Assistance – Catherine Forrest

Catherine Forrest lives in the Baltimore area of, Maryland, USA. She edits medical journals by day and moonlights as an essayist and fiction writer. She publishes essays twice-weekly in Shelf Life.


She blew a stream of smoke through the gap in her front teeth and past her lips, exasperated, staring at the ceiling while he droned. Enid wondered why she’d invited him in the first place. She’d been walking around the neighborhood, down to the end of the street, then around the lake and back, and he’d seemed—not cool, but appealing. Tall, with tousled brown hair and lively eyes, and dressed like a wizard. Now she had second thoughts.

“And anterograde legs,” he was saying. He had been talking about time travel, but now he was on the subject of bird people. The topics were supposed to be related, somehow. She rolled her eyes but he didn’t notice; kept on talking.

“Are you serious right now?” she interjected. He frowned.

“What do you mean?”

“Did you come back to my place to talk to me about time traveling bird people with posterior-grade legs or did you come up here to fuck?”

“Anterograde,” he said, while his mind caught up to her. “What? I thought you wanted to hear about my novel.”

“No one wants to hear about your novel,” she said, stubbing her cigarette out in the overcrowded ashtray. “How are you a writer if you don’t know nobody ever wants to hear about your novel?”

“Well that’s . . . okay, that’s mean,” he said, and finally shut up.

“What’s your name again?” she asked, irritated.

“Damien,” he said.

“Damien? That’s your real name.”

“Yes, it’s my real name,” he said, defensively.

“Your parents named you Damien?”

“No, but it’s my real name.” Now it was her turn to shut up. He had kind of a point. When she didn’t answer, he continued. “My parents named me Llewellyn, if you must know.”

“Okay. I think I’d go by Damien, too.”

“Did you bring me back here to fuck?”

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