The Archivist – Chapter Four

Chapters 1 - 3: The Archivist (Advisory: Salty Language, Adult Themes)

Camilla

The surface was smooth as it reflected dim lighting. Ted studied his features in this wooden mirror. He found it easier to examine himself than to try and make conversation with what he guessed was his friend.

“Care for another?” The bartender inquired.

“Yea, just make it a Yuengling.” He was drinking more than he expected and he needed to choose wiser or risk losing his internet for the month. It was hard not to drink though. Something about Dirk really put him on edge.

Dirk’s demeanor was languid but somehow also intense. He was leaning back in the chair nursing a lager. It seemed like he was looking through a window. Like he was watching something unfold. But there was nothing but a shelf of liquor in front of them.

“Trying to find a stronger medicine?” Ted asked attempting to dispel the unease.

“In a manner of speaking.” Dirk replied with the same chilly smile.

He wished he hadn’t asked anything. There was definitely a shift in Dirk’s voice. It was too urbane. Vidette had never been coonass but he was also not James Bond.

“That was some painting my man.”

“Yes, I suppose the client liked it.”

“It was a commission then?”

“Oui.”

“For what exactly?”

Dirk sat silently musing.

“A rather romantic notion.”

“How so?”

“Well, all that Doctor Böhm said was: paint sorrow.”

Ted felt a chill as he recalled the expression of the girl.

“What was it that you’d called the thing?”

“Camilla.”

“Was that someone you knew? How did you come up with that face? Who is she?” Ted was a psychology student and a humanist he felt it was important to bring Dirk out of his grief by helping him make the connection.

“She’s no one.”

“Oh, come on she has to be based on something. It was really good come on tell me.”

Dirk sat musing silently again for some time.

“As I said she is nothing. If I had to reach for an explanation I guess it’s that old house.”

“Your uncle’s place.”

“Non. That is a happy house.”

Ted laughed. He didn’t want to know what sort of house Dirk was imaging if he called that mad Alsatians place happy.

“When I was young my father had us fly to someplace in Connecticut.”

“Conneticut?”

“Yes, it was a business trip. Since he was state side he had us come there. His contact from Hart Pharmaceuticals had us all over for dinner to meet his family. I suppose it was one of those classic corporate butter-up events.”

Ted was a bona fide coonass but he felt he understood despite his class. “I see.”

“The family was normal. Langford’s wife was beautiful and the two children were twins. They were just about the same age I was at the time. Round fourteen I think. Right after dinner the brother went off to play games and the sister asked me to go to the garden with her.”

“So you were always a ladies man!”

“I suppose.”

“What was the garden like?” Ted was curious as to what any of this had to do with this painting.

“Extensive, surprisingly so, with several greenhouses. But the garden had nothing to do with the painting. It was that house.”

“Yea?”

“Oui. On our way out we passed a room. It was evening and the last rays of the sun were falling ever so slightly diagonal wise through a large lattice window. I remember her passing through that light and…” It seemed that Dirk’s preternatural calm was about to shift.

But nothing happened. There was just an awkward silence and that same serene searching gaze.

“I thought you said that this had nothing to do with anyone. That it was no one. So it was that girl?”

“No, it was the house. But these things are hard to grasp. I suppose that she did have a bit to do with it…”

“Aha?”

“Well, it’s just that as she passed through that light, as it danced across her face, for a second I thought I saw an older woman.”

Again Ted thought he saw the slightest quiver in Vidette’s Sphinx like trance.

“So it was based on somebody though. It was based on a person you thought you saw.”

“Yes, I suppose you could say that. That it was someone I thought I saw. But…”

There was a long silence.

“But it was the house that did it. There was something about that room. About the way that the furniture was placed. About the furniture itself. It seemed like I’d stepped onto a sponge that had soaked in everything. And that all that everything had stained right through my sneakers into my bones.”

“What exactly was so spooky about it. Was it one of those old Yankee places.”

“Oui, very much so. Georgian architecture and the furnishings to match.”

“Power of suggestion. So was the girl called Camilla.”

“No, Martha Langford.”

“WASPS!”

“Yes, very much so.”

