Last Call in Temperance

By Alan DeNiro

I fished the whiskey out of my pack, took a hot swig, and considered Sonny's dead body sprawled on my tomato-red couch. I got the whiskey at Jockopolis, a sex shop slash liquor store, down one level from my cubicle on level 9 in the city of Temperance, five hundred meters below the surface of Li Po.

Sonny was my boyfriend. Sonny was also brain-dead; less guessing about that than the boyfriend part of the equation. The funerary division of the Panoptikon would be arriving to claim his body within the hour, but I didn't know if I was willing to mourn beforehand. The radio transmitter in his wetware was already sending out his location. There was no telling what those morticians would excise from him, what they would carve and cut. I had no money to give him a decent funeral -- even a ten-minute one -- and I didn't know whether I wanted to anyway.

He was naked; his copper skin and short kinky hair looked exactly the same as when alive. I considered touching his penis -- I don't know, for old time's sake -- but thought that would be a little bit too weird.

The city of Temperance had sandstorms, a neurotic city government, and no culture except for the underground jazz, which managed to survive despite indifference by most of its populace and outright hostility by the city burghers. Sonny was maybe the best jazz musician in the entire city. Most people who listened to him play saxophone and weave voice modulators couldn't stand to stay in their own skin.

I drank some more; maybe I should have been more upset, or angry at myself for not getting home in time, but I wasn't. The truth was, as much as I idealized Sonny, I also hated him.

Ever since the Panoptikon started cracking down on jazz, sending the clubs underground, Sonny had grown more furtive, and he wouldn't let me too much into his life near the end. Then he overdosed, lying naked on our couch. I found him when I returned from a main-line pipe break down on level 12, in the old Indonesian district. That was my job, plumbing. I was tired from a fourteen-hour day, and I thought Sonny was just taking a nap. I stripped off my plumber's exoskeleton, tapped his shoulder, and said, "Hey. Hey." He didn't reply and then I knew.

I had to get numb after that, and wait for the inevitable bureaucratic goodbye. Collapsing in my faux-wicker chair, I tilted my head back, and closed my eyes. Within minutes I was dreaming of Sonny in a sharp suit, leaning forward and trying to tell me something in hand signals, arcing his wrists and then placing his fingers in steeple shapes. Then he started imitating a knocking motion, and craned his head backwards. Someone was knocking on my door. I groaned. The knock became louder.

"Who is it?" I asked. I tried to steel myself for inevitable departure.

"It's Roland."

I groaned again, not caring if Roland heard it. Roland was Sonny's brother, and a Panoptikon agent. But he wasn't menacing; he was pliable. "Sonny's away. Come back another time."

A pause. "I know what's happened, Luc. I know he's dead and I know you're going to let me in."

I crawled off the chair, closer to the door, and waited for him to leave.

He coughed nervously. "He called me before he died. He said I needed to talk to you."

Maybe a lie -- the two brothers were never really that close -- but I decided to let him in anyway. Swearing, I heaved to my feet, my head spinning with fumes, and touched the lockpad. Roland sidled in, closing the door behind him but standing sort of next to it. He squinted around. He carried a burgundy briefcase.

"Turn on your lights."

I touched a lamp on. Roland was Sonny's older brother by about nine years. He didn't look healthy: paunched skin and a rumpled azure scarf around his collar. He wasn't wearing his standard-issue Panoptikon black jumpsuit, the one with an eye enclosed by a triangle on the left breast pocket. His socks had no intention of matching.

"I would offer you a place to sit," I said, trying to be deadpan instead of mournful. "But Sonny's taking up the couch. Then again, you plan on taking him away anyway, right?"

Roland and I didn't get along terribly well. He was a minor agent, truth be told, in the Panoptikon system. An accountant. He was also an amateur musician, but with a fraction of the talent that Sonny had. Sonny told me once that Roland liked snooping around the edges of the jazz, but only to pick it apart.

"Look, there's not a lot of time," he said. "The other agents will be coming any minute."

I leaned on the opposite wall. "Go on."

"I shouldn't be here anyway. I had to call in a few favors to pick up the body in the first place. But in his phone call, he said there was a message, to me, on his person."

"To you?" I snorted.

"Well, to both of us."

