Thursday, January 26, 2012

Triple

Enjoy a bit of science-fiction today with this except from a novel titled The Deep Time Cowboy by Mike Olive. Mike is a writer from Texas, now living in Colorado, and spends non-writing time climbing, mountaineering, camping, hiking, river-running, and other things that I only read about. Mike tries to bring humor into everything he writes to, as he puts it, "retain some sanity."  


Triple
By Mike Olive

“A pitiful excuse for a table. Not like the old days.” Jack Poulson had crept up on him. Triple gave an inner sigh. Jack mock-punched Triple’s shoulder.

“Remember when we’d come over here after the Cromwell Lecture and we’d have Russian caviar, a decent Rothschild Cabernet and, thick wedges of Stilton? Piles of meat. Fried chicken, roast beef, baked fish, sirloin steak (medium rare) and, roasted ham?”

Reluctantly, Triple nodded in affirmation. He did remember those long ago days of delicious, plentiful meat.
Skeeter came up. He grinned at Poulson in a nasty manner. “Oh, yes. The Star Wars money,” he sneered. “Those sweet days, back in the eighties, when the Department of Defense thought we could develop the perfect anti-missile system. Truck loads of money given to any idiot who would ignore the math and say - 'Why yes, we can do that.'”

Poulson sniffed. “You’re just jealous, that’s all. No, we weren’t able to build it but, at least, we tried to help our country.” Triple tuned them out. He had found some shrunken pineapple chunks and was loading them onto his plate. Triple was hungry. He wasn't particularly interested in the Star Wars days. The offer had been
made but, neither he nor Skeeter had worked on the gravy train. On the other hand, as Poulson had mentioned, in those days, there had been quite a lot of good meat around.

Triple could still recall the largess seen at certain Star Wars parties and events. People had new cars in those days and they sported fancy sport jackets. And meat, there had been a lot of meat. He distinctly remembered some thick, juicy slices of rare roast beef. Who eats that well, today? Triple saw that Poulson was watching him.

“Ah, Triple. You remember those days, don’t you? The great Star Wars days. We were young then, our salad days, and around us, all that fresh, lovely, juicy meat.”

Triple grimaced slightly, on hearing the word, “Triple.” He rather liked it when friends called him by his old nickname. However, he did not count Poulson as a friend. Still, not many people, now days, knew the nickname or, how he had acquired it.

Suddenly, fresh as green grass on a baseball field, old memories came flooding back. A time before the Star Wars debacle, a time when he had been young. He had played a fairly decent third base on the college team. And Poulson had been equipment manager. During the playoffs, he'd gotten a triple in four successive games.
They’d won the title although, in Triple’s opinion, it had been due to good pitching, not his good hitting. Nonetheless, after that series, in some circles, he had become Triple forever.

Nicknames are like scars, mused Triple. You pick them up when you are young and boisterous. Later on, as you age, you carry them with you. Our nicknames are fading references to an earlier day. Triple aroused from his reverie to notice that Skeeter was sharply elbowing Poulson in the ribs. There was a fair amount of fat surrounding Poulson’s ribs but, nonetheless, that had to be painful. Skeeter’s grin resembled that of a hungry tiger.

“Juicy meat, plump and succulent,” said Skeeter an accusing voice.

“Yes, indeedy. You do remember her, don’t you Poulson? ‘Our Lady of the Ham’? I believe she was 16 at the time. That nice young school girl hired to help out at the buffet oh, I guess it was early autumn, 1988? Such a buxom young lady. Not a natural blond, I think? She had a very gracious manner. We teased her, called her ‘Our Lady of the Ham.’ Surely you remember her, Poulson?”

“What do you want?” asked Poulson in a hoarse voice.

“A trifle, really.” Skeeter's toothy grin was still in evidence. It was not a pleasant thing. It reminded Triple of a cat that has caught a mouse by it's tail. The cat plans to play with the mouse and, chances are, the mouse will not find this amusing.

“Triple and I are running a small physics experiment and need to borrow one of your cyclotron magnets. Your cyclotron is off line right now, correct? Lack of funds, the PERP, our Period of Economic Retrenchment and Prayer, well, hard times are everywhere, aren’t they? We return the magnet in one month, no longer.”

Poulson coughed, then made a choking, gasping sound. He looked strange. Triple felt some qualms. His dislike for Poulson went back to the time when Poulson had been equipment manager. Poulson had enjoyed bullying the smaller players. Once or twice, Triple had had to speak to him. But, right now, the man, truly, did not look good. He was making a weird gurgling noise. His face was turning an odd shade of purple. Further, weren't his eyes becoming rather large and, somewhat bulging?

Suddenly alarmed, Triple moved quickly and gave Poulson a substantial whack on the back. The impact of the blow flung Poulson against the table. He bounced off, staggered wildly, frantically grabbed for the table and then, quite suddenly, coughed violently. After which, clinging to the table, Poulson took a long and shuddering breath. And glared up at Triple.

Ah, he's better, thought Triple, smiling in a benign manner. After all, Poulson had been part of the team. And, really. There aren't so many people left now days that remember my old nickname. Fewer still who remember that old baseball team. On the other hand, there's that young girl, “Our Lady of the Ham.”

Triple recalled that she had been very cheerful, pretending to be older but, actually, as soft and innocent as a puppy. Triple shook his head sadly at the memory. Then he frowned at Poulson in a very severe manner. Damn it all, you don't screw around with children.

“The magnet will be returned in tip-top condition,” Triple said stiffly.

Poulson made a violent grimace. His eyes still looked pretty wild, even glassy. Hmmm, considered Triple, the fellow does not appear to be in good health. Probably, he has cancer only, it’s early, and he doesn’t know about it yet. Ah, well. Karma, of course. What goes around, comes around. That's how we used to say it, back in the day.

1 comment:

  1. Vivid and clear descriptions, thank you for sharing,

    Best,

    Rashad.

    ReplyDelete