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Maureen McHugh’s first novel, China Mountain Zhang, was a Tiptree winner and a Hugo and Nebula finalist. Maureen has won the Hugo for her story “The Lincoln Train.” She is the author of four novels, a number of stories, and a collection, and is spending considerable time these days working for Hollywood.

 HONEYMOON
by
Maureen McHugh

I was an aggravated bride. It was a little after one in the morning, I guess. We were supposed to be on our way to the Hampton Inn in Columbus for our wedding night. I was aggravated a lot with Chris, but never this aggravated before. I was walking back toward Lancaster on Rt. 33, glad that for the reception I had changed into a pair of white canvas sneakers with sequins that my cousin Linda had decorated for the wedding. I knew that I wouldn’t want to wear heels all night. I’m a big girl and I wasn’t going to miss dancing at my own reception because my feet hurt too bad. But I was still wearing my wedding dress and my veil.

Chris was in his F-150 pick-up, driving slow so he could keep asking me to get in the truck. You wouldn’t think there were that many cars on Rt. 33 at that time of the morning, but there were, and they kept slowing down and carefully passing. Some guy called out the window, “I’ll give you a ride, honey!”

I gave him the finger.

“Please, please get in the truck, Kayla,” Chris said.

I wasn’t talking to him. Usually when I got angry, I started crying, which always loses you any sort of chance you have of making a point. But I was so mad that night, I never even shed a tear.

“I’m sorry. Baby, I’m sorry, I’ll make it up to you,” Chris said.

I couldn’t stand that. “Just how are you going to make it up to me?” I said. “How are you going to give me back my wedding night?”

He looked at me with big puppy eyes and said, “Don’t be like that, Kayla.”

It had been a really nice wedding. I saved the money. My dad’s on disability so I wasn’t going to ask him for it. I’m an assistant manager at McDonalds, and I’d taken a second job working for Allwood Florists. All last fall I had made Christmas ornaments—wooden soldiers and Santas and reindeer. I sold them at craft shows. The biggest sellers were dog bone ornaments that I would personalize with the dog’s name. I worked my butt off. Marty at Allwood gave me an employee rate for my wedding flowers; red roses and lilies. I got my dress in Pennsylvania because if you’re from out of state you don’t have to pay sales tax. I spent a hundred forty dollars on my hair, having it highlighted. I went to the tanning salon—my dress showed off my shoulders which are one of my best features. I really did look the best I have ever looked. And the reception went pretty good. A lot of people didn’t stay, but a few people stayed until midnight.

I was really proud of the job I did. Chris had gotten a roofing job for his neighbor in June and said he would put the seven hundred dollars he earned toward our honeymoon. He wanted to take care of it. I gave him the money I had and he said it was all set. We were going to Cancun even though everyone said it was too hot in August. But I’d never been to another country. So we were supposed to go to Columbus, spend the night and then catch our flight in the morning.

Except that while we were on our way to Columbus, Chris told me that he hadn’t actually taken care of it.

“Don’t be mad, Kayla,” he said. “Listen to me first.”

He and Felter and Carnegie had gone up to Windsor in June, right after the roofing job. I knew that. I figured that after we got married he wouldn’t be able to hang out with his friends as much and besides, I was working all the time anyway, paying for the wedding. They were playing blackjack and he won a bunch a money. “Almost six hundred dollars!” he said. “I was gonna use it on our honeymoon. I thought I was on a roll, you know?”

Chris was looking at me. He has really cute blue eyes. Usually I can’t believe that a heavy girl like me got someone like Chris.

“So what happened?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I mean, I know, but you know, I can’t explain it. I wanted to win big. I wanted to get the honeymoon suite, you know? You worked so hard—”

“What happened?” I said.

“I lost the money,” he said. “I’m sorry.”

