Short Fiction for Guests of the WordFeeder
Sunday, June 19, 2011 (Father’s Day!)
“You know,” Verna observed apprehensively, closing the front of the sweater she was wearing to cut the cool evening air while they drove deeper and deeper into the countryside toward the renovated eighteenth century mill where Jacob lived and worked, “I didn’t realize how far out you lived.”
“What?” Jacob faked an offended tone. “Have you been talking to the parents of the other women I’ve murdered?”
She giggled back at him nervously. “That’s not funny. This is only our fourth date.”
“True,” but then your father – What exactly did you say he does for the President? – did a complete background check on me, and that was before I asked you out the first time. How did he even know to do that?”
“I told my mother I thought you were cute.”
“I am cute, but I’ve also had the feeling I’m being followed ever since then.”
“Don’t take it so personally. He’s just a tad over-protective.”
“Sure. And our military actions in Libya – which I’m pretty sure was your father’s idea – are, what, an intervention?”
“In a manner of speaking, yes.” She tended to take serious subjects way too seriously. “You know, your politics notwithstanding, you can’t seriously want us to leave..”
“Here we are,” Jacob interrupted as they pulled into a clearing and drove around a small circle, pulling to a stop in front of the large double archway doors through which supplies used to be delivered, but which was now the entrance to Jacob’s home and personal lab.
“Wow,” Verna commented. “Very impressive in a sinister sort of way.”
“Com’on.” Jacob got out, walked around and opened the door for her. “Igor’s off tonight. We’ll have to let ourselves in.”
And they did, walking through the great open room where he and a handful of associates did whatever they do, often late into the night – except the standard 3 day weekends which were off limits, the “no work zone” he felt they all needed to recharge. One level up, there was a loft that ran all around the perimeter and that was where he lived.
Walking slowly toward the center of the floor, letting her hand brush along the edges of the odd assortment of tables and desks that were here and there, Verna looked up and turned around, twice. “So what’s your success rate in a place like this?”
“Well, our recent breakthrough in the electronic enhancement of educable mammals through entirely self-sustain..”
Verna had walked toward him, pulling her sweater away from her light, bare shoulder dress, tossing over an open laptop.
“..entirely self-sustaining im.. plants.”
“I meant with women you bring here.”
“Well,” he responded between light kisses, “except for my mother, you’re the..” That last kiss lasted longer than expected. “I’m thinking you’re, well,” he said touching her lips with his hand, “…To tell you the truth, I’ve lost count.”
“Who’s that?” Verna asked, referring to the large beagle mutt looking up at them, sitting on the old plank floor, his tail swishing back and forth excitedly.
“Yeah, well whoever he is, he has unusually large ears.”
“He’s a dog.”
“Even for a dog. ..What’s he want?”
“I think,” Jacob lifted up his arm from around Verna’s back to where he could see his watch, “he’s reminding me that it’s time we left for dinner.”
Kneeling down, Verna said hello to the dog she’d heard so much about. “Hey, Flaps!” she greeted him with same smile Jacob had been helpless to resist. Flaps, so it seemed, was having the same problem, made all that worse by the way she was scratching behind his long floppy ears. “How you doin’?” Verna kept scratching, but couldn’t help but notice the scar in the fur above Flap’s left ear. “…So, Jake?”
“What?” He wasn’t sure he liked it when she called him Jake. There was something annoyingly familiar about it that made him wince.
“Why is Flaps wearing goggles?”
“Because he’s always wanted to fly a plane.”
“You mean ride in one?”
“No. Pilot one.”
“Ah, now I get it. ‘Flaps’,” she said, holding his ears up and then perpendicular away from his head.
“Com’on. I’m taking you out for pizza at “Stonehenge.”
“What?” Verna stands up, thinking he must be kidding. “The place at the beach? You really want to drive for an hour just for pizza?”
“I thought we’d have their homemade cannoli for dessert. ..Flaps, you go ahead. We’ll be right behind you.
“Wuf!” And Flaps ran off, his ears trailing in his wake.
