The Practical Applications of Quantum Fiscality

by  Alejandro Fernandez

As the mayor of the quaint Villaescanciada, Otilio had numerous responsibilities. He laid back in his armchair and scratched the battered survivors of his once wild mane. He stared at Marcial, the young engineer recently re-assigned to be his Economics and Science advisor.

Otilio thought about the thriving village with its crowded bar, the Renaissance church, warehouses, orchards and the primary school. Their inhabitants worked hard on making the most of the land, the village and each other. Energy oozed, such as in the fierce political debates between Otilio, Celestino and the councilors that crowded the village hall for forty odd years. Such enthusiasm was once described as being like a bunch of maggots feeding on a rotting limb. 

This heritage and activity had made Villaescanciada eligible for a developmental national grant (or a tribute, for some Councilors) that populated Otilio’s thoughts for two weeks. It was why he was consulting with Marcial, his agitation contrasting with the younger man’s amusement.

“So, according to this condom theory…” Otilio said


“quantum… this paperweight would be here,” Otilio pointed to the left corner of his desk. “And at the same time, here.” He indicated the right side.

“Not quite but that’s close to reality. So long as it moves at sufficient speed, the paperweight is considered to exist in two places at once. If nobody measures it.”

“So…” Otilio added “if the grant moves fast enough… and nobody is looking… and we consider the possibility of parallel universes…”

While Otilio designed his critical application of quantum theory, in a decrepit medical consultation elsewhere, two steeled-eye figures gazed at each other. The elder one dressed in a white coat with locked hands on top of the table. His name was Manrique, the village doctor, and the main reason for everybody to be healthy: nobody wanted to submit to his saw.

In front of him was Heriberto, the priest, who was rumored to have learned the office from Torquemada and the old inquisition. 

They were sanguinous enemies, the proud heirs of an ancient feud between science and religion that nobody else in Villaescanciada remembered.

Manrique started, with a blank expression. “I didn’t see any letter from the County council on Otilio’s desk.” 

“I don’t know what letter you are talking about. Otilio doesn’t have a two-page letter half hidden there.” The priest stopped corroborating, looking at some point behind his listener’s left ear.

A few seconds of uncomfortable silence brought the lack of information into each other’s thoughts.

“Indeed. It would be disloyal to suspect that Otilio would hide a six-digit grant. There isn’t a mayor vile enough to do such thing.”

“Otilio could take it personally if we doubted his morals.”

Some more staring before the conversation continued:

“Did you see the amount that wasn’t there in any letter?” Manrique asked.

“I did. And you, did you notice that there wasn’t any concept as to where that disbursement should go?”

“Of course not,” Manrique twisted his face in contempt. “It didn’t say anything in any letter.”

“We should then check with Otilio and ask, how come he hasn’t received any grant yet.”

“For the first time in your wretched life, you are right. What about the rest of the councilors? This is a big issue, should they know?”

A commanding knock threatened to break Otilio’s office door.

“Wait” he replied, hiding the papers littering his table in a drawer. “You can come in now.”

“Hello, Mayor” Manrique greeted him as the two conspirers entered.

“What brings you here?” Otilio replied coldly.

“You see Mayor,” said Heriberto, smiling wolfishly. “We have been talking and we were stricken that even though we in Villaescanciada are honest, hard-working people with exemplary behavior, we haven’t received any economical help from the County Council. It would be so handy to patch some problems in the village!”

Otilio gazed at them. He calibrated his chances and understood the looming certainty in those four confronting eyes. “The only time religion and science join forces is to screw me” he thought.

“You, hyenas…” he thought but he said. “You, dear citizens, know we are simple, yet proud people who don’t accept charity. We are self-sufficient…”, Seeing his speech wouldn’t lead anywhere, his demeanor changed to a defeated stare. “Did you tell anybody?”

“So, there was a grant!” Heriberto exploded, his eyes fixed on the wall. “What ignominy, keeping it from us, your trusted Councilors…!”

