© Copyright John Shirley, William Gibson

     It  might have been in  Club Justine, or Jimbo's, or Sad Jack's, or the
Rafters; Coretti could never be sure where he'd first seen her. At any time,
she might have been in any one of those bars. She swam through the submarine
half-life of bottles and glassware and the slow swirl of cigarette smoke . .
. she moved through her natural element, one bar after another.
     Now, Coretti remembered their first meeting as if he saw it through the
wrong end of a powerful telescope, small and clear and very far away.
     He  had  noticed  her  first in the Backdoor Lounge. It was  called the
Backdoor because you entered through a narrow back alley.  The alley's walls
crawled with  graffiti,  its caged lights ticked with moths. Flakes from its
white-painted bricks crunched underfoot. And then you  pushed through into a
dim space inhabited  by a  faintly  confusing sense  of the half-dozen other
bars that had tried and failed in the same room under different managements.
Coretti  sometimes  went there because he liked the weary smile of the black
bartender, and because the few customers rarely tried to get chummy.
     He wasn't very good  at conversation with strangers, not at parties and
not in bars.  He  was fine at the  community college  where  he lectured  in
introductory  linguistics;  he  could talk  with the  head of his department
about sequencing and options in  conversational openings. But he could never
talk  to strangers in  bars or at parties. He didn't go to  many parties. He
went to a lot of bars.
     Coretti didn't know how to dress. Clothing was a language and Coretti a
kind  of sartorial  stutterer, unable  to make the  kind of  basic  coherent
fashion  statement  that would put strangers at their ease. His ex-wife told
him he  dressed like  a  Martian; that he didn't look as though  he belonged
anywhere in the city. He hadn't liked her saying that, because it was true.
     He hadn't ever had a  girl like  the one who sat  with her back  arched
slightly in the undersea light that splashed along  the bar in the Backdoor.
The same light was screwed into the lenses of the bartender's glasses, wound
into the necks of the rows of bottles, splashed dully across the  mirror. In
that light her dress was the green of young corn, like a husk half  stripped
away, showing back and cleavage and lots  of thigh  through the slits up the
side. Her hair was coppery that night. And, that night, her eyes were green.
     He  pushed resolutely  between the empty chromeand-Formica tables until
he  reached the bar, where he  ordered a  straight bourbon. He  took off his
duffle  coat, and wound up holding it on his  lap when he sat down one stool
away from her. Great, he screamed to himself, she'll think you're hiding  an
erection. And he was startled to realize that he had one to hide. He studied
himself in the mirror  behind  the bar,  a thirtyish man  with thinning dark
hair and a pale, narrow face on a long neck, too long for the open collar of
the nylon shirt printed with engravings of 1910  automobiles in three  vivid
colors. He wore a tie with broad maroon and black  diagonals, too narrow, he
supposed, for what  he now saw as the grotesquely long points of his collar.
Or it was the wrong color. Something.
     Beside him,  in the  dark clarity of  the mirror,  the green-eyed woman
looked  like  Irma  La  Douce.  But  looking  closer, studying her  face, he
shivered. A  face like  an animal's. A beautiful face,  but simple, cunning,
two-dimensional. When  she senses  you're looking at  her, Coretti  thought,
she'll give you the smile, disdainful amusement or whatever you'd expect.
     Coretti blurted, "May I, um, buy you a drink?" At  moments  like these,
Coretti was  possessed by an agonizingly  stiff, schoolmasterish  linguistic
tic. Um. He winced. Um.
     "You would, um,  like to buy  me a drink? Why, how  kind of  you,"  she
said, astonishing him. "That would be very nice." Distantly, he noticed that
her reply was as stilted and insecure as his own. She added, "A Tom Collins,
on this occasion, would be lovely."
     On this occasion? Lovely? Rattled, Coretti ordered two drinks and paid.
     A big woman in jeans and an embroidered cowboy shirt bellied up to  the
bar  beside him and asked the bartender for  change. "Well,  hey," she said.
Then  she  strutted to the  jukebox  and punched  for  Conway and  Loretta's
"You're the Reason Our Kids Are Ugly." Coretti turned to the woman in green,
and murmured haltingly:
     "Do you enjoy  country-and-western music?" Do you enjoy... ? He groaned
secretly at his phrasing, and tried to smile.
     "Yes  indeed," she  answered, the faintest  twang edging her voice,  "I
sure do."
