Copyright 2016 Richards Hall and e.
Published by Richards Hall and e. at Shakespir
Petey Loves Janey
<-- GO -->
The gate fronting Richards Hall, a near ancient early mid-twentieth-century gift from the Jules Iffen Society, located on the grounds of Bossche Bol College, was always locked and had been since anyone could remember. Countless students had tried to open the lock without luck. It were as if it wasn’t of a design from EARTH.
Along with would be locksmiths, that section of gate was frequented by smokers and drinkers, students and faculty alike, drawn to the spot making it a regular stop for janitorial services, too. No matter the time of year, the weather, or even emptiness of the school, cigarette butts were to be found.
Now and then a curious soul climbed over the gate to investigate the Hall, but the Hall was impenetrable. Ultimately it was more fun to just hang out at the gate and imagine what the Hall was about, without giving much thought to the gate, even though it was all about the Hall.
Pete was holding his Wednesday PM office hours at the Pub, where Dennis was buying.
“I think I’m going to accept the Divided offer,” Dennis was saying. “It’s a strong corporation and I like the idea of working on a new product.”
“Everything sucks,” said Pete. “And there is nothing worse to be involved with than a new product.”
“Do you want a shot?”
“I don’t want one, but I will accept one to be polite.”
Dennis knew how Pete felt about the Divided offer, but then Pete received his Divided offer, one that was much more interesting, but a Divided offer nonetheless.
“Are you thinking about Janey?” asked Dennis, taking a wild guess at the cause behind Pete’s mood.
“Always,” said Pete. “It doesn’t seem like there’s any win win situation with her. Not even two break evens, or even one. Working for Divided is the answer, and it’s probably the biggest mistake I could make.” It was certainly the last thing he wanted to do. Had he been asked as a child what he wanted to be when he grew up, his answer no doubt would have been, “not employed by Divided HealthCare.”
“You haven’t really known her that long. I don’t get the vibe that she has any interest in getting serious.”
“She has a vibe. A pulse. I’ve felt it. My foot is in the door. For me she is it.”
“Does she even like you, Pete? Do you really, actually, like her?”
“Formalities. Always formalities with you.”
Janey was getting bored. It was Friday and she was sitting in Pete’s ethics seminar. She hated school and she couldn’t stand Petey’s ethics seminars. It always amazed her how many students attended, and then she always remembered there weren’t many humanities classes and everyone was required to take one, unless they timed it right. If a class was full and there was enough runoff a seminar might compensate. No credit was earned, but the elective was written off.
Worse than the present boredom for Janey, though, Pete was morphing into Petey in her mind, which disturbed her, the playfulness of her attitude.
It wasn’t her intent to distract Pete, at least not unless she was truly bored, but she had dressed nice, her most expensive white blouse, a fun skirt, knee length that she wore to look simply nice, white stockings, because Pete did like her in white stockings, and her most comfortable heels, as if. She leaned back, slumped down, crossed her legs and began swinging the top leg, her signal she was getting impatient.
Pete never quite interpreted the signal as impatience. Oh no, he thought, not the leg. Please turn off the leg. He closed his eyes for just a micro second to compose himself, and his mind went blank. He stared at his class with an expression one might call wild-eyed as his mind raced for the thought that got lost.
“Breaking unions,” he muttered. “So it’s 12:50. Let’s call it a week.”
There was almost stunned silence. Pete himself was stunned at what he just pulled. Someone slammed a book to break the silence and unleash muttering. “We’re paying for sixty minute classes aren’t we?” Janey was among those giving the speaker a look of scorn, but he had his supporters. There was no mutiny, however, and everyone filed out orderly, except Janey. She lingered in her seat reviewing the homework assignments awaiting her over the weekend.
“You truly inspired us today, Professor Petey,” she called to Pete.
He walked over to where she sat. “I’m not a professor. You want to come over?”
“Now?” she asked. “No, I’m hungry. I want macaroni and cheese pizza, and wine, at the Grotto.”
Pete frowned. It was the middle of the afternoon. Food was the last thing on his mind.
“So what did you have in mind?” she asked. “Grading papers?”
Sometimes Pete thought she could read him like a book, and other times he wasn’t so sure about her literacy.
“How did I ever get stuck with a cluck like you?” she asked. Imperceptibly cringing. What was she saying, stuck with him?
“A cluck?” he said, with a chuckle. “A cluck!”
“You’re stuck with me because I let you buy the last electric wine bottle opener.” They had first collided in the wine department at Branson’s.
“On the grounds I come to your house and open a bottle of wine.”
“Two bottles. Two unforgettable bottles. You, of course, were only interested in the wine.”
“Which you must have stolen. You got me so sick and hung over I couldn’t leave for two days.” She liked recounting that story. It humanized her. It was the only time she recalled ever just giving up control. For two whole days she just lolled around letting what was going to happen happen. OH boy.
“It’s a tried and true technique.”
“Curse my weakness for sommeliers. Believe me, the second you lose your job at Astro I’m dumping you.” Pete worked part time at Astro almost as hobby, although he also got to eat well, at cost.
“There’s no way I’m losing that job, and I’m not quitting until we’re married. I may never quit.”
“On that subject, I’m still asking around and no one thinks anyone should marry you.”
“Maria should marry you herself then. She is your age after all.”
“But she doesn’t share our breeding,” he joked, pretty much thinking the opposite, and not knowing what could possibly bind them. Rope? That little joke was a mistake. Any suggestion of her past, any mention just rewired her mood. Janey had been hovering between a good mood and a very good mood. Now she got serious, and changed the subject.
“Speaking of papers, what about my Shakespeare paper? I’m going to need one again.” She gave him a look. “Again,” she repeated, incredulous. “You talked me into taking the stupid course.”
“Did you talk to Professor Ide about this imposition?”
“I did. I told him I came to class, I read the plays, I watch the ones that were filmed and I pretend to like them and did I still have to write those stinking papers? I can’t stand this crap.”
“Your sweet talking needs work. What did you wear when you went to speak to him?”
“Don’t be a pig. He must be in his seventies.”
“Let’s get going,” Pete said. “There’s another class in here.”
“Where do you think we’re going?”
“I thought we were going for pizza.”
“All right,” she said. “And then my paper.”
“And then your paper? What about your paper?”
“The ‘Antony and Cleopatra’, I saw it in your files.” She smiled with satisfaction. “It had a good look to it. One of your best.”
