The Keeper of Confessions

Keeper of Confessions A.I. generated image

I am told I am a good listener, like it’s a compliment. I have been called a calm beacon in a tempestuous verbal sea, a paragon of serenity, a wise woman, a crone, a santuary of silence. They called me the keeper of confessions.

I try never to be dependent on other people. I live alone and I’m happy that way. I actively resist offers of lifts into town, shy away from being obligated to anyone, I am wary of owing a favour and I shirk social expectations repeatedly. It’s not that I am introverted, so much as self-reliant. Not misanthropic, just easily disappointed. I keep myself to myself, and I wish others would do the same. I am a good listener, but I hate manipulative and malicious gossip, bad-mouthing is a cardinal sin.

So I am a good listener, and as a result I have struggled over the years to cope with people who talk too much. People with issues around personal boundaries, issues around anger, all that misdirected energy and wasted time.

People whose mouths run away with them, people who tell me things, people who tell me things I don’t want to know, about people I don’t even know. People who become personally affronted when I tell them I don’t want to hear it, who lash out and tell me things about myself, things that I also I don’t want to hear. In the midst of all this over-sharing shit show I find I am losing my voice.

And they called me the keeper of confessions.

King of Potato

Emblazoned gold on unfurling crimson swags, the cracked old bone china cup read:  “King Edward VIII Coronation 1936”.

They paid cash, crisp twenty pound notes. The assistant slid the tissue wrapped  commemorative cup  across the counter. “Dad, why did he abdicate?” The youngster asked as they left the shop.

Later, they sat on a park bench. The son handed his father a small hammer. The older man placed the King Edward parcel on the ground and smacked it smartly, a single cracking strike.

“Because, Son” he explained as he dropped the smashed memorial in the bin. “He was a Nazi”.

Tentative Radio Script

Zine Cover by Emit Snake 1991

Praxis your Earworms

by Bella Basura 

(Soundtrack: an inobstrusive background Music Concrete:

a gentle breeze of windchimes, trills of birdsong, soft footfalls, tinkling water, whale music etc.)

Soothing Voice:

This recording will teach you how to overcome your intrusive earworms.

This is your personal journey into the conchlea of your psyche,

Take you to the very eardrum of your mind.

Praxis your Earworms.

Get comfortable.

Lie down on your yoga mat,

Pull up your comfort blanket.

Close your eyes.

Imagine yourself in a boat on the river,

In a boat on the river,

In a boat on the river.

You’re in a boat,

On a tranquil still lake.

Relax, relax, relax,

I want you to relax.

Give into the peace.

Let yourself into the calm.

Give in to the peace.

What do you hear?

What can you hear?

What is calling you?

(suddenly loud) Praxis your earworms.

Lean into that sound,

Don’t recoil don’t pull back.

Fall into a spiral of renewal.

Embrace it,

Embrace it.

(suddenly loud) Praxis your earworms.

Don’t recoil don’t pull back.

Lean in,

Lean in,

Lean in,

And through,

In and through.

In and through.

(Soundtrack: background Music Concrete begins to fade)

(suddenly loud) Praxis your earworms.

I want you to acknowledge your earworms,

I want you to own them.

I want you to own them,

And let them go.

You are not your earworms,

You are not your earworms.

Your earworms are not the voice of god.

You are not your earworms.

Your earworms are not the voice of god.

Your earworms are passing distractions.

(suddenly loud) Praxis your earworms.

Push in through the clear light.

(loud) Praxis your earworms.

Push through into the pure sound.

(loud) Praxis your earworms.

(Soundtrack: silenced)

Push in and through,

Through and out,

And into,

Deafening silence.

Praxis your earworms.

(Soundtrack: 13 seconds of pure silence

Then an alarm goes off)

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A Gathering of Dead Stories

Continuing on from the series I started last year – offering number three of pickings from my Slush Pile Bonanza.

This particular story has been knocking around, getting re-written and mucked about with for nearly three years. I have entered it for numerous flash fiction competitions and it doesn’t even get shortlisted. So, now I am reduced to offering it up as part of my Slush Pile Bonanza – Bella Basura stories that never got published…

Gray Road, April 2015, found artefacts on the slabs on the foundations of the ruined shed. Various pieces of ironwork, including 200 rusted three inch nails and model railway track.

Gray Road, April 2015, found artefacts on the slabs on the foundations of the ruined shed. Various pieces of ironwork, including 200 rusted three inch nails and model railway track.

Play Time in the Sunken Nature Garden

My favourite friend one year at Junior school was a boy called Lindsay. Lindsay’s mum must have been young and groovy, because Lindsay always had the latest paisley-print corduroy waistcoat or fruit-of-the-loom scoop-neck tee or jumbo-cord loon-pants. He had long bright orange hair and I remember we became friends over his extensive collection of used ink-pen cartridges, which he had sellotaped in rows to the inside of his desk. He showed them to me and Riz one rainy lunchtime when we weren’t allowed out on the playground.
This was the 1970s, and just like any normal eight year olds we listened to pop-music all the time, we knew all David Bowie’s songs by heart and watched Top of The Pops religiously. One favourite that wasn’t David Bowie was The Monster Mash – “It was a graveyard smash”. We liked it because it reminded us of our favourite film Carry on Screaming, which had been screened on TV last christmas holiday. We’d spent the rest of the holiday playing The Carry On Screaming Game, which revolved around running around the disused carpark by the river being vampires, or zombies, or frankenstein, or Kenneth Williams, or Fenella Fielding, and screaming a lot out loud. In fact most of the game involved a lot of screaming out loud, after all it was called The Carry On Screaming Game. We also loved Alice Cooper and sang “School’s out for summer, school’s out for ever, school’s been blown to pieces…” every day at home time for the whole of the week before half term.
Also, Lindsay wore black nail varnish, his mum let him because Alice Cooper did. Nobody else ever wore black nail varnish, only Lindsay, Alice Cooper and Lindsay’s mum.

Gray Road, April 2015 nails and model railway track

Due to some sort of building work on the main school that year, our classroom was out in one of the temporary missen huts, out beyond the playing field. There had once been two missen huts , but one had been taken away over the summer. The brick foundations had been left intact and our class had been given the project of turning it into a sunken Italian garden. One of the teachers must have been an avid Blue Peter viewer.
In the winter, the Huts (they were still plural even though they’d taken one of them away) was freezing, and we’d have to huddle around a huge oil burner in the corner of the room for heat, sometimes kids took their wet socks off to dry them on it. It was a strange place to have your classroom, separated off from the rest of the school by the playing field. I felt I lived in some idealised rural nineteenth century village school where the teachers looked like hippies, except it was slap-bang in the middle of grid-pattern pre-fabricated London-overspill dormitory new-town.
As the year rolled on into summer, we spent more and more time out of the classroom, we spent our time in the sunken garden, which was now called The Sunken Nature Garden on account of it being so overgrown and neglected, or we lounged on the playing field, out of sight from the rest of the school. We had lessons outdoors, sitting cross legged making daisy-chains in the long grass, listening to the teacher telling stories. Lindsay drew Draculas in my story book, he preferred to call them Alucards, so that the teacher didn’t understand.
In the summer term we did a class project on the founding of our town. First of all we got the history, long tracts about this were pinned around the walls. They told how thirty years ago Lord Dashingforth, a dead local landowner, had personally given permission for his ancient sacred ancestral lands to be used to build our town on, he was almost an uncle to us all. He gave personal permission for the inventor of breakfast cereals to build his first UK factory in our town, likewise a pharmaceutical birth pill manufacturer and the controversial war plane foundry by the river, and he gave permission for our Junior school to be built. HOORAY (sarcasm). This was very boring. Until one day our class was visited by a very old woman, with a walking stick and skin like old leprosy. We were told that this very old lady was the mortal remains of the sister of Lord Dashingforth, the very founder of our town. “Alucard!” whispered Lindsay to me while the old, old lady rambled on. And immediately I could see what he meant, my eyes had been opened, I now knew that the so-called generous Lord Dashingforth that they were talking about so reverently was none other than a seething vampire in reality.
At break-time, me, Lindsay, and Riz sat in the Sunken Nature Garden deciding what our contribution to the class project on the founding of our town would be. We already knew that it was going to be a play, because at half term we did the play Riz had written and directed about a favourite fluffy rabbit, which was loosely based on last term’s class project about Beatrix Potter. And, I can tell you, it went down a storm, especially at the end when we sang School’s Out and all the rest of the class, who were the audience, jumped up and down and joined in till home-time. We knew that the performance would have to be in the Sunken Nature Garden. And we also knew that our play had to expose the terrible information we had discovered that afternoon. We owed it to our public to tell them that kindly Uncle Lord Dashingforth was in fact a filthy writhing Alucard, the very founder of our town was none other than a vile vampire, with no more morals than Kenneth Williams in Carry on Screaming when he says “frying tonight”. Then Lindsay introduced a new element into the play that added all the sophistication we could dream of. “We need to dress up for it” said Lindsay, pulling a sheer lilac negligee and black nail varnish from his duffle bag. “I’ll be Lord Dashingforth, and wear this when I’m dying”. I was Lord Dashingforth’s sister, and Riz directed and played a ghost.
From that day on we rehearsed mercilessly, we painted a poster to advertise the play to our class. We attempted making costumes when the teacher taught us tie-dying, but in the end we used them as flags. Washing lines of damp psychedelic rags, strung between the Rowan and Wild Cherry saplings, fluttering colour in the summer blanched meadow of the Sunken Almost-Wild Garden.