“’Wuf.’ Is that the only word he knows? I would have thought one of your “educable mammals,” I think you called them, would speak fluent English.”
“Let’s go. It won’t take that long to get there,” he reassured her, taking her hand and picking up her sweater on their way out a side door. “…First of all, he’s not one of our lab animals. He’s my friend. And, just because we make them smarter, doesn’t mean they can talk.”
“I know what you mean. I’ve dated men like that.”
“I thought I was your first.”
“My first scientist.”
Through the side door they walked down a path through a simple garden. A pool with a low fountain reflected the early evening lights from the sky. Almost around the back of the building, they began to see the bright lights emanating from the pad where their ride was waiting for them.
“You’ve got your own helicopter?!” Even Verna was impressed.
“Yeah. It was, uh, something I bought the company after we licensed our last patent. ..Hey. What’s wrong?”
Verna had stopped, reluctant to board through the open door, her anxiety make all that more present as the blades began to turn slowly over their heads, the powerful sound of the engine coming up to speed, a few leaves on the pad rising up, her auburn hair beginning to float around her face.
“It’s okay,” Jacob reassured her, reaching for her hand, letting her take the lead up the three short steps that led into the small cabin, and then pulling the steps and door up behind them.
“Put your seat belt on, and this headset,” he told her, almost shouting. “It’s wireless, in case you get up and it’ll help us talk over the engine noise.” Jacob did the same and then, pressing a button on his headset, gave the order. “Pilot. Take her up.”
“Is this guy any good?”
“The best. Trained him myself.”
“Wuf!!” Even without the headset, she heard the now familiar bark coming from the open cockpit door at the end of the cabin.
Stunned and more than a little bit scared, Verna unsnapped her seatbelt and rushed up to the pilot’s compartment, leaning through the door, her hands on both edges of the frame to keep her steady. And there in the left pilot’s seat, “Flaps?! ..WHAT’S HE DOING?!!”
“Well,” Jacob came up close behind her has they lifted off, “he can’t actually fly a plane, but helicopters he can do. ..Don’t worry. I had the controls specially made for him. ..You’ll see. We’ll be fine,” he reassured her, pushing her hair away from the back of her neck.
“Jake! JAKE!! Dinner’s ready.”
“I’ll be down in minute, Mom.”
Like all 10 year olds, he always needed a few more minutes, in this case to wrap up the latest story he was writing on the laptop his grandfather, the one he called “Doodad,” gave him. These weren’t just stories, not exactly, but more like a diary by future-Jake, the one he imagined he’d become.
“Com’on Irving. (“Irving” was Flaps real name.) Let’s get something to eat.” “Wuf?” Irving was reluctant to get up off his tush and go with him. “Don’t worry, buddy. They haven’t a clue,” he smiled at his little friend, as if the legends he wrote were true. “Wouldn’t believe me if I told them.”
“Hi, honey,” his mother greeted him as he pulled out his chair, his younger sister, Beth, sitting politely across from him. “Daddy’s running late. It’s just the three of us tonight.”
“And Irving.” The beagle-something hopped up on the chair where Jacob’s Dad always sat.
Plopping mashed potatoes on Jake’s plate, his mother stopped to take a look at the end of the table. “So tell me again why Irving is wearing your sister’s headband antennas?”
“He thinks he’s a bionic dog that aliens are using to study us.”
Something about the way he said it make Jacob’s mother pause for a moment, as if she was actually considering taking her son’s explanation seriously. Staring down at Irving, the dog stretched his neck out and stared back at her… the reflection of the core of his bionic 80x optical zoom eyes hardly visible, and certainly not recognizable.
“Yeah, right,” Jacob’s mother responded with a noticeable smirk. “..I’ll get the gravy.”
“There,” Jacob said with considerable satisfaction, looking across his room to his bed where Irving was relaxing on his back, “even better.”
“JAKE!!!” This time his mother wasn’t kidding. “Now Jake! Dinner’s getting cold!!”
Saving his journal and closing the lid of his laptop, Jake was finally done writing, at least for now.
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