Sunday fiction from Cat

WHEN SPACE CAME TO THE RIVER
new fiction from Cat Howard
© 2009 gch

It was the murder of the young hag that started it all. I still don’t know where Aubrey got that pair of scissors. I’d have sworn he didn’t have them with him that morning.

We’d left home about three hours beforehand to travel downstream. I had business to attend to in the county seat and Aubrey, well, Aubrey was bored, so he volunteered to come with me as lookout. Normally a lookout wouldn’t be needed, but what with the drought and all, the river was running awfully shallow in places, so I said okay, you can come, but behave yourself. I’m kinda glad he did come along or I’d have probably torn the bottom out of the boat within the first mile. I knew where the hazards usually were and steered around those areas. But, even though the boat only drew two inches with both of us on board, it still got a little noisy as we scraped over some spots that usually had deep water.

Round about ten, we decided to take a break. Navigating with the river this shallow and still with its normal amount of traffic was very hard on the nerves and I for one could use a short break. Everyone seemed to be short tempered that day. Maybe it was the heat; maybe it was that everyone was a little more tense because of the low water. The reason didn’t really matter. All that was necessary was to know that people were touchy. We passed a hydra, busy arguing with itself over the best route, each head threatening the others with physical violence if such-and-such a course wasn’t followed. That wasn’t a problem for us. With our shallow draft, we could go just about anywhere for one thing, and Aubrey was his usual carefree self, which helped relieve the tension.

It was just before the bend where the inn stood that we came upon the two hags. The younger one was playing a musical instrument – playing it well, actually – but Aubrey, being Aubrey, had to make a disparaging comment about her ability. He made the comment to me, but the hags have hearing that puts a dog’s to shame and she heard what he said.

Well, it took a few minutes to thread a way through the other boats tied or anchored off the inn, so by the time I’d made the boat fast, the hags also arrived. Spotting Aubrey, the young hag made straight for him, screaming imprecations at him and threatening to rip his ears off and his tongue out. He just stood there, motionless, until she made the mistake of reaching for his ear. I mean, I’ve known Aubrey all his life and I’ve never seen him move so fast. One second he was standing there, the next he had one arm around that hag’s neck and the other holding a very long and viscous-looking pair of scissors. I don’t know what he said to her, because he was speaking very quietly into her ear, and the older hag, standing beside me, just gasped, but whatever it was, it only served to rile her even more. The young one reached up with her hands in what looked like an attempt to claw his eyes out and the scissors flashed.

He didn’t stab her in the neck. Not Aubrey. He opened the scissors and almost gently inserted one half of the now open blades into her neck, then, “snip, snip!” he cut her throat open that way, much like cutting a piece of cloth. Then he just let the body fall, calmly bent down and wiped the scissors on her clothes and then they vanished back into wherever he’d had them hidden. I didn’t know that boy had such a sadistic streak in him.

With the excitement over, the crowd dispersed, many of them returning to the inn and their refreshments.

We entered the inn and Aubrey excused himself to wash the blood from his hands. I sat down and ordered something light. Since we still had a couple of hours on the river ahead of us, I didn’t want anything too heavy for it might make me sleepy and I couldn’t afford that to happen as we were starting to get a lot of cross-river traffic as well. I knew when Aubrey entered the room, for all conversation stopped for a few seconds.

The old crone who ran the inn walked behind the counter to relieve her daughter for a while. Seeing her, a voice called out “Avenus, when did it start? When did all this violence and indifference to life begin?” A few other voices called out “Tell us, Avenus, you know.”

When I call Avenus “old” I’m not talking seventy or eighty. I’m talking six or seven hundred.

Pouring herself a drink of some sort, she stood quietly for a few minutes. Then, “you want to know when it started? All right, I’ll tell you what I remember.”

There was a sudden spurt of movement as people signalled for refills. She waited until everyone was satisfied and silent again. “I’ll tell you, but I guarantee you won’t believe me.”

She took a sip of her drink then began in a soft voice. “Would you believe that at one time there were no crones, no hags, no hydras, none of the others as well? Would you believe that at one time, there were only humans?”

Glancing around the room, I noticed that very few in attendance looked human, although we all called ourselves by that appellation.

