The Littlest Haircut

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He’d stopped on his way home to get a haircut. Some forty five minutes later, the young lady held a mirror behind as he looked into a mirror ahead and asked, “Do you like it?” And of course he did. It was a very good haircut. And she was pleased that he was pleased.

When she handed him the bill, it was only twelve dollars. All that work. For twelve dollars… of which she would earn six. That didnt seem right, so he added a twenty dollar tip. She stared at it in disbelief. “You’re not serious…”

“You did a good job,” he said as he signed the receipt and left. On the way home, he thought about the gesture. It was a good thought. Suddenly he understood.. many things. As he pulled into the long circular driveway that led to his mansion, he thought some more.

His wife met him, as she usually did, at the door, martini in hand. “You’re late,” she said, in a voice that held neither suspicion nor petulance. “I got a haircut,” he replied. She nodded and went into the kitchen to ask the cook how dinner was faring. Over a remarkably good piece of chicken, he dabbed his mouth with his napkin and said, “I think we should sell the house.”

“Why on earth would we do that?” his wife asked.

“It has, what, ten bedrooms? Eight baths? We only use one of each, so what’s the point of the rest?”

“You’re not serious…” she replied. Realizing he was, she made it clear that that night they would use two.

The next morning, he arrived at work to be greeted by his secretary and his office assistant. “Executive meeting in fifteen minutes,” he said. Fifteen minutes later, the boardroom was filled with thirty smartly dressed men and women. How much, he wondered, do they pay for their haircuts? He held up a copy of the last quarterly report. “This is not good work, ladies and gentlemen. Not good at all. As such, I’m cutting your salaries by one-third.”

There was outrage all about the room. “But I have a mortgage on our house on Long Island — !” “But my country club condo dues — !” “But I was planning on a trip to Europe, and — !” He stopped them all with a single raised hand and quietly said “Do a better job. Dismissed.”

“You’re not serious!”

He merely looked at them. Stunned, they left the room. He picked up the phone and called his wife. “I want you to meet me at this address. It’s a comfortable two bedroom house. I think you’ll like it.”

She sighed. “But I have an appointment at the beautician’s.”

“No,” he said with a tiny smile. “I think you should go get a haircut.”

The Littlest M&M

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“Save me the blue ones.”

I smiled as I looked up from the small bag of candy. “Just the blue ones?”

He nodded, with a wide grin. “Just the blue ones. ‘Cause they’re, like, so seriously sexy.”

“Blue M&Ms are sexy…” I said doubtfully.

“Sure. Watch.” He reached over and took one from the bag, then gently placed it between my teeth, with a softly warning finger. “Dont bite. Not yet.” Then he kissed me, his tongue meeting mine as they danced and chased each other around the sweet little piece of chocolate. Then, suddenly he inhaled, plucking it from my grasp. He sat back, grinning, the blue candy now trapped between his beautifully white teeth, his equally blue eyes daring me to take it back.

The Littlest Fairy Tale

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… and so the king and queen (and of course the princess) forged ahead with plans for the Royal Wedding, and yet there was sadness in the eyes of Prince Adam.

“What bothers you so, my son?” asked the king.

“The wolf who was my advisor, who guided me to you, has disappeared, and I want him at our marriage.”

“Then you must find him,” the king replied. “I will tell my daughter she must wait for your return. Come back with your wolf, and then you two shall be wed.”

So the next morning, the determined prince mounted his horse and set out in search of his friend the wolf. Finally, three days later, at the farthest extreme of the forest, he found the beast, sitting in a clearing and looking forlorn. “Ah, my liege, greetings to you.”

“Oh dearest wolf,” Prince Adam cried out joyously, “you must return with me to the castle, for I am to be wed, and I want you by my side. If it was because of you that I found the silver bird and the golden horse and freed the princess with the heart of diamonds!”

“I cannot,” replied the wolf.

“But why?” asked the prince. “You have been the only one true and faithful to me throughout this entire journey!”

“And you as well,” replied the wolf sadly. “But you are to be married, and I doubt your future in-laws, let alone your wife, would approve of my being at the castle.”

“I dont care!,” shouted the prince, as great tears fell from his eyes. “You are my friend!”

“My prince,” the wolf asked slowly, “do you even want to be married?”

The prince sat on the grass and sighed. “I dont know. The princess is lovely and gracious, and her parents are good and noble, but — ”

“But?”

“But… perhaps we should not talk about it.”

“Of course. But before you leave, I must ask you to honour your promise.”

Prince Adam stared at the wolf in sudden horror. “No! Please do not ask me to do this!”

“You must, my liege. You agreed that, in exchange for my wisdom and knowledge in helping you save the princess, you would cut off my head and release me from the witch’s spell. And now the time has come for you to do this.”