Herne in the tree stumps

And very soon it was the end of term and the big afternoon arrived. The play, as we performed it, went like this:

Uncle Lord Dashingforth and his sister are having dinner. Lord Dashingforth is not wearing his negligee. The sister says “There is a letter from some poor people asking you to find their town, please to let them have some of your ancient ancestral sacred land so that they don’t have to live in stinking London slums anymore and can build a bloody decent school instead”. Uncle Lord Dashingforth is not listening, he says “There is a full moon, I must go and drink someone’s blood”. The sister says “No, no, no, you mustn’t keep drinking people’s blood, you must help the poor people to fund their town. One night you’ll encounter a ghost and that’ll change your miserly ways”. But Uncle is off “Cavorting in the Sunken Nature Garden under a bloody full moon” I wail, and we play The Carry On Screaming Game until Riz, the Ghost, rises up from behind some poppies, hiding under Lindsay’s see-thru lilac negligee, whoooo-ing like a howling hurricane. Uncle Lord Dash tries to drink blood, but Riz is a ghost and doesn’t have any. Instead the ghost says “I am a ghost of your ancestors, you must give your land to the poor people. You mustn’t drink any more blood. You are going to die”. Then Riz throws the lilac negligee over Uncle Lord Dashingforth, like a net. He falls to the floor, he is dying. Me, the sister, talks to Lord Dash, who mumbles, then gives his permission to founder our town. Lindsay then jumps up from the ground and we all do School’s Out and then 17 choruses of Starman until our mums came to take us home. “There’s a Starman waiting in the sky, he’d like to come and meet us but he think he’d blow our minds. There’s a Starman waiting in the sky, he’d like to come and meet us but he think he’d blow our minds…”

(Bella Basura
Revised December 2019
January 2017)


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I have recently started posting on Instagram. #bellabasura

I am re-photographing the whole of the Skull Collection for this first project.

Strawberry Fair Skull. Tealight holder, Shoreditch 2018. Gifted by Adam Crawford.

Strawberry Fair Skull. Tealight holder, Shoreditch 2018. Gifted by Adam Crawford.


Over time I will be gradually updating the photographs in the Skull Collection archive on this site.

Silver Earring. The Great Frog, Carnaby Street 1982. Collected by Bella Basura.

Silver Earring. The Great Frog, Carnaby Street 1982. Collected by Bella Basura.



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about Bella Basura
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The Worm of Haftvad

Last weekend I had a wonderful time at a storytelling event at Buckden Towers. A group of us stayed all weekend sharing tales from the Shahnameh, a Persian text by 10th century poet Abolqasem Ferdowsi. The schedule organised by Marion Leeper was wall to wall storytelling, it was pretty intense but rewarding and enjoyable with long breaks to chat, make new friends and eat loads of food, biscuits, cake and pudding.

Here is the script of the tale I related.

Haftvad and The Worm

The tale I am about to tell reputedly happened during the reign of King Ardeshir almost 1800 years ago, and it was related to Fedowsi in the tenth century by a travelling snake-oil salesman.

High atop a precipitous mountain, somewhere in modern Iran there still stands a glorious citadel built in mud. It has become known to us as Arg-e-Bam – the castle that exploded.