As Heriberto ranted, Manrique answered“Nobody else knows. Yet.” Otilio added. “There wasn’t any grant, however. None. What you think you saw was different, so stop trying to account for it it. However… since you are here, I will tell you about a concept that will boost your political careers.”

“What is it?” Manrique asked.

“Do you know about quantum fiscality?”

“A birth control plan?”

“Quantum, Heriberto. Q-U-A-N-T-U-M.” Otilio spelled.

Their expressions were answer enough.

“It is a novel, yet intriguing concept with plenty of practical applications; I will explain it slowly.” Otilio pulled a stash of bank notes from a drawer, letting them rest on top of the table. “Here are six thousand Euro. They exist at once in the Town Hall treasury and in your pockets, but only if they move fast enough and you don’t look at them. Now, shut your mouths and enjoy.”

Although the theoretical explanation didn’t find a welcoming neuron in the intruder’s brains, the practical aspect in the shape of bank notes cut an eight-lane highway to their pockets. Both men left the office, forgetting they had been there and any discussions about grants. The velvet night descended on Villaescanciada, clothing its neighbors in the placid dream of a day like any other.

Alejandro Fernandez is a Spanish writer looking forward to building a writing career. His first short story, “The Blackened Emerald”, will be published in the “Down in the Dirt” magazine in March 2024.

Sleeping is His Superpower 

by Cynthia Bernard

He can drop off anytime, it’s an easy, familiar trip; no need for a map or the Google lady, almost never any slowdowns on that road.

I live in a different kingdom, where sleep is a rumored destination almost never reached—the road meanders, forgets where it’s going; maps aplenty out there but I can’t seem to unfold them correctly, and there are so many detours along the way.

Bumpety-bump… a flat tire?

My little snort, not exactly a snore but not a delicate-princess sound either, jerks me away from the edge of sleep. Dream images, half-grasped, linger then fade: trying to steer from the passenger seat next to my Looney-Tunes mother who holds up a newspaper in front of her face and randomly presses the pedals…

Soft light diffuses though flowered curtains, speckling shadows on the wall. The wind sets aspen leaves quaking. Cawing crows argue above. He sleeps deep and long, fully surrendered, right leg thrown over the covers, one arm reaching up, the other down.

I lie there next to him, lost in a maze of half-paved streets, fighting the urge to drive up beside him and force him off the road.           

Cynthia Bernard is a woman in her early seventies who is finding her voice as a writer after many decades of silence. A long-time classroom teacher and a spiritual mentor, she lives and writes on a hill overlooking the ocean, about 25 miles south of San Francisco.

An Open Letter to Eowyn of Rohan, Regarding the Amazingness of Her Hair

by Rivka Crowbourne

Dear Mrs. Faramir:

Congratulations on your recent nuptials! It was a lovely wedding—obviously less lovely than Arwen and Aragorn’s, but lovelier than Samwise and Rosie’s by several tactfully understated orders of magnitude. And although one might quibble over the precise definition of “something borrowed,” it’s nice that you found a way of upcycling the Witch-King’s kneecaps.

And, speaking of everyone’s favorite ex-Nazgul—can we talk about your hair? Seconds before you-go-girling your opponent in his event horizon of a face, you doffed your helmet to reveal quite possibly the most luminous tresses this side of Numenor. I venture to touch on the subject because, despite my resorting to such extreme measures as occasionally not riding a horse for three full days with a steel pot on my head and then fighting elephants for an hour and a half, my own hair seems borderline frumpy next to yours.