The prince tried every argument he could think of, but none would change the wolf’s mind. So, sadly, Prince Adam took out his sword and, with a mighty whack, separated the wolf’s head from its body…

… when suddenly there was a flash of light and a crack of thunder that made the prince look away. When he turned back, he saw that the lifeless body of the wolf was gone, and in its stead stood a handsome prince, one so handsome he took Prince Adam’s very breath away. “Thank you, Prince Adam,” said the prince with a dazzling smile of joy. “I am Prince Stephen, brother of Princess Eva whom you rescued. You have freed me, and I mmmppphh!” Prince Stephen was unable to continue because Prince Adam had rushed to embrace him and kiss him soundly on the lips.

“I dont want to marry any princess, not even your sister,” Prince Adam shouted happily. “I have found my love in my dearest friend, and it is you and I who shall wed!”

So the two princes returned to the castle, where the king and queen were ecstatic to see their son’s return after so many years. The king happily gave his blessing to their union, and — with the exception of the princess, who returned to her rooms in a snit — they lived happily ever after…

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If you enjoyed this, consider purchasing the first collection of “The Littles”, found here on Amazon.

The Littlest Cave

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We have always lived in the cave, for many generations. Our life here stretches back as the Cave itself is deep. No one has ever explored it to its very end. No one knows if that is even possible. My ancestors sought shelter here, escaping the Great Dark that lives just outside. No one knows what the Great Dark is, just that it was so immeasurably frightening that now, even to look outside the Cave, is certain death.

Throughout my lifetime, no one has ever left the Cave. No one dares, not with the Great Dark. A huge wall at the cave’s opening protects us from it. All we see are shadows on the wall at the end of the first room in the Cave, and all we hear are the thunderous roars. It never leaves. It sits waiting, patiently, for anyone foolish enough to venture without.

There is a story of someone who left and returned. Some say it was true, but because the story says he left and then came back, I think it fable. Nevertheless, truth or myth, the man left. After many journeys to the Holy Place in the Cave, his family mourned him. A rite of Burial was held, and the cries resounded the walls surely to the very end of the Cave.

But then, to everyone’s surprise, he came back. He spoke of a greater Cave outside this one. It was a brilliant blue, he said, and just within it was hung an Orb of Fire that moved across the Great Blue Cave, burning so hotly that it turned the skin red. Then when the Orb of Fire disappeared, it was replaced by another one, one smaller and whiter that too traveled across the Great Cave, which was no longer blue but now black. He spoke of magnificent animals that trod across the Great Cave, huge monstrous beasts whose every move left deep marks in the ground. He spoke of gigantic plants, with leaves so many in number and go great in size that they blocked out the Orb of Fire.

Yet when he was asked about the Great Dark, he laughed and said there was no Great Dark, that the shadows on the wall were the huge plants outside and the roaring was a sound that came from overhead during times when water fell from the Great Blue Cave (which was no longer blue but now grey) to the ground. It was decided that he was mad, and the elders had him put to death.

Since then, no one ventures outside. Not only is it dangerous and deadly, but the Great Dark has the ability to drive a man insane. No one will risk that.

No one.

The Littlest Pole Dancer

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I been a pole dancer… well, pretty much all my life. I love it. Really, I do. I get up there and I spin and spin and spin, and the guys just look at me and… well, you know what they’re thinkin’, right? But I never did anything like that, no way. I mean, it’s one thing to squeeze an extra twenty outa some lunk who thinks he might get a shot. It’s another to actually give him that shot.

Oh, I did, once. Big mistake. This one guy, he’d been comin’ here for nights in a row. Sat right up front, that chair right there. I’d come on, and he’d smile at me, and I’d smile at him, and then I’d go into my dance, and when I was finished, he’d look at me like I was the most perfect woman on earth. So one night, between dances, I start talking to him — management doesnt mind; they say anything to get the customer to spend some more is fine with them — and he tells me about his life and I tell him about mine and he’s really sweet. I mean, really. Then he asks me one night if we can go for coffee when I get off, and I say sure. And that’s all it was, I swear. Just coffee. We were in that diner for three or four hours, talking about stuff. I told him things I aint never told anyone, like how much I loved my Mamma, even though she said I was dumber than a bag of bricks (well, she was probably right on that one, but anyway…). Then afterwards, when the sun was comin’ up, I got in my car and drove home, and I was all, you know, happy about this. Here was a guy that had seen my pretty well naked and still treated me like I was, you know, a lady.

And it was nice.

So we went out a few more times. Nothin’ big, just coffee and talkin’. And then one night, when we were in the parkin’ lot, I was about to get in my car, and he asked if he could kiss me.

He asked. He didnt just do it. He asked.

And of course I said yes. And we did and it wasnt any big tongue wrestlin’ match. It was just a kiss. But it was the nicest one I ever got.