It’s turrets gaze out over the surrounding country, a magnificent mountain castle keep of unparalleled splendour, it is still the world’s largest adobe building, more extensive and breath-taking than the ancient mud ziggurats of Ethiopia.

But who built this opulent fort? we ask ourselves, which munificent princeling created this enduring wonder? – the answer is nobody knows, his name has not come down to us through history, it has been buried in the shifting sands of time. Arg-e-bam was founded by a man with no name.

But I am getting ahead of myself, at the beginning of the story there is no mountaintop citadel, there is only the modest town of Karajan.
That distant town nestled in a rich fertile valley crescent, cupped between the shore of a clear glassy  lake. And  the abundant forest foothills of a craggy, scree-riven  mountain. Karajan, A small dead-end of hard-working tranquillity.
This small moth-eaten town at the far end of a minor tributary path that meanders on into a circuitous ancient route that leads on to the laden caravans and the astonishing marvel of the ancient Silk Road. (gong)
In the  town of Karajan – that scraped a paltry existence through the crafts of spinning and weaving –  there once lived a man with seven sons who the Shahnameh tells us was called Haftvad. Now the strangest thing about Haftvad was that he had no name, Haftvad simply means “The Man with Seven Sons”.

So, Haftvad had no name and neither did his sons. But the strangest thing is that Haftvad also had a daughter, and he took no notice of her. He took notice of his singular beautiful daughter, the most important person in this story. Haftvad’s daughter, who also has no name. Haftvad’s only daughter,  his one daughter, his first, his number one, his prima. And because I think she deserves better than to be nameless, I shall call her Alif, like the first letter of the  alphabet.

The people of Karajan lived in a state bordering on poverty. And like his neighbours, Haftvad made a living in the town, a small living, more than just surviving, but not much more.  It was a poor but cheerful town.

The people worked hard, carding and spinning and weaving the most exquisite fabrics.  Even the children worked hard. The boys spent their nights high in the mountains with their herds, or days in the fields tending fibrous crops. And each day, from early in the morning the girls, the unmarried maids of the town, tramped out into the hillsides, with their heavy distaffs and their bales of wool, and they  spent their day on the hillside, spinning, not returning until nightfall, laden with skeins of yarn. These were poor resourceful girls who were able to spin most anything into thread of some kind. They could spin cotton, linen, stinging nettles, hemp, , they would spin sheeps wool, goats wool, rabbits wool and when they could get it – they would spin the finest, beautifulest, most sought after yarn of all, from the wool of a worm.

girls spinning illustration from Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh

The thread the girls spun was taken down into the town at nightfall and stored to be weaved into long bolts of fine cloth by the rest of the townsfolk.

Like most of the girls and women of the town, Alif’s dark sleek corkscrew hair was twisted and coiled up with a beautiful woven headscarf, she looked very fine. Indeed, all the girls and women dressed well, they were poor, but lived in a town where off-cuts and remnants of luxurious cloth were bountiful. All the maidens of the town were impeccably dressed, and wanted only jewels and shoes to be mistaken for princesses. They lived the opulent lives of a rag man’s daughter.

This rhythm of life persisted through time, unchanging and consistent until one strange day when Alif found a worm.

That day started the same as any other fine autumn day. The girls gathered at sunrise and made their way through the fall trees, their leaves tipping orange. They found a clearing in a mulberry grove and spun with laughter and gossip and hard work. At lunchtime they sat in a circle and chatted over their food together.

Fedowsi tells us –
It was just  at that moment Haftvad’s daughter found
A windfall apple lying on the ground
And picked it up – now listen carefully
Because this story’s quite extraordinary:
She bit the apple then, but as she tried it
She saw a little worm there coiled inside it:

Well now, we’re all familiar with the story of the maiden, the snake and the apple, and I can almost hear you calling out: “No! No! Don’t eat the apple! Don’t eat the apple!”.
But have no fear, this story is about Alif, not Eve, it’s not about a priviledged trustafarian snowflake cupped in the palm of gated-community paradise. This story is about Alif a practical down to earth girl, a lowly spinster living in a threadbare textile town, somewhere south of the Silk Road.
So Alif restrained herself, looking at the maggot in the mulberry apple,

She scooped it out and gently found a place
For this small worm inside her spindlecase.
And as she took up her cotton she said
“By God I swear, today I’ll spin such thread,
Helped by this apple’s lucky worm, that you
Will be amazed at what I can do!”
The girls began to laugh – in their delight,
There faces glowed, there teeth shone silver-white”

Which just goes to show that although they were poor they could still afford toothpaste.

