Pica And Sensibility

Oh, do come in.

It's such an honor, and we are delighted to make your acquaintance, of course. Were your travels easy? Have you come from Calais? Is it beautiful this time of year? Is absolutely everyone there? Are all the ladies festooned with the latest fashions from Paris? Are all the gentlemen dapper and smart? We would have been in attendance but for Father's gout…

But I do go on. Have a sherry, and some cakes. Perhaps we'll walk the garden later, or I can play you something pretty on the piano. You will stay the week, won't you?

Nursie Dear

"Are you comfortable?" Her voice was female, her chassis was human-shaped enough to be comforting while falling outside the 'uncanny valley'. "Can I get you anything?"

His voice was a whisper buried in loose gravel. "…Has anyone called?"

"No, I'm sorry. Is there someone I can call for you? Someone you want to see? I can ask them to—"

"No, no. I thought, maybe… but, no." He winced, shifted his weight, trying unsuccessfully to redistribute the pain.

She turned to the monitor display, took in all the information at a glance, and then began adjusting the life-support array, a little more here, a little less there, an increase of dosage, a decrease in light level. She reached for another control, but stopped, as if pausing to remember something, but stayed frozen there, a sudden statue.

"What is it?"

She didn't respond. He realized the low hum that usually came and went with her was gone.

"Broken down?" He coughed a wracking spasm, turning his head into the pillow until it was done. "Ran out of juice?"

The call button was out of his reach; in an emergency, she was supposed to hit it.

"Here I was sure I'd go first."

Three Line Thursday: "The Next Morning"

You've stolen away before dawn, before I could escape my slumber.
The sheets still own the languid curve of your body
More than I, for all my trying, ever did.

The Cat Who Walks Through Walls

He was in the kitchen again this morning.

I locked both doors, front and back, before going to bed, and they're still locked. Windows have been painted shut since Thursday. The clothes dryer vent is hooked to the dryer, and the fireplace flue is closed. I even took a flashlight into the basement and checked for holes in the foundation, anything. There's simply no way to get into this house, but there he was. Still is. He's watching me right now.

I called animal control and they don't know how he escaped their holding room much less got all the way back here. They also said he acted normally while he was there, no cold unblinking stare, no claws out, ate their regular food, even purred. They actually suggested that I think about keeping him.

If I went to stay at my brother's place in Memphis, would he still be here when I got back? Or would he find me there? It's a three-hour flight, so I suppose if he appeared there that same day, then at least I'd know to be scared and stop feeling so foolish.

What does he want from me?

Maybe I should buy a gun.

Teachable Moment

Vacuum cementing. That's what it's called. Vacuum cementing.

When I was a kid, my mother used to pick me up after school every day. Always at the same time, always at the same spot, a smile and a wave, leaning over to push the door open for me, asking me about my day. Then one Tuesday afternoon she got a flat tire and couldn't get dad on the phone; I sat for an hour, panicked, alone, wondering if I'd ever see home again. It's the things you take absolutely for granted that, when they fail, can absolutely ruin you.

Doors are like that. You open a door, you go through; you think nothing of it. If it's locked, you use a key. If you have no key, you knock, and someone lets you in. If no one's home, no big deal, you come back later.

In space, the air is inside and you need to get inside with it before your tanks run dry, and there's no coming back later. If the hatch doesn't work, because the parts have cold-welded together, you are well and truly fucked.

Anyway, I'm attached to the umbilical. Come get the body when you can.

Three Line Thursday: "A Hole In The Water"

You know how seasick I get, remembering our honeymoon well,
Yet you spent all that money on that damn boat;
I can only assume it's to sail away from me.


I wonder what  became of them all, the little army men from my childhood; I don't recall their fate. They're not to be found in any of the boxes containing the rest of my childhood. Did they end up in a musty shoebox in the attic, were they spilled across the floor of the garage and eventually swept out with the dust and leaves, were they left in the backyard between the blades of grass to eventually sink into rain-softened soil?

We won so many wars together, victories snatched from the jaws of ignominious defeat. I could use them, now.

The Last Of The Garden Parties.

They walked outside, glasses in hand, shoes long-since removed and lined up along the baseboard and forgotten, and looked up into a dusky sky. Somewhere up there was a ten-mile-wide minivan-shaped chunk of nickel-iron tumbling its way towards the end of all human civilization. Someone asked, "Anybody see it?"

No one answered. Howard fished a phone out of his jeans pocket and stared down at it for a bit. "It's on the other side of the planet right now. Nothing to see."

They didn't go back inside; they milled around with their toes in the grass and made small talk about friends and family.

Howard sat down in the grass; eventually he laid down in it. At some point, as the stars twisted slowly above him, he realized Francesca was laying next to him. "Hi."


"So, what if it misses?"

"It won't."

"But how do you know?"

"Because… because math. It's gonna hit."

She made a face as if she'd been holding out hope, even this late. "I always hated math. Hated the teachers, they all thought it was so easy."


"Wanna go inside? Upstairs, I mean?"

He considered it carefully. "I wouldn't want to miss the show."

Three Line Thursday: "Angels 33"

I waved as you boarded, watched as you took off,
I come back, have for years, to sit here patiently,
For as long as they'll allow, waiting for your return.


"I collected sheep."

He moved the pillow from over his head and strained to see her in the darkened basement. "What?"

She was out of her cot, standing, peering up out of one of the little head-height windows, watching zombie feet and ankles shuffle by. Her voice was quiet, almost a whisper. "I collected sheep, little plastic toy ones, pewter ones, cartoony, photo-realistic, whatever. I had, like, four hundred of them, probably. They're lined up on shelves in the living room. Out where people can see them."

He rubbed his eyes, yawned. "Okay."

"I was so proud of them. Like, it was a neat thing about me. 'Oh, Missy's the girl who has the sheep thing going on'."

"Nothing wrong with that, I guess."

"Everything's wrong with that. All that money, all that time. I used to go to craft shows, just to look for sheep. I scoured the internet. What did it get me?"

"A lot of sheep?" She didn't respond. He offered, "I collected Lego guys for a while. But I guess I was pretty young."

"I wish I could get back over there to the house," she said. "I'd break every last one of the damn things."

Three Line Thursday: "Standing Over The Body"

I don't get it. I don't understand why this happened.
You've seen the movies, you know how this stuff works.
You never open the creepy murder clown box. Not ever.