So now, I decided I was gonna put together an all-new routine, just for him. I mean, sure, the other guys would see it, but that didnt matter. This was gonna be just for him: new flips, new ways of hangin’ off the bar, all kinds of neat stuff that no one had ever seen on that pole before. I spent days workin’ on it, and when I was finished… well, if anything on the pole said “I love you”, this was gonna be it.

So the big night comes, and he’s sittin’ out there, just like always. And he’s smilin’ at me, and I’m smilin’ at him, and it’s all good. My third dance, I decide it’s time to give him my present. So0 I give him this big major smile, and then I worked that pole like sixteen ways to Sunday. The other guys sittin’ there, they know this is new, and they’re watchin’ me and all whoop-whoop and throwin’ money at me till the stage was littered in green. Even the other girls, on their stages, slow down to watch what I’m doin’. I mean, I hate to sound all me, but it was pretty darn spectacular. And it was all for him.

But… the more I did it, the more he just… glared, like he was really angry or something. So I tried even harder to make him happy, pushin’ it till I’d put everything I had into spinnin’ on that pole. I was concentratin’ so hard on it that when I finished, it didnt matter that the whole place around my stage was yellin’ and applaudin’ and screamin’ for more.

His chair was empty.

When I got back to the changin’ room, the girls were all, like, “Wow, can you teach me that?” “That was so amazing!” Frank, our manager, said it was the hottest thing he’d seen in years, and that’s pretty high praise from a guy who’s seen a girl ride a pole for twenty years. But I never showed anyone how to do it. It wasnt for them. It was for him.

He never came back. I still dont get it.

The Littlest Historian

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Breathe deep, he told himself. Just breathe deep. Someone will find you. Someone will fix this.

He’d been in charge of the Library… well, all his life, even as a small boy. He didnt remember any time outside the dark cavernous room that was his universe; for all he knew, he was born there. He didnt even know for certain how old he was: the face in the mirror looked perpetually young, but he knew it was a lie. Or a trick of the light. Or… something. And he knew this because it was his job to know otherwise.

Every day he dutifully turned one page on the Book. That was it. The Book might change as he took them off the shelves to replace other Books whose time had passed, but his job never did. Just one page. That page, he had been told (by whom?), chronicled all the events to unfold that day… every single one throughout all Creation. He didnt know for certain if this was so, but he believed. And because he believed, he dutifully turned one page. As he did, words magically appeared on the page: dense, tiny, written in an elegant yet strong script. This, he was told, is What Will Happen that day. If there is a problem, they said, we will fix it. Not you. This is your job, no more. He nodded, understanding and yet not.

He’d been doing this for… millenia. He knew this was so because he could see the evidence right before him: thousands upon thousands of books he’d taken off the shelves, one at a time, thousands upon thousands of books he’d put back on the shelves when their time was done. And he could likewise see all the thousands of books to come, books he was strictly forbidden ever to open — and because he believed, they never were.

At least, not until yesterday… or maybe last week. He wasnt sure.

He couldnt explain what possessed him. A sudden feeling of his own mortality, perhaps. The knowledge, the certain knowledge that when he got to the last book, time would end… and so would he. In younger times, he’d never even considered the possibility. The library was so vast that certainly it had to contain an infinite number of books. But as the eons passed, he saw that that was not so. To be sure, there were thousands, perhaps millions left… but he was also on a journey that led irrevocably to that Final Page in that Final Book.

And wondering what it might be had begun increasingly to haunt him. Did things just… stop?, he wondered. Would the Library just blink out of existence? Or would it remain here, its books depleted of their knowledge? And what would happen to him? Did he move on to another library somewhere? Or did he too just stop existing? Or did he simply stay in this room, waiting for…

He tried not to think about it. He tried. But every day, turning the one page, moving ever closer to that Final Statement, obsessed him. Finally, one day, unable to stop himself, he decided to know. He walked to the farthest end of the Library, deeper and deeper into the increasing blackness… until he found it.

The Final Book.

Hesitantly, he leaned down and lightly touched it, as though it might spark out at him or shoot fire at his eyes to blind him of its knowledge. It didnt. He gently extracted it from the shelf and carefully looked at it. It had no binding marks. No titling. It was neither heavier nor lighter than the countless others he’d carried. It was just… another book.

Still fearful of what he was about to do, he sat on the floor, the book in his lap. You can always put it back, he told himself. Just leave it unopened and put it back on the shelf. No one will ever know. But he knew he couldnt do that. He flipped it over and grasped the fabric wrapped cover, then gently lifted it…

He didnt even notice the first tremors, but the second wave threw him against the wall as the enormous shelves began to sway, some already sending their contents into cascading piles in the spaces between. The third wave hit like the whole room had been cut from its moorings and sent spinning into… whatever was outside. The mighty wooden shelves now collapsed about him, the thousands upon thousands of books flying through the air, hurtling to the floor, some closed, more open, their pages suddenly replete with suddenly appearing script, its elegance lost, as though the words could not slam together fast enough to elbow their way on the page.

