Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Due to a somewhat comical (if understandable) childhood misunderstanding, I spent several years terrified of black men with a good sense of rhythm.
This wasn’t due to any residual racism in the family or anything like that. Just words.
You see, I knew that the word "boogie" referred to a kind of music, and vaguely understood that it was a kind of music favored by African Americans. I also knew children were supposed to all be afraid of "the boogie man." I wasn’t sure why I was supposed to be afraid of boogie men, but what choice did I have?
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
"Listen, there’s anything we can do to make you feel welcome, let us know right quick."
"Thanks, it’s nice to meet you two."
"The pleasure was all ours."
The door closed. Mark put the pie on the table. "Didn’t know people like that still existed."
"They don’t, back in the city. Ooh, this’s delicious."
"Let me try – mmm, you’re right."
"I’m so happy, dar– ohh..."
"Honey, is something wrong? You– oh, god, my stomach...."
* * *
"Another accidental poisoning."
"But, the pie...?"
"You new, Deputy? Or you want them city types pushin’ us decent folk out of town? Put down ‘accidental poisoning.’"
Monday, April 28, 2008
"...to cinders by its heat ray. The mons–"
"That’s all, Phoung?"
"We lost the transmission there."
"Just over 30 cycles* ago."
"Launch warp torpedoes, real space reentry in the center of their sun."
"That’d kill everyone in the system!"
"You’re new to this, aren’t you? It’s a shame, but it has to be done, whoever won this war. These ‘martians’ are known interplanetary aggressors. And even if the ‘humans’ survived, the residual xenophobia left by the conflict would render them dangerously unstable in interstellar relations. Neither would be suitable members of the galactic peace."
*76.14 years – tr
Sunday, April 27, 2008
Joe whistled. "Fantastic rack. The rest wasn’t too shabby, either."
"But the rack’s what really matters."
"If you say so. But a great rack on a lousy body? Gotta have some meat on the bones ‘afore I’m interested."
"But a great body with a puny rack, what’s the point?" George spat on the ground.
"You can get a lot of use out of that body; the rack is just up there looking pretty."
"What’s the point without that rack up there looking pretty?"
"I guess deer’s a personal thing. Just remind me never to go huntin’ with you."
"Too fantastic. That’s not the kind of story our readers are looking for."
"What’s so fantastic about it? It just postulates a present world where a few historical events turned out differently. What’s so hard to believe there?"
"It’s just not plausible."
"It’s not so crazy to imagine. Just... different."
"Too different to believe. I mean, imagine Merlin didn’t develop the alchemical formulae. Someone would have. And if they hadn’t, do you really think society could have advanced? To take something as childish as clockwork toys and... electricity, and imagine a whole world run on such curiosities? It defies belief."
Saturday, April 26, 2008
I open a jar of preserves, spread a bit on a hunk of rough bread. The tartness takes me back to the past summer, translucent red berries on scatterred bushes. It seemed ages ago, on the far side of a very harsh winter of pain and loss. Back when there were cities and central heating and cars and grocery stores, I’d hardly noticed winter here; it was more just a lack of summer. I used to run with a crowd that railed against the ills of modernity. I wonder how many of them are alive. A cruel thought. But still...
Friday, April 25, 2008
She lays reading in the slanting morning light from the high bedroom window. Her back is to me, and I can’t help myself, I lean in to tickle the soft crease behind her left knee.
She laughs and hits me on the head with a pillow. I respond in kind. She grabs the lamp from the bedside table; I narrowly dodge and it shatters on the floor. I heft the brick we prop the door with, hurl it at her head, still laughing. She’s pulling out the revolver in the dresser drawer just as I return with a kitchen knife.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
"Do you like jazz?" She twirls a finger in her hair.
"That’s a hard one to answer. When I hear it, I feel like I’m enjoying myself. And of course I’m reasonably familiar with the classics. But then, I have to confront the fact that I don’t generally seek it out. Does that just mean I like other music better? Or have I convinced myself that I like jazz, because I want to see myself as a cultured person who likes it?"
She raises an eyebrow. "You’re supposed to say you love it and change the subject."
"Oh, good call."
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
A knock on my cell door. They call it my room, but they still lock it from the outside. I don’t answer, but the keeper comes in anyways.
"You gonna let me go?"
