Saturday, 30 January 2016

Deathbed Dimes Reading in Toronto - Brockton Writers Reading Series

Save the date! On March 9th, 2016, I've been invited to do a reading of Deathbed Dimes at the Full of Beans Café, 1348 Dundas Street West (east of Gladstone) in Toronto as part of the Brockton Writers reading series alongside the illustrious Terry Watada, Shauntay Grant, and Phil Dwyer! Hope to see you there.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Book Club by Naomi Elana Zener


Weighed down by a party sandwich and crudité tray—it was my turn to bring the snacks for our book club meeting—my girlfriends and I had been meeting monthly over the years as a means of escape from the daily grind in the hope that through intellectual discussion over books we shared, we’d come to resolve our respective issues with being women in a man’s world.  We also hoped that at one of these meetings we’d finally get around to actually talking about the book—not that many of us ever consistently read them—instead of getting bogged down in complaining about our love lives and men in general.

I lumbered up the limestone path—unduly long and poorly maintained—until I reached the equally cumbersome, heavy wooden doors outfitted with useless iron doorknockers. You’d think that by now, they could’ve invested in a doorbell. They fix the turrets that never get used, but the front walkway, jagged and cracked, and used daily, is a lawsuit waiting to happen. After five thuds met their demise against the wood without anyone coming to answer the door, I whipped out my cell phone and texted Ariel to let her know I was waiting impatiently outside her castle’s walls. Five minutes passed without a reply. Then another ten minutes. Finally, I could hear the discernable pitter-patter of footsteps approaching the front door.

“So, so sorry,” Ariel apologized breathlessly, kissing me on both cheeks and dripping water on the floor. “I just got out of the pool.”

“Shake the water out of your ears,” I said, walking into her grand vestibule. “And, invest in a doorbell.”

“A doorbell wouldn’t matter anyway. When I’m swimming, I’m so deep below the surface that I can’t hear anything,” Ariel advised.

“I thought you promised your hubby that you stopped doing that?” I questioned.  “Hell, you said it yourself, legs are required for running and dancing.”

“Rapunzel, I needed to stretch my fins. Besides, what Prince Eric doesn’t know won’t hurt him.”  I looked at her questioningly, letting her know that I thought she was nuts.  “Don’t give me that look. You may have kicked Eugene to the curb, but I’m a happily married woman who knows that the secret to a good marriage is keeping things from your spouse now and then.”

“I’ve told you repeatedly to call me Rap Uncle.”

“And, I told you that’s the dumbest name I’ve ever heard of. Honestly, just because Apple’s autocorrect changed your name to ‘rap uncle’ every time you typed it in, didn’t mean you should change it to that.  Why didn’t you just call yourself ‘Baldy’ since you shaved your head?”

“My new name works well for my burgeoning rap career. As for my hair, I was sick of it being my calling card and it was my feminist prerogative to free myself from my shackles. Don’t be hating the Q-ball.”

I shoved past her, nudging Ariel to take the tray out of my hands. She rolled her eyes at me. Every one of my ‘princess’ book club friends did. Well, screw them. I’m now the first rapping Disney princess in history making myself even more relevant for the sequel market.

I gave her the once over—six kids later, yet still scantily clad in an ill-fitting bikini top with an equally unflattering muffin top pouring over her bikini bottom—taking note of the scales on her legs still shifting back to a more normal epidermis. Her red roots were betraying her blonde mane. She still wore that damn seashell necklace that Flounder gave her at their fond farewell—it smelled like mold. I shook my head at her.

“After everything you went through to get those damn legs, you still play fast and loose. You know these spells don’t last forever. The more you swim, the greater the risk that your scales will be permanent. And, you know what that means—no more sex for you. At least not the human kind.”

“Are you fat shaming me?” Ariel queried. “That’s not a feminist friendly attitude.”

“Feminists can be fit. You’ve let yourself go even more since I saw you a month ago. Keep it up and you can kiss any chance of a comeback goodbye.”