Am I going about the whole thing wrong? Should I forgo shampoo and curlers in favor of tactical anti-pachyderm close-quarters combat? Is there some secret virtue in smelted haberdashery that brings out the luster in one’s locks? Perhaps the intense heat and pressure of trapped sweat fuses the sedimentary layers of hair into an obscure species of diamond, radiating feminine perfection when exposed to wraiths on smelly pterodactyls. Perhaps—just as the color we see in a physical object is actually the one color reflected away from that object—if one’s scalp becomes sufficiently unkempt, beauty bounces off it and becomes the attractive blonde photons that strike the retinas of outside observers. This hypothesis gains credence from the fact that your brother Eomer, who (presumably) spends even less time on his coiffure than you, has amazing hair as well. It could be sheer genetics, I suppose, but even Gimli turns out to be primed for GQ on the rare occasions when he de-helmets.

Is it the pipe-weed? It’s the pipe-weed, isn’t it! Theoden, of course, was unacquainted with hobbitic smoking habits—but you had Meriadoc in your saddle the whole way to Minas Tirith, hot-boxing you with second-hand fumes. Could Longbottom Leaf be the key to healthy follicles? The anti-tobacco lobby is not going to like this, Mrs. Faramir. Nor will my pulmonary apparatus thank you for my new practice of vaping into a hardhat on the way to work.

But I really mustn’t put the blame on you. Clearly, you just can’t help having infinitely gorgeous hair at all times, no matter how hard you try. It must be a terrible burden. Well, I’ve taken enough of your time. I hope your husband enjoys not being King of Gondor.

Rivka Crowbourne is an aspiring poet, an aspiring writer, and an aspiring master of the martial arts, who wishes you infinitely well. At time of writing, she is still vulnerable to handheld weapons.

The shape of things to come

by Glenis Ann Moore

You know how it is. Unable to sleep you are surveying the contents of Amazon when you catch sight of one of those ads and, before you realise it, you’ve ordered something alongside a paperback copy of Moby Dick to replace the one you dropped in the bath last week.

Your paperback arrives in days but, because your surprise purchase has to fight its way from the Far East, you forget about it until late one night when the door bell rings in the middle of a rerun of the original ‘Halloween’. You grab a frying pan and hesitantly open the door to find an Amazon box and a fast retreating white van.

Wary about opening an unknown box, but reluctant to phone the Bomb Squad, you peel off the layers of tape to find your purchase packed in six layers of bubble wrap. Your mind spirals – I can’t remember ordering this, but your Amazon order list reveals all.

That’s probably how I have ended up with a dog-shaped cushion that terrifies the cats and an ornate metal bird bath, which, in the summer, could stew a sparrow within thirty seconds of submergence, if any of our local sparrows were stupid enough to get in it. Luckily, in this cat infiltrated village, most sparrows would make a Mastermind contestant look senseless – I am sure that I’ve heard them discussing logical positivism over peanuts and pumpkin seeds late at night, but then insomnia does that to you!

Anyway, maybe that is now why my partner keeps my laptop shut away at night and stashes the key in some place known only to the sleepy. After all who knows what I might order tonight when sleeplessness and a lack of sugar kick in.

Glenis has been writing since the first Covid lockdown and does her writing at night as she suffers from severe insomnia. When she is not writing she makes beaded jewellery, reads, cycles and sometimes runs 10K races slowly. She lives, with her long-suffering partner and three cats, just outside Cambridge in the flat expanse of the UK Fens.

After S’mores

by Susan Gilbert Guerrant

My father sweats through his undershirt, perspiration rings blooming around his neck and underarms. He pounds in stakes with a rubber mallet, the final step in erecting a tent under the lone maple tree in our backyard. His efforts serve as a siren call to Linda White who lives in the house behind us, who I saw watching us through her upstairs window, who now beelines over to the fence dividing our yards. Linda believes herself a worldly ten and seldom find eight-year-old me worthy of notice, but on this hot afternoon, she pokes the toe of her dirty Ked though one of the fence links, slings her arms over the top metal rail and motions for me to come talk to her.

I approach her by hopping over on one foot and then another, all the while hoping that her attention is because she’s realized I’m someone who would be fun to play with. But even as I smile up at her, I understand it is probably the tent with its promise of outside sleepovers that accounts for her newly acquired enthusiasm for my company.