He sighs. "You know we can’t. And you should feel honored. You wouldn’t have been asked to serve Leader if you weren’t the best make-up artist in Hollywood before the revolution."
"And if his war scars weren’t convincing, there goes his image."
He puffs out his chest. "The public need visible evidence of Leader’s sacrifices."
"Don’t sell the salesman. Just get me my kit."
It was said that the mountain god was off chasing a virginal spirit, the slim, young personification of some spring or waterfall. That explained the poor flow of the river, which was under the purview of the valley goddess, who did not take lightly her husband’s amorous adventures.
So priests went to the mountain to present sacrifices, pleading that the god return to his marital bed.
The priests were hung from a nearby tree by the few who survived both the mountain’s violent erruption and the subsequent flooding. Even a priest should understand the dangerous potency of make-up sex.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
A drop of sweet-sticky gold on the center of my tongue, melting, dissolving, spreading to the corners of my mouth.
It’s my reward and it’s my chain. The honey is laden with complex alkaloids, synthesized endogenously by a new caste of a rapidly growing subspecies of apis mellifera, the Western Honeybee.
A hive of which nests in my walls. I don’t dream of taking any exterminatory action – that would cut off my ready supply of the honey.
Whatever had caused their decline, the so-called Colony Collapse Disorder, the honeybee had adapted to survive.
And oh, does it feel nice.
Monday, April 21, 2008
"Sam, I know you’re there. Are you all right?"
It’s a struggle not to pick up the reciever, but you manage.
"This is ridiculous. If you don’t want help, I’m not going beat myself up trying to give it."
You grab the phone. "Alice!"
Dial tone. You held your bluff just a moment too long. The regret is immediate, but you can’t swallow your pride enough to call her. Her call was an offer; your call back would be begging.
You’ll have to be okay on your own.
Or not okay. In the end, the universe doesn’t care either way.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
First, I want to dispell a misconception that’s been floating around. We are not in any danger of layoffs. It’s been bandied about in the media that the so-called man from the future will destabilize the insurance market, what with his stories of immanent collapse and chaos. This couldn’t be further from the truth – in fact, business is booming. Everyone wants more insurance, if anything, in case they survive to collect.
And here’s the great part. Whether this guy’s fake or real, we’re raking in the dough. If he is real, we probably won’t be here to pay out.
I turn towards the cry. Elroy Thorpe’s standing out on the boom, pole hard in a large snag of logs. The logs continue to pile up. I hurry down the boom to help out. If too many more logs drive up against the snag, they’ll be impossible to get unstuck.
The log Elroy is trying to pry loose isn’t going anywhere. I deftly slip my pole in a gap and begin shifting logs to get at the real snag.
Elroy’s log suddenly gives way, and he falls, half in the water.
There aren’t many old log drivers.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
"Please open your hymnal to song 328 and join together in song."
The organist played the first bars, and the parishoners boredly mumbled along. One voice rose above the rest, though, very young and very enthusiastic:
"Amaaaaazing graaaaapes, how sweeeeet the sooooong, to saaaaave a rat like meeeeeeeeee!"
Everyone noticed. Judging by their faces, the congregation was split between "adorable" and "blasphemous." The embarassed young mother whispered pleadings in her daughters ear, but she sang louder, and near everyone else had stopped to chuckle or tut-tut.
I couldn’t have picked a better day for my second coming.
Friday, April 18, 2008
Doodlebug (n): A self-propelled rail car, generally gasoline-electric pwered, used widely in the early twentieth century for local passenger and mail service on branch lines.
Theres the long-haul interstellar ship, the ones the model-builders and the ship-spotters get all excited about, with their ten-million-ton payloads and their giant gravwarp engines. Then there’s us little folks, the doodlebug captains. We carry the smaller cargoes, the short hauls. We ride the slipstream -- wait for a big ship going our way, then piggyback on their wormhole to the next system.
It’s not easy or safe; I've known captains who lost their companion ship, and floated forever in the infinitesimal space of a collapsed wormhole.
It’s also the only real flying out there anymore.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
"Can we count on your continued assistance in this matter?"
"So long as I can be sure it will remain discreet."
"You kidding? We’d be laughed out of the race if anyone found out we were consulting a warlock. Besides, it’s not like anyone would take it seriously."
