Friday, November 30, 2007


Free Fiction Friday: "The Likeness of a Wolf"

It's Friday, and around here that means free fiction. Today's offering is from the vaults, a story written years and years ago for the Clockwork Storybook webzine. For the 99.9% of you who have no idea what that was, Clockwork Storybook was originally an online shared world anthology of urban fantasy (how's that for a mouthful?). It ran for several years, with monthly stories from me, Mark Finn, Matt Sturges, and Bill Willingham. The vast majority of the stories took place in the fictional city of San Cibola, where mermaids, elves, werewolves, and wizards rubbed shoulders on a regular basis. The existence of the supernatural in San Cibola was an open secret; everyone in on the secret was part of the "Neighborhood," and anyone not in on the joke was called "Norman," a pun on "normal."

The following story is one of that bunch. Like too many of the stories I wrote then, it's overly concerned with seemingly clever stylistic tricks and needlessly complex narrative structures, but I think there's an interesting group of characters at it's core. For what it's worth, I'm gradually dusting off and reworking characters and plots I used back in those days, so don't be too surprised to see Ivy Koestler or Susan Kururangi turn up in a new story or novel, one of these fine days. But for the time being, this is the way the originally appeared. (And yes, there is a reference to "Olias of Sunhillow" buried in the story, for all of you Jon Anderson fans out there...)

The Likeness of a Wolf
by Chris Roberson

The first body was found in the Rue Livre over a month ago, and in all that time the police have come no closer to naming a suspect, much less apprehending one. They simply handed the whole affair over to Animal Control after the first body was found, and washed their hands of it. After three weeks, Animal Control began to grow worried, and discussed calling in an outside agent. Last week, Alexander “Buck” Sizemore, a private citizen and professional game hunter from Louisiana, began his hunt through the city streets, searching for the animal. Animal Control agreed to pay him five hundred dollars a day for his time, as well as a bounty of an addition thousand when the job was complete. Last night, police found the mutilated and half-consumed corpse of Mr. Sizemore in an alley in the southern section of the district. This morning, Susan Kururangi began her own, more clandestine investigation.


I think I saw an elf today, writes Ivy in her small spiral bound notebook, hunched over the page, her legs folded up under her. The other patrons at the coffee shop ignore her, casually, as she absent-mindedly chews on the end of a ratted strand of hair. At least, I think it was an elf. Or a Fae. Whatever the politically correct name is. I think it was one, I’m almost sure of it.

I’d just left the car in the alley behind Serendipity, and was heading towards the women’s shelter to take a shower, when this guy come out of a brownstone leading a little yippy dog on a leash. He was about seven feet tall, I swear, dressed all in silver and white, and he had this amazing silver necklace around his neck. I must have been staring as I crossed the street, because when he passed me he looked right at me and said, “Take a picture, Norma, it’ll last longer.” I swear I could have just died.

At first I was just embarrassed, caught acting like some kind of damned tourist, but after a while I started to get pissed. I mean, who did he think I was, some kid just off the bus from Norman County, Ohio? That was pretty prejudiced of him, once I got to thinking about it. Just cause I don’t have pointed ears (not today, at least) and fairy silver and a goddamned rat dog on a leash doesn’t mean I’m not a Neighbor. He’s just lucky I’m not in a wolfpack. I probably would have ripped out his damned neck, silky smooth skin and all.

Ivy almost breaks the lead from her pencil, jamming the period onto the sentence, and surprises herself when she realizes the low growling noise she’s been hearing for the last minute or so has been coming from her. Forcing herself to calm, she carefully places the pencil down on the notebook, and walks to the counter to have her tea-pot refilled. Then, in what she thinks almost regal movements, she dips the tea-bag in, once, then twice, letting it bleed its color slowly into the steaming water. She sets the pot aside, and brushes her hands on the fabric of her worn jeans, and only then returns to the notebook.

I’ve just read the last sentences again, she writes, and I am so full of shit. Like I’d ever have anything to do with a wolfpack. I don’t need that scum. That would be almost as bad as going back to Fortuna, hanging out with those guys. Worse, maybe. Besides, with the money I make tonight at the Holy Grounds I should have enough for a new set of strings, and then maybe I can play the open mic night at the Ginger Duck. Then it’s just a matter of time.

