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Quickies with Naft
It was actually great.

We're In This Together
“You promise to keep in touch?”
“Of course.”

“You’ll be there won’t you? It’s next week.”
“I wouldn’t miss it.”

The words were different, but the feeling was the same. Her heart broke and Hazel wasn’t certain if it was even worse that it wasn’t there for her either. Were they both just too polite? She froze, unsure how to fix what was done or figure out where there had been a misstep. The wound up ball of tension in the pit of her stomach wasn’t going to unravel.

With her eyes closed tightly she let him kiss her and embrace her. She felt icy cold all of the sudden and hollow. Hazel was acutely aware of the breezy night air.

“Thanks,” she said, mustering up her acting chops to sound sexy and breathy. Hazel cringed inwardly. It was a horrible thing to say post-coitus.

She debated adding in some other word after like “stud” or something more tender like “honey,” but left it at that. Hazel exhaled deeply, feeling tired like how she used to feel staying up late to study for a test. It was a heavy, worried sort of tired. She lingered for a moment before rolling to the side and gathering up her discarded clothes.

We're In This Together
Hazel didn’t want to say anything and was so concentrated with the task that she wouldn’t have known what to say anyway. Everything was starting to break down and she wasn’t sure why. He tensed and went still. She let go of his hand and gripped both sides of his hips for greater leverage.

What if this was the last chance of either of them to ever be happy before the bit it and it was her fault it was getting messed up? Hazel thought that if she tried harder, if she followed her heart and if she had someone who felt the same things would line up. Sure, maybe they hadn’t always in the past, but the stakes were never this high. The rocking motion became longer and she leaned farther back and stifled her noises with one hand so that she wouldn't be heard. Hazel leaned forward and uncovered her mouth after a moment.

“Do you love me?” she gasped with her mouth by his ear.

We're In This Together
Things were progressing as they were supposed to, given Min’s inexperience. She knew about that. He had told her. Hazel waited to feel that special flame of real emotion that transcended the reaction to physical stimuli. She grasped desperately for it, but found nothing. She rocked forward, moving in waves. A few moments of her efforts passed. He was holding her hand, she was moving, everything was as it should have been. The pieces weren’t coming together. She moved faster, squeezed tighter and leaned down for another kiss.

“Min,” she breathed out with a slight growl on the N.

Although her skin began to climb the ladder, her bones were cold.

We're In This Together
Her right hand was trapped, moving between them. Hazel disengaged from a kiss and bit down on her index finger so hard she could feel the bone and thought she might draw blood.

This was right, for sure it was the right choice. In her head a voice told her to keep going, she was doing the right thing here. Hazel tried to swallow, finding her mouth dry. With the conviction of someone about to jump off the roof of a building, she nodded. Whether she wanted to admit it or not, repeated practice of something brought a certain level of skill. Each time she rehearsed a scene, she became better at it. She lowered the last bit of defense down over her thighs. In acting, the skill of the actors is used to evoke an emotion of the audience. The emotion in scarcest supply was happiness. People want the people who care for them to feel happiness, obviously. Hazel only ever wanted to make the people around her happy. Even if she had to hurt herself a little by overlooking their bullying, she didn’t say anything to her friends.

A shuddering breath escaped.


She moved her left leg to the other side of his hips and ran her thumb over the head, struggling to see his face. Without light, everything was a muddled purple-black color. They stood together at the edge, holding hands and looking into the abyss. Electricity fired off, running from the bottom to the top of her spine as they met.

We're In This Together
Are we going to die?

Her cheeks were feverish and the rise in temperature was spreading throughout her. With different touches and levels of anticipation, points of light lit up throughout her.

Are we going to die?

It was fainter now.

Am I currently in the process of starving to death? Does he care if I haven’t shaved my legs for three days?

Gradually, they became horizontal in the back seat with her on top. This was a shared secret. Hazel worked the remaining fabric around his waist down, leaving him covered only at the thighs. One leg went over him and her trailing fingers formed a semicircle grip. She pushed her forehead against his chest like a child seeking comfort and motioned up and down with her hands. Hazel thought about asking a question, but did not want to take the risk of receiving a shattering answer. There wasn’t yet that feeling that grabs one by the lungs and squeezes out the breath with how sincerely complete it is to be with someone like she felt with Curtis.

