art by Tais Teng
D is for De Gustibus
by Tim Pratt, Jenn Reese, Heather Shaw, Greg van Eekhout
I'd never seen the little herb shop in the strip mall before--though the truth was, I smelled it more than I saw it. I stepped inside, because when you live in the blandest reaches of outer suburbia, spices more exotic than cinnamon or sage are hard to come by. The shop was small and overstuffed, with weirdly geometric carpets hanging on the walls, and shelves filled with unlabeled glass jars in varying degrees of opacity. The proprietor was about four feet tall, dressed in what appeared to be more patterned carpets, and he--she?--walked with a weird foot-dragging gait. The voice that emerged from the hood was pure mid-Atlantic telemarketer, though: "May I help you?"
"What kind of stuff do you have here?" I asked.
"We have many interesting things. Melange. Kingsfoil. Azoth. Devil weed. Selenine. Ryll."
"Wow. That's some selection." I'd never heard of any of those. "Uh, I was just looking for something to make a curry..." I saw a clear vial of yellow spice and said, "Hey, is that turmeric?"