Ivy pauses, chewing on the end of the pencil, and then adds, or maybe I’ll just use it to get into the Paramount to see Ciren on Friday. I wonder if I can find anything to wear.


By Ivy Koestler
By Ivy

the moon, hanging above me
sings to me in my sleep
in dreams I finally let myself go
and blood runs the darkened streets
and run through the darkened streets


“Ciren, darling, your beautiful little angel has bit me again,” says Serge as Ciren walks into the kitchen, toweling off her damp hair. The little girl in Serge’s arms struggles violently, scowling.

“She doesn’t do that to anyone else, you know,” Ciren answers, gently pulling her daughter from his grasp. The little girl immediately calms, and rests her head on her mother’s shoulder.

“Well she bloody well does it to me,” Serge replies, rubbing at the red marks on his forearm with a delicate hand.

“I’m sorry, Serge, if she did it to everyone I’d be concerned, worried she had some condition. But as she just does it to one person, I’m afraid I have to point the finger at you.” Ciren brushes back a stray hair from the little girl’s face, and nuzzles her neck.

“She hates men, I tell you, all of them,” Serge answers. “You’ve made her pathological.”

“She loves Michael,” Ciren replies, citing the manager at the Ginger Duck. “And Raphael. And even Silas.”

The little girl raises her head, smiling broadly.

“Uncle Silas?” she says. “Where?”

“See?” Ciren says. “It’s just you.”

Serge scowls, and rubs harder at his arm.

“I’ve told you before, Ciren darling, I am your manager, not an unpaid nanny.”

“Well,” Ciren says, smiling, “you’ll do until something better comes along.”


I passed that creepy guy in the alley again today, Ivy writes. The one with the spider web tattoo on the side of his face. I was coming around the corner after spending a while reading in Serendipity, and there he was, leaning against the wall, smoking some cheap smelly cigar. I don’t know if he saw me, I didn’t see him look, but by the time I got back here to the car and looked back, he was gone.

Mr. La Violette came downstairs to talk to me today. I think he knows what I am, but he hasn’t really said anything. Just hints, now and then. But I know he has no idea I’m living in a car behind his store, because he keeps asking me about traffic to and from the Rue Livre. He must think I live down in College Town or something.

Mr. La Violette is one of the nicer people I’ve met in the city. If not the nicest. To me, at least. I’ve seen him be a real ass to people that come into the store that don’t know what they’re looking for, or come looking for things he wouldn’t possibly carry. Like yesterday, this guy came in looking for a Tom Clancy book, and Mr. La Violette almost threw him down the stairs. He doesn’t like Clancy very much. But he’s nice to me, lets me sit in the big, comfortable chair under the stairs, and brings me books he thinks I’ll like. It’s usually fairy tales and stuff like that, but he’s right. I do like them.

Besides Mr. La Violette (he keeps wanting me to call him Thad, but I can’t do it. It’d be like calling my grandfather by his first name… if I knew what my grandfather’s first name was), the only other person in the city who’s really been nice to me has been Stu at the Holy Grounds. I came in one day, wanting to ask him about playing a gig for him, and I had to buy six cups of coffee before I worked up the nerve. Before I could do it, he just walked over and asked me if there was something I wanted. Not angry, just curious. I was so jittery after all the caffeine that I jumped right up and started yammering at him. I had my guitar with me, under the chair, and Stu told me to get it out, calm down, and play him a song. I did, one of my own, and when I was done he asked me to play another. He liked that one, too. He said I could play at night a couple of times a week, but all he could pay me was in coffee and pastries and ten bucks a gig. I tried to act all cool, like I was thinking about it for a minute, and then I just started nodding.

Now, I can pretty much eat for free at the Holy Grounds whenever I want, fruit and bagels and whatnot, and I play three nights a week. I don’t drink any coffee anymore though. I read it was bad for the voice. Now I just drink tea.


