Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Chapter 21: September 24, 2031 Transfer Student

Garth was settling into his new room in the Naropa Extension Service organic interest cooperative at Colorado State University, with his fellow transferees from Denver Community College Students, and roommates, Wesley and Razib.  The room was designed for two, but space was short and the program was popular this year, so they he upgraded one of the corner rooms from a double to a triple.

Despite thirty-five degree lows, the blast of heat from the miscalibrated radiators was so intense that the three young men had opened up all of the windows to let the overheated air out, and stripped down to shorts and slick thin night shirts in reflective white.

Razib's desk was dominated by a real time, three dimensional projection of his animal lab.  Snakes slithered, rats scampered, and fluorescent insect colonies advanced across the surface offer food and a mild toxin to prey that might be inclined to consume them in excess.  Butterflies flitted back and forth above the scene, in an airspace they shared with fruit flies, Africanized wasps, and two inch long bats. Maggots slithered in and out of carcasses, and below the surface, worms writhed.  Piranhas and leaches filled the water runways of the lab.  Dart frogs perched on the low lying foliage.  Pharming products, like anti-fungal age enhancing plant nectars,and dopamine enhancing mushrooms, grew in small, well tended lots. Overlooking it all was a fishbowl with a small octopus equipped with eight simple tentacle controls that allowed him to manage the process.  Razib's octopus was called Krishna, for his many arms and sometimes profound wisdom.  If everything started to spiral out of control, Krishna would panic and alert Razib.

Wesley's desk was less cluttered.  A silver tone flute lied atop a large, month at a glance calendar filled with rehearsal times, project deadlines, spare doodle filled vacation days, and times reserved for videocalls with his grandmother in Bhutan.  The only animal in his third of the room was a three dimensional paper dragon in the image of Bhutan's nation symbol.  He picked up the flute and played an intense eight bar phrase three times and then put it down and then took his pen and continued to expand his latest composition, occasional music for a school play.

Wesley's girlfriend, a six foot two Masai woman from Kenya, she went by Kinda although her full name was longer and more complicated, sprawled out on the area rug in the center of the room captivated by his every movement, licking her lips, and softly swaying as if he were still playing his latest musical riff.

Garth hardly noticed, as he balanced the cooperative's checkbook on his tablet computer, sitting on his bunk since it would have been impossible for him to sit at his desk with everyone else in the room. 

The total wasn't right, of course.  He'd been embezzling from the cooperative for two almost a month now, creating a fake entry for sale tax expenses on the cooperative's food purchases, even though they were sales tax free.  The funds, through a couple of intermediary steps, were accumulating in a debit account in the name of a shell corporation putatively owned by his department chair at Colorado State University, with which he planned to finance a trick that would make the youthful incidents of animal torture that had forced him to become a "supervised person" look like the child play that they were by comparison.  A diversion of animal euthanasia gases to the biochemistry laboratories would teach them true fear.

In the meantime, he watched Kinda sway on the carpet and wondered how many pints of blood it would be possible to extract from her if she were properly bound and tapped.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Eunice met Jerrica at the back door, and the sisters hugged in the kitchen.  Washing dishes and doing laundry for a house full of unmedicated crazy teenagers wasn't the best job in the world, but it helped pay the bills that Jerrica and Duncan shared, and it came with a little locker, not accessible to Duncan, where Jerrica kept her uniform, spare tampons, a hair brush, and the small, but growing stash of cash that Eunice gave her every now and then for emergencies.

Eunice liked Duncan well enough, although she didn't much like knowing that they were all over each other every free minute of the night and day, but you couldn't be too careful.  She'd heard enough stories from her father's tenants about boyfriends using money for drugs or prostitutes or gambling or man-toys to be a least a little concerned that Duncan might do the same.

Even though Jerrica was staff, rather than a resident (the Anderson family could never afford it), and was a performer rather than a visual artist, her wild zest and age helped her to blend in with everyone else.  The uniform was different every week, as part of the regular duties of the residents with an interest in fashion.  Jerrica spent a few hours a week modeling for them in addition to her more mundane duties, and she loved it.  Nothing could make her happier than to have a room full of people admiring her beauty, even if they were artists whose technical skills weren't always superior.  Today's outfit looked like a flapper dress that had experienced an unfortunate run in with a lawn mower.  It was full of long slits in places you wouldn't expect them to be.  On her head she wore a matching Fez.  Her makeup, as usual, was dramatic.

