew how to lose himself in school, and then medical school, and then a residence, and then his patients. He knew how to fight disease. He knew how to give people bad news, and how to set his hand on their shoulder, and he knew how to lose his wife to the only wound he couldn't fix: himself.  

My father knew how to throw a party. He knew how to be the sun in your universe, to smile and make you feel as though you were the only person that mattered. He knew how to mix a cocktail, pair wine with a meal, and how to wear a suit. He knew how to pick the most beautiful woman in the room and whisk her off of her feet and make her his wife and the mother of his two sons. He knew how to make that woman weep when she found him with another woman and then another and then another until she ran out of tears and decided to match him affair for affair and their bedposts became like scoreboards: 4-2, 4-5, 5-7, 7-7, 9-8, 10-10. The competition had to stop when he fell ill. She nursed him until he died, still a young man, at 43. She left after my younger brother graduated from high school. Neither of us knows how to find her, or if she wants to be found, or if we want to find her. 

My brother knows how to make money. You can thank him for the housing bubble. He lives on the coast, in Carmel. 

I know that I shouldn't miss anyone, but I know that I do.  

Can't AND Won't by Cyle Talley

Ryan is driving his son to school and they are late. It's the boy's fault. He slept in. Teenagers. They either can't or won't admit to themselves that they need a solid eight hours of sleep. Maybe it's both: can't and won't. Ryan might've shouted at his son. Okay, he did. "Why in the  hell can't you kick it into second gear? Let's go!" He had taken his son's phone, seeing it as the culprit of another late night.  

It's a seventeen minute drive to the high school. The car has been like a tomb, and it's minute fifteen. Ryan decides that if they aren't going to talk, he may as well get to enjoy some music.  

"Is this Bowie?" his son asks.  

"Yeah! How do you know Bowie?" 

"Guardians of the Galaxy." 

"Is that a band?" 

The boy just sighs; he puts his forehead on the window.  

"Is it code for 'Screw you, Dad?' Help me out here." The boy's impotent and indiscriminate rage is oppressive. It fills the car like a rancid fart. That might even be preferable, Ryan thinks. 

"The first time I heard this album was with a girlfriend. She moved down here from Seattle. Everyone in school figured she'd be into Nirvana, Soundgarden, but she really only listened to Bowie. Cool girl. We liked to turn it way up and drive down the 101 with the top down. I had a little Miata convertible then, and she had really great long hair.  

Ryan pulls up to the curb of the school. It doesn't look all that different from when he had gone here, except that even the kids hanging out in clusters and groups are staring at their phones rather than at each other. His son opens the door. 

"Cool story, Dad. And now you listen to Bowie too loud in a fucking Prius. Does the top come down on this thing, too?"

The boy gets out, runs a hand through his hair. "Are you gonna give me back my phone?" 

"It's my phone. I pay for it. And no." 

"Whatever Dad," the door slams and the boy walks away.  

Ryan turns it up a bit more and pulls away from the curb thinking of the other things he'd like to say to his son, but either can't or won't. Maybe both.  

Our Friends by Cyle Talley

When we leave on trips- and we do, as often as we are able- we ask our friends to water our house plants. As we have no pets- because we travel with such frequency, and who can afford the kennel fees?!- our house plants have become like pets to us. We've given them names, we care about their well-being, we think about them when we are away.  

Our friends' intentions are good, we know. They mean well, but they just don't provide the same type of attentive care to our babies as we do. Instead of watering each plant a little bit each day, our friends let several days pass and then drench the poor dears. What a terrible thing that they know feast and famine! 

We would say something to our friends about it- really give them a piece of our mind- but they're the only friends so consistently willing to be called upon each time we leave our beloveds behind, and so we say nothing to our bad-good friends, because we do so love to travel.