Ivy sits in the back seat of the ’87 Pontiac 6000, her legs crossed, the battered guitar set across her lap. Humming softly to herself, she tunes each string against the first, and then strums out a few chords. She carefully adjusts the E string, and tries another chord. Satisfied, she plays one of her new songs, trying to work out a better bridge between the third verse and the chorus. The alley outside the car doors is empty, though in the distance sounds of traffic and construction drifts from the streets beyond.

Night falls, and Ivy feels her joints begin to ache, and her fingers miss the chords. A shiver runs down her spin, and as her bones start to pop and shift she manages to set the guitar down without breaking it. Ivy curses herself for not checking the calendar, for not knowing her time of the month was coming. She knows now she’ll never make the gig at the Holy Grounds. Not in any shape to play, at least.


Behind the microphone on the stage of the Ginger Duck, Ciren holds the final chord of the song “Sunhillow” longer than normal, and tilts her head back, eyes shut. She smiles to herself, remembering when it was just her and the music, before Los Angeles, before Rick, before all of it. Only now, all these years later, back on this stage where it all started, does it even begin to feel like that again. Finally she lets the chord die out, and opens her eyes. The applause she hadn’t noticed startles her, and her smile becomes self-conscious, almost forced.

To the side of the stage sits Serge, the toddler perched calmly on his lap. They share the same expression, those two, both beaming at her.

Ciren’s gaze brushes across the crowd, the faces remembered or forgotten or new. Ciren drinks in their smiles, their happy faces, their love. Only one face towards the back, the one with a spider web tattoo crawling across it, seems out of place. Ciren chooses to ignore him, and whispering a thank you into the mic strikes a chord and launches into “Homecoming.” The room explodes with applause.


The change is a bitch, Ivy writes the next morning, after finishing a bagel and bowl of sliced fruit at the Holy Grounds. It’s gotten easier the past few years, and I can remember almost everything now, but if I’m not careful I end up with all my clothes shredded the day after. I haven’t changed except at my time of the month since that time with Billy Collins behind the school gym, and I think if I could just skip those three nights a month I’d do it. God, I hate it.

I remember the first time. It was during a sleep-over at Samantha’s house. I woke up and thought I was going to be sick and walked down the hall to the bathroom. Halfway there I got short and hairy, and I was sure I was going crazy. And so hungry. I think I might have eaten Samantha if it hadn’t been for that furry little dog of hers. She was so upset the next day, thinking it had run away, and I never told her where it had gone.

I ran home the next morning, still wearing my torn nightgown under my clothes, and found my mother in the kitchen. It was like that scene in that crappy old horror movie Carrie, I just kept shouting at her, Why didn’t you tell me, Why didn’t you tell me? Dad had to come home from work to calm me down, and I took a whole week off of school. Samantha never did talk to me after that. I think she blamed me for the dog.

Dad was so full of shit, worse than Mom. He acted like it was some secret shame, us being who we are. He made me promise never to tell anybody. I was eight, what did I know? But he still kept up the holidays, at least in the house. I was ten before I realized that The Long Night wasn’t the same as Christmas. That was the year that Grandfather came to live with us. He was the first to tell me what being Volkdlak was really all about.


“The Creator made the Volkdlak in Its own images,” the old man had told Ivy, while her parents were in the other room watching television, “and made for them the day and night to live in. Two forms, two worlds. The Volkdlak were the first men, the True Men, who lived in peace in the Forests of Paradise until the coming of the False Deceiver. The Deceiver was a twisted, mirror image of the Creator, frozen in a single form. Out of jealous rage, he created the False Men and Animals. They were like the Deceiver, frozen in a single form. With the help of the Deceiver, the False Men drove the Volkdlak out of the Forests, and hounded them to the ends of the earth. Even now, generations later, the true children of the Creator are made to cower, hiding, for fear of the False Men.”


“So, Eyes,” Susan says, looking out the window of the little man’s little office above the bakery, looking down on the streets of Arcadia. “What do you think?”

“It’s hair,” Eyes replies, pushing his bottle-thick glasses up on the bridge of his nose and smiling.

