John Buentello and Lawrence Buentello
Evan hated being a temporary worker.
The moment he felt comfortable with his surroundings he knew he would have to leave, and the moment he began to truly understand the work at hand—in this case, troubleshooting growth patterns on nano-cells bound for the unending energy siphon that was the Eastern Quadrangle—was surely the moment he’d be notified that his time was up. Mastering his duties was impossible, and forming permanent professional relationships seemed pointless. And his relationship with Kayla was no exception.
Yes, their relationship was a typical casualty of being a temp, he decided as he punched in a recall code for a batch of cells whose growth patterns were a little wide of the specs. As he verified their vaporization and redistribution into the growth chamber, he realized his feelings for her had evolved beyond the smile-and-pass-you-by variety that happened in such situations. Nagatko Enterprises wasn’t exactly a warm, inviting place to work, given its ultra-conservative approach to protocol and its stifling culture. But occasionally workers on the lower levels managed to squeeze in a little humanity, and he and Kayla had experienced their share.
His frustration was compounded by the events of the previous weekend, when he and the other temps attended the annual company picnic. Kayla had been instrumental in seeing the temps included in the festivities, which, in truth, seemed a little too programmed for his tastes. He liked that about her; despite her role as ‘efficiency consultant’ overseeing his department, she managed to raise the morale of everyone, temporary or permanent, and to make them feel their contributions were appreciated. Evan especially enjoyed her visits to his cubicle, where she lingered longer than necessary. He felt a definite connection with her that went beyond any attraction he felt to her dark, green eyes and the admittedly alluring way she walked into a room. She meant much more to him, though he was reluctant to quantify his feelings.
But, of course, he wouldn’t have time to quantify anything, since his contract would soon be fulfilled. No one had actually told him this, but he felt the familiar change in the air, like an ill wind warning him of his impending termination. Temps always suffered the same collapse of their unstable world wherever they were assigned. It was just the nature of the process—one day you were part of a team, a company, and even a blossoming relationship—and the next, you were history.
“Don’t be so pessimistic,” Kayla had told him at the picnic. She smiled and removed an errant blade of grass from her sandwich with a flick of a thin finger. A slight girl, and pale, she moved like a fragile ghost at times, her face framed in long blonde hair, an elegant vision, at least in his opinion. Though no one else had ever commented on her beauty, Evan saw it every time she gazed on him with those wonderful green eyes. How could anyone not see Kayla as anything but beautiful, whenever she smiled?
Around them people laughed and ate from paper plates, or were playing in the softball game that spontaneously began the previous hour.
Evan bit into his own sandwich, watching Kayla as she leaned back on her elbow and sighed.
“But I know my job’s coming to end,” he said, chewing. “That’s going to change everything.” He meant, of course, everything between them. He was, after all, not classically handsome, or particularly witty. No, Evan was a near miss, and knew it; his dark hair was wavy, but wiry, his chin was firm, but a bit too square, his brown eyes symmetrical, but slightly hooded, too often giving him a brooding expression that gazed back on him from the bathroom mirror with dejection. At five eight, even his height was a near miss. No, without some common bond, he knew his mediocre physical appearance wasn’t the kind of attractive force that would keep her, or any women for that matter, in his personal orbit for long. Such was the history of his personal relationships.
Kayla’s face darkened a moment. He swallowed and reached out to take her hand. “I didn’t mean to upset you,” he told her. Her hand trembled in his, as if he could feel her heartbeat through her skin. “It’s just that getting to know people is so difficult in a place like this. After your job is over you have to make a genuine effort to maintain your relationships. I guess that’s when you find out who your true friends are.”
Kayla seemed to be listening, but her head turned to watch the people around them. She seemed lost in a drowsiness brought on by the warm sun and the thin breeze that blew across the picnic grounds, but perhaps there was something more to her condition. She seemed to be studying faces in the crowd, specifically the faces of the other temporary workers. With every new face she found her expression grew sadder, and by the time she raised her eyes to look at him, her face held a sadness that bordered on actual grief.
“Don’t worry,” he said, trying to reassure her, “I’ll still be your friend.”
Her hand twitched in his fingers, and he quickly added, “If you want me to, of course. I didn’t mean—”
“Have you ever tried to see anyone you worked with on a temp job?” she whispered, a strange gesture in the noise of the crowd. “Have you ever kept up with your fellow employees once you’ve quit a job?”
