A cup of normal, p.1
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       A Cup of Normal, p.1

           Devon Monk
 
A Cup of Normal


  Table of Contents

  INTRODUCTION

  DUSI

  BEER WITH A HAMSTER CHASER

  PROBE

  THAT SATURDAY

  THE WISHING TIME

  BEARING LIFE

  A CUP OF NORMAL

  STITCHERY

  LAST TOUR OF DUTY

  OLDBLADE

  SKEIN OF SUNLIGHT

  STRINGING TOMORROW

  X-DAY

  MENDERS

  LEEWARD TO THE SKY

  FISHING THE EDGE OF THE WORLD

  MOONLIGHTING

  CHRISTMAS CARD

  DUCKS IN A ROW

  SINGING DOWN THE SUN

  HERE AFTER LIFE

  FALLING WITH WINGS

  WHEN THE TRAIN CALLS LONELY

  ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  FAIRWOOD PRESS

  Bonney Lake, WA

  These twenty-two short stories are measured out with a cup of normal and a pound of the fantastic. From dark fairytales to alien skies, Monk’s stories blend haunting yesterdays, forgotten todays and twisted tomorrows wherein:

  ...A normal little girl in a city made of gears, takes on the world to save a toy....A normal ancient monster living in Seattle, must decide if love is worth trusting a hero...A normal patchwork woman and her two-headed boyfriend stitch their life and farm together with needle, thread, and time...a normal vampire in a knitting shop must face sun-drenched secrets...a normal snow creature’s wish changes a mad man’s life...a normal man breaks reality with a hamster...and yes, a normal little robot, defines how extraordinary friendship can be.

  Poignant, bittersweet, frightening, and funny, these stories pour out worlds that are both lovely and odd, darkly strange and tantalizingly familiar, where no matter how fantastic the setting or situation, love, freedom, and hope find a way to take root and thrive.

  Praise for Devon Monk’s

  A CUP OF NORMAL

  “A delicious sampling of her short fiction, including four stories original to this volume . . . Featuring quirky, well-developed protagonists whose decisions have significant moral consequences, these stories also show a strong sense of place. Sometimes funny, sometimes dark, often both, they are varied in form and invariably rewarding.” —Publisher’s Weekly

  “Re-reading Devon Monk’s short stories reminds me once again of what a terrific writer she is. I’m proud to have published her first story and look forward to publishing many more. She’s got a long and bright career ahead of her!” —Shawna McCarthy, editor of Realms of Fantasy

  “Here are stories to unsettle and disturb you. Whether it’s Medusa in love, vampire heat, a spidery Christmas, shattered bowls of dreams or machine conspiracies, there are scenes that will continue to lurk in dark corners of your mind. Beautifully written. Enjoy the ride.”

  —James C. Glass, author of The Viper of Portello

  “A Cup of Normal showcases the breadth and variety of Devon Monk’s imagination. From science fiction to epic fantasy, and everything in between, Monk demonstrates a flexibility of style and concept that surprises, entertains, and touches the heart in equal measure.”

  —Marie Brennan, author of Midnight Never Come

  “There may be the word “normal” in the title of Devon’s collection, but the stories are touching, personal narratives of the extraordinary. Reading Monk’s work is like going to your neighborhood supermarket only to find that everything on the shelves is magical. She has the exceptional gift of making the reader both comfortable and amazed at the same time.”

  —James Van Pelt, author of Summer of the Apocalypse

  “Devon Monk’s collection of stories is a series of little gems, some sparkling and bright, some dark and foreboding. Delightfully written and richly imagined, the reader will be charmed by such diverse tales as the monster in “Dusi” who finally finds her true love, and alarmed by stories like “X-Day,” a very black Christmas indeed. From Greek mythology to the battlefields of Vietnam to a slightly twisted take on contemporary life, these sweet, weird, sometimes romantic stories always engender the sense of wonder for which the genre is famous.”

