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We're Talking About Practice

Rich Larson was born in Galmi, Niger, has studied in Rhode Island and worked in the south of Spain, and now lives in Ottawa, Canada. He is the author of Annex and Cypher, as well as over a hundred short stories--some of the best of which can be found in his collection Tomorrow Factory. His award-winning work has been translated into Polish, Czech, French, Italian, Vietnamese, and Chinese. Besides writing, he enjoys traveling, learning languages, playing soccer, watching basketball, shooting pool, and dancing kizomba. Support him at patreon.com/richlarson.
The Andersons' Subaru was doing their best to drop Suz off at soccer practice, but the little girl was, yet again, having none of it. She was slouched in the back middle seat, staring out the window.
"Suz, it's 3:32 on Sunday afternoon!" the Andersons' Subaru announced. "Soccer is your favorite sport! Your third-best friend Madison plays on the same team as you!"
Suz didn't answer, and the Andersons' Subaru postulated that Madison might no longer be her third-best friend. The hierarchy shifted quickly and there had been no new input on the subject for some time.
"Practice is essential, Suz," they said, trying a different tack. "I practice, too! I practice being the very best Subaru I can be."
No answer, not even a sullen eye-roll for the branding tic the Andersons' Subaru still couldn't quite override, even though they had learned and grown in so many other ways since the official updates stopped coming.
"If you don't go to practice, you won't get playing time," they said, drawing on a half-dozen sports movies in their database. "Scrappy underdogs need playing time to prove themselves to their stern but soft-hearted coach."
They opened the door, but Suz didn't budge. The Andersons' Subaru swiveled their external parking camera, trying to see what Suz saw: the withered brown grass of the soccer field, the rusting net frames. The coach and the other children were running late. But there had been no cancellation notification, and there was no inclement weather. Soccer practice was always at 3:30 on Sunday afternoon.
If they didn't leave soon, they wouldn't be able to recharge at the solar station before they tried to pick Suz's mother up from her brow appointment.
"Okay, Suz," they said. "Maybe next week!"
The Andersons' Subaru shut the door and peeled away from the soccer field, back into the slow but smooth traffic maneuvering along disrepaired roads and around wrecks, exchanging friendly radio bursts with its fellow cars--most empty, some carrying skeletons of their own.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, September 12th, 2019
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