Illustration by Idiots’Books
In the morning, he prowled Lester and Suzanne’s place like a burglar. The guesthouse had once served as Lester’s workshop and it had the telltale leavings of a busy inventor—drawers and tubs of parts, a moldy coffee-cup in a desk-drawer, pens and toys and unread postal spam in piles. What it didn’t have was a kitchen, so Perry helped himself to the key that Lester had left him with the night before and wandered around the big house, looking for the kitchen.
It turned out to be on the second floor, a bit of weird architectural design that was characteristic of the place, which had started as a shack in the hills on several acres of land and then grown and grown as successive generations of owners had added extensions, seismic retrofitting, and new floors.
Perry found the pantries filled with high-tech MREs, each nutritionally balanced and fortified in ways calculated to make Lester as healthy as possible. Finally, he found a small cupboard clearly devoted to Suzanne’s eating, with boxes of breakfast cereal and, way in the back, a little bag of Oreos. He munched thoughtfully on the cookies while drinking more of the flat, thrice-distilled water.
He heard Lester totter into a bathroom on the floor above, and called “Good morning,” up a narrow, winding staircase.
Lester groaned back at him, a sound that Perry hadn’t heard in years, that theatrical oh-my-shit-it’s-another-day sound.
He clomped down the stairs with his cane, wearing a pair of boxer-shorts and rubber slippers. He was gaunt, the hair on his sunken chest gone wiry grey, and the skin around his torso sagged. From the neck down, he looked a hundred years old. Perry looked away.
“Morning, bro,” Lester said, and took a vacuum-sealed pouch out of a medical white box over the sink, tore it open, added purified water, and put it in the microwave. The smell was like wet cardboard in a dumpster. Perry wrinkled his nose.
“Tastes better than it smells. Or looks,” Lester said. “Very easy on the digestion. Which I need. Never let me pig out like that again, OK?”
He collapsed heavily into a stool and closed his sunken eyes. Without opening them, he said, “So, are you in?”
“Am I in?”
“You going to come on board as my consultant?”
“You were serious about that, huh?”
“Perry, they can’t fire me. If I quit, I lose my health bennies, which means I’ll be broke in a month. Which puts us at an impasse. I’m past feeling guilty about doing nothing much all day long, but that doesn’t mean I’m not bored.”
“You make it sound so attractive.”
“You got something better to do?”
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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.