Out There

a Short Tale of the Weird and Wonderful

It's a day just like any other day... until something utterly unfamiliar suddenly lands in your back yard.

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Out There

It's a day just like any other day... until something utterly unfamiliar suddenly lands in your back yard.

Susan is the epitome of the happy housewife, contentedly conducting her daily ritual of cleaning her home and keeping everything just as it should be. Wrapped up in her own little world within those familiar walls, she hardly notices the altogether different arrival in her own back yard.

She may ignore the sudden shaking beneath her slippered feet, she might even neglect to spot the conspicuous sight itself—but she can't evade the stench.

Something's wrong. Very wrong. And Susan's incapable of determining just what to do about the uninvited eyesore in her back yard.

Turning to her best friend for help with the impromptu emergency threatening to shake up her very existence and happy home, Susan combines efforts with neighbor Trisha to decipher the composition and meaning of the frightfully large and utterly unpleasant new arrival.

But are these two women really capable of realizing the gift of new awareness they've just been given by an unseen entity? Or will they continue to fail to see the world that exists out there?

What a difference a day makes... unless you choose to ignore it.

Palm fronds crackled and sang in the cooling coastal breeze high above. Bees communed around stalks of lavender stretching toward the sun. Flowering succulents rebelliously reached across the edges of the sidewalk, showing off their resilience.

Her surroundings teemed with thriving life and newborn beauty fresh as the last droplets of remaining dew underfoot, but she noticed none of it.

Only her cell phone held her attention as she cradled it lovingly in her perfectly manicured hand. Her fingertips lovingly massaged the touch-sensitive screen, beckoned new surprises to delight her narrow focus with each fulfilling tappity-tap granting instant gratification. Just as yet more was immediately required.

She walked, almost utterly blindly, all the way to her front door, her back turned toward the frolicking baby mountain lions playing in the foothills, just visible in the distance. Only when the key was turned in the expertly tarnished brass lock, did she pause to pay homage to the present moment.

She sighed with appreciation for her life's achievement: marrying the man who bought such a magnificent home for her to call her own, the largest, most garishly adorned house on the block.

Just inside her front door, Mrs. Susan Anderson stepped out of her soft-heeled walking shoes and into her padded house slippers and proceeded to go about her usual day in the usual way.

She sought out unsightly specks of devilish dust, tracking its trail all over her home, her trusty feather duster firmly in hand. She hummed her usual happy tune while on the hunt, cheerily obliterating any sign of clouded glow or bespeckled shine detectable by the human eye.

She was completely unaware of the unimaginable—and quite substantial—sudden arrival in her back yard.

Susan continued her deadly dance, her hips swaying to the rhythm of her cheery melody as she savored the growing satisfaction of feeding her addiction to assassinating all unwanted inhabitants of her home. Her slippered feet served to heighten the luster of the hardwood floors as she scuttled to and fro; her swirling knee-length skirt stirred up the stale air of largely untouched, unused rooms.

She did detect the gentle tremble traveling through the earth beneath her home, but the recesses of her contentedly focused, subconscious mind found no reason to notify her consciousness. A possible, predictably unexpected quake shaking up her beloved southern California life was of no real concern. Neither was anything that happened outside the immediate confines of her dictatorially guarded homestead.

But, of course, something indeed had happened within her precious domestic territory.

As Susan tritely triumphed at her habitual game of attack and desist, her blissfully ignorant consciousness was finally clued in. The stench was too much for her subconscious awareness to bear alone.

The completely unique and utterly jarring scent first floated in as a mere whiff, then grew into a veritable bouquet of indigestible decay.

Susan's grip loosened on the handle of her feather duster; her posture straightened to firm attention. Her eyes darted left and right in search of the source of the odorous invader. It was her nose that lead her punctually to the French doors leading from her family room to the terrace stretching behind her home. ....

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Listen to a sample of the story...

