Friday, August 26, 2011

Orange or Pink

What I'm looking forward to reading: The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson

Not long ago I started my first epic fantasy: Mistborn. I found it to be hugely satisfying. I've read a scant number of fantasy novels so it was a real treat to read this series.

There's always a bit of a let down when you finish a series, more so than a single novel. You get to know the characters and the lines between your world and theirs start to blur. Then it's over. Done. There's not even a Facebook page to catch up once in awhile. Brandon Sanderson, however, is attempting to ease my melancholy with a new book, based on the world of Mistborn. 

From Publishers Weekly
Sanderson gives the world of Scadrial the Wild West treatment in this rollicking adventure tale set 300 years after the popular Mistborn epic fantasy trilogy. This “side deviation” gives up swords for guns, and while the three-part magic system of Allomancy, Feruchemy, and Hemalurgy continues to play a crucial role in the story, Scadrial itself is on the cusp of modernity. Wax, a lawkeeper gifted with both Allomantic and Feruchemical powers, has returned to the circular city of Elendel to take his uncle’s place as Lord Ladrian. When a gang of thieves known as the Vanishers begins stealing from railcars and kidnapping ladies, Wax, his miscreant buddy Wayne, and the intelligent and pretty Marasi decide they are honor-bound to uncover the perpetrators and save the victims. Part Sherlock Holmes, part X-Men, this exciting stand-alone adventure is full of close shaves, shootouts, and witty banter.

I pre-ordered my signed and numbered copy today. You can too, just click on his name at the top of this page. Click here to read the first few chapters for free at

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Orange or Pink

Orange or Pink is the title to a piece of flash fiction I wrote for the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2011. Check out my previous post for more information on the contest and a bit of the genesis of this story. I'm posting it here now. This is my first entry in the first round. Comments and feedback are appreciated.

Orange or Pink

A man is caught stealing smart phones that he's been selling to help pay for his sister's chemotherapy.

             I stood on the center line of the store, one foot in pink the other in orange.

            “Orange or pink?” I said aloud, trying to determine which brand of phones to push. T-Mobile occupied the west side of the store, AT&T the east. A classic turf war. 

            Nobody responded. The store didn’t open for another half-hour  so the only people around were my manager and my coworkers. As the senior sales rep on the floor, they all knew to defer to me. My manager, Tilly Scott, had yet to emerge from his office. Tilly was a bear of a man, but his temperament was as soft as his name was girly.

            “I’m feeling awfully pink today,” I said. 

            Vanessa laughed. “No comment.” 

            I turned to her with a friendly scowl. “Better not be, missy. You’re only six weeks out of training. When you’ve earned a couple of stripes, come talk to me. I was pushing phones back before phones were smart.”

            “Just wait,” Vanessa said. “You’ll be eating your words when we start selling the iPhone. I’m the app-queen.”

            I pointed to my face, void of emotion. “This is my panic face. I’m so worried.”

            I moved over to the pink side to prepare the displays. Not only was I feeling pink, but the manufacturer’s promos were better than what the orange side was offering—which makes them more attractive to customers. A couple more big sale days and I’d beat my quota by twenty-five percent, which meant a bonus. 

            By the time Tilly emerged from the back office, I’d made two sales and was due for a break
            “Pete, can I see you for a minute?”

            “Sure boss,” I said. “What’s up?”

            “Not here. Let’s go to my office.” 

            I shrugged and followed him back. He opened the office door, and I’d have to say I was a bit surprised by the chicken. Tilly lumbered to his chair. He didn’t so much as sit in his chair as he did smother it. 

            “Close the door.”

            I shut the door then propped myself on a red vinyl straight-back with cracks on the seat and looked across the desk at him. The chicken sat over his left shoulder on a shelf behind him.  

            “Boss?” I asked.


            “Why is there a caged chicken in your office?”

            He looked back at the bird as if he’d yet to notice it.

            “Oh, that’s one of our hens. We raise chickens—best eggs you’ll ever eat. The rooster can get a bit cocky though.”

            He chuckled at his own joke, and I laughed too, because I wasn’t sure what else to do.

            “My wife had her checked out by the vet first thing this morning and then dropped her here for me take home, while she does some errands.”

            “How many do you have?” I asked.

             “Half a dozen or so.” Tilly leaned forward placing his forearms on the edge of the desk. “How’re you, doing Pete?”

            I nodded. “Pretty good.”

            “Did I hear that you recently took on a second job?”

            “Yeah, I’m working evenings at Musician’s Friend. I take inbound orders and do a little  customer support. Plus, I still work weekends at the baseball park whenever the team’s in town.”

            Tilly whistled. “That’s tough.”

            I smiled. “Hey, we do what we gotta do, right?”

            “Right, right.” 

            He paused as if unsure what to say next. 

            The chicken clucked softly, seemingly unfazed by its surroundings.

            Tilly sighed. “I’ve just finished going through our inventory and for the third month in a row we’ve come up short.”

            My stomach started to flitter, and I’m sure my pupils dilated. Crap, I thought. I should’ve been more careful. Should’ve spread it out over more months. My chair felt terribly uncomfortable. I gave him my panic face.

            “Can you think of anyone who might be stealing merchandise?”

            Whew. Thank you, I thought. Someone is looking out for me. 

            “It’s hard to say. I might think Vanessa, because she’s new. I can’t imagine anyone else.” I tried to maintain eye contact and not look away. A tell-tale sign of liars, I’d learned from watching cop shows.

            Tilly leaned back in his chair, the hinges squeaked in protest to his bulk, and rubbed his goatee. “I thought the same thing, but I ruled her out. After going over everything—shift rosters, who’d have the best access, and such—I’ve come to only one conclusion. How long have you been stealing from me?”

            “Wha-wait. Me? You think I did this?”

            “Come on Pete. Stop messing around. We’ve known each other too long.”

            This time I did look away. “All right. I admit it. Crap. I didn’t want to, if that makes you feel any better.”

            “Not really. Does it you?”

            “No. I know it’s wrong, but it does make my sister feel better.”

            “How’s your sister involved in this?”

            “My sister’s fourteen.” I felt a catch in my throat. “She’s got breast cancer, at fourteen.”

            Tilly leaned forward again. “That sucks. I’m sorry.”

            “I stole the phones and sold them to help pay for her chemotherapy. Which is also why I work at the ball park and took the job at Musician’s Friend.”

            Tilly rubbed his goatee for a long minute. He looked up at the chicken, then back at me. “I’ll tell you what.” He held out a piece of paper. “You see that?” 

            It was an itemized expense report. “Yeah.”

            “See the bottom where it says three percent?”

            I nodded.

            “That’s an expense that the company has built into the budget. Three percent to cover lost or stolen merchandise. You keep your after-hour activities within three percent, and this conversation never happened. You understand?”

            I nodded. My eyes started to water and I tried not to cry. “Thank you.  I will.” I got up to leave.


            I turned around.

            “Why don’t you take the chicken? Best eggs she’ll ever eat.”

            “Thank you. I will.”



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