Teaser: Another Excerpt from A New Board is Elected at Villa Encantada

Picture of a stone lantern.Here’s another chunk from “A New Board is Elected at Villa Encantada,” (working title) a darkly humorous story about a very odd condo complex that I’ve written several stories about already. It’s been fun filling out the complex’s roster a little in this story, and I’m going back to revise one of the unpublished ones with some of these details. Like the talking cacti.

Even the cacti garden was talking about the assessment. I usually don’t visit down there, in the little rock garden near the lake. For one thing all of the cacti like to talk at once. They ramble and they repeat and they are altogether too fond of puns. Not for the first time, I wondered what exactly the magician who had created them had had in mind. Had it really been a dozen cranky plants, whose extreme longevity led them to be highly opinionated about everything?

There are twelve cacti altogether, eleven in pots and one who has chosen to plant itself and grow. The eleven in pots have opted for mobility over size. They were fond of making Rumpelstiltskin wheel them about the complex in order to enjoy the sun and fresh air.

Each was distinctive, both in personality and appearance. They had names, which usually mattered only to each other. I had mentally bestowed nicknames on them: Bombast, Furor, Humblepie, Obscuro, Smarmy, Weasel, Johnny Nonsense, Earnest, Hairyfoot, Splainer, and the unpotted Old Dignity, a massive saguaro towering a good fifteen feet over its much shorter, hideously root bound, compatriots.

Bombast said, “It’s a cabal! They’ve been waiting to seize power for years now, and rob our reserves, turn us over to some real estate agent so the complex can be demolished for a high rise.”

Furor said, “Don’t be ridiculous. They’re not organized enough to be a cabal. And this place isn’t zoned for high-rises.” It added, its tone dark, “No, what they have in store for us is much, much worse.”

“How can they hope to understand the history of the complex?” demanded Hairyfoot. “Most of them haven’t even been here a decade.”

I considered them. The complex was odd at the best of times. It was a refuge, a complex that didn’t mind people who were outside the ordinary. That led to a population that was more mixed than most, including the denizens of this garden.

Earnest said to me, “Did you give your proxy to someone to vote?”

I shook my head and fled.

Rumpelstiltskin was by the dumpster, sorting out recyclables. He looked wretched and smudgy as an old sheet of newsprint. As I passed, he looked up, and said, hopefully, “What’s my name?”

“Not today,” I said. “You won’t escape today.”

I felt guilty at the look on his face, and the situation made me itch, but it’s been so hard to find a maintenance man here that I could understand why they had done it. Sometimes when you find good help, you have to rely on the laws of magic to keep them from leaving. Unscrupulous? Yes, undoubtedly. But the needs of the many outweigh those of the few. Or the one, in his case.

If you want to read the rest of the story, you can get it, along with at least six other stories, at the end of July by signing up to sponsor me in the Clarion West Write-a-thon. Even a small donation entitles you to the stories, so please do sign up!

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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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