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Getting the Slip

"Where would you like to begin?"

"I was on a date, like a blind date. Jill set it up. She's also the one who gave me your number."

"Yes, I know Ms. Sinclair. Lovely girl, plays tennis with my daughter."

"Right. So I was on this date with a guy-I think his name was Paul. I'm pretty sure it was Paul. You'd think I'd remember that, right? Anyway, we were on this date. He took me to see that movie starring that guy George Whathisname? From the hospital show? You know the movie, probably, the one where he gets his slip and you spend the whole movie wondering what it says and he hides it even from his wife. He goes through all of these revelations about life and purpose, really heavy-handed crap. Finally, he goes missing because he is on this Native American vision quest thing and his ditzy wife goes into his drawers and all through his stuff. It's seriously like a half hour of her sorting through his boxers and business paper looking for the slip intercut with him sitting on a rock looking all Zen. And it turns out that he is fated to die because of her. It's her name on the slip and he's spent this whole time being around her anyway. I guess it was supposed to be uplifting or something. Like a slip would have a person's name on it. Basic research fail, if you ask me."

He cleared his throat. "We don't use the word 'fated' here."

"What?"

"'Fated.' It is not a term we choose to use. It implies a destiny and some divine credence to the predictions," the doctor replied. "How the machine works has nothing to do with-"

"I know, okay? The machine is infallible. I get it."

"We also don't-"

Karen sighed. "I know, I was making a joke."

"Ah, I see. Would you care to go on?"

She sat for a moment in silence, weighing the question. "No, but my insurance will be charged the hour anyway, so I will. So we left this movie, Paul and me. Was it Paul? Maybe his name was Pete. I think it was some 'P' name. Anyway, there was one of the machines in the lobby, some kind of tie-in with the movie. Pretty morbid. Pete asks what my slip said, just to make conversation. I think he knew the date wasn't going well and wanted to keep me talking. I was evasive, so he told me that he was fated to..." She heard the doctor inhaling sharply. "I mean going to die in an avalanche. I asked him how that made him feel. I used to be a psych major, before my prediction-" She hesitated when she heard the intake of breath "-diagnosis, I mean, so I asked questions like that a lot. He said he didn't mind, that he wouldn't stop extreme snowboarding just because some paper said it was going to kill him. I think he just said that to impress me, like I would care that he snowboarded. And what the hell is 'extreme' snowboarding? It probably wasn't even his prediction. It's not like people keep their slips on them. Maybe he was really supposed to die in his mom's basement. So he asked what my slip said again and I admitted I didn't have one."

"It is unusual not to have one, don't you think?"

She sneered. "No, I absolutely don't think that. I wish I didn't have one. I think it's sick that people are having their babies done, supposedly for crib death but would you really want to know that about the kid you just popped out?"

Read the rest in Find What You Love and Let It Kill You


Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings.


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