“We don’t all have the prospect of sequels on the horizon, so I don’t have to worry about keeping Disney happy.”

“I guess Ursula was right about a few things.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Clearly, you don’t need to be thin to keep your man happy. What was it she used to say? ‘You’ll have your looks, your pretty face. And, don’t underestimate the importance of body language?’ Clearly, you took those words to heart.”

“Prince Eric is S-A-T-I-S-F-I-E-D.” Ariel began to stalk off towards the grand bifurcated staircase. “Make yourself at home. The girls should be here any minute, so let them in.”

Once I heard her bedroom doors close, I got up from my chaise to look at myself in the magic mirror Ariel won from Snow White at a poker game a few years ago. I whipped off my baseball cap to let my scalp breathe. Taking stock of myself in the mirror—not daring to ask it a question fearing I wouldn’t like the answer—I was pleased with how toned my biceps were since I started doing P90X and Insanity.

“Yoo hoo,” Snow White sang out. “Anyone home?”

“In here,” I cried out.

Snow White led the brigade of women. Jasmine followed behind her, pushing Cinderella, who was seated in a wheelchair, followed by Aurora and Belle. I walked over to them, giving each the expected double-cheek peck greeting. Jasmine left Cinderella with me, while she, Snow White, and Belle set about putting the buffet together. Aurora made her way to the sofa to lie down. I looked at the lot of them—Snow, whose tanned skin no longer sparkled white; Belle, her hair silver from the years of living with a man-turned-beast-turned-man who never could control his temper; Aurora, with bags under her eyes bigger than most people’s luggage; and Jasmine, still rocking the harem pants to cover up the sizeable thunder thighs she’d inherited from her squat father’s DNA—each one had aged tremendously, but thanks to the eternal life bestowed upon us, immortalized by the power of Walt himself, our minds remained sharp.

“Why don’t we sit down and discuss the book Belle selected for us,” I offered, leading the women to the buffet table surrounded by chairs.  Everyone followed me and took a seat after first filling their plates as though they were about to consume their last supper.

“So, tonight we are going to talk about Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. It contains major feminist themes we are all familiar with,” Belle advised. After marrying Beast, once he reverted to his human form, Belle got her degree in Library Studies and opened up her castle’s library to the commoners in her kingdom.

“Aurora, wake up!  We’re discussing the book now,“ Snow White shouted, shaking Aurora’s shoulder. Ever since she awoke from her spindle-induced coma, she suffered from narcolepsy. Being a scrupulous woman after being betrothed to Prince Phillip from birth, spending years fending off a curse, to only awaken to live a life in a cloudy, sleepy haze, Aurora opened up a successful chain of sleep study clinics.

“As we all know, in the end, uber feminist, Elizabeth, marries Mr. Darcy, proving that marriage was still the ultimate goal for all women in that…” Belle advised.

“Oh Cindy, you’ve turned your feet into cinderblocks with all of that foot binding bullshit,” I interrupted, distracted by Cinderella’s mangled feet that relegated her to life in a wheelchair. I hated seeing her in that blasted chair—a byproduct of her obsession with keeping her feet small enough to continue to fit into those damn glass slippers.

“Listen, that last pregnancy caused my feet to swell two sizes too big. A few months like this and my feet will fit back into those shoes in no time,” Cinderella advised.

“But, why do you do this to yourself? Surely Prince Charming doesn’t care what size shoe you wear,” I admonished.

“Who gives a shit about him? I can’t have swollen feet fuck up my Prada shoe endorsement deal,” Cinderella cried.

“Can we get back to the book?” Belle asked. She was ignored by everyone in particular.

“Are you two talking about my Charming?” Snow White asked anxiously upon overhearing our conversation.

“No, not yours. Why do you care anyway? You divorced him,” Ariel sang out, prancing into the living room. All scent and hint of anything fishy had disappeared.

“I don’t care. But nonetheless, I expect my friends to respect the code,” Snow White advised. We all looked at her dumbfounded. “You don’t date, marry, or screw your friend’s former man.”