Susan doesn’t like Eyes, doesn’t trust him. She doesn’t like his look or his smell or his cramped, uncomfortable office. But she has to admit that he’s good, the only unlicensed forensic pathologists the Neighborhood has worth talking about. He’s the one to go to when the cop cutters run into something that won’t fit into their narrow minds, that would send them shrieking if they ever understood.

“I know that,” Susan says, patiently. “The question is, what kind?”

“The cops say dog, no?” Eyes asks.

“Or wolf,” Susan adds.

“Well,” Eyes answers with grudging respect, “that’s closer than they usually get. It’s wolf, alright, but not everyday, if you get me.”

Susan exhales slowly, nodding.

“Skinwalker,” she says.

“Yep,” Eyes replies.

“Can you tell if he was born that way, or is he just wearing a new body for fashion?” Susan asks.

“It’s impossible to say,” Eyes answers. “To be honest with you, if I had one genetic and one spelled-up werewolf right here in front of me, I don’t think I’d be able to tell the difference. Just too similar on a cellular basis.”

“Eyes,” Susan says in a soft voice, “if you had a werewolf in front of you now, I promise you wouldn’t last long enough to think anything.”

On her way downstairs, Susan balls one hand into a fist and slaps it into the heel of the other. Eyes had only told her what she didn’t want to hear. A wolf gone hunting in the Rue Livre was bad business. The Rue Livre was considered no man’s land, too close to the Di Lessa’s on the north, the Volsungs on the south and the Moondogs on the west for anyone to start making trouble. Susan only hoped it was a rogue, a lone wolf, and not a member of either wolfpack hunting in the other’s backyard. Otherwise, this could end up a full scale turf war.


I’ll be successful, Ivy writes in her spiral bound notebook, I just know I will. I have to be. I couldn’t stand a whole life of happy homemaker, or go-getter businesswoman. Just let me have a few years with my music, and then I’ll do anything, I’ll do anything you ask.

I know I can do it. My songs are good, everyone in high school said so, and my voice isn’t so good. I’m better at the guitar than I was, too, though still mostly just chords. I wish I could play classical, like Dave Matthews or Ciren, but right now chords work alright.

Ciren. She’s the reason I’m doing this in the first place. Cathy took me to see her when I was just a kid, when Cathy was living in San Cibola and we were both the only cousins in the family. Before Mom had Andy, and Cathy went missing. Cathy was ten years older than me, but more like a sister than the aunts just a few years older than her. I got to spend a whole week with her in the city one summer, while my parents took a cruise, and she took me to all the coolest places. Coffee shops and bars and record stores, and then came the night she took me down to the Ginger Duck to see Ciren play. I’d never seen anything like that, never heard music like that. Around my house, the height of musical culture was Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, or maybe John Denver, and Ciren was nothing like any of that. Just her and a guitar behind the microphone, playing music that would make the angels weep. By the time we left, I knew just what I wanted to do with my life.

Later, after Ciren stopped playing, other singers came along in her wake. Ani, Jewel, Alanis, all following in her footsteps. But the magazines never really talked about her, not really. They might mention Suzanne Vega or Natalie Merchant, but never Ciren. It was like she didn’t exist outside San Cibola. Which, I guess, she didn’t, since I could never find her tapes or albums at the mall in Fortuna, and my friends from out of state had never heard of her. But I had. To me, Ciren was what music was all about.

I was seventeen before I found out what Ciren was. There were some kids talking about her in the Claremont High cafeteria one day, and I didn’t understand what they were saying. It was like those times when someone starts talking about an actor that everybody, I mean everybody knows is gay, and it just has never occurred to you. It should have, if you stopped to think about it for a second, but you never did. That’s what it was like when I found out that Ciren was a mermaid.

Okay, not a mermaid, that’s not the p.c. term. Andaro, or “Aquatic American”, whichever you prefer. I hadn’t even thought of it before, but once I heard those girls talking (mean whispers behind their hands, like it was some giant sin to be different), it suddenly made sense. Her songs, her look, everything. If I could have loved her any more than I already did, at that moment it would have doubled. My love for her, that is.

