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Giving Orders

By Tim Frank

Alexa, show me Daryl Hannah movies, I mumble wearily into my phone, and then six films from the eighties flutter onto my flatscreen, gleaming. But before I can start my movie binge, I need a coffee to clear away the cobwebs.

At my local café, a plastic sign warns me of a floor slick with water, but I ignore it. I nearly break my neck. Neil Young wafts through the shop, caressing the walls. My barista is a tall blonde woman, and when she turns to hand me my latte, I realize she is Daryl Hannah. Her long spindly fingers edged with bloody cuticles. Her face is a flawless Greek sculpture.

This is not the drink I wanted, I say.

Maybe not, but it’s what you ordered, Daryl says with the smile of a world-class actor.

I pay for my coffee and drink it. Daryl was right — it is delicious.

I can’t face going home to watch the movies, so I catch a cab to nowhere. The driver turns around. It’s Daryl.I tell her, Take me somewhere you are not.

It’s not like I want this either, she says. Let’s go to the lake.

By the water, Daryl and I watch actors standing on a giant fallen tree discussing their lines and the nature of subtext. I see their confusion, so I step forward and share my thoughts.

Listen, I say, this film has potential but it needs a little glamour. We have Daryl Hannah here; I suggest you use her.

I take a seat in the director’s chair and bark orders from a megaphone. I tell Daryl to swish her luxurious mane of hair and then I bully her to serve me hotdogs from the foyer that is floating on the lake.

After the filming wraps for the day, I’m a spent force. At home, Daryl is waiting for me in the kitchen, fighting back tears. She shouts at me if I want eggs – or tea? She demands to know if the torture will ever end. She waves a spatula over her head and splashes bacon fat onto the walls.

I’ll let you know soon enough, I say as I wipe some dust from the coffee table with my finger. Because, I might need you… to clean.

Daryl throws an empty coffee cup at my head and then sits cross-legged on the floor. I say nothing.With her quiet, it feels only natural to lounge on the couch. I reach for the popcorn and blast each of Daryl’s films until my head feels like it will explode.

Play, Alexa, I say. Play.

Daryl leaves her fried eggs bubbling in the pan, rushes over, and starts jogging in front of me. When Tom Hanks appears on the screen, looking all innocent and naive, she blathers on about what a clean freak he is — how he killed the vibe on set.

As the movies play, Daryl begins to age rapidly. Her neck forms jowls and mutates into a turkey neck. Her hands become prunes. She doesn’t seem to notice her shocking transformation. She doesn’t see how I’m hiding behind a cushion, recoiling in disgust.

She presses her cheek against the screen and kisses her own image. When Steve Martin appears on screen Daryl shouts, Perpetrator, perpetrator!

Daryl, please control yourself, I say. Neighbors are knocking on my front door.

Is there something wrong with Daryl Hannah?, one of them calls in

Daryl is completely drained now but has just enough strength to escape my grasp and let the neighbours in. As they poke around my flat, gossiping about my choice of wallpaper and reading material, the fire alarm sounds off.The frying pan has caught fire. What a horror show.

Daryl goes blue in the face and collapses like a bag of cement, but I’ve had enough — of Daryl, her films and all the pretense. I’m only mildly concerned.

I kneel over her and say casually, Daryl? Daryl?

I’m sure she’s quite dead. Shame.

My neighbours are no help at all either, they just remove plants from my windowsill and lay them by her side like wreaths. Others take snaps.Some cry. One pious soul plans a funeral online.

As the crowd utter prayers, they obscure my view of the TV. I try to get them to move by loudly clearing my throat, but they’re on another plane of existence.

I’m searching for something new to watch now, something inspirational hopefully, because it’s easy to spot a movie that will pass the time, but nigh on impossible to find a film that will change your life.

Tim Frank’s short stories have been published in Wrongdoing Magazine, Eunoia Review, The Metaworker, Brilliant Flash Fiction, Maudlin House and elsewhere. He was runner-up in The Forge Literary Flash Fiction competition ‘22. He has been nominated for Best Small Fictions ’22.He is the associate fiction editor for Able Muse Literary Journal and lives with his wife in North London, England.


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