Joe2stories

Stories from a Dublin Scientist

Misunderstanding

When the Tel’krit embassy in New York was first opened it was expected that they would, like all their interstellar compatriots, staff themselves with natives of their home planet. But it turns out, it was just too expensive for the planetary government to pay for transport of sufficient staff and instead decided to hire locals.

This was, of course, looked upon as a mild case of madness by the rest of the diplomatic community and dire warnings, hushed gossip and no small amount of currency wagered on when things were going to go balls-up.

The Tel’krit though were having none of it. They’re a stoic race and were certain that any problems caused by hiring humans could be sorted out a few days “Cultural Training” and good old fashioned “common sense”.

And they were right, at first, that was until Sandra Kulinski came into work one morning and was instructed by the ambassador’s chief aide that they would be requiring a human dish specifically an omelette for a breakfast that would be held for some human business executives that morning and that she was to check the pantry for whatever they had that could be used and to buy the rest.

She quickly found the vegetables, spices and oils for cooking but was short only one ingredient, eggs. No matter, she was about to set out to the local store to buy a dozen when she saw through an open door, a half dozen just lying there on a bed of sand. They were a little big, slightly grey in colour, but not far from the norm. They would do nicely.

What the embassy staff would later find out, after quite a deal of consternation, is that common sense didn’t always cross species boundaries, things that every Tel’krit child knew like red lines should never be crossed, or how doors left open signify something inside that owner wants to display but certainly not take.

Most importantly, however, they found that while Sandra had been learning Kritian for some weeks she still had a lot to go and, for example, did not know the prominent sign on the door she entered said “nursery”.

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The memory of White

The man was old,  his body shriveled by years of hard work, his skin the colour of leather from too much time under the harsh sun. He stood on a the porch of his modest home, surrounded by the parched dust of what had once been his garden.

“Yo recuerdo los cumbres blancos de la cordillera.” I remember the white peaks of the mountains, he said, “Yo recuerdo los como el pelo blanco de mi abuela” I remember them like the white hair of my grandmother.

He pointed to the mountains in the distance, the grey of the rock, shaded blue by the haze. “Yo recuerdo el nieve, y el agua corriendo por todo el año” I remember the snow, and the water running all year. He looked at the dry pit that had once been a canal, “Yo recuerdo una tierra verde, una tierra llenado con vida, flores, arboles, mariposas.” I remember a green land, a land filled with life, flowers, trees, butterflies.

“What happened?” ¿Que occurido? I asked him. His greying eyes watered up and his voice crackled with dry emotion.

“Mi madre me dijo que lo estaba ira de Dios” My mother told me it was God’s wrath, he said, “Construyamos ciudades demasiado grande, suciamos el aire y el agua. Dios no pudo permitir el nieve blanco puro en un mundo malo. Tampoco aqua puro.” We built cities too big, we polluted the air and the water. God could not all pure white snow in a dirty world. Pure water neither.

“How did you survive?” ¿Como sobreviviste?

“Trabajo duro. Vida dura. Mucho muerto en mi pueblo. Perdi muchos amigos.” Hard work, Hard life. Many dead in my town. I lost many friends. There was a tear in his eye. “Perdimos mucho, perdimos todo, cuando perdimos el blanco en las montañas.” We lost a lot, we lost everything when we lost the snow on the mountains.

He grabbed my arm with his hand, a grip stronger than his frame suggested. “Recuerda nuestra historia.” Recuerda nuestra avisa.” Remember our story. Remember our warning.  

“Si tengas blanco nieve en tu pais. guardalo, protegelo. Los cumbres blancos salvarán tu pais.” If you have white snow in your country. Guard it, protect it. The white summits will save your country. 

“Nunca les permitas morir.” Never let them die.

Six word stories 15/08/17

Finally swam alone, shark came calling.

The wedding rocked, the divorce too.

He took his own life, twice.

Never ignore a witch’s friendly warning.

Revenge, best served at her wedding.

Hide and seek master, never found.

El Humo

Cuando La Moneda quemó, yo lo vi con mi madre en la televisión. Despues diez minutos, mi madre salió y yo quedé, viendo las noticias, el humo subiendo al cielo.

