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"I m still rehearsing my big speech," said Yuri.
He had read the critic s speech six times. Preston
Mengies was nally back in top for m, given that he
had an exciting controversy to exploit. "Honey, that
speech of his is a corker! It s full of raw meat for the
interops crowd. I m embarrassed to deliver a rant like
that. Can I get away with it?"
"It s not a rant, honey. They give you a major
award, and you give them a major address. You have
to rise to the occasion somehow. You can t pretend
that you stole a cookie from the cookie jar."
Gretchen was dressed in a tawny-colored ta eta
evening gown. Her hair was done, her painted face
solemn, and she looked aggressively gorgeous.
This glamorous apparition, tidying him up and
chivying him along and rolling him onto the stage: this
was not Gretchen Lozano at her happiest. Gretchen
looked toned, taut, tense, and very committed.
Gretchen was happy during summer camping trips
in northern Michigan. A camping trip with Yuri, his
two brothers, and his two sons: ve howling, bois-
terous, dirty men all demanding that she gut and
cook raw sh.
That made Gretchen happy. It took a situation
that primeval to free Gretchen from her troubled,
complex heritage. In the wilderness, Gretchen for-
got all about her past traumas; instead, she griped
cheerily about every new day s dirt, smoke, lth,
scratches, blisters, and insect bites. In that drippy
green wilderness, full of wolves, Canadians, and cari-
bou, Gretchen ate like a horse, ran like a deer, and
made love like a wildcat.
So he knew that Gretchen could be happy. And he
knew how to make her happy. And there was a lot
to be said for that.
This other kind of Gretchen Lozano, the woman at
his shoulder tonight, was the scheming wife of a pur-
ported genius. Yuri s new constr uction was famous.
It was a permanently unstable tower of plug-in plastic
modules, all hemp, glue, and y ash. And it rebuilt
itself each and every night. This radically unstable,
profoundly interactive, ever-shifting phenomenon was
ironically named "The Monument." It was attracting
hype in the way a puddle of honey drew ies.
The project s grand success had swiftly trans-
for med Gretchen Lozano from a midwestern build-
er s wife into the elegant, high-society consort of a
network-design superstar. Gretchen knew how to
manage this. It was a quality that had been lurking
inside her always, waiting to icker into daylight.
Dressed for the banquet, Gretchen looked as sleek
as a laser construction tool. She looked as if some-
body could pick her up and use her nose to scratch
"Preston knows that it was all just a lucky accident,"
Yuri said. "Preston is a smart guy; he was there when
I did it. He knows I didn t really mean to do it."
"Oh, sure, it was all an accident, maestro. You re
just one big fake, and so are the thousand rip-o art-
ists trying to imitate you." Gretchen drew a breath
within her décolletage. "People don t want to live in
buildings anymore, Yuri. People want to live inside
constr uction programs. People are willing to pay top
dollar to live in the way that modern people actually
do live. That s no accident. We are rich and you are
famous. Understand? Only a total sap could fail to
understand that. And if you re too lazy and neurotic
to live up to your potential, well, I m going to beat you.
I m going to hit you on the head with a stick."
Gretchen had never spoken to him in that way---
never before her father had died. It required his death
to liberate her to echo him.
Tommy banged at the door and wandered into their
bedroom. Tommy was 15 now, and shooting up like
a weed, but in his dark, tailored suit he looked like a
clockwork gurine. "Why are you two still standing
around here? Can t we go yet? I m star ving."
Yuri wanted to spare him. "You really want to go
to see some boring awards, Tommy? You could stay
here and kill monsters with your little brother."
"Yeah, I gotta go to the banquet," Tommy said with
a shrug. "Your building is great and all the other
buildings suck rocks, Dad."
"It s that simple, huh?"
"Yeah---my dad can make cool buildings that aren t
"We ll be right along, Tommy," said Gretchen, heels
clicking as she fetched her wrap. "You can have a
snack in the limo."
Tommy left. Gretchen watched him go, then
printed Yuri s cheek with a kiss-proofed lip. " Some
men are born great, and others have greatness thrust
upon them. If you re at a party and ve friends say
that you re dr unk, then you re dr unk. And you d bet-
ter go lie down. But if ve million people say that you
are a genius, you had better aspire to genius. You re
not a dr unk, honey. You could have been, but you got
the other fate. You re going to be just great."
"That s your nal word on this subject?"
"Okay, maybe one more word. I always knew you
had this in you. I just hoped it wouldn t be too messy,
when it nally came oozing out."
Bruce Sterling is an American novelist, journalist, and critic.
He edited the seminal cyberpunk anthology Mirrorshades.
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