“It was about, oh, five hundred years ago when it happened. The superstitious called it an omen. The religious claimed it was a sign from whatever deity they worshipped that he/she was displeased with the human race. Those who claimed to be scientists stated it was just a meteor. The lunatic fringe loudly proclaimed it was the beginning of an invasion. Me, I don’t know what it was, but I suspect the loonies were a lot closer to the truth than anyone else.

“Whatever it was apparently came to ground, or rather water, in the lake that feeds the river. People looked for it, but although it had been seen to strike, then sink below, the surface of the lake, nobody could ever find a trace of it. Other than a lot of dead fish, there was no outward sign anything unusual had happened there.

“Keep in mind the river wasn’t as busy as it is now. Over the centuries, we’ve moved away from the roads and used the river more and more. And you know”, she paused and took another sip. “There was no logical reason for that. You all use the river, so you know how dangerous and uncertain even a short voyage can be. And the roads meant we could travel farther and faster carrying heavier loads and more crops. No, I’m afraid whatever fell that day turned us into water people.”

A voice interrupted. “Avenus, what do you mean ‘turned us into water people’?”

“About a year after the Fall, as it came to be known, people began to die. The medical people were puzzled by the sudden spike in the death rate and did some autopsies and other less pleasant things and found strange organisms in the bodies. The stories were always eerily similar: each person or family had been fine until about six months previous and each person got their water supply from the river. So the white coats looked at the river water and sure enough, they found those same organisms, which were unlike anything ever seen before. It took some kid, fresh from college to put two and two together and actually get four. He was a hiker and on one of his trips, he ventured beyond Fall Lake, to use its current name – and now you know why it’s called that – and took water samples from the river feeding the lake. Tests on those samples came back clean. So he deduced that rather than agricultural or industrial pollution causing these alien things in the river, the real cause was whatever had fallen into the lake.”

“Avenus, if these organisms made people die, how are we here? Why isn’t this an unpopulated woodland?” I heard myself say.

She looked straight at me and smiled, almost as if I’d been planted to ask just that question. “Why? How? Because the human body adapted. Granted a lot of people died, but eventually our bodies adapted to these strange organisms and incorporated them into our systems.

“Did you know that people who move away from the river – I mean far away inland, not just away from the riverbanks – usually die within six months? In most cases doctors can’t figure out why a seemingly healthy person just keels over and dies. But, I think I know. It’s because they now have a different water supply that doesn’t contain the organisms.

“We, all of us, have now reached a stage in our development where we need those organisms in order to survive.”

She paused and looked at me, then took another sip of her drink. Looking around the room, she continued.

“Before the Fall, there were just humans, as I said. These alien organisms are the reason we now have hydras, hags, crones and all the rest. Every one of us has some ability not normally found in people. The crones, such as myself, have extreme longevity. I’m five hundred and twenty three years old and expect to live at least that long again. I don’t know why and the doctors can’t explain it, but for some reason, rather than kill me, my body was able to absorb and assimilate the organisms when I was younger.

“The hags, for example, have hearing far beyond the range of most creatures, not just humans. I’ve had a hag tell me she could hear the supersonic sounds a bat makes.

“The hydras have their own unique abilities. One day, right here in this room, one head told me they were telepathic, which the other heads vehemently and promptly denied, of course.”

Looking at Aubrey, she continued, “Some of us have super-human speed. Young man, I’ve been around a long time and I’ve never seen anyone move as fast as you did today, and I’ve seen a lot of fights and other things in my years running this place.”

Aubrey had the good sense to look embarrassed.

“As for the indifference and violence? I’m afraid that is just an old human trait honed over the centuries, from long before I was born. If someone or something looks different from you, they are fair game and their life doesn’t matter. It’s been that way a long, long time and I doubt we’ll ever change it.

“So, was the Fall an invasion? Was the lunatic fringe right? Look around the room and decide for yourselves.”

Scanning the room again, she spoke once more, in a much softer voice than previously “You wanted to know when it all started? You wanted to know when the violence and indifference started? Now you know. It started when space came to the river.”

 

This story came to me intact one night as I slept.  Cat.

Changes, changes

I’ve been thinking about all the changes in my life over the past 19 years. First, and most obvious, is the change from “him” to Cat. As a sidenote to that, I was the other woman in my own divorce.

