Theft and magic in the early 20th century.
If jobs as we’ve known them for a century are going away, what will replace them?
A pizza deliverer/calculus whiz becomes involved in the lives of two unstable college students.
"I licked my thumb, outside, by the car, and ran it over the suction cups, before I slapped the marquee to the top of my cobalt blue Toyota. The pizzas were already sitting in the passenger seat, cardboard mouths smiling. I was conscious, despite Walter’s assertion, that I was operating under the tick of a clock, an invisible, indefinite deadline. Really, we all are. But no one realizes how soon it’s coming."
An Iraq War veteran, now a paramedic, runs into trouble.
"I rewarded the man with another hit of naloxone, which made him even more alive, even less happy. Karen was busy with the gear, and I thought for sure that the coast was clear. It wasn’t. As soon as I put the note in my pocket, I saw the boy. He stood in the doorway, watching me with a basically impassive expression. He chewed his gum. He blew a splendid bubble."
A woman in an unhappy marriage stumbles toward change.
"Without turning the radio on, Hannah drove back into town and into the driveway of her house. She sat there in the car for a long while and ran through the drive with Tex over and over. She wanted to go back and stop herself from touching his leg. She wanted to go back and stop herself from driving there in the first place. She wanted to go back and stop the day from ever starting."
A strange correspondence between two men--hopes, fears, work, and garbage.
"Momentous. I received my permit. Now I am equipped, attached to my own industrial serial number, and there you have it. 90023-457-89-2. I’m not fooling around when I tell you this is big business dear Fred. I could convey any thing—spoiled fruit pulp, rusted play ground equipment, big hazardous syringes, worn out shoe horns, threadbare ear muffs, passé slot machines, unwound baseballs, and emptied paint cans. Pots and pans and kettles are no big deal what so ever. In dreams begin responsibilities Fred and what’s terrific is it’s not a dream any more. I am a licensed carrier on the make."
Scenes from an anger management facility.
"Mike began to curse his hands. Champion told him to calm down, that his hands were gentle, and that he was as likely brainwashed by this place as cured, something he would never admit sober. Champion suggested they try to escape; he was drunk enough, he thought, to just walk away."
Horrifyingly astute reflections on a series of murders.
"The bank clerk gave John a pinched look as he pulled out his calculator, checking if she’d paid him the correct interest when cashing out Mother’s savings bonds. (She had, to the penny.) He sensed her subtle gloat. John didn’t care. He’d ended two people’s pain that day, single-handedly. Was SHE ever that kind?"
A woman's life is complicated by a sick lover and a job playing Bigfoot.
"I wait for the woman to relax, watching for the instant when she begins to think: maybe there won’t be a monster after all. I can always tell when this thought arrives. First their posture goes soft. Then their expression changes from confused to relieved to disappointed. More than anything, the ambush is about waiting the customer out. I struggle to stay in character during these quiet moments; it’s tempting to consider my own life and worries, but when the time comes to attack, it will only be believable if I’ve been living with Bigfoot’s loneliness and desires for at least an hour."
A fragmented story of a mysterious online networker of "workers" and "clients."
"Worse than the ones who smelt of wool and mould were girls who buffed their skins to marble, reeking of fruit liniments, tripping on tiny stilts, giggling like passive ewe, pretending to be air."
An interactive fiction: a son and the illusion of his dead father; the intersection of technology and real life.
"Once I created his page I tried to return to my life. I was twenty-six years old, a man of inconsistent employment. During the winter I shoveled snow for the elderly. They paid me in germs and butterscotch candy. My landlord, an independently wealthy sexagenarian, accepted the candy as payment. She also insisted I tidy the complex. I changed light bulbs. I dusted the parking lot. I swept cigarette butts into the street. I clubbed the occasional beehive. My life was guarded and lonely, and susceptible, I soon discovered, to the distraction my father provided."
A woman takes a very odd job as a human pipe defroster.
"And none of the customers are what she had expected. They don’t stare, googley-eyed, while she slips out of her coat. They don’t try to touch her or make jokes. If they stick around at all, it’s to chat about thermodynamics and temperature gradients and conduction and convection and spray foam insulation and all the boring things Sheila has never been interested in herself. She nods politely and pretends to understand it all, waiting for them to leave her alone with the pipe."