Collapsing in a fit of giggles, Claire stopped to catch her breath. Catching up with her, Simone danced around her, still singing.
Claire laughed. It had been the perfect night. And morning, come to think of it. It was 6am and the sun was already beginning to rise above the terraced houses.
"Thank you for a fantastically brilliant birthday!" Simone hugged her tight.
"You're welcome" she slurred. She was due at work in just over two hours. This was going to need a lot of coffee. Continuing to walk, they reached Claire's house and she crept in through the back...

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Not everyone knows this, but Kate Beaton is obsessive, the painterly equivalent of a Method actor. To create each new page of "Hark, a vagrant!" she recruits Swiss artists' models to dress in period clothing and pose in front of the Alps. Frozen in position as well as in time, they are required to make only the most ridiculous of faces for her art to take fruition. Eyes are stressed. At least half of the models have held a spot in Guiness for eye-bugging capability.

Once their minds are relaxed after a sufficient period of standing still, they are required...

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He didn't think he was much of a cat person until he met Matilda. He'd found her one morning in a battered cardboard box on his doorstep and, seeing her huge green eyes and tiny paws, took her into the house. But he didn't know then that Matilda was a very special cat.

The first couple of years passed and Matilda grew from a small ball of fluff into a fully grown feline with glossy black fur. But it was the third year that Matilda began to change dramatically.

The black began to fall away to be replaced by bright...

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Four beautiful years. She had sat at this dining room table, polished every day by ol' reliable Miss Hamm, when they ate their first dinner of lamb cutlet, squash, and fingerling potatoes. He was all razor sharp grins as she giggled at the pieces of potato that he purposefully left dangling at the side of his smile.

Next year, at Thanksgiving, they had had their newborn, squirming at the side of the table with all of his raw and tender newness. He and his mother rambled on about the beautiful, perfect baby boy as if the two of them had...

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"Who among you, if her son asks her for bread, will instead give him a stone?"

I was paraphrasing, and quoting out of context, but she didn't know that. She was just a foolish, naive, ignorant, innocent young girl. She'd begged and pleaded for the opportunity to raise a pet. The goldfish just hadn't been enough, either. Oh no; she wanted a mammal.

So the baby gorilla came home with me one day, fresh out of acting school. This little guy was GOOD. He could play dead with the best of them. He could even slow his heart rate to...

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morning. you are up and out the door.
morning. you are up and out the door.
morning. you are up and out the door.
morning. you notice something different. you are up and out the door.
morning. you notice something different. you have lost some hair during the night. you are up and out the door.
morning. you notice something different. you have lost some hair during the night. you get a little concerned. you are up and out the door.
morning. you notice something different. you have lost some hair during the night. you get a little concerned. you...

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This sludgy finger of water curling around the land. A mucky smile that hides whatever you slip inside of it. The lake never tells.

So I'm pleased you chose this place to meet, my dear. You have solved a riddle I've kept hidden behind my own smile. Come closer for a moment so I can see your face in the moon. Let's walk down to the water's edge and peer deep into eternity.

I didn't want to meet you tonight. My plan was as unsettled as a river. But you pinched it off into something definable, and I feel calmer...

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I couldn't sleep with her next to me. The smell was making me crazy. She dead to the world, breathing her breath, rustling the covers, each movement sent her smell across the bed. Sour. Sick.

For weeks she wasted away in front of me. Now she didn't eat and her body was starting to draw on what little reserves we left. All fat gone, now her muscle. I was afraid to touch her. Afraid to look too closely. Afraid to see her slow wasting death.

But we still shared this bed. She and I, as always. The only difference now...

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Until now, she'd never thought of herself as pretty.

She'd never thought of herself as anything close to it. Too tall, too dark, too weird-looking in general, too much stomach fat and too small a face and too much that was just plain wrong.

Too little personality at first and then too weird a personality later. Too much for other people to deal with.

Too timid to speak up, too hinged on other people's expectations of her.

Too affected by what others said, too stupid to bring up her own ideas or her own thoughts.

And how that's changed.


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His life was on the line.

Strung from tree to tree, across the back yard, his priorities blew in the wind. There were his coat and slacks, accompanied by an assortment of lively, but respectable, neckties. There was his underwear. There was his hockey jersey.

There were his one-year-old's Big Boy Diapers, and his wife's sweaters, and his dog's blanket.

And there was the note.

He slowly, thoughtfully pulled in the line, taking the items down, one by one. When he reached the paper, his heart caught in his throat.

"If you had another chance," it said to him, "would...

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