     The cowgirl sat  down  beside  him and asked her,  winking, "This  li'l
terror here givin' you a hard time?"
     And the animal-eyed  lady in green  replied, "Oh, hell no, honey, I got
my eye on  `im."  And  laughed. Just  the right amount of laugh. The part of
Coretti that  was dialectologist stirred uneasily;  too perfect a  shift  in
phrasing and inflection. An actress? A talented mimic? The word mimetic rose
suddenly in his mind, but he pushed it aside to study her  reflection in the
mirror; the rows of bottles occluded her breasts like a gown of glass.
     "The name's Coretti," he said, his verbal poltergeist shifting abruptly
to a totally unconvincing tough-guy mode, "Michael Coretti."
     "A pleasure," she said, too softly for the other  woman  to  hear,  and
again she had slipped into the lame parody of Emily Post.
     "Conway and Loretta," said the cowgirl, to no one in particular.
     "Antoinette,"  said  the woman  in  green,  and  inclined her head. She
finished   her    drink,   pretended   to   glance    at   a   watch,   said
thank-you-for-the-drink too damn politely, and left.
     Ten minutes later Coretti was following her down  Third  Avenue. He had
never followed anyone in  his life  and it  both frightened and excited him.
Forty feet seemed a discreet distance, but what should he do if she happened
to glance over her shoulder?
     Third Avenue  isn't a dark  street, and it was there, in the light of a
streetlamp,  like a stage light,  that  she began to change.  The street was
     She was crossing the  street. She stepped off the curb and it began. It
began with tints in her hair at first  he thought they were reflections. But
there was no  neon  there to  cast the blobs of  color  that appeared, color
sliding and merging like oil slicks. Then the  colors bled away and in three
seconds  she was white-blond. He was sure it was a trick of the light  until
her  dress began  to  writhe,  twisting  across  her body  like  shrink-wrap
plastic. Part  of  it fell away  entirely and  lay in curling shreds  on the
pavement, shed like the skin of some  fabulous  animal. When Coretti passed,
it  was green foam, fizzing,  dissolving, gone. He looked back up at her and
the dress was another dress,  green satin, shifting  with  reflections.  Her
shoes had changed too. Her  shoulders were  bare except for thin straps that
crossed at the small of her back. Her hair had become short, spiky.
     He found that  he was leaning against a  jeweler's plate-glass  window,
his breath coming ragged and  harsh with the damp of the  autumn evening. He
heard the  disco's heartbeat  from two  blocks  away. As she neared it,  her
movements  began subtly  to take on a new rhythm a shift in emphasis in  the
sway of her  hips,  in the way she put her  heels down on the sidewalk.  The
doorman let her pass with a vague nod. He  stopped Coretti and stared at his
driver's license and  frowned at his duffle  coat. Coretti anxiously scanned
the wash of lights  at the  top  of  a milky  plastic  stairway  beyond  the
doorman. She  had  vanished  there,  into  robotic  flashing  and  redundant
     Grudgingly the man let him pass, and  he  pounded  up  the  stairs, his
haste disturbing the lights beneath the translucent plastic steps.
     Coretti  had  never been in a  disco  before; he  found  himself  in an
environment  designed  for complete  satisfaction-in-distraction.  He  waded
nervously  through  the  motion  and the fashions and  the  mechanical urban
chants  booming from the huge speakers. He sought  her almost blindly on the
pose-clotted dance floot, amid strobe lights.
     And found her at the  bar, drinking a tall, lurid cooler and  listening
to  a  young man who wore  a  loose shirt of pale  silk and very tight black
pants. She  nodded at what Coretti took to be appropriate intervals. Coretti
ordered  by pointing at a  bottle  of  bourbon.  She drank five  of the tall
drinks and then followed the young man to the dance floor.
     She moved in perfect accord with the music, striking a series of poses;
she  went  through  the  entire  prescribed  sequence,  gracefully  but  not
artfully,  fitting  in  perfectly. Always, always fitting in perfectly.  Her
companion danced mechanically, moving through the ritual with effort.
     When the  dance ended, she  turned abruptly and dived into the thick of
the crowd. The shifting throng closed about her like something molten.
     Coretti plunged in after her, his eyes never leaving her and he was the
only one  to follow her change.  By the time she reached the stair, she  was
auburn-haired and wore a  long blue dress.  A  white flower blossomed in her
hair, behind  her  right  ear; her  hair was longer and  straighter now. Her
breasts had become slightly  larger, and her  hips a shade heavier. She took
the stairs two at a time, and he was afraid for her then. All those drinks.