Evan started to answer her question, but then realized he didn’t know. It suddenly occurred to him that he had no recollection of maintaining any relationships with the people he’d worked with on any of the temp jobs to which he’d been assigned. He tried to recall the names and faces of the people he’d worked with on his previous assignments, but couldn’t.
“I guess I haven’t,” he admitted as he stared at the people around them. “Once a job is done I forget completely about them. I guess it’s because I know I’ll never see my old co-workers again.”
“You know,” she said, still whispering, “this is my tenth temporary job. Isn’t that a terrible thing to admit? And I just have the feeling—I think it’s a terrible feeling, too—that it just isn’t in me to do it anymore.”
“It’s a grind, I know.”
“No, it’s not that. I’ve been trying very hard to feel as if I’m part of something, that my contributions are still valuable. But maybe I’m just fooling myself. It’s terrible to feel as if you simply don’t belong.”
“Don’t say that, Kayla. Everyone in my department thinks you’re wonderful! I think you’re wonderful, if you want to know the truth. I don’t want to forget you. I want to keep seeing you, even after this job is done, if you want me to.”
Tears suddenly came to her eyes, and as Evan watched Kayla rose from the grass and ran from him. Her behavior startled him so badly that it was a moment before he stumbled to his feet to run after her; by then she’d disappeared into the crowd. He considered shouting out for her, but really didn’t want to risk making a scene. Instead, he convinced himself that he’d come on just a little too strong for her tastes, and her odd reaction was only a symptom of her unease.
Though the events of the picnic were now only a memory, he still shook his head in disgust in his cubicle and cursed his lack of sensitivity; he cared about her, and certainly wanted to keep seeing her, even after they ceased working in the same company. He decided, as the next batch of cells appeared on his screen, that he would simply have to apologize to her and try to convince her that seeing him outside the job was something worthwhile.
The next day, however—when he’d found just the right amount of nerve to execute his plan—he couldn’t find Kayla anywhere in the Eastern Quadrangle. He couldn’t find her in the Western, Northern, or Southern Quadrangle, either. Wherever he asked about her all he received in response were unconcerned shrugs. He tried locating her supervisor, though he really didn’t know her supervisor’s name, or practically anything about her department. He kept his patience, though, because surely she would visit his cubicle the next day, as she usually did, but she didn’t; nor did she visit him the next day, or the next. In fact, he had no earthly idea of what had become of her, nor did anyone else. Trawling on his computer proved fruitless as well—every time he thought he’d found the right woman she turned out to be someone else entirely.
As he sat in the depths of Nagatko Enterprises, measuring the dimensions of nano-cells and wondering just what in the hell Nagatko did with all of them, a revelation erupted in his mind and he realized that finding Kayla (since he’d been so foolishly neglectful as to never ask for her number) was as simple as consulting the drones in the company’s Human Resources department.
He paused the flow of cells, adjusted his tie, and fled down the corridors to the office in the lower chambers of the building. He’d never visited Human Resources before, since his employment had been arranged by the temp agency and he’d reported directly to the Eastern Quadrangle, but the floor plan posted on the wall clearly identified its location. Now, puzzling over the dimly lit hallways and unmarked doors of the subterranean maze, he wondered if he’d ever find his way back to his cubicle again. But he was on a mission, and so stalwartly inquired at every promising doorway, until he was directed to a lone office at the end of a particularly dim hallway (a darkened theater might seem more inviting), and stepped into the office.
A woman of indeterminate age sat at a desk fronting a large monitor, her fingers resting inanimate on the letter toggles of a virtual keypad as she gazed up at him through antique bifocals. Her iron gray hair sat on the apex of her skull in a tight knot, though her skin was smooth and her blue eyes clear and threatening.
“Is this Human Resources?” Evan asked quietly, his fingers resting uncertainly on the edge of her desk.
She gazed quickly at his fingers, which he just as quickly removed from the desk, then regarded him neutrally. She seemed less a drone than a soldier studying a potential enemy.
“Yes it is,” she said crisply. “What can I do for you?”
Her inflection seemed to indicate a profound resolve to do absolutely nothing for him, as he often found in the case of long-term employees who had a meaningful retirement to look forward to. Nevertheless, he persisted.
