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The god of the crossroads came to me
in a shabby cafe in Missouri, during
a time of confusion and malaise -- a
personal infestation of spiritual lice,

a hundred chigger bites on the flesh
of my sense of purpose, you might say.
The god rode in the head of my coffee
server, a displaced punkette with

mismatched eyes and buzzed-black
hair and a silver ring in her left
nostril. I recognized the god's arrival
by the usual signs -- the scent of copper

and vanilla in the latte steam, the jingle
of the bells hung on the door like
garlands, the revving and honking
and backfiring of cars in the street

trying to go every direction at once
and tearing themselves apart in the process.
"You're waiting again," the god said in
the punkette's sexy-raspy voice. "What

are you waiting for?"
"I can't do it all," I said, stirring
cold coffee with my forefinger. "I hate
to make decisions I can't revise

later. I used to take comfort in quantum
uncertainty and the many-worlds theory,
the idea that somewhere else, some other
me was doing everything." The god

snorted and said "Every other you is sitting
in this stupid coffee shop with the water-
stained walls and the rude waitstaff, or else
crouching by a rock staring at a stream, or looking

up at a flyspecked motel ceiling -- and all of you
are getting yelled at by me." The god came around
the counter and thumped me in the chest. I
gasped as my heart sputtered, stuttered,

stopped

and then started again as all the engines
outside revved and the cars surged
forward. "Every road ends," the punkette
god said. "You can't linger

forever." Her mismatched eyes were one
color now, the morning blue of a sky
I once saw in Georgia, and I wondered
how many dawns and journeys I had left.

The god departed, and I whispered
my thanks to the punkette,
pushed back from the table, stood up,
and walked into the remaining

hours and miles of my life.

 

Copyright © 2001 Tim Pratt

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Tim Pratt is a southerner, a graduate of Clarion '99, a fantasist, a poet, an occasional writing teacher, a lapsed performance artist, and an inveterate list maker. He has poetry upcoming in Asimov's and Weird Tales. Tim's previous appearance in Strange Horizons was "The Fallen and the Muse of the Street." Visit his Web site for more information.



Tim Pratt won a Hugo Award for his short fiction (and lost a Nebula and a World Fantasy Award), and his stories have appeared in The Best American Short Stories, The Year's Best Fantasy, and other nice places. He lives in Oakland, California, with his wife Heather Shaw and son River. For more information about him and his work, see his website. To contact him, send him email at tim@tropismpress.com.
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