PodCastle 251: Throwing Stones

by Mishell Baker

Read by Elizabeth Green Musselman

Originally published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Read it here!

In the city of Jiun-Shi the third shift was known as the goblin watch, but some of us were not very watchful. I, for one, was so absorbed in the daily details of living a lie that it took me three months to learn that one of the regulars at the Silver Fish Teahouse was a goblin. By the time our paths collided three years later, I had been promoted to third-shift manager, and my lie had been promoted to widely established fact.

Often during my shift I furtively watched him where he sat in his guise as a human poet and scribe-for-hire. Sometimes he was alone, his narrow shoulders slumped over a crisp rectangle of paper, his fine writing brush held in his gaunt left hand. Usually there were women at his table asserting their dominance, half-offended and half-fascinated that a man would bother to educate himself so thoroughly. To their credit, he looked the part of that second-class citizen of the Empire of Ru, the human male. But I—a liar smug in my knowledge of another’s truth—pitied those women who approached him in ignorance and waded in out of their depth.

He always remained tranquil, even as suitors playfully mocked him and threaded their fingers through his bird’s-nest hair. His sharp indigo eyes were always open, even when a woman leaned in to kiss his mouth. He never corrected those who treated him as a common plaything, but without fail a more experienced patron would whisper the secret into her sister’s ear just slightly too late to keep the poor woman from becoming infatuated.

Rated R. Contains sex.