Changing my name was a bit of an adventure as well. First, I had to decide upon a name. Some people choose to go with a feminised version of their male name. That didn’t appeal to me. Being left with having to choose a new name, I remembered my mother telling me that had I been born female, she was going to call me “Catharine”, so I decided to go with that. The city in which I lived had, as an acquaintance observed, had a “high redneck quotient”. Keeping in mind my sons were all in school I decided to change my surname as well, just to offer them some degree of separation from me. One more change I’m thinking of making is to reclaim my original surname. It’s been twenty years and the boys have moved away from that city, as have I.

Obviously my appearance has changed. I’ve also noticed a couple of minor changes in things as well. As “him” I would never wear shorts and I insisted upon always wearing shoes, even around the house. Now I much prefer miniskirts and never seem to wear shoes or socks when home. And I love my fishnets. Just minor things as I said, but a complete turnaround from before.

What else has changed? Well, I couldn’t find employment in my chosen field, so I drove a taxi for seven years until I got injured as the result of an accident, not an assault in the cab. Now that I’ve retired, I’ve become a photographer and writer. I write mainly blogs such as this one, as well as short fiction. I’ve also written my autobiography. I decided to end it with the new provincial documentation showing the new gender on my birth certificate. My life is, to be blunt, very white bread, so nothing would be gained by carrying it on further.

There are probably more changes, but at the moment I can’t think of any worth writing about, so, I’ll finish in my normal manner:

Enjoy your weekend and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat.

Get a life

Found an interesting article on the CTV news site this morning that really shows just how much people feel their standards should govern the lives of others.

Some idiot petitioned the Toronto Public Library system to remove a book from its shelves because they feel it is too violent. Well, that complaint has been registered before against various books, so it isn’t the first time the library has heard it. But it may be the first time the complaint has been lodged against a book by Dr Seuss.

That’s right. Someone well, here’s an excerpt from the article that explains it much better (and with less sarcasm) than I could manage:

A library patron asked the library’s materials review committee to pull “Hop on Pop,” a children’s classic written in 1963, because of the book’s violent themes.

The complainant said the book encouraged children to use violence against their fathers, according to the document that listed books patrons have asked to be pulled from Toronto Public Library shelves, which was posted online Monday.

The patron recommended the book be removed, and requested the Toronto Public Library not only apologize to Greater Toronto Area fathers but pay damages resulting from the book’s violent message.

The library said the book actually advises against hopping on pop and is keeping the book on its shelves.

Now, we’ve all heard the expression that someone lives in their own little world, but in my opinion, the person who complained about “Hop on Pop” is living in their own universe. My advice would be as the title of this posting suggests: get a life. Surely there are more important things to worry about than a children’s book.

Enjoy your day and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat.

Weekend fiction from Cat

I wrote this in 2009 and may have posted it before, but can’t find it in my records.  Enjoy and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat

WHEN SPACE CAME TO THE RIVER
© 2009 gch

It was the murder of the young hag that started it all.  I still don’t know where Aubrey got that pair of scissors.  I’d have sworn he didn’t have them with him that morning.

We’d left home about three hours beforehand to travel downstream.  I had business to attend to in the county seat and Aubrey, well, Aubrey was bored, so he volunteered to come with me as lookout.  Normally a lookout wouldn’t be needed, but what with the drought and all, the river was running awfully shallow in places, so I said okay, you can come, but behave yourself.  I’m kinda glad he did come along or I’d have probably torn the bottom out of the boat within the first mile.  I knew where the hazards usually were and steered around those areas.  But, even though the boat only drew two inches with both of us on board, it still got a little noisy as we scraped over some spots that usually had deep water.

Round about ten, we decided to take a break.  Navigating with the river this shallow and still with its normal amount of traffic was very hard on the nerves and I for one could use a short break.  Everyone seemed to be short tempered that day.  Maybe it was the heat; maybe it was that everyone was a little more tense because of the low water.  The reason didn’t really matter.  All that was necessary was to know that people were touchy.  We passed a hydra, busy arguing with itself over the best route, each head threatening the others with physical violence if such-and-such a course wasn’t followed.  That wasn’t a problem for us.  With our shallow draft, we could go just about anywhere for one thing, and Aubrey was his usual carefree self, which helped relieve the tension.

It was just before the bend where the inn stood that we came upon the two hags.  The younger one was playing a musical instrument – playing it well, actually – but Aubrey, being Aubrey, had to make a disparaging comment about her ability.  He made the comment to me, but the hags have hearing that puts a dog’s to shame and she heard what he said.

