Dancing in the Baron's Shadow CoverHe adjusted his visor and gazed at the photo tucked into the flap: a small boy with a melon-shaped head Raymond lovingly stroked and a little girl with red ribbons in every tiny braid. Both were flashing giant smiles. Enos was the spitting image of his father, his skin always glistening in the blaze of summer. Adeline favored her mother, with brown, bony cheekbones and a spear for a tongue. Raymond smiled. Just this morning, as he dropped them at school, she’d tried again to convince him he didn’t need to take the time off work to pick them up. “We can walk home,” she assured him, squeezing her little brother’s hand.

They could. He knew that. But he wanted to give this to his children: the gift of transportation, something he’d never had himself. Raymond had walked several miles to school in bad shoes, on harsh country roads of gravel and stone. Whenever he reminisced about his country days, his wife Yvonne would smile at the children. “See how much your father does for you?” But it was true. Now that he had a life and a family in the city, he wanted to afford his offspring the luxury of a car. Even if “luxury” was this old beat-up Datsun taxi, a red ribbon tied to the rearview mirror to signal that he was still on duty.

woo - love love - book jacketThe best part about being a temp was what Judy Lee had decided to do an hour ago: leave for lunch and never come back. She counted the number of the daily Far Side calendar sheets pinned on the gray wall of her cubicle, twenty-five in all. She rose from her chair and plucked away her favorite, the one where the fat boy with glasses was pushing with all his might to open the door. The joke was that the kid trying to enter the building, Midvale School for the Gifted, wasn’t smart enough to follow the sign on the door that read pull. At some point in her life, she’d owned a shirt with the same cartoon, the silk screen in full color unlike this grayscale image. She’d bought it because she felt sorry for him. She’d done stupid things like that all her life, and she wasn’t even a genius, not even close.

Paper Man cover finalThe other pedestrians had been prepared. They popped open their parasols, which had been conveniently stowed inside their bags, strapped to their belt buckles, or in their hands. Strangely, everyone had the same style: a short, wooden handle with black fabric for the canopy. A few men loosely tented newspapers over their heads and dashed for cover. A stocky woman lowered the hood of her stroller and tightened the blankets around a baby. The only parts of the baby that could be seen were its hands, in motion like little pincers. Small nomadic groups of hooded people were headed in all directions—he had no sense which way led to the best place for shelter. Some hid indoors; some huddled beside a bus stop with a small overhang only large enough to cover a bench that could seat three. He stepped into the crosswalk and tried to duck under other people’s umbrellas. Underneath them, the stiff faces of the owners glared at him, recoiled, and hurried on.

16073090A man tipped back his head and thrust a flaming stick into his open mouth. A blind charmer blew into his flute, and snakes stood upright like question marks. A giant swallowed a bucket of nails until his belly sagged under the groaning weight. Thick men clad in bright loincloths and boots circled, charged, and gripped oiled biceps, struggling to fell one another like massive, entwined oaks. Other sportsmen appeared to be flicking some sort of animal bone at a target with the goal of trying to knock yet more animal bones away while nearby an archery contest looked ready to commence. It all appeared good fun, this field day on the edge of a cliff. The Reverend felt he just might like to join in. But as he strode forward, the crowd parted and shuffled anxiously to keep out of his way.