Plugs

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.

Sara Genge’s story “Godtouched” may be found in Strange Horizons.

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

Kat Beyer’s Cabal story “A Change In Government” has been nominated for a BSFA award for best short fiction.

Archive for February, 2011

The Discovery of Pluto

Friday, February 18th, 2011

We discovered Pluto behind the couch. It was so small and looked so vulnerable, like an egg wobbling on the verge of a so-deep drop.  It was heavy, too, and icy cold. My brother and I fought over it so my mother took it away from us and put it up on the mantle.

(Some things I know about Pluto: Pluto’s orbit is chaotic.)

My mother said, I can’t deal with this right now. I can’t. And she closed the door of her room behind her. Those were the times we knew to not listen as hard as we could.

On the mantle, Pluto’s gravity dragged everything toward it, even those soft and terrible sounds our mother made when her bedroom door was closed. On the mantle, Pluto looked so small from where we were standing, and solid. Even after everything.

(Pluto’s tiny size makes it sensitive to unmeasurably small details of the solar system.)

Sometimes I’d creep into the parlor and sit in front of the fireplace. It sounds stupid to say, but you kind of got the feeling that Pluto understood disappointment. You kind of got the feeling that Pluto understood where you were coming from, that sense of loss that hung around right in the center of your chest.

Right after our father’s funeral, our mother walked into the house and stripped off everything she was wearing. It made us embarrassed to look at her, her pockmarked and scarred terrain. Standing there in her underwear. She scrubbed everything clean, and threw everything away, no matter what we said. We saved Pluto from her, somehow. For the good of the solar system.

(When it comes to Pluto, calculations eventually become speculative.)

We came home from school one afternoon and Pluto was gone. We looked through the whole house. Our mother’s bedroom door was closed. I knocked, and then my brother knocked. We tried the knob, and it turned. We opened the door, and it was as empty as the space between planets.

But we knew that things like that happened. Millions of years from now, Pluto could be at aphelion or it could be at perihelion or it could be anywhere in between, and there is no way for us to predict which. The resonances of the universe keep Pluto’s orbit stable, safe from planetary collision.

Maybe we thought we’d find our mother behind the couch, with Pluto, and our father, and everything we’d ever lost. For just a moment—like a brief and perfect instant of hydrostatic equilibrium—it could have been true.

Hench Man

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Boss,

Business has been good.  We shook down three owners yesterday for five grand apiece, and that was a slow day.  We raised last week’s earnings to almost a hundred thou, which doesn’t even include the human-vs.-alien boxing match where I encouraged my fellow alien to throw the match for an even mil.  Before I met you, your henchmen had all but left you out to dry.  Now you’re the biggest Mafioso don in the City.  Word’s out that all the bosses are looking for their own “ratters” as they call us aliens.  Isn’t it high time you paid me what I’m worth?  It’d be awful to bump into Guido again who said he will.

No human can match me in the henchman department.  Each paw–four for the price of two–comes standard with five blades.  Do you remember our battle with Guido’s East-siders where I’d single-handedly taken out 74% of his henchmen before your human boys would even step out of their cowardly cover to take aim?  How about the time at Starbucks where Guido sent a courier to deliver a bomb, which my keen hearing and smelling picked up and my tail sent hurtling out the door in the nick of time?

Not only am I superior in strength and agility, but I get paid in cheese–valued at far less than the pay of my colleagues of similar rank (although they are often more rank than I–where did you find these guys? dumpster diving?).  Moreover, all you ever serve is a wheel of sharp cheddar.  Imagine eating only and always hamburgers at every meal.  Where’s the Gouda, the Swiss, the Limburger, and Blue?  And why only one wheel of cheese per meal?  Sure, I’ll double in size, but I’m often famished after a hard day of torturing shop owners, and enhancing to my size should only enhance to your stature as the Mafioso to be reckoned with.

Finally, you haven’t a henchman whom you can trust more than me.  All the henchmen you have now had once abandoned you for Guido. They slumped back with their tails between their legs when you covered more territory than he.  Besides, I have no intention of taking over your business, at this time.  At least, I’d wait until you were dead before taking over.

So how about that raise?  Hold on a sec.  Guido’s on call waiting.  The heady scent of future blue cheese wafts through the air.

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