No honeymoon. He was hoping to put the Hampton Inn on his credit card, but he didn’t know if he’d be able to because it was kind of close to maxed out. He’d meant to get it paid down, maybe put the whole honeymoon on it, but the alternator went on the truck and he needed it to get to work.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” I said. I didn’t know what else to say. I didn’t really believe him. I just couldn’t think about it. It kept squirming around in my head like I understood it but I didn’t at the same time.

“I didn’t want to ruin the wedding,” he said.

I had worked really hard on the wedding but I guess I hadn’t thought a whole lot about Chris. I was looking at him and it occurred to me that the reason Chris was with a girl like me was because he was a fuck up. I just never admitted it to myself.

“Stop the truck,” I said.

I knew I couldn’t walk all the way back to Lancaster, so I finally called Sarah, my best friend and my maid of honor. Then I sat down on the berm and waited. Chris pulled the truck off the road and stood, looking awkward. He started to sit down next to me but I said, “Don’t sit down. That tux is rented and I’m not paying extra if you get it dirty.”

While I was waiting for her, I told Chris I was going to get the marriage annulled.

“What does that mean?” he asked.

“It’s like a divorce, only it’s like the wedding never happened,” I said.

“But it did happen,” he said.

“It was never consummated,” I said. I don’t even know where I had heard about that.

He didn’t understand what I meant by that, either.

“We didn’t have sex on our wedding night,” I said.

“We’ve been having sex for two years,” he said.

We had, ever since I was seventeen and in my junior year at high school and he was thinking he would go into the army when he graduated. I figured if I had sex with him, he’d stay. “But we didn’t do it tonight,” I said. “So it doesn’t count.”

***

I moved to Cleveland because my cousin Donna lives there. Donna is the opposite of me, physically. She’s short and skinny and has dark brown hair. She has the family boobs though. She weighs one hundred five pounds and the joke is that fifty pounds of it is in her chest. She’s in nursing school and she said I could get a job at the hospital. I never wanted to be a nurse but she said there were lots of jobs in a hospital and I could stay with her. I got a job in the kitchen which was fine. The hospital is the Cleveland Clinic which is probably the world’s biggest hospital. It’s a lot bigger than Lancaster. Not in square miles, but I’d bet more people work at Cleveland Clinic than live in Lancaster, Ohio. It’s really modern. Lots of buildings with green glass. Rich foreigners like sheiks come there when they’re sick. The kitchens have to make all sorts of food. Diabetic food, low-protein food, low-fat food, Muslim food, Jewish food. It was a lot more interesting than McDonalds.

I’d never worked with so many black people before. There are black people in Lancaster, but not so many of them. The black people at the Cleveland Clinic, a lot of them were real ghetto. Sometimes if they were talking to each other I couldn’t understand what they were saying. I’d always liked country, for one thing. I didn’t like hip-hop.

Donna was great about me living there, but it was a pain. I thought about going back to Lancaster. In a lot of ways, living in Cleveland wasn’t a whole lot different than living in Lancaster, except it took a lot longer to get to work. My marriage had been annulled. It turned out sex didn’t have anything to do with it.

Chris kept calling me and asking me to come home. I asked if he could take me out on a date. He showed up at Donna’s with a dozen roses and got down on one knee. Then he called collect when he was drunk and cried.

I was talking to my dad one night—I called him every Tuesday—and complaining about Chris and my dad said, “Well, Kayla, what did you expect?”

“I expect him to act like a man,” I said.

My dad chuckled and I knew he was thinking that was too much to expect of Chris. It occurred to me that maybe my dad had figured out what Chris was like a long time ago. “Do you like Chris?” I asked.

“It doesn’t matter now, does it?” my dad said. I could just picture him, sitting in the recliner. My dad lives in Chauncy. He used to work for Diamond, before they closed the mill, then he worked at Lancaster Correctional. So I grew up in Lancaster. But when he had to stop working on account of his back, he moved back to Chauncy with my grandmother. Chauncy is about the size of one floor of one building of the Cleveland Clinic. When he said that, I knew he hadn’t ever really thought much of Chris. Although he was always nice enough to him and they joked around.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” I asked.

