Posts Tagged ‘science’

EP440: Canterbury Hollow


by Chris Lawson
read by Bill Bowman

 

Links for this episode:

about the author…

Chris Lawson is a doctor and writer living in Australia. His short fiction has appeared in Asimov’s SF, Realms of Fantasy, Eidolon, and Dreaming Down-Under. In late October he blogged at www.talkingsquid.net about his process of creating a short story, but those posts concerned a different story. For this one, you won’t find any glimpses of the wizard behind the curtain — you’ll just have to enjoy it on its own terms.

bowman_billabout the narrator…

Last read for us on EP424; Bill started voice acting on the Metamor City Podcast, and has wanted to do more ever since. He spends his days working at a library, where he is in charge of all things with plugs and troubleshooting the people who use them. He spends his nights with his wife, two active children, and two overly active canines and all that goes with that.

EP439: Cradle and Ume


by Geoffrey W. Cole
read by Jeff Ronner

 

Links for this episode:

Author Geoffrey W. Cole
Author Geoffrey W. Cole
about the author…

from the author’s website… Geoffrey W. Cole was born in Ottawa, Ontario, where he learned to swim and to survive 233K (-40 C or F) weather. After this larval stage, he moved to Kingston, Ontario, where he received degrees in Biology, Mechanical Engineering, Beer Slinging, and Rock and/or Roll. Geoff also met his mate in Kingston. After graduating they embarked on a trans-Canada road trip from Newfoundland to Alaska (for you future-bots reading this, from RockScar to The Beaches). After a brief stint in Ontario, Geoff and his mate moved to Vancouver, BC, where they married, started a home, adopted a giant Newfoundland Lab cross, and gave birth to a wonderful son. They spent a year abroad in Rome, Italy, and after the vandemic of 2017 (curse you, sentient minivans!) they moved to SeaBase 4 off the coast of Haida Gwaii to breed orca.

During his time in Vancouver, Geoff received a certificate in creative writing through The Writers Studio program at Simon Fraser University, under the tutelage of Steven Galloway. Geoff and his wife moved to Rome, Italy, in 2011 to pursue writing full-time, and returned to Canada in 2012. Geoff started work on a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia in 2012.

Once Geoff moved to SeaBase 04, his writing style took on new direction, as he attempted to write an epic poem in orcish (the cetacean language, not the Tolkien).

Narrator Jeff Ronner
Narrator Jeff Ronner
about the narrator…

Jeff Ronner is a voice actor, audio engineer, and sound designer. His work has appeared in radio and TV spots, non-commercial narrations, and on those annoying in-store supermarket PA systems. Cleverly disguised as a mild-mannered hospital IT manager during the day, he lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

 

Cradle and Ume
by Geoffrey W. Cole

When his creators first booted Cradle those long centuries ago, they told him many things that made a lasting impression on his infant mind.

Above all was the commandment:

_The Kamurei must never be contacted._

##

 

“If you don’t let me in, she will die,” Ume said.

“After all these years, you still ask,” Cradle said. “I thought posthumans were supposed to be hyperintelligent.”

On the banks of the dry riverbed that wound through the village, Teihana struggled through her thirty-fourth hour of labour. Her emaciated brown skin glistened with sweat.  The midwife, her only companion in the palm-roofed hut, packed cool mud on Teihana’s forehead. There was nothing else for the pain; like the river, the wells were dry, and the medicinal crop had failed along with the corn.

Cradle and Ume watched all this from the observation station buried within one of the Andean peaks that towered above Teihana’s village.

“Drop your fields now,” Ume said. “This is my last warning.”

“Warn away,” Cradle said. “There’s nothing I can do about it.”

“Then you’ve left me no choice.”

Cradle was embarrassed to engage in this banter with three other visitors in the observation station, but they seemed to enjoy the drama. The tourists pointed and whispered as Ume departed. He ran down the long tunnel that led to the landing pad, where he climbed into his skyskiff and pointed the vehicle toward the valley.

