HIDDEN SHALLOWS • by Jonathan Pinnock

Sara puts down her paper and swings her legs over the side of the lounger. Squinting against the lunchtime sun, she peers out over the lake. It looks calm, deep and serene.

“So, fancy a dip, then?” she says.

“Certainly not,” says Michaela, not looking up. “Too bloody cold. And besides, we haven’t got time. We’re due back in half an hour for the afternoon session.”

“It’s only Smithies,” says Sara. “It’s been several centuries since he came up with anything remotely new or interesting. Apart from a more lethal form of body odour every other year.”

“There’s a break-out session on meta-trends in post-feminist rap at the same time, you know.”

“Who’s leading it?”

“Some German,” says Michaela.

“Well, I can take it or leave it.” Sara pauses. “I think I’ll leave it.” She catches sight of something on the surface of the lake, and sits up. “Gosh. He looks cold,” she says.


“There’s someone swimming out there. Heading in our direction. I’m impressed.”

Michaela stirs herself, turns over and pulls herself into a sitting position. “See what you mean,” she says. “Bit of a hunk, I’d say.”

“Really, Professor, I’m surprised at you.” The figure, sporting an impressive six-pack and tiny speedos, is climbing out of the lake and up onto the sun deck. “Then again,” says Sara, “You could be right, my dear.”

The two women watch as the young man towels himself down with an extravagant action, before lying, face down, on a lounger some twenty feet away from them.

“Of course, he wouldn’t exactly have much in the way of conversation,” whispers Michaela.

“I thought you spoke German and Italian pretty well? Covers most of the bases, surely?”

“I mean that he’s probably thick as two planks dipped in treacle, dimmo. Breakfast could be a little dull.”

“And your problem is? I mean, did you see — ”

“I did — ”

“I mean… the — ”

“ — yes, the size — ”

“ — the size — ”

“ — the size of that thing!” they both hiss simultaneously, before collapsing in fits of giggles like a pair of schoolgirls. They are silent for a moment. Sara breaks the silence. “Michaela?”


“Have you and Gerry ever… you know… I mean… you know… what’s the most times you’ve ever done it in one night?”


“No, ever.”

“Well, he managed a couple of times once when we were first going out, but he was so knackered afterwards I didn’t have the heart to ask him to try again.”

“Yeah. I know the feeling.” Sara pauses. “Do you ever wonder what it would be like to have someone like boy wonder over there? I mean, do you ever think we might have it the wrong way around? Could it be more important after all to have one’s physical needs met rather than one’s intellectual ones?”

“Is that a philosophical question?” says Michaela. “Because if so, you’re a bit late to get it onto the programme. Might be worth considering for next year, mind. You could use it to mount an interesting attack on Maslow’s bloody hierarchy of needs.”

Sara laughs. “No, I was more wondering about our immediate situation.”

Michaela looks shocked. “You’re kidding. You’re not serious, are you?”

“Might be,” says Sara, with a little smile. “Call it research.” She takes a business card from her bag and starts to scribble a note on the back.

“Hey, show me,” says Michaela, making a grab for the card.

“No,” says Sara. “Shan’t!”

But Michaela’s too quick for her. She reads out loud:

soles occidere et redire possunt:
nobis cum semel occidit breuis lux,
nox et perpetua una dormienda.”

She nods. “Hmm, Catullus, eh? Well, at least it’s not one of the filthy ones.”

Sara snatches the card back and gets up. She sneaks over to where the young man is lying. Bending down, she delicately tucks the card into the top of his trunks and steps back. He doesn’t move. Sara walks calmly back to her lounger, picks up her belongings and motions to Michaela to go in. Michaela follows her without a word, wide-eyed.

Next morning, over breakfast, Sara looks thoughtful.

“Well?” says Michaela. “Come on, tell me everything. Did he call?”

“Yeah,” says Sara. “He called. He called all right. Told me about the mistake — ”

“ — in the third line? But you knew that, surely?”

“Of course. Et instead of est. That’s why I put it in there. And that’s why I’m upset.” She pauses for a moment. “Turns out he’s not as dumb as I thought.”


“So I told him to piss off.”

Michaela gives a sympathetic smile. “Life’s a bugger sometimes, isn’t it?” she says.

