The Short Story Fantasies
of Christopher A. Cameron
By Christopher A. Cameron
Copyright 2017 Smokey Mirror Press
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
This e-book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This e-book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Shakespir.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
Her friends called her, ‘Apple,’ but her full name is Miss Gertrude Applemouse Grateful and she has always been pious and humble to a fault. Pious in that she never misses church, not even for the most trivial meeting. Humble in that after a lifetime of church involvement, she has never had the courage to pray and she is always the last one to leave after cleaning up.
“Pray,” she would say, “me pray to the creator, the all powerful? Why would he want to talk to me?”
Prayer meetings were her specialty. She would listen for hours as people poured out their wisdom to their creator.
“They are certainly more important than I am,” she would think.
Blessings would be asked for people she had never heard of, countries damned she would never visit and of course she knew most of those ill that were prayed for but God already knew about them. Why should she waste His time telling Him what he already knew?
Year in and year out she followed the traditions of her faith, but as time passed, her town became poorer. As older members of her congregation died off there were fewer and fewer activities to attend. (Although it should be mentioned that a certain widower James started looking her way and finding closer seating during services.)
She took this in stride until one day out of the blue she found her world crumbling.
“As you all know,” her preacher began, “there are two churches in this town with fewer and fewer coming out to worship each week. The Reverend Parker and I have decided to ask what your feelings would be about uniting the congregations? That way we would only have one building to maintain, we preachers could take alternate weeks off and so on.”
“Combine churches!” Apple thought, “change faiths or compromise the ritual?”
Her heart was breaking as James slipped passed her.
“His dear old heart just couldn’t bear it,” she thought. “Was that a tear in his eye?” she questioned as she watched him dejectedly slip out the door.
The reverend wasn’t talking about questions anymore, he was speaking as if it were a fait accompli. How if we moved, our new church would be bigger and brighter and on and on. It was sacrilege. He was denigrating the old and extolling the new for no other reason then that they’d become poor.
Apple thought it no coincidence that at exactly this point, members of the other church started entering her sanctuary. She suspected it was no coincidence that her preacher chose this moment to discuss the possibility of tearing her church down and selling the land to create an endowment for their new home either. When it seemed that nothing could make her world more wretched, that something happened.
“FIRE!!!” went up the cry from the street! And the entire congregation rushed out to see what the fuss was about. Sure enough, their new home at the other end of town was blazing brightly.
After several hours, she reentered her church with the congregation and the dear reverend resumed his place in the pulpit.
“The question of uniting seems to have been settled for us,” he said. “The newer, bigger, church of our dreams has been damaged beyond repair.” A certain role reversal was noticeable. No longer the under dog, he went on, “Instead of wandering mendicants in a troubled land, we have become miraculously transformed into generous brothers asking those less fortunate than ourselves to share our humble surroundings.”
As usual, Apple helped clean up after the meeting. And as she collected the last crumbs and carried them toward her home in the hole under the pulpit she thought, “God surely works in strange ways.”
For the very first time James had conjured up some courage and was waiting for her.
“Did you see it!” she said excitedly, “did you hear what happened?” Apple was so carried away by events she didn’t realize that this was James’ first hint of courting.
“God surely works in mysterious ways!” she said
“With a little help from his friends,” he thought extending a comforting paw, “With a little help from his friends.”
Soji Koba’s first hint that he had been chosen was a gentle rap at his door.
“Soji Koba professor of linguistics?” said a man in the fading twilight.
The man displayed a badge and waited until a nod acknowledged it. “Do you recognize this,” said the man holding up an envelope with a penlight aimed at the seal.
“Of course!” said Soji with an involuntary bow. Like many things made common knowledge by the movies, this seal was rarely seen in person. The official then presented Soji with the envelope’s contents, an engraved card which read: “You are invited to attend a seminar of national importance,” and nothing more. When Soji looked up, the man’s hand was extended to retrieve the invitation and Soji returned it.
“This is an unofficial visit. In fact, I have never been here. Do you understand?” Soji nodded. “Do you accept?” The question was rhetorical: No one could ignore such a request.
“Of course,” said Soji bowing again.
“You will commit these instructions to memory and make no written note of them nor shall you speak of this to anyone. Understood?”
“You will be the guest of the government on …”
The seminar’s first speaker began without identifying himself. “You have been chosen to work on a project of the utmost national importance. If you accept, you will work on it until it is completed and the time it takes is entirely up to you. You will then return to your former employers as thought you had never left. There will be no ‘hiatus’ among you,” he said smiling. They smiled back. ‘Hiatus,’ the derogatory term applied to woman who have left work to bear children and return expecting equality with former peers.
“Those wishing to leave should do so now, those remaining will be considered the committee and if you choose to stay there is no turning back. Remember, whether you stay or leave, you are sworn to secrecy for life. This meeting has never taken place.”
