about the author

Foster Trecost started writing in Italy and he still writes, but now from Philadelphia. Sometimes he works paying jobs that involve corporate taxes. When he’s not doing that, he usually goes back to Europe. His stories have appeared in elimae, decomP, and Dark Sky Magazine, among other places.

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Changed, but the Same

Foster Trecost

Henry grabbed some gum and headed for the register, but buried it deep in his pocket before he got there; he had never done that before. He nodded to the clerk as he passed and said, “Nothing today.”

He liked stories where the bad guys got away. Two blocks after his first criminal offence, he climbed to the second floor of a bookstore to commit his second. He found a book, the pages clean, crisp, and he leafed through the first few: it was his kind of story. He started down the stairs with the book in hand, but before he reached the bottom, he tucked it beneath his shirt. He passed the checkout and said, “Couldn’t find what I was looking for.”

Morning turned to early afternoon and his stomach growled. He entered a diner, dark and greasy. He refused the menu, but let the waitress recite the specials, which also seemed dark and greasy. He chose one, waited for his food, and thought about chewing gum and paperback books.

When his food arrived, he played with it, mixing things that were separated. He bit in and it tasted different; not bad, but not the way he remembered. Gone were the flavors he anticipated, buffered by the stale taste of something too familiar, ordinary, as if it had been eaten many times before. He asked for the check. And slipped away before it arrived.

He picked a park bench beneath a tree. Holding his book, he looked it over, smelled it, searching for the scent found only in new books. But it was not there. He began reading and like with food, his taste in literature also seemed to have changed. After a chapter, he closed the book and went back to the convenience store: “I forgot to pay for this gum,” he said.

He went to the diner: “It was an accident, my apologies,” and left a large tip.

At the bookstore, he said: “I just walked right out, forgot to pay.”

With his conscience cleared, he hurried back to the park to start again from the beginning, but after a few pages, he still did not like the book. He closed it and looked at his shoes: “I need new shoes.”

In the shoe store, he found a pair he liked, which were similar to the ones he wore: sleek, made for speed. He asked for his size, a number he wished was larger, and put them on. He walked the aisles, turned corners, climbed stairs. They fit just right and he smiled at the sensation of walking barefoot, even while wearing shoes. But after a few minutes, he handed the box back to the clerk: “No thanks,” he said. “These aren’t for me.”

He left in a hurry and turned up the sidewalk, walked with ease, shoes silent, as though they never touched the ground. He heard someone call after him, “Hey you, wait!” He picked up his pace. He could not stop, even if he wanted.

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