He sighed. I thought he was going to say that he didn’t want to interfere. “I thought you wanted to wear the pants,” he said.

I’ve always wanted a strong man. Or I thought I did. Maybe I thought a pick-up truck and talking about the army meant Chris was a strong guy. Or maybe my dad was right. Maybe I wanted to wear the pants.

Maybe I hadn’t been really fair to Chris. But when he called, I would say to myself, be fair, Kayla. And the sound of his voice would make this feeling rise up in me, like the feeling of teeth scraping together, or like the weird rubbing noise that my car was making. Kind of a clicking noise. It was kind of hard to hear and so I found myself listening to it and getting more and more tense as I drove to work. That was what talking to Chris was like. I got tenser and tenser while he talked.

My car was sounding like my relationship with Chris, so of course, one day it stopped working altogether. It was the timing belt. It cost me seventy-four dollars to get it towed. Then they told me that it would cost more than six hundred to get it fixed, and that I was lucky I was on Euclid and not the highway because if it had been on the highway it might have thrown a rod and then I might as well just get a new car.

I don’t even know what “throwing a rod” is but I sort of picture pieces of metal flying through the hood or something. The next time Chris called I told him about it and for the first time in a long time he perked up. “Yeah, yeah, you could have been in big trouble.”

“I am in big trouble,” I said. “I’m taking the bus to work. The bus is creepy and it takes forever. It’s going to cost six hundred dollars to get it fixed.” I was trying to save money to get a place of my own and let poor Donna have her apartment back. But I didn’t have six hundred dollars and I was going to have to put it on my credit card. My credit card still had stuff on it from the wedding. Donna was paying for nursing school and only working two days a week at the hospital.

“So are you going to come home?” he asked.

“I’d rather die,” I said.

Donna’s dad, my Uncle Jim, loaned me the money to get my car fixed and I promised to pay him back, a hundred dollars a month.

One of the girls in the kitchen told me about medical studies. How she got paid a hundred dollars to take cough medicine every day for two weeks. She told me where to check out the list of studies and during my dinner break I went about six blocks to the building where she told me. I got lost once—I know how to get to where I park and then to where I work, but the rest of the place is still a maze.

There was a list of stuff, but nothing like the cough medicine study. It was all weird stuff—studies on depression, on taking estrogen. I looked over the whole list and couldn’t find a thing I could qualify for. While I was looking, a guy came up to look, too. He looked healthy. He was a couple of years older than me. Short. Built like he wrestled, if you know what I mean.

He wrote down the info on the psoriasis study.

“What is that?” I asked.

“It’s a skin problem,” he said. “Your skin gets dry and flaky.”

That sounded vaguely possible, although mostly my skin is too oily. “My feet get that way,” I said. “Would that be enough?”

“To be psoriasis?” he said. “Probably not. But you don’t have to have psoriasis to be in the study. They need healthy people for comparison. Tell Lisa you want on the list.”

I did. She asked me about my psoriasis and I told her I didn’t have it. She nodded and put me down. Two weeks later I got called to be in the control group.

And that was my first medical study.

Psoriasis studies are pretty good. I got a hundred fifty dollars to put cream on and be examined once a week for twelve weeks. Fifty dollars a month toward what I owed Uncle Jim helped a lot.

I got a job in a catering hall as a cook and left the Clinic, but I kept doing medical studies. A study on asthma got me enough to cover the deposit on an apartment. Which was good because Donna had met Ted and they were talking marriage and they sure didn’t need me around the apartment. She graduated from nursing school and one November day, as I walked from the parking garage at the Clinic, I realized that I had lived in Cleveland for three years. The wind cut between the buildings the way it always does. The streets were a mess of slush. I was looking for a study so I could save money for a trip to Cancun in February.

