“April 18, 2014 – 5:55:32 AM
I’m in bed when the call comes in. Time-actives, we have a lot of very clever ways to talk to one another, but most of the time the simple way is best.
It takes me awhile to come together, all lead-limbed and tired like I am. My wife murmurs, turns over, tries to throw her strapping arm over me. Hold me close. I want her to. I have done a man’s job and I want a man’s rest with Rachel’s arms around me, her warmth at my back, her burnished bronze hair falling over my neck and shoulder. But the phone could be anyone: Will to tell me that my bail-skip is gone again and so I won’t collect, some young woman in trouble, some husband wanting to find his missing wife, a suicide, a runaway son…and I am a detective. It is my job to answer when I would rather sleep.
“Gabriel…” Rachel whines, as I slip out of the bed. I think that is what she says. Her face is up against the pillow.
The fog outside is cold, and makes the whole house chilly in the dark. It helps to wake me up. I lurch to the dresser at the foot of the bed, where I left my cell charging. My hands fumble over the case when I try to open it. Older model, flip phone, does not look suspicious if I’m at work in 1995.
“¿Hola?” I mutter, voice thick with unfinished sleep, as I stagger down the stairs and into the hall.
“What time is it?”I stop, and stagger in the other direction. Debbie-Anne, Rachel’s sister, is sleeping in the guest bedroom.
“Gooch.” It’s Will. “There’s something you need to see. I’ll be there in ten minutes.”
“Prizes from the deep!”
Ladli’s nephew Maandhar had been somewhere in that cloud. If they were lucky, she had thought, some rich farmer from Uttar Pradesh would believe him or humour him, and pay solid rupees for promises of pre-flood diamonds and a few trinkets. That would help, especially since his father Gaurav was not bringing in fish like the old days.
\She had peered into the transparent aluminium wall of the wastewater treatment plant, all oysters and moss and bright-green politics as Delhi dictated, crouched on the edge of the water and straddling a superhighway that lead down into the shallows of the old diamond district. In the morning sun, the coral glinted in rainbow hues, reds and fiery yellows, verdant greens like the north of Gujarat after the monsoons, deep impossible blues which had not existed in nature until eighty years before. She knew why – before Padma’s death, Ladli had studied marine biology, understood the relationships between the new organisms in their handmade ecosystem.
I still remember the first time I left an essay under my pillow for the Diction-fairy. I was eight years old and it was about Ireland. Like anyone in the days before the wonders of the Internet, I was stuck on Sunday night with two pages due on Monday and not even old enough to say the word ‘bullshit,’ much less practice it. Mom was busy with her transcribing, the smell of her chamomile tea hanging in the air like perfume, her slippered foot keeping time for the drone of her boss’ presentation and the squeak of the cheap tape. She called me her little Bug. Still, I begged, I pleaded, I had only an hour left before bedtime!
“Leave some blank pages under your pillow for the Diction-fairy.” She finally said, between the squeaky atonal noises of the tape machine.
Hon. Mention, Tellus 2006
“It was about three in the afternoon, at least that’s what it would’ve been on Earth. The sky was an angry purplish, like blood on the inside of your helmet, and it was ripping around, trying to kill us. The worst was behind, but the destruction lay ahead.”
Second Place Winner, N3F Short Story Contest 2013
- ““I am going to piss,” he said. The bluntness was liberating. In this last year, after Comrade Mao clarified that etiquette was merely the classist remnants of a feudal past. He spat freely, and walked away from the table.
Into the silence, as he made for the liberated landowner’s house they used for a toilet, he could almost hear Big Ching. He pulled down his pants and washed over the sound with his piss. The sound seemed to change. It wasn’t regular. It was melodic.Comrade Lin stopped, and tried to listen. Snatches, deeper into the farmlands of Pudong. He pulled up his pants, patted his copy of the Quotations of Chairman Mao, and walked down the dirt path. He wasn’t sure what kind of music it was, but it seemed almost familiar…”
Third Place Winner, Ray Bradbury Award 1999
- “Mary opened the door and craned her head around the door of her daughter’s bedroom. Iris had the radio on full blast, and rocked her head in time to the thunderous roar of the beat. At the same time, her hand moved furiously over a sheaf of paper. Occasionally she would pause, suck her pen, and then begin writing again.
- Mary stared at her with moist, frightened eyes.
- It’s all my fault, she thought. I read to her when she was little.”
“It was the little dharma bum Owen Weinstein and me, sitting in my tiny apartment in North Beach and cooking up macaroni and beans, when Michael died and came back. We were the angelheaded hipsters, poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed, we were contemplating jazz.”
– One Weird Idea #1
“As Savannah twisted around, she saw them. Just over her head, Dr. Marjane Satrapi floated in her polymer blanket, strapped to the bulkhead. She looked like she was just sleeping, her mouth slightly open and the deep lines along her cheeks relaxed. But her brown eyes were wide open, a million-yard stare like nothing Savannah had ever seen.
It gave her the shivers. She didn’t even bother looking at Captain Gongsun.”
“gojoe: u believe the news from SLO? y the fuck r bums burning down my bank? WhoIsJaneGalt: b/c they don’t THINK. I taught philosophy for forty years, never seen kids this stupid. Parents shove baby thru govt-indoctrination ‘school’ too watered-down to flunk them if they don’t make it.”
English is China’s only language.
Christmas is its biggest holiday.
And Ying Wen has to find a present for his mother…
“I can’t remember the first time I met myself, but I’ve passed along the story to my younger self when it came to be my turn. I do remember the year I decided to come home every Christmas. I was ten years old, and my parents were away at the office Christmas party, and Nina was downstairs watching TV. I was feeling lonely, as it was Christmas Eve and every other year we’d all have been putting presents under the tree and dropping hints about the contents by now.
That’s when I walk in.”
“A thousand hours on the training mat, a hundred thousand falls. Rolling, weaving, the feeling of your center shifting underneath you…I wouldn’t give it away for any amount of money. Even so, I did.”
In 2109, there is no more space program.
No more Discovery.
No more Final Frontiers.
“Harrison’s boots had been assembled by Chinese out of the hides of good Texan cattle and rubber from Brazilian trees. They, and the white man in them, were the first traces of the global economy to track into this forgotten corner of southeast Asia.”
“They came home from the movies rather late, Russell Lake and Maggie Crowe. They’d dawdled in the lobby speaking in a language that was quite definitely English but which was at the same very personally their own. They’d grown up together, thin little boy and exploding redhead, and they’d stopped off, not for coffee, but for the sheer childish, selfish pleasure of ice cream.”