If she can do it, I thought, so can I. Being different didn’t mean being quiet, and my being a Volkdlak was no more a barrier to my music than Ciren’s being an Andaro was to hers. So fuck them all, I thought, all those prissy bitches with their big hair and expensive cars their daddies bought them. I didn’t need them anymore than Ciren did, wherever she was.

So I left. The day after school ended, I packed up my bag and left.


“Don’t run away,” Andy had said, in a trembling voice, standing at the door to her room.

“I’m not running away, midget,” Ivy had answered, stuffing her favorite sweatshirt into her bag. “I’m eighteen. I’m an adult. Adults can’t run away.”

Andy sniffled, loudly, but didn’t cry. He was too big for that, eight next fall.

“So don’t leave,” he said.

Ivy looked at him once, and for a moment reconsidered. It wouldn’t be long until the change hit him the first time, and she wished that she’d be there to help. But she had things she had to do, and places to go. The old Pontiac her dad had bought for her birthday was parked downstairs, the gas tank full. Slinging her bag over her shoulder, she paused once at the door to muss her brother’s hair, and then stepped outside.


Ivy sits on the wobbly stool on the low stage at the Holy Grounds, singing softly into the scratchy mic, one of her new songs. The chorus still doesn’t quite work, a bad rhyme on the third line, but if anyone in the place notices they don’t make a sign. Aside from Stu standing over in the corner, the only people who really seem to be listening are a couple of college kids sitting in the back, sipping slowly from giant cups of coffee and nodding appreciatively now and again. Ivy doesn’t care that no one else is listening. She just sings.


“I don’t care what you think, Thaddeus,” Susan says, “tell me what you know.”

“It’s not right, Kururangi,” La Violette answers. “It’s just not right.”

“You said you’ve seen a lycanthrope in the area,” says Susan, irritated. “Not one of the wolfpack gang, but an outsider. I wouldn’t have come if you hadn’t. And now you decide to go quiet on me?”

“I just mentioned it in passing, I didn’t know what you were after.”

Susan squares her shoulders, and glowers at the old man.

“Is she, or isn’t she?” Susan repeats.

The old man averts his eyes, and rubs at his broad forehead with the handkerchief.

“Oh, she is, alright, but she couldn’t have done that.” He shakes his head, nervously folding the handkerchief. “Ivy couldn’t have done that.”

“Thanks,” Susan says. “Just what I wanted to hear.”


Ciren climbs the stairs to her apartment, her daughter in her arms. Behind her on the steps, her manager Serge struggles under the weight of Ciren’s bag, the groceries, and all the children’s toys.

“I’ll quit if this goes on much longer,” Serge threatens. “You have got to get a personal assistant.” He pauses on the step, hoisting the bag higher on his shoulder, almost losing the groceries in the process. “Or hire movers whenever you leave the apartment.”


I think the crowd tonight really liked me, writes Ivy later that evening. I mean, no one got in a fight or had to yell into their cell phone to talk over my guitar or anything.

I still don’t have enough to get into the Paramount tomorrow night, though. I wish I could ask Stu for a loan, or Mr. La Violette. But I just couldn’t. It would be like giving up. Maybe I’ll just go to the show anyway. If I’m lucky, I can see her on her way in. I wish I had my records with me, instead of back in Fortuna. Then I could have her sign one.

Wouldn’t it be something if I actually got to talk to her?


lines from Haunted
By Ciren

Your shade follows me everywhere, a shadow of your memory.
I am haunted, pursued, each thought threading it's way back to you.
Sometimes I try to escape, a young girl sitting in a corner
trying desperately not to imagine a white horse, but it doesn't work.
Your mark is upon me, and it will not wash off.
It is on me, and I would not wash it off.


The next night Susan, her pou staff sheathed on her back, watches the girl round the corner of the alley and start down the crowded sidewalk. Susan hides in the dark shadows until the girl passes, and then falls in step behind her. She watches the girl as they walk, catching her glance at the happy faces of couples as they pass, catching her pause for a moment at the window of an upscale yuppie restaurant up the block. Susan doesn’t blame her. She must be hungry.