Well, it took a few minutes to thread a way through the other boats tied or anchored off the inn, so by the time I’d made the boat fast, the hags also arrived.  Spotting Aubrey, the young hag made straight for him, screaming imprecations at him and threatening to rip his ears off and his tongue out.  He just stood there, motionless, until she made the mistake of reaching for his ear.  I mean, I’ve known Aubrey all his life and I’ve never seen him move so fast.  One second he was standing there, the next he had one arm around that hag’s neck and the other holding a very long and viscous-looking pair of scissors.  I don’t know what he said to her, because he was speaking very quietly into her ear, and the older hag, standing beside me, just gasped, but whatever it was, it only served to rile her even more.  The young one reached up with her hands in what looked like an attempt to claw his eyes out and the scissors flashed.

He didn’t stab her in the neck.  Not Aubrey. He opened the scissors and almost gently inserted one half of the now open blades into her neck, then, “snip, snip!” he cut her throat open that way, much like cutting a piece of cloth.  Then he just let the body fall, calmly bent down and wiped the scissors on her clothes and then they vanished back into wherever he’d had them hidden. I didn’t know that boy had such a sadistic streak in him.

With the excitement over, the crowd dispersed, many of them returning to the inn and their refreshments.

We entered the inn and Aubrey excused himself to wash the blood from his hands.  I sat down and ordered something light.  Since we still had a couple of hours on the river ahead of us, I didn’t want anything too heavy for it might make me sleepy and I couldn’t afford that to happen as we were starting to get a lot of cross-river traffic as well.  I knew when Aubrey entered the room, for all conversation stopped for a few seconds.

The old crone who ran the inn walked behind the counter to relieve her daughter for a while.  Seeing her, a voice called out “Avenus, when did it start?  When did all this violence and indifference to life begin?”  A few other voices called out “Tell us, Avenus, you know.”

When I call Avenus “old” I’m not talking seventy or eighty.  I’m talking six or seven hundred.

Pouring herself a drink of some sort, she stood quietly for a few minutes.  Then, “you want to know when it started?  All right, I’ll tell you what I remember.”

There was a sudden spurt of movement as people signalled for refills.  She waited until everyone was satisfied and silent again.  “I’ll tell you, but I guarantee you won’t believe me.”

She took a sip of her drink then began in a soft voice. “Would you believe that at one time there were no crones, no hags, no hydras, none of the others as well?  Would you believe that at one time, there were only humans?”

Glancing around the room, I noticed that very few in attendance looked human, although we all called ourselves by that appellation.

“It was about, oh, five hundred years ago when it happened. The superstitious called it an omen.  The religious claimed it was a sign from whatever deity they worshipped that he/she was displeased with the human race.  Those who claimed to be scientists stated it was just a meteor.  The lunatic fringe loudly proclaimed it was the beginning of an invasion.  Me, I don’t know what it was, but I suspect the loonies were a lot closer to the truth than anyone else.

“Whatever it was apparently came to ground, or rather water, in the lake that feeds the river.  People looked for it, but although it had been seen to strike, then sink below, the surface of the lake, nobody could ever find a trace of it.  Other than a lot of dead fish, there was no outward sign anything unusual had happened there.

“Keep in mind the river wasn’t as busy as it is now.  Over the centuries, we’ve moved away from the roads and used the river more and more.  And you know”, she paused and took another sip.  “There was no logical reason for that.  You all use the river, so you know how dangerous and uncertain even a short voyage can be.  And the roads meant we could travel farther and faster carrying heavier loads and more crops.  No, I’m afraid whatever fell that day turned us into water people.”

A voice interrupted.  “Avenus, what do you mean ‘turned us into water people’?”

“About a year after the Fall, as it came to be known, people began to die.  The medical people were puzzled by the sudden spike in the death rate and did some autopsies and other less pleasant things and found strange organisms in the bodies.  The stories were always eerily similar: each person or family had been fine until about six months previous and each person got their water supply from the river.  So the white coats looked at the river water and sure enough, they found those same organisms, which were unlike anything ever seen before.  It took some kid, fresh from college to put two and two together and actually get four.  He was a hiker and on one of his trips, he ventured beyond Fall Lake, to use its current name – and now you know why it’s called that – and took water samples from the river feeding the lake.  Tests on those samples came back clean.  So he deduced that rather than agricultural or industrial pollution causing these alien things in the river, the real cause was whatever had fallen into the lake.”