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Narrated by:

Daniela Acitelli. Acitelli is an American audio book narrator and voice-over artist, who has lived in the U.K. for the past 15 years. She has a theater, film, cabaret, and circus background and has always had a great love of cabaret and vaudeville, including the old-time concert saloon, minstrelsy, circus acts, dime museums, and literary American burlesque shows. She's proud to have performed several times at London’s famous Madame Jo Jo's before it closed. She has produced and narrated over 50 audio books. (Site)

Editorial Reviews

Readers Favorite 5 Star SealOut There: A Short Tale of the Weird and Wonderful is a contemporary urban fantasy short story written by Justine Avery. Mrs. Susan Anderson is quite oblivious to her surroundings as she walks up the path to her front door. She doesn’t see the flowers blooming or the tenacious cactus, smell the scents of the ocean wafting up from the coast, or notice the wildlife in plain view up on the hillside above the lavish home where she and her husband live. Her eyes, attention and fingers are all focused upon her cell phone as she strolls, her imagination held captive by the small screen and the results of her tapping fingers. When she is finally inside the door, she quickly gets into the mood for dusting and polishing and making sure that everything she sees is perfectly clean, pristine and spotless in her domestic paradise. What she cannot control, however, is the strange brown mass that has somehow appeared outside the French doors to her terrace. It glistens in the sunlight, and the smell it exudes is disgusting.

Justine Avery’s humorous urban fantasy short story, Out There: A Short Tale of the Weird and Wonderful, juxtaposes the wonders of nature with the artificial world of a self-obsessed Los Angeles housewife. I wanted to tear her cellphone away from her face so she would see the lion cubs at play on the hillside and appreciate the salty breeze making its way up from the coast, and then I wondered at her obsessive-compulsive cleaning rituals. Avery sets the scene perfectly with those first few lines, and her imaginative, gentle take on the inanities of the so-called civilized world sweeps the reader from the banal to the fantastic, almost before you know it. This is a tale that is masterfully told, and it left me smiling for a little while and wanting more.

Reader Reviews

In one of the most apt metaphors for Los Angeles that I have read in some time, Justine Avery imagines that a well-to-do Angelino woman, "Susan", manicured and self-satisfied, discovers that a gigantic pile of reeking brown filth has appeared just beyond her "lovingly manicured grass terrace". The nasty mound towers over the house. Avery sets up the discovery nicely: after a well-written opening paragraph describing the natural life around her, Susan spends her time dusting her McMansion in a obsessive-compulsive way, attacking even the slightest speck of dirt. (One imagines her as one of those people who, later in life, keep notebooks full of "observations" and "data" in tiny script.) It's perhaps fitting, if slightly unfair, that such a woman will now have a literal pile of crap to deal with.

Avery has a superb ear for "California-speak". Over the phone, one of Susan's friends asks if "you're not just having a bad Ambien morning". I think I've heard that very sentence spoken in the southern California city where I reside. The wealthy denizens of what Don Henley called "The Last Resort" have bad Ambien mornings, zonked-out Xanax afternoons, and twitchy Viagra nights. Meanwhile, those bad Ambien mornings can be countervailed by a pot of fair-trade coffee, over which one can gossip with one's friend while the mountain of crap hardens outside the front door, as forgotten as the mountain lions stalking along the tinder-dry hillsides.

Avery provides a hilarious explanation for the story's events, by way of coda, which I won't spoil. "Out There" is a subtle environmentalist tract, but more than that, it's a morality tale about humanity's complete obliviousness to the world around them. In the meantime, I'm fairly certain that there are mountains of crap in the backyards of thousands of McMansions from Irvine up to Ventura -- I think I stepped in a few, in my long-ago youth.

5 out of 5.

Justine has that unique aspect on looking outside the box and the four walls that we become use to everyday. I thoroughly enjoyed this read and it really makes one think about what really is going on around us every day things that are unusual and things we never thought might be. hooked from the second page and it is going to change my day from my visual aspect at least!

Out There is a modern The Great Gatsby

Wow I have been reading/gobbling up this womans short stories up like crazy.

This one tells the tale about a woman and her life. It starts off ordinary enough....but I dont want to ruin it for you.

Its a thought provicing story with a touch of humor.

Is there more out here?

This book is very great short read. I love the dark humor and all the twists. The author knows how to keep you on your toes while reading. I love how it makes you realize things!

A New Favorite.

Please don't be discouraged by the fact that this short story is only 12 pages long and it might take you 15 minutes to read. What Justine Avery does in those 12 is absolutely genius!! Her ability to paint a detailed picture and have her readers hanging on every word to the end is that of a literary genius. This is by far my new favorite of Justine Avery books!! Even though this book is clearly fictional, the way she identifies and details the main character and neighbor makes it easy to see how she based this on real relationships. It's fantastic! Out There in all 12 pages of its splendor has rocked my world this morning. I can't imagine how difficult it is to write such a detailed story in such a short book. She continues to amaze me. Can't wait to read another!