Cradle watched Ume’s fit from a thousand different eyes scattered around the valley. The young posthuman’s persistence never ceased to amaze him. He tried to shout a final warning:

“I can’t let you -”

And that’s when the bomb Ume had left in the observation station exploded.

 

##

_You are the valley, Cradle. You are their home, but they must never know it._

##

 

Ume’s reputation reached Cradle long before the young posthuman had first dropped out of orbit to visit the people. His name made many headlines: the liberator of the entombed Callistan AIs; the forger of the asteroid miner’s union; the last great freedom fighter.

It was only a matter of time before he knocked on Cradle’s door.

Unlike most of Cradle’s other visitors, who jumped into one of the many spare posthuman bodies kicking around on Earth, or who visited virtually, Ume rode the space elevator in person to visit the valley.

When Ume entered the observation platform that first day, his camouflage fatigues and red beret seemed right at home in the replica long-house that served as the entry hall. Cradle, whose body was the network of processors, sensors, memory matrixes, and field generators that existed below the surface of the valley, appeared in the long-house as a hologram. He chose the appearance of a Kamurei shaman; a loincloth, shins and forearms tattooed in red ochre, and a drum slung over his shoulder.

“Welcome to the Akturi valley,” Cradle said. “Home of the last uncontacted tribe.”

“Cut the crap,” Ume said. “And show me everything.”

(Continue Reading…)

EP438: Enjoy the Moment


by Jack McDevitt
read by Sara Tolbert

 

Links for this episode:

about the author…

from Goodreads.com… Jack McDevitt is a former English teacher, naval officer, Philadelphia taxi driver, customs officer and motivational trainer. His work has been on the final ballot for the Nebula Awards for 12 of the past 13 years. His first novel, The Hercules Text, was published in the celebrated Ace Specials series and won the Philip K. Dick Special Award. In 1991, McDevitt won the first $10,000 UPC International Prize for his novella, “Ships in the Night.” The Engines of God was a finalist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and his novella, “Time Travelers Never Die,” was nominated for both the Hugo and the Nebula awards.

McDevitt lives in Georgia with his wife, Maureen, where he plays chess, reads mysteries and eats lunch regularly with his cronies.

about the book…

THE APOCALYPSE TRIPTYCH

Famine. Death. War. Pestilence. These are the harbingers of the biblical apocalypse, of the End of the World. In science fiction, the end is triggered by less figurative means: nuclear holocaust, biological warfare/pandemic, ecological disaster, or cosmological cataclysm.

But before any catastrophe, there are people who see it coming. During, there are heroes who fight against it. And after, there are the survivors who persevere and try to rebuild.

THE APOCALYPSE TRIPTYCH will tell their stories.

Edited by acclaimed anthologist John Joseph Adams and bestselling author Hugh Howey, THE APOCALYPSE TRIPTYCH is a series of three anthologies of apocalyptic fiction. THE END IS NIGH focuses on life before the apocalypse. THE END IS NOW turns its attention to life during the apocalypse. And THE END HAS COME focuses on life after the apocalypse.

Featuring all-new, never-before-published works by Hugh Howey, Paolo Bacigalupi, Seanan McGuire, Ken Liu, Jamie Ford, Tananarive Due, Jonathan Maberry, Robin Wasserman, Nancy Kress, Charlie Jane Anders, Matthew Mather, Ben H. Winters, Scott Sigler, and many others.
• • • •
Don’t want to risk missing out on news about THE APOCALYPSE TRIPTYCH? Sign up for John Joseph Adams’s free newsletter (sent out no more than once or twice a month) to receive updates about THE APOCALYPSE TRIPTYCH, as well as news about his other editorial projects.

