Short Story: The One That Got Away

5818370938_339d9eae42_oPhoto credit: mine.

Reasonable Monsters, #2.

Seraphina sat on a rock overlooking the sea, drinking in the crisp October San Francisco sunshine and the sweeping view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Though she was bare-breasted, no one even blinked in her direction; such was the nature of Baker Beach. Since it was warm, dozens of leathery middle-aged men were clad in nothing but baseball caps, perhaps to protect their faces from further ravages of time. Their wilted genitalia was out for all the world to look upon and despair: an obscene, pathetic memento mori. The scenery wasn’t quite the same as her glory days in Greece, but times had changed, and it would have to do.

At least the weather was pleasant enough. She tilted her head back and let the sun beat patterns of light against her closed eyelids.

The problem with being a siren in this day and age was that it had become increasingly difficult to sing sailors to their deaths upon the rocks. Technology had overtaken the peculiar magic that gets a man thinking with his lower regions instead of watching where he was going, and there hadn’t been a good shipwreck here in years.

A girl has needs.

These days, instead of haunting ballads that drove men mad, she sang an inspired collection of tunes from a variety of serviceable pop chanteuses. Kids these days, she thought, belting out this generation’s classic “I Kissed A Girl” in a way that made her chest jiggle enticingly. The breeze salted and teased her hair into beachy waves that would have been at home in a Pinterest tutorial. This was truly some of her best work.


Sera sighed.

At least it was the most wonderful time of the year: Fleet Week, which was like a state-sponsored licensing exam for a siren. She’d always wanted to sink a Navy ship. Anyone could lure a small craft onto the Farallon shores, but messing with the military took true skill. It might be a pipe dream for a sole siren, but at least there was some sport in trying. When the ships left port, she’d try one last time, and maybe the fog would be on her side.

In the meantime, necessity was the mother of invention, and Sera really needed to kill some sailors.

Going too long between deaths made her restless and grouchy, and far more prone to indiscriminately trying to satisfy her needs. There had been a couple of drowned former frat boys in the Marina a few months ago. She usually wouldn’t touch anyone with a pink polo shirt and a popped collar, but desperate times called for desperate measures, and at least their parents owned a boat in the harbor. Sera had marveled at how their excessive use of hair product kept their style fresh, long after their skin turned livid and their tongues bloated in their mouths. Her only regret was that she could no longer ask them what they used.

Sera reached into her striped mesh beach bag and pulled out her cell phone. She hated resorting to technology. The little flame icon on her screen made her feel like a relic. She missed the old days, where you could just go out and meet someone and kill them without all the endless texting.

But the lure of hundreds of sailors in town was too great to ignore, so she opened up Tinder and started swiping.

Joe, 22. “If u want to know, ask.” A collection of emojis decorated his profile, likely to indicate he enjoyed traveling and adult beverages. Not a sailor. She swiped left.

Chasen. 24. “In San Fran till Monday. Serving my country in the great U S Navy. SC –> Japan –> SEA –> SF. That’s my nephew.” What the fuck kind of name was that? The parents of this current generation must have some good weed. She swiped right, smiling at the requisite uniform photos. Someone had told him that ladies love uniforms.

Staniel, 21. “Love living life to the fullest, my family, and my friends. Just looking for my partner in crime for the next big adventure. 5’11 if that matters.” His dimpled, chubby cheeks and sailor hat made him look even younger. Perfect. Right swipe.

Kevin, 22. No profile, but several photos of him rock climbing and in his uniform. Yes. Good.

Soon enough, the match notifications and messages started pouring in. “Hi ;),” the messages began, as if those two letters were the wittiest banter they could think of. Maybe it was. She gritted her teeth and responded with liberal use of the wink and kissy-face emojis. “U free 2nite?”

It was not hard to get dates, even if half of them would cancel on her at the last minute and all of them were attracted to her profile advertising a desire for a no-strings-attached arrangement. That part was true, anyway. It is hard to carry on a relationship with a dead dude.


