10/14/10: Way to shame me into updating again by commenting, people who comment! (Seriously, though, hi, welcome, and pull up one of the splintery old orange crates that we use for seating 'round these parts seein' as we can't afford no fancy chairs.)

The rules from
here still apply.

Friday, October 24, 2008


Martha fancied she could feel a sweatdrop roll down her forehead. "Oh, well. They were both... so good," she managed to reply. "I really couldn't say which I liked better." That much was true, anyway. Edna couldn't cook to save her life, and she couldn't throw together pre-cooked ingredients together to save her life, either. That three-bean salad had tasted like death on toast... in part because Martha was pretty sure Edna had actually added lumps of toast to it. Something had been oddly soggy in there, anyway.

"Hmm. Really? No preference?"

"Not a bit," Martha answered with as much cheer as she could muster. Then, to try to allay Edna's suspicions: "In fact, I was thinking of asking you for both of the recipes. You know how my husband is looking for that big promotion? -- well, it also so happens that Susie Mitchell is married to one of his managers, and they're both coming over for dinner Thursday night. I was thinking of making them both dishes!" A harmless enough lie; it would turn out that Mr. Mitchell was allergic to both tuna and... whatever might have been in the bean salad... and thus she would be excused from bringing either food-related abomination into being.

"Why, how lovely!" Edna exclaimed. She sounded pleasantly surprised. "In that case, no need for the recipe -- I'll bring them over to you myself! You'll have enough on your hands with trying to impress Ronnie's manager!"

Oh no. "That's really not necessary at a -- "

"No, no, dear, I insist. You needn't trouble yourself about it at all. And I'm sure my casserole will make a real impression with that Mr. Mitchell!"

Martha rubbed her forehead. "That's what I'm afraid of," she mumbled into her hand.


"Nothing, dear." Martha eyed the wall of the room she was in, and wondered vaguely just how hard it would be to torch the place and give herself an excellent reason for not serving Edna's food.

Huh. The dread specter of continuity? Really? How terrifying.

At least, I'm pretty sure the Edna here is the same Edna as this one.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


She signed it just a little larger this time, the words "PROPERTY OF" just a little bit more prominent, in the hopes that maybe this time Harriet would actually return the damn thing.

Somewhere on the other side of the phone, Harriet herself laughed. "Oh, dear, you are too good to me," she said, and Edna privately agreed. "I did so enjoy the book I borrowed from you last year... such a delicious little turn of story, it was."

"Yes, well. It's always been one of my favorite books. Every year or so I pick it up and read it again." Hint, hint, Harriet. Maybe fourteen months and counting is too long to hold on to a book you've "borrowed"...

Harriet laughed again. "Oh, Edna, you are too much."

"Quite," Edna managed to reply, instead of groaning. Dealing with Harriet and her irritating way of speaking and her infuriating way of never returning borrowed things was enough to drive a saint to murder; but since they were both on their church's Events Planning Committee, a certain degree of amicability was required.

Of course, if Edna had been thinking, she never would have volunteered any information about her reading habits in the first place. And if she had to say anything, she could just claim to have taken up Stephen King. Harriet didn't approve of all the curse words in conjunction with all the sex; that was why she preferred clean-talking trashy romance novels. The twit.

"...yesterday," Edna suddenly realized Harriet was saying, "and so I really can't see my way clear to it, you know? -- as much as I would like to. You see my problem, dear, don't you?"

"Uh, yes," Edna replied; and then, since this call had gone on long enough to count as amicable, "Look, Harriet, I should -- "

Harriet fairly crowed. "I'm so glad you'll help, Edna dear," she burbled, and Edna found herself sinkingly wondering just what she had agreed to. "Oh, it is rather a lot of work, but so rewarding, and I am so terribly glad that you can take over for me. They'll expect you there at four AM -- sharp, dear, but you understand, I'm sure!"

"Uh," Edna offered.

"It's been so lovely talking with you, Edna dear! I'll see you in church this Sunday; and you can tell me all about how the good work went!"


"Good-bye, dear!" Click.

Edna muttered something foul.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

On Diesel

Phoenix rolling up behind him now, rearview eventually giving way to rock-strewn emptiness, and he was on his way. North to Flagstaff, east to Albuquerque, a quick run through Amarillo. Nick had christened his truck the Yellow Kid a few years back, once it became apparent that the Phoenix-to-Oklahoma-City drive had sort of unofficially become his. Nobody got it.