  —Louise Marley, author of Mozart’s Blood

  A CUP OF NORMAL

  A Fairwood Press Book

  September 2010

  Copyright © 2010 by Devon Monk

  All Rights Reserved

  No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

  Fairwood Press

  21528 104th Street Court East

  Bonney Lake, WA 98391

  www.fairwoodpress.com

  Cover illustration by Elena Vizerskaya

  Cover Design by Nicole Thomson

  Book Design by Patrick Swenson

  Titles type Montserrat, Copyright (c) 2011-2012, Julieta Ulanovsky

  This Font Software is licensed under the SIL Open Font License, Version 1.1.

  ISBN13: 978-0-9820730-9-4

  First Fairwood Press Edition: September 2010

  Second Edition: February 2015

  Printed in the United States of America

  For My Family, Dreamers One and All

  COPYRIGHTS

  “Dusi” (Realms of Fantasy, Oct 1999)

  “Beer with a Hamster Chaser”

  (Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet #14, June 2004)

  “Probe” (Odyssey #5, 1998)

  “That Saturday” (Better off Dead, Daw Books, Nov 2008)

  “The Wishing Time” (First publication in the 1st edition, 2010)

  “Bearing Life” (Maiden, Matron, Crone, Daw Books, May 2005)

  “A Cup of Normal” (First publication in 2nd edition, 2015)

  “Stitchery” (Black Gate #2, 2001; Year’s Best Fantasy 2, Eos, 2002)

  “Last Tour of Duty” (Realms of Fantasy, Dec 2001)

  “Oldblade” (Talebones #19, Spring 2000)

  “Skein of Sunlight” (Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance 2, 2009)

  “Stringing Tomorrow” (Talebones #32, Spring 2006)

  “X-Day” (First publication in the 1st edition, 2010)

  “Menders” (First publication in the 1st edition, 2010)

  “Leeward to the Sky” (Realms of Fantasy, June 2002)

  “Fishing the Edge of the World” (Talebones #28, Summer 2004)

  “Moonlighting” (Fantasy Gone Wrong, Daw Books, Sept 2006)

  “Christmas Card” (First publication in the 1st edition, 2010)

  “Ducks in a Row” (Realms of Fantasy, April 2006)

  “Singing Down the Sun” (Fantastic Companions, May 2005)

  “Here After Life” (Realms of Fantasy, Feb 2003)

  “Falling with Wings” (Realms of Fantasy, Aug 2004)

  “When the Train Calls Lonely” (Realms of Fantasy, Oct 2007)

  INTRODUCTION

  Patrick Swenson

  Devon Monk isn’t normal.

  She wants you to think she is, but she’s not. I mean look at the title of this collection. A Cup of Normal? Ha, who does she think she’s kidding? Robots, hamsters, dragons, ogres, snakes, pixies, and ducks. Ducks? Oh yeah, nice try, Devon. Attempting to use ordinary, normal ducks in a story to distract us from the threads of real magic in this collection.

  Devon Monk weaves a fine yarn. I mean, she uses yarn to knit a great story. I mean she knits great Transformers hats, Locoroco toys, and book bags. (She’s an avid knitter, and if you haven’t yet checked out her projects on her website gallery, you must.) The thing is, Devon Monk just knows how to put things together. In the case of this collection, I’m talking about fabulous, wonderful, inventive stories. She lets them slide into the dark where despair dwe
lls, and after they’ve settled there for a while, she allows them to emerge into the light so she can show us all where hope lives.

  As her publisher and editor for this project, I asked who she might want to write an introduction, but instead of giving me names, she veered from normalcy and pointed at me. Well, I’m honored to write it, and I have good reasons to do so. I bought one of her earliest stories for Talebones, the magazine I edited for fourteen years. That story was “Oldblade,” and it was the first of four of Devon’s stories to appear in the magazine. Three of those stories are in this collection. The story from Talebones that isn’t in here (one of my favorites of hers, period, by the way) isn’t in here for a very, very good reason, and you may all be lucky enough to understand why some day.

