A Short Tail

By Michael T Schaper

sfgenreStaring at the young man lying naked next to her in the moonlight, Marika felt a sense of contentment, even if her world had become a little unorthodox.

What, she idly wondered, would her husband say?

Probably very little, if anything.

Ben had always been a difficult man to deal with, even before they'd tied the knot.

A little emotionally distant, inclined to disorganisation and chaos around the house, happy to work all sorts of stupidly long hours at the office. And so proud that he'd refused to even countenance the possibility of his wife having her own career.

"There are necessities," he had pronounced early on, "that always need doing round the house. And you are the perfect homemaker."

Not that it had seemed so problematic to Marika at the time. Like every young couple, it seemed that their love could overcome any doubts outsiders had about their relationship.

But she'd been wrong.

Even the marriage therapist that Marika had eventually arranged was surprised by the lack of emotional connection. "You could spend a little more time with your wife, give her some more attention," the counsellor had declared gently. "Spend more time with her. Do your share of the housework."

But Ben had been oblivious to — or perhaps deliberately ignored — the point being made.

Not that it mattered much to Marika right now. These last few months had certainly seen her world turned around.

She spooned in softly next to the young man, and gently scratched her lover behind one ear. He sighed in his sleep, and rolled over so Marika could also tickle the other one.

Ben, of course, would never have understood. Yet he was ultimately responsible for the situation in which she now founded herself.

Perhaps she shouldn’t have been surprised when Ben had come home with a puppy. "This’ll keep you company," he'd declared, placing a large cardboard box in front of her one day. "And I'll look after all the necessities when they come up. Its registration, that sort of thing."

The small pooch inside had looked up inquisitively at her, she'd reached down to stroke it, and when she looked up again, Ben had already departed back to work. Typical.

And typical, too, then Ben hadn’t done any of the paperwork. No licence, no micro-chipping, no known history. But very cute.

No one — certainly not Marika — had expected the animal to be a changeling. That first full moon, she'd been shocked to discover a naked young man wandering about their backyard, somewhat confused. But it hadn't taken long for her to realise that he was polite and attentive, grateful for any attention she gave him in those few hours every month, and far more caring than Ben had ever been.

Marika fell asleep again, just for a short while, and woke with a shock to realise that the moon was sinking and the sun about to emerge. Without another thought, she roused her lover and ordered him out of her room and back into the yard. He had a perfectly good kennel there, after all.

***

Sometimes even the most diffident of husbands can finally realise something's not right.

"You're different," Ben remarked to her one night, as she was cleaning up the dinner table. "Is everything okay?"

"You think so?" She banged the dishes down on the kitchen bench, roughly, and emptied her wineglass. "What could possibly be wrong? Aren't I dealing suitably with all the necessities of your life?"

He looked around, awkwardly. He still wasn't good with eye contact. "You're happy enough when it's just you and the dog here," he muttered, "but not when I'm around."

Marika sighed. "There's no point in going through this all again, is there? All the counselling in the world, it just doesn't seem to have registered with you. Not at all."

"Actually," he mumbled, "I'm beginning to think they may be right. Maybe I do need to pull my weight more. You know, around the house ... and elsewhere." He moved in clumsily, and tried to hug her.

It didn't take Marika much to wriggle loose. "Nice words, Ben, but you’ve got a long way to make it up."

They stared at each other silently for a minute.

"I'm going out for a while," she said finally. "No doubt this'll still be waiting for me to finish when I get back."

Besides, it was a full moon. A perfect time to take the dog for a walk.

***

Ben surprised her, a fortnight later. Marika had just arrived home after a morning of grocery shopping and other minor domestic chores. It was only just gone midday on a weekday, and yet there he was, weeding the garden.

He waved her over, cheerfully.

"Is everything okay, Ben?"

He grinned and stepped over to greet her. "It's all good. I just thought I should — no, I owed you — a morning doing some of the necessities around the house." He smiled, clearly pleased with himself.

She gawped. "And you've ... ?"

"... Mown the lawn, cleaned my junk out of the garage, and am just starting on the weeding."

"Oh."

"I know it's not much, but I'm trying. There's still more I can do."

Marika looked around, somewhat impressed. "Not bad. Not bad at all."

And then something struck her. "Where's the dog, by the way?"

"He's with the vet." Ben beamed and looked at her, this time without flinching.

"The vet?"

"I've had him neutered."

She stared at him, unable to comprehend. "But ... why?"

Her husband leaned in and wrapped his arms around her. "It's simple," he whispered, caressing her cheeks as she started to cry. "After all, there are always necessities that need doing around the house."

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About The Author

Dr. Michael Schaper

Michael Schaper lives in Canberra with his partner Nadine, a standup paddleboard, two goldfish, some visiting sulphur-crested cockatoos and the ghosts of many half-written stories.

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nuke conflux 2017 200Ion Newcombe is the editor and publisher of AntipodeanSF, Australia’s longest running online speculative fiction magazine, regularly issued since January 1998, and conceived back around November 2007. He has been a zealous reader and occasional writer of SF since his childhood in the 1960s, and even sold a few stories here and there back in the '90s.

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mark web 200Mark Webb's midlife crisis came in the form of attempting to write speculative fiction at a very slow pace. His wife maintains this is a good outcome considering the more expensive and cliched alternatives. Evidence of Mark's attempts to procrastinate in his writing, including general musings and reviews of books he has been reading, can be found at www.markwebb.name.

One of Mark’s very best forms of writing procrastination is to produce the eBook series for AntipodeanSF, which he has been doing since issue 175.

