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W. Gregory Stewart is a short story writer and poet whose work has appeared Amazing Stories, Asimov's, Dreams & Nightmares, several Rhysling Anthologies, and dozens of other publications. He lives in Los Angeles.

Dark Planet is designed and edited by Lucy A. Snyder. If you spot any errors, or if you have any comments, please contact her at lusnyde@cyberus.ca.

All materials copyright 1996-1998 by their respective creators. No stories, articles, poems or images from this webzine may be posted or published without the written consent of their creator(s).

Pandora Works Nights

by W. Gregory Stewart

    I'm too old for this shit, she thinks.
    She is waiting in the park, in the dark,
    waiting for Certain Things To Happen
    waiting for The Right People to appear,

    because tonight,
    one of The Right People is scheduled to speak
    the last Angry Word, and she
    needs to be there when it happens.

    She has nets and jars and a special box and hooks,
    and if she is able to catch the word,
    and if she is able to wrestle it into the box,
    she will be able to Call It A Wrap

    and get a little rest. At last.
    Look, she has told folks, look --
    This ain't my table, it ain't my job
    but ain't no one else doin' squat to get it done,

    so it's up to me, she tells them -- and I do feel
    a little responsible ... as they walk away quickly
    leaving her to carry the load alone,
    which is all she wanted anyway.

    She'll show them, by all the gods that put her here,
    she'll show them -- she's too old for shit,
    she thinks, but old or otherwise -- she won't
    put up with crap.

    Over the years she's caught up with them all --
    Pestilence, Famine, Despair -- even Bloodymindedness -
    but these STUPID MORTALS always let them out again,
    whatever they are, however she locks them up.

    But then she always figured, well --
    that's not my table. If she wraps them up
    and Somebody Else unwraps them, then
    it's Somebody Else's lookout - that's Somebody Else's job.

    So tonight it's the last Angry Word,
    and she's done -- thanks a lot,
    she's out of here, next year in Cleveland,
    gone. Dammit, read her lips. Bloody gone.

    (This is not part of it, but you need to know this --
    she has been chasing the little buggers since
    the Dawn of Time, or just a little after, really,
    and she is tired and feeling a little underappreciated.)

    And half the grief she's had to deal with
    was her brother-in-law's fault, anyway.
    Thinking this, she smiles fondly --
    then spits. Just for form.

    In time The Right People show up. In time,
    the last Angry Word is spoken, although
    it comes out more peevish than angry;
    still, it shows up on her detectors.

    So she nabs it, grabs it, hooks it
    and when she is sure her grip is firm
    on the throat of the thing,
    she puts it her box and locks it up.

    The last Angry Word starts to cry, but she doesn't care -
    she's done. She smiles -- she tells
    The Right People what she's done,
    but they can only hear the last word weeping.

    The Right People are outraged, but just now they can find
    no words to properly express their anger;
    then they remember what she has told them,
    and they take her box, and they smash it,

    freeing the last Angry Word and the Angry Words
    that had gone before. Gestures, too (in keeping with
    a recent Supreme Court decision).
    She shrugs -- her job was done three minutes ago,

    and she has always known that some people
    will go to any lengths
    to have the last word;
    she really expected nothing less here tonight.

    And her job is done. She can finally go to Miami,
    and leave the damn fools to themselves -
    her dance card's filled, and she got
    everything on the scavenger hunt she had to.

    But then she looks around -- all The Right People
    are there, and the Wrong People, too, looking confused,
    and unclear of the concept, sad and a little stupid.
    She knows what she knows,

    and she knows they got no clue,
    and she knows that somebody's gotta do the ugly jobs.
    She knows that she knows how to do those jobs,
    and she knows what she's gonna gotta do.

    So she does something under her breath
    (with some newly available Angry Words), grabs her gear,
    and starts the whole damn thing all over again.
    She's maybe too old for this shit -- but she don't take any crap.