  She might correct me later, but I believe I first met Devon at Orycon in Portland, Oregon. I used to throw room parties there, in the early years of Talebones, and I’m sure she must have dropped by. If not at the party, then we ran into each other somewhere around the con. Regardless, I was introduced to her, and was immediately struck by her warmth and sincerity, her friendliness, and, of course, her amazing ability to strike up conversations with her friends and fans.

  This might be why her stories work so well. She knows how to talk to readers. Like a mother reading to a child, she knows how to tell bedtime stories to calm us and prepare us for sleep, yet with equal skill she can whisper scary ghost stories so menacing that the sanctuary of our campfire seems far from safe. That’s because she makes great use of her own world, threading her own interests into her tales. Many of the stories have something to do with knitting or weaving or mending, yet none of them are even remotely the same. Those stories (and all these stories) are as unique as Devon’s own knitted toys and clothes and pouches and bags and Cthulhu chapstick holders. Yeah, that’s what I said. Unique, and far from normal.

  You’re going to read some amazing work in this collection, including stories never before published. Just wait until you take in some of Devon’s ideas about Christmas. Definitely not normal. I have too many favorite stories to mention here, but if you really want to see what Devon can do with words, skip to the last story and give “When the Train Calls Lonely” a read and tell me you aren’t changed by it. Or the delightful “Dusi,” that begins the collection: this isn’t the Medusa I remember from when I was a kid. “Falling with Wings” is a story Devon wrote as a part of a challenge with fellow writers, yet it turned out to be a positively stunning love story. It takes place on a garbage world. Go figure. That’s not normal, is it?

  It’s not normal what Devon can do, spinning these complex tales, so you might as well give in and drink from the cup. Just see what happens.

  Oh, and remember my comment about Devon distracting us with ducks in this book?

  They’re not normal either.

  Perhaps my first urban fantasy, this story was written and published before urban fantasy had that name. I want to give Shawna McCarthy of Realms of Fantasy the credit for pointing out the ending was much too short, and then giving me a second chance to submit it to her. This was the first published story that made me hope I could be a writer one day.

  DUSI

  My last lover was a hero. A beautiful, chisel-jawed, shining-smile, bulky-pec’d man who dumped me cold for the first Queen of Forever that batted lashes his way. Let me say this straight right now: I didn’t expect him to stay with me — not for eternity. But when he came washing up on my shore, bruised and swollen and half-starved, we made a deal.

  I’d take care of the multi-headed sea monster he’d gotten himself into trouble with and he’d stay on my island for the summer. In exchange for a little body heat, I’d dance for him.

  Believe me, being supple-spined made for some spectacular dance positions.

  But Perseus had all the moves. Tough as a sailor, charming as a midnight poet, and that smile. . . .

  I, the good little monster, slogged through the cold salt water to face down his foe. I, the good little monster, got a knock to the head trying to lock the serpent into stone and I, the good little monster practically froze to death right then and there.

  Would it have killed him to thank me? When I finally came to and made my way back to civilization, all I heard was: “Perseus cut off Medusa’s head, Perseus used it for a shield, Perseus saved the swooning beauty.” The lout hooked up with some queen, spread a bunch of rumors about decapitating me and using my head, my head to bring down the sea serpent. He left me, head intact and heart broken, behind.

  Not even a farewell, Medusa, my almost love. Over the years, I’ve begun to wonder if he had it planned all along. Make the monster fall in love, send her out to fight while he puts a move on the queen, and pray the monster doesn’t surface until the wedding wine has gone to dregs.

  I should have turned him to stone when I had the chance —before I fell in love.

  A knock at my door broke my reverie. I crossed the living room, bare feet scuffing carpet and shooting static across my scalp. The snakes on my head swayed like they were high on hair spray. I swatted at them with one hand and looked through the peephole.