     But the alcohol seemed to have had no effect on her at all.
     Never  taking  his  eyes  from  her,  Coretti  followed, his  heartbeat
outspeeding the disco-throb at his back, sure that at  any moment  she would
turn, glare at him, call for help.
     Two blocks down Third she  turned in at Lothario's. There was something
different in her step now. Lothario's was a quiet complex of rooms hung with
ferns and Art Deco  mirrors. There were fake Tiffany lamps hanging  from the
ceiling, alternating with wooden-bladed fans that rotated too slowly to stir
the  wisps  of  smoke  drifting  through  the  consciously  mellow drone  of
conversation. After the disco,  Lothario's was  familiar  and  comforting. A
jazz  pianist in pinstriped shirt sleeves  and loosely knotted  tie competed
softly with talk and laughter from a dozen tables.
     She was at the bar; the stools were  only half taken, but Coretti chose
a wall table, in the shadow of a miniature palm, and ordered bourbon.
     He drank the bourbon and ordered another. He  couldn't feel the alcohol
much tonight.
     She sat beside a young man, yet another young man with the usual set of
bland, regular features. He wore a yellow golf  shirt and pressed jeans. Her
hip was touching his,  just  a  little. They didn't seem to be speaking, but
Coretti felt they were  somehow  communing. They  were  leaning  toward  one
another slightly, silent. Coretti felt odd.  He went  to  the rest room  and
splashed his  face with water. Coining back, he managed to pass within three
feet of them. Their lips didn't move till he was within earshot.
     They took  turns murmuring realistic palaver:  saw  l~is earlier films,
but "
     "But he's rather self-indulgent, don't  you think?" "Sure, but  in  the
sense that.. And for  the first time, Coretti knew what they were, what they
must  be. They  were the kind you see in bars who seem to have  grown there,
who seem genuinely at home there. Not drunks, but human  fixtures. Functions
of the bar. The belonging kind.
     Something in him yearned for a confrontation. He reached his table, but
found himself unable  to sit down. He turned, took a deep breath, and walked
woodenly toward the bar. He wanted to tap her on her smooth shoulder and ask
who she was, and exactly what  she was, and point out the cold irony  of the
fact  that  it was he,  Coretti,  the Martian dresser, ~he eavesdropper, the
outsider, the one whose clothes and conversation never fit, who had  at last
guessed their secret.
     But his nerve broke and he  merely took a seat beside  her  and ordered
     "But  don't  you  think,"  she  asked her  companion,  "that  it's  all
     The two  seats  beyond her companion were quickly taken by a couple who
were talking politics. Antoinette and Golf Shirt took up the political theme
seamlessly.  recycling,  speaking  just loudly enough to  be  overheard. Her
face, as she spoke, was expressionless. A bird trilling on a limb.
     She sat so easily on her stool, as if it were a nest. Golf  Shirt  paid
for the drinks. He always had the exact change, unless he wanted  to leave a
tip. Coretti watched them work their way methodically  through six cocktails
each,  like insects  feeding on nectar. But their voices never grew  louder,
their cheeks didn't redden, and when at  last they stood, they moved without
a  trace  of  drunkenness  a  weakness,  thought  Coretti,  a  gap in  their
     They paid  him absolutely no attention  while he followed  them through
three successive bars.
     As  they  entered Waylon's, they metamorphosed so quickly that  Coretti
had trouble following the  stages of the change. It  was one of those places
with toilet doors marked  Pointers and Setters, and  a little imitation pine
plaque over the jars  of beef jerky  and pickled sausages: We've  got a deal
with the bank. They don't serve beer and we don't cash checks.
     She was plump in Waylon's, and there  were dark hollows under her eyes.
There  were  coffee  stains  on  her polyester pantsuit. Her companion  wore
jeans, a Tshirt,  and  a  red baseball cap with  a  red-and-white  Peterbilt
patch.  Coretti  risked  losing  them  when  he  spent a frantic  minute  in
"Pointers,"  blinking in  confusion at a  hand-lettered  cardboard sign that
said, We aim to please You aim too, please.
     Third  Avenue lost itself  near the waterfront in  a petrified snarl of
brickwork. In the last block, bright vomit marked the pavement at intervals,
and old men dozed in front of black-and-white TVs, sealed forever behind the
fogged plate glass of faded hotels.