Two worlds collide in a unique fashion

I enjoyed the writers poetic description of a housewife cleaning her immaculate home, the finest on the block of course, bought for her by her husband. I enjoyed the poetic descriptions, I am fan of Colette and early french eroticism, this writing reminded me of Colette's writings of the Music Hall.

I also enjoyed the dialogue between the two spoiled housewives, and the way their troubles were all forgotten after a bit of the latest gossip, and caffeine incited jabbering. When a child enters the picture that world was shattered and I landed on a new one.

I couldn't imagine this spoiled housewife having the responsibility of a child, and I suppose that was the point. I was taken into a new world where a mother must teach her child values, morals and the ways to behave, that shifts us to a new dimension.

Silly and interesting

It made me at first think I was reading a serious criticism of materialism and egoism, then it went off the deep end.

It made me laugh though, Avery definitely has an interesting sense of humor.

It's about how we can so stubbornly evade the most obvious and life altering discoveries, even when they are impossible not to notice.

An interesting short story that provides us with a perspective of an OCD housewife in Los Angeles. In the beginning, I was trying to figure out why Susan had the urge to clean her immaculate house beyond the normal and I couldn't blame her. First, I thought she was a germophobe but then realized she just suffers from OCD. It was quite a mystery to learn what the mound was in her backyard that had her in a hysterical fit. The ending was indeed not what I was expecting but it just wrapped up the story and made so much more sense. It might not seem like an easy read, so I suggest reading it a second time after knowing what the story was really about.

Creative, Thought-Provoking Story

This story is great for a quick stimulation of the mind and a huge laugh! It captures your attention, reels you into the story, and then suddenly, there is a mind-blowing twist! It made me smile to see how the same situation has two different views.

For me, it made me think about perspective. As I sit here thinking about the issues in my life that seem so great/challenging, this story shows me that what is big to me is small to others and will soon be small to me as well!

This short story is a must-read! It was money well spent. The writer is brilliant and made me want to come back to her to read more! Fantastic!

The beginning of this story completely baffled me. I spent the first several pages (about 10 of them) asking myself what in the world was going on and what the point of this story was going to be. How were they just relaxing when a giant pile of something was sitting outside? Why were they so concerned much more concerned about whether or not Susan's husband would be upset? Why would he have been upset at all?

I sat there reading and balking at their ignorance and kind of wondering what the point of the whole story was until the last few pages. Then I understood the brilliance. The last few pages of this story are what makes it such an amazing and enjoyable piece.

I think that if this story was any longer, it wouldn't have worked. The characters are a little too vapid to hold a reader's interest for chapters at a time. At this length, however, the story is an absolutely perfect commentary on life, society, and humanity. Avery made a brilliant decision by keeping the page count down with this one.

Out There is yet another incredible story from Justine Avery. This one is very short, but packs a load of humor and and a powerful life lesson. Its simple, witty style immediately captures the reader and takes them on a hilarious journey of epic proportions.

The story is about a self-absorbed woman who married herself into a rich household. It describes how this lady's daily routine is to sit outside each morning in the beautiful South Californian weather and enjoy the wonderful life-giving cell phone that her husband's money bought her. After her morning sit she goes inside and sets to work, productively sweeping up every single visible particle of dust in her home. She is so absorbed by her own habits and appearances that she even fails to notice the large gift that plops into her back yard. That is, until it overwhelms her. Even then, she is so unable to comprehend things that don't fit in with her view of the world that she invites her friend over for coffee. They sit and drink and forget life's problems in their gossip.

Out There is a wonderfully absurd commentary on today's "normal" lifestyle. It calls out those who are concerned with only themselves and their appearances, and complains that the people who do care never receive thanks or recognition. All around, this book is a fun read, and delivers its message simply and directly.

I Experienced So Much In Only 12 Pages

I feel like I delved deep into such an intriguing and complex story. It was hard to believe so much detail and creativity was packed into only 12 pages. There was very little dialogue compared to how descriptive the story telling is and yet I feel like I got to know the characters so well in such a short amount of time. This was a fascinating, short, and enjoyable read.

I can't say what I was expecting...but it certainly wasn't that!

This was my first Justine Avery story, and I must say it did not disappoint!