Nick flicked through the radio spectrum for a while, trying to find something that wasn't either brimstone or steel guitars, but finally gave it up as a lost cause. Instead he hummed to himself, some song he'd heard recently about a cat in the rain, or something, he wasn't sure; it was in Spanish, which he had known as a kid but managed to mostly forget somewhere along the way. Probably the song had nothing to do with cats, or rain.

Once or twice he glanced at the photo taped to the dashboard; it was an old one, and the kids were still frozen at four and six and running laughing through Teresa's backyard. There were newer photos at the house in Wichita, he knew, but he preferred the ones that still had Charlie in them. Teresa's daughter Julieanne was in high school now. Every Christmas Teresa sent him family pictures, which he kept in a shoebox. On his dashboard Charlie and Julieanne laughed and ran, and neither cousin betrayed any knowledge of the fall that would neatly remove Charlie from future scenes. Nick was pretty sure you could see the offending tree in the background of that photo. He'd never asked which one it had been, though. Hadn't even been there in the first place. He'd been on the road.

He worked the gears, babying The Yellow Kid up a hill, and then eased it down the other side. In a couple of hours he'd stop at the same diner he always stopped at outside Phoenix. Clara or Berenice or Steph would be there, one of the waitresses who'd served him coffee a hundred times before, and she'd ask him as she poured how his family was, and he'd lie and say fine. As far as Clara and Berenice and Steph were concerned, his wife was still around and his son was still alive. They all lived in a pretty little ranch house in Phoenix. Rhonda wasn't tired of him being gone all the time. Charlie's six-year-old neck hadn't snapped against the hateful ground. Nick enjoyed the fantasy.

Tonight he would sleep in the cab of his truck, and tomorrow night, and probably the night after that, before catching a Greyhound up to Wichita. He'd sleep on his sister's couch, say hi to his niece, and then go back to The Yellow Kid and get back on the road. He didn't have a home; or if he did, then the Kid was it. The pretty little ranch house in Phoenix had been sold years ago, once he no longer had a wife or child to share it with him. Now all he really had was the road.

It was enough, Nick told himself firmly.

Yeah, I don't know. It was going to be a quiet little reflection about a guy with a quiet little life, rolling from job to job, occasionally seeing his sister but otherwise being very much alone. Then I started channeling Richard Bachman at his weakest. Next I guess I die of cancer of the pseudonym?

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Coffee Mugs

George set the coffee maker going, then looked up as the doorbell rang. "Little early, ain'tcha?" he muttered under his breath; then, "Come in!", he yelled. He listened to the door open and close, and nodded to Jason as the latter man ambled into the kitchen. "Coffee's not ready yet."

"'m early," Jason agreed. He rubbed his hands together. "Cold out there. Glad I don't hafta walk down to the bus stop an' wait around in this weather."

George nodded curtly. "How's the truck coming along?"

"Might have it fixed this week."

"Good. Good." Sooner the better. Jason was a decent neighbor and coworker, but that didn't mean George wanted to keep giving him a lift out to the plant every day. Especially since the bastard never chipped in for gas.

Jason interrupted his thoughts. "You get a raise this year?"

George frowned. "Ain't your business, I suppose, but no. Didn't get one."

"I gotta friend in HR, says this year's round of reviews finished yesterday. Says nobody got raises, and a lotta guys got laid off besides."


Jason shrugged. "It's a hard life, is all I'm sayin'. Blue-collar grunts like us, there ain't much left for us no more."

"Ain't you a cheery guy." George reached up to grab a couple of mugs from the cabinet. "You must be the life of every party."

"No, really," Jason replied, as George handed him a mug. "information tech-naw-lo-gee, that's where it is these days." He sipped at the coffee. "Here I am just hopin' to make it to retirement."

George glared at his own mug. LONNIE'S CB MART, it read. Jason's mug read ANTON'S HOUSE OF PORK. "You get to be my age, you'll be more or less used to losin' your job. Eventually you find another one." Not that it was the kind of thing he wanted to be thinking about, but since Jason never knew when the hell to shut up... George sighed, kept talking. "My brother came to me, ten, fifteen years ago now, asked me for help. Said he was starting up a new company. He just needed a couple thousand bucks and an extra pair of hands. Was goin' into computers, just like you're goin' on about now.