The wait seemed an eternity as he motionlessly eyed them and only when convinced there were no defectors did he swiftly exit to thunderous applause. The applause was for the man advancing from behind the curtain, Taiki Kohida, The Tiger, himself.
Kohida, (Tora behind his back) was a national icon whose career had swung ceaselessly between government and business to solve the most difficult problems of the moment; and a man whose image perfectly reflected his ability.
“I am Taiki Kohida,” he began, “and I will personally lead this project, code named SYNERGY!” And the applause rang out again.
“Probably a corruption of the English word synergistic,” Soji thought.
Tora had been selected by the prime minister himself and before long it would be rumored an imperial prince had twisted his arm to take the job. Although they wouldn’t know it for some time, Tora had personally picked each member of this team and was pleased none had turned him down.
He went straight to the point and in a handful of words sharply focused what all knew to be the world’s greatest peacetime problem: Commercial disputes caused by contract translation problems. (Manipulating American lawyers, thought many.) Every court dealing with international trade was backed up for years, commerce had ground to a halt and Tora had been selected to resolve this crisis.
Stunning, was the only word to describe his solution; or perhaps more accurately, the wrinkle in his solution. Questioners wanted to be sure they had heard him correctly, and Tora answered in a manner consistent with his nickname.
“You have not listened,” he said with the quiet condescension that hints intelligence is being questioned, “Japan is the greatest commercial power on Earth and from this vantage point cannot ignore our Asian brethren. I will say this one last time: Nearly 600 million people speaking Mandarin Chinese have been bypassed by circumstances. Circumstances not of their choosing, and the world owes them a handicap. Your task is twofold: To create a plan solving world trade problems and, to make sure that that plan includes an advantage to our Mandarin speaking Chinese brethren.”
With this he had glared at each of them. “Anyone believing this project beyond their abilities may leave at this time,” he had whispered. Even breathing stopped for that moment before he turned on his heel and vanished.
The problem was simplicity itself — to pose. Solving it with a plan using something based on the world’s most popular language was another matter altogether.
“You have complete latitude in thinking through ideas,” he had said. “Surely the world cannot object to our wishing a precise rendering of contracts. And who can defend the position that non-English speaking people should be at an eternal disadvantage because they have not mastered that impossible language?” The comment was curious in that his own English was impeccable.
“Let them find the route I have chosen,” he had thought, “and the longer it takes, the less contrived it will look.”
They all remembered Tora’s steely eyes scanning the table as he had said very slowly: “And, should this project end with the English-speaking world having to redefine their own language, Asia goes into all negotiations as the recognized superior continent. Not the Americas, not Europe, not some Indo-European complex of nations, but the Orient.”
“Magnificent presentation,” his listeners had thought, “no shouting or pounding his fist in the Western tradition, but softly and calmly in the manner of the stalking tiger.” Each had felt his power and none could fail him.
“Writing contracts in Mandarin would require Westerners to master Chinese for writing and Japanese as the spoken language of management: Hmmm” they pondered.
Soji listened for weeks before finding the correct path.
“Let us assume,” he had begun in his polite way, “that we work on any of the options we’ve discussed, one problem remains unaddressed that is not necessarily to our advantage.” The significance of the magic words from the Emperor’s surrender speech caused an immediately gasp.
“The drawbacks of English are many but we have failed to take into account the most difficult problem to overcome, the matter of vocabulary.” This was so sensitive a topic many were surprised he brought it up.
“Our schools require students to master only a few thousand written characters by graduation,” he went on, “and even our most esteemed scholars never master more than, say, 20,000 characters, the smallest fraction of the words available to any English speaking person. The English language contains over a million words — words that can convey every shade and nuance of meaning and tense — and they can all be written.”
“Yes, some of these ideas that have been presented might settle contract problems, but would the world accept them? How can we suggest that Europeans use an oriental language with its puny writing potential and very limited tensing structure? Especially when it would put them at such a disadvantage right from the start?” He was dancing and he knew it. Three times as many people speak Mandarin as English but Mandarin is a language of the poor and the world couldn’t care less about them. They have too few chips in the pot.
“Perhaps we can leave that problem to Tora, but even so, none of your plans address the future. Computerized translation is bound to come and no one has taken this into account.”
Their minds immediately flitted back to the ‘60’s when an English / Russian translator program was touted at a computer show. It had worked well with simple material. Then someone plugged in the idiom: ‘The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak,’ and all hell had broken loose. The Russians had laughed at the ‘Russian,’ translation and the Americans laughed when the computer brought the Russian translation back into English. It said, ‘Your liquor is fine, but your meat is rotten.’
Visit: http://www.Shakespir.com/books/view/735626 to purchase this book to continue reading. Show the author you appreciate their work!