“Avenus, if these organisms made people die, how are we here?  Why isn’t this an unpopulated woodland?” I heard myself say.

She looked straight at me and smiled, almost as if I’d been planted to ask just that question.  “Why?  How?  Because the human body adapted.  Granted a lot of people died, but eventually our bodies adapted to these strange organisms and incorporated them into our systems.

“Did you know that people who move away from the river – I mean far away inland,  not just away from the riverbanks – usually die within six months?  In most cases doctors can’t figure out why a seemingly healthy person just keels over and dies.  But, I think I know.  It’s because they now have a different water supply that doesn’t contain the organisms.

“We, all of us, have now reached a stage in our development where we need those organisms in order to survive.”

She paused and looked at me, then took another sip of her drink.  Looking around the room, she continued.

“Before the Fall, there were just humans, as I said.  These alien organisms are the reason we now have hydras, hags, crones and all the rest.  Every one of us has some ability not normally found in people.  The crones, such as myself, have extreme longevity.  I’m five hundred and twenty three years old and expect to live at least that long again.  I don’t know why and the doctors can’t explain it, but for some reason, rather than kill me, my body was able to absorb and assimilate the organisms when I was younger.

“The hags, for example, have hearing far beyond the range of most creatures, not just humans.  I’ve had a hag tell me she could hear the supersonic sounds a bat makes.

“The hydras have their own unique abilities.  One day, right here in this room, one head told me they were telepathic, which the other heads vehemently and promptly denied, of course.”

Looking at Aubrey, she continued, “Some of us have super-human speed.  Young man, I’ve been around a long time and I’ve never seen anyone move as fast as you did today, and I’ve seen a lot of fights and other things in my years running this place.”

Aubrey had the good sense to look embarrassed.

“As for the indifference and violence?  I’m afraid that is just an old human trait honed over the centuries, from long before I was born.  If someone or something looks different from you, they are fair game and their life doesn’t matter.  It’s been that way a long, long time and I doubt we’ll ever change it.

“So, was the Fall an invasion? Was the lunatic fringe right?   Look around the room and decide for yourselves.”

Scanning the room again, she spoke once more, in a much softer voice than previously  “You wanted to know when it all started? You wanted to know when the violence and indifference started?  Now you know.  It started when space came to the river.”

Hello. old friend

I finally broke down and bought new toner for my laser printer.  I had the manuscript for my autobiography (no, it isn’t finished yet – I’m still alive, aren’t I?) as well as two collections of short fiction I wanted to print.  Just because I can’t find a publisher doesn’t mean I can’t have copies on my bookshelves.  And living on a small government pension pretty much eliminates the idea of self-publishing, so the trusty laser and corner copy shop for binding it is.

It has been a while since I looked at the fiction and I found that reading these was, in some cases, like finding a new author.  I’d forgotten some of them, so each page seemed like a brand new story.  And I must admit, some of this stuff is really good, even if I must say so myself.

Once I’ve finished and have added them to the bookshelves, I’ll have something else to read, and some of the shorter pieces may find their way onto this blog under the general heading “weekend fiction”.  That way, you can decide if they are as good as I think.

Enjoy your day, try to stay warm and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat.

Some Sunday silliness

At least here in southern Ontario, there is currently a commercial for Tylenol Nightime being aired. This commercial shows a lady tossing and turning, unable to sleep and the voiceover begins by making comment on the way one’s mind will jump from idea to idea when one can’t sleep.  Then the voice changes to what I presume is the woman’s voice and we hear her asking herself questions (“do I need snow tires?” – sarcastic answer: not in bed).  The final question she asks is “What if the hokey-pokey really is what it’s all about?”

Now this question is obviously rhetorical, for as any fan of Douglas Adams knows, the hokey-pokey can’t be “what it’s all about”.  In “Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy”, Mr Adams clearly stated that the ultimate answer to life, the universe and everything is “42″.  Unfortunately, he never wrote the question needed to get this response.  Note “42″.  Not “the hokey-pokey and 42″.   Not “the hokey-pokey or 42″.  Just “42″.  I can’t recall for certain, but that may be repeated in all five books of the trilogy.

