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Flowers from Al

New Voices in Science Fiction (with Charlie Stross)

Resnick emailed me just as I was finishing up Jury Service with Charlie Stross and asked me if I'd be interested in writing something for New Voices in Science Fiction, an anthology he was putting together for SFWA to feature up and coming new genre writers. I wanted to work with Stross again, so I pitched him on a collaboration, and he took it.

This was originally titled "Flowers from Algernon" (which is a lot snappier, but didn't make a lot of sense in the context of the story). I wrote my bits during a period of intensive travel, mostly squatting in airport departure lounges and hotel lobbies.

I don't know why I invited Al to my wedding. Nostalgia, maybe. Residual lust. She was the first girl I ever kissed, after all. You never forget your first. I couldn't help but turn my head when round-hipped, tall girls with pageboy hair walked by, hunched over their own breasts in terminal pubescent embarrassment, awkward and athletic at the same time. You don't get much of that these days outside of Amish country, no parent would choose to have a kid who was quite so visibly strange as Al had been as a teenager, but there were still examples of the genre to be had, if you looked hard enough, and they stirred something within me.

I couldn't forget Al, though it had been twenty years since that sweet and sloppy kiss on the beach, ten years since I'd run into her last, so severely post- that I hardly recognized her. Wasn't a week went by that she didn't wander through my imagination, evoking a lip-quirk that wasn't a smile by about three notches. My to-be recognized it; it drove her up the wall, and she let me know about it during post-coital self-criticism sessions.

It was a very wrong idea to invite Al to the wedding, but the wedding itself was a bad idea, to be perfectly frank. And I won't take all the blame for it, since Al decided to show up, after all, if "decided" can be applied to someone as post- as she (s/he?) (they?) [(s|t)/he(y)?] was by then. But one morning as we sat at our pre-nuptual breakfast table, my to-be and me, and spooned marmalade on our muffins and watched the hummingbirds visit the feeder outside our nook's window, one morning as we sat naked and sated and sticky with marmalade and other fluids, one morning I looked into my fiancee's eyes and I prodded at the phone tattooed on my wrist and dialed a directory server and began to recite the facts of Al's life into my hollow tooth in full earshot of my lovely lovely intended until the directory had enough information to identify Al from among all the billions of humans and trillions of multiplicitous post-humans that it knew about and the phone rang in my hollow tooth and I was talking to Al.


One Response to “Flowers from Al”

  1. bloomlife says:

    Basically, people are generously sending flowers to random gay couples waiting in line to get married in San Francisco. This is a brilliant idea, but I immediately recognized a problem. The flower shops apparently charge about US $45 to deliver these flowers. That's probably market value, but it's a bit steep for individuals who might want to help out (particularly if they're paying in Canadian dollars or other weaker currencies) but can't spare fifty bucks.

    Hence, Flowers for Al and Don. We used a PayPal account to collect money, with which we bought bouquets in bulk for the couples in line. As we never planned for this to be an ongoing project, and with the recent court order halting marriages in San Francisco, we're suspending donations.

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