Aug 24 2009 9:00am

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.

<<< Back to Part 21

Continue to Part 23 >>>

* * *

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.

Russell Dovey
1. Russell Dovey
Tiny, but good. Starting to like Sammy less and less, while still empathising with his motivations. Nice authorial trick there.
Irene Gallo
2. Irene
Props to Idiots Books. These illos are getting better and better. (And they started off completely cool.) I'm looking forward to seeing those hanging feet being completed.
Russell Dovey
3. sr1
Bookshop: Blackwells in Oxford. Wonderful Aladdin's Cave of a shop carved out of old houses and a massive new underground extension. Smells of new paper and old books and wetness when it was raining outside. I had an account there when I was 16, no credit checks, just gave my address.
Russell Dovey
4. Idiots'Books
Thanks for the props, Irene. Robbi and I having a great time with this. Readers might be interested to know that there is an intriguing mathematical problem associated with the tiles.

First off, once the 9x9 grid is completed, there will be a stunning number of possible permutations. To be exact:

338,900,366,845,434,407,690,577,748,627,794,779,973,257,870,009,683, 281,731,274,245,170,020,319,659,292,210,179,750,698,524,741,938,926, 33,991,640,448,359,911,591,329,973,070,266,928,563,916,552,273, 920,000,000,000,000,000,000

But if the requirement that the 81 tiles remain in a 9x9 grid is removed, it might actually be mathematically impossible to quantify the number of permutations. One mathematician speculates, however, that there may be more possible configurations than there are "atoms in the universe."

To read more about this:
Bill Siegel
5. ubxs113
@4. Idiots'Books

That is sweet, thanks for the link!
Chris Hayes
6. CrazyHaze
The more I read about sammy the more I picture a bald dude in an emperor Palpitine Robe rubbing his hands together saying, "Good Good" in a deep voice.
Rick Snell
7. ricklynnx
I really like the way we see Sammy as a "former" geek, someone who's overcome the social awkwardness to be a regular shark. Sammy's such a good reader of people; the observation at the bottom about none of the people being stupid - that's impressive, as well as his toughness: "Sammy was good at hard choices."

At this point I'd be surprised to see him turn out as an out-an-out bad guy - you know, eeevil - and I wouldn't be surprised at all to see him become an ally of sorts with Perry/Lester et al.

Looking forward to Wednesday!
Russell Dovey
8. Michael Gade
The link to "Part 23" is broken, it gives you "Part 22" again.
Russell Dovey
9. Jmtdviaphone
Link still broken, just thought i'd point it out. I rely on the back/forward links at the bottom, too painful to hunt for the next part on my phone otherwise!

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