Who are you going to believe – some songwriter who claimed the hokey-pokey is what it’s all about, or Douglas Adams, who stated categorically that 42 is the ultimate answer to life, the universe and everything?

While you’re thinking about that, enjoy the rest of your weekend and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat

More from the computer wars

Before I start, I notice that recently I’ve had a new reader from New Caledonia.  Welcome.  I hope you enjoy what you’re seeing.

Now, for years dating back to the ‘80s and our first computer, a Commodore 64, I’ve been engaged in a running battle with these infernal devices.  Every now and then, the system will enlist the aid of printers and software in these skirmishes.  Last June my trusty HP 4580 died after about 4 years of service.  As I’m a photographer, I decided to replace it with a new HP Photosmart.  I chose the 5510, figuring that for the $20 difference, I could turn the paper over myself whenever I wanted two-sided printing.  The theory behind the PhotoSmart was good, the practice was not.

Right from the beginning I had problems with the paper feed, the machine frequently feeding two or more sheets at a time.   This would not normally be a problem unless you’re printing a multi-page document.  Although it was a PhotoSmart (it said so right on the label) it wouldn’t print 4 x 6 or 5 x 7 photos straight, no matter what I did or said – and I’ll admit I used some very unladylike language.

After a week of these irritants, I contacted HP, who sent me a replacement.  I was not impressed with this second machine.  I had a week old printer which I had purchased brand new and they sent me a refurbished unit as a replacement.  Not that it mattered much for the replacement was worse than the original.  Where the original would feed two or three sheets at a time, on occasion the replacement would feed as many as eight at a time.  I returned the replacement and decided that, once the ink in the original was used, I’d replace it.  The ink ran out just after Christmas, so this past weekend, I went shopping for a printer.

The replacement is yet another HP, an Officejet 6700 this time.  Yes, it’s more printer than I really need at the moment, but that could change.  This one not only feeds just one sheet of paper at a time, it also prints photos straight.  And, I got it on sale.

Software will occasionally enter the fray as well.  As I wrote in “Editing ain’t easy”, I’m helping a friend edit her manuscript.  She uses MS Word to write, whereas I prefer WordPerfect.  I’ve been using WordPerfect 12, while she has a more current version of Word which WP 12 doesn’t recognize (I get “unknown format” messages if I try to open her documents in WP).  My computer came with something called “MicroSoft Word Starter”, which is a pain in the ass to use.

She usually sends me five chapters at a time.  I’ve been downloading them, then opening them with this MS Starter monstrosity.  From there it’s been a matter of copy and paste into WordPerfect.  Although WP won’t recognize the format when I try directly, I have had no problems with this method.  That is, no problems until today.  Today, I had the five chapters copied, but when I went to paste in WordPerfect, I got a message reading “out of memory”.  Excuse me?  A 93KB document is “out of memory”?  Okay, ran a programme to clear the clipboard and get rid of the junk files that always accumulate.  Just to be sure, I also defragged the drive, then tried again.  Same message.

To see if it was WordPerfect or my system, I decided to try to copy and paste the chapters into Open Office.  Worked just fine.  As I wrote, I’m using WordPerfect 12, which is ancient by software standards and thought that although WP12 had worked well for the first 35 chapters, perhaps it had reached the end of its life.  Went onto the Corel website and downloaded a 30 day trial of the newest version – WordPerfect X6.  Installed it and tried again with the same result.  Obviously I’ll be on the phone with Corel in the morning.  I discovered that while the 93KB total was too much for the available memory, each individual chapter was small enough to transfer.

When my friend sent more chapters later (I should have them done Jan 4 for you) I decided to give WP X6 a try.  Opened the Word files without breaking a sweat (figuratively of course).  Problem solved.  Or rather, that problem solved.  Now I have to rework my budget to find the money Corel wants for the new WordPerfect before the end of the 30 day trial.

I hope 2013 unfolds just the way you’d like it to.  Remember to hug an artist – we need love (and cooperative computers) too.

Cat.

“Old Air” New Year’s fiction from Cat

OLD AIR
copyright 2007 gch
    inspired by actual events

You mean you’ve never heard the story of old air?  Hell man, I’ve seen a guy so taken in by that story, I could hardly keep a straight face when he told me and neither could the cop who was there.  Let me tell you about it.

