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The Person Who Puts Down the Keys by DeAnna Knippling

The Person Who Puts Down the Keys

by DeAnna Knippling
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Page 1

On the way out of the house, Tom Takson realized he didn’t know where he’d put his keys. He patted his pockets—blue jeans, leather jacket, polo shirt—and jumped up and down a couple of times to see whether he would jingle. He didn’t. He spun around in a circle in the entryway, then shook his jacket again.

He’d come in last night just as his phone was ringing and had unlocked the door while he braced the phone to his shoulder, turned as he came in, kicked off his shoes, turned around again, walked down the hallway, brushed against the side of the doorway, and put the hand with his keys out to steady himself as he almost tripped over the rug in the living room as they gave him the news that he’d made the final cut: he was going to be a goddamned faster-than-light pilot.

He didn’t have time for this. He should just call Mary and let her know he wasn’t going to be able to meet her friend tonight. But having to tell Mary why—he knew she’d have it out of him, sooner or later—made him feel even more like pacing than going on the actual blind date. He’d rather just disappear without telling Mary anything and come back a thousand years later, after she was dead. Besides, he needed to eat, and what was left of his dishes was packed.

Tom put his phone under his ear, jammed his left shoulder tight against it, and bumped against the doorway. He pretended to stumble against the rug and put his left hand out to catch himself, hitting solidly against the back of his leather loveseat. The plastic crackled. Tom gritted his teeth and let out a slow, whistling breath, then pulled at the plastic. It was too heavy to rip through with his hands, so he poked at it with the tip of a pen, then ripped open a hole. He stuck his hand down the back of the cushion and pulled out his keys.

It wasn’t until later, as he ran a stoplight, already late, that he realized he didn’t have his phone. He must have put it down when he had to rip open the plastic. He cursed himself, that past version of himself who had done him wrong.

It was 7:07 when he got to the restaurant, Tasso’s. The sign flouted a masked, dancing pig wearing multicolored beads. On the patio out front, the chairs were chained to the tables, and the awnings flapped in the wind. It had started to both snow and freeze as he’d left the house. He hadn’t noticed how slippery it was while he’d been driving, but he almost fell on his ass as he walked across the parking lot.

He went in, and the wind went with him. Chuck, the owner, looked up from folding paper napkins around bundles of silverware near the front door and visibly shivered. Tom pulled the door closed behind him, took a toothpick from the bowl at the desk, unwrapped it, stuck it in his mouth, and looked around the place.

Well, it was pretty clear who his date, Jaina Something-or-other was; there was only one other person in the restaurant, and she was looking up from her menu with a half-panicked look on her face. Fit, pretty in a bland kind of way, wavy brown hair, big forehead. A pleasant enough companion for your last night on earth, anyway. Tom wondered if he was going to get laid and decided he didn’t want to; he didn’t want to be spending the rest of his subjective five-year stint wondering what could have been, then completely forgetting her when he had his memories restored. Have supper, be polite, go home. The company guys would pick him up in the morning, he’d sign the papers, and then he’d be off on the shuttle to the station by noon.

He bypassed Chuck with a mutual nod and walked up to the woman. “You Jaina?” he asked.

She stood up, put the two-sided menu down, and held out her hand. “Tom?”

They shook hands. Her hand wasn’t warm or cold, but she was shivering. He looked at her for a second. Nervous or cold? He couldn’t tell; he wasn’t that good at reading people’s faces. She gestured at the chair opposite her, and they both sat.


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About the Author

DeAnna Knippling

DeAnna Knippling is a freelance writer and editor in Colorado Springs. Her first book, Choose Your Doom: Zombie Apocalypse was released in November 2010 by Doom Press. She has recently published in Three-Lobed Burning Eye, Silverthought Online, Crossed Genres and Nil Desperandum. She was also honorable mention in Best Horror of the Year, Volume 3.

Story Discussion

Stories by DeAnna Knippling

The Person Who Puts Down the Keys by DeAnna Knippling

The Person Who Puts Down the Keys

FTL pilots were a rare breed. They traveled the galaxy faster than light. Faster than it was possible to go. Strange things happened to them. They changed.

People who signed up were people with a death wish, or people with long-term ambitions. The desire to see one era disappear and be replaced by something else. At first, he’d thought he was one of the second kind.

What will Tom actually find when he returns? Find out in this new story by DeAnna Knippling.

Read More
Last Hope of the Roadkill by DeAnna Knippling

Last Hope of the Roadkill

Two co-workers, an isolated Colorado highway, and something from out of this world.

I just could not believe it at first, that she could have slept through a car crash, let alone walking into a patch of pine brush. I took her by the shoulders and kind of steered her out of the brush. I had to push her a little bit to get her to head back to the car and get her sitting down again. I tried to belt her up, but she was swinging her arms around still, and after a couple of tries I have to admit I got so tired of getting hit in the face that I gave up on it.

Then I sat down, crossed my fingers, and tried to start the car.

The engine turned over once, then stopped.

Let me tell you, my heart just about stopped, too. After almost being hit by that semi, I wasn’t looking forward to flagging one down. I could have dug Marge’s cell phone out of her purse, but I wasn’t looking forward to doing that, either, seeing as it was down between her feet on the floor.

I felt myself tear up and start to cry.

Read More

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Two co-workers, an isolated Colorado highway, and something from out of this world.

I just could not believe it at first, that she could have slept through a car crash, let alone walking into a patch of pine brush. I took her by the shoulders and kind of steered her out of the brush. I had to push her a little bit to get her to head back to the car and get her sitting down again. I tried to belt her up, but she was swinging her arms around still, and after a couple of tries I have to admit I got so tired of getting hit in the face that I gave up on it.

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