“My name is Evan Noble and I work in the Eastern Quadrangle. I was wondering if—”
“One moment,” she said, her fingertips whispering over her virtual keypad. Her eyes flicked toward her monitor, darting over the information imparted on the screen, before lighting on Evan again.
“You’re a temp,” she said. “Is that correct?”
Her snotty inflection seemed entirely unnecessary, but he kept his composure and nodded assent.
“That’s correct, but my question wasn’t about myself.”
She raised an eyebrow and sat back away from the screen.
“No?” she said. “Then what’s it about?”
“Funny you should ask. It’s about another temporary employee, Kayla Fennell. You see, I haven’t been able to find her these last couple of days, and I was wondering—”
“One moment,” she said, leaning back toward her keypad, fingertips tapping purposefully. She glanced at the screen, tapped the keypad again, then sat back with a thin smile.
“She’s no longer employed with Nagatko Enterprises. Does that answer your question?”
“She doesn’t work here anymore?”
“Such is the nature of temporary employment, Mr. Noman.”
“The name is Noble,” he said, frowning. “She didn’t indicate to me that she was leaving so quickly.”
“And yet, she’s gone. Is there anything else?”
Evan stood silently contemplating his circumstances a moment, wondering why Kayla had neglected to tell him her tenure with the company was over. Perhaps she didn’t want him knowing. This hurt his pride a little, but it was a definite possibility. Still, what could it hurt to try to contact her, now that she didn’t work for the company anymore? He had to find her, if only to tell her goodbye.
“Do you have her contact information?” he asked hopefully, “a telephone number or address?”
The woman snorted loudly and smiled with curiously even teeth.
“Even if I had access to such information,” she said, “I couldn’t give it to you. You’re hardly authorized to review private employee records.”
“But she’s an ex-employee,” Evan said, pressing his advantage. “So there would be no violation.”
“Nice try, Mr. Null, but I simply can’t help you.”
“The name is Noble,” he said, his temper kept under control only by the hope of somehow prying essential information from the woman.
“Whatever your name,” she said, touching the virtual keypad and blanking her screen, “I cannot help you. I suggest you report back to your sector, as I suspect this little foray has been initiated at the expense of the company’s time. I’d hate to have to report you to your supervisor.”
You don’t even know my name, Evan thought bitterly, as he turned and left the office. He managed to find his way back to the Eastern Quadrangle, but not easily. And he wondered if he would ever find a way to contact Kayla. How could she simply disappear from his life? It made no sense.
That evening, after enduring another subway ride alternately crushed and jostled between faceless passengers, he walked into his apartment building—the third he’d rented from in a year or so, since his finances were as precarious as his employment—more dejected than any reflection in his bathroom mirror had ever made him feel. He jabbed the elevator button, hoping this time the car was actually working, and waited. Before the doors opened, though, a man in a gray slicker appeared at his side, an unwanted manifestation in this neighborhood, but something in the man’s posture gave him an innocuous air. Dark eyes gazed on Evan placidly, nearly obscured by the brim of an old, worn hat. The man himself was middle-aged, gray stubble glistening on his chin.
“I didn’t think it was raining out,” Evan said in the way of polite conversation, though he felt no desire for pleasantries. He spoke purely from reflex.
The man said nothing. His eyes, slightly bloodshot, watched Evan a moment before shifting to stare on nothing in particular. It was as if he hadn’t spoken at all.
Evan didn’t know if this lack of communication was meant as a slight to a potential neighbor—he knew no one in the building, except in the manner one knows another person through a weak wave of the hand or awkward nod—or if the man was simply lost in his own concerns. In either case, further conversation seemed pointless, so he waited for the elevator doors to open as if he were alone, uncomfortably alone, or only the man’s shadow.
Once inside his apartment, composed of three small rooms and a window overlooking a landfill, he sat at the table in the kitchenette and thought about Kayla. His last impression of her, running through the crowd at the picnic, her long hair trailing like a pale comet’s tail never to be seen in his lifetime again, was too depressing a memory to keep as his last of her. The pain stirred in his stomach, dispatching all thoughts of dinner.
He wished he could leave the apartment and socialize with his neighbors, as he had occasionally done in the first apartments he’d lived in, but it seemed as if every successive move had left him in more destitute and isolated environments; the people seemed completely uninterested in his existence, and, truth to tell, he had great difficulty finding anything compelling about the people with whom he lived. His encounter with the man at the elevator felt all too typical.