Yo estaba pegado la pantalla, mirando el imagenes de la ciudad. Luego, yo olaba humo. Caminé a fuera y vi mi madre tirando libros en un fuego. Ella había formado una pila de libros de historia, filosofía, poesía, y literatura.

“¿Que estás haciendo?” La pregunté.

“El país esta cambiando.” me dijo, “Ellos van a venir por el gente que leer mucho.”

Yo vi un pilar de humo levantando al cielo, un humo de ideas y sabiduría. Fue exactamente el mismo como los imágenes de la televisión.

 

English Translation

When La Moneda burned, I saw it with my mother on the television. After ten minutes, my mother left and I stayed, looking at the news, the smoke rising to the sky.

I was glued to the screen, looking at the images of the city. Later I smelled smoke. I walked out and saw my mother throwing books on a fire. She had made a pile of books of history, philosophy, poetry, and literature.

“What are you doing?” I asked her.

“The country is changing.” she told me, “The are going to come for the people that read a lot.”

I saw a pillar of smoke rising to the sky, a smoke of ideas and wisdom. It was exactly the same as the images of the television.

Waiting for it to Work

The bedroom still smelled lived in, a heady mix of farts and sex as I lay down on a bed that was now too big for me. The doors of the cupboards were still open, vacant, in a taunting symbolism, less than half filled with the battered remnants of my life.

Still, no matter. It isn’t important. The case of sleeping pills were slowly working their way through my system. I only need to wait, just a little bit more, and nothing would matter any more.

A man’s Story

Breaking news: A man in his mid thirties has committed suicide by hanging early this evening, more details to follow.

The rope, hempen roughness, ticklish bristles on soft palms, slides amiably into a hangman’s knot, a loop wide enough for a head, a brain filled with despair, a face stained with countless tears, a mouth silent in the search for help. The loop tightens around a thin neck, hard cord in soft skin, a final discomfort. High from his podium, in uncommon elegance he speaks his farewell soliloquy, the room as silent and despairing as the world he sees. Then one final step. Rope taut, loop closes in, bones snap. All gone. Save the body, legs and arms twitching, the puppeteer gone, comical. Bowels and bladder empty, a final humiliation.

 

Breaking news: The man’s wife has been informed and taken to see and identify the body. By all reports she is inconsolable.

She sees him, she sees him dead, skin pale grey save for a bruise around the neck, head at an unnatural angle. It’s him even so, she nods, the white sheet reclaims its ghostly form. One word fills her thoughts, betrayal. Why? Why now? There’s bills. Life comes with a price-tag. Money makes the world go round, without it you might have to get off. Without him she will have to provide. Get a job, get some welfare, get cash, however you can. Sell the china, sell the house, sell yourself. That last thought jarring. A tear comes loose followed by a torrent of siblings. A comforting hand on her shoulder. She nods in thanks. Nobody’s the wiser.       

 

Breaking news: The man’s six year old son is reported to have been away at the time. Sources have it that arrangements are being made for his care as his mother is unable to cope.

Daddy’s gone, Mommy is unwell, too final for young ears to hear. Daddy’s gone, the man, the sweets brought home on Fridays, the sneaky coke on a Sunday shopping trip. Slowly sinking into a past not yet consigned to memory. Mommy’s situation frustrates in lack of remedy.  Where hugs heal and kisses take away pain the smiling clerks and those who declare to care only frustrate a noble naiveté. Tears well, anger ferments, the seeds of social disfunction takes root in fertile ground.

 

Breaking news: The man’s funeral mass is to be held on Saturday next. Family flowers only please.   

Priestly vestments hide old, decrepit body. Sonorous psalms boom out from the alter. Beautiful blessed but bland beatitudes. Prayers a plenty for the preservation of the poor penitent. The those who know him know the priest knows nothing. Generally generic are the words used in the sermon, platitudes wrenched from forty times ten funerals ‘fore this one. Two themes of consolation,

The practical: Death as loss, to be dealt with. Lean on us for support.

The hopeful: Death’s not the end, rebirth through the Lord. Follow to be saved.

