"A Dysfunctional Dining Table" by Roshna Rusiniya
The dinner was set on the table exactly at 6.30 pm. Mom put the big bowl of salad in the center and the sixteen-year-old son contorted his face in frustration.
Daughter, on the other hand, smiled widely, leaned forward and proceeded to scoop a big heap of leafy mixture onto her plate. But Mom pulled her hand back forcing her to sit down.
She glanced at the empty chair opposite hers and rolled her eyes at Mom.
Mom moved to stand near the kitchen door, peeking at the oven every now and then.
A cough drew her attention back to the table and she was relieved to see the only empty chair finally occupied.
“From today onward, no one will behave belligerently in my house,” Dad declared while adjusting his big frame to fit into the small wooden chair.
Son looked up from his phone, let out a loud yawn and went back to playing PUBG.
“Oh! I have to finish this book by tomorrow,” Daughter said to no one.
Mom wanted to ask what ‘ belligerence’ means, but got distracted by the oven timer.
The dog came, knelt down near the table and waggled his tail.
“At least you care!” Dad beamed with pride and went back to eating his dinner.
‘Until tomorrow’... everyone else whispered together.
"Protocols" by Frank Melling
Planet Earth was not the best possible posting for a young diplomat but members of the Pan Galactic Grand Council Observer Corps had to start their careers somewhere. There were benefits too, and ones which weren’t mentioned during any of the pre-mission briefings. For example, although strictly speaking Arthrid 4 was asexual, in his human form he did enjoy holding the hand of Groted 15 whom, he thought, looked rather fetching in her figure flattering, floral dress.
They walked along the river bank enjoying the soft, warm scents carried by the merest hint of breeze on what was a truly idyllic, late English summer evening. They listened to the calls of children playing in the meadow to the soft murmurs of lovers in love and the barking of excited dogs chasing balls.
Their pleasure was interrupted by raucous yells of what, in earth language, could only be described as yobs. There were five young men, recklessly charging paddle boards into each other and then running through the infants playing on the little sandy beach, causing the little ones - and their parents - much distress.
Arthid 4 looked at Groted 15 who said: “Remember the protocols. No interventions for any reason.”
They exchanged another excessively long, lingering gaze which anyone observing would have read as the clear precursor to a romantic evening ahead.
“Well, just be careful. Otherwise we’ll both be back at base before we know it.”
When the young men insisted that they had seen a three horned, red tongued, scaly headed monster shoot beams of purple light at them, the Custody Sergeant at Brinton Police Station added the charge of using some, as yet unidentified, illegal substance to that of endangering the public by setting their paddle boards on fire.
"The Bonickhausen Tower" by Brendan Thomas
Gustave stood by his grandmother at the chaise lounge asking for a story. He lived with her when his mother traveled tending to her charcoal business. He didn’t mind. She was an excellent cook, the best in Paris, and she wove wonderful stories. She patted the seat beside her and said that stories were best served seated.
“This is the tale of Jean Rene Bonickhausen.”
“Who is that?” Gustave quizzed.
“If I told you immediately it would spoil the story.”
“Jean Rene lived in an ancient town in Germany called Marmagen, close to the French border.”
“Did he have a job?” Gustave interrupted. She looked at him slightly annoyed. “Yes, he was a tradesman. It was nearly a hundred years ago and times were tough. Often Jean Rene didn’t have money to buy food so he ate gruel.”
“Yuck,” Gustave pronounced, scrunching his face, and rolling his tongue.
“Gruel is better than nothing Gustave. I bake amazing gruel. I’ll serve it for dinner tomorrow.” Gustave looked into his grandmother’s twinkling eyes and laughed.
“Jean Rene came to France where the food was plentiful, and the women were smarter and more beautiful.” Gustave nodded his agreement.
“But he wasn’t accepted by the French and didn’t understand why. He was a skilled worker. Why couldn’t he find work?”
“Your name is too German a friend said.”
“There’s no such thing. But there was. He was a too German, German, living in Paris.”
“He decided to change his name to something strong but he was blank. One day, while thinking of Mermagen and it’s beautiful mountains, he had an idea, and named himself after the mountains.”
“What was his new name?” Gustave asked.
“But that’s our name.” Gustave said in confusion.
“Jean Rene is your great grandfather, Gustave Eiffel,” his grandmother replied.