His social life, too, was as nonexistent as his disposable income, a symptom of his transient employment, which brought his thoughts right back to Kayla, and the pain in his stomach rumbled even more intensely.
Was this simply a matter of circumstances, or self-imposed?
With no funds to indulge in escapades in clubs or bars, and no inclination to eat, he moved from the kitchenette to the chair in front of the television and brought the black screen to life with a wave of the remote. As one inane program after another graced his small living room, his mind stopped firing synapses long enough to forget about Kayla, his personal isolation, and the cryptic stare of the man in the slicker.
But this distraction, too, was only temporary.
He brooded in his cubicle another day, contemplating the nature of being a ‘temporary’ employee and coming to the conclusion that wearing that designation was the equivalent of assuming the role of ‘second class citizen’.
During lulls between scans, he pondered the nature of his nomadic life, moving from one self-contained and forgettable assignment to another. Peeved, he wrote up a document headed ‘Temporary’ and jotted down every appropriate synonym he could conjure that reflected his impression of his sorry state—ephemeral, evanescent—surely these applied, he felt like a ghost wandering the corridors—fleeting, impermanent—yes, quite the disposable commodity—interim, limited—not to be confused with something to be valued for its durance, surely—momentary, transient—this surely described his entire life, moving from one undefined purpose to another—
And the worst effect he’d suffered was certainly because his ‘permanent’ co-workers believed him to be all these things and treated him accordingly.
Kayla had done her best to alleviate this syndrome, but now that she was gone the rest of the staff reverted to their old ways; it was as if she’d never worked there at all, for all the impact her presence made. Was this the legacy of every temporary worker? Ultimate and unqualified insignificance?
Evan decided he wanted something more.
If he couldn’t know the joy of permanency in the workplace, he could certainly enjoy the pleasure of a permanent relationship, and he was determined to manifest that with Kayla.
All he had to do was find her.
Toward the end of his shift revelation revisited him in the sudden realization that his temporary status might finally prove invaluable to his situation.
Evan would visit the temp agency through which he and Kayla had gotten their (transient) jobs in the first place! They would surely know how to contact her.
Heartened, he dumped a batch of mutated cells with a laugh and plotted the expedition he’d make to the agency the following day during his lunch hour.
Evan’s expedition morphed into a frustrating stonewalling as he was forced to wait in an uncomfortable plastic chair in the frigid antechamber of TemPeeps, the city’s foremost supplier of temporary employees, or so the legend above the door declared. He remembered the antechamber, of course, but had only to wait a few minutes his previous visit, since the administrative attendant at the desk simply brought up his record and handed him his ticket to present to his current supervisor at Nagatko Enterprises. Now, seeking information that had nothing to do with future employment, the oily haired skeletal attendant in the blue blazer behind the desk had told him to please have a seat and ‘I’ll call you in a minute’.
The minute had magically transformed into half an hour while Evan sat squirming in the uncomfortable chair and the oily attendant studied his display without once seeming to perform a single administrative function. Perhaps he thought Evan would grow frustrated and leave, but Evan was made of sterner stuff. He knew he wouldn’t be able to enter through the door next to the desk, as a code had to be punched into the lock, and he, alas, did not know it; though he did remember vaguely passing through that door, interviewing in a dimly lit room while his information was coded into the company’s matrix, and then promptly sent to his first temp job. It had something to do with animal testing, though for the life of him he couldn’t remember the details. They tended to run together in his memory, these assignments.
Finally he rose and approached the man at the desk, leaning in close enough to let him know that he was done waiting.
“I only need a couple of minutes of your time,” he said, trying to be reasonable. “I just need to know the contact information of one of your temps.”
The skeletal face gazed up at him, one eyebrow cocked in a practiced way. “One of our temps?”
“Yes, someone I worked with at Nagatko Enterprises.”
“And who might that be?”
“Kayla Fennell. We were both assigned through TemPeeps.”
The man laid a perfectly manicured fingernail at the corner of his lips, holding Evan’s gaze for an uncomfortable moment, before tapping at his keypad and glancing at the screen.
He gazed back at Evan, smiling only a little on one side of his face.
“Kayla Fennell no longer works for Nagatko Enterprises.”
