Luc Reid writes about the psychology of habits at The Willpower Engine. His new eBook is Bam! 172 Hellaciously Quick Stories.

Edd Vick’s latest story, “The Corsair and the Lady” may be found in Talebones #37.

Trent Walters, poetry editor at A&A, has a chapbook, Learning the Ropes, from Morpo Press.

David Kopaska-Merkel’s book of humorous noir fiction based on nursery rhymes, Nursery Rhyme Noir 978-09821068-3-9, is sold at the Genre Mall. Other new books include The zSimian Transcript (Cyberwizard Productions) and Brushfires (Sams Dot Publishing).

One Way of Knowing

by Kat Beyer

Dr. Sarah Meckham knew how she felt by what she did. She knew she must feel nervous, because she kept dropping crumbs on the rug.

Companies fought over her for her neatness. No jet engine she designed, no part she machined, ever failed.

“Don’t worry,” said Lady Stirling. “These are crumbly scones. I have people to worry about the crumbs.”

“I don’t normally drop them,” said Dr. Meckham. The crumbs marred the pattern of the Turkish carpet, scattered across its blue and red hexagons. She’d even spilled some tea. She never spilled her tea!

“May I refill your cup?” asked Lady Stirling. Dr. Meckham wasn’t sure.

“So you’ve come to have your fortune told,” Lady Stirling said, giving up. “Doesn’t sound very engineer-like.”

“Yes, I know,” Dr. Meckham said, and thought, ‘and that is how I know I’m afraid.’ “I believe that you may help me understand the odds.”

“Odds of…?”

“Of surviving. Some people want to be the only ones who know how to make some of the machines I have designed. And other people would like me to stop making machines that make their military buildup difficult, or meaningless. You see.”

“That explains the gentleman and the car waiting outside,” said Lady Stirling.


Lady Stirling watched more crumbs fall.

“And the men on the ridge and in the gazebo?”

“They prefer it if I pretend not to know.”

“I see. So you are interested in probabilities, not tall dark handsome men.”

“Yes,” said Dr. Meckham.

“That’s wise. Well,” said Lady Stirling, slapping her hands on her tweed skirt, “I think you’ll do for the next decade, particularly if you remain vigilant. After that, you must hire a different driver, because your enemies will blackmail this one. That’s about all the detail I can get at the moment. I should be delighted to have you to tea in nine years’ time, if you can manage it, so we can look a bit further ahead. Does that help?”

“Yes,” said Dr. Meckham. “That was very quick. I expected…”

Lady Stirling smiled. “Palm reading? At least a pack of cards? No. I don’t normally explain my mechanism, but to a mind like yours I will offer a hint: even perfectly neat eaters drop crumbs on this carpet.”

All the way out the door, Dr. Meckham treaded carefully, staring at the patterns. Lady Stirling smiled gently again, amused.

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