Chapter 5

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Back in chapter 4, I mentioned that there were other reasons to go to Minneapolis, apart from the wonderful Wild Rumpus. Well, of course there are. Minneapolis is a hotbed of dangerously awesome science fictional activity: birthpplace of the Scribblies, a group of writer that includes Emma Bull and Will Shetterley and Steve Brust; home to Bruce Schneier, security expert and explainer par excellence, and, of course, the home of Dreamhaven Books. Dreamhaven is a fantastic sf/f/h store with a prodigous comics section, a huge collection of great memoribilia (my favorite zombie mask comes from there) (yes, I have a favorite zombie mask. Also a second-favorite zombie mask, but that's another story). They're also a publisher of brilliant, odd and beautiful sf/f/h books, including a very nice line of Neil Gaiman limited editions.

Dreamhaven Books: 2301 East 38th Street, Minneapolis MN 55406, +1 612 823 6161

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We hardly spoke on the long drive home. Our ride, Lemmy -- a guy in his forties who had been coming to Burning Man for twenty years -- told us that Exodus was usually like a party, with people getting out of their vehicles between pulses and hanging out, dancing, chatting. But after the night's explosion and injuries, no one wanted to party down. The hourly pulse of cars released onto the winding road to Reno was like a funeral procession, and it was no better once we got to the little Indian reservation towns on the way to Reno and stopped for gas.

That matched my mood perfectly, to tell the truth. I was all beat up, and the painkillers made me groggy, while the jerking and jouncing of the car on the roads kept me from sleeping. Ange took over the driving in Reno, and I finally found my way into sleep, waking up briefly when we gassed up again in Sacramento, and then the next thing I knew, I was back home on Potrero Hill, at my parents' front door.

I kissed Ange good-bye and dragged my knapsack and duffelbag to the front door, fumbling my key into the lock. I had planned on calling my parents from Reno to let them know I was on the way, but sleep had taken precedence, and now I was heading home with a face that looked like it had been through a meat grinder and a pocket full of government secrets that were being hunted by a ruthless torturer. Hey Mom, hey Dad! Funny thing, you'll never guess what happened to me while I was out in the middle of the desert. Yay, this was going to be f-u-n.

The house was a mess. That was the new normal. It started when Dad lost his job and started spending a lot of time at home. Who knew he was such a slob? Mom refused to pick up after him (yay, Mom!), but she also turned out to have a high grodiness tolerance. By the time she lost her job, well, the place was already a pit. And it didn't get better after that.

I stepped over the scatter of shoes by the front door and dragged my junk through a pile of old newspapers, knocking them over and sending them slithering to the floor. "Hi, guys," I said. I wished that I'd be able to get my butt upstairs and into bed before I had to hold down a conversation, but I knew it wasn't very likely.

"Marcus!" Mom called from the living room. "We were so worried!" And one second later, there she was in the hallway, and gasping at my face. "Oh my word," she said, her British accent and funny little Britishisms ramping up the way they did when she was stressing.

"It's okay, Mom," I said. "There was an accident at Burning Man and --"

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