Hundreds pack the pews. Black the dominant colour, on clothes and on moods. Scattered sniffs denote those still reeling. Relatives, long unnoticed, sit at the front. The widow, surrounded by so many, is alone.

The prayers spoken, the rites fulfilled, he takes his wooden conveyance on his last journey.

 

Breaking news: The man is to be buried in a local ceremony with the bodies of his deceased parents and baby sister. Be advised of possible road closures in the area.

Two grave diggers, hard and sweaty, suck on fragrant cigarette fumes as they await the deceased. Some of the resting places around them are prim and tended, others disheveled and forgotten. The body arrives, held on the backs of six men, It is lowered six feet down. There are final words, the mourners leave and final job of filling in the trench is begun.

Ashes but not ashes, dust but not dust, more a mulch, a horrific foulness of decay and corruption. Food for worms and germs until only the complex simplicity of fertiliser remains, set to become new life, the circle of life waiting for one more turn.

The gravediggers are the last to go. Some who were there return in time, keeping him alive in memory. Many will not. Soon memory, like the body, will fade and decay and he will rest, in his place in the ground, for all eternity.  

Land Claim

Rodrigo De  Silva was nervous, but he tried not to show it.  Instead he tried to think back through the last couple of weeks, seeing if could remember if any of his most recent infractions had been serious enough to warrant this, being summoned to the Director of Conrad City, the third largest settlement on the Moon. Maybe it was the chili powder in the environment suit prank he played on Julian O’Connell down in waste processing. Or maybe it was the smelly cheese he placed in the air duct of the security administration. He couldn’t think of anything else, at least anything else anybody knew about.

“Sit down Rodrigo.” the Director said. Rodrigo, tried to read his face, but there was very little to go on, maybe the thinly veiled threats he had received over his “Unprofessional” actions had finally gotten to him and he was going to be denied more surface time, or, even worse, forced back to Earth with the months of physiotherapy that would entail. He suppressed a shudder and was so engrossed in thinking the worst that he almost missed the next words the Director said. “I’d like to start by making myself absolutely clear that what I am going to say is not to leave these walls. Do you understand me?”

That was unusual. Old Iron Bulkheads had made himself something of a reputation of punishing his subordinates in the most public way possible. Keeping things quiet was most certainly not his style. Maybe Rodrigo wasn’t there to be punished The Director went on “Have you heard of the Nathan MacIver?”

“Yeah I have.” Said Rodrigo, “The Trash King.”

The Director’s face froze for a second in a disapproving frown. “Mr De Silva.” He cautioned “I’m not sure that such disrespectful epithets are appropriate for a man who has made a sizable fortune extracting valuable materials from the waste of three centuries. Are you?”

“No Director.” Rodrigo apologized, “Not appropriate at all. Why did you mention Mr MacIver?”

“Because he is coming here. In one weeks time. And he wants a ride to a predetermined location approx 1000 clicks to the West. We were thinking that you could do that job. Can we trust you to handle it?”

“Yeah! Sure.” Rodrigo said uneasily “But why not just post it on the regular notice board. Why the secrecy?”

“Well.” The Director inhaled deeply, “This is not your average trip. RecycloCorp, MacIver’s company has made no announcements and he himself claims that it is for “Personal Reasons””

“I take it you don’t buy it.” Rodrigo said, probing.

“Not in the least. From what I’ve read MacIver would go to the toilet in the morning without factoring it into his business plan. If he’s coming to the Moon it must be for some purpose.”

“Could it be mining?” Rodrigo asked “I mean some of the tech that RecycloCorp has must be good for getting useful things from Moon dust as well as ancient circuit boards. Can’t it?”

The Director let a thin smile cross his face. “That’s what we think too. There have been a couple of anomalous sweeps by Chinese probes in the area. We think it’s possible they found something MacIver figures he can mine profitably. All he needs is to visit the site in person and set a claim.”

“Won’t that be a good thing?” Rodrigo said, “More mines means more work for all of us. Right?”

“At the start, yes.” The Director explained “To get them set up we can expect an uptake in work. But this new mine will be a couple of days journey from here even if they bother to build a road or rail system. It will be simpler and cheaper to build their own mass driver and spaceport.”

Rodrigo thought about that for a second. “Jesus!”

