Melanie stared open-mouthed at the mug toppled on the shag as if it were a hand grenade.
"It'll come out!" Stef cried.
"I can't get it to come out. I can't believe this!" Melanie spit on her thumbs and rubbed the lace furiously between them. The spot just laid there like a relaxed beach-bather.
"This was your idea in the first place! I told you not to do it. Ronnie, soda water, now!"
"Look, everyone is already sitting down. The music is already playing! I can't go down there with a wet dress! This is not some junior prom! What am I supposed to do?"
"It's going to be okay. We'll get it out and everything will be fine. No, no, don't do that. Give me that! Soda water will get it out, I know it will."
"This a sign. This is a sign that I'm not supposed to do this. I've got to go, now. Get out of my way!" Melanie shrieked and threw the scissors against the wall.
"Get a hold of yourself! This is not a sign, it's a spot! And it's not the goddamned stigmata, it's just tea! Get back here! What about Dylan? What are you DOING?!"
Melanie kicked the mug through the doorway ahead and stormed after it, flailing her train behind her. The mug rolled through the balcony railing, missed a balding head in the front row, and bounced a few times on the red carpet.
Dylan felt something splash on his cheek. He turned his head in surprise and glimpsed a dark stain spreading on the white collar of his tuxedo. It smelled of bergamot.
He squinted at the stain, missing the whirl of white lace disappearing through the church front door; but he heard the organ halt and the crowd gasp. He turned around, walked to the men's room, and started to scrub out the stain.
"Good afternoon, madam. How may I help you?"
"Good afternoon. I'd like a FrintArms HandCannon, please."
"A--? Oh, now, that's an awfully big gun for such a lovely lady. I
mean, not everybody thinks ladies should carry guns at all, though I
say they have a right to. But I think... I might... Let's have a look
down here. I might have just the thing for you. Yes, here we are!
Look at that, isn't it neat? Now that is a FrintArms product as well,
but it's what's called a laser -- a light-pistol some people call
them. Very small, as you see; fits easily into a pocket or bag; won't
spoil the line of a jacket; and you won't feel you're lugging half a
tonne of iron around with you. We do a range of matching accessories,
including -- if I may say so -- a rather saucy garter holster. Wish I
got to do the fitting for that! Ha -- just my little joke. And
there's *even*... here we are -- this special presentation pack: gun,
charged battery, charging unit, beautiful glider-hide shoulder holster
with adjustable fitting and contrast stitching, and a discount on your
next battery. Full instructions, of course, and a voucher for free
lessons at your local gun club or range. Or there's the *special*
presentation pack; it has all the other one's got but with *two*
charged batteries and a night-sight, too. Here, feel that -- don't
worry, it's a dummy battery -- isn't it neat? Feel how light it is?
Smooth, see? No bits to stick out and catch on your clothes, *and*
beautifully balanced. And of course the beauty of a laser is, there's
no recoil. Because it's shooting light, you see? Beautiful gun,
beautiful gun; my wife has one. Really. That's not a line, she
really has. Now, I can do you that one -- with a battery and a free
charge -- for ninety-five; or the presentation pack on a special
offer for one-nineteen; or this, the special presentation pack, for
"I'll take the special."
"Sound choice, madam, *sound* choice. Now, do--?"
"And a HandCannon, with the eighty-mill silencer, five GP clips, three
six-five AP/wire-fl'echettes clips, two bipropellant HE clips, and a
Special Projectile Pack if you have one -- the one with the embedding
rounds, not the signalers. I assume the night-sight on this toy is
"Aah... yes, And how does madam wish to pay?"
She slapped her credit card on the counter. "Eventually."
-- Iain M. Banks, "Against a Dark Background"
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