“I know that,” Evan said, fearing a repeat performance of the previous day. “That’s why I need her contact information. Certainly her file is still on record. Who’s she working for now?”
The man glanced at the screen again, then said, curtly, “I wouldn’t know who she’s working for because she is no longer a part of our available resources.”
Evan blinked, failing to comprehend this latest version of professional indifference, then said, “What do you mean?”
“Her term with us has concluded. Is that any clearer?”
Evan leaned back, finally understanding that Kayla was no longer with TemPeeps; the irony of being a temporary part of a temporary agency wasn’t lost on him, just angrily discarded. Perhaps she’s found a permanent job, or switched to another agency. With such rude customer service, he thought he just might do that himself. But he needed her contact information, so rudeness be damned.
“Do you have a phone number? An address?”
“I believe I told you that her term is concluded. She’s no longer in our files, and therefore I would have no idea of her whereabouts.”
“So as far as you’re concerned,” Evan said, the heat rising in his face, “she doesn’t even exist?”
“It’s our policy. Or didn’t you, as one of our resources, read the fine print? After ten assignments we purge you as a resource.”
Evan didn’t recall anything of the kind, but then, he couldn’t recall reading the fine print, either. He sighed, frustrated beyond his capacity to express.
“Why would you do that?” he asked, seeking clarity. “Shouldn’t someone that dependable be valuable to you?”
“We need to keep our resources as fresh as possible.” The man pressed his fingertips together to pitch a digital tent in front of his chin. “You see, people who remain temps for so long are dead wood as far as most companies are concerned, slackers floating along the professional world, indifferent to the requirements of meaningful, and, dare I say, permanent employ. In any case, for every temporary resource we dismiss two more are waiting in line to take that temp’s place. People who make their way through the world as piecemeal participants don’t possess—and how shall I say this diplomatically—the quality that would promote them to higher places in the world.”
Evan frowned, less concerned with TemPeeps’ philosophy of the Protestant Work Ethic than the unvoiced insult to him specifically.
“Are you saying that people who work as temps are undesirables?”
“People who choose to engage the world in such a way must accept the consequences of their lack of initiative. Why does anyone choose to live the life of the professional nomad?”
“Listen, I didn’t come here to get lectured about my lack of personal success,” he said, desperate to pinch the man’s aquiline nose between his knuckles, though knowing he might need a future reference from the company. “All I need is some way to contact her, that’s all.”
The man, perhaps sensing Evans’ unfortunate dilemma, smiled wickedly, the master of his ostensibly permanent employ.
“To use your own words,” he said, “as far as TemPeeps is concerned she doesn’t exist. Therefore, I have no useful information to impart.”
“So you say.”
“And I’d like to point out that this discussion has taken much longer than a couple of minutes. Aren’t you supposed to be fulfilling your contract somewhere, Mr.—”
“Noble, Evan Noble.”
The man held his gaze a second longer before tapping at his keypad and glancing at the screen.
“Yes, Mr. Noble,” he said, his eyes shifting from the screen to Evan to the screen. “I see that your tenure with Nagatko Enterprises is shortly concluding.”
“Is that right?” Evan said, feeling suddenly uncomfortable.
“Indeed.” The man stared at Evan spectrally. “I’d also like to point out that your assignment with Nagatko Enterprises is the tenth you’ve received through TemPeeps.”
“That can’t be accurate.”
“And yet, it is. Don’t you remember the nine other jobs our company provided for you?”
Evan tried to remember, but embarrassingly enough they actually did seem to all run together in his mind. There was one concerned with cloning, and another that had something to do with testing fabrics, and another involving solar energy—or was that hydrogen cell energy? Whatever the case, the man’s implication was clear.
“Are you telling me you’re dismissing me after this job?”
“Mr. Noble, as far as TemPeeps is concerned, you will simply cease to exist. As I said, the company believes that if you possessed a character of meaningful quality you would have found a permanent position long before. It’s nothing personal, it’s purely mathematical. Negative numbers never seem to add up to anything past zero. But we do wish you luck in your future endeavors.”
The staccato laughter that followed Evan from the antechamber haunted him all the way back to the Eastern Quadrangle; he still didn’t know why he didn’t knock the assistant a good one before leaving. But after realizing he’d run into a dead end as far as contacting Kayla was concerned, he simply lost his enthusiasm for retribution. He also wondered what he would do when his ‘tenure’ with Nagatko Enterprises concluded.