     The bar they found there had no name. An ace  of diamonds was gradually
flaking  away on  the  unwashed window, and the bartender had a face  like a
closed fist. An FM transistor in ivory plastic keened easy-listening rock to
the uneven ranks of  deserted tables. They drank beer and shots.  They  were
old now, two  ciphers who drank  and  smoked  in the  light of  bare  bulbs,
coughing over a pack of  crumpled Camels  she produced  from the pocket of a
dirty tan raincoat.
     At 2:25 they were  in the rooftop lounge of the  new hotel complex that
rose above the  waterfront. She wore  an  evening dress  and  he wore a dark
suit.  They drank cognac and pretended  to admire the city lights. They each
had three cognacs while Coretti  watched them over two ounces of Wild Turkey
in a Waterford crystal highball glass.
     They drank until last call.  Coretti followed  them into  the elevator.
They smiled politely but otherwise ignored him. There were two cabs in front
of the hotel; they took one, Coretti the other.
     "Follow  that cab," said Coretti huskily, thrusting his  last twenty at
the aging hippie driver.
     "Sure, man, sure.  . .  ."  The  driver dogged  the other  cab for  six
blocks, to  another, more modest  hotel.  They got out and  went in. Coretti
slowly climbed out of his cab, breathing hard.
     He ached  with  jealousy:  for the personification  of conformity, this
woman who  was not a woman, this human wallpaper. Coretti gazed at the hotel
and lost his nerve. He turned away.
     He  walked  home. Sixteen  blocks. At some  point  he realized  that he
wasn't drunk. Not drunk at all.
     In the morning he phoned in to cancel his early class. But his hangover
never quite came. His mouth wasn't desiccated, and staring at himself in the
bathroom mirror he saw that his eyes weren't bloodshot.
     In  the afternoon he slept, and dreamed  of sheepfaced people reflected
in mirrors behind rows of bottles.
     That  night  he went out to dinner,  alone  and ate  nothing.  The food
looked back at him, somehow. He stirred it about to  make it look as if he'd
eaten a little,  paid, and  went  to a  bar. And another.  And another  bar,
looking  for  her. He was using  his credit card now, though  he was already
badly in the hole under Visa. If he saw her, he didn't recognize her.
     Sometimes  he  watched  the  hotel  he'd seen her  go  into. He  looked
carefully at each of the couples who came and went. Not that he'd be able to
spot her from her looks alone but there  should be  a feeling, some kind  of
intuitive recognition. He watched the couples and he was never sure.
     In the following  weeks he systematically visited  every boozy watering
hole in the city. Armed at first with a city map and five torn Yellow Pages,
he  gradually  progressed to the more  obscure  establishments, places  with
unlisted numbers. Some had no phone at all. He joined dubious private clubs,
discovered unlicensed after-hours retreats where  you brought  your own, and
sat nervously  in dark rooms devoted to areas of fringe sexuality he had not
known existed.
     But he continued on what became his nightly circuit. He always began at
the  Backdoor. She was  never there, or in the next place,  or the next. The
bartenders knew him and they  liked to see him come  in, because  he brought
drinks continuously,  and  never seemed  to  get drunk. So  he stared at the
other customers a bit so what?
     Coretti lost his job. He'd missed classes too many times. He'd taken to
watching the hotel when he could, even in the daytime. He'd been seen in too
many  bars. He never seemed to change his clothes. He refused night classes.
He would let a lecture trail off in the middle as he turned to gaze vacantly
out the window.
     He was secretly pleased at being fired. They had looked at him oddly at
faculty  lunches when he couldn't eat his food. And now he had more time for
the search.
     Coretti found her at 2:15 on a Wednesday  morning, in a gay  bar called
the  Barn.  Paneled in  rough wood and  hung with halters  and  rusting farm
equipment,  the place was shrill with perfume and laughter and beer. She was
everyone's giggling sister, in a blue-sequined dress, a green feather in her
coiffed brown hair. Through a  sweeping  sense  of almost  cellular  relief,
Coretti  was aware  of a kind of admiration, a strange pride he now  felt in
her and her kind. Here, too,  she belonged. She was a representative type, a
fag-hag who posed no threat to the queens or their butchboys. Her  companion
had  become an  ageless man  with  carefully  silvered  temples,  an  angora
sweater, and a trench coat.
     They drank and drank, and went laughing laughing just the right sort of
laughter  out into the rain. A cab was waiting,  its wipers  duplicating the
beat of Coretti's heart.