It turns out thought that Linda has a desire that goes way beyond wanting a new

friend or even a yen to sleep under the stars.

What Linda needs on this August day is an audience, an appreciative audience, an audience with the capacity to be stunned. She has recently come by some very important information. What’s more, her mother has told her not to talk about this very important information with anyone. So that afternoon while Linda is telling me my tent is “really neat” and asking do I want to come have cookies at her house, she is burning with missionary fire to share all she knows.

      Linda becomes my best friend for the day. She does feed me cookies at her house. And then she comes to my house and plays Monopoly with me. When I show her my bedroom, she is careful to compliment the evening gowns I’ve fashioned out of Kleenex and toilet paper for my collection of small stuffed lizards. Of course, after dinner, I ask if Linda can spend the night with me out in the tent.

      Once we are there, Linda is not given to subtleties. She has waited all day after all. So after we’ve eaten  s’mores, while we are lying on top of our sleeping bags listening to the sawing song of the crickets, Linda readies, aims, fires. “Do you know what men and women do?” 

      Well, I think, I’m no dummy. Dads fiddle around in their workshops, make coffee every morning and yell encouragement at the television whenever Joe Namath plays. Moms rearrange furniture, make cookies and talk to their friends on the phone while they wrap the long, curly cord around one finger and then the other. These scenes flit through my head like a soothing movie montage. But Linda cuts right into my little picture show and says, “The man sticks his wiener into her.” Assuming my stunned silence is interest, she elaborates.

            Like errant bullets, questions ricochet in my mind.  What?  What is she talking about?  Why am I here in this tent with her?  And oh god, what is she going to say next?

Linda has turned on her side, extended her elbow out and propped her head with her hand so she can study my response. I see her triumphant stare, so despite my ping-ponging thoughts, I glare right back at her and say, “You’re gross. And a liar. You’re a gross liar and you’re just making that up.”

      “Oh yeah?”  Linda says and pulls out her trump card. “My mother is the one who told me this.” She utters these words with such authoritative certainty that I know they are true. When I can’t think of anything to say, Linda takes advantage of my silence to reiterate, “His wiener . . . right into her.” 

      Later, we do tell ghost stories, but it’s a lackluster effort. I can’t whip up any real fear. I just can’t be spooked by haunted houses or the hook man, even if he does attack Girl Scouts who camp out. All I can think about is wieners.

      So the stories die out and soon Linda drifts into an easy slumber. The tent fills with the satisfied slow and even breathing of one whose mission has been accomplished while I stare out into the dark, turning Linda’s words over in my mind. Try as I might, I cannot imagine the mechanics of what she has described to me. Even more of a puzzle is why anyone would want to do such a thing. It just doesn’t make sense.

I listen to the tiny muffled thuds of June beetles and moths bouncing off of the tent’s canvas walls and wait for my eyelids to grow heavy. What finally comforts me and brings on the enveloping peace of sleep is the certainty that despite the fact that some people might do what Linda has described, normal people, specifically people like my mom and dad, would never, ever do such a thing. After all, I reason, they are my parents.

S. G. Guerrant is a giant book nerd who’ll read anything from Sedaris to Satre. She is a writer and library worker who lives in Charlottesville, Virginia. Her work has appeared in various venues including McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Albemarle and Salon.

Harrison’s Release

by Tessa Kjeldsdottir

I was giving the Qtip a final twirl when my cousin Jonny hollered up to tell me that Harrison had been released from prison. At first I’d heard “Harry’s song had greased the prism,” which made no sense at all. But then I remembered the Qtip in my one good ear.

I dropped the waxy cotton swab in the trash and hustled to the front door, which I keep locked all night to keep Jonny out of my supply of home-brew. Yep, screen and front doors were locked tight. But there was no one out front.

I turned then, and hustled into the kitchen. There, at the back door — also locked — Jonny was pressing his nose against the screen, his fingers spatulate on the wires, like a fly on lukewarm potato salad.

