Plugs

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

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).

Angela Slatter’s story ‘Frozen’ will appear in the December 09 issue of Doorways Magazine, and ‘The Girl with No Hands’ will appear in the next issue of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet.

Jason Erik Lundberg‘s fiction is forthcoming from Subterranean Magazine and Polyphony 7.

Archive for the ‘Jen Larsen’ Category

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.

Super

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

She didn’t understand why I had wanted to go to college. She thought I ought to be out there. A special boy like me, finally using his specialness for good. “Don’t be so shy,” she’d hiss, pushing me toward the burning building. “Go save the nuns. Go on!” But I could never do it. Not when everyone was looking at me. Wasn’t that what fire fighters were for?

She figured, once I was 18, once I was a mature adult, I would see that I was put here on earth for a purpose. I wouldn’t hide my light under a bushel any more. Maybe college would just be a phase. She clicked her tongue against her teeth every time she came home and saw me sitting on the couch, when she turned on the news and saw that North Korea still had nuclear weapons, that trains still derailed, that small children everywhere were trapped under various cars.

I said, “What am I supposed to do? There’s no ‘Superhero’ section in the Classifieds.” And she sighed in that disappointed way and waved her hands around her head. She looked old and tired in her nurse’s uniform. She said, “Haven’t I taught you anything? Haven’t I taught you how to make your own way in the world? To forge your own path? When your father left us, didn’t I take care of everything?”

I had to agree there. She had. And I lifted heavy rocks for her, and took care of the gutters—I didn’t need a ladder, and I wasn’t afraid of falling. I cleaned out the sewage drain, because I could hold my breath indefinitely. My x-ray vision found her missing earring; my superspeed saved her cat. And I washed the dishes after dinner, never breaking a single one. But I think the only reason she didn’t kick me out of the house was because she was afraid I’d kill her with my heat vision.

“I got an A on my midterm,” I said, almost hopefully.

“You’re wasting your gifts,” she said. She took the remote and turned off the television.

“I want to be a marine biologist,” I said quietly.

She pursed her lips. “At least you might save a whale,” she said, and went to her room. I don’t care what anyone says–disappointment is way worse than a super villain.

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