“Exactly, they’ll be competition for half our business. We could lose all exploratory contracts from here to Farside.”

“God!” Rodrigo was having trouble digesting the implications, hundreds of people, whole families, depended on Conrad’s role as a supply depot and transit point, a new site so close would be a disaster. “What can we do?”

“So far all we have is suspicions.” The Director said calmly “Not enough to plan for. We need to know more. That is where you come in.”

“Me?”

“Yes. You. As you drive him out as he asked. I want you to question him, watch him and report everything that you see back to us. I can’t stress this enough, be diligent, the future of all of us may be at stake.”

It was a long week to wait but Rodrigo managed to fill practically all of it worrying about everyone around him and somehow managing not to tell anyone why he seemed so on edge. Finally though the day was nigh. A fresh bunch of arrivals was coming down from LLO1 and all of the rover jockeys, including himself had gathered around an information screen to see who was coming and where they needed to go. There was an brief silence and the list of names appeared on the screen. He found that the “Random” selector had placed his name with none other than Nathan MacIvor.

“Man! I know that name.” said Chen Xonghe, a younger driver, “That’s the Trash King. You’ve got the Trash King Rodrigo. He’s bound to tip well.”

For a harbinger of doom, Nathan MacIvor did not live up to expectations in person. Rodrigo had seen hundreds of photos of him on the InfoNet but the most recent must have been at least ten years old. He was already past the hump of middle age, with graying hair and pronounced paunch around his midriff. This placed him in contrast to the youthful graduate students and wiry rich adventurers he usually. He also appeared much more personable in person as they chatted in the brief intervals between the medical checkups and certification courses needed to go outside. In all, they were liable to take approximately two standard Earth days which non-coincidentally would be the length of time it would take to get used to moving about in the lower gravity. Though amiable, the conversations had little in the way of content, only confirming the destination,  some 50KM north East of the Lichtenburg crater and reiterating previous warnings about an ominous plastic crate liberally plastered with explosive warnings which had arrived by drone courier three days before him.

Since the crate, a tailored spacesuit, and a small personal bag of clothes and toiletries were all that MacIvor was bringing with him, Rodrigo spent most of the rest of his two days resting, being grilled repeatedly by the Director and his minions for every last utterance by MacIvor and avoiding the bar so that wouldn’t get drunk and spill the beans on the terrible fate that awaited all of them.

For all the terrible foreboding that Rodrigo has filled himself with about this journey, it’s beginning was jarringly anticlimactic. He and MacIvor simply put on their space suits, walked the fifty something meters from the airlock to their assigned rover walked entered it, did a thirty minute pre-check and then started the rover moving. Rodrigo had little else to do until they reached their destination.

Although called “drivers”, Rodrigo and his ilk were more accurately a mixture of engineer, steward, waiter and occasional porter. Their job, more than anything was to make sure that their paying charges didn’t do anything stupid and get themselves killed. Although they were capable of driving the rovers in case of emergency it was the general wisdom that the automatic systems did a far better job then they ever could.

Leaving the parking garage, the rover swung around in a northerly direction and set off in a northerly direction along a path that had been well marked with both tire tracks and marker posts placed every twenty meters. It was still early morning and so both the Sun and Earth were behind them not dazzling them will highlighting the markers and terrain nicely. On the flat, well trodden path, the rover could keep up a brisk 40 to 50 kilometers per hour which means that they would cover the planned 700km on the path in less than an Earth day. After that, they had to make their own path which depending on the terrain would limit them to between 5 and 15 kilometers an hour, still in less than three days they were expected to reach their target and with an absolute maximum stay of one day scheduled, they expected to be back in Conrad by Lunar early afternoon. An ideal mission.

Since MacIvor was traveling light and only with Rodrigo, they were assigned one of the smaller rovers with little in the way of modifications save a special blast directing harness in case something should happen to the crate securely bound to it. The rest of the rover consisted of three sections, a small control center at the front. A dining cum living/sleeping area in the center and a laboratory with the main airlock at the back. This kind of rover could fit six easily for two it was practically palatial. But not big enough for Rodrigo.

