Sean Ennis ~ Five Notes


and your horni­ness? my friend Shadow’s wife Wanda blurt­ed out dur­ing Thanksgiving din­ner. They had invit­ed me to join them because I was a lone­ly wid­ow­er, but Wanda was talk­ing to her hus­band. I felt like a dog watch­ing an air­plane, so I said, Maybe you should spend more time in nature?

Dinner was deli­cious. We retired to the liv­ing room and my friend Shadow put on March of the Penguins. I found it hor­ri­fy­ing and relat­able. I knew every­thing about Thanksgiving, even the bad stuff, but being grate­ful felt nice. Friendship was dif­fi­cult for me. For the longest time, I want­ed a friend I could say to, you didn’t let me down when I was freez­ing to death in Antarctica, and I won’t aban­don you now. My friend Shadow and his wife Wanda were quot­ing the movie’s nar­ra­tion back and forth to each oth­er. It was a tidy rou­tine, a rit­u­al. Something was being reset and clawed back. Of course, it was time for me to leave, but I didn’t want to. My friend Shadow had made a plum tart. Their dog Apple was growl­ing with her head on my shoe. If I went home, I’d be forced to check the vile mes­sages on my dat­ing app.

We ate the tart final­ly. Perhaps, instead, what I need­ed was a rival.



The Old Rats are out col­lect­ing mon­ey for sick kids. They fail to elab­o­rate. They’ve claimed to be the filth­i­est motor­cy­cle gang around. But after brunch, they shake their change buck­ets at the stop lights and glare at drivers.

The world has changed. No one in Bramble car­ries cash. Of course, my friend Shadow’s wife Wanda is a soft­ware devel­op­er. She could build them an online por­tal for dona­tions that would accept cred­it cards, ApplePay, CashApp. They could track dona­tions over loca­tions and times to iden­ti­fy the most lucra­tive inter­sec­tions. They could even gen­er­ate an email list to solic­it dona­tions with­out The Old Rats hav­ing to stand in the mid­dle of the street with buck­ets. The web­site could pro­file the sick kids who have been made well, show­cas­ing the good work of The Old Rats.  Wanda could also use the projects to add to her pro­fes­sion­al port­fo­lio demon­strat­ing her skills, as she pre­pares to launch her own appli­ca­tion.  Of course, this col­lab­o­ra­tion first requires a con­ver­sa­tion, and The Old Rats don’t talk. For myself, I always car­ry change pre­cise­ly for these encoun­ters. It would be naïve to think The Old Rats don’t know who paid. I remain grate­ful for their work



Can you defend each oth­er?  a coun­selor asked my friend Shadow and his wife Wanda this dur­ing a sex ther­a­py week­end. That wasn’t the real name, but the trou­bles in their mar­riage bed need­ed address­ing. Weird ques­tion though. Wanda had whis­pered, an empa­thy exer­cise, and closed her eyes. When she woke, she was in the ele­va­tor, going up. My friend Shadow didn’t notice any­thing strange. Their hotel room was cold and humid­i­fied. A king-sized bed and an open show­er, but there was nev­er any sex dur­ing sex ther­a­py week­end. My friend Shadow left his wife Wanda to get ice, and he heard a crash while wait­ing at the ele­va­tor bank. He took the stairs.  He was still reel­ing from how Wanda had respond­ed to the counselor–he had gained insight. The ice machine was rat­tling and drip­ping at the end of the hall­way. Nothing strange yet, but any minute, there would be sirens, scream­ing, chaos.



You want to mat­ter in this cul­ture? my friend Shadow would say. Not me! Wheel of Fortune is not an intel­lec­tu­al endeav­or and your team’s play­off run is not pas­sion or dra­ma. He would give these speech­es. He would give his man­nequin heads smokey eyes and an embar­rassed blush. He would pat Wanda on the back after she pre­pared din­ner. But I was there the night my friend Shadow did his wife Wanda’s make­up for the first time. It was del­i­cate and sen­su­al. He was respectful—to the point of restraint—of her nat­ur­al beau­ty, which wasn’t abun­dant. When he held up the mir­ror, Wanda was disappointed.



Why did my friend Shadow retreat sex­u­al­ly from his wife Wanda? It was a good ques­tion. I would have advanced–it’s easy to see the advan­tages. But I am not my friend Shadow. Objectively, Wanda’s for­bear­ance was very attrac­tive. Also, that freck­le on her neck. But I am not my friend Shadow. He want­ed no dis­trac­tions while he pre­pared for his cos­me­tol­ogy cer­ti­fi­ca­tion exam. My role as third wheel in this rela­tion­ship seemed vital for sta­bi­liza­tion. Some nights, my friend Shadow fell asleep while study­ing in their home office, and I’d get him a blan­ket and lock up on the way out. Wanda and their dog Apple would be sprawled and snor­ing in their mar­riage bed.  We were all so close.


Sean Ennis is the author of CUNNING, BAFFLING, POWERFUL (Thirty West), and his fic­tion has appeared in Bending Genres, trampset, and the Best Microfiction 2023 anthol­o­gy. More of his work can be found