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Alea Iacta Est
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Gathering At The Bubble
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History Comes Alive
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Leading The Swan
by Hari Navarro

Stupid Robot
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The Circus Act
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pixie willo 100Pixie is a voice actor, cabaret performer & slam poet From the Blue Mountains in NSW.

She enjoys writing short fiction, plays for radio and stage as well as her own brand of weird poetry.

She hosts the 'Off-Beet Poetry Slam' held bi-monthly in Katoomba,

And is a theatre reviewer for 2SER FM in Sydney.

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mark english 100Mark is an astrophysicist and space scientist who worked on the Cassini/Huygens mission to Saturn. Following this he worked in computer consultancy, engineering, and high energy research (with a stint at the JET Fusion Torus).

All this science hasn't damped his love of fantasy and science fiction. It has, however, ruined his enjoyment of rainbows, colourful flames on romantic log fires, and rings around the moon. He has previously been published in Stupefying Stories Showcase, Everyday Fiction, Escape Pod, Perihelion and also on AntipodeanSF where he is part of the narration team.

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marg essex 200Margaret lives the good life on a small piece of rural New South Wales Australia, with an amazing man, a couple of pets, and several rambunctious wombats.

She feels so lucky to be a part of the AntiSF team.

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david whitaker 200David Whitaker is originally from the UK though has travelled around a bit and now resides in India. He has a degree in Journalism, however decided that as he’s always preferred making things up it should ultimately become a resource rather than a profession.

His stories, covering everything from sci-fi to philosophy, have been published across the globe and links to each can be found at <wordsbydavid.com>

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garry dean narratorGarry Dean lives on the Mid Coast of New South Wales Australia, and has been a fan of SF for most of his natural life. Being vision impaired, he makes good use of voice recognition and text to speech in order to write. Many of his stories have appeared in AntipodeanSF over the years, and his love of all things audio led him to join the narration team in 2017.

You can read examples of Garry's fiction on his website <https://garrydean.wordpress.com>

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lauriebell 2 200Laurie Bell lives in Melbourne, Australia. She was that girl you found with her nose always buried in a book. She has been writing ever since she was a little girl and first picked up a pen. From books to short stories, radio plays to snippets of ideas and reading them aloud to anyone who will listen.

She is the author of The Butterfly Stone (available now).

You can read more of her work on her blog Look for her on Facebook <www.facebook.com/WriterLaurieBell/> or Twitter: <@LaurienotLori>

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timonthy gwyn 100Timothy Gwyn is a professional pilot in Canada, where he flies to remote communities. During a lull in his flying career, he was a radio announcer for three years, and he is also an author.

In addition to short stories at AntipodeanSF and NewMyths.com, his SF novel is available internationally in print and ebook formats. "Avians" draws on his love of alternative aviation to tell the tale of a girl who runs away from home to join a cadre of glider pilots on a world without metal or fossil fuels.

On Twitter, he is @timothygwyn, and his blogs are at <timothygwyn.com>.

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SF News

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Vale Tony Plank

AntiSF contributor Tony Plank was a computer programmer, web designer, SF writer, active member of the Australian SF community and an all-round good guy.

He passed away peacefully on 21 March, 2018. A kind, fun-loving man, he contributed a lot to the Aus SF scene and will be sadly missed.

(Edwina Harvey).

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Congratulations Edwina Harvey

Edwina Harvey, a contributor to AntipodeanSF since the very first issue, is a worthy recipient of this year’s A. Bertram Chandler Award.  She has been an active member of Australian science-fiction fandom: writing, publishing and with her amazing artwork for 40 years.

Read more information about Ed's Award here at the ASFF.

Ishmael A Soledad Publishes "Hawking Radiation"

Ishmael A Soledad, a recent AntiSF contributor (and more to come in our future pages) has recently published a collection of his SF short stories. Love, telepathy, suicidal androids, purple dragons, and machine-gun-toting rabbits. More information here.

Dimension6 Issue 13 - Mark Webb

AntipodeanSF is an affiliate site for Dimension6 from Coeur De Lion Publishing, the best in Australian Speculative Fiction, free every April, July, and October. In the latest edition (#13), long term AntiSF contributor Mark Webb has a novella length story, “The Reclaimers”, about Ulanda, who travels the edge of civilisation, cleansing border towns of a deadly residue that lingers from the magical weapons of mass destruction that ended the war. It’s the only job still allowed for the paranormally-inclined and life is adequate, until an old girlfriend appears with a questing opportunity that Ulanda knows she absolutely should refuse… Dimension6 can be found free on the AntiSF website here in both mobi and epub formats.

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Aussie Awards News

2018 Norma K Hemming Finalists Announcement
The Australian Science Fiction Foundation (ASFF) is delighted to announce the 2018 shortlists for the Norma K Hemming Award, which covers works published in 2016-2017. Finalist list is here.

The winners of the 2018 Norma K Hemming Award will be announced at a ceremony taking place on the evening of Friday 8 June, 2018, at Continuum in Melbourne, with citations and a monetary prize being presented.

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Upcoming Aussie Cons

Continuum XIV: Conjugation. Melbourne’s SF Convention. 8th – 11th June, 2018. More information: <http://www.continuum.org.au/>.

Conflux 14 - The Unconventional Hero — Vibe Hotel, 1 Rogan Street, Canberra Airport ACT 2609. 29/09/2018 - 01/10/2018. More Information: <https//conflux.org.au>

Nullus Anxietas VII: The Australian Discworld Convention – will be held in Melbourne on April 12-14, 2019, and is themed on Going Postal. More information: <https://ausdwcon.org/>

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