This was becoming morbidly amusing. Sarcasm was only a way of keeping away the pain that I knew -- at some hour when I least expected it -- would be inevitable. I wished I had more whiskey, and then decided, no, it was probably a good thing I didn't have more whiskey. "Why didn't he tell you this 'secret' personally, if it was so important?"

He sighed. "I told you. Because it concerned you, too. Because he knew he was dying." Roland moved towards the body, touching Sonny's shin in a familial, tender way.

"Why didn't he call a hospital, then?" I asked, but the words sounded stupid as soon as they left my mouth. Sonny would never stoop to medication; with all the jazz softwiring inside of him, he probably had no reason to trust doctors poking with his body.

"I don't know why. But I also want to keep his music safe. Give him to me. His music will need to live."

"Stop fucking with me." I tapped my hand on my hip, an old gesture I'd inherited from my American grandmother. "I'm not trusting you. Sonny's not just a corpse the Panoptikon can play with."

"You're right. He's my brother," he said.

Sonny had hardly treated Roland like a brother. He'd told me Roland missed the point of jazz entirely, that he would never understand. The two grew up orphans, in the guttergangs in the lowest levels of Temperance. It was amazing that they escaped at all. Roland survived by the dogged pursuit of numbers; Sonny leaped high into the clouds and hoped that he would soar.

But Roland's statement reminded me that blood existed.

I had no brothers, and my mother didn't want me sleeping with other men.

"At least let me look for the information he talked about." Sighing, I nodded consent. He pulled a black headset from his jacket pocket.

"What's that?"

"Headware. Can you prop Sonny's body up?"

His skin felt cool against my hands as I propped his back against the back of the couch.

"Give him a pillow," Roland said.

"He's dead. He doesn't need a pillow."

Roland grunted but said nothing. He slipped the headset onto Sonny.

"What are you doing to him?" I asked.

"I borrowed some equipment from the biotech division." Borrowed, right. "It'll . . . jostle him."

I asked him what he meant.

"The jazz softwires. Hang on." I never knew terribly much about the tech that Sonny used. Roland flipped a tiny switch on the side of the headset. I couldn't bear to concentrate on Sonny's face because I knew that he wasn't alive, that Roland was probably lying to prove an arcane, academic point. "He'll be able to sing and play; or rather, his wetware will be able to. He just won't be human."

"Sing? Play?"

"Without moving his lips or moving his arms." Roland's face cracked in a smile, and then I saw his eyes dampen. "Say something, Sonny."

Sonny started to scat. Only, he didn't scat in his own voice but Ella Fitzgerald's. Sonny called out like a bird made out of silk. The voice came literally from Sonny's chest. Jagged, long scars on his bare chest, which I always liked to kiss after we made love, trembled slightly. The music was leaking out of his scars.

It seemed appropriate.

And I was kind of proud that I knew who Ella Fitzgerald was, because of Sonny's constant quizzing about old jazz stars, how particular names would bubble on Sonny's lips for about a week, until he would move on to the next. Always imbedding samples into his saxophone loops and his softwiring at the clubs.

I could feel that voice, dead for centuries, start to hum in my own belly, and higher, like someone whispering a secret into my lung. Then it became a blast of feedback from deep inside Sonny's softwiring. I raised my head towards the ceiling, exposing my neck, in the thrall of the jazz. Roland kept his head down, shaking it from side to side. Then, snapping out of his trance, he pulled out of his briefcase a new Media, a slick disk about the size of two palms. "Now all I need to find is the message Sonny mentioned."

"Where?" I asked.

He put his pinkie into Sonny's mouth, scrunching his face. Pulling it out, he revealed on his fingertip a tiny, round chip.

"Let me download it into my Media." He pressed the chip against the Media; the chip gave a tiny chime. He frowned.

I reached over to touch Sonny's hand, to remind myself that it was cold. "What have you found?" I was almost afraid to know, but desperately needed to. Sonny's body was good as gone, anyway.

"Luc," Sonny said. His own voice, not Ella's scatting, was coming from his chest. I leaned over him, as if checking to see if he was still breathing. "Hey," I said, clenching my hands into fists. I couldn't help but reply.

There was a pause in the recording; Sonny must have known I would reply. Then Sonny said, "Listen, I'm sorry. I'm really sorry to leave like this." The voice wasn't remorseful, only declarative -- he must have spoken into a wetware recorder and let the system process and distill the words until they were devoid of emotion.

Did he compose this before his overdose, or during the throes of it?