EP437: A Rose for Ecclesiastes


by Roger Zelazny
read by Pete Milan

 

Links for this episode:

Author Roger Zelazny
about the author…

Roger Zelazny was born in Euclid, Ohio, the only child of Polish immigrant Joseph Frank Zelazny and Irish-American Josephine Flora Sweet. In high school, he became the editor of the school newspaper and joined the Creative Writing Club. In the fall of 1955, he began attending Western Reserve University and graduated with a B.A. in English in 1959. He was accepted to Columbia University in New York and specialized in Elizabethan and Jacobean drama, graduating with an M.A. in 1962. His M.A. thesis was entitled Two traditions and Cyril Tourneur: an examination of morality and humor comedy conventions in The Revenger’s Tragedy. Between 1962 and 1969 he worked for the U.S. Social Security Administration in Cleveland, Ohio and then in Baltimore, Maryland spending his evenings writing science fiction. He deliberately progressed from short-shorts to novelettes to novellas and finally to novel-length works by 1965. On May 1, 1969, he quit to become a full-time writer, and thereafter concentrated on writing novels in order to maintain his income. During this period, he was an active and vocal member of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society, whose members included writers Jack Chalker and Joe and Jack Haldeman among others. read more on Wikipedia…

Narrator Pete Milan
about the narrator…

Pete Milan is a voice actor, writer, audiobook narrator, audio drama producer, among other things. His latest audiobook, Sentinels: When Strikes The Warlord, is available now from Dynamic Ram Audio, and he will soon be appearing in Phantom Canyon from Pendant Productions. Visit him at petemilan.com for more.

 

A Rose for Ecclesiastes
by Roger Zelazny

Mercury Press, 1963
This text taken from
Science Fiction: The Science Fiction Research Association Anthology
Eds. Patricia S. Warrick, Charles G. Waugh, and Martin H. Greenberg
New York: HarperCollins, 1988. (Pgs. 308-337)

***

I was busy translating one of my Madrigals Macabre into Martian on the morning I was found acceptable. The intercom had buzzed briefly, and I dropped my pencil and flipped on the toggle in a single motion.

“Mister G,” piped Morton’s youthful contralto, “the old man says I should ‘get hold of that damned conceited rhymer’ right away, and send him to his cabin.–Since there’s only one damned conceited rhymer . . .”

“Let not ambition mock thy useful toil,” I cut him off.

So, the Martians had finally made up their minds! I knocked an inch and a half of ash from a smouldering butt, and took my first drag since I had lit it. The entire month’s anticipation tried hard to crowd itself into the moment, but could not quite make it. I was frightened to walk those forty feet and hear Emory say the words I already knew he would say; and that feeling elbowed the other one into the background.

So I finished the stanza I was translating before I got up.

It took only a moment to reach Emory’s door. I knocked thrice and opened it, just as he growled, “Come in.”

“You wanted to see me?” I sat down quickly to save him the trouble of offering me a seat.

“That was fast. What did you do, run?”

I regarded his paternal discontent:

Little fatty flecks beneath pale eyes, thinning hair, and an Irish nose; a voice a decibel louder than anyone else’s . . .

Hamlet to Claudius: “I was working.”

“Hah!” he snorted. “Come off it. No one’s ever seen you do any of that stuff.”
I shrugged my shoulders and started to rise.

“If that’s what you called me down here–”

“Sit down!”

(Continue Reading…)

EP436: Into the Breach


by Malon Edwards
read by Mandaly Louis-Charles

 

Links for this episode:

author Malon Edwards
about the author…

I’m an American speculative fiction writer. Born and raised in Chicago, I now live in the Greater Toronto Area. My short stories are often set in an alternate or near-future Chicago.

narrator Mandaly Louis-Charles
narrator Mandaly Louis-Charles
about the narrator…

My full name is Mandaly Louis-Charles. I was born and raised in the Caribbean Island of Haiti. I love languages. I promote my culture and native language on my blog at www.sweetcoconuts.blogspot.com

 

Into the Breach
by Malon Edwards

I’m off my bunk and into my jodhpurs, knee-high leather boots and flight jacket the moment the long range air attack klaxons seep into my nightly dream about Caracara.

Muscle memory and Secret Service training kick in; I’m on auto-pilot (no pun intended) and a good ways down the hall buttoning up both sides of my leather jacket to the shoulder a full thirty seconds before I’m awake.

And just so you know, the ever so slight tremble in my hands and fingers is not fear. It’s adrenaline. I’m cranked and ready to put my foot all up in it.

