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The ten thousand things and the one true only.

by Kip Manley

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the Dream of the 1590s – Alive in Portland

The chalkboard reads “Seating is first come first served… be considerate of those waiting for tables.” No one seems to notice that the trio in the corner have been there for at least two hours eating biscuits and arguing in languid frustrating loops now picking at the remains of breakfast, the man who holds his leg out stiff frowning mildly at the young woman sitting in front of him, short blond hair with black dye clinging stubbornly here and there. She is still chasing bits of ham through slippery gravy picking up biscuit crumbs as she goes. Beside the man another young woman with a bow-shaped mouth who looks as if she’d rather be outside with the smokers shakes glossy black curls from her face. “What is with this douche anyway?” says Ysabel.

“What douche?” says Jo.

“The guy with the giant NPR glasses. He won’t stop staring at me.”

The Duke glances past Jo’s shoulder, fingering the rough hawk at the top of his cane. “Just another hipster. My demesne crawls with them. They are the cross I bear, I fear.”

“Not one of yours, though?” she says. “Like me, not like you?”

“Like you and not like you, Gallowglas,” agrees the Duke. Jo takes a turn at frowning and returns to chasing bits of ham.

“Aren’t they a little old for hipsters?” says Ysabel. “I just wish he’d stop staring.” She begins twisting her napkin. “Oh, for fuck’s sake. Now the girl is staring, too.”

“You sure these aren’t yours? Is this something I need to worry about?” says Jo. She turns around, butter-colored leather coat squeaking on wood.

Behind them are the two staring hipsters male and female. He has an oddly rectangular head with a wide vista of a forehead hair cut like his grandfather must once have worn it if the barber had forgotten to clip the top. He wears large black-framed glasses that belonged on a nuclear physicist from the 50s, or that NPR guy, what’s his name. Ira something. The woman will have serious lines framing her mouth within the decade and wears black eyeliner and lipstick like her grandmother must have once applied and hair carefully made up to look like she’d forgotten to comb it. They are both staring in a way they obviously think is surreptitious and scribbling in notebooks. “No, they’re not yours,” says Jo. “Let’s get out of here anyway. They make me nervous.”

Jo quickly forgets about the hipsters. There are too many in this city, especially that part of the city, to distinguish them from other hipsters, even aging hipsters. Sometimes in the rare moments when she is alone on the streets she hears people say things like, “Have you read it?” before bursting into giggles. When she and Ysabel are with the Duke a stranger makes a remark about his cane: “You put a bird on it!” The Duke rolls his eyes but does not explain and for once Jo does not ask.

Afterward, she is in the apartment with Ysabel. Ysabel is asleep and Jo cannot sleep and so she turns on her TV with its illegal cable strung from an obliging neighbor’s apartment.

There are the aging hipsters.

They are in Portland. They are putting birds on things, and pretending to be bikers with giant earlobe plugs, and to be overly discriminating locavores. And then they are sitting in the corner at the biscuit place. He is dressed in rusts and plays with a distinctive cane. Her hair is short and blonde and patchy with black. They look like hipsters. They ignore a long line of people standing waiting for their table. The fake Duke and fake Jo look bored and amuse themselves deriding the patient crowd around them as hipsters. The real Jo considers throwing the remote at the screen but doesn’t want to wake up Ysabel. She settles for “Seriously? Die in a fire, asshole hipsters.”

And then the aging hipsters are dancing and singing before a phalanx of freaks and hipsters and bellydancers, the Gay Men’s Chorus, firebreathers and tall bike riders that stream behind them on the Esplanade near the river, the day framing them a blue so brilliant, so unlike Portland that Jo wonders whether it’s computer-generated. And where are the homeless people? The aging hipsters are singing that the dream is alive in Portland.

“You have no idea,” says Jo to the hipsters on the TV. “No. Idea. At all.”

—posted 3157 days ago

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This lovely dish of poisson was prepared by MeiLin Miranda, whose Scryer’s Gulch and Intimate History of the Greater Kingdom are hereby commended to your attention. I myself whipped up something set in Maine, for Cassandra Stryffe’s delightful Zombie Diapers. —The master list of the day’s tomfooleries.

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