“I got an A on that. You can’t pass that off as yours. Ide’ll know you didn’t write it.” Pete studied her. “You actually read it?”
“I never said I read it. I said it had a good look to it. I’ll misspell some words and leave out some commas. The coot’ll never know what hit him.”
“Can you be sure when you’re misspelling something?”
“Didn’t you spell everything right? I’ll just copy some words down backwards.”
“Okay, I’ll help you dumb it down.”
“You’re so sweet,” she said, not sarcastically. “Just give me the repap. I can handle it.”
Pete thought back to his first encounter with Janey’s father. They – Pete, Janey and Dennis – had been celebrating at the Pub the day Dennis accepted the job offer from Divided. Pete thought the man was a crank when he appeared, a derelict from the street.
Dennis thought so, too, and insulted him. “Buddy, I’m parked in the back if you want to wash my windshield.”
“That’s my father,” said Janey.
“Fuck me,” said Dennis, incredulous, and drunk. “He washes windshields?”
He wasn’t that drunk.
“You and your windshield,” said Pete. “I’m beginning to think there’s something unwholesome going on with you and that car.”
Dennis practically sobered up. “That car is a symbol of me, of what I stand for.”
“Fuck me,” said Pete, incredulous, and now a little less drunk.
“He’s a physician,” said Janey.
Dr. Pokhomos was wearing plaid shorts with a t-shirt that read Bedoin. He would explain that bedoin was the sound made when a bad bowler threw a really bad gutter ball. His hair was more than normally tousled since he was on vacation and rarely combed it anyway.
“How did you know I was here?” asked Janey.
“Two bars in this town. You weren’t at the other.”
“You always think the worst,” she said. “Today’s a celebration. Dennis is going to get to pay off his education.”
The crack about the wind shield was fresh in Dr. Pokhomos’s mind and he didn’t acknowledge Dennis. “We need to discuss your future one of these days, soon.” The remark made no impression so her father expounded. “Your very near future, and we should talk about it very, very soon.”
“He’s going into manager training at Divided,” she said, trying to be caustic.
Now Dr. Pokhomos acknowledged Dennis. “You must be out of your mind,” he said. “Or very, very flat.” The Doctor looked back at his daughter as he nonchalantly took hold of her hair and wrapped it around his fist. It had a violent look to it, but he did it gently, in a fatherly way that didn’t register alarm on Janey’s face. Maybe amused surprise. He turned her head to face him. “TOOT,” he said.
“Me marry with you?” Janey said out of the blue, early the next Sunday morning as they were hiking to get some fresh doughnuts. “Albaqaaaru?” They probably hadn’t been speaking for five minutes and the previous subject had been on pairing pasta with wine. “What about children?”
“Maybe not right away,” Pete said, going from calm to desperate in less than ten seconds. Less than one. He was utterly unprepared for this discussion. He hadn’t thought about children before. Ever, actually. He didn’t know how it came that he was thinking about marriage. He had known women he probably somehow preferred to Janey, but none triggered the marriage module in his mind. Heaven help him if she asked why he wanted to marry her. She seemed to take that as a given with most men.
“It’s simply inconceivable. Will it never end? Will it never be enough for her?” She looked at Pete for an answer. Pete looked at her for a question. “Oh, I wasn’t thinking about you,” she said. “Just thinking out loud.” Loudly.
Pete replayed what she had just been saying. “You’re thinking of marrying yourself then?”
“TOOT! Ha!” She turned and smiled. “Now that would put her in her place.”
“Who is her?” he asked.
“She says she’s got it figured out.
“She? There’s a she, and a her?”
“A body with no means for self propulsion, or anything, can’t move anywhere?” Janey asked, puzzled, pondering.
“It can’t?” asked Pete. “What body? Who’s body? Who is her? Who are they?”
“Any body! She’s thinks it can fall but it can’t fall down. Down is a direction and requires intent., foreknowledge, choice of a different direction. I can’t believe she thinks she can just start up like this.”
“Who? What? Who is her?” asked Pete.
She studied Pete as if for the first time. “Who is her?” she asked. She suddenly seemed confused, displaced. Had she been thinking out loud? Had she been thinking? “You don’t know her,” she said eventually. No one would ever understand the stressing she had to endure.
It was almost as if Janey’s father was waiting for him. He was sitting on the steps outside her apartment. “You know, Peter, something told me the odds were I’d see you here before her.”
“Where is she?” Pete asked, assuming he’d know.
“Whoring?” he said, not meaning it, not in the least. As he saw it, Janey was constantly rearranging men, getting them into position to deflect other men and open a path out for her to pass and escape anything to do with them, as if they were some fatal addiction. “If I knew would I be sitting here?”
Pete sat next to him wondering what the old boy was insinuating, if anything. “Maybe. Did you tell her you were coming?”
Pete didn’t answer and the men sat silently, pondering the predicament.
“Do you know what the three defect points on the wheel of love are?”
“Huh?” said Pete. “Love? I haven’t known her all that long.” Where the heck did that come from, he wondered. Who had he been talking to?
“And one way or another you’re going to have her.”
Pete didn’t like the way Janey’s father put that statement. “You make me sound . . . I don’t know, dishonorable? What’s Janey been saying?”
Janey’s father laughed. “No, not you, Peter. Masochistic, maybe, never dishonorable.” He leaned back and pretended to study Pete. “I think I know your character, but I don’t think your true feelings warrant your marrying Jane, do they?”
Pete had no idea and took a deep breath.
“What are your thoughts on the ethics of love, son?”
“The ethics of love?” asked Pete. A tough question even for an ethnitician.
“What are your thoughts on the ethics of love, Kee?” Pete asked his eight year old daughter years later. They were living in Paris and one of Janey’s old boyfriends had just visited. Kiki’s attention was on the television and Pete didn’t much care because he didn’t understand French.
Kiki let her head drop, then rolled it one rotation. “Don’t ask me that stuff, Papa,” she said, knowing Pete didn’t like being called Papa. Especially when she stuck the accent.
“You’re grand-papa asked me that question.”
“Which grand-papa? Sounds like little grand-papa,” she reasoned. “Did he ask you that when you were five?”
“Who’s counting?” she asked cynically. Goodness my GOD she was difficult about numbers. She had bent more than one arithmetic teacher in half.
“You don’t like that Bruce guy, do you?” he asked.
“Mom’s old boy friend? Haven’t I been clear? No. Do you? Why does he come here? Isn’t he married?”