A door to the right opens and Pierre-Alexandre falls in on my right flank, his steps brisk like mine. Our boots echo down the long hallway as we make our way from the underground bunker at Soldier Field to the bunker at Meigs Field.

What you think we got? he asks.

My reptile mind—that wonderful, hedonistic thing of mine—notices how lovely his make-me-jump-up-and-dance-like-I-just-caught-the-Holy-Ghost-in-church dark skin looks in the red emergency scramble lighting.

And yeah, I know. I’m going to hell for that.

(Continue Reading…)

EP435: Made of Cats


by Judith Tarr
read by Amanda Ching

 

Links for this episode:

Author Judith Tarr
about the author…

from Amazon.com: I have a lot of academic credentials (PhD from Yale, MA from Cambridge University, AB from Mt. Holyoke) and taught writing and Latin at Wesleyan University in Connecticut–before I ran away from it all to live on a mesa in Arizona. I breed and ride Lipizzan horses, read and study history (and make up my own alternate and fantastical versions), and write–novels, short stories, articles. I teach writing online (details at http://capriole.smoe.org) and blog on the livejournals as dancinghorse. My alter ego is author Caitlin Brennan, who also has a plog on amazon.

Narrator Amanda Ching
about the narrator…

Amanda Ching is a freelance editor and writer. Her work has appeared in WordRiot, Candlemark & Gleam’s Alice: (re)Visions, and every bathroom stall on I-80 from Pittsburgh to Indianapolis. She tweets @cerebralcutlass and blogs at amandaching.wordpress.com.

 

Made of Cats: A Love Story
by Judith Tarr

Never mind the slithy toves; let me tell you about the time all the cats splooped into floons.

It all started the day the aliens landed. (Doesn’t it always?) We’d been getting the odd invasion–sometimes really odd–for about a hundred years by then. The ones that came up out of the ground and down from the sky and blasted people to powder and tried to marsiform the planet? And got the common cold and turned into slime mold and died? They were just the start.

We were pretty solid on the intergalactic maps by the time the Kovarrubians showed up. Killer microbes? Check. Nuclear option? Check. Toxic xenophobia? Triple check.

So now when the aliens came, they came in peace. For reals, dudes. Cure for cancer? Check. Super-mega-hyper-insta-teleporta-warp drive? Check. World peace? Not so much. But now when people got their hate on, mostly they got it on somebody Out There.

The day the Kovarrubians came, Emily Habibi-Rubinstein, age five and a half, was having a terrible, horrible, awful, no-good, very bad day. Which meant that as her mother, I, Shannon Habibi, age never mind, was having one, too. Between the snufflecrud that kept her home from school, the power failure that took out the television, the Internet, the house controls, and the air conditioning in one fell swoop, and the failure of the city bus to show up and get us both to the library where we could cool off and toss Emily into a big blissful pile of books, we were not a happy family.

Oh, and did I mention that the phones were down, too? So we were effectively cut off from the world?

Right.

(Continue Reading…)

EP434: Coping Mechanisms


by Gerri Leen
read by Dani Cutler

Links for this episode:

Author Gerri Leen
about the author…

I’m a transplanted Seattleite who’s lived in Northern Virginia for nearly three decades. I started writing professionally in my early 40’s, and it’s been a fun ride so far. I have had stories and poems appearing in many anthologies and magazines, such as Sword and Sorceress XXIII, Footprints, She Nailed a Stake Through His Head: Tales of Biblical Terror, Dia de los Muertos, and Sails and Sorcery.

about the narrator…
Narrator Dani Cutler

Dani Cutler last narrated for EP in 389: Keeping Tabs. She has been part of the podcasting community since 2006, hosting and producing her own podcast through 2013. She currently works for KWSS independent radio in Phoenix as their midday announcer, and also organizes a technology conference each year for Phoenix residents to connect with others in the podcast, video, and online community.

 

COPING MECHANISMS
by Gerri Leen

The interface between Luna and Earth was particularly bad–like a slow connection to the Net when I was a kid and my grandparents had been too cheap to move off dial-up.  Cal’s image moved in fits and starts, and it wasn’t what I wanted–okay, needed–to see.  As chief base shrink, I should be woman enough to admit I _needed_ to see my husband in some way that didn’t immediately scream he was roughly 380,000 clicks away.