“But she wasn’t called Camilla?”

“No she was Martha.”

“What kind of name…man I would never call my kid Martha. That’s an old lady name.” Ted chuckled.

“Yes, she never like it. In fact she wanted me to call her Francois after she found out we were French. You know after Francois Hardy?”

“Francois is not much of an improvement.”

“Where is your patriotism?”

“In the Mississippi depths”

“Ah, yes you are proud of your American rusticity.”

“Oui.”

“But Camilla is the woman in the painting?”

“Yes.”

“So you think maybe Camilla was someone who’d lived in that house. Or someone like Camilla. That it played with you imagination the way that they’d furnished it and you gave in to the power of suggestion.” Ted was trying to be a psychologist again.

“Non. Camilla is the house.”

It was a very clumsy and senseless phrase. Ted didn’t understand it. Was Dirk trying to be dramatic? Yet. Something about it chilled him to the bone as he recalled the woman with the quiet blue dress and the downcast hazel eyes by the window. There was something about the gas lamp and the twilight through the lattice window coupled with that expression…the design on the brooch set in the belt just beneath the bust was also suggestive. That painting was imprinted in Ted’s mind forever. It had bled into his soul just as that old house had bled into Dirk’s bones through his shoes.

Fractal Journal ~ Upload Schedule

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TFJ – Upload Schedule


Daily

  • News articles, op-eds, and nonfiction daily at six pm EST

Weekly

  • New Short Stories or Short Story Fiction Chapters: Tuesday and Thursday (8 PM EST at the latest)
  • New Oddit Podcasts Wednesday and Friday at noon EST

Extras

  • New Songs, Performances, Comedy, and Skits: Fri – Sun at variable times

Oddit # 18 – wellOrwell? Technology and Freedom

Welcome to a new weekly bit of Oddit! I stumble across vaguely Orwellian things often these days. I feel they’re worth commenting on. Discuss!


 

Oddit # 17 – Conversation is Everything


Life in a democratic republic and life itself depends on conversation. The innovations of science, the insights of philosophy, and general bon homme are all the result of exchanging ideas. Let’s make sure we do it well.

Oddit # 16 – Hot Air ~ The Missing Greenhouse Gas


I’m still figuring out the S8 Camera settings please bear with it. I felt it was time to start addressing some of the counterproductive things going on in terms of public discourse; and of course talk a bit about water.

Of News and our Digestion

Image result for newshound

Musings of a Hound

The ‘ring of truth’ is still just an after effect…
Or
The case for print and excessive subtitles!

The news often ruins my digestion. Not because it is bad news mind you. I’ve made peace with the fact that the world isn’t peaceful long ago.

No, the news ruins my digestion because it’s artificial. To be more precise, it ruins my digestion, because recently it has become crassly artificial. It’s a bacchanal of Tupperware and plastic confetti.

The news is artificial by nature so artificiality in and of itself isn’t the source of my dependence on Pepto Bismol. Yes, the news is artificial, But that does not mean it has to revel in it. Unwholesomeness of this sort will ruin anyone’s digestion.

So how is the news artificial exactly?

It’s artificial because it is by its very nature a representation. Most representations today are far from representative of the truth. The ones that hit really close to home still miss the exact mark because they are facsimiles. See: Xerox loses fidelity with each copy, the whisper game, etc.

This inescapable fact of the nature of news means that you have some serious digesting to do.

It means my friends that you are going to have to READ the news and not just hear or see the news.

While both audio and video recordings have their merits, and can be revisited as often as one likes, there is still much to be said for the static black and white of print.

First its immersiveness, and its cognitive effects promote deeper learning; that is less encumbered by the visual tricks of a news mink’s legs, or the tonal ploys of a beseeching moral crusader.

While lots of devilry is possible through turns of phrase, white lies, and outright chicanery these things are less pernicious in print. They are less pernicious because they are easier to spot and there is less of a blend between the real and virtual world.

The virtual world of a corporate news room, or talk radio broadcast is really good at getting in your head, because it is your heads native environment rendered electrically. When someone says something convincingly, or a sexy charming sort claims to be objective, you may know better but these messages will permeate deeper. They will permeate deeper without being properly digested.

