Waiting Room

Random Words: honest, Venus, achievement, daughter, thread, extent, automatic, officer, urine, unfortunate.

The officer took my urine sample, handling it with the faint disgust usually associated with such a distasteful task.  I had been careful not to  get any drips on the outside.  Technically the cup was clean, but there’s no getting around the innate revulsion reserved for such things as body excretions.  I looked around the room while I waited.  The empty chairs echoed the endless waiting of countless other unfortunate hopefuls before me.  I don’t know how I knew, but I just knew.  It was going to be me.  I would be picked.  My daughter was at home waiting for me to let her know the second I found out. Would she be happy for me?  This was a huge achievement for me, for us.  It was just me and her now.  And if, I mean when I get notified that I’m the one, it means she will be left all alone.  She’s almost 17, almost an adult.  Will she be ok without me?  Have I done enough to raise her well?  Does she have the tools and skills to survive without me?  To flourish even?  Am I deserting her?  Am I failing her by leaving her?  My misgivings are temporarily shoved to the background as I hear the door open.  The officer returns and motions for me to follow him.  There is no indication in his body language at all as to the outcome of my final test.  I put my automatic smile on and follow him into the hallway. A few short steps later, he leads me into a small room with no windows.  The fluorescent light is blinking erratically.  I look up and he shrugs apologetically.  There’s just a small conference table, two chairs, and the concrete walls.  I sit down to wait again.  The door closes with a click and time starts to pass slowly.  This room doesn’t seem celebratory in any way.  There’s no wood paneling, no beautifully polished furniture.  It’s definitely not fit for a ceremony.  Could I have been wrong?  Was I not selected?  Is this the “Sorry, but you’re not the one” room?  I start to feel anxious energy seep into my being.  My foot starts tapping the leg of the chair.  I stand up to pace and relieve some of the tension I can feel increasing with every moment.  My daughter will be so disappointed.  At least I won’t have to leave her.  The thread of my thoughts turns blacker and blacker as I give in to resignation.  I hear a sharp quick rap at the door as it swings open to reveal a new person, someone I had only ever seen on the telescreens.  She was so much more petite in person but nonetheless bristling with power.  To be honest, I was in a state of disbelief that she was right here in front of me. The extent of my shock was stretched even further when she smiled and said, “Welcome to Project Venus!”

Worst day ever

Random Words: face, sausage, agreement, alarm, expression, civilization, jest, prosecute, executive, horoscope.

I should have given more credence to today’s horoscope.  My first omen of impending doom was my alarm clock failing to wake me in time for my meeting.  I should have just stayed in bed.  The end result would have been the same.  The expression on my lawyer’s face when I arrived 20 minutes late to our appointment was annoyance.  The expression on his face when he read the agreement was incredulous, and not the good kind of incredulous.  Civilization was over as I knew it.  You think I jest?  Hyperbolize?  Oh no.  The company executive had told me repeatedly that the company would prosecute me if I ever divulged the recipe for my vegan chorizo and cilantro sausage.  How was I supposed to know I couldn’t even give it to my own sister?  How was I supposed to know she was going to share it with her book club friends?  And how could I have known that one of those book club friends just so happened to be the CEO of the company I had just sold my sausage recipe to?  Now here I am in my lawyer’s office, hoping that there is some loophole in the contract I signed.  I can’t believe I put myself in this position.  I’m not even a vegetarian!

Out of habit

Random Words: pleasure, star, food, iron, represent, fun, tie, habit, character, coincidence.

