“I don’t think you’re supposed to be doing this on your own,” Hilda said, as he sawed awkwardly at it with the utility knife. It was made of something a lot tougher than the fiberglass one he’d had when he broke his leg falling off the roof as a kid (he’d been up there scouting out glider possibilities).
“So you do it,” he said, handing her the knife. He couldn’t stand the smell for one second longer.
“Uh-uh, not me, pal. No way that thing is supposed to come off anytime soon. If you’re going to cripple yourself, you’re going to have to do it on your own.”
He made a rude sound. “Fuck hospitals, fuck doctors, and fuck this fucking cast. My arm barely hurts these days. We can splint it once I get this off, that’ll immobilize it. They told me I’d need this for six weeks. I can’t wear this for six weeks. I’ll go nuts.”
“You’ll go lame if you take it off. Your poor mother, you must have driven her nuts.”
He slipped and cut himself and winced, but tried not to let her know, because that’s exactly what she’d predicted would happen. After a couple days together, she’d become an expert at predicting exactly which of his escapades would end in disaster. It was a little spooky.
Blood oozed out from under the cast and slicked his hand.
“Right, off to the hospital. I told you you’d get this thing wet if you got in the shower. I told you that it would stink and rot and itch if you did. I told you to let me give you a sponge bath.”
“I’m not insured.”
“We’ll go to the free clinic.”Blood oozed out from under the cast and slicked his hand.
Defeated, he let her lead him to her car.
She helped him buckle in, wrinkling her nose. “What’s wrong, baby?” she said, looking at his face. “What are you moping about?”
“It’s just the cast,” he said, looking away.
She grabbed him by the chin and turned him to face her. “Look, don’t do that. Do not do that. If something’s bothering you, we’re going to talk about it. I didn’t sign up to fall in love with the strong silent type. You’ve been sulking all day, now what’s it about?”
He smiled in spite of himself. “All right, I give in. I miss home. They’re all in the middle of it, running the ride and stuff, and I’m here.” He felt a moment’s worry that she’d be offended. “Not that I don’t love being here with you, but I’m feeling guilty—”
“OK, I get it. Of course you feel guilty. It’s your project, it’s in trouble, and you’re not taking care of it. Christ, Perry, is that all? I would have been disappointed if this wasn’t worrying you. Let’s go to Florida then.”
She kissed the tip of his nose. “Take me to Florida, let’s meet your friends.”
“But…” Were they moving in together or something? He was totally smitten with this girl, but that was fast. Even for Perry. “Don’t you need to be here?”
“They can live without me. It’s not like I’m proposing to move in with you. I’ll come back here after a while. But I’m only doing two classes this term and they’re both offered by distance-ed. Let’s just go.”
“After the hospital. You need a new cast, stinkmeister. Roll down your window a little, OK? Whew!”
The doctors warned him to let the new cast set overnight before subjecting it to the rigors of a TSA examination, so they spent one more night at Hilda’s place. Perry spent it going over the mailing list traffic and blog posts, confirming the plane tickets, ordering a car to meet them at the Miami airport. He finally managed to collapse into bed at 3AM, and Hilda grabbed him, dragged him to her, and spooned him tightly.
“Don’t worry, baby. Your friends and I will get along great.”
He hadn’t realized that he’d been worrying about this, but once she pointed it out, it was obvious. “You’re not worried?”
She ran her hands over his furry chest and tummy. “No, of course not. Your friends will love me or I’ll have them killed. More to the point, they’ll love me because you love me and I love you and they love you, too.”
“What does Ernie think of me?” he said, thinking of her brother for the first time since they’d hooked up all those months ago.
“Oh, hum,” she said. He stiffened. “No, it’s OK,” she said, rubbing his tummy some more. It tickled. “He’s glad I’m with someone I care about, and he loves the ride. He’s just, you know. Protective of his big sister.”
“What’s he worried about?”
“Just what you’d expect. We live thousands of miles apart. You’re ten years older than me. You’ve been getting into the kind of trouble that attracts armed cops. Wouldn’t you be protective if you were my bro?”
“I was an only child, but sure, OK, I see that.”
“It’s nothing,” she said. “Really. Bring him a nice souvenir from Florida when we come back to Madison, take him out for a couple beers and it’ll all be great.”
“So we’re cool? All the families are in agreement? All the stars are in alignment? Everything is hunky and/or dory?”
“Perry Gibbons, I love you dearly. You love me. We’ve got a cause to fight for, and it’s a just one with many brave comrades fighting alongside of us. What could possibly go wrong?”
“What could possibly go wrong?” Perry said. He drew in a breath to start talking.
“It was rhetorical, goofball. It’s also three in the morning. Sleep, for tomorrow we fly.”
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Illustration by Idiots’Books
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.