Even if Cal was barely my husband; he and I hadn’t touched in eight months–and I’d only been on Luna for six.  Coming here had been my way of saying goodbye, of letting our marriage die slowly and gracefully rather than living through the drama of a messy divorce.  Funny thing about the moon, though: you don’t get over people here.  You miss the hell out of them, every part of them.  Or maybe you just forget the bad parts, maybe they disappear in the middle of this resounding grayness.

I used to think my marriage was gray and grim.  Landing at Echosound–getting my first view of my new home in the bright lunar daytime that had gone on for fourteen Earth-days–had been a reality check of the highest order.

“Vanessa?”  Cal was probably wondering why I’d called.  We were supposed to be getting used to being away from each other, and I didn’t have much to say that was related to the impending dissolution of the marriage.

So I said the first thing that came to mind.  “How’s Denny?”

The jerking image made his expression unreadable.  “He’s fine.”

I didn’t normally ask about his parrot.  In fact, I hated that damn bird.  Probably because I knew Cal would part with me, but not with him.  As a psychiatrist, I don’t shy away from truths.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t make me any better at dealing with them.

“Van, I have to go.”  Cal didn’t sound disappointed, especially on five-second delay.  Not for the first time I wished personal calls were given the same priority for real-time access as mission-related calls. But they weren’t, so I would deal.  Badly, no doubt.  But I’d deal.

“I have to go, too.  Time for my shift.”  Which was a lie.  I may have normal duty hours, but as essential personnel, I’m on call all the time.  No shift work for Doctor Vanessa Holmes.  It used to make me feel important; now it felt like a stone around my neck–an Earth-stone in Earth-gravity where it would actually be heavy.

Cal ended the call before I could say anything more.  It shouldn’t have hurt.  It did anyway.

(Continue Reading…)

EP433: That Other Sea


by William Ledbetter
read by Shaelyn Grey

Links for this episode:

author William Ledbetter
about the author…

from the author’s website…

William Ledbetter lives near Dallas with his family and too many animals.  His great love, after his wife of course, is reading and writing speculative fiction. He is an editor at Heroic Fantasy Quarterly and runs the annual Jim Baen Memorial Writing Contest for Baen Books and the National Space Society.

narrator Shaelyn Grey
about the narrator…

Shaelyn Grey has been active in the entertainment industry for over 30 years, mainly as a singer and actor. Recently she has expanded into voice over work and is currently a part of the cast of Aurelia: Edge of Darkness, which is an online interactive web series. Aurelia is entering it’s second season and Shae is back as Thais ven Derrivalle. Aurelia can be viewed at http://www.theatrics.com/aurelia and Shae can be reached through shaelyngreyvocals.com.

 

THAT OTHER SEA
by William Ledbetter

From his position on the sandy slope, Catat couldn’t see the Visitor, but the eerie glow moving around beyond the jumbled rocks proved the device had survived its fall into the killing depths. Catat whipped his tail to move downward, but couldn’t generate enough thrust to overcome the water pressure pushing him into the sand. Only the brute force of side-to-side undulation gave him any forward momentum. He moved two body lengths and stopped to let his shell adjust.

As water weight compressed his internal organs further, the gland that produced shellbase went into hyperactive mode, flooding his system, filling the tiny pressure cracks and thickening his ring segments. The depths were changing him, maybe forever, but Catat believed retrieving the Visitor, or at least examining it, was worth the risk.

During the intense discussions that followed the Visitor’s arrival, Catat was the only one who believed it could be artificial. Others, including Catat’s main scientific rival, Racknik, maintained that it had to be some radiation mutated animal from an ice vent. But Catat had been the only one to see it up close. He’d watched the Visitor break through the ice ceiling and then struggle with the canopy kelp before starting its long swirling descent to the chasm floor.

