Short story: Are You Alienated (eleventh)

Valerie Castelberry again found herself goaded.  If she understood Emmett, she was the putative subject under discussion.  He invited Minta to join him in pretending that she had done something to these made-up people.  And all the time, she told herself, I was just sitting here.  Why can’t he leave? “Listen, you,” she began, and […]

Short story: Are You Alienated (tenth)

Mrs. Castelberry, in a despondent state, had sunken into her chair.  She stirred.  Possibly, she asked herself whether she ought to rally at this point, and let Emmett know what she thought.  However, he was quick to follow up his own question. “Well, after all, what was everyone terrorizing themselves over in the Cold War […]

Short story: Are You Alienated (ninth)

“Mom,” Minta said.  She had been skimming the hotel room literature. “You can get the chicken you had last night.”  Minta brandished a glossy item, which resembled an oversized postcard.  Its photos were of entrées—extending, like the rays of the sun, from a central oval. The featured image was of a smiling kitchen staff at […]

Short story: Are You Alienated (eighth)

“You,” Mrs. Castelberry tossed her phone away, onto the unoccupied bed.  “You…”  she said again, while Emmett regarded her with the polite forbearance of a party guest, confronted with a drunken bore, “…you dome-headed weirdo…” Emmett seemed delighted. He smiled with approval. “…just get out of our room.” Minta felt that she must throw her […]

Short story: Are You Alienated (seventh)

They heard a low, buzzing noise.  Slowly, it segued into a sustained tone; gradually, it took on an identifiably musical character.  The noise emanated from the nightstand between the two beds.  Mrs. Castelberry rolled her eyes.  She had her son to blame, however—he had customized his wife’s phone. Quentin, whose eyes were a watery blue, but whose […]

Short story: Are You Alienated (sixth)

“Do you use an Android?” He contrived an expression which combined condescension with distaste—a simultaneous half-smile and pursing of the lips. “I…don’t think so.” “I expect you do.  But give me your phone.  Have you ever paired it?” Minta rooted out her phone.  She found it buried beneath her purse organizer.  This, she thought, is […]

Short story: Are You Alienated (fifth)

Emmett unsnapped the breast-pocket of his cargo vest.  He slipped his phone inside.  “The Castelberry women,” he said, “are of Russian descent?” “No,” Minta answered, “I don’t think so.” “Ah. You merely wish to further your education with first-hand knowledge?” “What education?”  Valerie Castelberry rose to her feet.  She hadn’t foreseen John Emmett.  She had […]

Short story: Are You Alienated (fourth)

Now he looked directly at Minta, with a frank expression.  Meaning nothing, other than a reflexive friendliness, she nodded to him.  He approached her bench amid a display of unhurried busy-ness.  As he strolled, he looked down at his phone and tapped.  He had, attached to his belt, a slim, black, box-shaped gadget.  It whirred.   […]

Short story: Are You Alienated (third)

Their tour group tended to over-bundle against the weather; they tended to carry too many accessories; they were overweight, and many wheezed notably.  The lobby echoed.  Its ambient noise, minus the tour group, was much reduced.  Another voice—a voice of finicky enunciation and showy mannerism, encroached.  The voice grew louder as the man filming himself […]

Short story: Are You Alienated (second)

Minta’s mother-in-law had doubly secured her cross-body bag, zipping it beneath her polar fleece vest.  She wore pragmatic black yoga pants; the pants had sporty white stripes, but exigency had forced Mrs. Castelberry to allow the stripes.  Her traveling shoes were blunt and bloated; they might have been created by injecting foam insulation into a […]