“He’s not married and he was never mom’s boyfriend. I’ve disliked him for a long time. You haven’t known him long. Do you just dislike him because I do?”
“That would be the one reason I would like him,” she said. Despite the way Kiki talked to Pete, her feelings towards him were all in order. It was the way Janey talked about him that influenced her speech, and she was all about words. Even more so, Pete earned disrespect from her over language. He used her as a translator at his cafe more than may have been wise, and sometimes she got to thinking towards him as a little brother. “If you want him out of the picture once and for all, I’ve got a plan for it.”
The look on her face told Pete she had something coldly calculated in mind, the sort of thing that could scare the hell out of him. “Why is it you don’t like him?” he asked, almost calmly, in a way politely suggesting he didn’t want to consider her plan any way any how. Thanks anyway.
“He uses mob speak.”
“Mob speak? What the heck is mob speak?” asked Pete. “Like the mob? Criminals?” Oh, he seriously had to seriously consider not taking her to his cafe so often. Seriously. It wasn’t about who she talked to, it was who didn’t she talk to?
“No, stupid. It’s a way of talking to a bunch of people to get them to stop thinking for themselves, to stop thinking at all and start acting like a mindless mob. In the Bible it was called speaking in tongues. It’s either saying something that isn’t true in a way that’s supposed to make everyone believe it is, or it’s saying something true in a way that makes it sound like it isn’t. It just takes one to start a mob.”
“That isn’t what that means. And that man is a weather forecaster on TV. He isn’t lying all the time.”
“Practically all the time. First there’s the make-up along with the make-out smile. Then he’ ll say it's 60 degrees, or 40, or 20, or -20 and whine about how chilly it is no matter what. No sense of perspective. Mob speak. Worse than lying. He’ll get to heaven all right, along with all the liars, looters and suck-ups.”
That sounded like little grandpa talking. “You said you didn’t believe in heaven.” When she didn’t believe in something she let everyone know it.
“Grandpa set me straight on a certain type of heaven. We’ll need to have a long chat some day, Papa.”
“You must really love your little grandpa.”
“Why? What’s in it for me? Big grandpa always gives me twenty bucks for listening to him. At least.”
“That, what, he does? My father? You talk to him all the time. What are you doing with that money? You never buy anything.” She certainly never bought him anything, even and especially at Christmas where she pocketed the money Janey gave her to buy him a gift and made him a Christmas card.
Merry Christmas and better luck next year, Dad.
Dad, yes, not papa, what the heck, it was Christmas.
“I invest it. I do want to go home someday. And I have expenses. Paris. Fashion. D’uh . . .”
The tube was barely big enough for an ordinary sized adult to crawl through, but big enough for even the largest of adults to pass one way or another. If one had the proper craft, well, then one would have had it made.
Tube? Maybe one shouldn’t ask. Janey didn’t ask about it because she was pissed about the request, the next imposition. She had a quirk at times about defiantly doing what was asked of her. Look where that got her, which means keep looking straight ahead, just like she is.
“Shit, shit, shit,” said Janey, over and over as she made the crawl. When she felt she had exhausted the idea, she muttered, “duty, shmooty,” a few times. This was worse than escaping from an Egyptian prison. “TOOT!” she shrieked, every now and then, almost as an act of hysteria.
Janey wanted to curse her father for this, maybe not with a plague of boils curse, but something on that line. Maybe an outbreak of dandruff. Really bad dandruff. And to a degree she did curse him. He knew her mother had arrived. True, he did intend to tell her and would have had she been sober and civil towards him, but look at the consequences of his not trying harder.
Then again, if he knew her mother had arrived, he must have spoken with her, had maybe even given her away. He could very well be in league with her. She stopped crawling to swear. “Damn it, damn it, damn it.” She growled loudly. “Duty, shmooty,” she said, and recommenced with the crawl.
The tube was dimly lit with a series of odd, solar powered lights, although there was no way any sunlight was getting anywhere near close enough to the tube to power them. It occurred to Janey that once this ordeal was over she was going to find out just exactly where the energy for those lights really came from. “Solar my ass,” she said. Actually, had anyone ever said solar?
To say the tube was lit was an exaggeration, it wasn’t even barely illuminated. The lighting practically existed just to exist, beginning specks, like bread crumbs left behind as sort of dim map points. Of course a one way tube didn’t need any sort of map, unless one were looking for an entrance or exit, and the exit Janey was looking for was marked by a red light. There was more than one, but Janey’s red light was directly below Richards Hall, and it blinked.
It better blink.
The tube had an opening to a ladder by the blinking red light, ascending into celestial pitch. Her mother had assured her that climbing into that darkness would be an experience. It would have a soupiness greater than heavy fog multiplied ten times.
There is hope, and there is drive. As much as Janey wanted to deny her drive, it was there, it was GO time. She ascended into Richards Hall.
“Mr. McCoy, can I be candid with you?” Pete was going to stick his rudder and be damned if he couldn’t navigate away from further discussion on love and ethics and nuttiness and, holy moly, maybe even parent sex. He had written a paper touching on the subject once, love ethics that is, that was nearly published and felt Janey’s father beneath a serious, clinical, terminal discussion. He seemed a bit of a crank, and in need of a new handle or handler.
Janey’s father raised an eyebrow. “I always have to say yes to that threat. What a person calls candor reveals a lot about them. But you must let me be candid first.”
It hadn’t been Pete’s intent to reveal a lot about himself, so he was a little grateful for Mr. McCoy’s willingness to go first, discounting the threat implication. “By all means.”
“I am an addict. I’m an addict to medicine, or maybe to thwarting death, I don’t know, but I know there must be some mysterious drive that made spending all my time and money and effort learning the art do-able. Some intangible energy source. Is motivation a quantifiable fuel? Something you can sniff and get high? Truly, a doctor is going to get more claiming to love people and humanity as opposed to saying they’re the junk feeding the monkey on his back. I’m not a healer, I’m a force applying mutation.”
“Mr. McCoy, let’s step back a sec, I’m confused.”
“Obviously. In the first place my name isn’t McCoy, and please, it’s doctor, not mister. McCoy is my wife’s name, my second wife’s. Janey’s name isn’t Janey either, for that matter,” he said. “It’s Shani. Shani Pokhomos. And for the love of GOD don’t tell her I told you. She’ll assume I did, but don’t let on. She’ll take it as weakness on your part. And if you bring it up she’ll get pissed off.”
Pete stared at Dr. Pokhomos for some time before opening his mouth, and closing it. “Are you her father?”
