Plugs

Sabertooth boy is dating a dental hygienist. He likes to surprise her. His smooth cold curves tickling the side of her neck make Carla shiver from head to toe. She likes to floss, gets DOWN with the unwaxed string, has plenty of uses for those big big teeth. Genetic Modifdication doesn’t bother her. In college she lived with a phytosaur, captain of the GM rugby team, now a personal trainer, lots of big teeth. A whole forest jutting out of that girl’s mouth. Lately, STB has been getting pangs of jealousy, can’t stop thinking about Carla and that rugby player.

STB is not an athlete. As an ambush predator, he played chess, a little scholar bowl in high school. But it’s not the sweaty locker-room thing that bothers him. It’s the teeth.

STB walks into the consultation room. Dr. Holden is some kind of human-dinosaur blend, probably a tyrannosaur. He’s seated in an tan upholstered armchair. STB sizes him up, one predator to another. “I could take him,” he thinks. The shrink smiles slightly, keeping his teeth hidden. STB looks around the room. No couch, just a brown recliner facing the doctor’s chair at an angle.

“Have a seat.”

STB sits. He’s not comfortable talking to anyone about his problems. Holden puts him at ease with a little chit chat, eventually getting around to STB’s feeling that he’s not satisfying Carla.

“In the bedroom. She likes teeth.”

The Doc smiles slightly. He recovers quickly; but STB notices.

“I’ve only got two, Doc. Sure, they have some size on ‘em, But Gladys had a mouthful. And Carla’s always talking about them, even when she’s flossing mine.” He shudders.

“And my neighbor, Poison-ivy boy. He’s dating the beagle twins. Everyone knows when it’s their night to howl. Carla doesn’t ever make that much noise.”

Holden tries to reassure him, but when STB leaves, he’s more worked up than ever.

“She’ll see,” he shouts over his shoulder, “these babies have some action left in ‘em!” He flicks his thumb off the right one.

About a half hour later, Holden tries to call STB on his cell, but it’s turned off. He calls Carla, but she doesn’t sound worried, says he’ll calm down. As she heads home, sweat-stained exercise outfit in her gym bag and family-size floss dispenser in her pocket, she starts to wonder. Is he in the apartment, waiting, teeth bared?

end

Everyone agreed later that no student had arrived with more mud on her, indeed, more pure ground-in grime, than Samantha MacKinnon—not even when Mirabelle Hayes and Bao-Yu Zheng met and fought a duel in a pigsty on the road to the Women’s Battle College, Isle of Skye.

She arrived ten days into St Brigid’s term, so, not only filthy but a term and ten days late, which was rather more of a problem.

Her excuse?

“I had to walk from the Sierras,” she explained.

“It’s probably true,” pointed out the Bursar.  “They ran out of super-refined twice this year.”

“Except that I gather it’s still difficult to walk across the Atlantic,” said the Treasurer.

They looked at Samantha, who glared back tiredly.

“Snuck onto a surplus ship,” she said.  “That got me to Up-Liverpool.  Walked here.”

She pushed the heels of her hands into her eyes and rubbed vigorously before adding, “Look, can you feed me now and decide about me later?  I’m so tired.”

She wanted to add, “And this whole journey I’ve been thinking, if only I can get there it will be okay, just like in the stories… it will be okay.  And having to knock out some guy so I could drive his motorcycle to the East Coast instead of giving him my virginity like he wanted, and having to steal every bite of food I’ve eaten, and having to run away from my stupid home with my stupid drunk dad, and having to fight about half the sailors on the ship, and having to beat up and run away from some guys who were obviously procurers, and having to clean every dirty toilet in an entire hotel so I could stay for a week and sleep, just sleep, all of it will make sense, because I’ll be where I know I’m supposed to be.  It will all be okay.”

Instead she just stood and looked at them, wearing three weeks worth of dirt and smelling like three weeks worth of sweat.

The Treasurer looked scandalized, but, as Samantha would learn, that was just her way.

The Bursar said, “Forgive us, dear.  I can tell it has been a terribly long journey.  Do come in,” adding to the Treasurer in a voice she knew perfectly well Samantha could hear, “Of course she can stay.  This is the sort of determination we’re looking for, after all.”