The idea for the trip had started in the fall, when I called Sarah, who had been my maid of honor, and she told me Chris was getting married again. I knew I shouldn’t care, but I wasn’t even seeing a guy. Not that I wanted Chris. And I had a great life. Good friends. Four of us were going—two girls I worked with and another friend I had met at Weight Watchers. Weight Watchers hadn’t been much of a success for me or for Melinda, but we started going out to movies and hanging out. We call ourselves the Fat Fab Four. Mel started it and she really is Fab. She wears jeans and skirts and I can remember her taking off like four hundred silver bracelets to get weighed. I love her style. Everybody had heard the story of how I didn’t get to go to Cancun on my honeymoon. Mel had a friend who was a travel agent and she got us a great deal—seven days, all inclusive, for fourteen hundred dollars a piece. So it was the Fat Fab Four Not-A-Honeymoon Vacation.

Lisa was still working the desk. She said, “Hi Kayla, I haven’t seen you for awhile.” I hadn’t done a study for ages. I could still use the money, but I’d been busy with the FF4.

I studied the list, but nothing looked good. Some things I just won’t do. Anything that looks like it will hurt. I did a burn cream study once where they actually gave me a little burn on my butt. Hurt like hell. So now I’m more careful.

I was frowning.

Lisa said, “What about the pulmonary study?”

I shook my head. “I’m going out of town.” The pulmonary study required that I be available for four months. The whole point of doing a study was to help pay for Cancun, not cancel it.

“This just came in,” Lisa said. “Have you ever done a Phase 1 drug trial?”

I had done some drug trials, but they were all for stuff like psoriasis and the burn study. This paid two thousand dollars. It was for a leukemia drug. I’d never done something where you had to take a serious drug. But two thousand dollars was a lot. The whole trip and spending money. They only wanted twelve people.

She handed me the fact sheet. It had all the usual warnings. This drug is untested on humans … risk …

Normally I wouldn’t have done anything like this. But the chance to make two thousand dollars seemed too good to pass up. Like it was almost fate, you know? I don’t know that I believe in fate, especially now, but it seemed that way at the time. So I signed up.

The trial was on a Thursday afternoon. To get the day off I had to swap with someone else which meant working a double on Saturday—wedding in the morning and another wedding in the evening. At least in the evening I’d be doing bar, which wasn’t so bad. Handing out glasses of wine and beer to happy drunken wedding guests.

Thursday I went to a medical lab out on Cedar Rd.

The Cleveland Clinic has three zones and it’s all about patients. The front zone where the patients first see the hospital—the lobbies and the doctor’s offices—is really nice. Nice carpeting, nice wood, nice chairs and tables. Plants. Art work. Then there’s the middle zone, places like the surgical staging areas and the hospital rooms. The hospital rooms try to be nice but they have to have all this equipment and its not like television. It’s kind of cluttered and busy and there will be stacks of blankets, boxes of latex gloves. Everything feels a little crowded. There’s no art on the walls of the ER or the outpatient staging and recovery areas.

Then there’s the back zone. Maintenance and the kitchen, offices and the places where the actual technicians do the lab work. Basements and closets. Hard light or not enough light. Notices and memos stuck on the wall. Employees Must Wash Hands Before Returning to Work. * Mandatory Meeting on Health Coverage Changes * Waste Stock tracking sheets. That was the kind of place where the drug trial took place.

It was a pretty large room with no windows and a linoleum floor. It had one of those long folding tables like you see in a school cafeteria. On the table were vials and cotton swabs, syringes and gloves. A nurse was sitting in a folding chair reading a paperback.

There were ten of us, all guys except for me and one other woman. A lab tech checked us off a clipboard and we all had a packet sitting on a plastic chair. “Please sit in the chair with your packet,” the guy with the clipboard said. “The dosages have been calculated based on your weight and if you sit in someone else’s chair that could compromise the study.” Then he came to each of us and asked us our name and our birthdate and gave us each a hospital bracelet with all that and an ID number on it. He explained how we would be asked the same thing again before receiving the injection and that was just to make sure that there were no slip-ups.