“I am that.”
Janey had told him her father was a plumber, and then he remembered her telling Dennis he was a physician. He knew he heard something then that didn’t click, but he had been a little too drunk, distracted and distorted to access it. He was also a little slow at times, almost a mental grazer. Slow by the clock, not necessarily stupid.
“She doesn’t look like a McCoy, does she?”asked Pete, getting more sober from a dead sober start. Dr. Pokhomos seemed to be instantaneously sweating any last shred of liquor from the last ten years out of him.
“Not in the neighborhood where she grew up.”
Pete knew Janey colored her hair blond and knew her true hair color was dark, but he never stopped to imagine her ever wearing it natural. “Why did she change her name? Both names.”
“She has a past, but knowing her I know that isn’t why she changed it. That was just an excuse. It’s loss of drive. She used to have a real piss and vinegar quality about her. More so that is.”
“Drive? About what?” asked Pete. “What about this past she has?”
“I’ll just say this because it’s her secret. She didn’t kill anyone, but if you did something against her and hers that made you deserving of killing, she might kill you. If the results didn’t factor too unfavorably, she would. I have no doubt. Hell, I don’t know that she hasn’t. Still, she has zero tolerance for the idea of imprisonment. Right on down to marriage and motherhood.”
“Interesting to know,” said Pete. “You don’t meet too too many people who you specifically know have zero tolerance for prison. So no kids?”
“She has no interest, but she has the potential to raise first class people. Nature has a bead on that kind.”
“So all in all she’s lost her drive to do anything that might be imprisonable?”
“No, she lost her drive for chasing OH. She lost her GO. Her get out. I guess it was to be eg-spected.” Dr. Pokhomos studied Pete, but Pete wasn’t sure he even saw him. “Try listening to me closely. It’s my responsibility to tell you, but it’s also my responsibility if I do.” He paused again to consider, this time looking away from Pete. “We have to have the talk. I wasn’t really ready, I wasn’t even thinking about it a minute ago, but I may never be ready, and maybe you’ll be scared away anyway and the practice will better prepare me for next time. Heaven help me if there is a next time.”
“The talk as in the talk, talk?” Pete wasn’t even sure he knew what that would be.
“No actually. This is not a would-be future father-in-law to a would-be future son-in-law talk. Really we’re just going to have a little philosophical chat. If you were to try this out on Shani she would sincerely think you were crazy. My ex-wife’s family, and I’m not even sure this applies to the whole family, is part of a secretive sub-society. It’s too small to really be anything, and as I say, secretive, not secret. As far as I’m concerned they don’t even acknowledge themselves as distinct.”
“As distinct?” asked Pete. “You lost me somewhere.”
“That’s the secretive issue. Nothing about them leads anywhere. You can’t make conclusions.”
“Still lost,” said Pete. Still, he was thinking something that made him suspect something.”
“There is an actual secret involved in all of this. Something is being hidden.”
“And that would be?”
“Let me say this first, the thing hidden has become nearly irrelevant, if it ever even was relevant. If it ever even was anything. Part of it is imaginary, as in the significance of the object is based on what someone thought about it. Take away what that person thought, and the object is nothing but common. Pad of paper common, but it’s not a pad of paper.”
“Are you just teasing me? Sometimes Janey seems to be teasing me and I’m never quite sure she actually is.”
“I’m trying not to tell you. It really doesn’t do any harm if I do and you go on your merry way. There’s no monetary value to this. But I really have to tell you if you’re going to marry Shani, and if I do you might not want to.”
“You did tell me she’s a potential killer. I think I can ride that out.” That was spur of the moment big talk. It actually scared him a little.
“Me and my father-in-law have dug deep into this, and we’ve found other people have dug deep into this. It’s almost as if we’re part of our own secret sub-society, like the shadow of the vein of a family line, although it’s not all that much a family thing, apart from parent to child.”
“This doesn’t sound like something you could dig all that deep into.”
“AH, good point. It goes deep as in deep into the past, depending on what you call deep in the past. I’m talking pre-America deep.”
“OH, okay, I’ll go with deep using that criteria.”
“Would you agree with this law of nature? An animal has the right to take a life in order to sustain it’s life?”
Pete pondered. “Do you include human beings with animals?”
“Well, that’s just what someone said. I don’t want to overly attach myself to a belief system, especially when it’s radically incomplete. I’m skeptical of any belief system apart from the seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, feeling belief system we rely on, and I don’t think it’s all that reliable. Even the machines made to enhance that system have intended limitations. Then again machines can go pretty far. I shouldn’t make conclusions or assume limitations, should I?”
“You’re drifting away from telling me that secret. But intended limitations?”
“Cameras started out made to see things as we see them, for one thing. They’re made to record time. If you ask me all machines are made to aid in recording time. Along with processing it.”
“What are you saying time is?”
“Anything that is recorded. Anything anyone sees is on the record. Anything anyone imagines is on the record.”
“The record of human knowledge, as in somehow known. It doesn’t necessarily have to be understood.”
“So eveything adds up to time?”
“It could, but not until it’s on the record. A mountain could be on the record, but if it had gold that no one knew about, that gold would not be on the record. It would not be part of time. It would be time-able, but not real. How otherwise?”
“Where are you getting this?”
“It’s part of that belief system I don’t want to attach myself to. Riddle me this. Do you think you think in color?”
Pete thought about it. “I guess I thought I did. I never really thought about it.”
“I think the only time you think in color is when you’re thinking about the color of something you’re looking at at the moment you’re looking.”
“UH huh,” said Pete. “You know, I’m going to be expecting a pretty good secret if you ever get to it.”
“I could tell you a good secret about color, but that too is part of that belief system I don’t want to attach to. There’s no proof to it.”
“You’re really turning this into a philosophical chat. Tell me some real secret for crying out loud.”
“Yes, it’s time I did, and you shouldn’t put too much into all this chatter. We can talk about this some other time should the need arise. All it is is something to talk about.”
Pete processed that information, deciding it was not the time to pursue further discussion. He wanted to know the secret. “It’s sort of interesting, I’ll give you that. Well, I would think so, I’ve taught an introduction to philosophy class here and there.”
“Yesss,” said the doctor. “That makes you somewhat ripe for Shani. At least from my perspective. You have to be able to philosophize and let things she does pass. The thing is, as I said, Shani is somewhat repelled by the idea of marriage and motherhood. Her mother is the opposite, and she wants marriage and motherhood for her daughter.”