Part of Susan begins to hope that she is wrong, that the girl isn’t the one. It would be a shame to put someone like that down, some who seems so fresh and innocent. But a larger part, the part that makes her finger the silver bladed dagger in the sheath slung low on her hip, hopes that the girl is. Better her than a blood crazed Moondog, or a drunken Volsung, god forbid. No one would make a stink if Susan gutted a little street urchin werewolf with her knife. Oh, Thaddeus wouldn’t be happy about it, but he wouldn’t start a war over it.

As the girl heads down the steps to the SCAT station, Susan pulls the knife a fraction of the way out of the sheath, and tests the edge on her thumb. She’ll give the girl tonight to prove her wrong. Then she’ll end it.


Ivy stands in front of the Paramount, watching the crowd slowly file in. The man at the door, large and imposing in shaved head and leather jacket, eyes her once, and then looks away. She’s no threat. Ivy shuffles uncomfortably, awkward, sure that her poverty is spelled out on her forehead in neon letters.

Susan waits half a block away, hidden in the doorway of a business closed for the night. She rubs her palms together, proof against the slight chill in the air, and then grazes the sheathed knife with the tips of her fingers.

Serge pulls the car to a stop up the street from the Paramount, and leaning over the seat unstraps the young girl from the seatbelts. Ciren sighs deeply, and finishes the last of her water bottle before twisting back on the cap and dropping the empty bottle into her purse. She undoes her own seat belt, and Serge lifts the young girl over the seat back and carefully deposits her on her mother’s lap.

“I’ll find a place to park,” Serge says, “and then I’ll be right in.”

“Take your time,” Ciren replies, pushing open the car door and then swinging out her legs. “The shows not due to start for a while.”

The little girl in Ciren’s arm drowses, her head on her mother’s shoulder.

“I’d wish you luck,” Serge says, “but you don’t need it.”

Ciren smiles, and then climbs out of the car.

There she is, Ivy thinks, seeing that beautiful head of green hair appear down the street. Overcome with excitement, Ivy begins to walk forward, slowly at first, then picking up speed. There she is.

This is it, Susan thinks, seeing the girl pick up speed, practically breaking into a run heading for the andaro down the block. She’s making her move.

Ciren takes no more than half a dozen steps, and then hears the sound of footsteps approaching fast. A fan, she thinks, half turning towards the sound. Out of the corner of her eye, she sees an enormous timber wolf emerge from the alley way, rushing straight for her.

Ivy doesn’t even pause to think. She sees the wolf racing towards Ciren, knows its intent, can almost smell its blood lust. The hunger is on it, the wolf is rogue. Ivy lunges forward, baring her teeth, putting herself in the wolf’s path. A low growl escapes her lips, curled back in a snarl.

Susan sees the wolf twist in midair, its hindquarters wheeling around, and then it lands with all four paws forward on the wolf girl standing in its way.

Ivy bats the wolf away, one of its paws raking across her face as it falls, another catching a hunk of flesh from her arms. She falters, but doesn’t fall.

The wolf rights itself, and raises its back, growling. It pads left, then right, looking for an opportunity to lunge past this new obstruction.

Ivy sees the woman in leather with the braided hair appear from nowhere, barreling into the rogue wolf, a silver knife in one hand, a silver tipped wooden staff in the other. The woman and the wolf roll on the ground, a mess of metal and teeth.

Run, yells Susan to Ivy from the tangle. Get them out of here.

Ivy stands dazed for a moment, and then comes to herself. She turns to Ciren, standing stricken with the little girl clutched in her arms.

Let’s go, Ivy orders, grabbing Ciren by the arm and dragging her towards the entrance to the Paramount.

As they run, Ciren risks a look back. The leather woman straddles the huge wolf, the silver knife clenched in her teeth, the wooden staff laid across the wolf’s throat, choking the life out of it.

“I’ve been looking all over for you,” Susan says awkwardly, pushing the words around the blade held in her teeth. “I thought you’d never get here.”

Once Ivy and Ciren are inside the theater, the big shaved-headed bouncer rushes over to offer what ever help he can to the woman struggling with the wolf. By the time he gets there, it’s not a wolf, but a naked, scrawny little white guy with a badly tattooed spider web spreading over half his face.

“A friend of yours?” the bouncer asks the woman with the braids and black leather.

