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Short Stories 365:308

It's been a rough couple of days here at Casa Smith. On Sunday night, I was to deliver a large presentation with two other managers to three stores worth of staff. Public speaking, as you know, doesn't bother me at all, and I had a few days to go over the notes and make sure I had it down pat beforehand.

Friday night, however, the power went out at the mall. And it went out spectacularly, in a rapid-fire series of six on-and-offs that fried a lot of the electrical stuff in the mall, including (but not limited to) my store network.

Which made - among almost every other part of our job - downloading said slide-show a bit problematic. I figured we'd be back online in a day, so I called it in, waited... And waited... And eventually was told maybe by Monday afternoon - the day after my meeting - someone could fix it.

Lots of emails (on my phone) later, I had another way to get the slideshow, which I downloaded onto my lap-top the night before the meeting. Fine. I had a day, which wasn't as much as I usually like to prepare, but I'm okay. Except for the runny nose. And the cough. And the sinus pressure... Wait. Crap.

I couldn't delay the meeting, so sick or not it was going forward. I slept in as much as I could that day, gathered all my stuff and set out (via the Sunday buses) to my store. Another manager was swinging by the local large-format store to get the projector and screen, which was indeed what she did - she didn't, however, bring any sort of cables.

So, sick, sore-throated, and perhaps less-than-enthused to be up and about, I did the presentation sans slides, with a whole lot of describing, explaining, and examples going on-the-fly. And my head - and my stomach - just got worse and worse. Post-meeting, it took a good half-hour to tidy back up, and then lug all the stuff back to the store that we'd brought up for the meeting, and then I got to bus my way back home... I started to feel hot. Then cold. Then nauseous. I crawled into the spare bedroom bed and crashed, thinking I'd feel better in the morning.

A world of no.

I called in sick this morning after barfing - and then realized that because the network was still down I really needed to approve payroll some other way, so I hauled my ass to the closest store within reach and begged them for twenty minutes on their functional network to do my payroll. Then I came home, put on my jammies, and fell asleep.

Hopefully I'm feeling recovered tomorrow. I usually ricochet through symptoms quickly, and I certainly feel much better now. And I sincerely hope there's a network in place tomorrow when I get to work.

The last couple of days have been straight out of one of those anxiety "I can't accomplish anything!" nightmares.

"Acquired Taste," by William Holden

Speaking of nightmares! Okay, if you've been following these Short Stories 365 entries this year, you'll already know that when you see William Holden's name pop up in an anthology, you might want to pause, check that you're not about to go to bed, and ensure that there are many lights brightly lit. His stories generally serve up a slice of something dark alongside the erotic, and as a confirmed horror wuss, I've learned my lesson.

So, even expecting it, "Acquired Taste" manages to deliver a shivery slap to the face.

Dean is out with his partner at a restaurant and the food is just increadible. It's so incredible, in fact, he's having a hard time controlling his reactions to it. His partner, annoyed at how little he is paying attention, steps outside for a smoke, and Dean starts to notice other men in the restaurant are having the same - uh - reaction to the dishes. And just through the doors to the kitchen, there's a tattooed man that really captures Dean's attention. It can't hurt to have a taste, can it?

I've said it before, but The Dirty Diner has such a larger range than you'd imagine when you first pick it up. And this dark dish is delivered by Holden with aplomb.