The reason that I favor and profess the merits of print is because it gives you a broader space for assessment. The rapid fire bombardment of multi-sensory information that happens with audio and visual news services doesn’t give you adequate time to digest. Which means that there is a greater likelihood that you will come away having assimilated more views without assessment than you may have realized.

Print just stays there staring you in the face. It is because of this stasis that you can get a better feeling for the fact that ‘things can be found out.’ Things can be traced back.

Reading you see promotes further reading. Therefore it promotes research. Because when something you either fancy ,or despise is sitting there, staring at you in all its static glory:  you want to know why it’s correct or detestably false.

And you know that you can do it, because you know that very likely there is somewhere  supporting statements, that are also black and white. Thus you participate in a culture of deeper searching and thinking.

When I listen to news banter, or hear of the latest from this or that event, my impulse is more often to chat with friends or blast out an opinion column. However when I read I think deeper and reach for more sources.

I think the case for reading is actually stronger today with the advent of the internet. Because with the internet you can dig through much more things almost instantaneously.

The world, especially today is incredibly complex, and monumentally nuanced. We must visit and revisit issues ad infinitum because there is always something new to be gleaned in the old. Such is honesty, such is philosophy, such is science. We now have more tools than ever to do this well on a grand scale. Therefore we have a duty.

Yes, because of all that I’ve mentioned and the nature of technology: I have to say that reading news is a duty. That thinking about news is a duty. That rereading news is a duty. That perhaps even columnisting, blogging, book writing of your own is a duty.

It is a duty just like making sure that your gut is healthy is a duty.

Eat your fiber lest you get the runs and die.


Image Credit: https://blogs.chapman.edu/smc/2013/10/14/channel-that-inner-news-hound-to-sniff-out-the-undisovered-stories/

What’s Been Overcome

In my attempt to express how I think that we’ve forgotten all that we’ve overcome. An attempt spurred by the odd explosions of dumb passion from peasant to president. In this attempt I came away with something more like a poetic notion.  I rather like it.

I hope you like it too.

(A focused and sober consideration of our wilfully ungrateful amnesia regarding father history is soon to come. Among many other articles.)

Mad Crow’s Mirth

To become a bird aware of the folly of flight and the ludicrousness of its position.

That is in my opinion something approaching enlightenment.

Though as is evidenced by the play of what’s been said enlightenment is a farce and thus to laugh is wisdom.

But not always for at times one must laugh at laughter and become stern.

I think that mankind has forgotten what’s been overcome. Mankind is currently like a lazy teenager that has swept troubles under the rug.

Formerly there were bloody hangings, drawings and quarterings, myopic ideas and the death resultant of that myopia. Now we do not have these two. At least not here. We export them to China and its socioeconomic kin. This is not to mention the graveyard of empires.

In the latter musing I noted the folly of hovering wraith like above humanity as arbiter. It is a default style. Standard for observers. Especially objective ones who use the third person. The religious think they escape it by adopting Christ consciousness. Such a crown, unwieldy, sits oddly on their heads, oddly funny.

Thus the need for the bird analogy and my current…

Laughter.

Darling

Yes o sweet one

Pour the wine

the thing it must be done

The blooming of the line

Of dreams

Your hair is the wheat of the field

Fed by the waters of spirit sublime

Cisterns are your eyes

Drawing up the sustenance of time

There is a depth of dyes

Waxing of colors

Eternal tapestry

Hung in parlors

Of diverse eternity

Breaking evening

Through thrusting supernal light

Weave now the ring

Entwined we forge a novel sight

Settle now against my breast

Here against my rhythm

Take your rest

We are the first and last

Redly glimmers in the cup

The elixir

That makes down up

Laugh laugh here where it’s clear
Where it’s clear what’s been overcome

We are the first and the last

Take that wine and welcome

To the future and the past

The Gentleman Defined

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img src: http://www.foodiggity.com/tag/mr-t/

An Exploratory Series


The subtitle for my last post was: a gentleman complains.

So what is a gentleman?

