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Authors: Sharon Lee

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Variations Three




modern short

with a different point of



Sharon Lee


Pinbeam Books






This is a work of fiction. All the
characters and events portrayed in this novel are fiction or are
used fictitiously.





Copyright ©1996, 2011 by Sharon Lee.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced
or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or
mechanical, without permission in writing from the author. Please
remember that distributing an author's work without permission or
payment is theft; and that the authors whose works sell best are
those most likely to let us publish more of their works.

First published in November 1996 by
SRM, Publisher.


Coffeecat first apeared in Owlflight
No. 5




Kindle: 978-1-935224-60-0

Epub: 978-1-935224-61-7

PDF: 978-1-935224-62-4


Published May 2011 by

Pinbeam Books

PO Box 707

Waterville ME 04903

email [email protected]



Variations Three




Discover other titles by Sharon Lee, Steve
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of this author




Sharon Lee



"That’s easy for you to say! After all,
you’re a cat. Highest level of evolution and all that. Just back
among us mere mortals for one more incarnation, to prove to the
Eternal All that you finally and for all time have gotten your act


"Hey, don’t get sore; I didn’t mean anything
by it. Monkeys are bad-tempered, is all--especially when they can’t
get their paws around their morning coffee. How’m I supposed to
create, I ask you, without coffee?"

A pause which the cat refused to fill,

"Listen, cat, there’s a theory--genuine
scientific stuff, now, done proper--that makes coffee the Prime
Motivator, the creative force of the Universe: ‘In the Beginning,
there was Coffee, complete unto Itself. But, in the fullness of
Time, Coffee became lonely and called into being Cream and Sugar--’
You listening to me?"

But the cat had followed the rays of the
early morning sun and now sat in the center of a lightpool,
unconcernedly washing its toes.

The Magician sighed and returned his
attention to his worktable, empty except for two objects. One was
an outsize and very empty earthenware coffee mug.

The other was a common tree toad. It blinked
at the Magician, bemused.

The Magician blinked back, made a few
properly mystic passes, muttered a word that may have been
’echranstratz.’ The toad vanished.

The coffee mug remained empty, a comment on
the amount of joy to be found in the Magician’s universe at that
particular moment.

The Magician therefore settled his hat
tightly on his head, pushed back his sleeves and Strove. He made
many mystic passes, accompanied by many words, some of which may
have been ‘echranstratz’--


The cat paused in its toilet to stare
reproachfully at the Magician, who, in his turn, stared at his
littered worktable. He was talking to himself.

"A jack ball. Three robin-egg rubies. A
ticket to the 1965 World Series--upper reserve. A brass lamp. Two
ingots of gold and one of--silver?--no, platinum. Fourteen velvet
hair ribbons. One raccoon’s tail. A coupon for one free anchovy and
green pepper pizza. And still it’s empty, empty, EMPTY! Gods, what
do I have to do to get a cup of COFFEE in this joint?!"

So saying, he hurled his pointed hat against
the nearest wall, wrapped his arms wildly around his chest,
screamed a word that was definitely NOT ‘echranstratz’and vanished
with a craack in a cloud of black smoke.

The cat finished washing his face, sat for a
moment, staring at nothing, and then strolled across the room to
the worktable. A light leap, a dainty landing. He pointedly ignored
the jack ball, played a brief game of bat-about with a ruby until
he lost it to the floor; stropped himself on the lamp and, at last,
walked over to glance, with great incuriosity, inside the coffee
mug. Then he stretched, yawned and left the table in search of a
sunny sill in which to nap.

Presently the steam rising from the mug on
the worktable filled the empty room with rich, brown aroma.



First published in Owlflight #5, 1986






The AfterImage

Sharon Lee


"ALL MY LIFE I’ve avoided bathing suits, and
now this!" The blonde pulled irritably at the strip of spandex
spanning her ample ass and sighed gustily.

Privately, Brandi agreed. The only thing
that kept her from bolting was the thought of the scholarship
money. "Harvard Business School," she said to herself reverently,
and felt her courage rise even as she avoided looking into the
full-length mirror.

Besides, Trish had hidden her clothes.

"Just a precaution, darling," her svelte and
stylish manager had gushed. "Can’t have the fans mauling your


"Harvard Business School," she repeated,
barely aware of the murmur of her voice.

"Huh?" The blonde turned toward her. "You
say something?"

Brandi started. "Oh! Just that this is the
worst part, isn’t it? My manager says the BeforeVid is always a
skag. She says that the thing to do is to keep the AfterImage in
the front brain. She said to look in the mirror and tell myself,
’This is the last time I’m going to have to appear in public like
this, ever.’ "

The blonde laughed. "Pretty good."

She faced her mirror, hands on jiggling
hips, thrust out her barely-restrained tits and announced, "This is
the last by-God time I’m going to have to look at that fat bitch in
my life. Amen." She laughed again and blew a kiss to her reflection
before turning back to Brandi. "Your turn, sugar. Kiss that puppy

Reluctantly, Brandi aligned herself with the
mirror; looked up and caught the reflection’s dark gaze. Nice eyes,
she allowed. I’ve always had nice eyes. Not that anyone could see
them through the glare of her glasses; not that she could see
anything without the glasses. She was among the rare half-percent
of the world population with eyes too sensitive to tolerate contact
lenses. Nano-tech could have repaired the myopia in three weeks.
But nano-tech was fabulously expensive.

