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|A Turning Point by Michael D. Turner|
|Waste Not by Rhonda Parrish|
|Full Disclosure by S. R. Mastrantone|
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Mark Niemann-Ross on
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A TURNING POINT
by Michael D. Turner
The loft over the garage loft was hot, and smelled faintly of gasoline, motor oil, and dust. Less dust today, after yesterday’s clean-up. It had been a long-delayed cleaning; the loft was so full of boxes, trunks, and junk that Jimmy’s grandfather couldn’t get into it very easily. Instead he’d handed up the old Kirby vacuum with its hose already attached, for ten-year-old Jimmy to finally get at least some of the accumulated dirt and dust off everything. The only things Jimmy had ever seen removed from the loft were the two large boxes of Christmas decorations kept right at the top of the heavy swing-down ladder.
Today was payment for yesterday’s work. Somewhere up here, amid the photo albums and old clothes of long-dead relatives, underneath collections of disused fishing poles; somewhere was an old locker that might, just maybe, have some old comic books that had belonged to Jimmy’s long-dead great uncle. Great Uncle Bob had died before the Korean War, so any comics he’d owned would be very, very old.
Jimmy was infected with comic-mania. He had thousands of them—well, one-thousand six-hundred and forty-three, counting the two he had inside his grandparent’s house. He spent all his allowance and most of the money he earned mowing lawns on comic books, getting new ones at the corner drug-store as they came in every week and buying old ones whenever he found them at garage sales and flea-markets, often for ridiculously cheap prices. He knew old comic books were valuable—he’d pestered his Dad for weeks to get him to take him to a store downtown that sold nothing but comic books. They had comics in glass display cases there that cost hundreds of dollars. The most valuable comic in Jimmy’s collection was only worth about ten dollars, according to the price guide his Dad had bought him on that trip. Not that Jimmy could imagine selling a comic book—at least, not one he didn’t have two of.
Thus today was a treasure hunt, for surely no pirate could have concealed his treasure half as well as Jimmy’s grandparents. Jimmy had kept his eyes open yesterday while he’d worked and he thought he had a pretty good idea where his treasure was buried. There were only two lockers of the type his grandfather had described that he could see in the loft. One was easy to get to, though it was almost impossible to get it out from where it was. It was not the right box: Grandpa had said the box had a lock and this one didn’t. He opened it to check—just old Army uniforms and medals and stuff, probably Grandpa’s. That was neat, but not what he was looking for.
He worked the locker back to its place and went after the other one. It was harder to get to—Jimmy had to climb over three stacks of boxes—but it was easier to get out as it was almost at the top of its stack. It had a lock. He dragged it over to the edge of the loft, and then, carefully following his grandfather’s instructions, tied a double-half-hitch knot around the locker and climbed down. He used the pulley his grandfather had rigged up on the roof beams to lower the locker to the garage floor. It was pretty heavy, and Jimmy was so excited he barely remembered to put the rope back on its cleat before half-dragging, half-carrying his find in to show it to his grandmother.
“I think that’s the one, Jimmy,” she said. “Of course, after so long there’s only one way to tell.”
The lock was old but very sturdy and might have stymied Jimmy, but his grandfather had gotten out his bolt-cutters and left them for Jimmy to use. So he took the old footlocker out onto the big covered back-porch and cut the lock off. Inside he found...
No comic books. At least, not quite. Under a neatly folded Army coat was a pile of thick, square-bound magazines. The covers looked like old comic books he’d seen, but cooler. On the top one a nearly naked girl knelt in a circle of snakes. The next featured a man and a woman flying through space with glass bubbles on their heads. There were only a few pictures inside them—Jimmy checked at once—but those covers: Weird Tales, Planet Stories, Amazing Stories…
He opened the first one.
An hour later his grandmother poked her head out the back door to check on him. “Did you find any comics?” she asked.
“No,” Jimmy replied without looking up from the magazine. “Grandma?” He held up one from the stack beside him. “What are these?”
“Oh, those.” His grandmother shook her head slightly and smiled. “Those are old pulp magazines. That’s what we used to read before they had comic books, when I was little.”
“Cooool.” Jimmy smiled and turned a page.
Michael D. Turner lives in Colorado Springs. His most recent appearance in our virtual pages was “King of the Giant Monsters,” in Stupefying Stories 1.8 (October 2012).