He spent the first two hours out of Conrad checking an rechecking every possible system on the rover then filling every piece of paperwork  he could think of that he had outstanding. Finally, when he couldn’t hold it off any longer he stood up from the front console and walked back into the living space. While Rodrigo couldn’t see anyone, muffled noises from behind a closed sleeping pod showed that MacIvor was in there, probably using the communications system. Relaxing a little, Rodrigo, made himself a coffee in the kitchen cubicle. The first sip told him that something was different, this actually tasted like coffee, not the flavored regolith he was used to. He double checked the supply cupboard and found to his delight that this was the real stuff, very expensive.

“Could you put on one for me too please?” Rodrigo was startled by the noise and turned to see MacIvor’s head sticking out of the pod. “Sorry if I surprised you. I figured you had found out the special supplies I had arranged for our little trip.”

Rodrigo looked again at the supply cupboard, the containers were all in Italian and probably cost a months wages just to ship. “You..You arranged all this?”

MacIvor laughed just because I’m a quarter million miles from home doesn’t mean that I have to slum it. Sure it added a fair bit to the ultimate price but like my Great Grandad always said, a little bit extra will help you get the job get done easier.” he nodded at Rodrigo, “Or those who work for you.”

Rodrigo was aghast, as he took out another, capsule out he leafed through the rest to confirm they were all the same brand. ‘insane’ he thought. He did the math. There was at least enough for a month there and they were only planning to be gone for a week. What was the plan for the rest. He’d have to send a sneaky message to Jake in shipping. This coffee was better than gold in the Lunar black market, they could make a killing.

Rodrigo had to force himself from planning his future commerce empire in his head. He was there for a purpose, to ascertain a potential threat to Conrad City, everything else had to wait. He steeled himself and asked his first seemingly innocuous question “So Mr MacIvor, have you ever been in Space before?”

“Oh Goodness.” Said MacIvor, cradling the mug of coffee Rodrigo had handed to him “Nathan.. Please. No I can’t say I have been in Space before. Well, not really. I did one of those suborbital flight as part of a stag night back when I was in college, it was a hell of a rush but compared to this..” he pointed at a window to the rear, where the Earth was visible, “That was nothing. Still I can’t say that I haven’t been dreaming about this for as long as I’ve been alive. Listen to my Great Grandad telling me about all the wonderful things that existed above the sky.”

Rodrigo felt a sense of déjà vu. There wasn’t a man alive in Conrad or anywhere on the Moon who hadn’t been a bit of a dreamer as a kid. It was almost a requirement. So far, thought Rodrigo, MacIvor did not seem in the least like the threat he had been made out to be.

Two more hours of uneventful travel brought another welcome surprise. Preparing the lunch Rodrigo, found to his delight that gone were imitation of the standard rations and instead there was a wide selection of gourmet dishes, especially prepared by MacIvor’s favourite chefs and packaged by the top food science company planet-side. “Not quite like back home.” said MacIvor between bites of butter-fried lemon sole, “but definitely better than what you had before.” Rodrigo, running the numbers on how much each bite of his lasagna cost, couldn’t help but nod.

Post lunch, as they both sat digesting what, at least to Rodrigo, had been the best meal he had eaten in well, forever, MacIvor regaled Rodrigo with more tales of his Great Grandfather. He’d been a bit of Space Nerd, books on astronomy and rocketry littering his rural home, taking a young Nathan stargazing well into his twelfth decade. Space had been a lifetime ambition for the old man, sadly unrealized. “He went into medicine instead.” MacIvor said quietly, “Parents insisted, better money. Not that he was any kind of slouch in it, he helped a lot of people in his time.” At that, Rodrigo felt urge to lift his cup, sadly only filled with water from the dispenser, and made a toast to ‘missed chances’. MacIvor looked genuinely moved.

The rest of the journey turned out generally like those first few hours, the coffee and food were consistently excellent and Rodrigo felt his mercenary urges lighten only to be replaced by a solid conviction that everyone had the right to eat that well. MacIvor had also brought a memory storage filled with classic Sci-Fi movies, another legacy of the now legendary great grandfather. It was such a diverse collection of the strangest and worse B-movies that even a seasoned space-hound like Rodrigo has seen them all. They spent a couple of hours laughing their heads off at the worse twentieth century cinema had to offer.