  A dark-haired man stood against Seattle’s unbreakable gray. His skin was brown, almost black in contrast with his loose white cotton shirt. Wide shouldered, he was taller than I and strong-boned. Handsome. I did not look in his eyes, but I suspected they would be gray, or blue.

  My heart raced and the snakes hissed. I do not believe in reincarnation or any of those other quaint attempts at eternal life. But when he smiled, I saw again the cliff, smelled again the salt breezes brushing my skin. A ship rounded the cove, sail swollen with wind, and the man on deck smiled at me.

  The man outside my door picked up one of my rabbit statues from the flowerbed. He turned it over in his hand, stroking the stone fur and set it back down. He frowned and knocked on the door again.

  “I don’t mean to intrude,” he called, “but I’ve been watching Jenny take your statues into town. Are there any left for sale?”

  My mind told me to say no. He had all the makings of a hero, including an accent I could not place. But I needed the money. Being immortal doesn’t guarantee unlimited riches. My statues sell best during tourist season and the last warmth of summer had faded away weeks ago, taking the tourists, and my income, with it.

  I crossed the room to the mantle and put on my mirrored sunglasses. The reflective lenses wouldn’t help much; it was me looking into other people’s eyes, not other people looking into mine that caused all the trouble. But if I were very careful, we wouldn’t make eye contact. The man would buy a statue, I’d have some money to pay Jenny to pick up my groceries, and I could go back to drifting through my memories.

  “Come in.”

  The snakes hung quietly at my shoulders, brown, not green as the myths would have you believe. With a bit of concentration, I can influence the observer to see them as beaded braids against my tanned skin. I am not beautiful like my far-sisters, the Sirens, who pose for those tasteful pornography magazines. When I put my mind to it, I can be passably exotic.

  “Welcome to my home,” I said over my shoulder, “Mr. . . ?”

  “Jason’s fine.”

  I smiled. It was always comforting to hear old names.

  “Jason,” I turned and stared at his forehead, “what kind of statues are you looking for?”

  “I’m not sure, really. These are beautiful.” He wandered across the room, hands clasped behind his back as if he were in an art gallery. His hair was longer than I thought, drawn together in a band at the nape of his neck. Silk through my fingers, if I dared touch him.

  Colorful stone birds clung to the ceiling, butterflies and dragonflies decorated the walls like polished pebbles. Two bear cubs held a sheet of glass between their shoulders and in the

  corner, a fawn stood, its sweet face wide-eyed with fright.

  “These are my earlier works.”

  “You have more?” His voice warmed the room and I had the sudden urge to i
nvite him to stay. It had been a long time since I had spoken with anyone, except Jenny, about anything. Immortality isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

  “There are a few statues in the back yard,” I said, moving past him. Warm fingers brushed my shoulder and I glanced back.

  He was standing too close, hand slightly raised. He smiled and I wondered what his eyes would show me.

  “Thank you for opening your door to a stranger, Ms. . . ?”

  “Gorgriou.” And to fill the silence, “Are you a friend of Jenny’s?”

  “No, not really. I helped her load one of your bigger pieces into her truck a few weeks ago. I’ve seen animal statues before,” he paused, his mouth pulling down into a slight frown again, “but none so . . . tactile. Since then I’ve watched Jenny come and go, bringing your groceries.” He shrugged. “I guess I became curious and wanted to see more.”

  “Come this way,” I said, leading him down the hallway to the backdoor. He followed so closely I could feel the heat radiating through his cotton shirt. He should not be here. I should tell him to leave. Ah, Perseus, why did you break my heart? The snakes stirred, an odd scraping of scales that could pass for beads against beads. I whispered a calming prayer in a very old language and opened the back door.

  Sunlight broke through the clouds, illuminating the yard like a gathering place of spirits.

  Timing is everything.

  I smiled, happy for the light that warmed the cool autumn day. The wind rose, bringing with it damp smells of earth and sweet pine needles. I thought of an island far away and breathed deeply of my memories.

 
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