“But, you’re a lesbian now,” Belle advised, taking a bite out of a crab cake that Ariel prepared for the occasion. Thank goodness Sebastian wasn’t in the castle to see that. “It shouldn’t matter to you who he’s with, even if it was one of us.”

“Chicks before dicks. Bottom line,” Snow White stated emphatically. She was met with silence.

“Such foul language from a children’s book author!” Aurora exclaimed through a series of yawns.

“I’m so confused,” Jasmine sighed. “Aren’t we here to talk about the book?”

“Don’t worry, Jazzy. She’s never going to be interested in your sweet Aladdin’s magic carpet,” I advised. “Yours maybe, but never his.”

“Please don’t talk to me about him,” Jasmine complained.

“What happened with your Sultan now?” Cinderalla asked.

“I overthrew him last night. When he refused to send our troops to help the United States to help defeat ISIS, I lost it. I contacted my good friend, Bibi Netanyahu, and his Mossad helped me to dethrone him. I’ve been up all night dealing with his pouting and worried that my coup would interfere with our book club meeting.”

“Why’s he pouting?” I asked, muffled by my mouthful of celery.

“Oh, he was sobbing that he wished he’d never let the Genie go free. He kept bawling like a baby that if he still had that damn third wish, he’d use it to make me Jaffar’s wife,” Jasmine advised.

“What did you say?” Aurora yawned.

“I told him that I’ve never been a prize to be won by any man, let alone something that could be wished away.”

I got up, walked over to a whimpering Jasmine and threw my arm around her shoulder. Everyone, but Belle, had put their books down.

“Could we get back to discussing the inherent subjugation of women prevalent in the…” Belle started.

“Belle, you were smart to ditch that Gaston for Beast. Some may have thought going the bestiality route was gross, but it served you well in the end,” Jasmine interrupted. “I should’ve run away with the Genie.”

“Yeah, well any guy who tells a woman that it’s not right for a woman to read because it gives us ideas and gets us thinking, is not a guy who should ever know the warm comfort of a woman’s arms,” Snow White advised.

“Or, her vagina!” I exclaimed.  Everyone nodded their head in agreement.

“Trust me, living with a man-dog is no picnic,” Belle spat. “He still licks himself—everywhere—and he refuses after all of these centuries to master using cutlery despite having opposable thumbs.”

“But, you did get him to learn to read again. That has to count for something?” Ariel offered.

Belle ignore her. “I come here for intellectual conversation—to discuss literature—not whine about our husbands, or former ones in the case of Snow and now Jasmine.”

“Ariel is playing mermaid again,” I blurted out.

A collective gasp was heard around the table.

“How could you?” Aurora yawned.

“You’re risking everything,” Cinderella added.

“I told her, but she won’t listen to me,” I advised.

“What about your hips?” Jasmine asked. “You just underwent a double hip replacement to fix the damage caused by all those years of flipping your fins and not getting very far.”

“Enough!” Ariel screamed. “Eric is into kinky sex and likes role playing. So, sometimes, I have to play go fish to keep my man happy.”  She shot me a nasty look for outing her.

“What you all do for men. It’s so not worth it,” Snow exclaimed, falling back in her chair. We all nodded our heads in agreement.

“Men, can’t live with them, can’t kill them,” Belle muttered.

“Belle, we can have them killed, but it’s not worth the hassle,” Jasmine advised. “They’d still haunt us when they’re dead.”

“Well, at least Queen Elsa got it right,” Aurora yawned.

“What are you talking about?” I asked on behalf of the other women who were as equally perplexed as me. None of us had figured out how to really carve out our own feminist identity despite having had centuries to work on it, and the fact that most of us were princesses in our own right with our own kingdoms.

“When she found out that her fiancé had been cheating on her, she got her revenge,” Aurora continued.

“How? I think we’d all love to know,” Ariel begged. “Well, not Snow, clearly.”

“She seduced him, and just before he was about to orgasm, she froze her vagina, effectively freezing and breaking his dick off.”

© 2016. Naomi Elana Zener. All Rights Reserved.