Troubled by his mission and the conflicting feelings that MacIvor had engendered, Rodrigo finally gathered the courage to ask him. “Nathan, I always thought you had a reputation as some kind of hard nosed businessman. But spending time with you, talking with you, you can’t seem further than that. What are you like? Really?”

MacIvor  put down his coffee, thought for a second and said “Do you know what I wanted to be growing up? An astronaut, I wanted to be one right up until I washed out of the astronautics program at university. Then I knew I could never be one. So I went into environmental technology instead. I found a niche that no one else had exploited. I turned that niche into a company worth billions. It was hard work, but I always had to work hard, I had to work hard to keep a roof over my head, then I had to work to keep my employees working, then just because I had always been working. I did it. But I never loved it. This!” He gestured around the cabin and to the Earth out the window, “This I love. I’d have done this for nothing. I’m paying you a fortune for the chance.”

Rodrigo nodded and thanked MacIvor for his candor. He also made a mental note not to ask anymore questions so directly. Sure, he’d watch and report back, but only what he saw, what MacIvor said by his own will. If was really setting up a mine on the Moon, Rodrigo was not entirely sure MacIvor would be the worst to do it. He seemed like a believer, better than the pen pushers back on Earth. And if the food was half as good in his canteen as it was here, he’d be sold.

Two and a half days came and went and a mild buzzing announced that they were approaching the target site. Both went into the control room and Rodrigo took control of the helm to direct the rover to rest at a site of MacIvor’s choosing.

There was a hectic couple of minutes while MacIvor rushed to put on his spacesuit as quickly as possible and Rodrigo fixed every potentially life ending mistake he had made in the process. The man was practically shaking with excitement as the airlock cycled and Rodrigo had to remind him to control his breathing save he pass out from the pressure change.

They both stepped out and surveyed the site they had traveled so far to reach. In the mid-morning sun it looked almost exactly like every other square meter of Moon they had passed on there way there. To his untrained eye Rodrigo could not see any of the tell tale formations that belied mineral deposits but that did not mean that there was nothing was there.

“Nathan!” Rodrigo called over the radio, “I’m going to open the crate now.” As MacIvor made his way around the rover, savoring every sight, Rodrigo gingerly broke the seals on the crate and made a silent prayer to the universe that the explosives inside wouldn’t decide that then was a good time to explode.

He could feel the latches click through the gloves on his suit and flipped open the crate. It was not what he had been expecting. Right on top was a tripod but it was not for surveying equipment but rather for a video camera, just like the one that was there beside it, a commercial camera, very high-end, built for use in vacuum, with a radio receiver rather than a microphone. Beneath then were ten plastic foil cylinders at the end of long sticks, they did not look like any seismic charges that Rodrigo had ever seen before but that wasn’t entirely damning.

“Okay! Rodrigo.” MacIvor had come up behind him, “Could you set up the tripod and camera which I place these.” He then reached in and grabbed a hand full of the stakes. Rodrigo couldn’t suppress a flinch as two of the heads collided violently in MacIvors hand. But there was no explosion, he seemed entirely comfortable with them.

As Rodrigo set up the tripod and attached the camera to the top, MacIvor walked out about twenty meters and pushed one of the stakes into the ground. Then he shifted about eight meters to the right and pushed in another. Then out another ten meters. Then back. and five more to the right. He made another trip to the crate and took the rest and continued along the same. Seemingly at random or at least with no discernible pattern.

While that was going on Rodrigo got the camera working and informed MacIvor. “Great!” he replied “Can you make sure all of these are in the shot? Do I need to move any of them?” A bewildered Rodrigo replied in the negative.

MacIvor made another trip to the crate and removed two more items, one was a series of sheets of metallic paper, made for the vacuum, and the other looked like a remote detonator. Rodrigo grew interested at that, an emotion that quickly turned to horror as MacIvor got to within three meters of the first stake and casually pressed the button.