We're In This Together
"Oh- uh- okay, here," she said and tried to move her fingers out of the way while he fumbled.

Hazel wanted things to be out of her hands. The tiniest decision in Survival of the Fittest could lead to destruction. When you’re a kid everyone makes the decisions, you’re just along for the ride. She wanted to be along for the ride, as long as it was with a trusted person. This was one of those people, right?

Memories of other times with Min seeped into her vision. She felt the butterflies when he asked her out behind the restaurant for a smoke. Her heart was beating faster.

“I’ll do my best,” she said quietly. “Same to you.” Despite trying to hold in any noise, trying to be as quiet as possible, she let out the smallest broken fragment of a girlish sigh when he touched her. A pulling feeling in her stomach urged her on and she pushed her chest against him, putting all her weight on him while she moved down to kiss his neck.

We're In This Together
“I think so. Right?” she asked back. She flinched just a little bit at his touch. It was just a reflex to be protective of her torso. The question had been as much a reassurance to herself as it was to him. She needed to know that this was right. The only real way to know was to keep going.

It would hit her like a baseball to the head and she would know that this was what she’d been looking for. Hazel’s hands moved on their own as she thought all of this over. Her mind and body were a part of the same being, but were experiencing a disconnect with each working independently. As she kissed him her hand slid down his chest and into the space where the waist of his pants met his thin body. She pressed down past the denim and belts roughly, applying more pressure as she went down.

We're In This Together
She hoped Jordan didn’t suddenly wake up. Were the cameras equipped with night vision? Her face pulled into a pained expression on his behalf as he navigated disrobing with his injuries. Hazel made a hesitant move to help, but stopped short, not wanting to do something that would make things worse.

“Are you ok?” she whispered urgently.

He seemed to have managed though. Her eyes scanned him, confirming that he hadn’t created a new injury or exacerbated an old one. Hazel was acutely aware now that she was vulnerable. He called her beautiful and she smiled, feeling like someone pricked her with a sewing needle in her chest. More of her skin felt the cold air than was normal and she shivered. Eyes half-lidded she turned her face to the right and kissed him again. Her fingers worked behind her and unclasped her bra, letting it fall forward onto him.


We're In This Together
Min looked at her with owl eyes. Was that a good sign? she wondered. Her chest rose and fell steadily, which was much more apparent now.

There was still the option to go back. She thought about it. Her lips were slightly parted. It wasn’t too late to rush back to her spot on the floor where she had been trying to sleep. He reached out. He desired her and that was such a relief just by itself. To be wanted was its own kind of intoxication. “Someone wants me around” is what it said. “Someone cares.” Maybe even “Someone loves me.” It gave her a slight nudge over the next ledge. She nodded. Well, she hadn’t known for sure, for certain, but the risk made it all the more special, right?

“If you’re ok, then so am I.”

Hazel hooked her thumbs into the waist of her capris and slid them down, having to sort of shift and shimmy to get the pants down to her shoes and socks, which she slipped off along with them.

We're In This Together
For a brief moment she remembered her friends and how they came to disapprove of her “reputation.” This wasn’t the same, she said to herself. And really, every time she had done it, it came from an earnest place. She always thought it was for real. She wasn’t right every time, but the intention was good. It was just for awhile her judgement was a little off.
Min was the first in a long time and honestly, he felt different. Since that time they had met for tutoring she felt relaxed around him in a way that was unusual. He mumbled against her and she felt the cold, smooth surfaces of his piercings slide over her lips. Hazel always needed to be a part of someone else. In the back of her mind, she also felt that it was her last chance to form the deep pull with another person. Her family and her clique weren’t here, but Min was and she wanted to take the leap to find out if she was right. He stumbled over himself and it was adorable. Hazel took a deep breath as if anticipating the jump into a cold pool. She slid her jacket off. Her hands crossed over, each grabbing a handful of tank top and pulled it over her head. Hazel bit her lip and clenched her fist while looking at him.