The Visitor was twice Catat’s size and he probably could have done nothing to arrest its fall, but he’d also been frozen with terror and made no attempt to help. Then as it started downward, lights appeared. Not the dim luminescent bait offered by predator fish, but a brilliant, painful glare, brighter than white magma. At that instant, Catat’s fear dissolved in an overwhelming surge of curiosity and fascination. So know he was going after it.

A message from his warren came down the cable he dragged behind him, the electrical pulses converted to taps he could feel through the metal plate mounted between his tool arms and just above his digging arms. The signal was still strong, which worried him. If his shell had thickened enough to protect him against the extreme pressure, then the signal should have been faint.

“Can you still see it?” A prefix identified the sender as one of his research assistants.

“I see the glow from its lights,” Catat replied.

“You made your point. We believe you. Now come back up.” There had been no prefix to identify the second message’s sender, but Catat knew it had to be his friend and sometimes mate, Tipkurr. (Continue Reading…)

EP430: Heart of Joy


by Kate O’Conn0r
read by Andrea Richardson

Links for this episode:

about the author…

Kate O’Connor was born in Virginia in 1982. She graduated from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Prescott in 2009 and now lives (and occasionally works) in the New York area.

Kate has been writing science fiction and fantasy since 2011. In between telling stories, she flies airplanes, digs up artifacts, and manages a kennel full of Airedales.

Narrator Andrea Richardson
Narrator Andrea Richardson
about the narrator…

Andrea Richardson is a British singer and actress.  With extensive stage and film performances to her name, she began narration and voice over work fairly recently, but enjoys using her existing skills in a different way. You can find Andrea at www.andrea-richardson.co.uk and www.castingcallpro.com/uk/view.php?uid=507734

 

Heart of Joy
By Kate O’Connor

“How’s your ankle, Luci?” Feon Sen, High Chancellor of Carinae, leaned against the wall, watching intently as she braided her dark hair. Luscinia considered the question carefully, studying his reflection in the mirror. He was a man of many words, but his meaning was clearest in the surgically smoothed lines around his eyes and the rhythm his fingers absentmindedly tapped out on his arm. He was asking if she was up to the task he had for her tonight.

“Better, thank you.” She stood and danced a few quick steps to prove it. She was ready. The prism-glass walls sent the light they had collected from Carina’s dim sun scattering around the room in teardrops of scarlet and gold and sapphire. It was hard not to blame the cold and the hard crystal floors for the aches in her joints. Hot sun and soft ground were worlds away, but Feon was always ready with a good reason for her to stay whenever she mentioned returning to her home planet.

She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. Even after more than a year in his company, Luscinia still found how young he looked and how old his expressions were disconcerting. She hadn’t asked him about whatever medical miracles or cosmetic alterations he’d had done over the long decades he had been in control of the three hundred and forty-seven inhabited worlds of the nebula. It was how things were on Carina Prime, especially for those in the public eye. She hated the scrutiny that came with being his lover. More than one helpful soul had mentioned a few of the currently fashionable options for elongating her legs or slimming her curvy body. The idea turned her stomach.

“So you’ll be able to dance for the Alshain Ambassador and his assorted cronies this evening? He’s been after me almost without ceasing since they arrived.” Feon’s carefree grin made her stomach flutter for entirely different reasons. “You’re still the talk of the nebula. Half the city shows up to parties without footwear because you dance barefoot. Not to mention how everyone goes on about what each dance means. It doesn’t help that you keep changing them.”

“I’d get bored if the routines were always the same. You wouldn’t use the same words in every speech you gave, would you?” Luscinia smiled back, taking note of the slight crease at the corner of his mouth. “And stop worrying. I’ll settle your diplomats for you.” There was so much more to say that never seemed to make it past her lips… or his. He was far more eloquent than she, except when it came to speaking with her. Alshain was dangerous, more so because of the allies the ambassador was gathering. Feon was old and wily, but she saw him plagued with the worry that he was slowing down, that he would miss something vital. They didn’t talk about that.

