Some Things Are Discovered, Others Aren't
Chrissy smiled herself awake from libidinous Sunday dreams.
She reached out slowly and pinged her bedside button. The wall screen searched furiously for news, which might be of interest to her. Far East politics, the weather, a local car crash, a missing person in the Hertferd district. Interesting but not enough to pull her away from her bathroom rituals. She heaved out of bed and ambled to the bathroom.
“At thirty-five I think I'm holding up pretty well,” she said to herself gently touching the skin under her eyes and prodding a small mole.
She eased her face into the Personal Hygiene and Beauty machine, which sealed around her. Ambient music started to waft.
‘Must change that,' she thought, ' to some classical stuff.' It was one of her little personal educations.
“Please close your eyes,” the voice sang through the music dreamily.
Warm jets of steam tingled on her face, opening her pores, and tickling her skin. Her face relaxed. She tried not to grin; the PHB didn't work as well if you did.
Moisturising spray caressed her: replenishing, restoring, uplifting and pinpointing areas, which needed extra collagen and UV block.
“You may open your eyes now,” the voice sang. "Please open your mouth."
She hated this bit. A laser darted around in her mouth, checking for plaque build-up and debris. Tiny jets blasted around nibbling her gums and teeth.
'What to wear?’ They were going to see the governor, Dwayne, today.
She had to talk to Duncan. 'You have to choose your moment ' she thought. There hadn't been a good moment to talk since she had seen Kandie on Thursday.
The Mayor's heart ticked in time to his running rhythm. On Sunday morning he always had in a longer run. A five-mile return trip to see his parents.
Iowa was at its best in Spring, it wasn't searingly hot or blisteringly cold. Spring seemed to come earlier with every year and Duncan embraced the moist air while he could.
The run was his private time. He could really think properly, no one could get him here, no com and only his wife knew his route: freedom.
He turned off the car less road, onto a secret dirt track. Whispering corn rising beside him, swaying gently in the wind.
Last night's rain had made the track heavy running, grey mud clumped around his shoes, he worked harder, peaking around the corner at his childhood home.
It was painted white, with a long veranda and creepers clambered up the walls. There was a swing, which hung from the roof, where he used to play with his brother and his sister.
Next to the house was the big red barn. He remembered the first time he set out into the fields on the massive tractor. That was arrival in the Anderton household, that was the start of puberty, the voyage to adulthood. It had poured with rain and he had got thoroughly soaked. His father had laughed genially at his peevish complaints and told him to get on with the driving.
The only time his father had ever belted him was when he had tried to set fire to the barn. His father took him into the middle of it and told him to pull down his trousers and remove his belt. His father took his belt and whipped him. It had really hurt. His mother wailed remonstrations from the kitchen. His father never laid a finger on him again, even though he had got up to all sorts in his teens, he never did anything like that again.
He had hated his father for it at the time. He didn't now. He understood.
The house and barn stood for all that his father, and now he valued.
In his more romantic moments, on his Sunday jog, Duncan regarded himself as the wise king over a childish kingdom. Inside was sweetness and light, outside darkness reigned supreme. Outside pressed at the gates but couldn't come in.
He was never quite sure how the governor regarded it. They were from the same sort of background but something was, missing.
The Mayor skipped onto the porch. “Hi Mom, Dad!" he shouted.
No sign of life. Just the buzz of Iowan insects. He knocked on the door.
No one was there. Odd. His parents didn't go out much.
He went around the back and rattled the kitchen door. Locked. He peered inside but couldn't see anything or anyone.
'Must have gone into town,' he mused to himself.
He slumped on the wooden steps by the veranda still panting. He took his pulse, higher than last week. Still it had been hell lately, maybe it was the pressure. He looked at his old Rolex; it was later than he thought.
He started jogging back the two and a half miles to his own home. He was hungry. A big breakfast at home with Brad was a Sunday ritual.
Brad always knew his Dad was home on Sunday mornings. He'd listen for the crunch, crunch, crunch of his Dad's strides as he ran up the drive.