We're In This Together
She took a deep breath, trying to exhale out all the anxiety she felt. She was tired of the uncertainty and being on alert every moment of the day for maniacs, who the announcements confirmed were definitely out there. Hazel wiggled her shoulders, trying to will them looser. What she wanted was to believe she had someone who was in this with her. Sure, all her classmates were in stuck in approximately the same terrible situation and she had found a small group willing to stick together, but it wasn’t exactly the same. “I really like you,” she said simply, a pink flush slowly spreading across her cheeks. The darkness made the change invisible. “I don’t remember if I ever said it.” Hazel swallowed and moved her fingers to touch his wrist. She wanted to feel like there was someone with her here she was tethered to by the heart. She leaned in and kissed him, putting her fingers at the line of his chin.

We're In This Together
Hazel flinched seeing Min reach for the baton. When he relaxed her shoulders went down and she let out a breath. She smiled a bit in the darkness and hopped up into the vehicle to sit next to him. “It’s always more comfortable when you’ve got company. At least, I think so,” she responded. Her knee bumped against his. “I can’t sleep,” she said mostly to herself, looking at the rusted floor. “It’s kind of amazing other people can.” Hazel looked up at him, trying to study his face in the darkness.

We're In This Together
((Hazel Jung continued from We're Here Because We're Here))

Hazel turned over onto her side. It was just as uncomfortable as her previous position. The car seats were better than the ground, but a poor replacement for a bed. She turned over again and sighed in frustration. No matter what she did, she couldn’t clear her mind for long enough to fall asleep. She thought over and over about herself, her chances of survival, her classmates and her friends at home. The thoughts spun in her head, becoming a noisy mess. She rubbed her eyes and propped herself up onto her elbows. A little ways away she could make out the figure of Min keeping watch in the next car. Hazel looked at Jordan who seemed to be sleeping. She quietly got up and with very careful placements of each step, made her way over to the night guard.

Leaning into the car she whispered, “Do you mind company?”

Debates and Dilemmas in Entrepreneurship
David's alarm clock went off at 10 a.m. He stirred a bit and then gently put his feet on the floor. He used the wooden post of his Ikea bed to help himself rise to his feet. David stretched to the left and to the right, then touched his toes and cracked his neck.

He walked into the living room, yawning and running his hands through his course, curly hair. Avi slowly exited his room at about the same time. He and David were completely an odd pair. He was a thin fellow with a thick black beard contrasting to David's muscular build and clean face.

"Oh hi," said Avi, half-surprised, half sleepy.

David nodded at him and went to the bathroom. He picked a snail off the sink and brushed his teeth, shaved and then went into his room to change into clothes for work. By the time he emerged to leave Avi was looking through a binder of notes and scribbling on a pad.

"Leaving already?"

"What can I say? Business is booming," David replied, walking briskly to the door.

Outside he clicked a button in his key chain and his 2007 Honda civic flashed and beeped in response. He hopped into the car and turned the key in the ignition. The morning sky was still a bit overcast. He threw his phone into a cup holder that still had the two pictures of Amy the woman had given him. He took them out of his pocket when he got into his car that day and threw them there, but never remembered to take them out. He made a mental note to clean out his car when he got home.

Once at the studio he had very little time to loiter at the front with Chris. He passed by the desk and picked up the schedule which was packed to the brim. David whistled.

"There's people on the wait list," said Chris with his feet up on the desk.

"We have a wait list? Since when?"

"Since those kids got taken out of Arizona. People are snagging spots for their kids like tvs on black Friday."

"Why is the Friday black and who wants their television?" asked David, scratching his head.

Chris slapped the heel of his hand against his shoulder.

"You just look pretty and teach kids how to gouge out people's eyes," replied Chris.

Packed class after packed class until 6 p.m. During lunch David checked his Facebook, something he usually didn't bother with, and found a few people posting about Survival of the Fittest. Terrorists kidnapped a school and forced the students to fight to the death. He thought while crunching on his lunch apple, that perhaps this was the reason for the skyrocketing rate of enrollment for self-defense classes. The event was tragic, but it certainly hadn't been tragic for his bank account.

