32 comments

Friendship Funny

“You have any idea how this section is organised?” I ask, looking at the shelves lined with slim, emerald-coloured boxes that remind me of DVD cases. I pick one at random and read the label, ‘SER-☘️-🐕’


“Hannah, I just work in the cafe here, I'm not a librarian," Lyra says, running pale fingers through her spiky purple hair.


“Ladies, this is the Quiet Zone,” says a woman in a fitted grey suit with matching grey hair, pointing a dove-grey fingernail to the sign above our heads.


I look up at the sign, then down to her name tag. “Sorry, Agnes. I can’t figure out how this is organised.”


Her slate eyes assess me.


“Uh, maybe you could help?”


“Fine,” Agnes says. “Follow me…quietly.”


We reach a large, silver-framed graphic attached to a wall. It’s a matrix with rows and columns, ranging from softer colours on the left that deepen into darker, more vibrant colours on the right. And strange symbols at the head of each column.


“This is Melinoe’s periodic table to the unconscious,” Agnes says, standing on the left side of the graphic. “Named after Melinoe Göttin, who catalogued and cross-referenced common motifs, symbols and settings, across millions of dreams to create a Dewey Decimal system of Dreams.”


“It’s beautiful,” I whisper.


“You’re such a dork.” Lyra says, “You think spreadsheets are sexy.”


“Each row represents a motif. This row,” Agnes says, tracing a path from sea-foam green through to emerald, moss, and ending in an inky seaweed green, “represents Serendipity. It includes Chance, Happenstance and Luck.”


“Oh, is that why the cases were all emerald green?” I ask, “We must have wandered into the Serendipity section.”


“Across the top, the columns catalogue symbols and shapes.”


“Why is there a naked dude?” Lyra asks, pointing to a genericised image of a human body. 


“That refers to the dreamer’s body, or parts the body. Eyes, teeth, hands.”


“There was a shamrock and a dog on the case I picked up.”


“That refers to Luck, as the motif, combined with animal symbology, and dogs in particular.”


“Alright, so let’s say my friend wanted some, uh, alone time, with Santiago Cabrera…” Lyra begins.


“Lyra!”


“What? I didn’t say that you were the friend who wanted some sexy time with—"


“We don’t stock dreams with specific people, for obvious reasons.” Agnes says.


“Hannah, for sure we can get that on the black market. My friend Cyrus has a dark web—”


“Though you can select regions, like Spain, or professions, such as Musketeer, painter, or pilot of a space ship.” Agnes says, a hint of a smile flickering.


“Okay, well, thanks for explaining that. I think I’ll just go for a book this time,” I stammer, as I lead Lyra into the Bestsellers section.


“Right, your turn to pick,” I say. “Surprise me. But nothing too heavy or horror-y.”


I sit on a plush yellow chair as Lyra scans the tables stacked with books. We have very different tastes in movies, books, and men, but she knows what I like and I trust her to pick something interesting that I’d never pick for myself.


“Jackpot,” she says, tucking two books into a cloth bag and handing it to me. “No looking till you sign them out.”


We head to the check-out area, waiting in a single line that’s serviced by two librarians, one man and one woman, each standing behind a desk.


“Look,” Lyra whispers, jabbing me in the ribs with a sharp elbow.


“Ouch!” I shout. The customers in front turn to look at me. “Sorry,” I mumble.


“That’s HIM,” she says, nodding toward the male librarian, a slim man with curly brown hair and blue eyes. “The guy who worked at the used book store. The one you had a huge crush on but were too chickenshit to ask out.”


“Yeah,” I croak, my throat suddenly dry, my heart racing. I figure I have a 50-50 chance of not having to talk to him. 


“You know, he looks a LOT like Santiago Cabrera. Except for the eye colour, he could be his twin.”


“Yeah.”


We’re next in line and I’ve got everything crossed, hoping I won't land at the desk of Mr. Cabrera’s American doppelgänger.


“Next,” calls out the woman. I nearly collapse with relief as I start towards her. But Lyra pushes me out of the way, turning to wink as she reaches her desk.


I’m backtracking a few steps when I hear him say, “Next.”


He’s looking at me with a soft smile. I’m not sure my legs are strong enough to walk the five steps over to him.


“Did you find everything you wanted?” he asks.


“I uh, yeah.” I say, noticing his name tag, Ethan. I place the bag on the desk and reach inside. Our hands brush against each other as we grasp the same book. I withdraw mine, blood rushing to my cheeks, skin tingling.


“I remember you.” he says, the scanner making a single beep as he draws it across the bar code. “You came into my book shop last September, asking for A Confederacy of Dunces. You were wearing a white skirt.”


I stare mutely back.


“The next time you came in, you were wearing a blue sundress, and said you were ‘just browsing.’”


“I like old books,” I say, finally getting some control over my mouth and vocal cords. “I love the smell of used book stores.”


“Me too. It’s the scent of all those accumulated lives, packed together in one space.”


I notice Lyra sitting in a chair near the check-out area, gazing intently at my interactions with Ethan.


