In a showcase of Nick Mamatas’ brilliant, oddball THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF EVERYTHING, Tachyon presents glimpses from some of the volume’s magnificent tales.
Dreamer of the Day
just narrow enough for two. Tin ceiling, haze in the air. It’s a
railroad apartment, three floors up. A pile of old toys and junk—half
a bicycle, plastic playhouse all stained and grimy Day-Glo, empty
wrinkled cardboard boxes, coils of cable blocks the back door. By the
front door, a small table littered with envelopes. Bills, looks like.
Cellophane windows and a name over and over, in all caps.
you pick a bill, Paul says.
one? Lil asks.
the fee. Pick a bill and pay it. This operator, he doesn’t leave
the house, he’s not on anyone’s payroll. He puts his bills out
here. You want to hire him, you pick out a bill and pay it. This is
how he lives.
but … She bites her lower lip. Licks it. She’s a real
lip-licker. So what if I take this one?
taps a Verizon envelope. Her finger is fat on it, like crushing a
it’s fifty bucks. Maybe he calls lots of 900 numbers, she says. Is
that enough, though? If he’s as good as you say he is—
look like an accident?
finger comes off the envelope. No?
be an accident, he says.
roll. Whatever, she says. How can he live like this? I mean, if
people can pick any bill they like and pay it, why would anyone
bother to pay his rent when they could pay some fifty-dollar phone
bill? The West Village, I mean, Jesus.
control. It’s not that bad. He’s been here for a long time, Paul
says. Then he puts his hands to his mouth, cupping them. Waahh waaah
waaah he plays, like a sad trumpet. Then he sings two words.
Twi-light time. You know it? Paul asks.
looks at him.
Miller, Paul says, plain as day.
cheek inches up, dragging her lips into a smirk. Another lick.
Google it or something. Glenn Miller vanished over the English
Channel. He and his Army band were flying into liberated Paris to
play and … He lifts his palms in a shrug.
they crashed and drowned?
just vanished. Not a trace of him, or the band, or the plane. That
was his first hit, they say, Paul says. That’s how old this guy is.
thought you said this guy makes his hits look like accidents, not
like episodes of The X-Files, she says.
can leave right now if you like. If you’re not impressed. If you
don’t want to pick up a bill and take it downstairs to the check
cashing place and pay his electricity or his cable or whatever the
hell else, Paul says. If you don’t want to give him three hundred
bucks for his rent this month. If you want to try somebody else who
might cut your husband’s brakes, or shoot him in the fucking face,
for twenty times the money. Yeah, that won’t be traced back to you.
Have you even practiced crying in the mirror, Merry Widow?
well up in her eyes. She stands up straight, then her spine wilted.
Waterworks. The man made to reach out for her, not thinking. All
autonomic nerves, limbs jerking toward the brunette Lil like she
right, all right, you’re good, Paul says.
reaches for an envelope, flashes that it’s addressed from Marolda
Properties, and puts it in her purse. Now what, she says.
about we knock? She raises a tiny fist.
. . but yes, he said. He reaches into his suit pocket and pulls out a
silver-on-bronze case, flicking it open and offering her a cigarette.
crimped lips: no light?
produces a lighter, flicks it open too. Matches the case. The cherry
blooms and the door unlocks.
those nasty things out, The Dreamer of the Day says. You’ll kill us
For more info on THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF EVERYTHING, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover by Elizabeth Story