And now, Anthony Neil Smith…
In the Last Episode, Sophie Littlefield had a girl's night out… busting heads, that is.
He just showed up out of nowhere — materialized, like Star Trek — on the front porch of the Virtual Dive Bar, walked on inside carrying some computerized tablet of some sort, and sat down at the bar, started reading.
The folks at Fry's table gawked. They’d never seen anything like him before. He kind of shimmered, flickered. You could almost see through him. Forget Star Trek. This was full-on Jedi shit.
Everyone looked at Fry, like he knew what the hell was going on. He shrugged.
"Well," Richie Rich shoved Fry's shoulder. "Go talk to him. Here…" The kid handed over a knife. "Try to stab him."
"Shit, I'm not doing that in Smith's joint. You crazy?" But he sat on the edge of his seat, still hopped to the gills after four days of nonstop crank. Knee bouncing. He didn't give the knife back. "All right, all right, all right. I'm going. Yes, I’m going over there."
So he got up and walked to the shimmering stranger at the bar.
Sat next to him.
The man went about his business. Reading the tablet.
Fry was about to talk to him, but then had a feeling. An urge. He looked back at the table, where his friends were all staring, mouths agape.
Fry looked back at the man — an angel? A ghost? — still feeling this urge in his gut. So he did it. He reached out to touch the guy.
His hand went right through.
The man said, "Stop doing that."
Fry jerked his hand back, held it like he'd been burnt, even though everything was perfectly fine.
"What… what are you?"
The man turned his face to Fry, his eyes like cameras. "You mean like, what race? What religion? What political affiliation? What species? Be specific, man."
Fry blinked. "You’re not a person."
"Oh, but I am a person. Very much so. Just a person who can be in two places at one time."
"How is that?"
The camera eyes rolled. "No, you fucking idiot. Technology. Computers." He held up his tablet. "Like this, you know, I've got about 500 books in this thing. In the old days, I couldn't even carry five books around without dropping one. Now, Five. Hundred." Raised his eyebrows.
Fry shook his head. "I ain't much of a reader."
The shimmering stranger sighed, said, "I know. I already guessed that. But Lafitte might be, I hear. And Steel God, too."
Fry remembered Steel God reading some nights, propped on his elbow beside his bike. Mostly paperbacks. Mostly sci-fi or porn.
"What are you doing here?"
The man set his tablet on the counter and looked as if he knew his reading time was shot for the day. Then he grinned and slowly explained to Fry, "I'm here all the time. I drop in, check it out, see what's happening. It's a break from Tweeting."
"Yeah, okay. I knew it. You're a tweaker."
"No tweeting… never mind. Just… hey, Smith!" He waved the bartender over. "Tell this guy who I am."
Smith said, "That's Mike."
"Tell him I'm a regular."
A nod. "Oh, yeah. Regular Mike. Drinks here often."
Fry stood, knocked his barstool backwards. Exploded. "BUT HE AIN'T REAL!"
"Sure he is."
"Watch." Fry pulled out the knife and started stabbing Mike. Swiped his chest, face, arms, legs. Mike just sat there staring. Not cut one damn time. The ghostly image turned to Smith and said, "Can't you do something about this asshole?"
Smith shrugged. "Not until the Rally is over, I guess."
"Ah, well. It's not your fault." He turned to Fry. "Asshole."
And then he disappeared.
Fry stared at the empty barstool a long time before finally giving up thinking about it. He ordered the worst bourbon the bar carried — Fighting Cock — and sat sipping. A tablet that let you carry five hundred books around? Well… ain’t that the shit?
* * *
I’d like to thank Mike for his support of my work. I really appreciate all the kind things he’s said, and all of the people he’s talked up Yellow Medicine to.
You can find Mike on Twitter quite often, talking about ebooks, some great television shows, and the end of the world (which he thinks will be here next Tuesday). But don’t you dare follow him. No no. If you do, you’d better mean it.
I look forward to the day when this ebook thing he preaches about catches on more, and I’d like to see my current published novels available in that format. But for the time being, I’ll salute Mike Cane for his efforts, and stick to the paperbacks until I can afford one of those damned readers!
Next up, Bill Crider is a dirty, dirty son of a bitch. Buy him a drink.
On the Jukebox: Moby, "Run On"
* * *
Hop over to see the post I did for Smith's blog that inspired him to write this custom post!
And then go buy Hogdoggin'! You'll love it!