David was starting to wear a little thin by the end of the day. Kids were doubly exhausting to teach. He sighed heavily and headed for the exit with his gear bag slung over a shoulder. He trudged past a wall lined with graduating classes, featuring him standing next to people all in rows like class.

We might have to get more teachers. I'll ask the owner about it. We could really expand.

He arrived home and loaded a fast food bag and soda in his hands, juggling the load with his keys. The photos in the cup holder caught his eye and with a bit more maneuvering he was able to grab them and shut the car door.

He flopped down on the couch next to Avi, who was watching some game show. He threw the bag of food and the pictures on the table and began digging for his fries.

"Hey! Watch it," said Avi, clearing his notes and books away from the greasy bag. In between the papers he picked up the two photos and looked at them suspiciously.

"What are these for?" he asked.

David shrugged. "Some lady came to the studio looking for her."

"Do you know who this is?" he asked quietly.

"Yeah, a girl who came into the studio for awhile. She stopped coming a couple months ago," he pushed through a mouthful of burger.

"No, do you know? Do you really know?"

David swallowed and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.

"Is there something to know?"

We're Here Because We're Here
Jordan took over for the questions that were asked of them. No, they hadn't seen Ty. No, they hadn't encountered anything particularly dangerous or unusual.

Vanessa said conspiratorily that it was Alvaro who had messed up Min's leg, which was unpleasant news. Before she could react, she'd moved on to asking them another question which Jordan answered. Hazel and Min gazed at one another as the other parties discussed until Min added his own thoughts.

"That's what I gathered from the announcements," Hazel replied.

Min took her into a hug and she smiled looking down as he did. She hugged back.

"Yeah, pretty much what Jordan said. Lucky, actually, I mean, as much as you can be considering the spectacular bad luck of being here at all. It's been ok," she said, wanting to relief any lingering worries.

((Hazel Jung continued We're In This Together))

Robber Barons
Caleb stopped walking and frantically looked around. Maria wasn't with him. They must have wandered in different directions while he was lost in thought. He wasn't sure if it would be safe to call out to either her or Kimiko.

He had absolutely nothing as far as a weapon went. Caleb looked on the ground and found a somewhat sharp stick. He picked it up, thinking that if he had known this would all happen he'd have spent less time studying chemistry and more time on kung fu or something. Caleb held his breath and stood very still, trying to listen for any errant noises other than the occasional squawk of seagulls. There was some faint, distant rustling. Caleb lowered himself so as to be hidden by the grass and shrubs and slowly moved in the direction he'd heard the noise.

He imagined stumbling across someone from school covered head-to-toe in blood and viscera. That image morphed into a hungry squirrel scuttling around. Caleb wasn't sure what the probability of either being.

Debates and Dilemmas in Entrepreneurship
David Sapir woke up, stretching luxuriously in his bed, which was really just a mattress on the floor covered in brightly colored blankets. The clock by his "bed" read 12:34 and sunlight was streaming through his window. He rolled over the edge of the mattress and hit the floor with his hands under his chest and legs straight out behind him. He did 20 push ups and then hopped to his feet.

Leaving his room, he wandered into the common area where the only other person in the house was sitting on the couch in front of a glass coffee table moving around little glass bottles like he was playing three-card monte.

"Morning, Avi," he said, picking a diving watch up off a counter a strapping it on his thick wrist.

" 'Morning'," Avi replied, stopping his work to curl his fingers sarcastically around the word.

David walked over to a doorway and gripped the molding above the frame, doing 5 pull-ups by the grip of his fingers. He dropped down and hopped a few times, then went to the kitchen. David grabbed a granola bar out of a box near a few spider plants, vines reaching out towards a dish rack.

He looked at the diving watch again and started towards the door with the bar in his mouth, waving at his roommate as he passed. David opened the door to his 1997 Audi and a wave of hot air poured out. David cleared away receipts and scrap pieces of paper with different phone numbers and names from the driver's seat and waved goodbye to the banana tree on their roof before driving down to work.

