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Jim pondered the strange smell from behind the couch. What had happened last night? The meat patty was obviously of hamburger origin, but he could not for the life of him remember having had hamburgers at last night's party.

The party had been, of course, a bachelor party for the benefit of his friend Gary, who was marrying Cheryl from The Sewing Boutique on Monday. Cheryl was out of town at the time, trying to find an alternate job, as the Sewing Boutique paid a pittance- a fact which Susy Morris, the local town gossip, complained about constantly.

Susy had her own problems, however, having divorced her husband, whose employment with NASA had brought in most of their income, or so said Dan Leary, who knew Susy's husband before the break-up. Dan was, however, not a reliable source, having been convinced that Susy's husband was actually an astronaut himself and not a technician, even after George Garris corrected him.

Garris, who served as town barber and final arbitrater on all things rumored, would often go on about his own history, telling somewhat unbelievable tales of his explorations in the upper Appalachians. These stories were usually far-fetched and- to the discerning listener- culled from old Lovecraft stories. Garris was almost as big a Lovecraft fan as Billy Hander, who wrote bad stories in Lovecraftian style and could often be found at the comic book store, harrassing the clerk.

This was, of course, due to Billy's complete inability to land a job at the store, despite being lazy and living with his mother (two major qualifications). Moreover, he knew Johnny Bentley, the usual clerk, from high school, thus making the resentment that much more personal, though one might wonder why he bothered. Bentley had been headed for college a year before, but his ailing mother Stella needed his personal care, thus crushing those prospects.

As Sarah Jamieson could have told him, Stella was a self-centered witch through and through. She'd lorded over the bridge club during her better days, often scaring Sarah and the others out of attending during the worst of the tirades. Talk around town was that Mark Dugan, the owner-operator of the local mortuary, had made up a special headstone for her which read HERE BE ONE MEAN BITCH, but it probably wasn't true. As Dugan had said many times himself, headstones were expensive things.

Which was unfortunate, being that he had paid for two of them so far- namely his wife and mother (though not at the same time). Since then, rumor had it that he was driven to drink, but in this case, rumor was completely wrong. Dugan, lonely and surrounded by corpses, had taken it upon himself to find a new love, even going so far as to try wooing Angela Kessler, who lived down the street.

Angela, unfortunately, was a lesbian, and thus Dugan's chances looked even worse than that stray hamburger patty, mouldering behind the couch.

"Quit this world, quit the next world, quit quitting!" -Sufi proverb.

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The following comments are for "Tangent Fiction"
by Beckett Grey

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