Jerrica popped one tray of buffalo streaks, cooked very rare, after the other, alternating them with peppers, onions andd mushrooms to roast.  Clearly, her cooking had improved from what she'd made at home.  Last visit, she'd said that she made a sit down dinner every night for Duncan and her, complete with tablecloths, napkins, and candles.  At home, it had been hard to convince her to cook up some ramen for herself.

The improved cooking had not shown up in her figure.  Jerrica still had a lithe dancer's figure, and she had made Eunice swear she would never tell their parents, worked every other afternoon as pole dancer at a cocaine club favored by African immigrants that somebody had set up in an old speakeasy, although she claimed she never used the stuff herself.  To them, she was exotic.  Eunice wasn't convinced that Jerrica was telling the truth about not using, but she made a point of trying not to pry, even though it was her job to pry into everyone else's lives.  Eunice had asked about getting a job bussing there once or twice a week, even though she didn't need the money, so that she could listen to people talk when their guard was down.

"How's dad?", Jerrica asked.

"He finally got a ladder to take down your pictures from under the Cathedral ceiling shelf this week.  Saying your name aloud, even to mom, provokes a top of his lungs roar.  He's been drinking more lately.  And, half the time he pretends that even I don't exist, maybe because I remind him of you.", Eunice answered.

"That bad, huh?"

"He's talking about converting your old bedroom into a kennel for pets left behind when tenants are on vacation."

Jerrica turned her back to Eunice and made a sound that was some sort of mix between a sob and a snort.

"How's it going in the love shack?"

"Duncan's getting more and more shifted by himself now, and I sit behind the counter while he's working on client's machines in the garage when I can.  Lots of the customers and all the vendors know me now.  The boy is really good with his hands, you know . . . ."

Eunice's hands shot up in a stopping motion before too much information was imparted.

"We part of a softball team made up of motorcycle repairers and their girlfriends and office girls that competes against other work related teams around the city.  We're up against the dentists and dental hygenists this Saturday at Lowry if you want to come and watch."

Eunice nodded, despite knowing that there was almost no chance that she would actually come.

"Gotta go," Eunice said, as they hugged and she stuffed a thin roll of hundred dollar bills into her sister's cleveage, and out she walked into the sultry night air for the long trip home to Highland's Ranch.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Chapter 20: August 20, 2031 Recentering

When Lily woke up again, Cass was gone. 

A glass of mango juice with a celery stick in it next to a small container of Tabasco sauce, and a salt bagel were neatly placed on the bar on the kitchen next to a note on the back of a dry cleaning receipt in big letters in his clean, almost childish print, saying he'd check back this afternoon when he could take a break. 

On the bar stool was a big fluffy white towel, trial sized bottles of a strawberry and cream shampoo and conditioner (although not the kind Lily usually used, she needed a special swimmer's formula or chlorine in the pools she swam in destroyed it), a little athletic brand women's deodorant and a hair brush made out of gun metal blue molded metal in a quirky abstract design. Hanging from the track light aimed at the mango juice was a thin, floral print sundress with a pair of strappy pink sandals dangling under them.

Taking the hint, Lily was soon fed, showered and dressed.  It felt good.  Cass had clearly learned something about how to make a woman feel pampered at some point in his life. 

She looked at clock on the oven.  It was eleven o'clock according to the time and temperature screen, and a sultry ninety-four degrees outside already.  A glance out the window revealed that there wasn't a cloud in the sky.  Her boss at DeVeaux's had given her the day off.  It would be hours until Cass could take time off work.  The last thing on Lily's mind was a swim.

A flash of her motorcycle sinking into the South Platte flashed in her mind's eye, but Lily was not about to let dealing with that start her day off on the wrong foot.  A visit to a seriously brain injured little girl in the hospital was also not the right place to start her day, Lily decided.

Lily almost started to collect her thoughts to think about what to say on a call to her dad.  Maybe she could introduce him to Cass.  How many years had he been dead now?  Clearly, she wasn't quite as fully recovered from yesterday evening as she thought. 

But, the thought wouldn't go away.  Lily wasn't religious, but her grandmother had often brought her along for Japanese Grave Cleaning Day in the Spring, fifteen days after the equinox, every year, as they'd done all over Asia for twenty-five hundred years or more.