     Jockeying clumsily across the wet  sidewalk, Coretti scurried into  the
cab, dreading their reaction.
     Coretti was in  the back seat, beside her.  The man with silver temples
spoke to the driver.
     The  driver muttered into his hand mike, changed gears, and they flowed
away  into  the  rain  and  the  darkened  streets. The  cityscape  made  no
impression on Coretti, who,  looking inwardly,  was seeing the cab stop, the
gray man  and the laughing woman  pushing him out and  pointing, smiling, to
the gate of  a  mental hospital.  Or: the  cab stopping, the couple turning,
sadly shaking their  heads. And a  dozen  times he seemed  to  see  the  cab
stopping  in  an empty  side street where  they methodically  throttled him.
Coretti left dead in the rain. Because he was an outsider.
     But they arrived at Coretti's hotel. In the dim glow  of the cab's dome
light  he watched closely as the man reached  into  his  coat for the  fare.
Coretti  could  see the coat's lining clearly and it was one piece  with the
angora sweater. No wallet  bulged there, and  no pocket. But  a kind of slit
widened.  It opened  as the man's  fingers poised over  it, and it disgorged
money. Three bills, folded, were extruded smoothly from the slit. The  money
was slightly damp.  It dried,  as the  man unfolded it, like the  wings of a
moth just emerging from the chrysalis.
     "Keep the  change," said the belonging  man,  climbing  out of the cab.
Antoinette slid out and Coretti followed, his mind seeing only the slit. The
slit wet, edged with red, like a gill.
     The lobby was  deserted  and the desk clerk bent over a crossword.  The
couple  drifted  silently  across the lobby and  into the  elevator, Coretti
close behind. Once he tried to catch her eye, but she ignored him. And once,
as  the elevator rose seven floors above  Coretti's own,  she  bent over and
sniffed at the chrome wall ashtray, like a dog snuffling at the ground.
     Hotels,  late  at night, are  never  still.  The  corridors  are  never
entirely silent. There  are countless barely audible sighs, the  rustling of
sheets,  and muffled voices  speaking fragments  out  of sleep.  But in  the
ninth-floor corridor,  Coretti  seemed to  move  through a  perfect  vacuum,
soundless, his shoes making no sound at all on the colorless carpet and even
the beating of his outsider's heart sucked away into the vague pattern  that
decorated the wallpaper.
     He tried to  count the small  plastic ovals screwed on the doors,  each
with its own three  figures, but the  corridor  seemed to go on  forever. At
last  the man  halted before a door,  a door veneered like all the rest with
imitation rosewood,  and  put his hand over the lock, his palm flat  against
the metal. Something  scraped softly  and then the mechanism clicked and the
door  swung open. As the man withdrew his hand, Coretti  saw a grayish-pink,
key-shaped sliver of bone retract wetly into the pale flesh.
     No light burned in that room, but the city's dim neon aura  filtered in
through  venetian blinds and allowed  him  to see the faces of the dozen  or
more people  who sat perched on  the bed and the couch and the armchairs and
the stools in the kitchenette.  At first  he  thought that  their  eyes were
open,  but  then  he realized that  the  dull  pupils  were  sealed  beneath
nictitating membranes, third eyelids that reflected the faint shades of neon
from the window. They wore whatever the  last bar  had called for; shapeless
Salvation Army overcoats  sat  beside bright  suburban leisurewear,  evening
gowns beside dusty factory clothes, biker's leather by brushed Harris tweed.
With sleep, all spurious humanity had vanished. They were roosting.
     His couple seated themselves on the edge of  the  Formica countertop in
the kitchenette,  and  Coretti hesitated in  the middle of the empty carpet.
Light-years of  that carpet  seemed to  separate him  from  the  others, but
something  called to  him across the distance, promising rest and  peace and
belonging. And still he hesitated, shaking with an indecision that seemed to
rise from the genetic core of his body's every cell.
     Until they opened their eyes, all of them simultaneously, the membranes
sliding sideways to reveal the alien calm of dwellers in the ocean's darkest
     Coretti screamed,  and ran  away,  and fled  along corridors  and  down
echoing concrete stairwells to cool rain and the nearly empty streets.
