Illustration by Idiots’Books
Lester stayed long enough to see the first prototype printer-printers running, then he lit out with a duffel bag jammed into the back of his modded Smart car. “Where are you going?” Suzanne said as Perry looked on gloomily. “I’ll come and visit you. I want to follow your story.” Truth be told, she was sorry to see him go, very sorry. He was such a rock, such an anchor for Perry’s new crazy pirate energy and for the madness around them. He hadn’t given much notice (not to her—Perry didn’t seem that surprised).
“I can’t really talk about it,” he said. “Nondisclosure.”
“So it’s a new job,” she said. “You’re going to work for Tjan?” Tjan’s Westinghouse operation was fully rocking. He had fifty teams up the eastern seaboard, ten in the midwest and was rumored to have twice as many in Eastern Europe.
He grinned. “Oh, Suzanne, don’t try to journalist me.” He reached out and hugged her in a cloud of her father’s cologne. “You’re fantastic, you know that? No, I’m not going to a job. It’s a thing that’s an amazing opportunity, you know?”
She didn’t, but then he was gone and boy did she miss him.
Perry and she went out for dinner in Miami the next night with a PhD candidate from Pepperdine’s B-school, eating at the same deco patio that she’d dined at with Tjan. Perry wore a white shirt open to reveal his tangle of wiry chest hair and the waitress couldn’t keep her eyes off of him. He had a permanent squint now, and a scar that made his eyebrow into a series of small hills.
“I was just in Greensboro, Miss,” the PhD candidate said. He was in his mid-twenties, young and slick, his only nod to academe a small goatee. “I used to spend summers there with my grandpa.” He talked fast, flecks of spittle in the corners of his mouth, eyes wide, fork stabbing blindly at the bits of crab-cake on his plate. “There wasn’t anything left there, just a couple gas-stations and a 7-Eleven, shit, they’d even closed the Wal-Mart. But now, but now, it’s alive again, it’s buzzing and hopping. Every empty storefront is full of people playing and tinkering, just a little bit of money in their pockets from a bank or a company or a fund. They’re doing the dumbest things, mind you: tooled-leather laptop cases, switchblade knives with thumb drives in the handles, singing and dancing lawn-Santas that yodel like hillbillies.”
“I’d buy a tooled-leather laptop case,” Perry said, swilling a sweaty bottle of beer. He waggled his funny eyebrow and rubbed his fuzzy scalp.
“The rate of employment is something like ninety-five percent, which it hasn’t been in like a hundred years. If you’re not inventing stuff, you’re keeping the books for someone who is, or making sandwiches for them, or driving delivery vehicles around. It’s like a tiny, distributed gold rush.”
“Or like the New Deal,” Suzanne said. That was how she’d come to invite him down, after she’d read his paper coining the term New Work to describe what Perry was up to, comparing it to Roosevelt’s public-investment plan that spent America free of the Depression.
“Yeah, exactly, exactly! I’ve got research that shows that one in five Americans is employed in the New Work industry. Twenty percent!”
Perry’s lazy eye opened a little wider. “No way,” he said.
“Way,” the PhD candidate said. He finished his caipirinha and shook the crushed ice at a passing waiter, who nodded and ambled to the bar to get him a fresh one. “You should get on the road and write about some of these guys,” he said to Suzanne. “They need some ink, some phosphors. They’re pulling up stakes and moving to the small towns their parents came from, or to abandoned suburbs, and just doing it. Bravest fucking thing you’ve seen in your life.”
The PhD candidate stayed out the week, and went home with a suitcase full of the parts necessary to build a 3D printer that could print out all of the parts necessary to build a 3D printer.
Lester emailed her from wherever it was he’d gone, and told her about the lovely time he was having. It made her miss him sharply. Perry was hardly ever around for her now, buried in his work, buried with the kids from the shantytown and with Francis. She looked over her last month’s blogs and realized that she’d been turning in variations on the same theme for all that time. She knew it was time to pack a duffel bag of her own and go see the bravest fucking thing she’d seen in her life.
“Bye, Perry,” she said, stopping by his workbench. He looked up at her and saw the bag and his funny eyebrow wobbled.
“Leaving for good?” he said. He sounded unexpectedly bitter.
“No!” she said. “No! Just a couple weeks. Going to get the rest of the story. But I’ll be back, count on it.”
He grunted and slumped. He was looking a lot older now, and beaten down. His hair, growing out, was half grey, and he’d gotten gaunt, his cheekbones and forehead springing out of his face. On impulse, she gave him a hug like the ones she’d shared with Lester. He returned it woodenly at first, then with genuine warmth. “I will be back, you know,” she said. “You’ve got plenty to do here, anyway.”
“Yeah,” he said. “Course I do.”
She kissed him firmly on the cheek and stepped out the door and into her car and drove to Miami International.
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As part of the ongoing project of crafting Tor.com’s electronic edition of Makers, the author would like for readers to chime in with their favorite booksellers and stories about them in the comments sections for each piece of Makers, for consideration as a possible addition to a future edition of the novel.