Avery is a great writer, with effortlessly visual descriptions, knowing exactly how much to describe to draw you in...or to keep you wondering. I found myself both baffled and amused by the story's mystery in the first half (wondering, "Is it really...could it really be...?"), and intrigued by the explanation offered in the second half. "Out There" is a sharp commentary on peoples' priorities, subtly delivered through the characters' thoughts and actions, rather than directly--a storytelling method I, personally, really appreciated.

I think we'll all find a little of ourselves in Susan Anderson, even if we don't want to admit it, and "Out There" definitely lives up to its title as an unusual invitation to re-evaluate, to broaden, where our minds and hearts can go.

Playful and Witty

Justine Avery has done it again. This short story is wonderful in many respects. It is distinctly psychological in its analysis of its' characters and their own shallow idiosyncrasies and yet surreal and playful at the same time. I find the balance between the acute examination of the mundane and the delightful imaginative magic of the otherworldly provides not only the passive enjoyment of such diametrically opposed realities but also, by way of sharp contrast, a thought-provoking examination of upper-class modern life. Avery's story is full of descriptive, original, and uniquely inventive writing that is a fantastic complement to the story. Her ability to create a self-contained and absorbing story in so few words is impressive and allows the reader to step into Avery's imagination briefly and to return from it aroused and reflective.

Fun story with good detailing

This was a fun and quirky story. Justine Avery is very descriptive in her details, which helped pull me more into the little quirks of the story. It has some great nuances about how to live more in your life.

Justine Avery’s short story, Out There, is basically poetic imagery. The thousands of adjectives come alive and paint a picture that you can, not only see, but feel as well. Each word makes you want to know more. Even as descriptive as the words are, there is mystery that makes you wonder. You will be left with thoughts of, is it and animal? is it an airplane? Is it nature? You may also have to pull out your dictionary a time or two, but you won’t mind the interruption to get to the story’s meaning. A great, fun read.

Oh how I love surprises!

Don't let the length of this one fool you. The author takes you on a journey that will tickle your funny bone and leave you wanting more. I found myself trying to figure out what was going on until the end, and boy was I surprised! If you are looking for a quick story that makes you think and then makes you laugh, this is it!

A refreshing piece of literature, "Out There" is an interesting read about a housewife, obsessed with the goings on inside her phone and the domestic bliss of her perfectly pristine domestic life, whose entire existence is threatened by a disturbing brown blob in the back yard. This wouldn't be a signature Justine Avery short story without a monumental plot twist. This is not my [first] short story from this author so there was a level of expectation going in. I was not disappointed. The ending left me guessing which was different from my previous experiences from this author. I reread the story to see if I had missed something, but the open interpretation at the end ultimately added to my love for this novella. Another great read from the author.

This is one of my favorite Justine Avery short tales! While I must admit that I did read this story a second time to make certain that I was not missing anything, it was a great read that left me feeling curious and thankful of my surroundings. Avery's gift of description and imagery is not lost in this story, and she again manages to transport the reader into the story in such a short amount of time. Typically, I'm not a huge fan of stories whose endings are left up for interpretation by the reader; however, there was something about Out There that was so...out there...that I enjoyed coming to my own conclusions and thoughts about the entirety of the story. Out There is a fantastic short read!

Avery’s beautifully descriptive writing manages to develop characters clearly by describing their actions with intricate detail. I found myself engaging with the characters very quickly, as if I had known them much longer than only a few pages! The slow reveal of details creates a tension and curiosity that makes the story wildly interesting.

Avery gives readers time to imagine what the mysterious object might be, but the ending surpassed even my wildest guess. Altogether a delightfully strange (but wholly endearing) piece.

"Out There: A Short Tale of the Weird and Wonderful" is an urban fantasy short story written by author Justine Avery. The main character, Susan Anderson, is completely oblivious to everything that surrounds here as she makes her way inside her home. Everything. She is, much like the youth of today, fully engulfed by her cell phone. Once inside, she focuses all of her attention on cleaning and dusting, controlling her surroundings. In the backyard, just beyond the french doors to her terrace, is a strange brown mass that gives off a disgusting smell. This extraordinary intrusion into her routine threatens to unravel her well maintained homeostasis. The tale was expertly told by the author. The contrast between the natural world that surrounds the main character which she completely ignores to the created reality that lives inside her cell phone that engulfs all of her senses is a wonderful take on the world we are currently living in. This story was short and to the point, filled with humor and wonder. Don't skip this tale. You will not be disappointed.

