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art by Liz Clarke

Offering Solace

Jamie Lackey earned her BA in Creative Writing from the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford. Her fiction has appeared in over a dozen different venues, including The Living Dead 2, Stories from the Hearth: Heartwarming tales of Appalachia, and The Drabblecast. She has appeared on the Best Horror of the Year Honorable Mention and Tangent Online Recommended Reading lists. She reads slush for Clarkesworld Magazine, and she's worked on the Triangulation Annual Anthology from 2008 to 2011. Find her online at www.jamielackey.com.
She sits in a dusty corner of the glass and chrome spaceport, offering solace to everyone. Beings of all shapes and sizes bustle past. Most are tired, lonely. All have need of what she offers.
She holds solace in a delicate porcelain bowl, fine and fragile between her palms. The sweet, clear liquid steams. It smells different to everyone. To her, it smells like roses and chocolate and cool spring rain.
"Would you care for solace?" she asks, making solid eye contact. "It's complimentary."
The traveler glances down, shakes his head, flees.
The next laughs at her.
She tells herself that their rejection doesn't matter. The spaceport will still see that she is paid for her time.
But it wears at her, like fine sand over granite.
The next says yes, takes a sip, asks questions that she's answered a thousand times. Yes, this is her job. Yes, she received professional training. Some days are busier than others.
They never care about her answers. She spends twenty minutes listening to the traveler complain, nodding and smiling or frowning as necessary.
Two more silent headshakes, one slightly regretful, then an enthusiastic yes. He is tall, and his skin is the color of ripe plums. He drains the bowl, smiles, thanks her. For a moment, she can smile back. "What did it smell like to you?" she asks.
He thinks for a moment. "Coffee. And fresh cut grass." He vanishes back into the crowd.
She draws her sharp ceramic knife, lays it against her arm, and refills the bowl.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, March 29th, 2012


This is the most autobiographical story I've ever written. I work at a car dealership, and I offer complimentary chair massages to anyone getting their car fixed. The reactions my character gets are pretty much identical to the responses I get, and I wrote this story to vent some of the frustration that makes me feel.

- Jamie Lackey

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