"There's one last thing you need to do for me. Play this music one last time. Get the band together. Roland, you've got to help Luc--"

Roland leaned forward and clicked the disk off.

"What was that for?" I said. "Let Sonny finish."

"It's finished," Roland said, slipping the disk into his ratty briefcase and crossing his arms. There were loud voices approaching outside my door. The other Panoptikon agents.

Roland untied his azure scarf and wiped his brow. "There's also an audio softspace file on the chip. Which means--"

"Wait a second," I interrupted, "Sonny's band needs to hear this. You have no intention of letting them play his last encrypted file, do you?"

Roland's hands were definitely shaking now.

"I can't. I need to take his body back."

"To the Panoptikon?"

He slowly nodded.

I made a mock spitting sound at him. He flinched. "After all of this yanking me, getting my hopes up at some kind of . . . reunion with Sonny--"

"Sonny's dead," he said grimly, as if I were delusional.

". . . some kind of reunion with him through his music, and then you tell me you're going to whisk him away because it's your fucking job?" I leaned forward. "Don't you have any interest in what's on that chip?"

"I do, but whether it'll be of any use to me is left for my superiors to decide."

Two men in black hoods, each wearing one white eyepatch over the left eye -- not exactly a reassuring class act -- hurried into the room. They gave me a dirty look in unison, and wrapped Sonny in a death hammock. Like stagehands from Hades, they hauled Sonny's limp body up, and carried him away.

"This isn't over, Roland," I called out as he turned to leave. He halted.

"Of course it isn't. The funeral's tomorrow night, on the surface. Lot 34A."

I rubbed my fingers together. "I don't have the money for that!"

"You're not the only person in Sonny's life. It's on me. I'll even pay for a full half-hour funeral. Sundown." He gave a slight bow, his face trying to be stony but failing, and left.

I sank down on the couch. I could smell Sonny's almond cologne; I couldn't smell his death. Then I began to cry, burying my woozy head in the cushions.

After an hour of bawling, something clear and crisp broke inside of me, like ice plopping into a glass of water. I couldn't bring Sonny back to life. But I was sure as all hell going to make sure that he went out with a bang, and not a whimper.

I could trace the exact moment when things started to break apart for me and Sonny. Three months ago, Sonny took me into the desert -- he had somehow finagled outdoor passes for both of us. We both rented outsuits, wrapped around us like saris with clear helmets. We took the quicktube to the farthest endpoint in Temperance, a tiny boarding station, and took dusty stairs surface-ward, as if we'd arisen from catacombs.

"Luc," he said to me, smiling lightly, taking my hand and swinging it back and forth like we were teenagers. This was only the third or fourth time in my fifteen years in Temperance that I'd gone outside. Odd for him to act so romantic in such a desolate landscape. Cold, serpentine winds whipped the air. Hard ice and lichen peppered the rocks. The desert stretched nearly as endless as the eye, except for the iron hills to the north.

"Where are we going?" I asked. I'd just gotten over gray pox, shaved my head because of it. My limbs felt flabby and a stone got caught between the big and middle toe in my boot. Sonny bounded in long, easy strides.

"It's just here. Everything is here, in this space. That's all." He'd sucked up something -- maybe it was rapturesmoke that month -- on the ride over. The tube was empty of police on our way to the last, barren waystation. I knew that the drug only really began to hit his nervous system as he wandered outside. For him, wandering was enough pleasure. He puckered his lips, breathed on the transparent helmet, fogging it up. He contemplated the fog with a great seriousness. He was serious and light; serious like light.

"What's it feel like?" I asked him, to break a silence that began to creep over me. "Playing jazz."

He didn't answer at first, but kept walking, kicking the crunchy crystals. "It's like, I'm suddenly this cat. But not just any cat. A cat that knows each and every mouse in the world, every name, every kink of every mouse tail--" He took a deep breath and exhaled again. "All of that. Only it's notes, all of the jazz that's wired into my head anyway. And it guides me to do things with the music I wouldn't be able to do otherwise. Like a hand that taps me on the shoulder and says, 'No, here.' or 'Hey, Sonny, try this, you might enjoy this.'" I felt his eyes meet mine, like a swift burglary. "It allows me to play what I could never think about before. There's this song I've been working on, about the blues, that's about--"

"You can't live without the drugs at all?" I wasn't sure if he was talking about the music or drugs any more.

