Altered states aren't good for me. I know, I know - generally speaking, they're not good for anyone. I have a pathetically low tolerance for alcohol (I'm giddy on a single glass of wine, and drunk by about the half-way point through a second glass). Painkillers are effective for me - often too effective. Even after a couple of decades of various anti-migraine pills and migraine prevention medications, I still get completely stoned from even a regular dosage. So when I did something to my back a couple of days ago, I resisted popping a pill beyond a tylenol.
It got worse, though, so today I relented, and picked up some muscle relaxants. Over-the-counter strength, mind. I'm currently nauseated and my vision is a bit tipsy. I remind myself that this is probably a good problem to have. At least I'm a cheap date.
"The Mesmerist's Assistant," by Jay Neal
Speaking of altered states, the next tale in Tricks of the Trade deals with the altered state of mesmerism, or at least a young man who is willing to pretend to be in that state in order to con a room of men. His partner "mesmerises" him, and the two put on an act that is - to say the least - indecent, but definitely profitable.
Until they're caught.
Starting with the young assistant explaining what it was the con-man mesmerist had him do to the police, "The Mesmerist's Assistant" unfolds a story of a carefully crafted con game. It's a historical, and has a lovely tone in language and setting that seeps through every step of the tale. More, Jay Neal's story had a twist I didn't see coming at all, and it left me letting out a great big "ha!" at the end. Definitely a favourite of the collection.