In short time he was pulling into the parking lot of the self-defense and martial arts studio where he taught. He'd been working there for about 2 years and got the gig fairly quickly upon moving to Santa Monica from Israel. His former role as a member of Shayetet 13, one of the Israeli army's most secretive and selective special ops units meant that getting a job as a krav maga and general self-defense instructor wasn't too hard. "As the bat emerges from the darkness, as the blade cuts through with silence, as the grenade smashes in rage." was his unit's motto. There was a certain awe that some people had upon encountering him, but most people seemed to remark on how friendly and personable he was. He was nothing like a lot of Israelis who had a habit of being somewhat imposing.

He walked up the receptionist counter and grabbed a clipboard showing the classes for the day and the people signed up for each.

"Afternoon, David," said Chris, the receptionist.

David ran his thumb down the list and the names and whistled.

"It feels like we're getting more people than usual," he said, brow furrowed.

Chris shrugged. "I guess. We could use more cute girls. That's never bad for business. What was the name of that one hot girl we had?"

"Amy," David said quickly, handing the list back over. He was a little wistful thinking about her. She'd been coming to the studio for nearly a year and never said very much despite his attempts to be as charming as possible. Three months ago she suddenly stopped coming.

"It's too bad, I think I was this close to finally wearing her down," he said, holding his finger and thumb and inch apart. On another less selfish level, it was a shame because she was getting quite good and advanced quickly. One of the last times she attended class, Dave had asked her why she put so much effort into his classes. Her response was one of the longest replies he ever received from her. She said something about how she couldn't help it, she said she always had to be the best.

Or it was something like that

"There are other girls, prettier ones," said Chris, bringing David back into the present.

He laughed, clapped Chris on the back roughly and continued to the changing room. "For sure, my friend."

During class there did seem to be a lot more students than he was used to and they were paying much more attention than his usual batch. He noted the number of unfamiliar faces.

"Good work everyone and to many of you, welcome!" he said at the end while people filed out of the room. He began stretching while waiting for the students for the next class to wander in. While reaching for his toes he felt someone tap his arm and flinched, going into a defensive position.

The tapper was a blonde woman who recoiled. David relaxed and smiled. "Apologies, I was in my head. Are you here for information on one of the classes?"

"Can I speak to you off to the side?" asked the woman. He looked up at the clock and seeing he had about 10 minutes he nodded and moved into the lobby with her.

She reached into her coat and he tensed again, but she removed two photos and handed them to him.

"Do you know this girl?"

The first picture of was a beauty shot of a girl in heavy makeup and done up hair with a soft blue background and a plastered-on smile. The second picture was of the same girl that was much grainier. She looked confused in the second picture and was not looking at whoever had taken the picture.

"Hey, that's Amy," he said in surprise.

"Does she frequent this establishment?" the woman asked.

"Uh...no. Well, she did, but she hasn't been here in a few months," he said looking closely at the photographs.

With that the woman turned on her heels and left just as quickly as she'd come, disappearing behind a crowd of teens entering the studio. The sudden mob made it difficult for him to grab her shoulder or follow.

"We'd like to look at your classes. We want to sign up," said one boy at the front of the mob to a throughouly puzzled David.

Letter of Instruction
Andy and James huddled together on an air mattress in the back of the UHaul truck surrounded by heavy boxes and other items. Occasionally the glass from the beer would clink when the truck hit a bump.

They were lying close, both awash in the light Andy's iPhone while watching season 2 of True Detective.

"It's really gone downhill," said James quietly.

"It's hard to keep quality up sometimes. It's like, you do really well one season and then if you have no idea how you did it sometimes the next one sucks. Sometimes it's just that people spend years and years working on the first season and then when it comes time for the next they're up a creek," replied Andy.

"Can you see what time it is?" whispered James. "It's fine, you know, if you have to stop the episode. It's not that good anyway."

The truck slowed, went in reverse, moved again and then stopped.

"I think we're here," said Andy.

They heard the doors at the front open. The "open door" signal beeped three times and then the doors were shut. Footsteps moved around to the back of the truck and then finally, the door was unlatched and pulled up.

"Everyone survive the trip?" came from the shadowy female figure, their mother Leena.

