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Today's Story by Marcy Mahoney

“At what point this evening – or in the last several months, for that matter – have either of you heard a word I said?”


Caroline just stopped talking.

Too many sentences interrupted or stepped on.  It was obvious no one wanted to hear what she had to say.  When the conversation would turn to her, she’d start to tell them about her day, or something she saw on television, or her brother’s latest girlfriend; the same kind of small talk they were making.  They’d look at her with curious eyes, like she was making some kind of sound that they couldn’t fully process with their human hearing, and as she got farther into the sentence, they’d look at back at each other and start talking about something else entirely.  Caroline’s sentence would trail off. Her train of thought lost was lost.  They’d turn to her during their conversation and say “don’t you agree, Caroline?” She would start to answer, and they would keep on talking. They knew she was there, but they didn’t seem to care.

Once in a while, one of them would ask her a question about herself.  “How was your vacation to Maui, Caroline?”

Her face would light up, both at the memory of her vacation and at the thrill of being directly acknowledged.  “It was wonderful! I had mimosas on the beach every morning, and there was this luau – ”

Sue cut her off.  “I went to Maui once.  With George – you remember him?  It was a disaster.  Terrible weather, horrible food. The beach was so crowded.  And I got food poisoning!”

Marlena laughed.  “I remember George!  Wasn’t he the one with the third nipple?”

Sue rolled her eyes.  “Yes.  It was horrifying. He called it ‘Mitchell’ – said it was his disappearing twin.”

“I’ve never been to Maui, but I have been to Cancun, and had a similar experience.  They tell you not to drink the water in Mexico, but you forget that ice cubes are included in that category.”  Marlena made a face to illustrate her point.

Sue laughed. “Sounds like fun!”

“It wasn’t.  Speaking of old flames, have you heard from Noah lately?”

“Last I knew he was living in D.C. with Chuck and Joe.  They started some kind of food truck business there.” Sue shrugged and sipped her martini.

“Didn’t you use to date Chuck, Caroline?” Marlena asked, and Caroline jumped at the mention of her name. Before she could respond, Sue was off on the next tangent.

After several more rounds of similar conversation, Caroline came to the decision that she need not answer them anymore.  They didn’t want to hear what she had to say, anyway. They prattled away, occasionally tossing her a bone but with no real interest.  She felt like a dead satellite, tethered in their gravity, but with no real use to them.

As she watched their verbal tennis match drag on over three more drinks, Caroline began to tune them out.  She looked around the bar.  Other people were conversing with varying degrees of fervor. Pods of people filled the seating areas, clusters formed at the bar.  It was a popular place for hanging out and catching up, as the low lighting, cheap drinks and quiet, moody music lent itself to a chatty bar as opposed to a pick-up bar. That was why she, Sue and Marlena always came here – so they could chat.  When they met at work a year ago, the three of them hit it off in an instant.  They worked together and went to the same gym, and then hung out with each other after hours. People called them the three stooges. But lately, Caroline felt like Curly Joe.

It hadn’t always been like this.  Caroline had been an equal part of the trio at the beginning.  Somehow, over the last several months, she found that the balance had tipped. They started forgetting she was there, even when she was.  They spoke over her whenever she had something to say.  She had tried raising her voice and finishing her sentence over theirs, but they would just look her in the eye and keep on talking.  It pissed her off.  When that didn’t work, she would wait to get a word in, and then say “Can I finish what I was saying?”  They would twitter and laugh and say “Oh, we’re sorry hon, we got off on a tangent.  Please finish.”  And it would start all over again.  So asserting herself wasn’t working.

So now she was on to not even speaking.  She shut down entirely, didn’t respond when they would ask her a question.  She figured the ice queen approach would get some kind of results, at least an “Are you upset about something?” But no, nothing.  They acted like she had responded even when she hadn’t.  They talked so much, and so fast, that they didn’t even notice her absence.  So Caroline sat, trapped and mute, in their presence, her ire festering.

Finally, she had enough.  As they were segueing their conversation from their neighbors’ dogs to their neighbors’ sex lives, Caroline stood up.

“I’m going home.”

Sue and Marlena stopped, looking up from their cushioned seats to her sour face.

“Already?” Marlena said.  “It’s early!  And we’re supposed to go to Cake after this for desert!”

Caroline slung her bag over her shoulder. “I don’t want dessert.  I’ll see you at work tomorrow.”

Sue looked baffled.  “But … we can’t go without you.”

Caroline fumed.  “Why?  What purpose do I serve?”

“What do you mean ‘what purpose do I serve?’ Have you lost your mind?”  Marlena laughed.

“At what point this evening – or in the last several months, for that matter – have either of you heard a word I said?”

Sue and Marlena looked at each other, brows furrowed, and then back to Caroline. “Stop being dramatic, Caroline,” Sue said.  “Sit back down and have another Cosmo.”

Marlena smiled.  “Yeah, and tell us about what Brandy said to you at work today.  You mentioned that she was bitchy.”

Caroline deflated.  She had wanted to tell someone that story, if only to get it off her chest.  The waitress happened by, and Caroline looked from Sue to Marlena, who both were smiling up at her.  She sighed, and sat back down.  “Another Cosmo, please.”  The waitress scribbled down her order and hurried away.

“Brandy was about to delete the entire database when I came by her desk, and I caught it just in time,” Caroline began. “If I hadn’t walked into her cubicle at that moment -”

“Brandy is such a waste of space.  Do you know one time she stole my lunch from the fridge?” Sue said.

Marlena perked up.  “I caught her making out with Ricardo in the supply closet once.”

Caroline sighed, and picked up the Cosmo that the waitress had just set down in front of her.  Status quo, she thought.

“Excuse me,” came a voice to her left, breaking her out of her reverie.

Caroline looked up to see a stranger hovering nearby.  He smiled.  “Is this seat taken?”  He gestured to where Marlena was sitting.  Caroline gave him a totally befuddled look, as if to indicate that yes, it obviously was, but she wasn’t a part of the conversation and didn’t that suck? He must have realized he was walking into some drama, because he gave her a look like she was crazy and backed away.

“Thanks a lot, guys,” she mumbled into her Cosmo.  Sue and Marlena didn’t seem to notice.  They prattled on, while she moped in mute silence, and the guy asked someone at the next table over who the pretty loner with the sour face was, and why was she sitting all by herself.


Marcy Mahoney writes the spooky and the fantastical and sometimes the hilarious.  She lives in Los Angeles, CA.  Follow her on Twitter at @PlaytymAtHazmat.

Read more stories by Marcy Mahoney


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