Well, come sunset that day, the girls gathered up their spindles and counted the skeins of yarn they had spun. And true to her prediction, Alif had spun much more than she usually did. The other girls were agog at Alif’s productivity. “That truly is a magic worm!” they exclaimed “You should take good care of it” “it is a blessing” Alif agreed as she marked the amount on the ground then ran like wind-bourne smoke to show her mother how much she had completed. From that day on Alif fed the worm each morning and kept it safe in a box under her bed. Alif said to herself “I am going to spin so much thread, by the grace of this worm, that I’ll never be poor again”.

– And so, Alif fed the worm everyday
And the worm increased in size day by day
Alif’s spun more and more thread by the week
Her father grew richer and richer every month

Alif looked at the growing worm and admired it’s smooth sleek scaled black skin. And here’s the strange thing she noticed about the Worm – it had a tiny weeny wincey mouth and the hugest fat stomach you have ever seen.  So it could eat only the smallest of morsels, but could never eat enough to fill it’s big empty belly. And Alif wondered for moment if the Worm was a metaphor for greed, but then she stopped herself because she was a down to earth parochial girl and the fancy Chinese concept of a hungry ghost was beyond her comfort zone.

Every morning Alif fed the worm a piece of the apple, and however much cotton there was, Alif magically spun it into thread.

The image of the girl miraculously spinning preternatural amounts of yarn often appears in European fairy tales. And generally the girl is tricked by some disguised evil magician so that her only escape from forever spinning is to solve a riddle by guessing a name, or hand over a newborn child or kiss an ugly reptile. Not so in this story because  – the Worm, like almost everybody in this story, has no name to guess, Alif has no first born son to sacrifice, and although she’s poor, she’s not about to go snogging with a maggot, however beautiful it’s black and orange crackly skin. Alif has standards.

So, in the story of Haftvad and the worm there seems there is no quest, no riddle or tribute to pay. The magic worm gave Alif the ability to spin monumental amounts of thread and asked nothing in return beyond it’s basic needs of food and shelter. And over time Alif’s prodigious output is such that her family are no longer able to keep up, they need to employ people, more and more people, to help weave the copious thread into cloth…

After a time Alif’s father began to notice her and wonder at her miraculous skill, the source of his burgeoning wealth and he questioned her. “You spin so much that it seems that you’ve taken a fairy for a sister”.

Alif laughed because she knew there were no fairies in this tale. “it’s from the apple and the little worm inside it” she said, then she showed Haftvad the miraculous worm and explained everything to him.

At this point the story totally changes direction,  and Alif simply disappears from the narrative, it truly now becomes the story of Haftvad and the Worm. Because at this moment, Alif’s father – Haftvad –  instantly took control of the situation. Haftvad assigned assistants to care for the worm and he used his new found wealth to build a castle keep on the nearby mountaintop for the Worm to live in. And as Haftvad’s wealth grew he assigned courtiers and soldiers to attend the worm and he extended the castle keep into a grand Fort, where the worm was indulged, safe secure and comfortable. The Worm continued to grow. As Haftvad’s wealth grew he incorporated a magnificent citadel around the fort on the mountaintop. And Haftvad assigned Viziers and Generals to serve the giant worm. Although in truth the Generals and Viziers franchised out the day to day care of the worm to some dodgy private security firm. Haftvad realised that his continued wealth was dependant on the whims of the worm and he did all he could to appease it, keep it safe and keep the money rolling in.

And the town prospered, and the women and girls of Karajan were soon able to afford the jewellery and the shoes to make them the very simulacra of princesses.

Alif, of course, kept on spinning, she was the goose that laid the golden egg, endowed with the blessing that turned to a curse. Like Ariadne she had to spin for her life.

And as this is no fairy tale, it is as it always is in real life Haftvad’s conspicuous wealth and power attracted the attention and envy of malcontents, thieves and kings. At first Haftvad easily suppressed these attacks by the grace of the magic worm, and through a combination of largesse, cowardice and the brute force of his seven sons – each of which commanded an army of 10,000 soldiers a piece. Haftvad grew in power.

