Jawing Around at Poker Night

“So as I see it, the big problem is the bell curve, y’know?”

Riley focused on dealing out the cards, watching their blue-and-white backs slide away from him across the smooth wood of the table. He wished that his deft fingers were sensitive enough to feel the patterns of ink printed on the reverse, to know their identities without flipping them over. Karsten’s chatter was little more than background.

Across the table, Hale grunted. “Bell curve? Karsten, what’re you talking about?”

“Society!” Karsten responded instantly. “C’mon, you can’t deny that the whole thing’s a crock of shit, just goin’ to more shit, isn’t it? Go on, put your hand on your heart and tell me that things aren’t worse than before.” Continue reading


The smell of rotting fish and plankton rankled at Ethry’s nostrils as he scrambled over the wet planks, dodging between the lumbering dockworkers. A couple men shouted angrily as the urchin ran between their tree trunk legs, but Ethry was always gone by the time they could try and make a grab at him.

All around him, he heard the buzz of commerce, of industry at work. Crates were in constant motion; some descended down gangplanks and were lowered by cranes onto the ships, ready to go to the far corners of the Empire. Other crates came off the ships, hauled by cranes or on the shoulders of burly dockworkers, deposited in stacks on the wharf and smelling of exotic locations that Ethry could only imagine.

Up ahead of him, a heavy-set man with a large beard cursed in half a dozen languages as his foot caught at a raised plank in the dock. He tripped, and the crate on his shoulder sent oval, pink fruits scattering across the salt-warped boards.

Ethry didn’t pause to help pick up the fruits. His good deed, he knew, would at best be rewarded with a grunt of thanks, and nothing more. More likely, he’d earn himself a kick or a cuff about the ear, along with some more curse words to add to his vocabulary.

Instead, he hurried by without pausing. Only after he’d ducked down into a narrow alley between two buildings, away from the scene, did he grin and remove the two pink fruits from his jacket that he’d snagged off the ground as he passed. Continue reading

[AGttA] Chapter 6.2: Preparations for a Hell of a Road Trip

Continued from Chapter 6.1, here.

Read it from the beginning, starting here.

Axiom 6: Formulate a long-term plan.

“This doesn’t seem like a good idea,” I said again, although I probably ought to have learned by this point to just keep my mouth shut.

Indeed, no one responded to me.  Alice sketched out a few more lines in the intricate diagram that she’d painted on the middle of our floor, and then sat back to appraise her work.  She stuck the paintbrush in between her teeth to free up her hands, making her appear slightly like a deranged pirate artist.

“What do you think?” she asked me, glancing up as she sat back on her knees.

“You’re not listening to anything I say, are you?” I replied morosely.

“Nope.  Not even a little bit.” Continue reading