011. Animal Crackers. Howie Good

Situational awareness is just so important. Even a momentary lapse can result in a 9-year-old in a black-and-white striped Halloween costume being mistaken for an actual skunk and shot. Now crime scene technicians in full-body coveralls are photographing the bloodstains on the front walk, dusting for prints, scooping shell casings into evidence bags. As the shooter gets dragged off in handcuffs, his wife collapses on the ground, convulsed by sobs. What is inside is going to come out despite the efforts of a nice neighbor to calm her. And the moon? It looks exactly like the blade of a scythe. 

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The old woman who told fortunes in a booth on the boardwalk turned the last card over. King of spades. She frowned at the card. Then she predicted I would die screaming, but screaming in the voice of the opera star she called Placebo Domingo. Nowadays the more that is reported, the less everyone actually knows. Ninety-nine percent of humans have been inducted into the bedlam of complex systems. When machines operators are overcome by fatigue and confusion, the machines are capable of operating themselves. Anyone can get a gun. It takes a white whale with a grudge to use it.

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Mother died in the “nuthouse,” as people called it then. I might be better known today if I didn’t have such difficulty talking about it in something other than code. All these years later, searchlights are still probing the sky, supposedly for a ghost squadron of kamikaze pilots, but who really knows what’s going on? It could be the government is afraid every airplane flying overhead will crash. I lost my faith in portable electronic devices when missionaries went looking for souls to convert among horses and dogs. I imagine it was a strange time, too, to be a poodle.

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