Then he explained about double-blind trials. No one in this room, he explained, knew which of us were getting the drug for testing and which were getting the placebo which was just an injection of saline. He explained Phase 1 testing. The point of this test, he explained, was not to determine if the drug worked, but just to confirm that it was safe for people. This drug, the one we were getting, had been extensively tested on rabbits and monkeys. Rabbits and monkeys, of course, could not report adverse effects, so we were to report any adverse effects we experienced. We would be getting a much smaller dose than the rabbits and monkeys.

I was the second person in the line of chairs. The guy sitting next to me was wearing a plaid shirt and thermal undershirt and work boots. He looked like he did construction. “Have you ever done this before?” I asked.

He nodded. “I’ve done two others, but they didn’t pay as good as this.”

A nurse came and asked him his name, date of birth, and ID number. She took a blood sample from him and then wrote his ID number on a label and stuck it on. Then she did the same thing to me.

As she moved down the chairs, I looked in my packet. The drug we were taking didn’t have a real name. It was just called GNT1146. It was for leukemia, lupus and MS. Which, I will tell you, made me feel a little glad. It’s hard to think you’re doing much for humanity when you’re getting paid to not have psoriasis in a psoriasis study. But what if this drug really cured people with MS? I said that to the guy in the flannel shirt.

He kind of looked at me. He made me think a little of Chris, I don’t know why. Maybe because he was wearing a Ford cap.

“Is that why you’re doing this?” he asked me.

“Hell no,” I said. “I need the money to go to Cancun.”

That made him grin. “Yeah, that sounds good,” he said. He didn’t know what he was going to do with the money. He’s heard about it from his cousin’s girlfriend who worked somewhere doing some kind of paperwork for medical stuff. He figured he should pay down his credit card but he was also thinking of saving it toward a down payment on a motorcycle.

The guy with the clipboard started talking so we shut up, although all he did was tell us the same thing that was in the packet and make us all sign that we understood the risks. It was just like school. I underlined Phase 1 Drug Trial: Ten to Twenty healthy adults. Phase 2 is something like fifty sick people. If the stuff doesn’t seem to be as good as what people get anyway, then they stop. Otherwise they go to Phase 3. (I wondered what it would be like to have leukemia and find out that the experimental drug you are taking didn’t do as good as what normal people get. I decided I was probably not brave enough for Phase 2, if I ever got leukemia.) Phase 3 has a couple of thousand sick people in it. Most drugs never get beyond phase 2, the guy with the clipboard explained.

About that time, I admit, I zoned out. One of the fluorescents was in the flicker-before-dying stage and it was annoying me. We had been there over an hour before the nurse finally started giving us injections.

The guy in the flannel shirt took off his shirt and rolled up his thermal undershirt. Then the nurse wrote down the time and his ID number. She asked me my name and birthdate and ID number but didn’t give me the shot. I asked why.

“We wait two minutes between injections,” she said.

“Watching for green and purple spots?” said the guy putting back on his flannel shirt.

“Purple and pink,” she said.

We all three grinned.

Finally I got my shot.

Then I had to sit there while they gave the next eight people the shot wondering if my growing headache was a drug effect or the result of the bad fluorescent light. After the last person had gotten the shot, I thought we would maybe fill out some more paperwork and be told when to come back for follow-up. But we still sat there. I figured we’d been told how long we would sit there some time after I stopped paying attention. I was embarrassed to admit I had so I sat there, thinking about where I was going to eat when I left.

I finally decided I could ask Mr. Green and Purple Spots. I started to say something just as he said, “I don’t feel so good.”

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“I feel sick,” he said. “Like I’ve got a fever.” He was shaking.

“Hey,” I said, to get the nurse’s attention. “This guy doesn’t feel good.”

He took off his flannel shirt. “I’m burning up,” he said, and rubbed his head, hard.

She came over and asked him to describe how he felt.

“Is this an adverse effect?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” she said.

Just our luck, I thought. We get a nurse who doesn’t know what she’s doing. But now I wonder if they weren’t allowed to say anything. Or probably she really didn’t know if he just happened to be sick or not.

