Imagine a perfect morning. You’re walking down a cobblestone street. Sun rays peer through leaves in the trees, around roofs and chimneys. A cool breeze bobs the geraniums in the window boxes. You have a coffee or a tea in hand. It is made exactly the way you like, from an open-air cafe just up the hill. You are alone. You are with a beloved companion.
At the end of this gently sloping street is the sea. You stroll toward it, past shops just opening. The smell of fresh bread comes from a patisserie down the way. You know exactly which of the elaborate pastries you’ll get. Birdsong spills out into the blue sky.
On a morning like this, the whole world is new and full of possibilities.
Then, you see a vendor you’ve never noticed before in your morning walks down to the sea. At a little table, there is a typewriter and stacks of paper. Behind them sits a person. Taped to the front of the table is a sign that reads, “Short Stories, $1.”
You know you have a dollar—these days, a dollar isn’t much. So you ask, “What is the short story about?”
The Writer tells you. But it almost doesn’t matter. On this morning, you would take a chance on a short story. There is something adventurous and mystical in the encounter. Even if the story you buy is terrible or strange, this will all make a good story in itself.
So you pay your dollar and the Writer hands you the story.
You tuck the story under your arm, and keep walking. You purchase that pastry (it comes in a little paper bag), and continue on to the sea. All the while, the story is calling to you.
You sit down on the pier, drink your coffee, take a bite of your pastry, and begin to read.
Where does the story take you? What foreign place do you explore? It could be anywhere, any time. And for this limitless trip, your ticket was only one dollar—less than the pastry, which, while delicious, is already gone, and will not linger in the memory the way these words will.
When you finish, you watch the waves and the seagulls diving and think about the story you’ve bought. Or, you hand it to your beloved, and they read it too. No matter how many people read it, the story will never wear out. It will never be consumed. This experience of stepping into another life, another voice, is eternal.
So here I am, the Writer, now intruding on this beautiful morning. I have a short story for sale. And it is $0.99. I do not ask you to rush to buy it. I ask you to consider, if you feel a resistance to spend $0.99 on a story, where that resistance comes from. To examine how our money does or does not value creators.
There are some who would miss that dollar, and if you do need it, by all means, keep it! But for those who would not miss a dollar here or there, I ask the question of all perfect mornings full of promise and cool ocean breezes:
My comic science-fiction short story FOOTNOTES ON A SPACE OPERA is out Labor Day, Sept. 6!
When aliens land on Earth, opera—one of Western culture’s greatest but most polarizing musical traditions—becomes our planet’s greatest interstellar export.
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy meets Arrival on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera.
Told from the distant future, this short story imagines a reality in which aliens are opera fans, the representative of the human race is a retired coloratura soprano, and classical music is the ticket to the stars. What could possibly go wrong?