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Jack McDevitt is a Nebula winner (and 17-time Nebula nominee) as well as a multiple Hugo nominee.
He is the author of 21 novels, 5 collections, and 80 short stories.

NOTHING EVER HAPPENS IN ROCK CITY
by
Jack McDevitt

Sorry I’m late tonight, Peg. Had to make a trip up to the observatory at closing time. They’re having some kind of party up there and they needed a quick delivery. Ordinarily I would of sent Harry but Virginia hasn’t been feeling good so I told him to go home and I went up myself.

No, not much was happening. They all seemed pretty loud, but other than that it wasn’t very much. Nothing much ever happens in Rock City.

Oh, yeah, Jamie’s home. Got his degree but no job. Bill tells me he’s decided to be a lawyer. He wants to send him to one of those eastern schools but he’s not really convinced that Jamie’s serious. You know how that’s been going. Me, I think it’d be just as well. We got enough lawyers around here as it is.

What else? I heard today that Doris is expecting again. Now there’s a woman doesn’t know when to quit. Frank said he’s been trying to talk her into getting her tubes tied. But she’s kind of skittish. Women are like that, I guess.

No offense.

Oh yeah, it was a pretty good day. We moved a lot of the malt. That new stuff I thought we’d never get rid of. There was a family get-together over at Clyde’s. You know how they are. Must be sixty, seventy people over there for the weekend. All Germans. Putting it down by the barrel.

Jake was in today. They’re getting complaints about underage kids again. I told him it ain’t happening in our place. And it ain’t. We’re careful about that. Don’t allow it. Not only because it ain’t legal, either. I told him, it’s not right for kids to be drinking and they can count on us to do what we can.

We had people in and out all day today. We sold as much stuff off the whiskey aisle as we did all week. We won’t have any trouble making the mortgage this month.

What else? Nothing I can think of. This is a quiet town. Janet was in. Ticketed somebody doing ninety on the state road. Took his license, she said. Guy’s wife had to drive him home. I’d’ve liked to of been there.

She told me there was a murder over in Castle County. I’m not sure about the details. Another one of those things where somebody’s boy friend got tired of a crying kid. That ought to be death penalty. Automatic.

What’s that? What was going on at the observatory?

I don’t know. They had some VIP’s visiting. We sold a couple bottles of rum to one of them this morning. Old guy, gray hair, stooped, kind of slow. Looked like he was always thinking about something else. Talked funny too. You know, foreign. Maybe Brit. Aussie. Something like that.

They’re doing some kind of convention up there. Some of them are staying over at the hotel, according to Hap. Anyhow, we get this call about a quarter to nine, you know, just before we lock the doors. It’s Harvey. They want eight bottles of our best champagne. Cold. Can we deliver?

Harvey told me once they always keep a bottle in the refrigerator up there. But with all these people in town I guess one bottle wasn’t enough.

Well, to start with, we don’t have eight bottles of our best champagne on ice. Or off. I mean how much of that stuff do we sell? But sure, I tell him. I’ll bring it up as soon as we close.

I mean, you know Harvey. He won’t know the difference. And I can hear all this noise in the background. The paper said they were supposed to be doing some kind of business meeting but all I can hear is screaming and laughing. And I swear somebody was shooting off a noisemaker.

Oh, by the way, did I tell you Ag was by today? She wants to get together for a little pinochle next week. I figure Sunday works pretty good. When you get a chance, give her a call, okay?

And Morrie’s moping around. He won’t talk about it but I guess Mary’s ditched him again. You think he’d get tired taking all that from that crazy woman. Don’t know what he wants. Ain’t happy when he’s with her and miserable when he isn’t.

Oh, here’s something you’ll be interested in. Axel dropped a bottle of chianti today. I mean it went off in the back of the store like an explosion. I felt sorry for him except that it made a hell of a mess. He’s getting more wobbly every day. I’m not sure we should be selling him anything now. At his age. But I don’t have the heart to stop him. I’ve thought about talking to Janet. But that only puts it on her. I don’t know what I’m going to do about that. Eventually I guess I’ll have to do something.

What about the observatory? Oh yeah. Well, there’s really nothing to tell. I took some Hebert’s and some Coela Valley. Four of each. Packed ’em in ice and put ’em in the cooler.

So when I get there all these lights are on inside and people are yelling and carrying on. I never saw anything like it. It was like they’d already been into something. I mean Harvey and his friends are not people who know how to have a good time. But this other crew—.

Anyway Harvey said thanks and I wiped his card and he said do I want to stay a while? I mean they were into the bubbly before I could set it down.

So I say no thanks I have to drive back down the mountain and the last thing I need is a couple drinks. But I ask what’s all the fuss and he takes me over to a computer screen which has graphics, big spikes and cones and God knows what else, all over it, but you can’t begin to tell what it is, and he says Look at that.

I look and I don’t see nothing except spikes and cones. So then he shows me how one pattern repeats itself. He says how it’s one-point-something seconds long and it shows up three or four different places on the screen. Then he brings up another series and we do the same thing again. None of it means anything, as far as I can see.

So Harvey sees I’m not very impressed and he tells me we’ve got neighbors. He mentions someplace I never heard of. Al-Car or Al-Chop or something like that. He says it like it’s a big deal. And then it dawns on me what he’s talking about, that they’ve found the signal they’re always looking for.

“How far away are they?” I ask.

He laughs again and says, “A long way.”

So I say, “How far’s that?”

“Mack,” he tells me, “you wouldn’t want to walk it.”

For a minute I wonder if the people on the other end are going to come this way but he says no that could never happen. Don’t worry. Ha ha ha.

Well, I say, tell them hello for me. Ha ha. And he offers me a three buck tip, which was kind of cheap considering how late it was and that I had to drive up and down that goofy road. I mean, I’m not going to take his money anyway. But three bucks?

Ran into Clay outside town, by the way. He was over at Howie’s getting his speed trap set up. Says he picks off a few every Friday. Says he had to go over to Ham’s place earlier because Ham was screaming at Dora again. I used to think she would pack up and leave one of these days but I guess not.

Yeah.

Anyway, that’s why I was late. I’m sorry it upset you. I’ll call next time, if you want. But you don’t need to worry. I mean, nothing ever happens in Rock City.

Copyright © 2001 by LRC Publications

 

THE ARM OF THE STONE
by Victoria Stauss

“Treated with unusual depth.”—Locus
“An intelligent, fascinating novel"—SF Site

TABLE OF CONTENTS

HOME

The Editor's Word

FICTION
A Little Song, A Little Dance,
A Little Apocalypse
Down Your Pants

by Robert T. Jeschonek

Counterfactual

by Gardner Dozois
Curtain Call
by Sandra M. Odell

Special Economics
by Maureen McHugh
Game Not Over
by Ron Friedman

“All You Zombies—”
by Robert A. Heinlein

The Book of Alexander
by Zaslow Crane
Nothing Ever Happens
in Rock City

by Jack McDevitt
In Secrets, Absolution
(Sargasso)

by Andrea G. Stewart
Calming the Tempest
(Sargasso)

by Tina Gower

INTERVIEW
Michael and Peter Spierig
(Directors of Predestination)
by Joy Ward

SERIALIZATION
Melodies of the Heart (Part 1)
by Michael Flynn

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

Book Reviews
by Paul Cook

 

 

 

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Copyright © Arc Manor LLC 2015. 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.