He looked worried.

I’d told him to always call first and give me a head’s up that he was coming, but he wouldn’t listen most times, and certainly not when he was in a panic, so I decided to unhook the latch straightaway. Jonny surprised me then by stepping back from the door, his nose cross-hatched with pollen and rust. He didn’t want to come in all of a sudden. It was like nothing I’d even seen before.

Jonny’s lip trembled, and for once, his words came out in a whisper, rather than a shout. “Harrison’s been released from prison, Mae. And he says he wants to see you, first thing.” He dug both hands into the front of his overalls, and scratched his bare chest nervously. “He says you’re holding onto the treasure and he wants his share.”

I pulled the screen door open and stepped out onto the porch. I noted the scree of crickets warming to the rising sun, in the long grass just past Maisie’s tire swing. Jonny’s story seemed like it made about as much sense as what I’d heard with that Qtip in my ear.

I cupped a hand around my good ear and leaned in. “What are you talking about? What treasure?” I must’ve hissed at him, because his eyes went wide and he stepped back.

Against my better judgment, I moved toward him and grabbed his bony shoulders. “Jonny, he swore to me he didn’t do the crime!” I shook him some, and his teeth—the few he still had—chattered in his head.

“I don’t know,” Jonny started to blubber, tears, snot and spit gathering on his chin. “But it can’t be good coming from Harrison.”

 “Merciful hemlock, Jonny!” I never could understand why Jonny was so frightened of Harrison, but there you have it. Jonny comes from a long line of men who tend to marry their first cousins. I guess I was lucky I’d met Harrison before cousin Jonny had hit full puberty.

“Where is Harrison now?” I let go his shoulders and pushed him away from me.

Jonny ran a hand over his close-shaven scalp and bit his lip, and peered up at me sidewise, his eyes slit and mean. “He’s on his way. Just you wait and see. You shoulda married me, Mae. I don’t give anybody any trouble. And I woulda been here for you…and for Maisie!”

“If I’d married you, Jonny, Maisie wouldn’t even exist,” I softened my voice and offered up a smile. Sometimes I forget that there’s basic goodness amidst all his foolishness. “And wouldn’t that be a crying shame? You love Maisie just like she was your own.”

“If she’d married you, Jonny, she’d have had an idiot child from an idiot husband.”

I turned around. Harrison stood in the shade of the kitchen, no smile on his handsome face. No lock could keep him out when he wanted in. Why did it surprise me that he jimmied our front door open without making a racket?

“Go home Jonny,” I pushed open the back screen door and stepped inside. “And thanks for the warning.”

 Jonny fled across the grass, arms now pulled out of his overalls and reaching toward the sunrise, his bare heels flashing in the growing light.

“Where’s my treasure?” Harrison growled.

“Maisie? She’s not up yet,” I eased the door closed behind me, “Can I fix you some breakfast? Or would you like something else?”

His eyes twinkled as he reached for me and pulled me into his arms.

Tessa Kjeldsdottir is a Midwest dabbler in fiction, folk and fairy tales, and poetry. Her work can be found in the occasional chapbook/anthology, but mostly on her flash blog and sketchbook, Valley of The under the pseudonym Liz Husebye Hartmann.

Front Desk

by Susan Whitlock

“What should I put for my address?” the chubby boyfriend, introduced as Trevor, asked. He stared at Beatrice with glazed, muddy brown eyes.

            “Excuse me?” she replied to his hundredth question.

            “ I never filled out a job application before. Do I put where I stay in Ada sometimes, or my girlfriend’s place here in Neosho?” he continued, tipping his head in the direction of the petite new housekeeper, Allison.

            Allison swallowed some emotional soup but said nothing.

            “Just put where you want your mail to arrive,” Beatrice said. “I really need to get this paperwork done.”

            Trevor was not impressed with her professional needs.

