Matt Potter ... writing, and then some

quirky stories, amusing and true ... or not

A TASTE OF 'THe GOOD GUEST'

 

... currently doing the submission rounds ...

 

Our backpacks sit between us on the soft black leather and already my fifty-six year-old hips are stiffening and begging for mercy.

from Carbon Footprint

 

“I married Kendalynn twice – twice! – and I still can’t figure out what makes her tick.”

from Deluge

 

My balls churn. I want to put my hand over her mouth but my hands are propping me up.

from Samoa

 

Magda snorts. “But Hugh, he does not know anything about business.”

from Favour

 

“Yabber yabber yabber.” Otto moves his hand like a mouthy sock puppet. Kendalynn stomps inside. The door slams.

from Pile

 

The tide is high – I think, I’m not quite sure, tides and the moon were never strong points – but who cares?

from Morning

 

“But it is better to be a whole woman,” Magda says, “and not just tits.”

from Sugar-whacked

 

I watch Magda’s biceps stretch and contract as the iron steams across the thick fabric, under then over the cuffs, along the fly, deep into the crotch.

from Smoking Gun

 

The engine revs under Otto’s foot and I smell that most rarified of things, BMW exhaust.

from Destination

 

“Now let’s get to the good stuff,” Otto says, splashing wine into our glasses, “and not waste it on those who don’t appreciate it.”

from Scarf

 

I went out with six girls in Uganda. I had a terrible time.

from Lights Out

 

“Ah, you can’t knock lamb, Magda,” says Otto. “Australia was built on the sheep’s back.”

from Carbon Footprint

 

But it’s Magda and her spoken-word memories of our first date that keep me stony-faced.

from Popular

 

I put my hands in my pockets. My car keys would normally be in the right pocket and my mobile in the left, but now, they’re empty. “The tide will come and take it out to sea.”

from Morning

 

“No, no,” Kendalynn says, holding a grapefruit half with her fingers. “The salt brings out the acid. It’s very refreshing.”

from Sugar-whacked

 

I never know what that means but Magda snaps her mobile shut, stands up and looks directly at me. “Kaffee?”

from Schmutzig

 

We all – except Magda – bow our heads, and study the text hoping it will provide us with some salvation.

from Shiraz

 

“But it is now a new year and we must celebrate it.” “A new year where?” “In Samoa.” “American Samoa or the former Western Samoa?”

from Samoa

 

“People think I am crazy, but I was not crazy before I lived in this country,” Magda says, throwing her sweaty t-shirt on the floor.

from What you see is what you get

 

At fifty-four years old (as I was then), I knew I did not want to look like an ageing cipher, beaten down by habit and expectation and timetables and grind.

from Ein Ausflügler in Schwerin

 

In the faded photo I’m in the back row, wavy blond shoulder-length mid-’70’s hair, toothy grin, eyes smiling at the camera. Otto stands beside me, carrot-top shaggy over a scraggly orange beard.

from The eyes have it

 

Hands resting by my side, my chest rises and falls. And rises. And falls. I’m half-asleep already, and hear a sort-of half-mumble behind my breathing.

from Favour

 

I pick my backpack up from the kerb and sling it over my shoulder. Pushing my hand in my shorts pocket, my fingers find the door key. I should go inside.

from Destination

 

“It could be an heirloom,” I added, knowing I sounded like a kid offering reasons for staying up past his bedtime. “It could be the key to someone’s future.”

from Penguin

 

“… but I’m just looking to … I need to do something.” And he shakes his head again, and mutters, “I’m not dead yet.”

from Popular

 

Magda stops and looks at Otto. Towering over him, iron in hand, cord unfurling, she could easily drop the hot iron in his lap or sear it into his face.

from Smoking Gun

 

“I know nothing by Australian fashions.” But her tone is soft and she sounds … well, interested. “I love all the bright colours in Australia but I cannot wear them.”

from Build

 

Straining to listen to her conversation, I strain just as much to appear casual – wiping my forehead with the back of my hand and touching the sweaty tip of my nose with a crooked knuckle – while listening.

from Schmutzig

 

I stick my head inside the pantry and she’s not tucked away there either, getting her fill of cardboard.

from Zapped! again

 

“Please leave your Handy number on the table, if you would like. The subway arrives every three minutes at Mohrenstraße.”

from Schokolade

 

“What do you give German women for their birthday?” He slurs on the word German, so it sounds more like Geeerrrrrrrrmannn.

from Deluge

 

I lay the novel on the chest of drawers beside me and look at the shadows the light makes on the folds of Magda’s white shorts.

from Lights Out

 

“Trudy, you had better say NO! She’s my ex- and I don’t care how many days it’s been.”

from Kids

 

“Yeah, yeah,” the woman says, the most non-committal yeah I’ve heard all month, and scratches her head, the peroxide ends fluttering as the dark roots fly open.

from With a sea view

 

“I was the one who came out first,” Valerie says. “Whoever said imitation is the sincerest form of flattery is full of the sincerest shit.”

from Broken

 

Magda is being the crazy foreign woman from Germany again. Maybe she is the crazy foreign woman from Germany.

from Shiraz

 

