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About the Author

Pat York lives outside of Buffalo, New York with her husband Jim.

Her fiction has appeared in TOMORROW and REALMS OF FANTASY, ODYSSEY and the anthologies FULL SPECTRUM 5, NEW ALTARS, THE ROYCROFT REVIEW and SILVER BIRCH BLOOD MOON, an alternate fairy tale anthology edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling.

Her poem, "A Faerie's Tale" was nominated for the 1997 Rhysling Award and she was on the preliminary Nebula ballots in l996 and l998. She is currently a Nebula finalist in the short story category for "You Wandered Off Like A Foolish Child To Break Your Heart And Mine".

She attended Clarion '93, funded in part by a Donald Wollheim Scholarship granted by the New York Science Fiction Society. She has also received writing and research grants from the National Writer's Project, the National Endowment on the Arts through the Council on Basic Education and from Canisius College. She was a Fulbright Memorial Fund teacher-scholar in 1998.

She is currently shopping her first novel, set in far future Chautauqua County, New York.

[an error occurred while processing this directive] Outside In: Review by A.L. Sirois

Wishes

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She opened the cooler, the first time she had dared to do so since she had left the house the night before. A puff of cool air moved past her face. The golden-gray lobster sat in its plastic water bag, eyestalks moving, big, curling tail jerking spasmodically.

I am insane, Elaine thought to herself. I don't know why I'm doing this so I must be insane. Driving a car with 104,000 miles on it across country, ditching my classes, no notice to anybody. I must be freaking crazy. But she looked into the bag once more and forgot it all.

The lobster, somehow, seemed to sense that it was near home. It moved a bit more, jerking more energetically in its tiny plastic home. "We're almost there. We're almost there," Elaine crooned to it. She pulled the bag away from its tape and out of the melted ice. "Shit," she said and dropped the bag back down. There was a Swiss Army knife in the glove compartment. She pulled it out, opened the scissors and snipped off the tight bands around the lobster's claws. "You'll have to eat, buddy," she said, self-conscious that she was talking to a lobster, but compelled to anyway.

The beach was a mixture of sand, rock, and dead seaweed. Elaine was still wearing the clothes she'd had on the night before; cotton skirt, flat, leather shoes, blouse and cotton jacket. She took off the jacket and shoes with one hand and made a little bundle of them with her car keys. She tried to think of a way to tie them onto her shoulders so she could take them into the water, but she gave up the third time one of the shoes slithered out and plopped into the sand. She left them on the water's edge. If anybody finds this stuff, she thought, they'll have my money and my car and I'll be stranded, barefoot, in frigging Maine.

She waded out into the cold water until she was chest deep. It smelled like salt and compost and felt like a baptism. The pull of the waves was something between a rocking comfort and a pushing threat on her legs. In its bag the lobster seemed to feel the first touch of ocean, scrambling now more than ever. Elaine seemed to remember that too quick a change of water temperatures could kill a fish. Was it the same for lobsters? She didn't really know. She suspended the plastic bag in the water and waited. Did the lobster think this was some strange new form of torture human beings visited on their kind? What, she wondered, had it thought of the creel in which it had been caught? Delicious dead haddock heads disguising an escape-proof trap? Had it suffered in its truck ride to Buffalo? Had it enjoyed life in the tank at the bar?

Elaine shook her head. What a fool she was being, like one of the oversensitive little kids in her classroom who cried at the sad stories in their readers. Elaine had more sense than that. Of course she did.

When the temperatures of the two waters seemed about equal, Elaine mixed sea water in with the stuff in the lobster's plastic bag. She was about to dump it into the ocean, but a sudden, panicked notion overwhelmed her. She would never know if the thing had recovered—if it would live—not if she dumped it into deep water. She'd never be able to see how it did.

She waded back toward the beach, waiting until the water was at her knees and the ocean bottom was relatively sandy.

She gently tipped the bag over into the surf. The lobster slithered out and disappeared in a wave. Elaine thought that she might have seen one mighty pull of its tail, slinging the golden lobster into deeper water, but she couldn't be sure.

She looked hard for a long time, trying to be careful where she stepped, but she could not find the lobster. She walked sadly back to shore.

He was a king among lobsters, she thought. A king among lobsters, magical maybe. She laughed at that. A magical king of the lobsters and you freed him.

Make a wish, Elaine. Make a wish and it will be granted in payment of your great kindness.

Elaine flopped down on the sand near her jacket and shoes and laughed again. I've saved the king of the lobsters and now I get a wish.

She imagined herself back at Harry's Harbor Inn, twenty years younger with warm curves where flat flesh now lay against her bones. She was flirting with Mark, her Margarita glass twirling in perfect fingers. The image faded. Mark was just a kid, and not particularly interesting when he wasn't bringing her a drink. She saw the husband she had taken in her youth leaving the young bimbo he'd married, in love with her again. But even when he had been hers she hadn't wanted him much. That image, too, faded.

She saw before her, all in a flash, a bright, clean classroom full of happy children chatting with her, asking her advice, working hard because she made learning interesting and because they loved to please her. She saw them as bigger, older children, still coming back to her to say hello, still in love with her. In a flash of realization she understood that she didn't even like children. She was a teacher because it paid well; because she just didn't know what else to do.

The wind blew across her wet clothes, chilling her. I have no wishes, she thought, there is nothing I really want, nothing I hope for except the end of another day and the clean, inverted cone of a Margarita glass filled with sticky yellow syrup and plenty of tequila.

The tide was coming in. It had crept up the beech toward her so that now it lapped her feet and threatened to re-wet her clothes. She stared down at it. It looked so vivid, so quiet, so empty and yet so full. She saw with terrible clarity the swish of a gray-gold tail and the monstrous power of great claws; the dim, softness of a sandy ocean bottom, the deliciousness of dead flesh in the mouth, the nervous system so simple that the signals of pleasure or pain were muted past recognition.

There was a momentary stab of warning—a creel on the bottom, too tempting to resist, the heat, the horrible, penetrating brightness of the surface, claws immobilized, eyes dazzled on their delicate stalks. But even this horror was mute and graceful compared with her own graceless life.

That's what I'd wish, she thought with her whole heart and mind. I would wish for that, and to be with that lovely golden-carapaced god floating now down, down into the cool green depths before her, to a place where the twilight filtered through plant smells that floated on waves like layers of color.

Elaine smiled. Yes, she said silently, yes, oh, yes. The water was all around her now, warm and inviting. And accepting.

Beside the indentation in the sand where she had sat, Elaine's shoes and jacket were taken up by the waves and pulled in. The sand filtered over the car keys and when the wave had subsided, the sand was again smooth, bare, perfect.

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