“That’s nice,” said Pete, a little bewildered. “Now I feel I’m being lead into a trap, although it seems I’d end up trapped with Janey.”
“That’s a way of looking at it. Shani is innocent. Innocent enough when she isn’t acting like a maniac. I hate to ask you to trust me about anything, but at the end of the day I think you’d find Shani was good for you, if not particularly good to you. And that’s certainly food for thought. I’d like to think I’m innocent. I’m being somewhat up front with you.”
“It’s gotta be time for the secret they’re hiding?”
“Funny you should say it that way. That’s it’s time. Okay, I’m going to use a religious term, and I could easily replace it, although I know of no replacement term.”
Pete wondered how the term could be easily replaced if there was no other term available. He didn’t want to change or deflect the subject. He squinted but said nothing.
“So let’s call it an angel, but with a source that is common, not divine or related to a deity.”
“They’re hiding an angel?”
“NO. I could just as easily have said a klingon, but we’re not talking about some sort of alien life form. Angel is terminology me and David dug up. I guess my trying to clarify beforehand failed, so here goes. What they have is a record of the footprint of an angel in snow.”
Pete wrestled with the idea for about half a minute. “A record of the footprint? What makes them think it’s the footprint of an angel?”
“It’s a fanciful fiction. The significant thing that’s missing is the weight that caused the depth of the footprint, as occured in the mind of the actual beholder. And just for the sake of really making it as clear as mud, the snow in question wasn’t on the ground. An angel wouldn’t actually have feet.”
“What the hell,” said Pete. “That’s just, what the hell? What, what, what am I supposed to do with that?”
“Let’s not get into any sort of angel not having feet debate. I could tell you more, but it’s another part of that belief system I don’t want to attach myself to. For the record, Shani pretty much doesn’t want to either. Sometimes she buys into it, sometimes she doesn’t, and as far as it all goes, my interpretation of all of this isn’t her interpretation. I don’t think she has an interpretation. I don’t think my wife does either. They’re like animals that seem to know to run when a storm approaches.”
Pete scratched his forehead, hard, using all of his finger nails. “This is hurting my brain.”
“The bottom line is my wife is whole-heartedly part of this sub-society hiding this imaginary foot print. Over the years it’s gotten to their just hiding. Going into hiding. That’s the nutty thing you need to deal with. They create distance from people. Sylvia, my ex, created so much distance I had to create my own distance. It got to where I never saw her. When we were together for any amount of time she still slept with twenty pillows. It was like a menage a trente et un. Hence the divorce. I was alone all the time.”
“Janey sleeps under a three foot high pile. Blankets, quilts and just the one monstrous pillow. Might be a rug in the mix.”
“The nest,” said Dr. Pokhomos.
“So that’s what you’re trying to actually tell me then? That I may come to never see Janey?”
“You just can’t stop calling her Janey. I suppose you must. It keeps coming back to what I’m trying to tell you. Word tells are very unreliable. Words are kind of like colors. When you consider all the different languages they’re little more than bird calls. Still, let’s leave it at that. Yes, it may come that you may rarely see Shani. There may be rational apparent reasons, but I wouldn’t trust those obvious reasons to be telling.”
“Is Janey more or less nutty than you?”
“The thing is tells can be truths about time. The footprint may be a tell, but it’s well hidden.”
“So who was the character that discovered the tell? Is that the right question?”
“Right enough. You grew up in Bossche Bol, right?”
“That is correct.”
“That means the probablity is good you’ve heard of Jules Iffen. Anywhere else I’d put the odds against it at ten billion to one.”
“Those are some odds. No, I have not heard of Jules Iffen.”
“Now you have. The odds were good. He was an alchemical, metaphysical philosopher. A rogue horologist. Although one is not the other. He went from one to the other and then disappeared.”
“What is a rogue horologist?”
“Horology is about time and clocks. Rogue horology is about telling time. He wasn’t active long at all. He was studying power, as in creating the power of gold instead of literally trying to create gold. He was not into metallurgy. But it was just philosophy and supposition. He came across the footprint, talked about it to a few people, and then clammed up and disappeared. But he said enough to create a little havoc, which included someone stealing the effigy of a globe that stood for the tell. The effigy is the thing that’s being hidden.”
“What does that mean? An effigy of a globe?”
“That would telling. Maybe someday you’ll see it yourself. Maybe I’ve seen it, not that it told me anything if I did. I’d tell you more about it, but let’s see if it tells you anything. I’d hate to interfere that way.”
Pete pondered what the doctor said as the doctor waited for a response. The pondering wasn’t really adding up. “Interesting,” he said.
“It doesn’t make any sense to you, does it?”
“Not at the moment. It’s something I might think out when I’m ready and in the mood. I’m sitting here kind of flat footed. I had not anticipated a philosophical chat.”
“If you want to marry Shani and survive there are rules you must follow. Even then you may end up like me. When you find yourself reduced to questioning the meaning of life it helps to have some questions to pass the time.”
“I bet you already realize if you burrow into Shani’s past you end up stuck upside down in a hole looking into glowing eyes and luminous bared teeth.”
That was one way to describe touchy. “She does avoid the subject,” Pete allowed.
“If not already, you’ll probably soon enough find yourself wondering if what is happening can really be happening.”
“Like this conversation?”
“You may as well wonder. Welcome to the landscape.”
Pete paused to think, but his mind was blank. “This is getting difficult,” he said. He was on the verge of rebellion. “Are you trying to make a fool of me? Janey wants you to shake me off.”
“Ha. She hasn’t said as much, but I’ll lay you odds she wants to shake you off. She wouldn’t need my help, and you’re not worth the effort to think this up. I’m in fact doing the opposite. Well not quite the opposite.”
Pete surveyed the surroundings for escape. He could easily have got up and walked, but he hesitated. Would that be it with Janey?
“Run or stay,” said the doctor. “You can still run later. This is not a commitment to marriage you’re making. I wish you well either way.”
Pete hesitated, not running.
“If you like we can have a long chat about all this sometime.”
Pete thought this chat had felt long.
“Provided you’re determined to marry Shani,” the doctor added. “Hmm?”
The ‘hmm,’ seemed to fire a space probe deep into Pete’s mind. It returned an answer. “Seemingly,” he said. He seemingly felt even closer to her since he now knew her better. Then something happened. It were as if a tiny flash fired off in his mind, exposing an un-filed memory floating freely. Less. Just a notion. “Albaqaaaru?” he asked, almost as if he were echoing Janey to deliver a secret message.