There was a sudden crash as an entire section of the ceiling came loose and smashed onto the piles of broken wood shelving. He looked up into the jagged hole and saw… nothing. Just blackness. The very thought that there was something beyond the Library gave him hope, even as a massive oak shelf careened behind him and knocked him —

He awoke… hours later? Days, perhaps? He didnt know. At some point, the Final Book had been jerked away from him. He had no idea where it landed. It was now just one of millions upon millions of books in piles across the great space.

Breathe deep, he told himself. Just breathe deep. Someone will find you. Someone will fix this.

The Littlest Sandwich

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They did not like messy sandwiches.

“Why not,” I asked, mildly intrigued. It was quiet in the café: only the three of us sitting at adjoining tables, two of many set in an orderly, precise array along the faux plastic brick. Outside, the air glistened after a brief, intense shower. Mothers reprimanded their children, gleefully jumping in newly formed puddles. Old men, still wrapped in their sweaters and raincoats, sat stone-faced on benches like ancient idols. Pigeons swarmed at their feet, penitents in search of bread crumbs. The cars sliced across the wet asphalt, their wipers flicking aside the unexpected drop fallen from a still-sodden tree branch.

The question seemed to perplex them. They looked at each other in shocked amusement, as though the question itself was unfathomable. The woman, whose head was completely shaved, gently lifted her napkin and, eyes laughingly averted, daubed the corners of her lips. The nan, tall yet not lanky, merely smiled. “They’re just so… messy,” adding a look that emphasized the obviousness of it all. “No matter how you pick it up,” he continued, “it just collapses in your hands.”

“Then you have to resort to a knife and fork,” the woman continued. “Doesn’t that simply defeat the whole purpose?”

Outside, a young girl, five or six years old, laughingly chased a puppy. A ribbon, loosely tied to her hair, came loose and danced away in the light breeze.

The woman silently took a freshly filled salt shaker and positioned it on the table with Zen-like precision.

“And no matter what you do, no matter how careful you might be, a messy sandwich will wind up somewhere on your clothes,” the man said, a slight furrow on his brow.

The woman nodded. “Your shirt, your jacket… your pants.” She shook he head in mild revulsion.

“And in the most embarrassing places possible.”

“And no dry cleaner for… well, blocks.”

“You could just spot clean it,” I said. “A bit of club soda.”

She smiled and shook her head. “That usually just makes it worse.”

A flock of nuns, imperceptibly raising their skirts to avoid the wet sidewalk, chattered as they flew across the windows.

“So, to you then,” I continued, “what constitutes it? How does one create the perfect sandwich?”

The woman hesitated, as though about to reveal a long-held family secret. “It must be… consumable.”

“Well, of course,” I laughed.

“No, no, you don’t understand. It has to be consumed in a simple, elegant manner.” She raised a hand. “It should require no more than just this. Just this one hand.”

“Nothing so big as to make it unwieldy,” the man concurred.

“No. It must be simplicity itself to handle. The bread must be… pristine.”

The man nodded, repeating, “Pristine.”

“Strong, solid, muscular… yet pliable. It should bend to your wishes. Not crumbly, of course, but not doughy either.”

The man’s hand glided through the air. “Just… smooth.”

Somewhere down the street, a woman’s braying laugh echoed across the buildings. Panicking, the pigeons flew off. The stone idols ignored their flight.

“The meat is of course the centre of attention, the divine purpose of the sandwich,” the woman went on, “It should be chewable — and yet not tearable.”

“You don’t want something you have to rip apart to enjoy,” the man added.

“Exactly. It must have a certain smooth density, such that it dissolves with only the slightest nibble.”

“Bologna, for example. Perhaps sausage. Cheese, perhaps, although of course that doesn’t really qualify as a meat,” the man said with a light grin.

“Mmmm…” the woman nodded.

“Mustard?” I asked. “Mayo?”

“A slight glaze, if you must have it at all.”

Outside, the sky was darkening again. Mothers called in their children and bundled them away to safety. The stone idols stood, raised their collars, and rolled silently away.

“Any other condiments? Lettuce? Tomato?”

The woman paused thoughtfully. “No. No, you do not want to add anything more, because then you simply heighten the risk.”

“Of messiness,” I said with a small smile.

“Exactly! You understand! He understands!” she repeated gaily as her companion, sage-like, nodded. The rain fell anew, spattering now empty sidewalks and park benches. The woman looked outside with quiet elation. “I adore the rain.”