He made a rapid snapping motion with his left hand; just when I thought I was able to glean an orderly rhythm from the sound, it leaped away from my comprehension. He wasn't really trying hard, either. We reached a slight mound, a cairn of accumulated rocks and methane crystals. Travelers must have gathered them to give other wanderers a sense of direction, so that other people could at least see something on the horizon besides the endless, hardscrabbled flatness. He squatted on the top of the cairn and I stood next to him.

"I can stop when I want to," he said. "I know myself. My limits." But he didn't. He didn't. And that lie he told me -- and himself -- began his descent to a place that I couldn't comprehend, much less touch. No one could have done the menagerie of drugs he did and live. I'm sure he convinced himself that withdrawal would be worse, that the pulling back into society, into other people's lives, would have been too great a burden to stand.

He didn't bother to make it back, did he?

"The Catchaphrase Jones?" Roland said, mouth agape. For once I'd impressed Roland, and I smiled. "Where did you say he was again?"

"Um, here. In the hallway."

It was dawn the next day. I was still groggy from the whiskey and Sonny's death, but I was taking baby steps towards becoming more clear-headed. There was a bellowing cough behind me. On the other side of the door, a huge face, like Li Po's moon, moved forward to block part of the light. The man wore a fez and had an incredibly illegal stick of rapturesmoke stuck in his mouth. Catchaphrase peered into Roland's face.

I had decided to hound Roland, but showing up at his pristine apartment at dawn was only part of the equation. Convincing Catchaphrase Jones, Sonny's favorite bassist, to hound Roland with me, was easy. Catch and I weren't great friends; I was more of a "boy with the band" rather than a true compatriot. But when I met him at his speakeasy after I'd sobered up a bit the night before, he didn't hesitate at the chance to continue, in some small fashion, Sonny's music.

Catch sucked on the reed, smacking his lips. "You're his brother?"

Roland, in a leopardesque robe, opened the door a bit more and nodded slowly. Catchaphrase's reputation had preceded him.

"What's this you've been saying about Sonny's last song to the world?" I knew that Sonny had always spoken highly of Catchaphrase, his favorite bassist. We were all protective of Sonny, or what was left of him.

"Well," Roland began, "We found he had a program still inside of him. A file."

"File nothing," Catch said. He took a half-step back. I could hear a vague churning patter coming from his forehead; probably a music loop implant. "Luc tells me that his funeral is tonight."

"That's right. You're welcome to come if you register--"

"Listen, fool." Catch's syllables became crisp like razor-cut leaves. "I know there's a song in there. His last song. Me and the band are going to play it."

"You can't . . ." Roland looked wildly at me, as if I were his accomplice. Then he realized I'd instigated the whole thing. Imagine that. He glowered at me.

"The Panoptikon will not allow such a thing."

"Don't care," Catch said. "If you've got anything loyal left in your bones, you won't meddle. You'll activate the song. Hear me?"

Roland was about to argue, put up a fight. But then he looked at our pleading eyes; something turned in him. "I'll see what I can do. For Sonny."

"All right then," Catch said to himself. "All right then." He breathed and I could almost hear a zombie inside of him, one that had to pay a price for life, for notes strung together. A step closer to dead Sonny than any of us.

But just like that, he laughed, and his shoulders relaxed. "Maybe you can play too, fool," pointing a bent pinkie towards Roland.

"I play clarinet," Roland said. "But at his funeral . . . I don't know." Roland trailed off.

"Play if you want to play," Catch said, and then a silence settled.

Roland, slowly, shook his head. "I'm sorry. I don't want to push my luck."

Outside Roland's apartment corridor, back in a larger concourse, Catch pulled the rapturesmoke out of his teeth and looked back, at the dark door we left.

"Sonny was a great. The greatest."

"I know," I said, straining to see what he saw.

The small funeral staging area, a platform surrounded by pews, was slowly filling. Since it was on the surface, the space was crowned with a transparent bubble dome. The colors on the arid planet's surface, in the frigid twilight, were deep magentas and violets. Streaking in the exosphere were the spaceships, transiting out to the rest of the Parameter.