Brad was playing on the lawn, surrounded by debris of toys that resembled a battleground. Duncan ran over to Brad, lifting him high onto his shoulders and ran into the house. Brad was giggling and laughing as they approached the mock Roman Imperial entrance.
“Hi Chrissy, how are you doing?"
“Ah, just fine," Chrissy gasped as she huddled her coffee.
Duncan heaved Brad from his shoulders and placed him on the mahogany table spreading like an ocean in their kitchen.
Elsee scuttled in and rattled into fast breakfast rhythm.
“Okay, Elsee?” he smiled.
“How was your run, you look beat?” Chrissy ventured.
“Okay but Ma and Pa weren't at home. Maybe they went to town.”
“Did they leave a note?” asked Elsee
“No, that's right, I knew there was something a bit odd. They didn't leave a note. Always leave a note," he muttered frowning.
“Ah, I shouldn't worry, they probably forgot that's all," Chrissy chimed reassuringly.
“Can you give me ten to freshen up?"
“I'll try and call your Mom," Chrissy shouted after him. Chrissy picked up a com.
I'll try the operator, they aren't replying,"
“Oh, OK. Is anyone coming over for dinner tonight?" Elsee enquired. "No, I don't think so."
“Well, would it be okay if I took the night off this evening. I've got a date," she said sheepishly.
Oh yes? Who is the lucky guy?" said Chrissy her voice brightening.
“He's called Jack, Jack Robinson. He works at Carlton with another guy I know called Tony. You've heard me talk about Tony, he's the cheeky one..."
“Yeah, sure, have the night off, I expect we'll be staying at the governor's until mid-afternoon anyway or maybe later."
“So what’s he like then? Jack?" asked Chrissy her maternal instinct stirring within her. Elsee was only twenty-one and in some ways quite naive.
“Well, he's a really big! Seven and a half feet tall, long brown hair with a small dimple on his chin. He's quite quiet, quite hard to get to know. He's come into a bit of money lately so he's going to take me to The Fish Shack." Elsee felt very excited about this, she'd never been.
“Am I right in thinking this is your first date with him?" Chrissy asked. "Hi, operator can you try this number for me please? 24 And 24"
“Yeah sure," said the model woman on the viewcom." So, is this your first date?"
Elsee turned around from the frying and nodded.
“Urm, well, have a good time,” Chrissy uttered refraining herself from saying anything trite or parental.
“The number's fine, there's no reply."
“Okay, thanks," said Chrissy.
Duncan walked in. “He always looks so good in that dark green suit.” ‘Doesn't wear it much,' thought Chrissy.
“Right, let's go." said Duncan, "we're running late..."
Elsee darted a look at Duncan and shook her head knowingly. This would without doubt throw Brad into spasms of crying and a deep sulk which would last deep into the afternoon and maybe even tomorrow.
'Don't break routines Duncan, not at this age...' Elsee thought. Duncan waved his head around and nodded.
“Okay Elsee. I get the picture."
Elsee served up rashers, waffles and fresh juice. Brad sat quietly on his father's knee and they all started munching.
“Chrissy, it’ll take us about an hour to get there. Do you wanna' bring something to read or view on the way? I'm taking some work I've got to do."
“You're not taking any work with you. You’ve been working all week, give it a rest..."
“No buts," insisted Chrissy.
“Chrissy I need to do this over the weekend." "So do it tomorrow," said Chrissy.
“What's the big deal here?"
Chrissy nodded her head towards Brad. "Not now Duncan," she said pointing to Elsee. "Not now."
“Okay but I'll have to get up early tomorrow and do it.”
They scoffed their breakfast fast but Brad made Duncan have one quick go on his new Tom and Jerry game.
“Time to go, Brad, we've got to go! Chrissy come on."
Brad looked sullen. Chrissy nodded.
“We'll see you later this afternoon. Look, come with us and watch the car come out.
Brad brightened, he loved this. "Why don't you say it?"
“Car." Brad announced with a squeak.
The garage door rumbled opened and the car moved out in front of them on the drive. It resembled a vast snail in appearance. A long sweep of black glass swept over the top of it in an oblique curve. The entire glass portal opened as Chrissy and Duncan got inside.
