The Sultan – a story

Today’s Ether Books flash fiction competition was DESIRE – not my customary subject matter – but I dug up an oldie from my Futile Epikles collection (of Earwitness rip-offs). This is a true story, based on a guy I knew as “The Sultan of Twat” (I left that part out of this particular version!)


I met him at a downtown business luncheon which featured as guest speaker a famous United States Senator. We sat around a big table in a room filled with big tables, and moments after introducing himself (as Reuben McSomethingOrOther), he informed me that he had both a wife and a mistress and they all slept together in one big bed.

He was the manager of a discount bookstore, he said, and both his wife and his mistress were also on the payroll. None of them did any work whatsoever, he declared, and the owner of the store had no idea. None whatsoever. The owner of the store, a shabby, mean and disgraceful old man, was actually sitting at the same table and he still had no idea. He was rather out of touch.

Reuben (his real name was Alan McSomethingOrOther, but he preferred Reuben. It seemed to represent more of his current worldly status) was a large fellow, blond and bearded, jolly and verbose. In his early thirties, he had as yet made nothing of himself, nor did he care to, not as long as he had both a wife and a mistress, and they all slept together in the same big bed. Did I mention, he asked, that the wife is a blond and the mistress is Chinese? He was extremely happy with himself.

I saw them all together only once, in their tidy back room office. They were reading the Sunday paper, playing footsie, and doing absolutely no work, not that there was ever much work to be done in that place. The boring, useless remaindered books, the only books they stocked, arrived but once a week and merely needed unpacking and piling on tables. He, and they, all lived in a studio apartment which was just around the corner. It was both cozy and convenient, he informed me.

Some weeks later I saw the wife again. This time she was loading up a van with suitcases and boxes. I asked if she needed any help. She just glared at me. I was someone who knew, someone who had seen. She was on her way back to Southern California. The mistress left the very next day, back to Seattle, I think it was. I never actually knew what had happened. I think I could guess.

Reuben was never the same after that. He even changed his name, back to plain old Alan McSomethingOrOther again. We never saw another female on his arm, let alone a pair. He was not so friendly anymore, not so jolly or verbose. He had had his time in the sun, and there was nothing left to do. He had reached the very pinnacle of his dreams, and had nowhere else to go.

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