            “Well, I just don’t know. I never had a job, so this is all new to me.” His pasty white face was covered with perspiration, oozing oils, and a film of dust from the hot, Missouri streets.

            Beatrice attempted to ignore him now, busily typing in statistics for the general manager’s monthly report. She had just completed training for the assistant general manager position at Neosho Residence Inn.

            A sigh escaped her pretty, pouting lips.

            “What?!” Trevor glared at her, raising his voice so all the lobby could hear him. “Am I bothering you?”

            He emphasized this question by slamming his fist down on his application.

            “Do you have a problem with me because I am dating Allison? Is that it?”

            “Please, lower your voice,” Beatrice whispered, leaning over the front desk to calm him down by staring gently into his crazy eyes.

            “I am not shouting!” Trevor shouted. Now heads were turning to watch the drama unfolding in their hotel lobby. One grey-haired woman began fanning herself with her visitor’s guide.

            “Pipe down,” Glenna, Beatrice’s head housekeeper and favorite employee said. She was on her way to the laundry when she caught this blast from old Trevor.

            She glanced at Allison standing helplessly behind the front desk. They exchanged meaningful looks, which Beatrice made a mental note to investigate later.

            In the meantime, strange things were taking place in Trevor’s soul, evidenced by a little prancing in place and some random arm flings.

            “Sheeite! You are just like my last job…judging me and acting all high and mighty!”

            Spit was starting to fly from his foaming mouth and his eyes were beginning to bulge like a severe thyroid problem had evolved right there in her hotel.

            “I am confused,” Beatrice let slip, “I thought you said you never had a job before…”

            Trevor began jigging up and down, looking like the world’s oiliest marionette. A throbbing moan began issuing from his throat. Beatrice was reminded of her neighbor’s horrid pit bull, and she inched back a bit in self-defense. Allison inched with her, a little whine singing out from her own throat.

            “If you would just finish the application over in the dining area, Allison can take a few minutes to help you finish filling it out,” she offered the jittering boyfriend in a professional tone.

            Allison started to step around the desk to guide Trevor to the area indicated when a fresh storm began to swell his sails.

            “Oh, hell no!” he announced to one and all. “You mothers are not going to put that on me. Like I can’t fill out your damn application by myself. What do you think I am some moron or something?”

            His decibel level now was reaching people out on the front walk. Beatrice’s maintenance man, Tim, slipped through the automatic doors and glided over behind Trevor.

            “Keep it up, fat boy,” he growled. “The cops are on their way.”      

            Trevor whirled around, smashing into Allison, and sending her reeling. This caused Tim to grow about four inches and loom over Trevor, prepared to end this nonsense once and for all.

            “Tim!” Beatrice hissed, “Don’t do it.”

            Tim bristled but rocked back on his heels.

            “O, no, no, no, no way!” Trevor sputtered in response.

            His feet stopped dancing and began pedaling rapidly towards the doors. Bursting into the summer sauna, he crashed into his little Pinto, which he had left running at the curb. The key fob in his jeans pocket must have been accidentally depressed because the doors suddenly locked. Trevor spent frantic minutes alternately clawing at the door handle and screaming for the Pinto to let him in.

            Inside, Beatrice suddenly snorted in a knee-jerk amusement at these antics. The little cavalcade of onlookers moved as one person towards the glass doors and windows to watch the conclusion of this unexpected entertainment.

            Trevor’s head shot up at the sound of police sirens careening toward him in the distance. With one more forlorn look at his traitor car, he began racing like a madman down the street. His long, greasy braids were hip-hopping to some tune as they streamed along behind him. His gangster jeans began slipping downward, causing one hand to grip his back pocket, the other flailing over his heated head.

            Beatrice could not help it. A grin spread over her lips, over her cheeks, and wrapped around her soul. She began laughing merrily and simply returned to the front desk to finish her paperwork.           

            “Meth heads,” Tim sighed as he joined Beatrice at the front desk, “Gotta love ‘em.”

