Here’s a bit from SIDESHOW IN THE CENTER RING, my science fiction comedy of bad manners.
Cornelia “Connie” Phelan, a holovision star, has become a sort of pet of an exclusive social group. One of them, a countess, is taking Connie to have clothes designed for her by the social group’s currently favored designer, Jackie Eastman.
Bag of Rags
excerpt from SIDESHOW IN THE CENTER RING
by Marian Allen
The girl who’d answered the door said, “It’s Cornelia Phelan, Jackie. She’s been on HV for years. She’s very funny.”
“Thanks,” I said.
“Jackie,” said Rula, with heavy impishness, “these girls, they get younger all the time. You should be ashamed.”
“Why? –Oh, I get it. Countess, shame on you. You should have your mind washed out with soap. Mina, do I make passes?”
The young woman laughed and patted Jackie’s arm. “He says he likes his women all grown up.”
“I’m a saint,” Jackie said. He retrieved his pad and pencil. “Now, let’s do business.”
Rula chose some fabric and some designs for herself, and left. I was instructed to stay, to be measured by Mina and questioned by Jackie about my tastes and needs and so on. It was like being interviewed and groped simultaneously.
The attempt had been made before, so I recognized the similarity.
The truth is, although Mina tried to put me at ease, and Jackie was as common as an old shoe, service this personal seemed unnatural to me, and it was obvious, and it put my back up.
When we were finished, I said, “Now I have a question: How much is this bag of rags going to cost me?”
Jackie lit a cigarette. “That depends on what you’re willing to pay.”
“I’m willing to pay something, I’m no cheapskate, but a dress is a dress, no offense.”
“I’m not offended.” Jackie picked up a pencil and began sketching something with swift, light strokes. “Nobody is going to send you a bill.”
“What is it, a free will offering?”
“The countess is taking care of it.”
“Enjoy it while it lasts.”
My stomach clenched and my fists kept it company.
“You think it won’t last?”
“Like I said, that depends on what you’re willing to pay for it. They pick you up, they put you down.”
“Maybe,” I said, “and maybe not.”
“That’s right. And you know what it is that you can’t put down once you pick it up?”
“Yeah, I know. That’s not what I mean. I’m no parasite. You send me a bill. I only asked what it would be, that’s all. You send me a bill for all of this, you hear?”
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A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: A character picks up something they can’t get rid of.