- 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]
You couldn’t tell that there’d been a party here yesterday. Doris had given the last of the chocolate cake with the pink candy roses to her guests as they’d left her apartment, and Martha, her best friend, had taken the flowers as well, promising to drop them off in the sun room down the hall for everyone to enjoy. Even the crumbs were gone, scoured up by the ‘bot while her grandson, Peter, had put away the dishes. Yes, it was all neat as a pin again, just the way it should be for the next tenant.
Doris smiled and shook her head. What was it about growing old that made her think and talk in long-outdated clichés? She glanced at the vidscreen by the door while she fixed her hat, checking the time and weather while she waited for Peter to arrive. Another hot day, a high of 29°C. Or at least what used to pass for hot in April here in Rochester, before the climate had shifted.
The call light in the display flashed, then the impersonal voice of the security system announced, “Peter Vindaloo has arrived.”
“Thank you, I’ll be right down,” Doris replied, ignoring the silly feeling she still got when she spoke to inanimate objects. She gave her hat a last pat, checked her reflection in the mirror, then swept through the door and walked briskly down the hall of the assisted living home.
“Hey, Gram,” Peter greeted her in the lobby with a kiss on the cheek, then stepped back and looked her over, breaking into a big smile. “You look great.”
“Such a flirt,” Doris replied, smiling back at him. “Save it for the pretty young things on the Net.”
He chuckled and took her hand, placing it on his arm. So tall, Doris thought, and so very handsome. So much like his grandfather, god rest his soul. Together, they let the new slidewalk move them through the double doors and down to the curb where the car was parked just past the bus stop. Peter opened the door for her and helped her into the passenger seat, and Doris couldn’t help but feel a little thrill of excitement. She hadn’t ridden in a car in eleven years, not since ’23 when the roads were privatized and the price climbed out of reach for most folks. But today was her seventy-fifth birthday, and she had decided months ago that the splurge would be worth it.
“I hope I can drive this thing,” Peter said as he got in. “I haven’t had much practice.” He booted up the controls, checked the program to be sure it was set for their destination, then acknowledged the start prompt. The engine kicked in, the electric motor humming faintly as they pulled away. A couple of turns and they were on Lake Avenue, headed for Charlotte. Doris stared out of the window, watching the bright flags and banners marking the city’s two hundredth anniversary wave in the breeze as they rolled by. The banners stopped as they reached Driving Park, the neighborhood shifting from the shiny new apartment buildings to the old slums.
Some things never change, Doris thought as they passed a handful of boarded up buildings bordered by a cracked sidewalk strewn with trash. A woman sat on a porch rocking her baby while a second child sat on a lower step, listlessly swinging a doll back and forth.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” Peter asked as they drove by.
“Yes,” Doris said firmly, then added when he frowned, “No arguments, not today. It’s my birthday, after all.”
Peter took a breath, unwilling to give in, but as he started to speak, the chime on the dash sounded, calling his attention back to the road. Peter slowed the car slightly and steered it around the broad pothole that had triggered the obstacle alarm, then punched the reset button. Apparently, the company that owned this stretch of road didn’t believe in maintenance.
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