Skin Deep

by Alan Brennert

Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” was playing on the jukebox, filling the Menagerie with its cool syncopation as the clock ticked toward two a.m. Trina, wending her way through tables carrying a tray of drinks, hated working the late shift. Most of the nats were long gone, leaving only the drunkest of jokers, and the drunkest were also the grabbiest—but none grabbier than a cephalopod. She felt a lithe tentacle trying to loop around her waist but managed to wriggle away from it even as she balanced her wobbling tray.

“Bongo, please,” Trina said in exasperation, “stop kidding around?”

Bongo K. was a skinny kid with reddish-brown skin, wearing dungarees and a gray sweatshirt with holes for his eight happy-go-lucky tentacles: one was holding a shot of Jim Beam, another was coiled around a bongo drum, and a third drummed in surprisingly good time with Brubeck’s horn. Bongo was usually rather shy, but after two drinks he became a bit frisky—and loquacious:

“Baby, I dig you, that’s all,” he said imploringly. He used a fourth appendage to snap up some abandoned flowers from a nearby table and waved the bouquet in Trina’s face, forcing her to stop in her tracks. “Just listen to this poem I’ve written in testament to your ever-loving beauty—”

Beauty? Trina wanted to puke. She didn’t know which she hated more: men who were repulsed by her face, or those who found such deformities arousing. She pushed aside the flowers, her exasperation flaring into anger.

“Doug!” she called. “A little help here?”


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Original Fiction from" • Illustrated by Micah Epstein