To: The New York Review of Books From: The Kraken Community

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Kraken poised his eight arms above the laptop keys.

“Fellow Being,” he typed, “Please be informed that your recent review of Monster Tales by George Scholar is deeply injurious to the Cephalopod community, as is the book. Krakens are intelligent creatures whose large size and shy nature provoke unfair depictions in Eurocentric myth. New World cultures recognize our helpful, magical and spiritual natures. Na Kika, an octopus god, built the Pacific Islands and it is a fact that octopuses alone populated our postdiluvian world, not an arkful of animals. In future, please select reviewers with diverse viewpoints.”

Sincerely,

Caleb Kraken

Bluebeard’s Seventh Wife

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Bette kicked her spiked heels to the side of the bed. The man she married had lost six wives under suspicious circumstances. One was her dear cousin, hence revenge was on the table. Rumor had it that secrets lay buried in a locked room deep in the castle dungeons. Bette had the key.

There were guards she would need to trick. Three in all. The first surveilled her bedroom door. A glutton, he was tempted by poisoned wine. The second took a bribe. The third let her through, happy to help her stab the evil prince with a carving knife.

A Bear’s Tale

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Bears get a bad rep in the enchanted forest. I know, because thanks to an evil dwarf, I lived as a bear for years. One especially harsh winter, I met these two swell gals, Snow and Red. They took me in, let me crash on their hearth, and played chess with me. A princely game. Oh, did I mention, I’m a prince.

It all worked out in the end. I killed the dwarf, the curse was broken, and I married Snow. She cured my P.T.S.D. My brother likes a challenge. He married Red, a chess grandmaster. Beats him every time.

A Reason to Celebrate

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Snow White gaveled in the annual meeting of Dwarfs, Inc. “Before we hear committee reports, I’d like to thank Doc for his leadership during my prolonged hospital stay. Also, congratulations to our own Bashful and Grumpy for sealing the deal with Charming and Sons.”

Doc beamed, Bashful blushed, while Grumpy smiled.

Snow continued. “The prince has agreed to an exclusive contract with Dwarf Orchards to supply the kingdom’s new applesauce processing plant. I feel especially proud that we won the bidding war against Evil Stepmother, Inc.”

Happy pulled out a bottle and popped the cork. “To a healthy New Year.”

Stubborn Testing

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After the fever, Marla’s bones ached like the marrow was seeping out. She wasn’t a malingerer. She refused medical treatment. Her father encouraged her to carry the pain while it piled up like a bank of snow against her body’s unyielding house. She’d been raised a positive thinker.

Though her steps slowed and she took more frequent rests, Marla, an ecologist, worked outside destroying invasive plants and replacing them with native species. She outpaced her co-workers, cheering them, finally collapsing under a tree.

Diagnosed with Lyme disease, she took a desk job. One of the lucky ones, she got better.

Quick, Do Something

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I join other runners crouching into line. The starting gun sounds. A tennis ball stuck at the bottom of my pocket bumps against my thigh, interfering with the rhythm of running.

Then something amazing happens. A Golden Retriever blocks the inside lane. Several people veer to the right, miraculously avoiding collisions. A few scream, one stops. I whistle.

Clutching the ball, I throw overhand into the grassy oval at the center of the track. Cheers go up as the dog bullets away. He’s caught using a doggie treat and we reassemble. The morning headline reads, “Quick thinking saves the race.”

More To It

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Women liked Anton as a friend. Some reminded him of his mother. They had the same sense of humor and quick efficiency. But he felt nothing of the easy affection that characterized the relationship his parents had.

He hadn’t paid much attention to dating. Too busy busting for A’s. By college, he’d started to wonder whether he was different from his father, though he’d always thought they were the same.

A night of drinking and philosophical discussion with his college roommate changed everything. In the morning, he felt confused. And inspired. And in love with someone who loved him back.

Ace and the Queen of Pentacles

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Ace’s mother cleaned houses. His father held a mortgage on a twenty-acre farm. They wanted more for their son and, like a miracle, he got a full ride at Stanford. Everyone smiled for weeks.

Ace worked hard, the way his parents had. He graduated into a computer job in Silicon Valley. Sending money home every month, he spent his leisure time playing on-line games and running an office pool because it gave him an excuse to calculate odds on sports, world events and romance. But, he never saw love coming, even when Lady Luck said the chances were good.

His and Her Solos

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He rode the elevator to the basement parking garage, bracing himself between a metal handhold and a luggage rack filled with their daughter’s wedding gifts. His ex’s musky perfume reached into his past, infusing the stories they traded on the way to her car. She was the only one he loved. Laughing, she told him that the lights on the Bay Bridge kept her company at night. She’d never moved.

He wanted to see the metal span from the window in the bedroom of their old flat. Maybe the view had changed?

She said it was too late for that.

His Solo

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He traveled on business, sending special occasion checks and tuition in Ritz Carlton envelopes. She became custodial parent. He whirled his daughter across a ballroom floor on her wedding night. Sparse wisps of brown, the color of the bride’s thick locks, clung to his head.

The mother, her fading red hair pulled into a matronly knot, held a damp tissue. She danced with the groom beneath twinkling chandeliers while the band played smooth jazz. Stray guests conversed at the buffet. She circulated among them, passing by white clad tables and recessed pillars. He swept past. She turned away, uninterested, unimpressed.