The Miss-New-You Beauty Contest was cheaper.
Even if you did have to make the BeforeVid. You got to keep the
new-you as consolation for that embarrassment, even if you didn’t
take top prize.

"Harvard Business School," Brandi whispered
and glared at the woman in the mirror, with her horsy face and
draggled, unmanageable hair. The spandex top of her bathing suit
showed two bulges the size of chestnuts. Her waist was thick, her
hips thicker, her thighs pale and pocked with cellulite. Sturdy
legs tapered slightly to thick peasant ankles, and the feet in the
chic gold sandals were stubby and hammer-toed.

"God, what a wreck!" Brandi cried, with a
passion that surprised her. "This is it! The last time I have to be
seen like this! The next time I stand in front of that camera, I’m
going to be gorgeous!"

"That’s the ticket," squealed the blonde and
quashed her in a fragrant, wriggly hug just as a chime sounded
through the dressing room. "That’s the line-up call. Let’s knock
’em dead!"

* * *

THE MUSIC WAS honky-tonk, a strut-your-stuff
sexbeat out of vogue in even the steamiest dance-houses on
Baltimore’s Block.

From her position as Miss New-You Maryland,
Number 21, Brandi watched each contestant walk the 50-foot ramp,
the vidcameras following every step.

Miss Alaska, a tall, unremittingly plain
girl with flat pinkish hair, went, head up, eyes straight and
shoulders back, at a stately military march totally removed from
the grinding music, reached the end of the ramp and stood at parade
rest for the count of five, letting the studio audience look their
fill before turning and marching off, stage left.

Hawaii, short, brownish and tidy, glided
down the ramp on plump, perfect feet, face averted, until a
piercing hiss from her manager jerked her head, puppet-like,
straight up, showing the vidcameras and the audience pock-marked
cheeks and blue eyes nearly hidden within the epicanthic fold.

"Look at those dummies," muttered the
blonde, who had turned out to be Miss Louisiana. "Don’t they know
how to give the marks a show?"

The music ground on, the cameras recorded,
the audience stared. Occasionally, a manager would cuss or

"Number 19," the announcer called, "Miss

The blonde thrust a jiggling leg forward,
paused to catch the beat and swung out with the music, hips
grinding, shoulders moving, tits bouncing. She threw her head back
and shook her hair, executed a jouncing pirouette and came to rest,
still ticking time with her hips, at the end of the platform. She
threw two fat handfuls of kisses to the stunned audience and made
her exit, stage right, at one with the music.

"Wick-ed," breathed Miss Maine as Brandi
gulped for air. "My meme always said southern girls were

"Number 20," the announcer wheezed, dabbing
at his temples with a blue kerchief. "Miss Maine!"

Her turn next. Brandi took a deep breath,
then another, as she stared at, but did not see, wiry Miss Maine
stride purposefully down the ramp, looking neither to the left nor
the right.

She’s right, Brandi thought. The blonde’s
right. Excel at whatever you take in hand, isn’t that what Mom used
to say?

"Number 21!" brayed the announcer. "Miss

"Harvard Business School," Brandi whispered.
She pushed her glasses up on her nose, waited for the music to come
around and began her strut down the ramp.

* * *

"DARLING, YOU WERE wonderful!" Trish
finished tucking in the velour blanket and touched the intercom
switch. "Take us home, Peter."

The limo surged down Ventnor Avenue,
shouldering aside lesser vehicles. It swept through the Atlantic
City business district, accelerated smoothly through the traffic
circle and headed for Margate.

"It won’t be long now, darling," Trish
cooed, handing Brandi a chilled glass bubbling with pale yellow
liquid. She sat back and clasped her beringed hands together, eyes
glittering like an owl’s in the limo’s dim interior. "Wherever did
you learn to dance like that?"

Brandi sighed and took a cautious sip from
the glass, expecting the salt-bitterness of champagne. The wine was
surprisingly good--sweetish and light. She had another sip.

"I grew up in Fells Point. We all used to
think it was a big joke, back in high school--bunch of us would
take the bus over to the Block, sneak past the bouncers, order
rum-and-cokes and watch the strippers..."

She sipped, leaned back and closed her eyes,
thinking it was just like her manager to be impressed with the
dancing--the glitter, more than the substance. Trish made her
living by making ugly girls pretty, after all. Brandi snuggled
under the soft blanket and waited wearily for the next

But for once Trish was silent. Brandi
relaxed into the seat, raised the glass and sipped without opening
her eyes, thinking with a sudden, light-headed elation that she had
done it, had made the BeforeVid; that tomorrow morning they would
start the make over; that in six weeks a new Brandi Schenk would
walk down the ramp and deliver her speech before an awe struck and
admiring audience. She would win. It was certain that she would
win--there were the IQ tests that Trish had given her during the

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