Well traditionally a gentleman is someone whose family had money and thus could afford to fop about and look posh.

That is not my definition of gentleman but that is where we will start.

Gentlemen represent the leisure class.

I am not sure but I think that the term aristocracy may have something to do with Aristotle. Ah, I’ve looked it up and no. Aristos simply means excellent so Aristotle is connected only loosely through prefix and the fact that he is a philosopher.

While it isn’t entirely accurate I think that to some extent one can say that philosophers became aristocrats. The life of the mind requires energy and time. Things which can only exist in adequate amounts if you belong to the leisure class. Especially historically when food, shelter, and health were far more scarce.

There was to the best of my foggy memory the notion in ancient Greece that manual and commercial labor was lowly. That the life of the mind was the purest thing. So through this ideation the leisure of the philosopher to do philosophy perhaps became the leisure of the gentleman to be a gentleman.

What need is there of these leisurely ponces called philosophers and gentlemen?

You see philosophy, science, and the pursuit of refinement through art, literature, etc. all require copious time. There are of course exceptions among the folk who would pen folksy epics and compose folksy songs. Compositions on par with the works of the most ‘well-bred’ and pampered of noble-men. But the fact remained that these were exceptions, that the strains of duty drained the common man of creative energies. Just as laziness drained the common aristocrat of creative energies.

Really the whole notion of a leisure class arose in the hopes that this class would maintain culture, do philosophy and science, be patrons of the arts, and promote peace thereby. That is the classic ideal of the aristocracy to which few actual aristocrats seem to have lived up.

It is where we get our notions of gentlemanly actions, interests, and decorum. These ideals are I think still very much useful today and are the reason why I’m typing up this little number.

I am very fond of some of the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson. I am fond of such works because they present a very good model for the Gentleman Laborer.

I have no interest in being an aristocrat or returning to any form of aristocracy. Which is why this notion of the craftsman, yeoman, etc. who retains a sense of culture, takes himself seriously, and assumes responsibility for the course of his life and the life of his nation is an indispensable one.

The aim of college has been to bring about more of such people. It is readily apparent that they’ve failed miserably at so doing. Instead these institutions are merely vocational schools that make yokels believe that they know more than they do without even beginning to remove yokelism. In short the university system today is a counterfeiting scheme pumping out cheap facsimiles of lettered men.

For this I blame the fact that education is today seen as a business for producing businessmen. I will here take the Greek view that the businessman is inferior to the philosopher. But there is hope. Because it is not my aim to disparage but to improve. You see when the businessman takes philosophy seriously then he becomes a Gentleman.

So it is that I suggest everyone read as much as possible, write as much as possible, be as courageous and polite as possible, all while embracing labor if it comes, and testing limits in the wild.

These virtues and pursuits are the only soil in which that rare orchid called a Gentleman can flourish.

This is a very difficult notion to pin down and will likely be a series to which I’ll add periodically.


Here is a blurb from Wikipedia on ‘Roman Virtues’ which in my opinion are good foundations for sussing out how to be a gentleman.

Roman virtues

The term “virtue” itself is derived from the Latin “virtus” (the personification of which was the deity Virtus), and had connotations of “manliness”, “honour”, worthiness of deferential respect, and civic duty as both citizen and soldier. This virtue was but one of many virtues which Romans of good character were expected to exemplify and pass on through the generations, as part of the Mos Maiorum; ancestral traditions which defined “Roman-ness”. Romans distinguished between the spheres of private and public life, and thus, virtues were also divided between those considered to be in the realm of private family life (as lived and taught by the paterfamilias), and those expected of an upstanding Roman citizen.

