Every forty or fifty years the incubus and the succubus got together
to catch up. This time they met in a quiet little bar, and the incubus
said, “Yeah, it’s been hard these past few years. I did porn for a
while, but these days, with Viagra and everything, it doesn’t matter
what kind of a woodsman you are, because anybody can pop a pill and
perform superhuman feats of sexual prowess.”
The succubus nodded in sympathy, invisible serpents twining in her
hair. “I hear you. There’s easy money in internet porn, but it’s no
good for me, I miss the personal connection. But you can still do the
gigolo thing, right?”
Rated R: It’s an incubus and a succubus. There will be S-E-X! (Or, at least, talk of sex)
“I married your mother for her skull. It’s no secret.”
Jarak put aside his rasps and gouges for the moment, resting his eyes and mind from the precise, exacting work his trade demanded. He didn’t mind his son’s persistent questions at such times. Akan was at an age when he should be curious and, if curiosity was a duty, Akan was a dedicated boy. It wasn’t as though Purlo the Baker, whose skull rested patiently on Jarak’s workbench, was in a hurry.
Akan nodded. “Mother is pretty,” he said. “Often men of the village speak about what a fortunate man Jarak the Skullcarver is.”
“Letis is indeed the most beautiful woman in Trepa and for seven leagues around. But that’s not the same thing. The ugliest man alive during your grandfather’s time turned out to have a skull of exquisite beauty, as your grandfather knew all along…
“He’d been down here about six years when I knew him. Had a girl he was seeing name of Corine. She was pretty. Had this line of dark little moles, just like pinpricks, all along her jaw. Made me think of the sort of bangles they put on women’s veils out in Baghdad. She’d come by the shop sometimes, and we’d have to make him stop working until she went away for fear he’d get distracted and lose a finger.
“He’d been seeing her for maybe six months when Martin Luther King got killed. That was before you were born, so I don’t expect you’d understand it. And, honest to God, I’d never say this outside the family, but the Blacks have got a whole different contry they live in. Even someone like the Swede who worked with us and drank beer with us and all? Now I was sorry to hear about it when King died, and I’m not ashamed to say it. But it wasn’t that much to me. For the Blacks, though. . .”
Dab shook his head.
“It was different for them. What with everything else that was going on back then, King’s getting shot was like Kennedy in Dallas and the planes in New York all wrapped up in one…
So there was Orange John near the war fountain in his oversized orange suit and Bozo hair, knotting himself up a real nice stegosaurus, when up came the young balloon man. He was a skinny boy in a black T-shirt, rainbow vest, and jeans painted like all the sample chips in a paint store. His limp balloons hung from his waistband like little tongues, and he stopped a dozen or so yards away from Orange John.
“Jack Many-Colors,” he said, tipping an imaginary hat.
“Orange John,” said Orange John, with a squint and a nod.
And so it began.
Rated PG. For Carnie Language and Balloon Violence
“I present to you the academy’s 150th class of brave, skilled, hard-working probationary firefighters!” Chief Kelly finally said.
Steven barely heard the applause and cheers when his turn came to cross the stage. His hand was clammy as he shook hands with his teachers, the school administrators, and Chief Kelly. He knew he was blushing and grinning like a fool. Some days, back in the desert, he’d figured to be dead by dusk. Now he was a fireman like his dad, and both his grandfathers, and all the other Goodwin men whose pictures hung in the fire museum gallery.
At the far end of the stage, the phoenix peered down at him with wide black eyes. He could see himself in those eyes, twin reflections of his black and gold uniform. She lifted her whitish-gray beak and passed a scroll off to Chief Kelly, who pressed it into Steven’s hand.
“Good luck, son,” Kelly said.
Steven waited until he was off the stage before he unrolled his assignment.
Most dragons rarely think about accounting. But you’ve worked hard to acquire that hoard of gold and jewels–shouldn’t you be keeping track of what happens to it? Just sitting on it isn’t good enough any more. That’s why you need accounting. Here are some tips:
Excerpt not included this week. You’ll just have to listen!
Rated PG. for revisionist “history.”
Bonus: If you enjoyed this week’s Tanith Lee story, you might want to go check out Fantasy Magazine’s audio version of “Clockatrice” by Tanith Lee, read by perennial PodCastle favorite M. K. Hobson. Enjoy!