Jason gaped in a manner that George found supremely annoying. "An' didja help him?"

"Course not. I thought he was crazy. Flint County didn't need no internet -- we needed manufacturin', we needed the GM plant and men like you and me to work it." He rubbed his forehead. "Last I heard he was worth three million. Guess one of us was crazy, at that."

"Wow," Jason replied helpfully.

George glared at his mug again. "Fuggin' LONNIE'S CB MART," he muttered.



Thursday, October 02, 2008

I Thought You Would Never

Here's how it was supposed to happen:

After college, I packed up and moved. Fled. Flew to you, literally and figuratively. When I got off the plane and past security and saw you standing there waiting for me, the only thing I could think about was how, this time, I wouldn't be leaving again in a week. I was here to stay this time. I was home.

I got a job, maybe at the hospital near where you lived, maybe not. You'd gotten your degree about the same time I had -- maybe a little before, maybe a little after, the details aren't important. We got married. Six, seven years waiting for life to begin, and now it finally had.

We had an apartment and a cat -- or two, or three, though I would've balked at four. Life wasn't perfect, and it wasn't always easy or even pleasant, but we managed to muddle through somehow. Sometimes in the evenings we would watch Star Trek together and I would pity all the rock stars and kings and millionaires of the world because they weren't here, arms wrapped around you, feeling your heartbeat, your breath.

We never had kids, of course. Neither of us ever wanted them in the first place; and our lives were full enough without them. We never needed them. We had each other.

Eventually we left the apartment for a house somewhere, a small one, enough room for you and me and the cats. Maybe even a place on the street you showed me once -- remember? -- sweet little homes on garden lots with tall, leafy shade trees lined up by the curb. Walking distance to the international market, all the Pocky we could carry. You used to pass that street on the bus and dream. Wherever we wound up, though, it was home.

We grew older together, and it turned out to be as simple and good as we had always imagined, back when we were stuck thousands of miles away from each other. Life went on, and we went with it, and it was the same as it had ever been since it started that day we married. Mostly happy. Mostly good.

Eventually we both retired, still together, still you and me and maybe a cat. You were my world. I was happy to be yours as long as you wanted. We had forty years, fifty? -- not much more, probably, I was already edging towards 30 by the time I graduated -- but we had decades, and we never fell apart like my parents did, never drifted away like your parents did. It was like a fairy-tale romance, if there was ever a fairy tale with more frogs than princes.

But eventually, of course, one of us died. Maybe both. Maybe there was a gas leak, both of us going peacefully in our sleep. Our bodies found together with your head still on my shoulder. Better that than the alternative. If it came down to that, though, I'd be willing to be the survivor. Waking up each morning, knowing that this is yet another day in a long, long string of them without you: it hurts more than anything else I've ever experienced; and I've had an organ slowly fail, undiagnosed, over the course of years. I wouldn't want you to have to go through this, and so I'd be willing to be the survivor, again. At least I'd be at the end of my life, instead of still staring decades more of it down. Nobody bats an eye when one eighty-year-old dies and the other follows a week later.

That's how it was supposed to happen, plus or minus a few details: you, me, a good half-century of happy married life together.

Apparently it would've made us Pluggers, but who cares about that?

Way to go, Pluggers. I know that you're better than me because you don't bother with ridiculous citified things like computers, cable TV, paved roads, or basic sanitation; but do you have to rub it in by reminding me that you get to have your Twu Wuvs not die young, too? I mean, really. Apparently I missed the one where Brookins illustrated "Pluggers are big mean jerks".

All of this fic is true, or at least as true as an alternate history of the future can be. I have school notebooks going back to about 2001 where the back pages, unneeded for class, are filled with daydreams of a similar nature... though of course there was more hope involved when it was still, y'know, actually possible. Mine is a sad and kind of pathetic story. I'm just glad I got my gothy-poetry phase out in high school, so I haven't had to sink quite that far again.

"Mostly happy. Mostly good." is a bit I have lifted from Neil Gaiman's "The Wedding Present," from
Smoke and Mirrors. It's in the introduction, not in the table of contents. It's very good, although I can't really read it anymore. Maybe because it's too good. Way to go, Gaiman.