Chrissy kissed Brad goodbye and gave him a hug. Brad clung onto his father's legs and would not be moved.
"Come on, Brad!" Elsee shouted brightly coming out of the house. Brad did not move. Elsee looked heavenwards and smiled.
“Come on let's play the new game inside."
Brad was released his grip and scuttled off into the house.
The vast array of lights inside the car resembled a musician's m1x1ng desk. It had a navigation unit, which could display any map of any part of the world at various resolutions. Over longer distances, provided the co-ordinates were known the car more or less drove itself but not in towns or cities. Duncan embraced the convenience of these vehicles but he still had a classic car in his possession, a stick shift, his pride and joy. A Jaguar E-type. He loved to take it out occasionally and feel the power as he weaved through the gears, even if it was very, very difficult to drive and a bit slow.
“Des Moines," Duncan barked at the console, it started winking. "I went out for a meal with Kandie on Thursday," said Chrissy.
“Did you?" There was a pause. "Did you have a nice time?" "Yes." said Chrissy unenthusiastically.
“Urm." said Duncan. He looked across at his wife. He noticed a slight tension in her profile. "Where did you go?"
“The Fish Shack."
“Oh," replied Duncan monosyllabically.
“And what did she have to say for herself. What’s new?" Duncan enquired desultorily.
“We talked about the kids and I asked her about the new games machine we've got for Brad."
Duncan raised his eyebrow.
“You remember. He liked the one at Roger's birthday. That’s why we got it."
“Oh yes,” Duncan echoed in a slightly disconnected voice.
“Journey commencing," the console announced. The car accelerated. "She talked a bit about the Koreans going around Carlton."
“Oh that. I behaved myself, I didn't tell them much. Ellephanie was with me most of the day."
"I heard they are thinking about expanding," continued Chrissy. "I know a bit,"
“How big's the factory going to get?" Chrissy asked.
“Oh, like I said, a bit I think. They are going to help with R&D I guess." Duncan looked out of the window. "Nice day, I love spring, " he said dreamily.
The countryside sped by as they approached the highway moving away from Hertferd. Chrissy wriggled slightly in her chair.
"That's not what I've heard," Chrissy said lazily. "Who have you been talking to?"
“Oh just friends. You know, gossip probably. I've heard it’s going to increase by ten times," Chrissy said as casually as she could.
How have you heard that? Who from? "
Duncan's face looked grave, he felt like someone had kicked his groin. He stared out of the window: corn fields and a straight road. Squashed flies peppered the windscreen. There was a whine, water danced across the tinted glass and the flies were whisked to fly heaven.
Probably just a rumour. How had his wife heard about this? In spite of himself, his mind was racing.
Just a rumour. What if it's not? What if it's true? A rumour. Just a rumour, he calmed himself. He could feel his heart starting to hammer. What would Pa say if it were true? The horror. The population spiralling: burger joints, lawyers, builders from the megapolis, visions of construction, castrating the town.
“The fuckup’s coming this way, Duncan, and you aren't doing anything to stop it. Get in the barn. Pull your pants down."
"I'm thirty eight for God's sake."
“Doesn't matter. They fucked up everywhere you know. What is it you said to me Duncan? You were going to... You're fucking it up. Brought you up here. First ride in the tractor. Proper values, away from the shit. Look what a mess this place is in. Surprised you can farm anymore...Remember Brad Duncan. Remember the kids."
"Why didn't you?"
"Didn't know about it then."
Duncan jerked his head.
Just a rumour, just a rumour.
“Who did you hear this ridiculous rumour from?”
“I thought everyone knew it, I thought it was common knowledge."
“Well why didn't you mention it then?"
“Because, Duncan, I assumed you knew." Chrissy said becoming more indignant, "Besides I didn't want to bring it up, it's the weekend. It upsets you and it upsets me."
Well why did you bring it up then? You were the one who asked me not to bring any work."
Chrissy looked uncomfortable and went quiet. She looked for some candy on the seat behind. They sat in silence. Chrissy put her hand on Duncan's arm. He looked momentarily surprised. They looked out of the window again and the screenwash whined again.
“I don't know, I really don't know." she said shaking her head."
“Small town approaching," blurted the synthesised voice, "For safety's sake please return to the wheel, it may not be necessary to return to manual," it continued in a dry monotone.
“What would you do, if it were true?"
“Try and block it, what do you think? Get them to do it somewhere else, I don't know. Stop it," replied Duncan defiantly and went quiet for a moment.
Why, what would you do about it?” Duncan asked incredulously.
“Try and stop it. Same as you. - but I'm not sure we can in the end," added Chrissy tentatively.
What do you mean?”
“Please prepare for manual," the accentless voice announced.
“God I'm going to have to change that damn voice." He stabbed a button in irritation.
“Thank you," said a deep southern male accent. Kandie watched the back of Duncan's neck.
“What do you mean?" repeated Duncan in agitation.
They approached some control flow lights at a highway intersection. The small track, which leads down to The Fish Shack, was on the right. The red light winked at them from above.
“I mean, in the end, can we stop it? People want jobs, people like Jack Robinson who Elsee's seeing tonight."
“Whose side are you on here?" Duncan's voice had become distant.
“Yours," said Chrissy defensively, "but I'm trying to be realistic. Other people in the town are for it you know. All I'm saying is that we can fight but we might not win the war."
Duncan sat quietly. The damn light was still red.
“What's wrong with the fucking light?" Duncan said. There was a pause.
Duncan's face changed palpably.
“Who told you this information?" Duncan said.
“I told you, I thought it was common knowledge," Chrissy proffered.
“What so common that I don't even know about it? It's fucking unlikely don't you think?"
“Well, that's what happens when you are at the top, the mice know and the cat doesn't," Chrissy said not overly convincingly.
“And who is the cat and who is the mouse?" Duncan's voice had gone distant.
“I'm not sure what you mean."
“Oh! Come on Chrissy, what do you take me for. I'm not that goddam stupid. You go for lunch with Kandie and all of a sudden you know something I don’t; now why would that be? Where's the link?" Duncan uttered coldly.
“Could it be that Kandie is Ellephanie's fucking wife? And why would she be telling you this information and why are you asking me? Huh? Why are you asking me? You were lying to me weren't you?"
Chrissy sat stiffly in her seat.
“You bitch, you were lying to me.”
“I said get out?"
“I haven't done anything wrong," said Chrissy with tears in her eyes. Duncan's face had gone white.
“Don't make it worse. Don't lie to me twice. Get out, before I throw you out of the fucking car."
“But what have I done wrong?"
“That's just it, I don't fucking know 'cos you aren't telling me why you are asking me these fucking questions. Whose side are you on?"
“Duncan, you're being paranoid, really I was just trying to help you," said Chrissy with tears in her eyes, " I'm sorry maybe I made a mistake but maybe we ought to compromise or something.”
“It doesn't look like you were trying to help from where I am sitting," Duncan shouted abruptly.
Duncan slammed on the brakes and the car slew into the sideline. He jumped out of the driving seat, wrenched open the portal and forced Chrissy out of the car. She was screaming.
“What the fuck are you doing? What the fuck are you doing? We're miles from anywhere, you bastard! What if some freak is coming by? How do you think this looks...you son of a bitch?" Chrissy cried, belting the front shield.
Duncan ignored her. He got back in the car, locked the doors and accelerated with a screech.
Chrissy slumped by the side of the road, cars skimmed by.
It was two miles walk to the Fish Shack; she walked down the dirt track, her high heels digging into the sand. At first she cried, the make-up streaking down her face. Then she was numb. She could not believe this, any of this shit.
"It was all Kandie's fault. Fucking bitch. Fucking bitch!" she shouted aloud as she cockled over on her high heels. She took them off.
She went further down the road and saw a gap in the side of a cornfield. She peered through the gap. There was a car.She went up to investigate. She screamed and ran down the road towards The Fish Shack, her abandoned shoes lying on the road.