“What about Albaqaaaru?” Dr. Pokhomos asked, almost sharply. “Why did you say that? Where’d you ever hear that?”
“Just a thought,” said Pete. “It popped into my head. I don’t know why. I don’t know why I said it out loud. I think Janey mentioned it. She did.”
“Damn, she’s rubbing off on you already,” he said. “What else?”
“Did she tell you anything about Albaqaaaru? Did she tell you anything else that might seem anything?”
“Why did she tell you about Albaqaaaru?”
Pete thought back to the conversation, if that’s what it was. It was rather one-sided. “She didn’t tell me about it. She just said it, sort of out of the blue. Sort of like I just did. She was talking to herself. She was being strange.” He tried to recall other strange, but nothing compared.
“Talking to herself about what? Could you make out anything? I know the sort of thing you’re talking about.”
“She seemed to be talking about getting married, but not to me. I don’t know who.”
“She said another funny thing,” Pete remembered.
“Funny? Ha ha funny? Do I dare to hope?”
“Not really. TOOT. She just said it, loud. You said it to her at the bar that day.”
“TOOT is my and David’s sort of bird call. A warning as it were. All very simple really,” said Dr. Pokhomos, without explaining. “And I’m a very simple man and Shani is a simple girl.” He mulled over his next remark. “Mrs. Pokhomos is a piece of work. She is impossible. A minimalism zealot. Minimalism is what she tried hammering into Shani. Travel light and be prepared to hide.”
Pete smiled senselessly at the thought of Mrs. Pokhomos. But he thought of a Mrs. Pokhomos-McCoy. Someone sort of human. He had yet to experience anyone like Mrs. Pokhomos, if he even could conceive of her.
Dr. Pokhomos itched his nose. “And that’s the last of it. I don’t really mind what you do or don’t believe. You are an educate-able man, or so you seem, that is good enough for me. So let’s go back to what you were going to reveal to me.”
Pete was again at a loss for words. That was it on the whole footprint, Albaqaaaru, TOOT line of thought? “I feel a little taken aback,” he said. “I was going to admit I didn’t really know Janey.”
“Try to think of her as Shani.”
“Easier said than done,” said Pete. “Okay, I’ll just say what I was going to say.”
“Out with it then.”
“I might sound like a fool for this.”
“No more than I’ve come to expect, Jack. Speak. Tell. Try.”
Jack? Pete let it pass. “I don’t think Janey, Shani, has marriage on her mind in any way, shape or form, as you have substantiated, and I don’t see how I can hope to win her over hard enough.” Pete stopped, concerned with Dr. Pokhomos’s expression. Pete still couldn’t read it. He was afraid the man might start laughing. He was tempted to stop then and there and backpedal on the whole Janey and marriage idea. The thought had definitely taken a hit.
“Are you serious?”
“I’m completing the thought, since I brought it up,” said Pete. “I may as well finish. Technically, what I’m leading up to isn’t exactly about her.”
“Of course not. But for the record Shani mentioned some nut job was talking marriage with her. That’s was odd on her part. That she was talking back about it. But thus am I talking to you.”
Pete wasn’t sure what to make of that. “You came down pretty hard on my TA for thinking of taking a position with Divided.”
“Management meat for a grand maw out to suck the core of society dry,” said Dr. Pokhomos. “Okay, I admit I don’t know where this is going.” His smile said he did.
Yet again Pete took pause. A grand maw? Probably not using grand in a positive sense he reasoned. Maw wasn’t so appealing either. “I’ve been offered a position. That is to say we’re talking about a position in their office of ethics.”
“Divided has an office of ethics? Their conduit to government, no doubt. I imagine that’s how they scheme out how to formally decriminalize the decline of all our values. A beaver dam working in reverse.”
“Maybe,” Pete agreed, then puzzling as what the doctor actually said caught up to him.
“I don’t know that the whole of medicine isn’t a little . . .” Dr. Pokhomos started saying, letting the thought drift away. “And that’s talking real medicine, not just the parasitic leeches that consider leeching the end all of health-care. The business first realists. Seriously, where is it all headed?” Again the doctor’s focus seemed to drift away for a few moments. “So, you want my approval of Divided? Good ol’ Divided Hate and Despair, as we like to say at the shoppe. Wait and see, if all disease were eradicated they’d still find a way to charge a life tax to keep the spoils sliming their way. What else would a profit-whore do? And profit-whores are legion. More-ality as addiction.”
Pete drifted through the whole of what Dr. Pokhomos had said and picked up on the question of did he want his approval. “Hardly. I’m curious what your response is as it being an option for me, looking past the maw thing, etcetera, although I’m getting less curious.”
“Son, I don’t approve. You’re aiming to work for an industry that’s maybe not as bad as tobacco, maybe, and probably not as noble as pornography. Not that I even have an issue with wealth-care. Healthy, wealthy and wise I always say. I invest. Money may not be the root of happiness, but it’s one root, maybe lesser but not unnecessary. I do have an issue with minoring in health and calling it your major. I sure wouldn’t want someone like that providing for my health. For making a buck, maybe.” He considered something and smiled. “I’ll tell ya, Shani might go for you if you got into porn. She’s sort of bent, you know? She’s a cheater. Always has been. She cheats at everything. Scrabble. You name it. Nobody in the family plays games with her.”
Pete opened his mouth, his head sort of spinning.
“Oh, not necessarily that way,” Dr Pokhomos added. “But she’s always maneuvering her next three or four datee’s into position. That’s a tactic headed towards collapse. Only a total boob would think she wasn’t cheating on him, or willing to. Although cheating sort of depends on being past a certain point of understanding, no? A good cheater isn’t a bad ally when you’re headed to war. If they’re actually an ally. I certainly wouldn’t marry her.”
“Yeah, I see how that is.”
“Look, me and her have the exact same pre-requisite, and if she says she’ll marry you, and she won’t, I won’t spit in your eye. But if you want to know about that job, it could be a little mistake.”
When the rungs stopped Janey popped her head above the pitch black soup engulfing the upper opening of the tube, and found everything went from black to gray, like a smoggy fog. She let out a sigh of relief that she hadn’t actually passed through any mass of blackness. That’s what she told herself, just unlit grayness, although she wondered what the grayness would become if it was well lit. There was solid ground surrounding her head, but it was more like floor than ground. She had anticipated some sort of dirt base. She thought she could make out lights in the distance, but with the denseness she was in she couldn’t tell what sort of distance she was looking at. They might only be five feet away.