     Coretti never returned to his room on the third floor  of that hotel. A
bored house detective collected the linguistics  texts,  the single suitcase
of clothing, and they were eventually  sold at auction. Coretti took a  room
in a boardinghouse run by a grim  Baptist  teetotaler who led her roomers in
prayer at the start  of every  overcooked evening meal. She didn't mind that
Coretti  never joined them for those  meals; he explained that he was  given
free meals at  work. He  lied  freely and  skillfully. He never drank at the
boardinghouse, and he never  came  home drunk. Mr. Coretti was a little odd,
but always paid his rent on time. And he was very quiet.
     Coretti stopped looking for her. He stopped going to bars. He drank out
of a  paper bag  while going to and from his job at a publisher's warehouse,
in an area whose industrial zoning permitted few bars.
     He worked nights. Sometimes, at dawn, perched on the edge of his unmade
bed, drifting  into sleep he never slept lying  down, now he  thought  about
her. Antoinette.  And  them. The  belonging  kind.  Sometimes  he speculated
dreamily. . . . Perhaps they were like house  mice, the sort of small animal
evolved to live only in the walls of man-made structures.
     A kind of animal that lives only on  alcoholic beverages. With peculiar
metabolisms  they  convert the alcohol  and the various proteins from  mixed
drinks  and  wine and  beers into  everything they need. And they can change
outwardly, like  a chameleon or a rockfish, for protection. So they can live
among us. And maybe,  Coretti thought, they  grow in  stages.  In the  early
stages  seeming like  humans,  eating  the  food  humans eat, sensing  their
difference only in a vague disquiet of being an outsider.
     A  kind  of animal  with its own cunning, its own special set  of urban
instincts. And the ability to know its own kind when they're near. Maybe.
     And  maybe not. Coretti drifted into sleep.  On a Wednesday three weeks
into  his  new  job, his landlady opened the door she never knocked and told
him that he  was  wanted  on the  phone. Her  voice  was tight with habitual
suspicion,  and  Coretti  followed  her  along  the   dark  hallway  to  the
second-floor sitting room and the telephone.
     Lifting  the  old-fashioned black instrument to his  ear, he heard only
music at first, and then a wall of sound resolving into a fragmented amalgam
of conversations. Laughter. No one spoke to him over  the sound of the  bar,
but the song in the background was "You're the Reason Our Kids Are Ugly."
     And then the dial tone, when the caller hung up.
     Later, alone in his room, listening to the landlady's firm tread in the
room below, Coretti  realized that there was no need to remain where he was.
The  summons  had come. But the  landlady demanded  three weeks'  notice  if
anyone wanted to  leave. That  meant that Coretti  owed her  money. Instinct
told him to leave it for her.
     A Christian workingman in the next room coughed in his sleep as Coretti
got  up  and  went  down  the  hall  to  the  telephone.  Coretti  told  the
evening-shift foreman that he was quitting his job. He hung up and went back
to  his room, locked the door behind  him, and slowly  removed his  clothing
until  he stood naked before the garish framed lithograph of Jesus above the
brown steel bureau.
     And then he counted  out nine tens. He placed them carefully beside the
praying-hands plaque decorating the bureau top.
     It was nice-looking  money. It  was  perfectly good money.  He  made it
     This time, he didn't feel like making small talk. She'd been drinking a
margarita, and  he ordered the same.  She paid,  producing  the money with a
deft movement of her hand between the breasts bobbling in her low-cut dress.
He glimpsed the  gill closing there. An excitement rose  in him but somehow,
this time, it didn't center in an erection.
     After the third margarita their hips  were  touching, and something was
spreading through him in slow orgasmic waves. It was sticky where they  were
touching; an  area  the size of  the heel  of his thumb where the cloth  had
parted.  He was two men: the one inside  fusing with  her in total  cellular
communion,  and the shell who sat casually on  a stool at the bar, elbows on
either  side of his  drink,  fingers toying with  a swizzle  stick.  Smiling
benignly into space. Calm in the cool dimness.
     And  once,  but only  once,  some distant  worrisome part  of him  made
Coretti  glance down to  where softruby  tubes  pulsed, tendrils tipped with
sharp lips worked in the shadows between them. Like the joining tentacles of
two strange anemones. They were mating, and no one knew.
     And the bartender,  when  he brought the next drink,  offered his tired
smile and said, "Rainin' out now, innit? Just won't let up." "Been like that
all goddamn week," Coretti answered. "Rainin' to beat the band." And he said
it right. Like a real human being.

Популярность: 8, Last-modified: Sun, 26 Aug 2001 18:10:54 GMT