“Can I have an aspirin or something?” he asked.

“Let’s wait a bit,” she said.

I didn’t know what to do. Everyone else was leaning forward, looking at us. Looking at the sick guy.

“What’s wrong with him?” someone asked the clipboard guy.

“I don’t know,” the clipboard guy said.

After a few minutes, the guy on the other side of me said, “I feel sick.”

The nurse came over and laid her hand against his forehead. I was surprised she didn’t have one of those temperature thingies that they stick in your ear. This guy was shaking, too. “I’m gonna be sick,” he said. The nurse ran and grabbed the trash can and he vomited into it.

My stomach rose and I looked away. I thought maybe we weren’t supposed to leave our seats, but when the flannel shirt guy threw up I got up and walked over to the wall.

“Are you all right?” the clipboard guy asked me.

“I think so,” I said, although I didn’t know.

Then the fourth person started throwing up.

“God,” said the first guy. “My head feels like it’s exploding!”

Everybody who wasn’t throwing up was looking at me, or looking at the fifth person, who was the other woman. She was a black woman, maybe in her thirties? She looked scared.

“Can I have something for the pain, please!” said the first guy.

The third guy was lying on the floor now and the nurse was kneeling next to him. “He’s dizzy,” she said. “I think from spiking a fever.” She pointed to the table where the cotton swabs and stuff was and said to the guy with the clipboard, “There’s packets of Tylenol over there, give him one.”

Clipboard guy said to her, “Should I call EMTs?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “This is your protocol.”

“She’s not sick,” he pointed to the black woman.

“She might be a placebo,” the nurse said. “How many placebos are there?”

“I don’t know,” he said.

“God!” said the first guy. “Oh, God, please! My head!”

The nurse got him a Tylenol which by this time seemed a little like pouring a glass of water on a house fire.

“I want to go home,” the first guy said. “Call my girlfriend. I don’t care about the money, I just want to go home.”

“You stay here,” the nurse said. “You’re better here than home.”

The clipboard guy was on his cell phone to someone. “I think you better send a doctor,” I heard him say and then he saw me watching him and turned his back to us so he was facing the wall.

The black woman didn’t get sick. The guy next to her didn’t get sick, either. And then the guy next to him seemed okay, although I hadn’t been watching the time so I didn’t know how long it had been. Time was going so slow.

Then that next guy said, “Oh man, I feel it.”

It was like that story in the Bible, where the Israelites want to leave Egypt and they smear blood on their doors and God sends the angel of death to slay all the firstborn but passes over the houses marked with lamb’s blood. Except we didn’t know who had been marked and who had been saved.

A doctor showed up in about half an hour, but by that time they had called EMTs. Six people had gotten the drug and four were placebos and we placebos were all standing around not looking at each other or looking at the sick guys. They loaded the sick ones into ambulances. The nurse was standing there in the hallway, holding her fist to her mouth like she was trying not to cry. I wanted to ask her if anything had ever happened like this before, but it was pretty clear no one had a clue.

I drove home.

I stopped on the way home and got a hamburger, but it seemed strange to eat it. I felt like I should be so upset I couldn’t eat. Like that ever happened. When I got home I thought to check my cell phone—I had turned it off when I got to the medical trial because at Cleveland Clinic we weren’t supposed to have our cell phones on inside the building. There was a message from a representative of the company that was doing the study asking me to call. I called my friend Mel instead and told her what had happened and she said she’d come over as soon as she got off work.

The phone rang as soon as I hung up and it was NewsChannel5. I told them I didn’t know if I was allowed to talk, but when they asked me if I could confirm that six people had gotten sick I said that was true. Then the newspaper called. My cell kept ringing and ringing, until finally I shut it off and turned on the TV.