“I’ll have to keep my product knowledge up-to-date when the new venture starts up,” Kendalynn adds. And looking at me, she shrugs her shoulders and gives a goofy grin. “It’s really the beginning of something big.”

from Dream

 

Her eyes, so clear, showed no trace of tears now. But her chin quivered, just a little. “Do you want me to be coming with you?”

from Am Gendarmenmarkt

 

Magda nods. She’s not up to speaking yet, but a nod is a nod in the right direction.

from Hardware

 

She sighs, and walking beside me, but just far enough away to create an uncomfortable space, she says, “But I am not such a mother.”

from In Memoriam

 

“Never trust a hungry nun,” Magda says.

from The Apple of a Nun’s Eye

 

I look at Magda. She hasn’t contributed a word to the conversation, eyes on her plate, knife and fork deliberate through her food, morsel by morsel.

from Cream

 

The sun glints off Magda’s new ring, her left hand flashing with each swing, her Leica dangling from the string looped round her right. She is mistress of her own destiny, one foot in front of the other striding ahead.

from Penguin

 

“I could not understand his voice,” she says. “Twenty years I am speaking English and no words of his I can understand.”

from Indian

 

She smiled. “But your accent does not sound like an Australian accent.” “But it is,” I said. “Just not the Australian accent you are used to.”

from Schokolade

 

“Two days ago you said kids fuck up your life and break your heart.” “Nah, but that was Friday, mate,” he says, his hand swatting a fly from his face.

from With a sea view

 

Magda snorts. “My daughter knows but she is thousands of kilometres in Munich making designs for things people will not wear. So she gives them to me.”

from Scarf

 

We need to go and see someone about something.” Someone about something? And kids? Where did kids come from?

from Kids

 

I hear the distant clinking of china and glass and Magda from the kitchen as Kendalynn asks, “What do you think about expanding into yellow?”

from Zapped! again

 

Otto struts ahead, a king in his kingdom, except he abdicated and anyway, this hardware chain was never his to call his own.

from Hardware

 

The waitress looks at me for confirmation. “A flat white, she means,” I say, spotting a trainee badge above her shirt pocket.

from Coffee

 

The door clicks shut. Their voices mute and disappear, and I’m left to contemplate the ceiling and the morning and the rest of my life.

from Communication is the key

 

“I hope we won’t be disappointed,” she says. “It’s good luck to see a nun on Sunday.”

from The Apple of a Nun’s Eye

 

“I can’t believe he didn’t take the money,” says Valerie, shrugging her shoulders. “His luck’s already started to run out.”

from Dream

 

“And what about you, son?” Otto only calls me son when dispensing advice about love or career or money or politics or marriage or business or life. Even though we’re the same age.

from Pile

 

Oh god, I think, this is one of those Oedipal / Elektra moments when … well, maybe the myths and legends are mixed up but still, it’s sticky, and I was there at Trudy’s tenth birthday party, twenty plus years ago …

from Cream

 

More steps and I’m down on the next terrace, green and spongy, and further down the garden, on the bottom terrace, I see the top of Magda’s blonde head.

from In Memoriam

 

“Oh Otto, what?” he snaps, kicking the door closed with his foot. “What have I done now?”

from Ming

 

She handed one to her husband, then pulled down her own tray table. Each peeling off the plastic, they bit into them, the Schrippen yawning open and, as I expected, revealing cheese and sliced meat.

from Ein Ausflügler in Schwerin

 

“I’m not convinced she’s a lesbian,” says Valerie, now changed into black Spandex pedal-pushers, a pink and orange striped t-shirt and a glimpse of eyeliner at the end of her eyelids.

from Broken

 

“Oh, it’s terribly creased,” Kendalynn says, smoothing it with her hand. “Vanaemake used to dampen it and iron it flat on the table.”

from Ming

 

“Indian or Chinese?” says Kendalynn, sitting in a large floral armchair by the window, takeaway menus in her manicured hands. “Or” – she flips the third menu over – “Chinese-Indian.”

from The eyes have it

 

The morning sun shone down Mohrenstraße behind her and I wondered how I might have broached the subject better.

from Am Gendarmenmarkt

 

“Can we talk about this?” I said, but how do you talk to someone who won’t even look at you?

from Communication is the key

 

“She’s sweet,” Valerie sighs, drumming her fingers on the table, watching her disappear. “I think I know her.”

from Coffee

 

He disappears into the twilight as I close the door. Even with his back turned I still can’t place him.

from Indian

 

Magda tucks her head back into her book – Isaac Asimov, but in German – while Kendalynn pushes her diamante sunglasses further along her nose and opens a magazine on her lap. I look at the sea.

from Build

 

A little later, she rolls off me, hair stuck to her forehead. She always works up quite a sweat before she comes.

from What you see is what you get

 

“She got it from the internet,” I say. “It’s called a Zapper. It zaps things.”

from Glass

 

And I sit in the loveseat, my open palms soft on the red velvet, and remember the vase had a chip in it anyway.

from Ming

 

Otto shakes his head. “You can’t afford to put petrol in your car to get here, but you’re wasting money on shit you buy on the internet?”

from Glass  

 

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