The Marina bar smelled like spilled beer, Axe deodorant, and toxic masculinity. Sera breathed in deeply. She had always loved this part of dating: the agonizing anticipation and the infinite possibilities stretching out before her. Sure, sometimes her face ached from smiling and her jaw started clenching when she was asked how much, on a scale of 1-10, she liked giving head, but there was always the chance that it wouldn’t happen. Maybe her carefully chosen outfit and flawless makeup wouldn’t be a complete waste of time. Maybe she wouldn’t have to keep her eyes from glazing over as her date nattered on about Star Wars for an entire fifteen minutes.

By 9:30, she found herself surrounded by five young men wearing identical uniforms and expressions of bewilderment.

“Is this a joke?” one of them asked angrily, puffing up his chest like a proud bird. She thought his name was Braden, but there was a Jaden, too. Whichever one he was, he was definitely not 6’2 like he had boasted—maybe 5’9 on a good day. She sincerely doubted those missing five inches were anywhere else it counted, either.

“No,” Sera said, smiling in what she hoped was a seductive way and not in the way she felt, which was too old for this shit. “I hope you don’t mind, but there’s just this thing I’ve always wanted to try.”

The boys looked skeptical, but dawning understanding crossed their faces at the same time, as if they were intrigued but also wanted to scream “no homo,” and run.

“Well,” one said—maybe it was Chasen—“I’ve never done that…”

No shit, Sera thought. Her lipsticked mouth stretched, Cheshire and only slightly predatory.

“Let’s get out of here,” she suggested, downing her whiskey shot and gesturing at the shots lined up on the bar for them to follow suit. They did, and she slammed the seventh shot before throwing a hundred dollar bill on the bar and walking out. The boys followed.

Sera tottered on her painful stiletto heels in a way that she hoped made them think she was a lot more drunk than she was. “This way,” she said, and led them toward the Marina Green. It was dark, the beautiful Marina houses punctuated by crowds of boisterous yuppies and girls in yoga pants.

“Where are we going?” one of the sailors asked, as they started edging away from the residential area.

“I wanted it to be special,” she said coyly. “You don’t mind, do you? It’s so much more exciting when we might get caught.”

The rocky outcropping at Fort Point was deserted, but the Golden Gate Bridge loomed overhead. “Down here,” she suggested, perching on a rock and stretching out her long, tanned legs.

The next few moments were a mess of the sailors trying to figure out where to put their hands and how to fumble with the button fly on their pants without accidentally touching each other. Sera was glad it was too dark for them to see her rolling her eyes. The younger ones had vigor but no finesse.

“Let me,” she said, and showed them what it was like to be with an older woman. Over two thousand years of experience made fairly quick work of it, except for one who clearly had treated his manhood to years of a death grip. When she was finished, Sera stretched out and gestured toward her skirt. “My turn.”

Braden or Jaden bent to her lap, and she allowed him to do his best at improving international relations. She admired his enthusiasm, but his technique left much to be desired.

When she got bored, her hand snaked out. Quicker than the eye could follow, she grabbed his neck and smashed his head upon the rocks, then flung his body out into the water. His body bounced before rolling into the water with a satisfying, sucking plop. “Thank you for your service.” A sweet rush suffused her entire being, and she suddenly felt very sleepy. Sera stretched like a cat and stood up.

“Now it’s your turn,” she said to the others, who stood open-mouthed and stammering. Only one of them had the presence of mind to start running. Damn. He had seemed like the cutest and smartest of the bunch.

Oh well. There’d always be the one who got away.


This was inspired by my recent return to online dating. I did not make up the names Chasen or Staniel. Seriously. And as this is a work of fiction, I do not advocate murdering your dates, even if you are a two-thousand-year-old siren, even if they monologue about Star Wars for fifteen minutes while you drain your beer and repeat, “No, I understand what it’s about and why you think it’s cool, I just don’t like it.” 

Not that I have any experience with that.

For the other story (so far) in this series, Reasonable Monsters, click here.