“Hey, let me know if this is any good,” he says, as he turns the biography of Santiago Cabrera over in his hands. “People have said I look like him, can you believe that?”


“Oh, oh no," I say, glancing over at Lyra. She smiles devilishly.


“You don’t see a resemblance?” he asks, holding the book up to his face, so that Mr. Cabrera’s visage is next to his.


“I, yes. Yes, there’s a striking resemblance. If you ever get a movie made of your life, he should definitely play you,” I laugh, relaxing just a bit.


“This is a good book,” Ethan says, as scans the second one. “Your partner is very lucky.”


“My, what? I don’t have a partner,” I say, squinting at the title of the book in Ethan’s hand. Sexual Energy Ecstasy: A Practical Guide to Lovemaking Secrets of the East and West.


If I could kill Lyra with a stare, she would be a smoking pile of ash now. Instead, she waves and smiles and gives a thumbs up. A third beep interrupts my homicidal thoughts. I whip back to face Ethan. He’s scanning a green case. Lyra must have grabbed it from the Dream section when I wasn’t looking.


“What’s that?” I ask, dreading the answer.


“It’s a dream,” he says, raising one eyebrow, “about getting lucky with a librarian.”


I wish for a chasm to open in the floor and swallow me whole. My humiliation is now complete.


He slides the bag back to me. I can’t meet his eyes. I mumble thanks and drag it off the desk, but it snags on something. Ethan is holding onto one of the handles.


“If that dream doesn’t work, I’ll be here tomorrow. I finish at five."

April 25, 2021 12:42

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32 comments

Kristin Neubauer
14:23 May 01, 2021

You are such a good writer that I actually Googled "Melinoe’s periodic table to the unconscious" to see if it was real - you had me that convinced. Such a creative concept and idea and so expertly described - I could see it clearly. The story itself was great.....very natural and flowing dialogue. I could feel and identify with the narrator's embarrassment (I think we've all been there) and I loved the last line. I loved it all!

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H L Mc Quaid
14:46 May 01, 2021

Ha, thanks Kristin. I feel better now about the time I spent (a few weeks ago, when I was working on a different story idea) trying to figure out what a map of dreams might look like. I actually sketched a table in my notebook, and interrogated the table of contents of 'The Secret Language of Dreams: A visual key to dreams and their meanings' to discern some possible categories for motifs and symbols. Thought I'd try out that idea in this story, so I'm chuffed you could picture it so clearly, and even wonder if it was a real thing. Glad yo...

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Beth Connor
21:06 Apr 30, 2021

So fun and playful, and a Melinoe cameo at that! It looks like I have a bunch of your stories to catch up on, and another shortlist. That is so exciting!

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H L Mc Quaid
08:36 May 01, 2021

This story may have been an antidote to the last one (Rooted), which got quite grim in places. Glad you liked it.

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Michael Boquet
14:26 Apr 30, 2021

A strong concept that slowly develops into a cute and flirtatious conclusion. Very well done. I loved the friendship between the two girls. It came across as very warm and real. One spot I noticed, you're missing italics and capitalization on the 'a' in the book title: "asking for a Confederacy of Dunces" ... That's my all time favorite book by the way!

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H L Mc Quaid
08:37 May 01, 2021

Hi Michael, thanks for catching the typo. That's one of my favourite books too! I'm just started re-reading it (maybe for the third time?). Thanks for reading and helping. :)

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Claire Lewis
21:44 Apr 29, 2021

You certainly ended this one with a bang 😉 I love it! Lots of very clever stuff here, the witty kind of humor that’s my absolute favorite. The playful banter and dialogue throughout was fabulous. Also—Melinoe’s back!! Quite excited to see her again even if just for a moment. A couple minor tweaks to consider: “Oh, oh no.” I say... Should be a comma after no “People have said I look like him, can you believe?” Maybe add a ‘that’ at the end of this sentence, it feels a bit more natural

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H L Mc Quaid
21:58 Apr 29, 2021

Claire, thank you! I've made those edits. Glad you found it amusing. It's a bit of cotton candy this time round, till I feel inspired to write something more serious. ;)

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Nina Chyll
19:00 Apr 29, 2021

If that wasn’t an exciting punchline, then I don’t know what is! A really cool story. Again I feel like lots more words could be written easily, here specifically on the dream twist - a beautiful idea and I’d very much enjoy seeing it explored some more. There was one point in the dialogue which I found not so convincing in an otherwise natural and lovely exchange throughout, which was when the librarian says why he likes the smell of old books - I am really picking here though.

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H L Mc Quaid
19:14 Apr 29, 2021

Thanks, Nina. I would like to do a story on the dream map as a focus. Just a matter of finding a prompt that will work. As for the dialogue, I was thinking of a few people who talk like that (they get poetic describing books, book stores, etc.), but I can also see why it may not feel as natural as the rest of the dialogue, because it is more prose-like, and less functional. Thanks again for your comments, I appreciate your perspective. :)

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Nina Chyll
20:09 Apr 29, 2021

It may be that I’ve just never known anyone quite that lofty, so there ya go. Forgot to mention in the initial comment that the dream part made me think of The Shadow of the Wind, and I love that novel.

