Teaser from The Threadbare Magician (WIP, short story)

Detail from a Hawaiian shirt(Feeling good and energized after WorldCon, ready to finish up a piece that’s been floating around in my head for a while. Story elements include Hawaiian shirts, a retirement community called Friendly Village, an old love affair, a smart-alecky fortune teller, rabbits, and centaurs. Here’s the current beginning.)

Old fabric holds smells better than the kinds come about in the most recent decade. The new stuff is all chemicals, rubbing the roof of your mouth like steel wool if you sniff too hard, can bite like a spell’s sting. Older silks, cottons hold household odors: cedar or cinnamon, tumeric and garlic, perfumes you can no longer find like L’Origan or Quelques Fleurs, camphorated moth balls or talcum powder. Rarely, the whiff of a person, a smell lingering long after every scrap of their DNA has vanished.

Most often just the lilac assault left by a hasty dry-clean. But the other times make it worth it.

I pulled the green XL circle aside with my thumb and kept going widdershins, into the Ls. So far the Value Village’s rack had yielded only two possibilities: an XXL black with a subtle bamboo-patterned weave, cream-colored dragons curled and coiled like sunridden clouds and an XL crimson rayon whose flame-pattern suited it to throw-away magic, a protective cloak perfect for what I was after: a trip through hostile territory with no one to watch my back.

It was a pretty day outside, the last days before summer would slant to the other side of the clock and the days begin shrinking into the grey days of fall. A day for turning up the radio and blasting “Dani California” until the sound came up through your bones.

My shirt was umbrellas, parasols really, pinwheeled against cerulean sky and white cumulus clouds. Protection, and even though it was newer and untested, I trusted it to ward off anything, magic protective gloves, more supple than lead-lined canvas but surely at least that solid.

The spell struck up from a black background, red serpents, scales lined with scallops as blue as the sky outside. Slashing bites along the outside of my left hand, locking on, tails sticking straight out as they attached themselves.

I lurched sideways.

The floor crashed up into my face, thunked against my forehead in painful collision.

Then I was gone.

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About Cat

Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches by the shores of an eagle-haunted lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her 200+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov's, Clarkesworld Magazine, and the magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Her story, "Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain," from her collection Near + Far (Hydra House Books), was a 2012 Nebula nominee. Her editorship of Fantasy Magazine earned her a World Fantasy Award nomination in 2012. She is the current President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). She is currently working on Exiles of Tabat, the third book of the Tabat Quartet. A new story collection, Neither Here Nor There, appears from Hydra House this fall.
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