The plastic foil ripped apart releasing a plastic pink mass that quickly expanded into the form of a flamingo. Rodrigo took his eye away from the camera to confirm that that was indeed a plastic flamingo, sitting there, on the surface of the moon. He made to ask something but MacIvor had already made his way to the next which expanded into a sign saying “Keep off the grass”

Rodrigo watched unbelieving as MacIvor made is way through the stakes making up a final total of four pink flamingos, three sheep, another sign saying thanks for visiting and a coconut palm. MacIvor then positioned himself in front of the camera with this motley ensemble behind him and began to read from the metal sheets.

“One hundred and seventy years ago Angus James MacIvor purchases via online sale a one acre site on the moon in this exact location. On this day, I, Nathan William MacIvor, his great grandson and heir, do hereby take formal possession of this property in the name of my dearly departed grandfather and the rest of his family.”

MacIvor kept speaking for a while more while a confused Rodrigo watched through the camera screen. This is what Nathan MacIvor’s great plan had been. This is what had scared him and Conrad City’s leadership half to death. Rodrigo couldn’t believe it. He knew the Director wouldn’t believe it either.

But at least there was the video. If only he could get a copy. He should ask Nathan after this is done. He’d probably give me one Rodrigo thought, looking at the flamingos standing in the lunar dust, he seems pretty cool.

 

 

The Right Stuff

Bob looked at the scrawny lump of nerves sitting on the couch in much the same way he would a piece of dog’s business on the sole of his shoe. That his daughter, Jane, had her arm tightly around this one’s did not help matters.

“So!” He asked, “You are the man..” you could taste the sarcasm in that last word, “I have heard so much about?”

The Wretch mumbled something in assent  and nervously answered more of the questions that Bob threw at him. 

“Where are you from?” 

“Berkleyville”

“Hmmm. We can’t all be from the nicer parts of the city now can we? What do your parents do?”

“My mom raised me on her own. She’s a cleaner.”

” And you made it this far despite that! Well done! What is your major?”

“I’m thinking either literature or philosophy.”

“You can’t decide? With either one you’ll end up in the same coffee shop…. So no stress there then. Sooo how long have you been sleeping with my daughter?”

At that, Jane, who had been squeezing the poor guy’s hand harder and harder at each question, shot up out of her chair, shouted “Oh God! I can’t take any more of this!” and ran from the room. Before Bob could get up, the boyfriend was out the door after her. “What did I say?” He asked himself. And set off after them.

Bob checked the kitchen, the hallway and Jane’s old room. All were empty. It was only when he went back down the stairs did he hear the retching from the back garden.

Jane, bless her soul, had a weak stomach and any amount of stress was liable to lead her vomiting up whatever she had eaten in the previous hour or two. Bob tried to figure out what could have set her off this time and realised that for all his attention on the boyfriend he hadn’t paid any attention to how Jane had taken any of his “brisk” questioning. He was going to get hell for that when the missus finds out. But first things first, his daughter needed him.

Bob shuffled through the house and came out the back door only to stop as if he had intruded on something private. There was Jane, bent over the flower beds, shivering as she had so many times and with his hands around her, carefully holding back her hair, was the new boy, in the exact same pose as he had so many times, for exam jitters and sports final stress. He was saying something softly to her, something comforting. Bob couldn’t hear, but he sure could guess.

Bob went back to the sitting room, thought for a second and made a detour to the den to grab two beers from his stash. He placed the beers carefully behind his chair and sat down in wait. When Jane and the boyfriend, Russel he thought his name was, were done outside, Jane would come in to shout at bit at him as to how he was a jerk if she had the strength and then go up to bed for a rest. That would mean Bob and the boyfriend would be alone for a while.

The twenty minute grilling hopefully would not have left any permanent scars, maybe they could work around them, back to an understanding. Bob knew he had to, for Jane’s​ sake. After all, this new one had proven himself, as far as Bob was concerned, as having the right stuff.

Misplaced

I slipped into the kitchen, water dripping on the floor. “Aha!” I exclaimed, lifting shampoo from the sink. “Never trust squid to pack away groceries properly.”

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Written for the grammar ghoul press shapeshifting thirteen challenge number 87.

Tyrant

A gust of wind.

“You disturbed my reflection?”

The wind said nothing

“Insolence!”

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Written for the Grammar Ghoul Press Shapeshifting 13 Challenge number 86.