Checks And Balances by Keith Kitchen

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SUMMARY: After finally selling his first story, Derek Simpson is arrested by Thought Police for World Altering and accused of being an Author. Dazed and confused, Derek discovers he may be far more...


Derek Simpson lit another cigarette from his old Bic lighter while he watched through the window for the mailman. He had been doing the same thing every morning, Monday through Saturday for the past three weeks. He was waiting, however impatiently, for news.

So far, when the mail had come, it was either junk mail proclaiming that "Yes! You Could Already Be A Millionaire!" or other useless drivel, or, worse, it had been bills, many bearing large red letters, in bold, all capital script, "FINAL NOTICE".

More than news, it was a check he was waiting for. Hoping for. He needed that check the way a junkie needed a fix, yet there was no way he could guarantee or be guaranteed it would arrive today, or ever.

Even more than the check, it was acceptance he was hoping for. He had lost his job hanging tires on Fords a year previously and the unemployment checks had run out three months ago. Even without income, he couldn't get the Big W, as he called it. He owned his home outright and two cars to go with it. They were old, sure, each with over 100K on each one, but they were HIS.

His Welfare consultant, as they were being called now, had blithely informed him that since he owned these assets, which could net him over one hundred thousand dollars, theoretically, if he played his cards right, he did not qualify for Welfare, Food Stamps, health care of any sort or any other type of support.

He had never laid eyes on this "consultant", having had all his conversations with her over the phone. He was positive she had to be a middle-aged, fat, black bitch. He didn't consider himself a racist and made great pains to proclaim to anyone who would listen to him that he was not and never had been a racist, but, nonetheless, he was positive, dead positive, that she was a big, fat, black and there was no question on God's green Earth that she was a bitch with a great big, capital "B".

He wanted acceptance for his Story. Every time he mentioned it to anyone, it was the "Story" and you could hear the capital "S". He had sweat nails writing it, re-writing it and the re-writing it a third time. He had the finalized version after his third re-write and shook his head, hardly able to believe he had actually written it. In his own, biased opinion, it was among the best stories he had ever read, never mind having written it.

It was a gore fest entitled "The Hand", a horror story with elements of fantasy and the science fiction Derek loved. He did a quick on-line search and downloaded the addresses of the magazines that were most likely to publish a story of his work's caliber. He aimed for the top-of-the-line Science Fiction Magazines, like Analog, Asimov's, his beloved Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and on down the line.

He was certain, even though it was the first story he had ever attempted to write, that it would sell. It had to sell, as good as it was. He let some of his closest friends read it and they swore they loved it, though if he had looked into their eyes, he would have seen that they were wondering more about his sanity than his worth as a writer.

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