It wasn’t coincidence that the moment I started thinking about food my stomach rumbled.  It had been over 6 hours since I last ate after all.  What was strange was that I hadn’t eaten.  Whether it was habit or just an intrinsic part of my character, I invariably ate with a regularity that bordered on obsession or mental illness.  You take your pick.  Food, to me, wasn’t just sustenance, but pleasure.  Sensuous and satisfying at the same time.  I was constantly thinking about what I would eat next, when I would eat, and planning out my day based on when I had to grocery shop for that day’s dinner.  I thought about my morning coffee the night before.  Would it be an avocado toast morning or a hash browns morning?  Would I just snack for lunch or were there some delicious leftovers in the fridge?  What did I feel like cooking that night?  I never shopped for the week; I shopped each day.  Each day I wanted to pick out what I would cook that evening.  Why would I shop for the whole week?  How would I know ahead of time that I wanted pork chops on Tuesday?  What if I didn’t want pork chops on Tuesday?  I like to think that I am French, stopping at the market on the way home from work to pick up fresh produce for the evening meal.  French markets represent the epitome of a life well lived to me.  So in the moment, seasonal, and fresh.  And so it was shocking to me that I hadn’t eaten in over six hours.  Not even a piece of fruit.  I had been so engrossed in my task that I hadn’t even noticed the time slipping past in a fast-moving stream of seconds.  It’s been years since I had been so completely taken with a project that I forgot to eat.  But this was a once in a lifetime project on which I was working.  Even food would have to take a back seat to my work now.  The endless calculations weren’t fun to do, but necessary.  They were the backbone, the iron, to my project.  These calculations would enable me to bring Da Vinci’s flying machines to life.  That genius of a man, even with only his 16th C scientific understanding was ahead of his time.  Maybe even ahead of my time.  If I could tie his idea to my modern day calculations, no star would be out of my reach.  I love imagining what is out there waiting for us to discover it.  I could daydream all day.  But my stomach just growled again and I know dinner is long overdue.  My Da Vinci project would have to wait until tomorrow.  Hmmm, should I have avocado toast in the morning?

Before and After

Random words: piece, crash, coconut, addictive, slippery, probe, concept, apartment, gear, concave.

I strode out of the apartment with all my gear.  I left everything else behind.  I didn’t want reminders of that life anymore.  After the crash, nothing was ever the same again.  I wasn’t the same.  I kept painting the scene over and over again: the slippery road, the concave head that wasn’t a coconut.  I couldn’t get that last image of her out of my head.  It was seductive, addictive even.  It was sick.  I had to leave.  The concept piece I had been working on before the accident I left behind in the apartment full of memories.  She was gone.  I couldn’t stay.  That life was over.  I’m not going to probe my psyche to please others.  Others who aren’t her.  I don’t know where I’m headed, but I do know that I can’t live with that memory one more day.  I need a new life to paint.

The best laid plans

Random words: crew, bulldog, prior, cranberry, dancing, prophetic, downcast, provider, repeat, downhill.

 

The downcast bulldog carelessly guarded the entrance to the town hall.  It was the end of the cranberry harvest and the locals were having a dance in celebration of a successful farming season.  Prior years had seen the harvests going downhill, but this year had been a bumper crop.  So there was much to celebrate.  The crew had been there bright and early to set up the main stage for the band.  Everyone was looking forward to the dance, young and old.  Especially the young.

Bette, named after Bette Davis when she was born because her eyes looked just like the actress’, was preening before her bedroom mirror.  She was going to wear her iris blue gingham dress to match her Bette Davis eyes.  Her excitement showed in every move she made as got ready.  She knew Carl would be there, and she had ensured that stupid Jenny would not.  Nope, tonight was her night.  Jenny didn’t have a chance.  Her prophetic thoughts envisioned the dance and beyond.  She would be Carl’s wife one day soon.  She just knew it.  There would be no repeat of last year’s event which saw Carl dancing the entire night with Jenny.  Poor Jenny wouldn’t be attending tonight’s dance due to a very unfortunate accident involving a door opening at a most inopportune moment and breaking her nose.  There was no way for her to get in between Bette and Carl this year.  Bette and Carl, she sighed.  That did have a nice ring to it she thought.

As Bette arrived at the town hall, fashionably late of course, she took in all who were already there.  Trying to be nonchalant, her eyes casually scanned the room, looking for her future husband, Carl.  Disappointed, she walked over to the desserts table. Her mother was the town baker and the provider of all the cranberry-filled treats on the table.  Bette was about to pop a cranberry muffin bite into her mouth when she spotted Carl walking in.  With Jenny!  Bette couldn’t believe it.  She couldn’t believe that Jenny would want to be seen in public with a bandage on her nose and two black eyes.  Bette choked down the muffin, smoothed her dress, and put a smile on her face.  There was no way she was going to let Jenny know that how spitting mad she was.

Anyway, there was always next year’s dance.