“I know you will.” He touched her newly braided hair lightly and she caught his intense expression in the mirror. It warmed her. Too many people thought he could have done better than a backwater dancer, even if she was the artistic sensation of the year. Feon kissed her hair and headed for the door. He stopped with his hand on the doorframe. “Make it a good one tonight. The Ambassador says he has a gift for me. I hate it when the slimy bastard gets smug.” He lingered a minute, body swaying between feelings and words.

“It will be all right.” She repeated firmly, saving him the need to give voice to his fears.

(Continue Reading…)

EP429: The Little Black Bag


by C.M. Kornbluth
read by Mat Weller

Links for this episode:

About the Author…

 from the Wiki about the author – Cyril M. Kornbluth (July 2, 1923 – March 21, 1958) was an American science fiction author and a notable member of the Futurians. He used a variety of pen-names, including Cecil Corwin, S. D. Gottesman, Edward J. Bellin, Kenneth Falconer, Walter C. Davies, Simon Eisner, Jordan Park, Arthur Cooke, Paul Dennis Lavond and Scott Mariner. The “M” in Kornbluth’s name may have been in tribute to his wife, Mary Byers; Kornbluth’s colleague and collaborator Frederik Pohl confirmed Kornbluth’s lack of any actual middle name in at least one interview.

 

The Little Black Bag
by C. M. Kornbluth

Old Dr. Full felt the winter in his bones as he limped down the alley. It was the alley and the back door he had chosen rather than the sidewalk and the front door because of the brown paper bag under his arm. He knew perfectly well that the flat-faced, stringy-haired women of his street and their gap-toothed, sour-smelling husbands did not notice if he brought a bottle of cheap wine to his room. They all but lived on the stuff themselves, varied with whiskey when pay checks were boosted by overtime. But Dr. Full, unlike them, was ashamed. A complicated disaster occurred as he limped down the littered alley. One of the neighborhood dogs–a mean little black one he knew and hated, with its teeth always bared and always snarling with menace–hurled at his legs through a hole in the board fence that lined his path. Dr. Full flinched, then swung his leg in what was to have been a satisfying kick to the animal’s gaunt ribs. But the winter in his bones weighed down the leg. His foot failed to clear a half-buried brick, and he sat down abruptly, cursing. When he smelled unbottled wine and realized his brown paper package had slipped from under his arm and smashed, his curses died on his lips. The snarling black dog was circling him at a yard’s distance, tensely stalking, but he ignored it in the greater disaster.

With stiff fingers as he sat on the filth of the alley, Dr. Full unfolded the brown paper bag’s top, which had been crimped over, grocer-wise. The early autumnal dusk had come; he could not see plainly what was left. He lifted out the jug-handled top of his half gallon, and some fragments, and then the bottom of the bottle. Dr. Full was far too occupied to exult as he noted that there was a good pint left. He had a problem, and emotions could be deferred until the fitting time.

The dog closed in, its snarl rising in pitch. He set down the bottom of the bottle and pelted the dog with the curved triangular glass fragments of its top. One of them connected, and the dog ducked back through the fence, howling. Dr. Full then placed a razor-like edge of the half-gallon bottle’s foundation to his lips and drank from it as though it were a giant’s cup. Twice he had to put it down to rest his arms, but in one minute he had swallowed the pint of wine.

He thought of rising to his feet and walking through the alley to his room, but a flood of well-being drowned the notion. It was, after all, inexpressibly pleasant to sit there and feel the frost-hardened mud of the alley turn soft, or seem to, and to feel the winter evaporating from his bones under a warmth which spread from his stomach through his limbs.

A three-year-old girl in a cut-down winter coat squeezed through the same hole in the board fence from which the black dog had sprung its ambush. Gravely she toddled up to Dr. Full and inspected him with her dirty forefinger in her mouth. Dr. Full’s happiness had been providentially made complete; he had been supplied with an audience.

“Ah, my dear,” he said hoarsely. And then: “Preposserous accusation. ‘If that’s what you call evidence,’ I should have told them, ‘you better stick to your doctoring.’ I should have told them: ‘I was here before your County Medical Society. And the License Commissioner never proved a thing on me. So, gennulmen, doesn’t it stand to reason? I appeal to you as fellow memmers of a great profession–“‘ (Continue Reading…)