Sitting in the shade and relative cool of his yurt, the vulture keeper realized he had company. Someone was walking back and forth in the blaze of light and heat outside. The keeper hadn’t heard a camel, and anyone crossing the waste on foot–well, they’d be crawling by now, if they were still moving at all. Which left only one possibility.
“If you’re here to haunt,” said the keeper, “save yourself the aggravation. I’ve got wards. Ground ’round here’s full of quartz, so they’ll hold.”
“I’m just,” said a voice like a sigh, “here to talk.”
“Don’t particularly want to talk,” said the vulture keeper. He went back to tuning his zither.
“You have something of mine,” said the ghost. “Or you will, when your flock returns.”
The keeper strummed and made his answer into a little tune. “Whatever they bring back, it’s something of mine.”
“It’s a particularly valuable stone,” said the ghost.
The keeper worked a troublesome string. “That’s what I deal in: carbuncles (twang), snake stones (twang) — any brain stone my vultures find (twang) and you wizards will buy.” (twa-ng-ng-ng)
“I need you to deliver it to my heir-apprentice,” said the ghost, “in the hidden city of Ar-Zellekan.”
“I’m semi-retired. Only go as far as the caravanserai. Don’t go to cities, even ones I can find.” The keeper had tuned the last of the strings. “Give up and move on, little wisp. Like the priests say: rise up as rain and come down again in the Afterworld.”
“My enemies will pay the merchants ten times its worth to kill you and take it.”
The keeper stopped his strumming. “That seems…” he said, “unnecessarily harsh.”
“The stone will bond with you by the time you reach the settlements,” said the ghost. “They won’t be able to use it with you alive.”
“My retirement’s getting shorter either way, although…” the keeper reached into his pocket for a zither pick, “this isn’t my first retirement.”
“Oh?”
The keeper strummed a complicated tune.
“You were a wizard, weren’t you?”
“Wizard-king. Nearly wizard-emperor,” said the keeper. “Had the skill; lacked the power.” He stilled the zither’s strings. “Guess that won’t be a problem much longer. Just hope your heir knows some good war-spells.”
“He’s a pacifist,” said the ghost, “like all our people. Perhaps I’ve exaggerated the stone’s power.”
“A hidden city would make a fine capital,” said the keeper.
“The stone’s strong, but not that strong,” said the ghost. “Nothing special. Nevermind.” He blew away with the next breeze.
“Good,” said the keeper, and returned to his zithering.

Making Divinity

The Cabbage-Patch God
The Dolls’ Crusade
A Natural Attraction
A Remarkable Reaction
*Bradley the Magnificent

Brad felt good, really good, as he got out of his red Mustang coupe. Why Officer Kelly hadn’t given him a speeding ticket he had no idea. He would’ve bet on Kelly ticketing God Himself for going 90 in a 45 zone. My mojo kicks ass, he thought. His grin faltered as he stumbled over the weirdly cracked and rippled pavement in the middle of the school parking lot. The pavement that, he told himself firmly, had NOT spontaneously shaken itself last week into an uncanny semblance of his own face. He scowled in concentration all the way up the front steps. Behind him, the parking lot smoothed out like the still surface of a pond.

When Brad walked into school at 8:04, Assistant Principal Goodwin was waiting in front of the office, arms folded.

“Bradley Jones,” she said, shaking her head as though looking at something disgusting left by a puppy, “I told you yesterday …”

“I am not tardy,” Brad said.

“…that you are right on time. Keep up the good work, young man.” She wheeled around and marched into the office, the door swinging shut behind her.

Wow, it worked on Goodwin, too. Somehow he’d acquired supernatural powers overnight. Brad’s grin was back. As he strolled toward Mr. Datta’s math class he wondered, did a God need algebra? Did He even need high school?

At lunch, that stupid freshman Kayla whatshername stared at him with an intensity that was truly unnerving. He could feel her gaze from three tables away. “Seriously creepy,” he muttered. She had become obsessed with him lately, and no matter how rude he was it made no difference. “I wish she wasn’t interested in me at all,” he thought. There was a noiseless thump, and Kayla looked away. Good! But he was momentarily nauseated, and so dizzy he had to grip the edge of the table till the room stopped whirling.

“You alright?” Chuck asked, “Brad?”

Brad waved him away and stood up quickly, but all afternoon he felt odd.

Driving home as fast as the Mustang would go, Brad found Officer Kelly waiting for him. This would be no problem. But Kelly hit the lights and pulled him over. No matter what Brad said, thought, or did, Kelly took out his ticket book and wrote a $238 ticket, which Mom would not pay for.

end

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