Her mother’s guidance came back to her. ‘Get your bearings,’ she had said. She was to imagine the layout of old Albaqaaaru Hall, that is, once she found the way out of the entrance chamber. Climbing fully out of the tube she reached out and walked forward until she found a wall, then deciding to go to her left proceeded until she found a space and went into what she sensed to be room, a room, ideally the library. She started feeling much better. Having risen up into the chamber, she had met potential for motion, and, also, outward-ness, and with that potential met, all outward-ness was now available. Basic imaginary dimension building, 101. The potentials for more motion, force and momentum were all coming around awaiting more. Somewhere was waiting for something more, too.
Janey became aware that she felt like she was floating, barely touching the floor with her feet, as she hopped and bounced herself along. Her mother had warned her not to delay. It wouldn’t be long before she would be moving without even using her legs, to move or stop, and that wouldn’t be good.
There was no temperature to the soup she floated through, at least she didn’t feel hot or cold, or damp for that matter. Her breathing wasn’t labored. She proceeded to what she deduced to be the center of the room. Again, it was GO time. Again?
She waited to be sure she was in the center. Her mother had told her to wait until the lighting arrived. When she could see herself, and a floor at her feet, she could be sure of herself. She had been restraining the urge to speak, to curse the gray and the dumb luck that was her life. Her mother had told her to save her breath. The pre-dimension she was in was voice activated, and she needed to clearly speak the activation code.
The freakingly preposterous code.
What would be worse, she wondered, standing in that gray mass forever, or being caught in the wiiirl-wind of a dimension awakening it’s insides. She took one last hard look at the gray fog and saw particles; little hoops, donuts, were floating and flying around in it. She almost muttered something and checked herself. It was time. She stood as straight as she could, took a deep breath, at least tried to, and looked upwards. Was she supposed to look up? She didn’t know, but it felt right. Heck, she may have been looking down.
“CORN ON THE COB,” she said, loudly, feeling like an utter fool.
The particles started swirling with more order around her, taking on shape, patterning, from circular to torus to cylinder, and as soon as Janey sensed seemingly controlled circularity, the grayness and the particles sank to the floor, melting, like a curtain falling, leaving her in a dimly lit room, the empty library. It was vacant, but it was the library, albeit without furnishings and books. It could be a bedroom if one wanted.
“Hoo Wee!” she exclaimed. She immediately put her hand over her mouth. Was making that noise a mistake? “TOOT,” she said, playing it safe.
The doctor’s cell phone went off, and he answered it saying, “Yeah?” wearily. When the conversation was ended he deliberately, and audibly, disconnected and put the phone in his pocket, as if letting Pete know something was up. “You were wondering about the inconceivable?”
“I was?” asked Pete, automatically.
“Let’s ride,” said Dr. Pokhomos.
“What?” asked Pete.
“It’s beautiful out. Let’s stop sitting here and take a drive in your car.” The doctor gestured towards Pete’s car parked in front of them. It was a warmish night, but it was spirited. It felt good to be in it. “I’ll buy you an ice cream.”
They went for a ride. Pete discounted the ice cream offer and contemplated where to drive. Out towards the country? It was almost impossible to drive any significant distance and not be out in the country. He drove for two blocks debating his direction.
“Take a right here,” said the doctor. Then out of the blue, he said, “TOOT, The Order Of The Eg-stant, with the Eg-stant E always silent and invisible at the end, an every-man, an agency of havoc. It’s their code word.”
Puzzled, Pete took a right. Despite what the Doctor just said he tried visualizing if the direction was taking them towards anywhere ice cream.
“Pull into there,” said the doctor, indicating the Starlight Motel.
“There?” asked Pete.
“Park by the lobby.”
Pete again did as instructed, stopping at the lobby door, expecting Dr. Pokhomos to get out. But he didn’t. “Give your horn a toot,” said the doctor. The grating, mechanical noise Pete’s car horn made was hardly a toot. “I guess that’s close enough,” said Dr. Pokhomos.
“Toot?” asked Pete, finding it incongruous that the word should come again in that context.
“Toot is the first sound of an innocent water instrument,” explained the Doctor. “I said it, Shani said it, and now you said it. We all mostly start as innocent instruments, no? Or tools. Before the clergy and kings set out to defile eg-zistence through deifying it.”
Pete was so confounded he didn’t note that a woman came out of the lobby, walked in front of the car and came alongside Dr. Pokhomos. “Shot gun,” she said. “Get in back.”
“I’m already here,” said the doctor.
“Did you call it.”
“I didn’t have to. How do you know I didn’t?”
“Did he?” she asked. There was a pause while Pete didn’t understand the question or that it was for him.
The woman’s air of sternness, even unspoken, gave him further pause. “Not in so many words,” he said at last.
Dr. Pokhomos yanked the door open angrily, almost drawing an exclamation from Pete. The thing was, this would be happening even if he had called shotgun. He stood there for his ex-wife to take his seat and then slammed the door so hard it would have mangled a limb had one been in it’s path. He got into the back seat of the car and intended to slam the door again but mistimed it, ending up closing the door twice and quietly grumbling as he struggled with the seat belt. “That is Mrs. Pokhomos,” he explained.
“Hello,” said Pete.
“Shut up,” said Mrs. Pokhomos. “Drive us to Richards Hall. Do you know it?’
“I know it,“ said Pete, sheepishly.
Mrs. Pokhomos turned back to her husband. “This?” she asked with disgust, indicating Pete.
The Doctor didn’t reply, but evidently, yes, Pete was ‘this’. An innocent tool headed to slaughter.
Janey sensed she was utterly alone, but she was wary of investigating beyond the library. She didn’t want to leave the way she entered, if that were even possible, so exploration was something of a necessity. Plus, she still had to open the Hall now that it was unlocked, at least from her point of view.
All she could see from her current vantage point were lights on walls and dark openings, be they squares of darkness that seemed to be doorways, or coverings to windows. Yes, she was out of the fog, but she was still in near darkness, and it was darker than it had been when it was gray.
Janey felt it least scary to check on the nearest probable window. Using her cell phone as a flashlight she checked on what was covering it. For all intents and purposes, visually speaking, it was a black sheet of paper, with texture like sand paper. It wasn’t warm or cold, and she couldn’t see how it was attached, and was stunned and relieved to discover it wasn’t attached. It was certainly pressed against the wall, as if magnetized, but a simple nudge sideways freed it and it dropped to the floor.
