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Overture, Curtain Lights
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Odyssey, Fall 1998
Cory Doctorow

The characters in this one originated in "The Adventures of Ma N Pa Frigidaire", and I'm thrilled to see them finally making their way into print. Normally, I don't write more than one story in a given world or about a given character, but Dometown and its residents are stuck in my brain, and I think you'll be seeing more of them.

That was the first day a what I come to think of as Scofflaw's reign of terror.

Word spread fast about the man what could put ten ounces in a two ounce glass -- though by the time the story come back to me, from Stubby Peeps the next mornin' as we pitched pennies 'round back of my dome, it was ten kilos of shit in a two-kilo sack. I smiled at Stubby, who is nigh three metres tall, and too big for a shaft an' so pulls a rickshaw topside. He was my best friend in Dometown, though we looked right muttonjeff next to each other, as I am short an' skinny an' maybe a little ratty, too. I said, "How'd you like to meet the man hisself?"

Stubby flipped his goggles up and stared at me. "Socket, you know somethin' you ain't tellin' me?"

"Maybe a little."

He got a sad look then, his long-tallness droopin' till it looked like his knuckles would hit the permafrost. "Socket Rollercoaster Ricochet Biscuit, I am purely shocked by this. Me, your very best friend in this world, in the dark! It's a sad comment on This Modern World when a man can't trust his mate --"

I waved him hush, as Stubby can go on for nearlybout ever when he's on a roll. I worked a gauntlet off, bunched my mouth-guard around my neck, and whistled down the chimbley.

Lickey-spit, Scofflaw cycled out the vestibule. He was wearin' jockey shorts an' no shoes an' a tee-shirt with "Gramma & Grampa went to the Hallelujah Shore & all I got was this blessed tee-shirt. Hallelujah!" Even though I knew he an' physics had a special arrangement, I liked to freeze in sympathy.

Stubby couldn't hardly believe his eyes. Scofflaw had skinny knees, an' hairy calves, an' his toes were long an' clever.

"Shut yer mouth, Stubby," says I. "Your spit will freeze." Then, I says to Scofflaw (who didn't look a bit hungover, though he'd drunk up at least twenty five cocktails the night before), "John Scofflaw, I want you should meet Stubby Peeps, who is my mate, and who pulls a rickshaw, in case you was lookin' to spend some money getting around."

Scofflaw pushed off with his back foot and skated across the ice to right alongside a Stubby, and took his hand. "Nice to meet, nice to meet."

"Likewise," says Stubby, and manages to close his mouth when he's done.

"Scofflaw's the one what put ten ounces of hooch in a two-ounce glass. He can do lots else besides." I looked down hard at his bare feet, what still wasn't blue.

Stubby still had a penny in his hand, ready to toss, like. Scofflaw scried it, an' said, "You boys pitchin' pennies?"

"Yup," I says, hopin' he was gonna put on a little show for me an' Stubby.

Scofflaw made a penny outta thin air. One sec, he was standin' there, emptyhanded and in gotchis, an' the next, he had a penny in his hand. "Mind if I play?"

"Not me. Stubby, you mind?" Stubby shook his head and looked at that penny, and didn't say a word.

Scofflaw turned around and faced the wall a my dome. He stepped up ta the line we'd scratched in the ice, wound up, an' pitched hard. The penny went wild, hit one a my chimbleys, bounced backward, pinged off the harness a Stubby's rickshaw, bounced again, hit the ice, spun on edge, tipped over, an' slid, heads up, against the wall a my dome, just kissin' it. A perfect toss.

Half-heartedly, I stepped up an' pitched my curve-toss, what is the trickiest, since it rebounds low and soft, an' is supposed to slide down the wall and touch down on the wall's edge. The toss was good, but not great, an' landed maybe five centimetres out. Stubby barely made the toss, misfired and his penny landed afore it even touched the dome.

"Nice ta meet ya, tallboy," says Scofflaw, who scoops up the pennies an' goes back inside. All things considered, it wasn't a lot a money to pay to see the show we'd been given.

Click here for info on my second novel, Eastern Standard Tribe

Click here for info on my first short story collection, A Place So Foriegn and Eight More

Click here for info on my first novel, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom