Saturday, June 06, 2009

post 600. night-time in albany.

post 599. this one needs work. a lot of work.


while trying to settle into albany, i sat down and tried to pump out a story, in hopes of getting over my "i'm out of my natural writing element...will i still be productive?" worries. this is a concept i've been thinking about for a while now, but never put to paper. i think there's a decent story in here somewhere (i hope there's a good story in here somewhere) but this is just the early, early version of it. i think i'll let it sit for a while and then come back to it.

Bars are funny places. And, as it turns out, “bar” is a relative term. Every race has one: that place where you just go to relax, let off a little steam, get into a little trouble, tune out, whatever. I was in this place on Rigus 6 where the locals swam in something that smelled like scorched motor oil. The Mentaghiri only go out on the third rising of their outermost moon and eat the recently deceased. Not exactly the place you’d go to do as the Romans do.

     And every bar has a dick head. You know, the guy who’s talking to you, and he’s saying nothing you care to hear, but he doesn’t care about that. On and on, drinks fueling his discourse, on and on. Nonsense. Total nonsense that you answer with monosyllables.

Here, next to me, was a round little man named Leo.

“…So these fucking Spets come up to me on a plinker, and I’m S.H.-fucked, right? Right? Fuckinf Spets, and I looke the one in the eye, I mean, I look that little stone right in the eye and I tell him to fuck off. And of course, you know how he answers. It’s how they all answer. He gives that pale, long dumb shit bung fuck look and…”

That’s an hour in. I actually know him, he works down in F-section, and we’ve eaten before. I knew two minutes into it that he was going to be an annoyance. Mining is a lonely job in itself, and you don’t get many like us out here mining Corbodite. Mostly Spetchrins. The only other human in the place besides Henry and I is the stripper. And she doesn’t look too much like a human any more, if you catch my drift.

My dad was a miner. Met my mom out here. Granddad was a miner. I don’t really know much else outside this system. Mining lets me drink, and they make the buttons big enough to not confuse them when you’re drunk.

A few Spets come in and sit behind us at a booth. Tall, pale, the closest thing the universe has made as far as I know that looks just like us, except they have these blank, smooth faces. Light hits them right, and they glow from within. Never start trouble. Always polite, like the awkward kid at a school dance. School dance. Haven’t thought about that in a long time.

  Henry eyes them suspiciously, makes it obvious that he’s eyeing them suspiciously. Muttering under his breath, his eyes drooping and wretched.

If they hear him, they don’t make it known. They never make it known. Silent. Calm. A little irritating every now and then. A drink truck brings them a round of drinks.

I order another beer.

“Don’t start, Leo.”

Bad choice on my part. He turns to me, scowling, and leans into me, his breath like beer and bar Choppos, his smell like burnt oil and corbomite dust. He launches into a giant, over-loud monologue about our responsibility as human beings: watching them Spets. They’re taking our jobs, conspiracies with the other species in the mines, all with that ESP (that gets mentioned only in Rag Mags), conspiracies with the half-human mining commissioner, backstabbing, conspiracies with the bartender. All bullshit.

I look up in the mirror and make eye contact with one of them. And I’m too drunk to look away quick enough. He smiles (you can tell, after being with them long enough, what a smile looks like) and stands up. I try to glance elsewhere, but the damage is already done. He moves from the group of Spets and comes over. I’m not very friendly to the thoughts of what could happen next.

“Hello,” he said, even tone. “How are you fellas?” They always say that.

“’D be fine, if I could ‘joy the conversation…I am conversation I’m trying to have with my friend here,” Leo says.

“I was going to apologize for the intrusion. I’m sorry. Please excuse me.” They always say that.

     “But my friends and I would be remiss if we didn’t extend an invitation to join us in drinks, especially in what must be an especially trying time.”

     They never do that. I looked at Leo, who was looking at me. He had opened his mouth to make what I would imagine could be a star-bright flurry of expletives, but stopped short.

     Instead: “Whu…duh fuck you talking…ing…about?”

     “Your planet,” the Spet said. “Earth.”

     Leo reclaimed his penis attitude.

     “I know what the fuck it’s fucking called, Spet. I’m a fucking Earthling.”

     “What about it, friend?” I asked, quickly cutting him off.

     “The news of its imminent demise.”

     Silence.

He looked at the clock on the wall. “Your sun will supernova in…well…adjusting, of course, for the differential in…but I apologize. I’ve already made one assumption, and I wish not to offend any longer…”

“What say I…shut up, Leo…what say I wanted you to,” I said.

“Well, sunlight in a supernova traveling at the increased speed from it’s explosion…your planet has four minutes of life left. Please accept my deepest apologies.”

Silence.

“How about that?” I said, under my breath.

“Please feel free to join us if you so desire. We are fellow orphans now, in this universe.”

And he turned, smiled, and walked back to his group. They all smiled and nodded somberly. And then they silently turned back to their table and looked at their drinks, sitting silently.

Orphans? Was that what we’d look like? The Spetchrins, now wandering the throughout space, forever aliens to someone else? Is that what we’ll end up looking like? Are the Spetchrins silent because they have no home?

I turned around and ordered another.

“You hear about Earth, Bentie?”

Bent looked at me and grunted. “Yeah. Heard something about it on the subspace today. Did it happen yet?”

I looked at the clock. “I dunno,” I said.

He popped off a cap and put the bottle in front of me. I took a long pull.

“I was born in Kenya,” Leo said.

“Where the fuck is that?”

“On Earth.”

I looked at him. “You’re fucking kidding me.”

He slid unsuredly off his stool. Mumbled something, slunk off.

     I looked back in the mirror. One minute left, if I was gauging right, drunk as I was. All that sun, ready to toast the place. My…great grandfather. He was the last in my line to live there. Or see it, I think. I saw a few pictures. Some plants, a house. Some relative in the sun, wearing sunning glasses.

     The clock ticks. There’s a yell. Noise. Leo is now pummeling a Spet in another group of patrons while the other Spets are trying to politely and even-voicedly talk him out of it. There are two bouncer-bots trying to pry him off with game sticks. I leap over, and throw Leo to the floor.

     “Those fucking Spets,” He said, over and over. He was drunk-strong, and I punched him. And punched him again, for ruining my night. Stupid dipshit lunkdick idiot-bot. I punched him again, because he hated the Spets. Now the bouncer-bots were trying to pry me off him. I get up, put my hands up, it takes my retina, tell me to leave. The other bot drags the limp Leo out by his leg.

     I move towards the door. I turn back, and see the Spet who approached us.

     “Hey, you guys going somewhere after this?”

     He nods.

     “I don’t feel like going home yet,” I say. “Meet me next door.”

     He nods, and smiles.