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The alpha male has a tattoo of his mother on his arm, inked in fire and thorns, next to a soft-boiled egg. Yet he hardly ever calls—except to leave strange morse code messages when she falls off her skateboard.

His mum regrets feeding him penny sweets as a child—and the sleeping pills. And she’s sure the men who came round at midnight, posing as supermodels, dashed his youthful dreams of falconry. Were they alpha males too?

The alpha male hates the way his girlfriend does press-ups in night clubs, how she paints her body with dust and vomit. He sinks into a horrid gloom. It’s like there’s dental floss in his lungs, and teeth in his gut. It must be her fault.

There are a few alpha males out tonight. They wear venetian blinds and body cams like uniforms. They have pre-rolled chocolate crepes stuffed in their pockets.

Alpha males don’t look each other in the eye. If they do, they’ll be jinxed, even if they’re pretty boys with passports, painted brown. So, they revel in the neon lights smeared like jam across the sky. They eat, they drink.

The alpha male is unhappy at work. It’s full of guilty washing machines and primal screams, and his boss has a birthmark like a boomerang. It’s time to quit.

So, he wants to branch out and embrace new ventures.

He wants to buy an elite footballer and build a sporting empire.

He wants to forge a new self in a country he can’t pronounce.

He wants to swim in a project paperclip wonderland, until he breaks on through to the other side—dreaming big, acting fast, and wiping his sticky palms against the rings of Saturn.


Tim Frank’s short stories have been published in X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, Maudlin House, Rejection Letters, and elsewhere. He was runner-up in The Forge Literary Flash Fiction competition ‘22. He has been nominated for Best Small Fictions ’23. He is the associate fiction editor for Able Muse Literary Journal and lives with his wife and child in North London, England. Twitter: @TimFrankquill

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