Surprising and inventive

This was my second sampling of Justine's work and I'm now seeing the comedic quirks and nuances that make her characters so compelling. This quick read left me wanting more -- and that's good. You don't make a joke better by making it longer. I'll be looking forward to more of Justine Avery's writings.

Out There: (a Short Tale of the Weird and Wonderful) is aptly titled and just that, a short tale of the weird and wonderful. The tag line, "What a difference a day makes… unless you choose to ignore it" is perfect for this quick read. I felt this could have been easily adapted to a subplot for Twin Peaks or an episode of X-Files with it's science fiction undertones and bits of humor. Susan is a self-obsessed housewife, stuck in her own little world, when something unexpected threatens to shake the very foundation of her reality. The way Susan handles the unexpected 'guest' in her back yard is unimaginable yet intriguing and the very reason I fell in love with this tale. Without giving away too much, because it's a short read after all, the twist caught me completely off guard and sealed the deal for me. I love this story. Being able to fully engulf the reader in her world in such a small work, is a testament to the author's ability to engage the reader, quickly and completely. I highly recommend this thought provoking story to any fan of fantasy, mystery, the unknown and… dare I say… the weird and wonderful!

Thought provoking subject!

Reading this short story the first time I thought I might have missed something that would further explain it’s unusual ending. Then, I realized this outstanding author wanted each of us to interpret her story with our own perception of life’s mysteries.

I instantly fell in love with the author’s description of the OCD Los Angeles housewife in her superficial world of existence. The surprise ending brought back memories of my beloved childhood fantasies. In an attempt to better understand the connection, I called my daughter to talk about this author’s story.

This thought provoking story opened up a long dialog and in depth study that quickly spanned our age gap. Our lively discussion included life’s numerous adventures that we all too often overlook in our hectic lifestyles and need to ‘fit in’. We realized how easily we could get caught up in ourselves and miss out on the true meaning of life and our existence.

My conclusion: How easily we grown-ups willing gave up our inquisitive endeavors to learn the secretes of our universe and relinquished our belief in fantasies for rationalism in the credence of becoming adults.

This a quick, fun read with an amazing twist. A bit of a social commentary mixed in with the fantastical and a LOT of laughs! I even loved the bonus short story at the end. My only critique is the length; this author has such a gift for writing and imagination that I fell in love with her characters and found myself wanting to know more about them: their life, the "world" they live in, the disasters they have overcome. ... the story had me so enthralled. Overall, this book is worth the read and the author is one to add to your watch list.

Out There is a great little read! It is so highly descriptive that you will see, taste and smell the components described in this surprisingly delightful book. The unexpected ending is well worth the wait and the very small investment of both time and money you expend. Pick up your copy today and put a smile on your face!

What an incredibly refreshing piece! The author's descriptions and details painted a very clear and vibrant picture for me as I read the book, I could very well imagine myself in the story. The message of the story is very applicable to society today, and is something that I can definitely relate to and appreciate. I wasn't expecting the end of the story at all, which made it surprising and amusing for me! I was hoping there was more to read - readers should check out this unique short tale.

Out There is another great example of author Justine Avery’s ability to seamlessly weave in and out of reality. For a very short story. it is chock-full of minute details that carry the story to unseen worlds.

The subtle nuances that drive the story offer a glimpse into the over- sanitised blank existence of modern suburban life.

“Susan's grip loosened on the handle of her feather duster; her posture straightened to firm attention. Her eyes darted left and right in search of the source of the odorous invader”.

A delightfully descriptive tale and truly is about the weird and wonderful. I thoroughly enjoy reading something something a little bit different from an author not afraid to break from the norm and this hits the spots nicely. Talk about getting dumped on from a great height though... :-)

This short story packs a real punch with few words; the type of story I truly enjoy. Mrs. Susan Anderson Is a typical person in that she doesn't pay much attention to things around her.

Our number one task in life is to become conscious. Why? So we can separate truth from illusion. Susan and Trisha are sound asleep. They can't even separate a rock from a pile of you know what. Even when it stinks to high heaven. They're too busy wielding their feather dusters and drinking their coffee. They're caught up in their own tiny (very tiny) world. They haven't a clue. But I don't know if they're any more asleep or clueless than rocket scientists wielding their numbers or writers wielding their words. But Justine Avery is one writer who knows how to wield words that wake us up....and in very short order.