The night air filled the room and Janey drank it in, feeling relieved but not refreshed. There had been something fresh about the atmosphere already in the Hall. At any rate, she climbed out of the window swearing never to go back in.
Naturally she wasn’t thinking straight.
On the sidewalk outside the gate her mother, father and Pete stood waiting. “Hi, Sweetie,” her mother called out. “Can you unlock this gate now?”
“Damn it,” she cursed quietly. “How?” she called back. “Can’t you climb it?”
“No,” her mother called back. “Don’t be absurd. Look for the key. Try the basement.”
“No,” Janey called back. “Not happening.”
“You’ll never get out if you don’t.”
“I could probably climb this, Mrs. Pokhomos,” said Pete, grabbing one of the fence poles, a spear if needed, and looking up at it’s point. It was a tall fence, maybe wrought iron, almost ancient looking. “Might get impaled though.”
“P,” said Mrs. Pokhomos. “Mrs. P to you.” Going by Mrs. P seemed her response to the divorce, holding on to the Mrs. and P. That was the theory at least. “I think we’ll be out here all night if you can’t climb it,” said Mrs. P. Eventually she found a preference for Madam P, but we digress. “Hold tight, Sweetie,” she called out to Janey. “This guy is going to try climbing this.”
“Pete,” said Pete. With an assist from both Pokhomoses pushing him onward and upward Pete was able to avoid puncture as he traversed the deadly spear points guarding the top of the defense. He dropped on the other side with a thud and an “ouch.”
“You okay?” asked Mrs. P.
“I’m good,” said Pete.
“Take her with you and look for the key to this,” said Mrs. P.
“Make sure you take her with you,” said Dr. Pokhomos.
“Yes, and try the basement first,” said Mrs. P. “It should look like a key.”
“A key,” said Pete. “I’ll try to remember.”
“And take her with you,” said Dr. Pokhomos. “It’ll speed things up. I don’t want to be out here all night.”
“Yes, I will take her,” said Pete, starting to get annoyed with the ‘take her’ sentiment.
“I’m not going back in there,” said Janey.
“Your parents insist,” said Pete. “I mean, they really insist.” They both looked her parents way.”
“Take her along,” Mrs. P. called.
“Is it that bad?” asked Pete.
Janey pondered the question. “Not the end of the world,” she said. Was it, she wondered. “Did you bring a flashlight?” Pete checked with her parents and they hadn’t. “All right then,” she said. “You first.”
The air in the hall caught Pete’s attention first and he couldn’t help but take a deep breath. “Not so bad,” he said. “I thought it would be musty.”
“Just shut up,” said Janey. “The less either of us or anyone says, the better.”
They went from room to room finding nothing but rooms, clean empty rooms with covered windows. As for saving time, it wasn’t happening as Janey refused to separate. There were two staircases going upstairs and eventually they located an opening that lead to stairs to the basement. In the basement they found real windows and doors ready to be placed.
Where the first floor was not as musty as expected, the basement was also not as musty or damp as maybe it should have been. It felt downright modern, too. The walls were not cinder block. They couldn’t really say what they were made of, and weren’t concerned, but Pete for one noted what they weren’t.
The basement was partitioned off into one large room and two smaller chambers, at least at first, and the pair didn’t have to search beyond those three. One of the chambers had crates and the other had a big table with dozens of keys on it.
“Here we go,” said Pete.
“Shush,” said Janey. “I don’t like this,” she added.
“Old fashioned skeleton keys,” Pete noted aloud. Janey shushed him again, but also found the keys odd. They all looked to be unique and somewhat ornate. There were two larger keys, and one was larger than the rest.
“Bingo,” said Pete.
“What is wrong with you?” asked Janey, in an angry hushed voice. “What do you not understand, shut or up?”
Quickly they made their way back upstairs and to the window they were using for an entrance. “How did you open this, anyway?” Pete asked.
“Shut up,” she said. “I just pushed it sideways and it fell.”
“Should we try that on the front door.”
“No,” she said, climbing out the window. “I think it best we leave it closed for now.”
“Look, I want to take a look-see. You go get your parents.”
“Oh, no no no,” she said. “You’re not staying in here for any look-see. I’m taking you back to my parents. We’re done here.”
“But it’s kind of cool,” he said. “I want to see what’s up with these windows.”
She grabbed his wrist. “I’m taking you with me,” she insisted.
“You took her,” said Mrs. P when they were back at the fence gate.
“Yes, I took her,” said Pete, a little tired of the insistence on taking her.
“He took you,” Mrs. P said happily, almost joyously, to Janey as she worked on the lock.
“This has to be the key,” Janey said and stopped.
“My little girl is going to get to be a woman,” said Mrs. P.
“No,” said Janey, abruptly.
Pete puzzled at Dr. Pokhomos, who shrugged back. “Crazy or not, I’m invested in this.”
“Sure,” said Pete.
“It is not happening like that,” Janey said loudly, almost hysterically.
“So be they joined,” said Dr. Pokhomos.
“That is shit!” said Janey. “We are not married now. You cannot make this crap up as you go.”
“He took you, and I bet you took him,” said Mrs. P.
“And so they be wed,” said Dr. Pokhomos.
“Fuck that,” said Janey. “Why doesn’t this key fit?”
Pete was taking in the insanity with an air of amusement. “Geez, Janie, if I had known I would have gotten you a ring.”
“You’re holding the ring,” said the doctor, noting where Pete was resting his hand on the fence that circled the premises. Pete stepped back. “And that band will not be broken.”
“Or unlocked,” added Mrs. P. “Oh look,” she said. “It isn’t even locked.” She pulled the gate open. “You’re both free to go, and together.”
“You two got divorced,” said Janey, getting up into her mother’s face.
“We didn’t have your traditional experience, Sweetie.”
“And it’s only paper that says we’re divorced,” Mrs. P called to Janey as her daughter strode purposefully away.
“Fuck it all,” said Janey. “Shit shit shit shit shit.”
“We’re not married now,” said Pete, incredulous, but still somewhat amused.
“In Shani’s mind if she thinks she is, and I think she does, she thinks you are,” said Dr. Pokhomos. “Opportunity knocks.” After which it knocks you down and knocks you around.
“So now what?” asked Pete, expecting the Pokhomoses to break out laughing at any second at some cosmically inconceivable joke.
“Ice cream!” they screamed.
-- > STOP < --