I had two goals for the year. One was to learn how to spell restaurant without checking. That one I actually managed pretty quick, once I set my mind to it.
The other was to finish and sell at least one short story. That was harder, but I pulled it off. Today my first short story “The Faraday Bag,” was published in an anthology called Membrane. It’s a sci-fi/crime story set in the near future, where the economy has collapsed and student loan debtors are hunted in the streets.
It also includes nine other stories stories, each with a full-color illustration, about “android cannibals, a clown plague, Nazi zombies, alien cancer, killer nuns, and more, as well as original and vintage art and photography.”
You can also buy the electronic edition from the publisher for just $5, DRM free.
All proceeds will go to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.
Here are the first few paragraphs of my story:
I knocked out Brock’s front left tooth the day I met him. He and Colton tried to mug me during my first delivery to the Complex. They were just a couple of scrawny teenagers, but I’m not a big girl and they had knives. So I hit Brock in the mouth with my bike lock. Colton’s older brother, Connor, broke-up the fight before it got any worse.
Two years later I still had nightmares about it and still hated doing deliveries at the Complex. My heart pounded as I approached their perch on the picnic table in the center of the courtyard. They didn’t even glance up from their phones.
“Going to see Carl,” I said, handing them a couple of warm energy drinks from my bag. “Keep an eye on my bike, yeah?”
“Si, senorita,” Brock said with a big toothless grin. I hated him calling me “senorita.” I didn’t even speak Spanish.
And seeing his missing tooth always made me feel like shit.
The Complex was a block of six withered apartment buildings on the edge of Seattle. They were supposed to have been condos, but construction had halted on the neighboring light rail line during the Iran War and it was never completed–so the Complex ended up as low-income housing instead. It bordered an abandoned shopping center full of junkies with a habit of breaking into people’s cars and apartments. Brock and Colton were like the Complex’s immune system. I guess they decided I was non-harmful.
I jogged up the stairs to Carl’s apartment. He answered the door as out of breath as I was and, dragging his oxygen tank, went into the kitchen to make me a cup of instant coffee. He never let me help, so I took my customary place on the spine-mangling papasan.
“The apartment next to mine just opened up, Juana,” Carl said, handing me my coffee. “We could be neighbors.”
“I haven’t saved enough for a deposit yet,” I said. “And I couldn’t rent an apartment in my own name, even if I could afford it. Loan Enforcement would pick me up, throw me in a restitution camp.”
As if I’d wanted to live there anyway. But hey, at least it would be my own place.
I set his pills on the coffee table. A month’s worth of black market Avastin, a cancer drug, fresh from the pharmaceutical printer in Landon’s basement. A year’s supply would have cost him about $100,000 if he bought them from the pharmacy.
“I never should have gone to college in the first place. It’s not like I ever wanted to work in an office or anything,” I said.
“At least you had the opportunity,” Carl said. “Those boys out there probably never will.”
I hadn’t thought about that. Colton’s mom had been serving cocktails at a strip club ever since self-driving trucks went online and all the truck stops closed down. I had no idea what Brock’s parents did, or whether they were even around, but I was pretty sure they wouldn’t be co-signing on any loans.
“I wonder where they’re going to end up,” I said. “These days you can’t even get a job as a dishwasher without a degree. Hell, I have a degree and I can’t get a job as a dishwasher.”
Carl tapped his phone to confirm the purchase. I always felt like letting the clients keep my cut. Carl barely scraped by on his Social Security check.
My phone rang on the way out of the building, and my stomach did a backflip when I saw the caller ID. I almost let it go to message, but answered at the last second.
“I thought you didn’t want to talk to me anymore,” I said.
“I never said that,” Nicole said. “I just wanted to give it some time, after what happened.”
“Yeah, so why now? It’s been, like, six months.”
Seven months and 12 days, but who’s counting?
“I need someone I can trust,” she said. “Can you meet me at Bar Nuit in an hour?”
I wanted to say no. Wanted to tell her to find someone else to be her puppy dog. But of course I said yes.