Cory Doctorow’s Makers, Part 22 (of 81)


Illustration by Idiots’Books

“Death, I’d like a word, please?”

“I’d be delighted.” Death talked like someone who’d learned to talk by being a precocious reader. He over-pronounced his words, spoke in complete sentences, and paused at the commas. Sammy knew that speech pattern well, since he’d worked hard to train himself out of it. It was a geek accent, and it made you sound like a smart-ass instead of a sharp operator. You got that way if you grew up trying to talk with a grown-up vocabulary and a child’s control of your speech-muscles; you learned to hold your chin and cheeks still while you spoke to give you a little precision-boost. That was the geek accent.

“Remember what we talked about this morning?”

“Building a thrill ride?”

“Yes,” Sammy said. He’d forgotten that Death Waits had suggested that in the first place. Good—that was a good spin. “I’ve decided to take your suggestion. Of course, we need to make room for it, so I’m going to shut down some of the crap—you know which ones I mean.”

Death Waits was green under his white makeup. “You mean—”

“All the walk-throughs. The coffin coaster, of course. The flying bats. Maybe one or two others. And I’m going to need to make some layoffs, of course. Gotta make room.”

“You’re going to lay people off? How many people? We’re already barely staffed.” Death was the official arbiter of shift-changing, schedule-swapping and cross-scheduling. If you wanted to take an afternoon off to get your mom out of the hospital or your dad out of jail, he was the one to talk to.

“That’s why I’m coming to you. If I shut down six of the rides—” Death gasped. Fantasyland had 10 rides in total. “Six of the rides. How many of the senior staffers can I get rid of and still have the warm bodies to keep everything running?” Senior people cost a lot more than the teenagers who came through. He could hire six juniors for what Death cost him. Frigging Florida labor laws meant that you had to give cost-of-living raises every year, and it added up.

Death looked like he was going to cry.

“I’ve got my own estimates,” Sammy said. “But I wanted to get a reality check from you, since you’re right there, on the ground. I’d hate to leave too much fat on the bone.”

He knew what effect this would have on the kid. Death blinked back his tears, put his fist under his chin and pulled out his phone and started scribbling on it. He had a list of every employee in there and he began to transfer names from it to another place.

“They’ll be back, right? To operate the new rides?”

“The ones we don’t bring back, we’ll get them unemployment counseling. Enroll them in a networking club for the jobless, one of the really good ones. We can get a group rate. A job reference from this place goes a long way, too. They’ll be OK.”

Death looked at him, a long look. The kid wasn’t stupid, Sammy knew. None of these people were stupid, not Wiener, not the kid, not the goths who led each other around Fantasyland on leashes. Not the fatkins who’d soon pack the place. They were none of them stupid. They were just—soft. Unwilling to make the hard choices. Sammy was good at hard choices.

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As part of the ongoing project of crafting’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.

Doctorow’s Makers will be released in print by Tor Books in October. You can read all previous installments of Makers on on our index page.


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