Mr. Hirsh’s Greatest Achievement
Mr. Hirsh smiled as the tiny pulse of light touched his forehead and a wall of computers blinked on. They said it couldn’t be done. His concept was so simple: everyone had a unique brain. That made his brain scan device impossible to fool. Now, every door, safe, computer, vault, airplane, car, weapon, everything was secured by his device. All it took was a simple registration.
The world was safe again because of him.
Mr. Hirsh smiled at the baby the nurse was holding. The doctor had done a good job with his sperm and some biomedical engineering. They said it couldn’t be done. Now, with the birth of his son, his legacy would continue and the world would reap the benefits of another genius.
“It’s time,” he said.
The nurse handed him the baby, then left.
The baby giggled as Mr. Hirsh strode to his desk. He touched a glossy device the size of a thumbnail to the baby’s forehead. The little hands reached up as light flashed in an almost imperceptible ray of blue. The baby cooed. Mr. Hirsh smiled.
Then all the computers sounded the raucous alarm at the same time. A display flashed across the screens: Duplicate brain signature.
This was impossible. His brain scans were infallible because every brain was different. He glanced at his son, the culmination of his stupendous life. In an instant, Mr. Hirsh’s future faded into the possibility of shame and derision. If anyone found out, he’d be ruined. He’d be laughed at. He looked around the luxurious room, and then down at the baby.
(Reprinted from The Storyside)
By Ursula Wong
“Velume,” murmured Andre. “How can I live without you?” Even from the shadows where he lurked at the back of the room, Velume’s face glowed with an unworldly beauty. Lying in the coffin, her expression was sublime, as if she had learned a great truth by dying.
Figures dressed in black entered, stayed for a time, then left, their eyes piercing the dimness where Andre stood. Velume’s husband, that dog, slid to the floor near the coffin, melting into a pool of tears. Hands lifted him, carrying him past Andre toward the door.
“Why are you here?” asked a voice, its bearer disappearing before Andre could answer.
He was there because he heard her laugh in the rustle of the leaves. He was there because his heart paused each time she looked at him. He was there because he couldn’t be anywhere else.
He remembered waiting beside the giant shrub in front of Velume’s house, longing for a glimpse of her. She’d finally appeared. She’d gasped when he’d joined her. As they’d walked, Velume kept looking back. “I love you,” he’d said. She’d looked at him fearfully before turning abruptly into the street. Tires had squealed. Her body had made a dull thud as it collided with red metal.
Soon, she would be in the earth, separated from him once again, in a place where he couldn’t see her, couldn’t talk with her, and couldn’t tell her how sorry he was that he had caused her to step in front of that car.
As the last mourner left, Andre moved to the coffin. He pulled scissors from his pocket and clipped an inch of her hair.
Even Velume’s hands, folded neatly on her chest, were white like marble, perfect in death. Andre reached into his pocket for another tool and clipped again. He adjusted the lace of Velume’s sleeve. As he quickly walked through the doorway and into the street, he caressed the skin of Velume’s finger that would be with him forever; forever together.
By Ursula Wong
Teresa sat on the dock, stretching her toes into the water, trying to imagine herself as a teacher, a politician, a wife, a businesswoman, a . She had just graduated college, and the indecision of what to do next felt like a curse. She hadn’t been happy in weeks.
Gulls flew up singing their cul-cul-cul song as a woman came down the dock, looking scruffy in old sneakers, jeans, and a faded denim shirt. Her gray hair was loosely piled on top of her head. “Hello,” she said.
Teresa smiled and nodded, hoping the woman would keep on walking and let her get back to worrying about the rest of her life.
“I’ve lived in Gloucester for a long time,” said the woman.
Teresa suppressed a moan. This is going to take forever.
“My husband died a few months ago.” The woman brushed away a tear.
Teresa shifted uncomfortably, but motioned the woman to sit down.
She said her name was Mary, and she talked about running barefoot through the village in Sicily where she was born, taking the first steps of love with a man who would become her companion for the next 60 years, and then settling in Gloucester, where her husband had relatives. She spoke of the little darlings who were her children, for she had been a teacher.
“You knew you wanted to be all those things?”
“It was an arranged marriage. I didn’t have a say. As for teaching, it was the only job I could get up here at the time.” Mary looked out over the sea. “I had to learn to love many things in my life. You’re lucky to have choices. I always wanted to be an artist, but never had the chance.”
Teresa smiled. Maybe she was lucky.
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By Ursula Wong
Betty opened the door. “Get out of here!”
As soon as Stanley stepped over the threshold and onto the front porch, she slammed the door shut. She waited, counting the seconds. “Twenty-one, twenty-two.” It was a rough neighborhood and he wasn’t supposed to wait this long. Perhaps he was planning something more than their usual make-up-sex. She felt a tingle run up her spine. Oh how she loved that man. She opened the door and peeked out.
No one was there. Leaving the door ajar, she walked down the steps, half-expecting him to jump out from behind the bushes. What was he planning?
“Stanley, are you there?” She curled her toes. This is going to be good.
The wind stirred the leaves, but Stanley didn’t answer.
She went around the side of the house and even looked in the backyard. Her elusive lover had vanished. Had he run out for some whipped cream?
Annoyed, Betty stomped back inside. Two can play this game. Who does he think he is making me wait? As she walked down the hallway, an arm grabbed her around the waist.
This is it! Sex with a burglar. “Oh Stanley,” she cooed.
A gloved hand covered her mouth. Her eyes filled with the look of terror. This isn’t Stanley.