Alif spun on as was her destiny, the eternal spinster silhouetted, momentarily glimpsed through the dim light of history.

Haftvad’s fortress citadel became so well-known that they say even the winds of heaven didn’t dare blow around it.

Twice King Ardeshir himself rode  against Haftvad and twice the King was trounced.

Defeated, the King and his armies returned home. The Worm’s reputation went before him. Skirmishes broke out but as soon as the soldiers heard of the tale of the almighty worm they lost heart and fled. So it was that finally, Ardeshir resorted to underhand methods, he devised a cunning plan to kill the Worm itself and break it’s spell. And so in the end the Worm was brought down through a combination of trickery, flattery  and ill-conceived drinking games with the worm’s guards.

As the Citadel trembled and shook from the explosive death throes of the Worm, King Ardeshir pronounced from the ramparts of Haftvad’s vanquished citadel “I fed the worm molten lead; his power is gone.” Hadvad and his sons were executed and their names were erased from history.

High atop a precipitous mountain, somewhere in modern Iran there still stands a glorious citadel built in mud. It has become known to us as Arg-e-Bam – the castle that exploded.

It’s turrets gaze out over the surrounding country, a magnificent mountain castle keep of unparalleled splendour, it is still the world’s largest adobe building, more extensive and breath-taking than the ancient mud ziggurats of Ethiopia.

Dream Theme 2

The second in a new blog series about dreams…

My Dream About Stevie Smith

I sat on the sofa, a blistering headful of ideas burning a hole in my skull, I am filling up and overflowing. I raise my arms up towards the east and I call out the name of my only patron saint,
my role model, my cultural mother, my meme mum.

In My Ethereal Stevie Smith Shoes Bella Basura 2017

In My Ethereal Stevie Smith Shoes
Bella Basura 2017

“Stevie Smith” I slowly begin to sound.
“Stevie Smith” Louder.
“Stevie Smith, I do call on you in my time of need”
And Stevie descended and we pushed our opened hands out to each other, pushed hard palms against each other and she poured her deep intrinsic poet-energy in through the pads of my fingers. A warmth growing through me.
A voice, my own voice, calls me
and whispers close to my ear “Wake up!”





Jean Dark

The Short Answer Chapbook for sale here 

Brand new Flash fiction


Yesterday Evening I had a wonderful time performing with a stunning music and spoken word lineup at Scarecrow Corner Winter Warmer. Here is a new 100 word Flash Fiction I wrote for the event.

Horny Goat Fairy of Strawberry Fair by Tim Neate 2016

Horny Goat Fairy
of Strawberry Fair
by Tim Neate 2016

Ding Dong

This week being christmas week they had a competition at my work, there was a prize for the best Christmas carol sung over the public address system. So I had a go. Sang them my favourite carol, although I not sure I got the words right.
I went :

“Dum dum didi didi dumb
Didi dum dum dum dum dumb

I am an antichrist
I am an anarchist
I wanna destroy passers by

Cause I
Wanna be
Wanna be

And I
Wanna be
No dogs body
Anarchy for the UK”

And then they switched the bloody speakers off!

Bella Basura December 2016

More Flash Fictions



Jean Dark

Strawberry Fair Scarecrow Corner

New Post on Jean Dark’s blog

WTF Have They Done To The Moon?
SHARE if you like sky-clad witches in the moonlight.

The moon is our closest most visible heavenly body and has had influence on human culture for millennia. The moon is seen as a source of divination and knowledge.  There are dozens of known Moon Goddesses across the world and across time. There are goddesses of the full moon, the dark moon, waxing and waning moons, the blood moon and dragon moon…more…


Bella’s new 100-word micro fiction

The Mansplainer
In the sociable, jostling crush of the after-party he felt, once again, that overwhelming urge to pontificate. He glanced out, across the room, seeking an audience.
He thanked his lucky stars that he was taller than most and could easily scan the room without straining his neck. Biological advantages were such a blessing.
His morbid gaze fell on a likely acolyte. At the sight of the pink lace, ruffling around a navel-plunging neckline, his exploding mansplaining gland spurred him into action.
“That one” He said to himself “Doesn’t have a penis”.
And he honed in on her, fulminating fluids a-flowing.

More flash fiction here