James blinked, seeing a wild purple landscape and brightly twinkling stars that shown without competing with gaudy city lights.

They grunted in confirmation and the boys crawled to the back of the truck. Their father, Will, lowered ramp that was attached to the back of the truck and the brothers rolled a dolly over it and onto the ground. Will climbed into the back of the truck and started passing boxes down to his wife by the ramp.

Little by little the family emptied the truck of its contents with the exception of the air mattress and a wooden row boat. With the combined effort of all four, they were able to get the boat onto the rolling platform. All exited, closed up the truck and began putting the boxes into the boat that was now on the dolly. While Will secured the boat to the platform with stretch cords, James got into the boat and lay on his side, carefully taking up the space between boxes. The other saw, but did not stop to finish their work.

The three remaining people tugged and pushed the load down the dirt path while James curled up in the splintery vessel.


It was late enough that no party goers or campers seemed to be out and about. The procession stopped and James could hear the soft lap of water. His father helped him out of the boat and together they pushed it off the dolly and into the water. Their father's hands shook. They were wet up to their knees, but with a few shoves the small boat seemed to be on its way. Their mother waited for them back at the shore with a small plastic device in her hand and the drinks by her feet.

"Should we say something?" Andy wondered in the dark.

"This is so like your brother," concluded their mother with a sigh as if he'd pulled a prank she would have to clean up.

They all laughed.

"It's just like he wanted. Movies, games, books. All his best stuff is on there-" said Andy

"-so none of us can have it," finished James.

Leena opened the plastic box which contained a switch. She held it out to Andy and James.

"Make it a good one. I could lose my electrician's license over this."

Together they flipped the switch.

A huge eruption of orange, yellow and red flames burst out of the center of the small boat and shot up like a burning pillar in the middle of the lake. It smoldered steadily, crackling and melting the copious amounts of beloved fuel on board.

Will cracked open a beer and watched the flames. Occasionally the fire reached something extra flammable and a smaller explosion punctuated the general roar.

"How illegal is this?" wondered James.

"Well...." their father mused.

"Very," their mother answered.

"It's perfect," added Andy, tears welling up.

Letter of Instruction
Andy's pulled up to the parking lot of the liquor store, parking diagonally across three parking spaces right at the front. He flew out of the car which was still humming and moving, keys still in the ignition.

He lept out and grabbed the handle of the glass door. The bells and knick knacks on the door jangled violently as it slammed shut behind him. He shot to the back and grabbed two six packs of Blue Moon beer.

"My dad told me to come pick these up," he said, banging the cases onto the counter.

"Well then your dad can come buy 'em, Andy," said Ralph. He slowly got up from his chair and put down a worn copy of Popular Science.

"Please! Come on, be cool. Please? My brother's dead."

Ralph snorted. "Do I have a sign out that says 'Free alcohol to underaged minors with dead siblings'?"

"Come on. Please? Please? You can ask him about it later or call him or whatever and he'll tell you. Please? Do I have to show you some leg?"

Andy pulled up the right leg of his jean revealing a pasty calf covered in blond hair. He bit the tip of his finger and gave a seductive wink.

"Alright, fine. Get out of here," said Ralph trying to stifle a laugh. Andy gave him a thumbs up, slammed the money down and ran back to the car with the drinks. The car revved and sped past faded "Missing" posters plastering the wall and RedBox outside the store.

Andy pulled up next to their driveway, currently occupied by a UHaul truck. His father was loading a box into it. Seconds later his mother pulled up in her red SUV with James. Both she and his brother exited holding huge crates.

Andy hauled out the beer and put it into the back of the UHaul.

"Is this everything?"

His mom loaded the two crates and wiped the sweat from her forehead. "I think so," she said thoughtfully. James hopped up and sat in the back with his legs dangling. Their father ruffled Andy's hair appreciatively and looked at his watch.

"We're loaded up. You boys mind riding in the back? There's only two seats up front."

They both shook their heads.

"Then it looks like we're just about set," he said looking at the setting sun.

Andy and James scrambled into the back of the truck as their father lowered the metal door and latched it securely.