            “Do I now?” Beatrice hummed a bit as she clacked away at her keyboard.

            “Are we safe?” the granny inquired when she sidled over to join them.

            “Of course!” Beatrice assured her. “Here, a coupon for one coffee and a muffin at our bakery – for your trouble.”

            “Does this kind of thing happen a lot?” another guest asked, after receiving the extra towels he had come down for twenty minutes ago.

            Beatrice gazed straight-faced into the gentleman’s eyes and lied her head off.


            Her smile warmed the man, as did her sparkling eyes. This was her bailiwick – her forte – making people feel safe, welcomed: downright loved during their brief stopover from the road of their lives.

            This was her kingdom – Residence Inn. Neosho MO. Assistant general manager: Front Desk.

Susan Whitlock lives in southeastern Kansas. Grand Dame will publish her tale entitled The Archer’s Ball online on 7/11/22. Until Then, the Garden was published by Heimet online on April 15, 2023. Her first novel will be published by Indignor House in Spring 2024.

My first driving lesson

by Helga Gruendler-Schierloh

As a teenager — years ago — I often imagined how wonderful it must feel to operate a car. So, one day, an expectant smile on my face, I walked into a driving school.

After the formalities were completed, the receptionist handed me a timetable and wished me well, I was ready for my first hour of instructions. In those days that still meant learning how to handle a stick-shift.

A dark-haired young man — who resembled the star of a popular TV commercial —approached me with, “Hello, young lady. I’m your instructor.”

He motioned toward a light-green VW.  

His grand looks and charming demeanor already making my heart beat faster, the sight of the automobile increased my excitement even further.

I sank happily into the soft cushion of the passenger seat.

Leaving the city’s traffic jams behind, we arrived at a quiet road in the suburbs, where that long awaited magic moment finally became reality.

After the gentleman traded seats with me, I gripped the steering wheel.

Then I paid careful attention to my advisor’s explanations. And — SUCCESS—the vehicle screeched, hummed, and moved. A triumphant feeling flooded through me.  

When it was time to shift, I couldn’t find the gear lever. My foot slipped off the clutch, the car bolted forward — and stopped.

The instructor chuckled, then helped me restart the car. The engine hummed again, but my enthusiasm had sunk several degrees.

In addition, my instructor’s voice now went into overdrive:

“Keep to the right! Drive straight ahead! Don’t zig-zag! Avoid the ditch! Stay on the road! Shift, please! Ouch, that hurts my ears! Wrong gear! Turn on the blinkers before you turn! Watch out, there comes another car! Step on the brakes, now! Yes, but much less brutal!

Within the confines of one hour, that man had transformed from a fascinating prince charming into a nagging, yapping frog or, at the very least, into an insufferable grouch making irrational demands. Didn’t he realize I only possessed two hands and two feet?

As I was desperately fumbling through buttons, switches, and handles, my self-confidence took a nose-dive. Gone was my euphoric anticipation, destroyed my vision of zooming along at ease, and shattered my innocent faith in the desirability of technology.

Upon returning to the driving school, my head buzzed with anxiety, my body oozed with perspiration, and my knees shook.  

I decided right then and there I would never again be impressed with supposedly experienced drivers’ proclaiming how they were swinging themselves behind the wheel, gunning the engine till it roared, and then cruising along at 100 miles an hour.

When I eventually got my license and became the owner of some modest vehicle, I had been chastised into being a rather humble driver.

To this day, I calmly start the engine, allow it to warm up, then drive carefully, because:                      

“A car can be definitely useful,

that goes without much talking.

But if your nerves are frazzled,

You’d better stick to walking.”

Helga Gruendler-Schierloh is a bilingual writer with a degree in journalism. Her articles, essays, short stories, and poetry have appeared in the USA, the UK, Canada, and South Africa. Her debut novel, Burying Leo, a Me Too story, won second place in women’s fiction during Pen Craft Awards’ 2018 writing contest.