"Sorcerer. And some would take it seriously. And they might take it upon themselves to find me. Through you. Not pleasant for either of us."
"Our lips are sealed."
"Then down to business."
"Let’s rig ourselves an election!"
Viktor the Dark tried to hide his unease. The wire was starting to itch.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
"Mother, I’m telling you Papa’s gone mad."
"Oh, how bad can it be?"
"Mom, he fired all the help."
She blinked. "All?"
"Every last one. He says he wants us to learn to fend for ourselves."
"I’m, I’m sure this all was a mistake. You, you did say all the help?"
"Even the gardener, or down at the pool?"
Iris stared a while. "Mother, you didn’t."
"Iris, I don’t think--"
"You and the pool boy? God, what a cliche."
"You don’t think he found out...?"
"I just hope you’re happy with yourself. Espescially when the garbage needs taking out."
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
I try to drag my head out of sleep as I barely manage to insert two slices of bread into the slots on the toaster. I find myself staring into the red glow of the coils, and it’s only when the toast pops up and I’m jarred awake that I realize I’d been asleep standing up.
In my dream I’d been the captain of a magical ship, sailing forth to unknown lands. Not anymore; it’s time to go sail a desk all day.
"Where’s the captain?"
"He was right here."
"Well, he’s gone!"
"Then surely we are doomed."
Monday, April 14, 2008
Note to self: Remember to create and post content before 11:30 tonight. You have all day to get this done, and there’s no reason you should be putting it off. And if doing this is so distasteful that you’re putting it off, then why the hell are you doing it? It’s not like your "readership" (lots of laughs there) would even notice if they stopped coming. There’s no excuse; you had plenty of chances today to get it done.
This procrastination thing is a cliche, and we all know how much you hate being a cliche.
You freaking pussy.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
"Look, the caller can believe anything he wants. No evidence has been presented regarding the unethical practices my campaign has been accused of."
"And the exit polls showing overwhelming support among reanimated voters?"
"Entirely circumstantial. Maybe my platform appealed to them."
"So you categorically deny rumors that your campaign bought resurrection time for previously deceased voters in return for their votes?"
"Are you implying a conspiracy to commit electoral fraud?"
"So yes or a no?"
"Look, we engaged in an aggressive get-out-the-vote campaign. I’m confident that we did nothing illegal, and I have nothing further to say."
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Meanwhile, there was another universe getting started, albeit a not-as-well publicized one. It wasn’t made by a powerful single god, but rather by a loose community of lesser gods, some in the business of universes, some hobbyists. This universe wasn’t proprietary; its inhabitants could make changes, and could share their verison of reality with others. This sometimes made it a harder to live in than the other universe; compatability was an issue, with so many different variations on reality. But its residents enjoyed it all the same, even thumbing their nose at the mostly oblivious creatures next door.
Friday, April 11, 2008
"Here’s your fish, ma’am, and here’s your chicken fingers, little lady. Would you like a crazy straw for your Coca-Cola?" I deftly whip the contorted plastic tube from a pocket in my apron.
The little girl’s face brightens at the proffered novelty, but the mother wheels on me, clapping her hands around the girl’s ears and transfixind me with a cutting glare. "How dare you use that word?"
"The... the c-word. The girl’s father is in an instutution." The girl struggles weakly against the mother’s vise-like grip. "I don’t want her to grow up warped."
Thursday, April 10, 2008
"So what else do we know about this guy?"
"Well, one thing – you won’t believe it..."
"They say he recieved the Purple Heart after the third war."
"This your idea of a joke?"
The third war didn’t leave injured soldiers. Might sound humane, and if you consider efficient killing to be humane, it was. Your ship takes a strange-matter torp in trans-planetary flight, you don’t limp home with a broken leg.
"That clinches it. The stories aren’t real. Just some pseudonym."
"And if not, he’s got problems enough without us at the door."
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
My favorite thing is playing the triangle in band because we have a concert and in the third song because I have a solo on the triangle. A solo is where everyone else stops playing and I play and everyone listens. I like this because nobody listens to me most of the time usually they just give me funny looks and I dont know why they are looking like that but I feel like they are saying something I dont understand and it makes me feel real sad sometimes. I dont feel sad when I am playing in the band.
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
"Oh, could you double bag those?"
"I’m can’t double bag your groceries."