It was a couple of hours drive to dad's spot in the cemetery on the plains of the Front Range near where she grew up, next to mom's.  When dad was alive, she'd gone every year.  Since the funeral, she'd visited once or twice, but it wasn't something she did regularly.  Her life in the city was full enough.  Lily wasn' the sort of person who had long conversations about what she wanted to do with her life with dead people.  She didn't have a shrine to her parents in her bedroom.  The only god worshiped there was the one who found the pyramid of unwashed laundry on top of her hamper sacred.

After leaving a short video message for Cass on the recorder in front of the refrigerator, Lily headed out on a walk to Sakura Square.  Rather than overwhelming her, the intense heat and sun and still air seemed nourishing.  Her grandmother had lived in Sakura Square forever, so it was comforting and familiar.  She walked into the Mercantile Exchange.  Ignoring the teenager at the front counter, she made her way to the produce stand at the back, where the wizened old woman who owned the place was arranging lettuces and daikon.

"What would you recommend that I bring to my parents' grave to introduce them to a young man who has become important to me?"

The shop owner looked deeply into Lily's eyes and was still for a long time.  She didn't say a word.  But, ten minutes later, she had a brown bag with a bouquet of flowers sticking out the top and was headed in the direction of DeVeaux's.  Her insurance agent, whom she had picked for convenience of location rather than minimum premium was on the way.  She explained what happened, signed a statement her agent prepared, and was told that she'd receive a form letter with more questions in a few days.  At DeVeaux's, the front room was empty and the delivery van was not out back.  She didn't make a sound and no one came up.  She took some flowers from the day old bin behind the counter, fashioned a little tiara of flowers for herself, did a fashion check in the mirror, and strolled out again. 

She picked up a baguette on the rest of her walk back to Cass's place.  She could have gone back to her own apartment, but felt no emotional draw to it. 

He called the apartment at about three in the afternoon.

"Are you O.K.?  You look better than I could have hoped in that dress.  You look like a faerie queen.", he said.

"I'm very well, thank you, Cass.  You are the most considerate gentleman I've ever known.", Lily replied.

"The Navy made kind of a big deal about that, and I did grow up in the South."

"Cass?  Is there any way that you could take some time off this afternoon?  I know your work is very important, and if you can't, I'll understand."

"Let just double check for a second. . . . No there isn't anything I can't have rescheduled.  Your wish is my command.  I can be at my apartment in fifteen minutes."

"I'd like to take you some place that's important to me right now for some reason."

"See you soon, my queen."

* * * *

The sun was setting over the country graveyard and the drone of the insects in the grass had begun.  Lily was sitting Indian style in front of the grave marker.  They had cleaned it off and set out the flowers and lit the incense and set out the cup of water and pieces of fruit when they'd arrived.  Cass was behind her, his hands resting lightly on her thighs, letting Lily do the talking.

"Dad.  Mom.  This is your daughter Lily.  I'd like to introduce you to someone.  He's very important to me.  His name is Cass. . . . He isn't like anyone we ever knew when I was growing up, but I think that you'd approve of him.  He's smart, and brave, and considerate and well, you can look for yourselves to see what he looks like.  He takes care of me more often than I'd like to admit and keeps me out of trouble.  Can you imagine that your delinquent daughter has a straight laced soldier in her life?  I know.  It seems strange to me too.  I have a job too, and I rescue people sometimes in emergencies when they slip too far under the water.  I don't think I realized how much I've missed you."

Lily wept a little.  Cass kept his gentle hands on her thighs and breathed deeply and quietly against her as she recovered herself.  She did, and then she was still and breathed deeply herself for a long time as the sunset ended and it grew dark.

"Goodbye.", she said, and they rose.

They were on the way home when Lily asked.

"Cass, I think I've decided.  I'd really like to move into your home and share my life with you for . . . for a . . . for now until . . . . until whenever . . . maybe a long time.  Indefinitely.  Am I welcome?"

Cass smiled his biggest most sincere, glowing smile of pleasure and delight.

"I think I know a guy with a pickup truck."

He pulled over to the side of the road.  They kissed for a very long time in the dark as cars and trucks rushed by on the highway and farmer's fields stretched out forever beside the road.  Then, they caught their breath and Cass drove them back to their home.