It’s all in the details

Random words: council, cruise, balance, details, decay, hideout, super, probe, elsewhere, dread.

Details were still a little hazy.  Memories started to pop up through the miasma of my hangover like bubbles coming to the surface of a tar pit.  I remember the probe crashing to earth after successfully reaching cruise altitude.  What happened?  The monkey inside obviously died.  Nothing could have survived that crash.  I stood up but couldn’t maintain my balance.  Where was I?  I heaved back down onto the cot.  That’s right, I remember.  After the council had met and decided to close down the program, I went to my own personal hideout, the lab’s coat closet.  It was just large enough to fit a cot and I had the only key.  With a bucket and a fifth of gin, I could shack up in there indefinitely, or until I couldn’t tolerate the stink anymore.  The hangover was just hitting an uncomfortable level of pain, when I lurched to open the door and walked right into Dave. He was about to say something when the stench hit him.  He grimaced almost imperceptibly and motioned for me to join him in his office at the other end of the lab.  I smoothed back my hair with my hands, ineffectually licked the dried up flecks of drool around my mouth, and walked with him to his office.  Dread filled my belly where moments before there was only bile.  Elsewhere, my state of deshabille would have drawn audible gasps, but here, well, let’s just say my hideout is not so secret.  Walking past my fellow scientists, I gave the appearance of nonchalance while inside the decay that lay in my bowels started to churn.

I spoke before he had even closed the door behind me, “Dave, look, I’m sorry.  I don’t know what happened.  We were absolutely positive all our calculations were rock solid.”

Dave sat down behind his desk while I remained standing.  Movement downward at that moment didn’t really seem like a super idea.  I swallowed back my wave of nausea.  Dave waited calmly.

“Dave, I, uh.  Look, it won’t happen again.  You can have the key.  I’ll go to AA.  Just let me stay on the project.  You know how hard I’ve worked on this.  Convince the council to send up another probe.  Please!  You’ve got to.  I know it will work this time.”

Dave remained silent.

Panicking, I searched through the fog in my mind for something to say but I found nothing.  Nothing could repair what I had done.  My shoulders slumped as I took off my lab badge and placed it on his desk.

Straightening up, I pulled myself together just enough to make my final walk through the lab.  As I pass each station, everyone avoids my eyes.  Walking out the door, my heart sinking, I know I will never work in that lab again.

Two be or not two be

Random words: horseback, apricot, dignitary, master, decipherer, condition, original, double, hibernation, social.

The dignitary came in on horseback.  As soon as I heard the hooves clatter on the stone courtyard I sent for the Master Decipherer.  I knew the dignitary carried an important missive from the Pope.  As I waited in the throne room, the fragrant apricot aroma from the fruit bowl nearby drifted past my royal person.  Together, the dignitary and the Master Decipherer were announced into the throne room.  I waved off the major domo and waited for him to close the massive wooden doors.

As soon as the lock clicked into place, I turned to the Master Decipherer and said, “Well, have you read the parchment yet?  We are impatient to hear the message from his Holiness the Pope.”

The Master Decipherer, ruffled, answered hesitatingly, “Uh, yes sire, I have.  It is most specific.  The condition set for the royal hibernation is, um, most original.”

I glared at him, “Continue!”

“Yes, your Majesty.    Um, as I said, the hibernation is to be most unusual, as it is to be, ahem, social.”

“Social?” I queried.  “Whatever does that mean? You are the Master Decipherer, are you not?

“Yes sire.”

“Well then, decipher!  How can a hibernation be social?”

The Master Decipher blushed and bent his head.  “Your Majesty, I believe his Holiness requires you to be, uh, wed before you go into your royal hibernation.  His Holiness said it was to be a double hibernation in order to ensure royal issue within the year.”

Incredulous, I replied, “That is blasphemy! I cannot believe that his Holiness the Pope would dare order me, the King of Altaria, to marry.  My person is holy and cannot be desecrated with carnal pleasures.  Why, that is the very purpose of the royal hibernation!”

I rapped my scepter on the flagstones summoning the Major Domo.  Before the doors had fully swung open, I barked, “Remove these offending persons from our presence immediately!”

Turning away, I walked stiffly to the open balustrade window.  Surveying the land before me, I vowed to never bow to the Pope’s demands.