Mel got there just about the time that it came on the news, so I almost missed the first part. Not that it was very exciting. This news woman with really stiff, unmoving newscaster hair said that six people went to the hospital in a drug trial that went horribly wrong. The six men were hospitalized in critical condition with multiple organ failure. Then they showed the outside of a hospital—not Cleveland Clinic, maybe University Hospital?

“Fuck,” Mel said, “that’s so stupid.”

I didn’t know what she meant.

“Showing the outside of the hospital. It’s just a building.”

I said, “It’s where they are.”

“So?” she said. “What does showing you the hospital tell you? It’s like when they are talking about a car accident and they show you this perfectly normal stretch of road with cars whizzing by.”

Mel was really mad. It seemed a weird thing to be mad about.

“It’s wrong,” she said. When she lifted her hands, her bangles jingled. “It makes everything seem normal.”

“They have to show something,” I said, although that sounded lame.

“No they don’t,” she said. “We could go back to Miss My-Hair-Wouldn’t-Move-in-a-Hurricane.” She shook her head. “I don’t know. Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” I said. “Nothing happened to me.”

“I don’t know why it pisses me off so much,” she said. “It’s just the news.”

The next day they had an interview with the girlfriend of one of the guys who got sick. She said that her boyfriend was in a coma and his head had swelled up to three times its normal size and he looked like the Elephant Man. I didn’t think she should have said that. She should have given him his dignity. All day at work I told people what had happened. People wanted to know if I was going to sue. For what? They had told us that there was a risk. They’ve got to test drugs or people would still be dying of plague and polio. It wasn’t anybody’s fault. It was just something that happened. I explained it over and over again. But people kept saying to me, “Are you going to sue?”

On Saturday I was so tired of the whole thing, I didn’t want to talk about it anymore.

I wished I could find out what happened to the construction guy, the guy in the flannel shirt. Four of the guys were out of the ICU in a couple of days and I hoped he was one of them. I hoped he wasn’t the guy whose girlfriend had said his head swelled up.

Then the news stopped talking about it.

It was almost like it had never happened. I got a check from the company that did the drug trial and I put it in my bank account. It was weird because in some ways it was a bigger deal when Chris and I got our marriage annulled. People talked about that for a long time, and not just in Lancaster. But even Mel didn’t talk to me about the drug trial thing unless I brought it up.

It didn’t bother me, not really. I think about it sometimes. I’m not doing any more medical trials. I figure I gave my all for science already. But other than that, it’s just something that happened.

We went to Cancun, my Not-A-Honeymoon-Trip to Cancun. We stayed in a resort hotel with a pool that went halfway around the hotel and had two swim up bars. Being in Mexico, I thought everything would be more foreign, but in Cancun things felt a lot the same. There was McDonalds and KFC, Pizza Hut, even Wal-Mart. Mel said it looked just like Florida only more people speak Spanish in Florida.

Still, it was incredibly fun. You walk out of the hotel and down to the road and this bus comes along. There’s no schedule because they just take you from the zona hotelera to the downtown. It costs fifty cents. We partied a lot because even if we got trashed it didn’t matter.

There was this one club that sold drinks that were two feet tall. We’d been to Coco Bongo the night before which was great but too crowded to dance, so we just picked this place at random because it had a dance floor. They had these long skinny glasses, red and blue plastic. I was sick of margaritas but all you could get were margaritas and daiquiris so I was on my third daiquiri. Usually I could drink pretty much. I started to feel kind of sick—Cancun catching up to me, I figured. I found the bathroom. I rinsed my face off, careful to keep my mouth tightly closed. I didn’t want to get Montezuma’s revenge.

I overheard these two girls talking. They were thin and blond and it was clear they had never worked in McDonalds in their lives. The one was saying to the other, “I don’t know if I want to come back here anymore.”

The other one asked where she wanted to go instead and they talked about Hawaii or Miami something.

I hated them. I don’t know why; they were probably nice enough. But I just hated them. I thought, I almost died to get here. I still felt a little sick and dizzy and I went in one of the stalls and sat on the edge of the toilet. Usually I don’t want to touch anything in a public bathroom.