A quicktube stopped right below the funerary complex, so I didn't have to put on a suit. We had a half-hour's time reserved. I had no idea what we hoped to accomplish with our plan. The small, circular stage was a slow vortex of preparation, people viewing the body inside the transparent coffin. Sonny was in a rented, jet-black suit; probably self-cremating after the funeral, but he looked nice and peaceful. Mostly, I watched the people drift in. The audience looked cautious, tender, waiting for something to happen. There was a queue, in the sealed corridor outside the bubble, to use the nondenominational funeral space next; a family of Copts from the Upper Barrows, Anapresbyterians all the way from Mirabai. Behind them, a lone child in a saffron robe played a tiny gong cradled in his hands.

I saw Roland out of the corner of my eye, in the back, with a couple of other rather beefy Panoptikon gendarmes. When the band leaped, almost playfully, onto the stage, the two guards were about to surge forward.

But Roland held onto their arms, told them to calm down for a little bit. It was enough of a distraction for Catch and the drummer to unpack their instruments.

Roland looked at me from across the funeral space. I could see the nervousness wash over his face, but also something behind that, a hardness that I wasn't able to read. Then I realized that -- for a brief moment -- I saw Sonny's face in Roland's. The same soft, darting eyes that deflected attention away from a chasm inside. I saw their brotherness for the first time.

He broke the gaze and stepped forward. I saw that he had his clarinet clutched in his hands. The Panoptikon guards were frozen -- what had Roland done to them? And why had Roland's heart changed? I couldn't reach Roland in that place where he was most alone, where he made his secret choices.

Hazy robin's-egg light filled the crescent-shaped stage as the rest of the space darkened. The crowd hushed. Sonny's makeshift jazz band waited. Catchaphrase Jones stood firmly at his bass; the offworlder Blakean drummer Sonny had introduced to me as Pope tapped his pockets with his hands; Roland, the most nervous looking of the three, skittered his feet. He wiped his clarinet with a white rag and then his own brow. I also knew that a technician had to be hidden somewhere in the crowd: the person who would help guide and amplify Sonny's softwiring through subvocs, and Catchaphrase's, if he had any.

A pirate's band, really; a ramshackle assortment of bone, blood, wire, alloy, steel, flesh both wired and unwired. "We don't have much time!" Catchaphrase shouted. He was right. Ten minutes at most to speed through the performance.

There was no preamble, no eulogy of words. That would have been pointless. Instead, Catchaphrase leaned over and unsealed Sonny's coffin.

Roland clicked something inside his pants pocket. The humming began again in Sonny's chest. Polite yet frantic clapping arose, then quickly died. Without any advance warning, "Sonny" breathed deep and blew. "Artificial intelligence" would have been too clumsy a term. It might have been all softwiring, but it was Sonny on some level, improvising, playing hard, his essence wholly in the software.

The bubble's ceiling could have caved in, three dozen assassins could have burst through the door and no one would have noticed. The saxophone blast, which sounded like it came from several directions at once, held for a four count, wailing like a vulture with one wing missing, a jackal with a maimed paw. Then the rest of the band crashed in, like they were all trying to crash a really, really good party all at the same time. Do you see who's in the house? Look, Sonny's in the house, one last time. Get the fuck in there.

They got in. They got in the sounds Sonny made, the house the Sonny built -- and they trashed the place, though with a sweetness that made the whole maelstrom endearing. The cord that held them together, this time, was Old Jazz. They started with a cacophony that slowly blended into a steady thrumming. Catchaphrase spun his notes deep, deep into the fabric of the song. Pope, the drummer, programmed his drum set to fill in with a piano backbeat as well as with percussion. Even Roland hung with the more experienced players, chopping his clarinet into the mix like a diligent, antique grandfather's clock. The song was an extrapolation of a song that must have been hundreds of years old, done in a lilting 9/8 time.

I could feel the song blow against my face like velvet shrapnel; everyone shared and basked, fed off each other. Even the Panoptikon guards were awestruck.

And yet, and yet, I felt something missing. Was this his final song? Listening to Sonny -- brilliant, dazzling, jolting the crowd to pieces -- I saw a missing piece. Maybe no one in the entire audience heard it like I did. After all, dead Sonny was now alive; the blind could have the scales flake off their eyes. Sonny flew and dived around the scales, but without grace notes. If I'd learned anything from Sonny's death, it was to carry grace with me, even to treat Roland with grace.

My life was a ruin; dead Sonny playing his heart out, without having a heart, reminded me of that.

