by Joe Pitkin
read by Steve Anderson
A PodCastle original!
I noticed another person in the room, the only other person, peering at me through a monocle. That was when lots of people in the city were wearing monocles—this wasn’t the first monocle I had seen today. The barista with the neck tattoos and the barbershop quartet moustache had a monocle when he served my tea. But this new person looked a little old for a hipster: short, slender, angular, wearing a three-piece cream colored suit, a fedora just taken off to reveal close-cropped thick black hair, barely gray—my first impression (which is everybody’s) was that the antiquarian was a person of great power. In fact, for a moment I thought Leonard Cohen was standing in front of me.
The antiquarian gestured at the chair opposite me to inquire whether it was free. With a sinking feeling I offered it: I foresaw small talk with a lonely old person. Not that I was especially interested in reading, but I was sitting there with a book—shouldn’t that have signaled something?
The antiquarian, I learned, was not much for small talk. “You are looking for a job, I see.” The voice was high and cracked, but still quite beautiful. “I am in need of a factotum.”
Joe Pitkin has lived, taught, and studied in England, Hungary, Mexico, and most recently at Clark College in Vancouver, Washington. He has done biological field work on the slopes of Mount St. Helens, and he lives in Portland, Oregon, with his wife and daughters. You can follow his work at his blog, The Subway Test: thesubwaytest.wordpress.com.
Steve Anderson has narrated stories for all three Escape Artists podcasts (including a Parsec Award-winning story for PseudoPod). He narrates audiobooks and produces online videos out of a home studio at SGAcreative.com, and he writes and performs live history programs on tour at GreatTalesLive.com. Steve says, “If that sounds like an odd patchwork of things to piece together to do for a living… well, it is. But thanks to this story, I finally have a succinct and impressive way of describing it: I’m a freelance factotum.”