"So, you gonna go shopping tomorrow?" Tova had asked Sam as they sat down to dinner at the diner near his apartment that January night.
"Well, I guess I do need some groceries."
"No, I meant for a smart phone. I thought Monty wants you to be more connected."
Sam had shuddered. "You know how I hate all those appliances. I think I'd rather send smoke signals than text messages."
"Luddite," she'd chided affectionately. "But I don't think smoke signals would work in Toronto – too many high buildings."
"And too many other sources of smoke," Sam agreed. "Ah, me, you know what they say – if you can't beat 'em, you got to bite the bullet. Maybe I better go shoppin' tonight – the stores are open late. Unless you want to change your mind about comin' back home with me?" he'd asked hopefully.
Tova had scrunched her eyes closed. "Oh, Sam, don't – I have to be at work at six a.m. tomorrow, and you know I'd never get enough sleep if I -"
"Sorry, sweetheart; I shouldn't wheedle like that and put you on the spot. Can I call you after the awful meeting tomorrow?"
"Sure. You can even call me at work. And it might not be so awful."
And it hadn't been too awful. Sam had stood firm about the girlfriend thing, but had agreed to a cross-country book-signing tour, which would be its own kind of torture. And he had even let Dickson program his new device for him.
"He made me promise I'd stop calling it an appliance," Sam had told Tova on the phone that afternoon.
"How did he react to the girlfight thing?"
"Well, now, to be honest, I didn't exactly tell him all the details. You think I'm a coward?"
"You? Sammy, I have some idea of how shy you really are, so I also know how brave you are, every day."
"My kindred spirit. You want to meet for dinner again tonight? Or maybe you need a night off."
"Actually," Tova had said, "I thought I'd invite you over here for a home-cooked meal. I don't have to go in so early tomorrow. And I can even cook meat for you, if you want."
"Now darlin', that is wonderful kind of you to offer. But I'm sure I'll be delighted with whatever delicious vegetarian delicacy y'all cooks up for me."
Sam had been buoyed by his newfound abilities to deal with his new agent, and optimistic that their relationship might, after all, be a productive one.
Later he would call himself naïve.
That night, in the tent they had pitched in the foothills of the western mountains, as he lay sleeping next to the three women he now called comrades, Crane had an awful dream.
YOU ARE READING
Once upon a time there was a warrior queen who loved peace ... Mild-mannered writer Samuel J. Burnside is working on his latest adventure story, set in ancient Susa, where Queen Esther is teaching former harem slaves how to fight! But can Sam's new...