I was working the night shift at the gas station – you know the one, just off the highway when you’re comin’ from the east – on New Year’s Eve it was.  A car pulled  in with a couple of kids in it and went to the air hose to refill a tire.  While they were there, this guy comes just a-flyin’ in, slams on the brakes and slides halfway across the tarmac to the air pump.  I seen this guy get out of his car and talk to the first guy.  I guess he was asking how long he’d be, since he seemed to be in such a hurry.  I don’t know, maybe he was trying to get home before midnight.

Anyway, the couple finish and I see them drive off, then pull off the road about a hundred yards off, where they could still see the air pump, you know?  Meanwhile, I see this other guy, the speed demon, pull his car up to the air hose.  It’s about ten to midnight by now and quiet, being New Year’s Eve and all, so I’m watching this guy because I’m bored and I’m also worried that in his rush, he might take the stand out when he leaves and I want to get his licence number.  From the office, I’ve got a clear view of that part of the lot and the lights cover that area pretty good , so I can see everything he’s doin’.

Well, this guy is actin’ like he’s crazy.  He starts with the left front and seems to be taking a long time checking that tire.  I guessed the valve cap was stuck and didn’t think anything of it.  Same with the left rear.  Then, because he’s got the hose stretched as far as it’ll go, he goes back around the front to the right side, where I can see what he’s doing.  What I can see makes no sense whatsoever.  I’m watching this guy, who seems in a real panic by now.  Since it’s almost twelve, I start putting my coat and stuff on and figure I’ll go out and wish him a Happy New Year.  I’m still watching him, and I see him take a look at his watch, then let all the air out of his tire.

Now, you know and I know that isn’t usually recommended, ‘cause if it goes down the wrong way, the rim’ll cut the sidewall.  But, as soon as it’s flat, he refills it, all the while sneaking peeks at his watch.  Meanwhile, I take a look at the couple in the car, figurin’ maybe they’re gonna wait until he leaves then try to rob me.  They’re sitting there, just killin’ themselves laughin’.

Then he moved on to the right rear.  Same thing again. Let the air out, look at the watch, refill the tire.  Well, by now I’m totally lost, so I figure I’ll go ask him what the hell he’s doin’.  Just as I step out the door, Steve, the usual constable, pulls onto the lot.  I wave at him and keep on walkin’. He sees where I’m headed and follows me over.  I get there just as the guy’s finished the right rear and is putting the valve cap back on.  I wish him Happy New Year, he does the same, then looks at his watch and he says “I didn’t think I’d finish in time.”

I guess he sees the curiosity on both my face and Steve’s for he says “You know, changing the air in my tires, like that other guy said I should.  He said that if I didn’t, I could have trouble with the handling because I had last year’s air in the tires.”

Well, Steve and I can hardly keep our faces straight when we hear this.  But Steve, who’s never slow with a line, says “Oh yeah.  That’s tonight isn’t it?  I guess that’s the reason the cruiser was in the shop when I reported in.  The mechanics were changing the air.  What about you Lloyd, got your air changed yet?”

I’m tryin’ hard not to laugh at this guy, then Steve comes out with this.  It takes me about a minute, but finally I say “Not yet, I’ll do it in a while if it stays quiet.  Don’t want to have trouble on the roads tonight.  Not many people around and those that are aren’t in any shape to drive.  But, I’ll definitely change it by shift end.”

Then Steve, who knows when he’s on to a good thing, says to the guy  “Don’t forget the spare.  I’ve seen a lot of problems with people who had flats, then discovered they still had last year’s air in the spare.”

“The spare?” says the guy.  “Oh Jeez, thanks for reminding me.  This is my wife’s car and if she has a problem with anything like that, she’ll kill me because I forgot the spare.”

Well, by now, Steve and I are ready to bust from keeping the laughs inside, so we go back to the office.  The first thing we do is just about blow the door off what with laughin’ so much.  Then I tell him what happened before he arrived.  He shakes his head and says  “Give me a couple of hot chocolates, will you Lloyd? I’m goin’ to give them to the kids in the sedan.”

“The kids in the sedan?  Why?”