"Why not? All the other baggers always double-bag for me. Besides, I only have one bag."
"But imagine the consequence if your action were universalized. If every customer got twice the bags, you can see that the result would be unacceptable."
"But does everyone even ask you to double-bag?"
"No matter. You must act according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law."
Damn. Just my luck to get the Kantian bag boy.
Monday, April 7, 2008
I look on a mess of epic proportions. Corrosive purple goo coats every surface of the barn’s interior. Bizarre internal organs, still weakly pulsing, and chunks of shimmering gray metal, in strange, twisted, forms, litter the floor. If any of this were found by civillian authorities, any sample brought to a laboratory, the lid would be off the entire operation.
I curse the field operatives under my breath. They act like they’re the whole show, out zapping baddies with stolen or reverse-engineered alien technology, making however much mess they want. No thought for the guys with mops and buckets.
Sunday, April 6, 2008
"Pancakes again? We had them less than two weeks ago."
"We’re not having pancakes, we’re having pancake."
"So what’s the difference? Singular, plural, same thing. Just less of it."
"Honey, it’s not up to us. The choice is out of our hands."
"Why would they pick it again so soon? It’s not like there was much to do with them the first time around. Now we get them again?"
"At least this time we got them on a Sunday. Getting them ready before work on a Friday was even worse."
"I just don’t see how they could be so lazy."
There he was, flat as a pancake. Just like in a cartoon. I’d warned Donald several times about the roller’s bad brake, but I guessed he hadn’t got it fixed, judging by his current state.
But that got me wondering. Could it possibly have gotten enough speed on such a slight incline to run him down? Wouldn’t he hear it, get out of the way? I felt riduculous, standing over my one-dimensional foreman wondering about foul play. ‘Course, guy wasn’t too well liked on the crew, but nobody would do that. Right?
Well, I’d better get this cleaned up.
Saturday, April 5, 2008
"We should keep in touch."
"Sure!" Never mind that we’d spoken three times in the past four years; we were all giddy with transition, and such pledges were flying every which way.
A week later I got the first call.
"Josef. We said we’d keep in touch."
"Oh, yeah. So, do you want to hang some time?"
After that, he called weekly. I finally started screening my caller ID. Three weeks after that, Josef arrived at my door.
"A promise," he said sternly, "is a promise." He walked slowly to his waiting cab
Friday, April 4, 2008
The site was precolumbian, and the skull seemed contemporary. Nobody would have taken notice, but for a study being run on bone density and nutrition in the area’s early inhabitants.
The device, the size of a small pea and made of an unknown black metal, was embedded in the occipital ridge.
Initially there was resistance from tribal groups, who demanded burial for the remains. Then the DoD got involved, and things raced ahead.
Now I sit in quarantine, wondering if volunteering for this was a good idea. The incision behind my head tingles. I wait for whatever might happen next.
Thursday, April 3, 2008
The butchering is a careful process. I do respect the life I take, and I like to avoid waste where possible.
First, I immediately bleed the animal. I cut off any clothing with my belt knife. Next I remove the internal organs, carefully saving kidney, liver, heart, and sweetbreads.
I neatly portion out the flesh; some goes in deep freeze, some I cook fresh or smoke.
If it’s a buck, and I’m in the mood, I might cook the animelles and eat them fresh. Or I might freeze them for later.
Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t.
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
"This is it. This guy will bring polka back. He tests great across the target demo, without alienating existing fans. We sign him now, or we let some other label pick him up, and wave at his rocket as he flies to the moon."
"But he’s such a loose cannon. You know we can’t afford another burnout, not now. We sink the resources to break this kid, we’re dead in the water if he doesn’t–"
There’s a dull "clunk," and the importance of the situation fades. Roy and I step out of the urgency simulator; the next customers file in.
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
"Now that I have you out of the way, Captain Astounding, nobody can foil my plan -- and it is my most brilliant yet!"
"Worse than your Slight Itchiness Ray?"
"Worse than your plan to shrink everyone’s underwear half a size so it kind of bunches?"
"This machine, which I will turn on in just thirteen minutes, at the strike of midnight, will turn off every alarm clock in the city! Can you imagine wat would happen if everyone came in late to work?"
"You wouldn’t! Think of the lost productivity!"
"Just watch me, do-gooder!"