"Jesus Christ, Phyllis," Reba said. She tugged on her black leotard. "This is the worst cover I’ve ever been assigned."
Phyllis was still trying to catch her breath from the running they’d had to do a few minutes before. “Do you think this is the time—”
"Okay, no. But twins as a Burlesque double act? Jesus Christ."
"I had to think on the fly. The Russians move fast."
"These wigs look ridiculous. And I really don’t want to die in this leotard."
Phyllis allowed herself a moment of softness. She put her hand on Reba’s arm, which was still tugging at the bottom of her leotard, and waited until Reba looked up at her.
Phyllis held her eyes. “You’re not going to die in that leotard. All right?”
Reba shut her eyes, took a breath, then opened them again. She nodded.
"Just follow my lead," said Phyllis.
She put on her bunny ears. The headband was a little too tight over her temple, but it would be all right for the three minutes they’d need to scope their target in the audience and complete their mission.
With one last long look at each other, Phyllis and Reba walked out onto the bright stage. They curtsied just once and began, with all the grace they could muster, to dance.

"Jesus Christ, Phyllis," Reba said. She tugged on her black leotard. "This is the worst cover I’ve ever been assigned."

Phyllis was still trying to catch her breath from the running they’d had to do a few minutes before. “Do you think this is the time—”

"Okay, no. But twins as a Burlesque double act? Jesus Christ."

"I had to think on the fly. The Russians move fast."

"These wigs look ridiculous. And I really don’t want to die in this leotard."

Phyllis allowed herself a moment of softness. She put her hand on Reba’s arm, which was still tugging at the bottom of her leotard, and waited until Reba looked up at her.

Phyllis held her eyes. “You’re not going to die in that leotard. All right?”

Reba shut her eyes, took a breath, then opened them again. She nodded.

"Just follow my lead," said Phyllis.

She put on her bunny ears. The headband was a little too tight over her temple, but it would be all right for the three minutes they’d need to scope their target in the audience and complete their mission.

With one last long look at each other, Phyllis and Reba walked out onto the bright stage. They curtsied just once and began, with all the grace they could muster, to dance.

She would always show up at the same time on flamenco night: 8pm every second Thursday.
No matter the weather, The Woman With No Hands never wore a coat, even when it was 27 degrees in February in the burnt-out western edge of Detroit.
In she would stride, her features giving away so little that her face almost looked like a blank. She always wore the same dress: a halter, true red, with layers of skirt to flourish.
We were all a little bit in love with her, The Woman With No Hands. We never found out what had befallen her—if her difference was the result of genetics or a terrible accident of some kind. Maybe she’d once had nails she would paint the same red as her dress.
She was a terrible dancer. We loved her all the same.

She would always show up at the same time on flamenco night: 8pm every second Thursday.

No matter the weather, The Woman With No Hands never wore a coat, even when it was 27 degrees in February in the burnt-out western edge of Detroit.

In she would stride, her features giving away so little that her face almost looked like a blank. She always wore the same dress: a halter, true red, with layers of skirt to flourish.

We were all a little bit in love with her, The Woman With No Hands. We never found out what had befallen her—if her difference was the result of genetics or a terrible accident of some kind. Maybe she’d once had nails she would paint the same red as her dress.

She was a terrible dancer. We loved her all the same.

Heather began to worry about the Meyersons. For the last four or five days, newspapers had begun to pile up in their driveway. The paperboy had started to pile them into an orderly heap resembling a fort. They hadn’t mentioned going on vacation.
One evening, she finally decided to walk across the wide stripe of grass separating her yard from the Meyersons’ and knock on the front door.
She was startled when it opened quickly. Rick stood in the doorway, wearing a blue turtleneck that looked a little warm for the day.
"Hey there, Sara," he said. His eyes looked different, but she couldn’t put her finger on how.
"Hi," Sara said. "Sorry to bother you, I—"
"Anything wrong, Sara?” Rick said, unblinking.
“Oh—sorry, no,” Sara said, and tried to smile. “I just noticed your newspapers—“
There was a shuffling sound behind Rick, and Bobby’s head poked out below Rick’s armpit. He stared up at her.
"Oh hi, Bobby—"
Then Julia appeared a second later, head somehow too close to Rick’s, face too still.
Heather’s heart began to hammer. “I was just telling Rick—” 
The three of them stared with black eyes at her, blank as a doll’s, saying nothing.
Slowly, Bobby’s mouth widened into a toothless smile.

Heather began to worry about the Meyersons. For the last four or five days, newspapers had begun to pile up in their driveway. The paperboy had started to pile them into an orderly heap resembling a fort. They hadn’t mentioned going on vacation.

