- Foreword: Writing Rochester's Futures
- "Interesting Times"
- "Culinary Capital, 2034"
- "Night Bells"
- "Hollow Lives"
- "The Naked Girl"
- "Time Enough for Love"
- "Day of the Bicentennial"
- "One City at a Time"
- "Want Not"
- "The Costs of Survival"
- "Getting Wet"
- "Top 10 Headlines, Rochester, NY, 2034"
- "North Star Pipeline"
- "The 2034 Lilac Festival"
- "Scotch and Sizzlenuts on the Resolute Bay"
- "Fads (or Why Jerry Loathes the Aliens)" [FULL TEXT, AVAILABLE ONLINE ONLY]
I’m mad. Boiling mad. So mad I challenged everyone involved in the accusations to meet me in the Editoreal Room at The North Star.
Frederick Douglass might pirouette in his grave if he knew how his newspaper’s name has been resurrected. Then again, he might applaud the editor and small staff who’ve kept this independent rag a champion of free press and rigorous reporting. Not a single parroted press release. No political or national bias. Just the facts and the truth. The real truth.
Even with the air conditioning, I’m sweating under my collar. I’m not used to wearing this wool suit or to the doubting eyes that follow me as I walk into the Editoreal Room. I wipe my moist palms on my pants. My lawyer steers me toward an empty seat in the front row with her hand at my elbow.
The room is smaller than I thought it would be. Almost intimate, with a half dozen rows of wood-framed seats, blue carpeted floors, and a high ceiling. Up front, seven padded efemri chairs are arranged in a semi-circle in front of the editor’s desk. The room’s closet smell of footwear and musty coats affirms the lack of windows.
The editor’s desk is unlike anything I ever imagined—graceful, swooshing, bleached-maple curves ending in abstract flying birds made from cherry wood. The pieces fit together like a puzzle. I pause and gawk and wonder who designed it.
“What’s wrong, Tom?” my lawyer asks, nudging me forward.
“The desk is hand carved. It’s stunning.”
“No one carved it. It’s picoated, just like your building.”
My jaw starts to drop. I shut it just in time.
My lawyer smirks. I know she’s thinking what I’m thinking. Except as a substitute for art canvas or paper, picoat isn’t approved for inside use. Not yet. How did the editor get hold of enough to make a desk?
“The desk is new,” my lawyer says. “The editor designed it based on her doodles during one of these Editoreal sessions. The one with Zerak’s CEO two years ago.”
I remember the newspaper accounts vividly. What a fiasco! How did the CEO ever think he could get away with lying in this room? Not with the efemri chairs. Not with an editor who likes to let people hang themselves.
My bowels shift, and I wish my lawyer hadn’t reminded me of what could go wrong in this place. She glowers, and by the set of her jaw, I know she issued me a not-so-subtle warning.
“Keep walking,” she says quietly. “Everyone’s watching.”
I nod and step forward, scanning the crowd, looking for Rose.
And despite what she’s done, I want her back desperately. But there’s not a single redhead among the blondes, brunettes, and black-haired women in the audience.
The wooden seats are full, and I recognize many people: my boss and childhood friend, the mayor of Rochester; former coworkers from City Hall; my ex-roommate and several professors from RIT; others from business and prestigious positions in the community; the tall, slightly frail, sharp-eyed former mayor, who often chaired my committees; and Chi Feng, owner of the Mercury Building that was my downfall. Literally.
Once, these men and women were my champions. Now every single one returns my gaze with a stony stare.
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