Evan didn’t have long to wait to find out.
When he returned to his cubicle he discovered his screen had been locked by the company’s Systems staff, though a shimmering virtual note was left for him in lieu of human contact: Dear TEMPORARY EMPLOYEE, your position with Nagatko Enterprises has been reassigned and you are relieved of your duties. Thank you for your contribution to our mission of quality control for all our products. Without the assistance of temporary staff members, Nagatko Enterprises would not be able to provide the quality of service it currently enjoys.
Or the level of profits, Evan thought bitterly as he searched his desk for a thank you note, greeting card or even a little graffiti jotted down on his behalf.
When he found nothing of the kind, he walked around the other cubicles searching for someone to bid farewell to, but everyone seemed to be in a meeting, or on a long lunch break, or was just plain ignoring him. When he’d circumnavigated the room and arrived back at his cubicle, he sat in the chair to which he was no longer ‘assigned’ and wondered why he even bothered to care about these people he worked for, these ‘permanent’ employees who couldn’t even acknowledge his last day on the job. Every negative thought he ever held concerning the pointlessness of temporary employment played through his mind in that moment; he decided that if no one in the company, no one in any of the companies he’d worked for over the last few years, had the decency to so much as wish him good luck when he left then they could all go to hell.
What would he do now?
He couldn’t go back to TemPeeps, that much he knew. Perhaps he could find another temp agency, or, better yet, finally steel his nerve and hold out for a permanent position. Certainly he had the experience; but would prospective employers hold a prejudice against an applicant with so many temporary assignments on his resume?
People who choose to engage the world in such a way must accept the consequences of their lack of initiative, the oily man had said.
Well, the hell with him, too.
He rose from his chair for the last time and walked slowly down the corridor to the elevator.
He’d lost his job, he’d lost his agency, and worst of all he’d lost all hope of seeing Kayla again.
All he wanted to do now was go home to his tiny apartment, lie down on his unmade bed and pretend he didn’t exist.
But as he passed through the sliding glass doors of the building he saw a woman who looked amazingly like Kayla standing at the bottom of the stairs dressed in a drab, gray coat the color of ashes. He stopped on the steps a moment, surprised and delighted to see that it was really her, but then hurried down the steps. When he got close enough he saw the pained expression on her thin face. She held her hands together in front of herself tightly, all the beauty in her eyes, which now seemed a paler green, traded for some unspoken distress.
“Kayla,” he said, smiling in spite of her appearance and taking her hand, “I’ve been looking everywhere for you. I thought I’d never see you again.”
Her smile was tragic.
“I shouldn’t be here, Evan,” she said, pulling her hand away and glancing over her shoulder. She stared at him again, shaking her head. Her blonde hair, unkempt, fell across her face unevenly. “I wanted to see you again before—well, before I had to go.”
“Go? But I’ve only found you again, why do you have to go?”
“Listen, Evan,” she said, ignoring his question, “I just wanted to tell you that I like you, I really do like you a great deal. I wish we’d had the time to get to know each other better.”
“Kayla, we do have the time,” he said, smiling hopefully, “We have all the time in the world.”
“No, we don’t. I didn’t find out until after I left Nagatko Enterprises. I thought I could go back to the agency, but I couldn’t. It was my last job.”
“They told me the same thing, but so what? We can find another agency.”
“No, we can’t.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Evan, I’m sorry. I only wanted to tell you how much I liked you, that I owed you that much. But I really do have to go now.”
She turned, but he wasn’t going to lose her again so easily. He reached out and held her arm, and she turned again, her mouth a taut line.
“Why, Kayla?” he said. “Why can’t you stay?”
“You’ll find out,” she said dismally. “It’s not a temporary thing anymore, Evan. And there’s nothing we can do.”
As he stood staring into her eyes, he noticed a strange light coming into her face; and then he realized, as he released her arm, that it wasn’t a light in her face, it was the sunlight brightening through her face.
“It’s permanent,” she said, her voice fading. “It’s very, very permanent.”
And then she was gone.
John and Lawrence Buentello have published several short story collaborations over the years, as well as nearly a hundred short stories cumulatively. They are co-authors of the short story collections Binary Tales and The Night Rose of the Mountain and Other Stories, as well as the novel Reproduction Rights. The brothers both live in San Antonio, Texas.