One evening, she finally decided to walk across the wide stripe of grass separating her yard from the Meyersons’ and knock on the front door.

She was startled when it opened quickly. Rick stood in the doorway, wearing a blue turtleneck that looked a little warm for the day.

"Hey there, Sara," he said. His eyes looked different, but she couldn’t put her finger on how.

"Hi," Sara said. "Sorry to bother you, I—"

"Anything wrong, Sara?” Rick said, unblinking.

“Oh—sorry, no,” Sara said, and tried to smile. “I just noticed your newspapers—“

There was a shuffling sound behind Rick, and Bobby’s head poked out below Rick’s armpit. He stared up at her.

"Oh hi, Bobby—"

Then Julia appeared a second later, head somehow too close to Rick’s, face too still.

Heather’s heart began to hammer. “I was just telling Rick—” 

The three of them stared with black eyes at her, blank as a doll’s, saying nothing.

Slowly, Bobby’s mouth widened into a toothless smile.

Gary did the thing you never did: Assumed a female was pregnant when he didn’t know for absolute sure that she was pregnant.
"Bro," Kenny said.
"Dude," Gary said, panicking. "Matilda, I mean—"
"I’m not," Matilda said. "But I’ve been meaning to ask, Gary: are you?"
"Bro-ohhh!" Kenny said, on Gary’s look of chagrin. Gary had been hitting the plantains pretty hard lately.
Matilda swung away abruptly. Kenny covered his eyes with both hands and laughed until Gary came over and hit him in the stomach, hard.

Gary did the thing you never did: Assumed a female was pregnant when he didn’t know for absolute sure that she was pregnant.

"Bro," Kenny said.

"Dude," Gary said, panicking. "Matilda, I mean—"

"I’m not," Matilda said. "But I’ve been meaning to ask, Gary: are you?"

"Bro-ohhh!" Kenny said, on Gary’s look of chagrin. Gary had been hitting the plantains pretty hard lately.

Matilda swung away abruptly. Kenny covered his eyes with both hands and laughed until Gary came over and hit him in the stomach, hard.

"I’ve had just about enough of your shit, Gansevort," the Princess said. 
Gansevort cowered. It was an annoying habit he had: Cowering.
She knew that behind it lay a heart of stone. Her songbird friends had warned her. Most of the time they were chirpy little bitches, but they had their uses.
"Doth Your Highness—"
"What did I say about Old English, Gansevort?"
“My profound apologies. Do you, Princess, wish that we delay the May Day festivities until for a few days, until the gazebo is completed?”
She stared at him with as neutral a face as she could muster.
“I want you to think a little bit about what you just said, Gansevort.”
She swore to the high deities that she could actually see the mill-wheels turning in his head. 
"Oh, delaying—means it won’t be May Day anymore…?"
Her kingdom for all the uptalkers to be flayed alive.
She stopped listening but kept looking at him so that the rickety mechanism of his thought process might resolve itself. Truly, she was surrounded by shit-for-brains for minions. Thank the Gods for unicorns.

"I’ve had just about enough of your shit, Gansevort," the Princess said. 

Gansevort cowered. It was an annoying habit he had: Cowering.

She knew that behind it lay a heart of stone. Her songbird friends had warned her. Most of the time they were chirpy little bitches, but they had their uses.

"Doth Your Highness—"

"What did I say about Old English, Gansevort?"

“My profound apologies. Do you, Princess, wish that we delay the May Day festivities until for a few days, until the gazebo is completed?”

She stared at him with as neutral a face as she could muster.

“I want you to think a little bit about what you just said, Gansevort.”

She swore to the high deities that she could actually see the mill-wheels turning in his head. 

"Oh, delaying—means it won’t be May Day anymore…?"

Her kingdom for all the uptalkers to be flayed alive.

She stopped listening but kept looking at him so that the rickety mechanism of his thought process might resolve itself. Truly, she was surrounded by shit-for-brains for minions. Thank the Gods for unicorns.

The Pig snorted.
"What?" the Goose said.
"Everyone knows," the Pig said, "that Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason is as well known for what it rejects as for what it defends.”
“Everyone,” the Pig said again, and as if to emphasize his point, chose that moment to loosen his bowels into the mud of the yard.

The Pig snorted.

"What?" the Goose said.

"Everyone knows," the Pig said, "that Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason is as well known for what it rejects as for what it defends.”

Everyone,” the Pig said again, and as if to emphasize his point, chose that moment to loosen his bowels into the mud of the yard.