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art by Shothot Designs

The Pillow Zone

Scott Lininger is a dad, entrepreneur, and mystery enthusiast who lives near Boulder, Colorado. When not programming 3D software for Google he occasionally use the computer as a typewriter. His fiction has appeared in the Day Terrors Anthology, Battered Suitcase, Flash Fiction Online, Everyday Weirdness, Powderburn, and Short-Story.me.
You know how it goes. You wake up on a Friday thinking that it's a Saturday, and you lie there in bed for a full minute listening to your wife breathe, thanking God that you don't have to trudge in to the digital salt mines and sit in front of your computer all day. You think of your cramped little office with its north-facing window filled with sorry bonsai trees, happy that you don't have to go in. Then you remember a certain meeting, and the weekend illusion collapses, so you resign yourself to reality, to the mundane motions of shower and shave.
"What are you doing up so early?" asks your wife sexily from the pillow zone, and as you straighten your tie you wish you hadn't yet. Is it worth a little re-tie for a hallowed a.m. koochie-koo? Part of you, the influential part, votes yay.
You know how it goes.
Next thing she's saying that she's late and you're sleepy again, debating whether you should hit the shower a second time to rinse off the sex and open those eyes of yours. But she's already in the bathroom by the time you decide, getting ready to monopolize the shower herself. You hike up your boxers and hunt for your tie.
"What the hell happened in here?" she echoes at you from the bathroom, and there's a disgust in her voice that makes your secret introvert think of shame and schoolyards. You consider bolting for the garage, but tying a square knot while knee-driving is always such a bitch.
"What?" you say from the bathroom door.
She points. From the bottom of the shower--that secret hole under the drain cover--there's a fleshy stalk of ribbed and growing green. It's inching up in shaky thrusts, getting tight at the base as its topknob hits the ceiling.
"That wasn't here while I was showering," you say.
Your wife is looking at you as if it's your fault.
"It's gross," she says.
God, you think, why is she in such a bad mood? You suddenly suspect that she faked her orgasm, and somehow that's more important than the fact you have an eight-foot tall alien beanstalk coming out of your plumbing.
"It's popping something," she whispers.
You can see that she's right. The beanstalk is growing thousands of little zits, and each of them is blooming into a glossy bubble of oil. A rich, earthy smell fills the bathroom, like peanut butter or raw olives, and your post-sex hunger is big and nagging. The oil bubbles look like they're hardening, growing their own baby bumps, turning into something you want to pick and place into your watering mouth.
"Oh God, oh no. Oh, gross," says your wife, but she doesn't actually stop you. In fact, she steps aside and watches with morbid fascination. The fruit is buttery and tastes of meat. The little bumps pop between your teeth like a corncob made of acne buds, but it's strangely, magically wonderful.
"You know what this means," you say.
"Please don't talk with your mouth full. Especially not with that."
You swallow.
"It means we're rich."
Your wife shivers and reaches for a towel. You realize with surprise that she is naked and has been this entire time.
"I'm calling the exterminator," she says.
"Damn it," you say. "This is a miracle! We can't just kill it. Here, at least try one."
You can tell that she wants to. It's not every day that you get to explore a truly new delicacy, and one thing you can't criticize your wife for is being a food prude. Now that the pods are drying out they're starting to look like gray raspberries under rice-paper condoms, like some weird, Japanese candy.
"Hmm. Delicious," she says with surprise, as if you were lying to her. She is talking, you note pettily, with her mouth still full.
"See?" you plead. "With careful cultivation and marketing, we can retire. Retire forever."
Ever practical, she shakes her head. She's the one who handles the 401Ks, after all. "You just don't want to go to work," she says, patting you on the cheek. "I'm calling the exterminator." By the time she's reached the bedside phone, the argument is already done.
"Well, I think it would work," you say.
There's no sense in saying it loud enough for her to hear, but quietly, gingerly, you pick a fruit from the back of the stalk, the one that looks the largest and most fertile, and hide it in your jacket pocket, thinking again of that tiny bonsai garden that you keep in your window at work, the one that the cleaning service waters for you on Fridays.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

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