The Made-Up Man
Self-pity will only get you so far. When Alyson Salky finds that her lover is having an affair with her best friend--and he takes the dog with him when he moves out--and a man with worse credentials is hired over her at work, it’s time to make some major life decisions. She keeps running into the neighborhood fortune teller, Madame Hope, who promises she can make Alyson’s wishes come true—any wish, so why not a big wish? As far as Alyson can determine, the problem with her life is that she’s getting all the crap that women get, and none of the free passes that men get. It’s time to switch—it’s time to see what life is like as a man—and while Madame Hope can get that done for her (in exchange for her soul), nothing really goes as planned. The devil, it turns out, has a sense of humor. But who will have the last laugh?
ISBN: 978-1-60489-081-5, Trade paper, $22 Sale $11.00
ISBN: 978-1-60489-080-8, Library binding, $33 Sale $16.50
Karen Heuler’s stories have appeared in over 60 literary and speculative magazines and anthologies, from Alaska Quarterly Review to Weird Tales. She’s published a short-story collection and two previous novels. She lives in NYC with her dog, Booker Prize, and her cat, Pulitzer.
From the Book:
There are three things a woman should take for granted: looks will fade, men will stray, and wishes are worthless without actions.
Bur learning this is the result of experience, and experience takes too long. At 35, Alyson Salky was still young enough to have confidence in her looks and in the fidelity of her boyfriend, and to think there was time to get what she wanted—well, she might not even know everything she wanted (occasionally she had a twinge about babies—possibly more than a twinge; but Peter didn’t want kids and really, wasn’t Peter better than a kid? More fun? Not so demanding?). She was happy, and therefore confident. She loved the feel of Peter’s body beneath his shirt when she pulled him close for a hug, the roughness of his chin, the nimble flexibility of his body, his half-lidded sex look, the way his face burst into laughter, his roaming curiosity, his wit. “I love you because you love me,” he’d say, and wink. And laugh. And grab her with one arm like she was his moll in an old Hollywood film. When she was with him she felt smart and funny—hell, she was smart and funny, and that kind of hard-core bliss was her due, and inviolable.
So there she was, a good job, a great boyfriend, a fine dog, some really great girlfriends—when that magazine came out with the article stating that a woman over 40 stood a better chance of being killed by a terrorist than getting married.
“Do we want to get married?” she asked her co-worker, Anna. They were turning into good friends.
Anna’s mouth got unhappy. “Sometimes, yes,” she said. “Sometimes we want to get married. Especially if we want to have kids. And I want to have kids.” She raised her eyebrows significantly to Alyson, who shrugged.
“I’m already complete,” Alyson said. “I have everything I want.”
Who needed to be married, anyway, in this day and age? What did marriage bring to the table? A woman could get everything she needed under her own steam—career, love, fulfillment, self-respect! Statistics could be manipulated to prove any point; everyone knew that, so who could say if that statement was even true?
She had no interest in marriage, not a bit. Anna was just in a bad mood.
But she wasn’t; she was happy and lucky and safe and in charge.
Until all of it fell apart, the day she saw Peter get into a cab with her best friend Maggie. She stood on the sidewalk, stunned, watching with a clarity of vision that was almost supernatural. She saw them get in the back seat and fuse—that was it; they fused into one organism, their heads their arms their mouths coming together like two drops of water irresistibly combining.
The cab was gone, with its unicellular monster in the back; yet the picture throbbed in her mind as if constantly refreshed: Maggie got in, then Peter got in, closing the door. Peter leaned forward to give the address to the driver, then he turned to Maggie and fell back against the seat and smoothly draped himself around her as she draped around him and they were indelibly lit up through the cab’s rear window, as if a spotlight shone on them, or the burst from some sly terrorist’s bomb.
Everyone kept walking and she did too, but she didn’t turn into Peter’s studio to surprise him for lunch, of course; that surprise had been tossed on its head. Instead, she walked back to her own job, skipping lunch altogether, walking hard to try to get her heart to match the rhythm of her feet instead of racketing around like a roulette ball. A fire engine blared its alarm as it made its way up the avenue, and the scream of its siren merely served as the soundtrack for the image in her head: Peter turning to Maggie, Maggie turning to him, the vanishing perspective of the two of them, together.