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Issue number nine




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Disciplining the Furniture/Vintage by Greg Beatty

Disciplining the Furniture

The curtains were a problem. Her mother had always said that they clashed with everything else in the room. Jane had disagreed, but eventually she was forced to admit that her mother was right. The curtains passed their days spitting spiteful, sibilant insults at the rest of the furniture, particularly the art deco lamp, which had somehow roused their ire. In the end, the curtains had to go, wailing all the while, their supporting hooks catching desperately in the carpet. Jane felt like she was abandoning kittens, but the lamp had started turning on in the middle of the night, convinced that the curtains were about to take action, and she was just losing too much sleep. Even after the curtains had been replaced with a well-mannered set of Venetian blinds with a charming accent, Jane still sometimes came home to hear, “shh!” and find everything going still. It took forever to quiz each item about who started the fights, so she focused on the plastic, mass-produced items, who were dull but usually truthful. Jane soon found her evenings filled with the task of disciplining the furniture.


And to drink, sir?”

“I think I’ll wait and see what goes with Maturity.”

“Very good, sir.”

When the waiter arrived with Greg’s plate, it was thick around the middle, and had gone brittle and gray around the edges. Greg stared at the nutritious but slightly dull servings until the waiter shifted his weight uneasily. At last Greg spoke. “It looks a bit dry.”

“Perhaps some Enlightenment?” the waiter offered.

“Too strong for this early in the evening,” Greg said. And too pricey any time. “How about a fifth of Pride?”

“Good choice, sir,” the waiter said. Greg stared after the man’s retreating back. Good choice, sir. Christ, he’d have nodded approvingly if I’d ordered a split of Androgyny, or a double shot of Psychosis. Very good, sir.

“Your Pride, sir.”

Greg jumped when the bottle’s stylish label appeared in front of his face. Pride, from 1962. Blushing, Greg nodded his approval. A burgundy cascade leapt into his goblet.

Greg sniffed, relishing the heady aroma of vintage Pride. Truth be told, even Pride was a bit much for his budget. He sipped, then spat backwash that almost sloshed over the rim.

“Hey, waiter!” What was the guy’s name anyway?


“What is this?”

“Pride, sir.”

“Then why does it taste like Bourgeois Self-Indulgence?”

“Is there perhaps a trace of Bitterness?”

“A trace!” Greg’s mouth worked in unpleasant memory. “I can’t drink this.”

“Not everyone has the palate for Pride, sir. May I offer you a bottle of Oblivion to whet your Maturity? Or have the bartender blend you some Nostalgia?”

Greg stared at his desiccated Maturity. Soon it would be too dry to eat. He sighed. “Just bring me a schooner of Wishful Thinking.”

“Very good, sir.”

Greg Beatty was in the process of writing his dissertation (on serial killer novels) for the Ph.D. program in English at the University of Iowa when he attended the Clarion West science fiction writing workshop. Though he managed to finish the dissertation, he has since turned his attention to writing fiction and has had stories published in deathlings.com, Ideomancer, 3SF, and by the anthologies Leaps of Faith, Why I Hate Aliens, the Mammoth Book of Road Stories, and Hour of Pain. His genre-related non-fiction appears regularly in Strange Horizons and the New York Review of Science Fiction.

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