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Let's Start from the Top

Mark Cole hates writing bios. Despite many efforts he has never written one he likes, perhaps because there are many other things he'd rather be writing. He writes from Warren, Pennsylvania, where he has managed to avoid writing about himself for both newspaper and magazine articles. His musings on Science Fiction have appeared in Clarkesworld and at IROSF.com, while his most recent story, "(Yet Another Episode of) The BIG Show" ran on Cosmos Online.
"Good Morning, Mr. Dooley."
I glanced down at my morning script. "Good morning, Mr...." I turned the page, "...Smith. Looks like we'll get those showers this afternoon."
He chuckled and adjusted his reading glasses a little so he could get a better look at his next line. "We sure need them."
I waved at the passing taxi and it pulled to the curb. The driver looked at the clipboard hanging from his dashboard. "Where are you headed?" he read.
"Over to Charlie's place."
He nodded and stared at his script. "That's on Lexington, right?"
"Right."
I finished my burger and made sure that I left the small piece of roll on my plate that the script called for. Charlie came over and set a glass in front of me. "Scotch, right?"
My eyes sought out my script. "You know it's my favorite."
He smiled and swept up the tip I'd left him. I waited a couple of beats and tossed an extra quarter on the countertop.
"Feeling generous today?" he read out.
"Easier than carrying it around." I told him, "I almost lost it..." I took a quick glance at the script, "twice today."
When I climbed aboard the subway train on the way back to the office, I pushed my way forward until I hit my marks and stopped. I waited until the train lurched to a start, then glanced around for the woman with the red scarf and nudged her carefully. "Sorry about that." I read.
"That's all right," she said, without looking up from her script. "Just the train starting up." she added, her index finger following the words on the paper.
I grabbed a strap and read through the next few pages, trying to memorize them before I got to my stop.
A secretary handed me my afternoon script as I walked through the door. I looked through it as I hurried down the long corridor to J. J. Edwards' office. "Anything new in your department, Joe?" he asked as I stepped through the door.
"Not much." I said with a shrug.
"Good." he said. He smiled and added, one eye on his script, "Anytime there's something new in Accounting, it usually means trouble."
I nodded and held out a sheaf of papers. "At any rate, there's the latest report."
"Thanks." he studied me for a moment as I settled into my usual seat. "Nothing wrong, is there? You look a little out of sorts."
I shook my head. "Nothing major."
"Something on your mind?"
"Oh, I don't know." I looked out his window, at the neat, orderly color-coordinated rows of cars flowing through the streets. "Do you ever worry that maybe we just don't have enough freedom left anymore?"
"That's the price of civilization, isn't it." Edwards waved at the window behind him. "We couldn't have had all this without a little order in our lives. No poverty, no crime, tremendous medical advances, real prosperity; why, all that is worth a few sacrifices, isn't it?"
"Maybe." I told him. "But maybe a little disorder here and there wouldn't hurt us much."
"I suppose." he replied, "But you'd be risking everything we have--"
His secretary knocked and stuck her head into the room. "Mr. Edwards? Denniston is here to see you."
"Oh, right." he read out from his script, "I forgot. I'll be back in a moment."
I relaxed and settled back in my chair. I paged through my script and looked over my next few scenes.
Hopefully they'd make a little more sense than that last one did.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, December 16th, 2014


This was one of those rare stories that start with a single, clear image and then seem to fall into place on their own. Fortunately, we do not live in a world even remotely (turn page, find my place again) like this one.

- Mark Cole

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