I think the other members of the band heard that slight deflection as well, and after a few minutes they awkwardly ended the song. The players took a quick, heaving couple of breaths, leaning on their instruments. The Copts and Anapresbyterians, huddled in the corridor, were anxious to start preparing for their own funerals. And who knew when the Panoptikon would grow weary of this musical tryst and send in the shock troops?

Roland stepped sideways next to Catch, and whispered a few words in his ear. Was he changing the song? Was he saying something for his own benefit? There was no way for me to know.

The second song began. It wasn't a number I knew, which surprised me, since at one time or another I was a sounding board for every song Sonny wrote. The previous song must have been warmup to Sonny's last song, then; the last before he died, the one he stored on the chip.

The audience leaned forward; they strained to catch every quarter note. It was a waltz, done in strict, simple 3/4 time. In lesser hands I am sure it would have been merely considered charming at best, hopelessly old-fashioned at worst. But this band, even when they weren't gelling, knew enough to slow the tempo, to draw out the rhythms. Catchaphrase closed his eyes and buried his hands in his slow strings; the drummer cut out the piano samples and pyrotechnics; Roland kept his clarinet as a kind of drone, like the sound of the sea in a seashell. I could tell, though, that they all waited for Sonny, waited for him to take them all by the hand over to paradise.

He couldn't. I could hear that, no matter how crisp and jagged his saxophone became, no matter how much his body and his instrument cut up the air.

The jazz from Sonny wasn't enough.

Then it happened. It happened and I can't describe the exact moment when it happened, or even why, but -- Roland began to play. I mean really play. Maybe for the first time in his entire life. His clarinet, rather than a soft staccato in the far distance, bounded ahead of Sonny, and Pope, and Catchaphrase; none of them minded, not a damn bit. Roland's clarinet kept the slowness going, but made it into the pluming of a massive wave crashing against the audience; the band fed off the undertow. My bones ached from the clarity of Roland's instrument. Sonny, his wetware churning away at his saxophone, suddenly seemed to be the most lifeless act in the world compared to his brother's quick insistence. I could almost hear in the waltz the cadence let him rest, let him rest, and maybe Roland accepted that too.

The band picked up, whiplashed around the clarinet, but not too harshly, not too frantically. There was time enough for the music, and even though the Panoptikon would still be around to deal with, and all the messiness of life after the funeral, many of those listening to Sonny's brother would continue to listen, and maybe remember what happened.

I realized that Roland was trying to love Sonny in the only way he knew how. I knew, watching Roland's face dive down in the crescendo of the song, that I had to get it right for myself, that I had to pay attention to Roland playing Sonny's song as if my life depended on it. It did. I had to see Sonny, look into his glassy eyes one last time, and then move on. That would be the only way for me to begin to grieve for him, and to grieve for myself; not because I died, but because I forgot that I was still alive, that part of me existed outside of Sonny's collapse. I felt all of this burn inside of me in seconds, and I pressed my hands to my cheeks and touched the tears there.

One of the Panoptikon guards was crying too. Maybe that was part of Sonny's last wish, or his music all along; to make a total stranger stop his or her life for a few minutes and listen, really listen.

The nameless song of Sonny's ended. Not with a collapse but a loose sigh from the instruments. It could have almost been a laugh, maybe even one of Sonny's own laughs. For me, time began again. Through the clapping, I shakily rose from the cold pew and hopped up onto the stage. Catchaphrase was in the corner draped over his bass, nodding to himself. Roland said nothing, but squeezed my shoulder, and looked at Sonny.

"The guards," I said softly. It was as if Roland and I had gone on a long, difficult trek together; in a way, we had.

"I gave them a little shot of rapture," he said. His smile was sad but also sly, a little like Sonny's.

"Thank you," I said, "for all of this."

He only took my hand and squeezed it. "We grow," he said.

We grew. We hoped we did.

A swarm of guards entered the funeral space. With any luck I'd get a misdemeanor; without luck, there would be a prison asteroid in my near future. Either way, I thought of it as a small price for what I'd heard, to drink that last draught of Sonny's and Roland's music, in Temperance.


Copyright © 2001 Alan DeNiro

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Alan DeNiro grew up in Erie, Pennsylvania, and lives in Minnesota. He is a 1998 graduate of Clarion. His fiction has appeared in Altair, LC-39, and Fence, and his first published story was shortlisted for the 2000 O. Henry awards. He edits Taverner's Koans, a poets' resource.