“No,” Susan answers, cleaning the gore off the silver knife on the fabric of her pants, and sliding the knife back into its sheath. “Just a stray.”


It got kind of hectic after that, writes Ivy the next morning. I figured Ciren would call off the show, after being attacked and everything. But she didn’t. She just waited until her manager guy showed up, handed over her daughter, and then went on stage. Before she did, she asked me to stick around after the show, she wanted to talk to me. I figured they’d kick me out after the bouncer finished bandaging up my face and arm, but they didn’t. The bouncer even bought me a drink, didn’t even ask to see my ID.

I don’t know what happened with that woman who fought the werewolf. By the time the cops arrived to pick up the body, everybody had the story straight, and the woman who killed him was nowhere around. So the cops got told that this crazy naked guy rushed out of the alley to attack Ciren and me, and a mysterious stranger showed up to save us. I thought the cops wouldn’t buy it at all, but they acted like it all made perfect sense, and after they zipped the body up in those big people-sized garbage bags you see on television, they just left. It’s too bad, though. They missed a good show.

Afterwards, Ciren took me back with her to her dressing room. She asked about me, about what I did, and we talked about music for a while. When she asked me where I lived, I didn’t even think to lie. I told her about leaving home, and playing in the coffee shops, and the Pontiac parked out behind the bookstore. I was afraid she might call the cops, or tell me I should go home. But instead she handed me her guitar, her own guitar, and asked me to play one of my songs.

I was so nervous I could have just died, but after a little bit of trouble I managed to play Moonsong. The whole time I was playing, Ciren sat there quietly, her little girl asleep in her lap. When I was done, Ciren was quiet for a long time, like she was thinking about something.

Finally, she asked if I wanted a job.

“A job,” I said. “What kind of job?”

“I need someone to look after my little girl,” she said. “Someone to take care of her when I’m in the studio, or when I’m playing a gig. I don’t have a great deal of money, so I couldn’t pay you much more than minimum wage.”

I was trying to figure out how much money that was, and thinking how much more it was than I was making at Holy Grounds, when she dropped the bomb.

“Of course, I could supplement the income by teaching you music,” she said. “Not that you need much help. Just a little bit. You’re very good for a beginning. But I could help you with your fretwork, and help you tone up the upper ranges of your voice.”

I think I must have stood there for about ten minutes, my mouth just hanging open. I don’t know if I drooled, but I must have. I just stared at her, unable to say anything.

“Are you okay?” she finally asked me, probably thinking I was a lunatic.

“Yes,” I shouted. “Yes. I’ll take the job. You can teach me. Oh god, you can teach me to sing. Yes, oh yes.”

I’m staying with her now, sleeping in the guest bedroom of her apartment. It’s really nice. I told Ciren who I was, what I was, and it didn’t bother her. She asked me to let her know when my time of the month came around, and that when it does I’ll have a couple of days off. She says she’ll make Serge take me to the park those nights, if I want, to get some exercise and doing a little hunting. Ciren says it’s really no different than her having to spend all that time every day in the salt baths, or going down deep every couple of months. I knew she’d understand.

Ciren says she’s going to have Serge go with me later to pick up my car and my things, and then I can stay with her for all long as I want. After lunch, she’s going to teach me some scales.

I think this is going to work, writes Ivy, sitting at Ciren’s breakfast table, looking out the window at the Neighborhood. I think I’m home.


It does read as a little "too clever" for its own good by half. had slight evocations for me of Bordertown.

Did you ever nail down what state San Cibola was in? We know its not Louisiana thanks to Buck being from there.
I think "too clever for its own good" is putting it kindly, Paul.

I'm flattered by the mention of Bordertown, though, which was a huge influence on me when it came out. Between that and the Wild Cards series, I spent a lot of time thinking about shared worlds in the late 80s, and both were definitely foremost in my mind, at least, when we starting putting the world of San Cibola together.

As for where San Cibola is, we actually had a very definite location in mind. It's located in northern California, and though I think we always played a little coy with it, we actually knew the precise latitude and longitude where it could be found.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by 

Blogger. Isn't yours?