Steve’s still laughin’, but he tries to tell me.  “Think about it Lloyd.  A guy’s checking the air in a slack tire and someone comes in and ask what he’s doing.  Now, it’s about half  past eleven on New Year’s Eve and the guy’s probably a bit pissed off.  Then some jerk asks him what he’s doing, so he gives him a smart-assed answer about changing the air in his tires before January first.  Now, from the guy’s reaction, this other guy knows he’s found a live one, so after he’s finished, he parks somewhere close where he can see the fun.  The way I see it, they’ve earned those hot chocolates.  They’re probably cold by now, so make them large ones.  I’m a cop, so it won’t look suspicious to our patsy out there if I stop to check their car.”

While Steve’s talkin’, I’m thinkin’ about what I saw and I had to agree with him.  I reached for the extra large cups.  I look out the window as I hand the hot chocolates to Steve and  the guy’s clearing stuff out of the trunk.  Just as Steve pulls out of the lot, the guy, still holding the air hose, is climbing into his trunk.

Thanks for this story idea to the lady who was in that sedan.

Editing ain’t easy

A friend, Rusty Blackwood, has asked me to proofread her manuscript for “Passions in Paris: Revelations of a Lost Diary” and I’m flattered she asked me.

In addition to the various rants/ravings/reasoned discussions I post here, I also write so understand the time and effort it takes to create a 900 page manuscript.  I also understand the trepidation of letting another person, even another writer, “mess” with your work.  I’ve  had people proof some of my manuscripts, so I also know the questions that pop up in the mind of the writer, such as “how badly will they screw it up?” and “will I still recognize it when they’ve finished?”

Fortunately for me, Rusty’s language skills are good, which means my editing is mainly looking for the dreaded typos.  I may also make the occasional comment, or ask about her  phrasings in certain instances, but those are only suggestions.  By no means do I consider myself the arbiter of all things proper in the English language.  And of course, while doing so, I keep repeating to myself “don’t ruin her work”.

When you are proofreading someone else’s work, if you’re doing it correctly, you are more concerned with context as opposed to content.  Naturally the two are not mutually exclusive, but the reader must be more concerned with catching the misspellings (“I can spell, I just can’t type” is my usual excuse for those) than with the storyline itself.  From what I’ve read so far though, I can’t wait until Rusty publishes this so I can read it for pleasure.

Okay, back to my reading.  Enjoy your weekend and remember to hug an artist, no matter  what field of creativity – we need love too.

Cat.

Comments on television

Lately I’ve been watching a series called “Ancient Aliens”.  The show deals with the possibility that many events in both earth’s and man’s history were caused or influenced by aliens.  In my opinion, the show is far too one-sided in that it only deals with the idea these theories are true without presenting any opposing views.

Tonight’s show, at one point, was talking about the beliefs of some religions that gods live in volcanoes.  As part of the “proof”, one of the people interviewed said something to the  effect that if the US government could hollow out a mountain near Colorado Springs and  build a secret base at Cheyenne Mountain, why couldn’t gods do it too?  Of course, his comments were accompanied with footage of the entrance to the mountain and photos of the NORAD operation inside it.  Come on now, how secret can it be?

I realized tonight that show could also be the basis for a drinking game.  Every time the narrator uses the phrase “ancient astronaut theorists”, you take a drink.  Just have a designated driver.

Another show I watched was “True Story”.  Tonight’s show looked at the actual science behind Michael Crichton’s book (and ensuing movie) “Jurassic Park”.  It isn’t yet possible  to extract dinosaur DNA, but they say it isn’t all that far off.  When asked whether, if we had the technology, we should clone dinosaurs, one scientist said “why not?”.  Another scientist, an archeologist, disagrees.

This archeologist holds that Michael Crichton got it right when he showed dinosaurs as being warm-blooded creatures who travelled in herds, were quite intelligent and hunted in packs.  His comment was “if you clone a dinosaur, it will start conniving, then it will eat you.”  Sounds serious, not very grateful on the part of the dinosaur, but serious.

The show also mentioned that dinosaurs still exist and are all around us.  They have compared dinosaur skeletons and fossils to the dinosaurs of today and feel they have sufficient proof to say that yes, they are still with us.  We call them “birds”. They interviewed one scientist who is studying chicken embryos and who has discovered that up to a certain stage of development, the chicken embryo has a tail similar to a dinosaur and the wing bones, before they fuse, have three claws, just as most dinosaurs did and vestigal teeth.  Another scientist pointed out that if you watch an emu walk through mud, the tracks are remarkably similar to dinosaur tracks they’ve found.  I’ll never feel the same about birds again.

Enjoy your day and remember to hug an artist and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat.