Locksmith's Journeys: Deleted Scene (Day Care)It was Saturday. Lucy was on her lunch break at the day-care center. To her great surprise, Lee Smith had come over to visit, with a shipping envelope under her arm.
“I found some marijuana and paraphernalia in William’s room, so I searched Lachlan’s room while I was at it,” she said.
“Seriously? You think Lock’s—”
“No. I just… the point is, I found this in the bottom of his closet where the portal used to be.” She took a sketchbook out. “What d’you make of it?”
Lucy leafed dispassionately through the sketchbook. As unpleasant as the subject matter was, the drawings were obviously the product of talent and practice.
“Does Locksmith do a lot of drawing?”
“Not since he was little.”
“Well, then, he couldn’t possibly have done any of this himself. I’m guessing these are by that friend of his back in Georgia.”
“That’s what the note said.”
Locksmith's Journeys: Deleted Scene (Cold Turkey)There was a streetlight outside the building, one of the old kind that gave a pure white light. Standing underneath it, Lucy lit a cigarette. Once she’d drawn in a lungful of smoke, she held her breath for a surprisingly long time before letting it out.
“I thought there should be witnesses,” she said. “This is the last cigarette I’ll ever smoke.”
“Sure it is,” said Rikki.
“I know it’ll be tough, but I don’t plan to fail and I trust” — she gave Rikki a look that suggested no trust at all — “that certain people will be supportive.”
“Don’t look at me. I fully endorse your decision to stop sucking Joe Camel’s puh-roduct. Sorry, I just remembered there’s a kid here.”
The smoke made intricate little curls in the air, like bluish lace. It looked kind of nice, actually, as long as you stayed upwind.
“The Buddhists,” said Lucy, “say that all suff
One of Those Brain Chip Thingsby Paul Briggs
The first rule of medicine is “First, do no harm.”
The second rule is, “When you’re sewing up a patient after a splenectomy, try not to leave your smartphone in there.” I failed to heed this rule, and now I live in Miami and work as an orderly in a nursing home, while supplementing my income with the occasional illegal procedure.
Mostly this involves either removing unwanted bullets from unsavory characters without reporting them to the police, or altering the hormone balances of athletes in ways that will improve their performance for a few years and probably kill them later. Every once in a while, however, I get a strange case.
“I want one of those brain chip things in my head,” says the kid in the back room that doubles as my office.
Meet Brenton. Nineteen years old. In Miami, officially for Spring Break. Tall, slim, fresh-faced, curly-haired, leaving a trail of privilege wherever he goes. Been to all the right schools,
Dead Or Alive, You Are Coming With MeOn I-64 about thirty miles east of Richmond, a new Lexus hybrid followed the highway as it turned southeast. It was royal blue, with a 'CAMBERG for Governor' bumper sticker on the back, because if you didn’t support yourself, who would?
The big woman in the front passenger seat had a broad, pleasant face, a streak of gray in her dark hair and a default expression of cheerfulness that didn’t quite go with her somber black pantsuit. She would be 42 in another month. Her husband sat in the driver’s seat, his head nearly touching the ceiling. Small, neat spectacles perched on what Carrie thought of as a ruggedly handsome face. He was a year younger than Carrie, and while a few weeks under the hard white sunlight of the Himalayas three years ago had turned his red hair permanently blond, the gray threads in it weren’t quite noticeable yet.
Roger hadn’t said much, but this wasn’t a bad sign. He was a naturally quiet man — it had taken Carrie a long t
Locksmith Takes Flight (3700 words)The bookstore (there still were a few around) was as good a place as any to meet. It was quiet, not too public, and they didn’t mind if you hung around for a while without buying anything.
When Mrs. Nagai showed up, she had a book and a handful of papers with her.
“You know we’ve been talking about using an ultralight to explore the other side,” she said. “Thing is, I’m going to be needed back home in a few weeks, so I won’t be able to pilot it. So I need to teach someone else how to fly.”
Lock nodded. He wasn’t sure why she was telling him all this, but he figured she’d get to it.
“I’m looking for somebody who’s reasonably intelligent and alert to his surroundings. Somebody who doesn’t panic when things go wrong. Somebody who can handle extended periods of solitude. Somebody who doesn’t weigh too much, so the plane can go a little farther on a tank of fuel. You know anyone like that?”
Vignette: Politicians Talk Shop (400 words)“Can you keep a secret?”
“I mean a real secret. Don’t tell anybody. Because this… this could kill me politically if it ever got out.”
“I promise,” said Carrie, her imagination already trying to picture the scandalous misdeeds Brooke was about to confess to.
Brooke took a deep breath.
“I hate the voters.”
Carrie paused for a moment.
“I… can see why that would be a problem politically.”
“Think about it, Carrie,” she said. “This is a democracy, right?”
“Technically it’s a republic.”
“Conceded. The point is, the voters are the boss. We’re just the office girls. We’re the executive assistants. They hire us, they can fire us… Doesn’t an office girl have the right to hate her boss?”
Carrie nodded. She personally thought “branch manager” would be a better metaphor than “executive assistant” &
That Little Spark of Celestial Fire (3900 words)I am holding a pill in my hand. It is a capsule, small, black and easily swallowed. I am debating whether or not to swallow it.
It’s a difficult problem. I spent much of my life in search of difficult problems. You’d think I’d be happier to have this one.
* * *
I was a child prodigy. By the time I was five, I was reading at a third-grade level and doing math at a fifth-grade level. As soon as I was old enough, my IQ was tested. It was 195. (What this means, in practical terms, is that I am 95% more embarrassed than average whenever I do something stupid.)
Because I was so far ahead of my peers intellectually, people often assumed I was ready for equally great emotional challenges. When I was ten, my parents showed me Schindler’s List.
If you’ve seen this movie (if not, what are you waiting for?) you remember the final scene. Oskar Schindler, played superbly by Liam Neeson, is surrounded by a huge, grateful, loving crowd of people — men, women,
Isabel Met an Enormous Bear (3400 words)August 27:
The sky was iron-gray and overcast, the Lincoln Sea a much darker gray. Even here, twenty miles north of the Greenland coast, the katabatic winds that blew from the ice sheet scoured the surface of the ocean. As the cold, dry air whipped over the warmer water, it cooled the moisture of the air into tendrils of mist that blew due north in hundreds of ruler-straight lines. On the horizon, the lines of fog blurred into a gray haze that melted the edges of sea and sky.
It was an alien, monochrome seascape. The only assurances that Isabel hadn’t gone color-blind were the absurdly bright yellow of the weather buoy she was perched on and the light brown of her own hair, a few strands of which had escaped the O-ring and were being whipped into her own face by the wind. Even her wetsuit was black and gray. It could not be said that she was blissfully unaware of the danger she was in, unless repairing a broken salinometer while crouched down on a violently swaying platfor
Vignette: Introduction to Sandy (2200 words)In a residential neighborhood west of Syracuse, New York, a fifteen-year-old Kia pulled into a driveway. It had no self-driving capacity, wasn’t a hybrid, was missing two hubcaps and had one side mirror held on with duct tape. Still, it had managed the five-and-a-half-hour drive from Boston, which was all its owner had asked of it.
A small, skinny young woman in jeans and a knobbly sweater stepped out of the car. Her face was pale and girlish, with thick glasses and no makeup. Her hair was a shade somewhere between ash-blond and mouse-brown, and was held in a glossy ponytail that flowed down to just past the small of her back.
She pulled two suitcases from the front passenger seat and gritted her teeth as she hauled them to the door, the loose heel on her right sneaker slapping against the bottom of her foot with every step. Between them, the suitcases weighed about half what she did.
Her name was Sandra Symcox. Nine years ago, she'd been accepted to college at the age of fourtee