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H L Mc Quaid
21:51 Apr 29, 2021

Thanks for the book recommendation, I've not heard of that, so will check it out. :) And I've tried to make the dialogue a little less lofty.

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Ash Jarvis
21:05 Apr 28, 2021

This worked beautifully, from beginning to end, and the idea of being able to check out dreams from the library is delightful. I loved the playful relationship between the Lyra and the narrator, which had just the right about of trust and teasing. As other readers said, the dialogue was spot on! I really enjoyed this (and hearing from Melinoe again)!

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H L Mc Quaid
14:32 Apr 29, 2021

Thanks, Ash. Glad you liked it. :) I'd like to write a story with Melinoe as a central figure again...but waiting for a prompt that inspires me in that direction.

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Rachel Loughran
12:53 Apr 27, 2021

I loved this! You are a deft hand at comedy (another feather in your cap) and the dialogue in this was pitch perfect.

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H L Mc Quaid
13:26 Apr 27, 2021

thank you so much. My first story on here was a comedy, and it's what I naturally gravitate towards, so it's a relief that you think I have some skill there. Because frankly, there are few things more cringe-worthy than trying to a write a comedy and failing. ;)

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Rachel Loughran
13:48 Apr 27, 2021

Tell me about it! When I started writing many many moons ago on old fanfiction.net, I wrote mostly comedy as well - I seem to have two modes, comedy and tragedy, and the comedy is thin on the ground lately! This was great though Heather, I can't wait to read more funnies from you.

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H L Mc Quaid
13:47 Apr 28, 2021

What kind of stuff did you write on fanfiction.net? I'm sure you'll see more (attempts at) comedy from me, as I usually have to force myself to write something serious/dark/meaningful. ;)

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Rachel Loughran
14:10 Apr 28, 2021

This and that, but my most successful one was an epic Fred n George Weasley romp called 200 Things I'm Not Allowed To Do At Hogwarts. I wrote like ten chapters in the first year when I was about 15, just filled with stupid little scenarios of rules they broke and then I've taken literally a full decade to randomly update the subsequent chapters, so as you can imagine there's a fair shift in quality over the (holy crap) 13 years since I wrote the first chapter. But it's cosy, I dunno. I wrote a chapter last year during lockdown and it was lik...

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H L Mc Quaid
14:44 Apr 28, 2021

Yeah, that would be interesting (anything I wrote at 15 would be cringe-worthy, but then I was a late bloomer so...). That project must feel like a family member by now. :)

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Rachel Smith
12:07 Apr 26, 2021

Awwww this was so cute! I loved it. The dialogue was great and I really felt her embarrassment, I think I blushed myself! A lovely read.

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H L Mc Quaid
14:06 Apr 26, 2021

Thanks, Rachel. I felt like writing something lighter this week, glad you enjoyed it. :)

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Ellie Yu
15:04 Apr 25, 2021

I love the playful tone of this piece! The characters play off each other perfectly, and the dialogue is basically flawless. I also really like the idea of a Dewey Decimal system of dreams - honestly I’d love to see it. Thanks for posting! I really enjoyed this.

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H L Mc Quaid
15:13 Apr 25, 2021

Thanks, Ellie! I used the 'The Secret Language of Dreams: A visual key to dreams and their meanings' as inspiration. I wondered what a periodic table of the unconscious might look like, it's definitely a task for Melinoe (goddess of dreams and nightmares), so who knows, she may reappear if there's a suitable prompt. :)

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Frances Reine
14:42 Apr 25, 2021

Melinoe! Even though it was brief I needed that haha. A whole lot of funny in this one. Typos: -“Hannah, I just work in the cafe here, I'm not librarian." ('a') -“The guy who worked at the used book store. The one you had a huge crush on but were to chickenshit to ask out.” (too chickenshit) -Michael is holding on to one of the handles. (I THINK it's 'onto' but not 100% sure) Other suggestion: -“Though you can select regions, such as Spain, or professions, such as Musketeer, painter, or pilot of a space ship.” Agnes says, a hint of a smi...

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H L Mc Quaid
14:55 Apr 25, 2021

Brilliant! thank you. I've made those changes, thanks to your sharp eyes. I see this as a little feather of a story, that may blow away in the breeze, as there's not much holding it down, but I'm glad you liked the dialogue, and the reference to Melinoe. Might be another story someday, about her creating the map of dreams. :)

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Frances Reine
14:57 Apr 25, 2021

THAT would be wonderful :)

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H L Mc Quaid
12:47 Apr 25, 2021

Something light and fun. :)

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Charlie Murphy
01:32 May 05, 2021

GREAT JOB! It was funny and creative! I like the banter between Lyra and Hannah! You should write another story with these two characters! If you want, read mine, "The Librarian and the Baby."

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H L Mc Quaid
07:56 May 05, 2021

Hi Charlie, Thanks for stopping by. I'm glad you liked the story. Some characters have appeared in few stories..so who knows? Maybe Lyra and Hannah will too. I've left a note on your story, btw. Thanks again for reading and commenting. :)

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