Maybe it just hit me, I don’t know.

I had heard that all the guys lived, although I suspected none of them was exactly ready to come to Cancun. I had specks dancing in front of my eyes. I put my head down on my knees and took deep breaths and I tried not to think about my head swelling up so that I couldn’t open my eyes.

I’m okay, I thought. I’m okay.

Someone called, “Are you all right?” It was Mel, jingling with bracelets.

“Yeah,” I said. “I’m fine.”

“Are you sick?”

I was actually feeling better. I stood up and flushed the toilet and came out. “It’s okay,” I said. “I think I’ve just been drinking too fast.”

The music was disco. The beat was thumping. I went out and I started dancing, too. My head was still kind of light and as I was dancing I felt lighter and lighter. Not in a bad way, but in a good way. I thought about those girls in the bathroom. And what it would be like to be able to decide to go to Hawaii. About what it would be like to be them, or to have gotten the other kind of injection.

I thought about luck.

I could think about that or I could dance. Right now I wanted to dance. It didn’t seem like a bad choice.

Copyright © 2011 by Maureen McHugh

 

LIMITS
Larry Niven

An extraordinary mix of fantasy and science fiction from one of the masters of science fiction, Larry Niven.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

HOME

The Editor's Word

FICTION
Zombies at Work
by Leena Likitalo

The Pain Peddlers

by Robert Silverberg
No Place for a Hero
by James Aquilone

Honeymoon
by Maureen McHugh
Fate and Other Variables
by Alex Shvartsman

Dead Worlds
by Jack Skillingstead

The Orphan Tractors
by Ralph Roberts
Cryptic

by Jack McDevitt
Song of the Sargasso
(Sargasso)

by Marina J. Lostetter
Nikki Dark and the Black Rust
(Sargasso)

by Lou J. Berger

INTERVIEW
Eric Flint
by Joy Ward

SERIALIZATION
Lest Darkness Fall  (Part 5)
by L. Sprague de Camp

COLUMNS
From the Heart's Basement
by Barry Malzberg
Science Column
by Greg Benford

Book Reviews
by Paul Cook

 

 

 

Loosely based on Larry Niven's 1973 novella "Flash Crowd," Red Tide continues to examine the social consequences of the impact of having instantaneous teleportation, where humans can instantly travel long distances in milliseconds.

This is a theme that has fascinated the author throughout his career and even appears in his seminal work Ringworld, where the central character celebrates his birthday by instantly teleporting himself to different time zones, extending his birthday. The author also discusses the impact of such instantaneous transportation in his essay, "Exercise in Speculation: The Theory and Practice of Teleportation."

Larry Niven is joined by two younger writers, Brad R. Torgersen and Matthew J. Harrington, as they take on this challenging idea and further develop the theories and concepts that Niven originally presented in "Flash Crowd."

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YOUR PAPER COPY
FROM AMAZON

 

 

REASON NO. 5 TO ATTEND
THE SAIL TO SUCCESS
WRITERS’ WORKSHOP

A guided tour of the world of the 1632 universe by its creator with insider tips on how to write for stories set in the universe and get published in the Grantville Gazette.

STARTING AT ONLY $899
all-inclusive on a
luxury cruise ship

www.SailSuccess.com

FACULTY SPOTLIGHT
ERIC FLINT

Eric Flint is a New York Times bestselling author who has, literally, created one of the most popular modern 'universes' in science fiction.

His novel 1632 has launched an enterprise which has seen more than a 100 writers participating in some form or another and may be the most collaborative universe ever created.

To accommodate the huge demand (from readers as well as writers who wanted to write stories set in the universe), Eric created an online periodical called the Grantville Gazette which publishes stories set in the 1632 universe.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright © Arc Manor LLC 2014. All Rights Reserved. Galaxy's Edge is an online magazine published every two months (January, March, May, July, September, November) by Phoenix Pick, the Science Fiction and Fantasy imprint of Arc Manor Publishers.