“It certainly is,” says Sara.

Jonathan Pinnock was born in Bedfordshire, England, and — despite having so far visited over forty other countries — has failed to relocate any further away than the next-door county of Hertfordshire. He is married with two children, several cats and a 1961 Ami Continental jukebox. His writing has won a number of prizes, short-listings and long-listings, and and he has been published in such diverse publications as Smokebox, Litro and Necrotic Tissue. His unimaginatively-titled, but moderately interesting website may be found at www.jonathanpinnock.com.

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  • Jonathan – if I could give it 10 stars, I would! 🙂 And no I didn’t spot the mistake in the 3rd line – wasn’t much at Latin 🙂

  • Great fun! And I didn’t spot the error, despite having studied Catullus. Shame on me.

  • Hi Jonathan, great flash, good voices for the girls and I loved the non-PC discussion of the young man’s attributes. Splendid gender reversal too, with the women as predators and the bloke as totty. Thanks for kicking off the month in high style.

  • Oscar Windsor-Smith

    Brilliant. Knowing nothing about Latin didn’t detract one iota (BTW, that’s the only Greek word I know, too) from my enjoyment. Nothing shallow about this one, Jon. Unless there’s someone very, very, mean out there, this should be a top scorer.

    How better to begin an excellent new EDF year?

    Keep ’em coming Jon.

    All good wishes for many more great years of stories, EDF.

    😉 scar

  • I know nothing about latin and doubt that matters – excellent story, Jon.

  • Paul A. Freeman

    Yep! Good ‘un.

    Didn’t get straight away the two ladies were professors. I thouht maybe they were students.

    Otherwise a brilliant reversal of roles (on more than one level), dripping with irony.

  • Great reversal of roles, excellent twist!

  • Great story. Really enjoyed it.

  • Made me smile.

  • That was a really fun read. Great voices, as has already been said, and well done all around. Thanks for that!

  • Great dialogue, title, and story overall! I did have a question about your use of dialogue tags. I appreciated that you made it clear in each line who was speaking, but sometimes, I wondered if the dialogue tags were necessary, particularly in the last two lines where the dialogue itself seems more important (and the speakers seem clear without the “she says”). I did, however, like your use of present tense, as it made me feel as if I were right there in the room with the characters.

  • Thanks for all the lovely comments, everyone. As for the dialogue tags, Christina, it’s an interesting question. I tend to go on gut feel as to what sounds right, and I’m not sure that the rhythm of the last couple of lines would work without them. Could be wrong, of course 🙂

  • Jonathan – not at all! It’s your story, and a very good one at that! Thanks for addressing my question!

  • There’s an error in the second line too, unless Catullus deliberately broke up “nobiscum” into two words (which would be poetic licence, deliberate misuse for effect).

  • I was just too lazy to get out my Latin dictionary and translate, so I have no idea what the note said … I felt a little lost not knowing. And with reference to the two young ladies, I thought they were students and the use of “Professor” was just a bit of humor, but apparently some felt otherwise.

    And I will say again, I don’t much like stories in present tense, there didn’t seem to be any real reason for it here.

  • Jen

    I loved this! A fun story with a good lesson about not making judgements on people’s intelligence too. A good thing to remember!

  • Arthur Newton

    Very entertaining. Felt sorry for the guy – all the attributes and total failure. Take your word for the latin. At four stars, think I missed one out.

  • Krystyna Smallman

    Enjoyed the story. Well done. Surprised about the cats, though. Saw you more as a dog person, for some reason.

  • Elin B.

    Great fun, very witty. 5 stars.

  • Thank you, everyone! Hmmm, nobiscum. I see what you mean, P.M., but I did check before I put the poem in. I’ll have another look. And Krystyna, the principal thing about cats is that they’re lower maintenance than dogs. Although how we ended up with four of them, I have no idea.

  • Sorry, JP, I didn’t mean to imply that “nobis cum” was necessarily your error, I just didn’t rule it out because I hadn’t checked the sources yet. It’s Catullus’s own non-standard use of Latin, something he is known for, particularly in that poem about Adonis where the protagonist is referred to in the masculine up to the point where he castrates himself but poetically in the feminine after that.

  • Excellent story, great title too!

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