Illustration by Idiots’Books
Tjan met her as she was finishing her coffee in the breakfast room. She hadn’t seen Freddy yet.
“I’ve got five projects slated for you to visit today,” Tjan said, sliding into the booth beside her. Funnily now that he was in the cold northeast, he was dressing like a Floridian in blue jeans and a Hawai’ian barkcloth shirt with a bright spatter of pineapples and Oscar Mayer Wienermobiles. Back in Florida, he’d favored unflattering nylon slacks and white shirts with ironed collars.
The projects were fascinating and familiar. The cultural differences that distinguished New England New Work from Florida New Work were small but telling: a lot more woodcraft, in a part of the country where many people had grown up in their grandfathers’ woodworking shops. A little more unreflexive kitsch, like the homely kittens and puppies that marched around the reactive, waterproof, smash-proof screens integrated into a bio-monitoring crib.
At the fourth site, she was ambushed by a flying hug. Tjan laughed as she nearly went down under the weight of a strong, young woman who flung her arms around Suzanne’s neck. “Holy crap it’s good to see you!”
Suzanne untangled herself and got a look at her hugger. She had short mousy hair, twinkling blue eyes, and was dressed in overalls and a pretty flowered blouse, scuffed work boots and stained and torn work-gloves. “Uh…” she said, then it clicked. “Fiona?”
“Yeah! Didn’t Tjan tell you I was here?” The last time she’d seen this woman, she was weeping over pizza and getting ready to give up on life. Now she was practically vibrating.
“Uh, no,” she said, shooting a look at Tjan, who was smiling like the Buddha and pretending to inspect a pair of shoes with gyroscopically stabilized retractable wheels in the heels.
“I’ve been here for months! I went back to Oregon, like you told me to, and then I saw a recruiting ad for Westinghouse and I sent them my CV and then I got a videoconference interview and then, bam, I was on an airplane to Rhode Island!”
Suzanne blinked. I told you to go back to Oregon? Well, maybe she had. That was a lifetime ago.
The workshop was another dead mall, this one a horseshoe of storefronts separated by flimsy gyprock. The Westinghousers had cut through the walls with drywall knives to join all the stores together. The air was permeated with the familiar Saran-Wrap-in-a-microwave tang of 3D printers. The parking lot was given over to some larger apparatus and a fantastical children’s jungle-gym in the shape of a baroque, spired pirate fortress, with elegantly curved turrets, corkscrew sky-bridges, and flying buttresses crusted over with ornate, grotesque gargoyles. Children swarmed over it like ants, screeching with pleasure.
“Well, you’re looking really good, Fiona,” Suzanne said. Still not great with people, she thought. Fiona, though, was indeed looking good, and beaming. She wasn’t wearing the crust of cosmetics and hair-care products she’d affected in the corporate Silicon Valley world. She glowed pink.
“Suzanne,” Fiona said, getting serious now, taking her by the shoulders and looking into her eyes. “I can’t thank you enough for this. This has saved my life. It gave me something to live for. For the first time in my life, I am doing something I’m proud of. I go to bed every night thankful and happy that I ended up here. Thank you, Suzanne. Thank you.”
Suzanne tried not to squirm. Fiona gave her another long hug. “It’s all your doing,” Suzanne said at last. “I just told you about it. You’ve made this happen for you, OK?”
“OK,” Fiona said, “but I still wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you. I love you, Suzanne.”
Ick. Suzanne gave her another perfunctory hug and got the hell out of Dodge.
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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.