Read Daniel Braum’s story Mystic Tryst at Farrgo’s Wainscot #8.

Susannah Mandel’s short story “The Monkey and the Butterfly” is in Shimmer #11. She also has poems in the current issues of Sybil’s Garage, Goblin Fruit, and Peter Parasol.

Alex Dally MacFarlane’s story “The Devonshire Arms” is available online at Clarkesworld.

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

Tournament Season

by Rudi Dornemann

I saw her at the roof-races, her crimson stilt-car ambling along at the middle of the pack. Her name, I didn’t catch, but the winking skull icon on the hood was hard to forget.

I saw it again at the hot-air balloon demolition derby, on the chute she used to bail out amid the aerial apocalypse that took the field from fifty contests to three in moments. She waved, perhaps in my direction.

I met her at last in the undercity after the giant eel slalom. She was dripping into the celebratory champagne, and giddy before her first sip. She’d placed in the top five.

“I’ve seen you,” she said, “in the stands, always with that hat. I’ve taken it as a good luck charm.” She handed me a flute of watery bubbly. “Please keep wearing it.”

I stammered something, but she was swept into the crowd of well-wishers and people who’d won money on her.

It wasn’t a hat. It was a job, a series of hats I was paid to wear, some kind of advertising campaign building through the tournament months. But as long as they looked similar, she’d get her luck, and I’d get my paycheck.

The next hat, the next event went fine. I sat just behind the reviewing stand at the skate-boat regatta–I got a bonus for visibility. The winking skull sloop placed twelfth, enough for a small cash prize–bonuses all round.

But the next was all disasters. I overslept, arrived late, only found a seat in the second mezzanine; the hat wasn’t much like the others, and looked even less like them the way I’d thrown it on; she was eliminated before the first intermission.

“Combat opera,” she said when I found her, alone, backstage, “Easier than it looks. Until you miss a cue.” She smiled behind the icepack. “I’m done.”

“There’s the ornithopter relays,” I said. “The mole-machine rally. Tournament season’s barely begun.”

“No, tonight was it. The launch.”


“The icon,” she said. Then the crowd found her, and I lost her.

Ad world connections told me the winking skull mark auctioned well the next morning. I saw it frequently over the next months, openly on tea packets and fig tins, subliminally in magazine photo shadows.

Next spring, her stilt-car bore a laughing rhino logo and I resolved to keep wearing my motley-lapelled smoking jackets through the season, to see what luck would bring us.

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2 Responses to “Tournament Season”

  1. Jeff Swanson Says:

    August 25th, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    This. Was. Excellent.


  2. Rudi Says:

    August 25th, 2010 at 11:26 pm

    Thanks, Jeff! Glad you liked it.