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Con Dread

Maud's idea to sub-contract the waiter service at the local con increased con attendance by 500% this year.
Dear Stephen King,

You missed one. Forget sentient cars, pasty-faced vampires and maniacal clowns who turn into giant soul-sucking spiders. Nothing surpasses the horror of hearing these words from your mother's lips:

"You know, I want to go to Dragoncon with you."


"You talk so much about it, and you always come home with such interesting things. I think I'd ought to go with you this year."

I can't turn this woman loose on 35,000 unsuspecting writers, artists, gamers and fans. The Hollywood types might recover. If California psychiatrists can help them ignore the ever-present threat of falling into the Pacific, they can surely help a few Dragoncon media guests overcome the trauma of prolonged exposure to Mother. The rest of the world lacks that kind of high-priced counseling.

One of my friends, a professional woman who dresses in nothing but Ralph Lauren and Talbot's (yes, I do number a few among my acquaintance), out of the goodness of her heart, recently drove my mother from northern Virginia to Pennsylvania during the height of a mid-week rush-hour. The trip took nearly five hours.

Mother insisted my hapless, haggard friend "change into something more suitable" before treating her to dinner at the local microbrewery. The poor woman did. Afterwards my friend needed another 12 hours' recuperation (translation: "12 hours of heavily medicated sleep") before she could continue her journey to her patiently waiting husband and child.

But even more than the irreparable psychic damage Mom could cause at Dragoncon, the whole idea raises the chilling prospect that (shades of Oscar Wilde) not only am I turning into my mother, she is turning into me. No, no, no, no, no. I get confused enough listening to the characters on Farscape babble about wormholes. I don't need Freud in there too.

"Look, Mom, I think it's wonderful that you're looking for new worlds to conquer. But Dragoncon's awfully big. The people are great, but they're so many of them, you could get caught in a stampede to the Masquerade. There's not much of you. If someone big accidentally shoves you in passing, you might fall and hurt yourself."

Mother conceded this was so.

"Why don't we start you with something small. We've got a nice mystery convention in town, Malice Domestic. Not too many people, women who've had too much experience of life to put electrical tape on their nipples…"

"Any men? How about young people?" Mother asked sharply.

Oh gods, I knew I should've given her grandchildren. At least, mitochondrial DNA would afford any grandchildren of hers some slight chance of survival.

"I think I'd rather go to that haunted hotel in West Virginia you and the Washington Romance Writers visit every spring."

"That's great, Mom. You and Eve Dallas could go toe to toe. But first you'll need to join Romance Writers of America, then our local chapter, then we can put money down on the room."

"And how much will that cost me?"

I enumerated the relevant sums. The faint clicking of her mandarin-length pinky nail against the beads of her abacus told me recent events hadn't deprived Mother of her head for figures.

"That won't do," she said. "From what I can see, science fiction conventions are much more reasonable, but I want something close by. I don't like traveling by plane."

It wasn't my fault, I swear. A vision of Mother lounging beneath a purple canopy on a barge rowed down the Nile by a matched set of twenty or so sweaty and muscular men -- very large, very well-oiled, very, very muscular men -- momentarily short-circuited my brain.

"Well, they plan to hold World Fantasy Con in Washington, D.C., next year."

I think I should move to Maine until this all blows over. Or maybe Colorado, where they filmed The Shining. Got to be safer than here.

Jean Marie Ward

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