Most Roman concepts of virtue were also personified as a numinous deity. The primary Roman virtues, both public and private, were:

  • Auctoritas – “spiritual authority” – the sense of one’s social standing, built up through experience, Pietas, and Industria. This was considered to be essential for a magistrate’s ability to enforce law and order.
  • Comitas – “humour” – ease of manner, courtesy, openness, and friendliness.
  • Constantia – “perseverance” – military stamina, as well as general mental and physical endurance in the face of hardship.
  • Clementia – “mercy” – mildness and gentleness, and the ability to set aside previous transgressions.
  • Dignitas – “dignity” – a sense of self-worth, personal self-respect and self-esteem.
  • Disciplina – “discipline” – considered essential to military excellence; also connotes adherence to the legal system, and upholding the duties of citizenship.
  • Firmitas – “tenacity” – strength of mind, and the ability to stick to one’s purpose at hand without wavering.
  • Frugalitas – “frugality” – economy and simplicity in lifestyle, without being miserly.
  • Gravitas – “gravity” – a sense of the importance of the matter at hand; responsibility, and being earnest.
  • Honestas – “respectability” – the image that one presents as a respectable member of society.
  • Humanitas – “humanity” – refinement, civilization, learning, and generally being cultured.
  • Industria – “industriousness” – hard work.
  • Iustitia – “justice” – sense of moral worth to an action; personified by the goddess Iustitia, the Roman counterpart to the Greek Themis.
  • Pietas – “dutifulness” – more than religious piety; a respect for the natural order: socially, politically, and religiously. Includes ideas of patriotism, fulfillment of pious obligation to the gods, and honoring other human beings, especially in terms of the patron and client relationship, considered essential to an orderly society.
  • Prudentia – “prudence” – foresight, wisdom, and personal discretion.
  • Salubritas – “wholesomeness” – general health and cleanliness, personified in the deity Salus.
  • Severitas – “sternness” – self-control, considered to be tied directly to the virtue of gravitas.
  • Veritas – “truthfulness” – honesty in dealing with others, personified by the goddess Veritas. Veritas, being the mother of Virtus, was considered the root of all virtue; a person living an honest life was bound to be virtuous.
  • Virtus – “manliness” – valor, excellence, courage, character, and worth. ‘Vir’ is Latin for “man”.

Action is Cheap

A Gentleman Complains


There’s a lot of talk.

There’s always a lot of talk. Some of the talk oddly enough is about the fact that there’s too much talk. Which is funny because the ostentatiously busy are ever willing to pause and talk about this.

There’s too much talk and too little action! It seems to be a given.

Which is why we don’t really ever try to honestly answer the question: Is there too much talk, really?

I for one think that there is too little talk. There is certainly much small-talk, posturing, jingoism, commentary, and fluff but in terms of real substantive conversation there is very little.

This is because as a culture we have degraded thought in the interest of promoting action.

Did it work?

Of course not. Look around you. Listen to what passes for news. No degraded talk (or the exchange of thought) has led to degraded action.

Action is cheap.

The mechanical act going on when my fingers smack the little plastic buttons may give me a certain tactile thrill, but it means nothing without the context of what I’m typing.

Undirected action better known as haste does in fact make waste.

We live in hasty times.

Even the molasses like, drawling South, that I call home, now hops about with a maddening urge to go somewhere!

When I pause to ask, ‘WHERE?’ I’m often answered with a question as to where I am going. Work, college, church, public office, girlfriend, wife? Everyone’s a psychologist you see. (So savvy they might actually reach nirvana by disappearing completely up their own ass.)

My answer is right here. I am going right here for right now and that’s enough. Since you’re here too.. can you relax long enough to not grunt in monosyllables? Is there no better activity than comparing careers, lovers, and cookie cutter worldviews?

You see when you’re hyper focused on action or hyper focused on appearing to be in action you miss out on a great truth. Life is about conversation.

That’s why action is cheap. Because action without conversation is inanimate. Action without conversation is like a rock rolling down a hill. It is carried by the whims of chance.

Life. Biological life that grows and moves and pulses says to chance, uh uh, no way. In so doing it has started a conversation with the cosmos and itself.

So as one of the supposedly higher forms of life, on this rock two stones from the sun, shouldn’t we try to make sure that we converse well?

For the longest time we did. A mighty store of stories and a rich descriptive capacity was celebrated and cultivated by those who claimed to have an education and often even by those who didn’t.

Lest the readers believe that I am here attempting to promote some sort of poncy, verbose, chattiness I must say:

Conversation isn’t just about saying things it is also about knowing what not to say. This art like all others won’t be mastered without practice. It won’t be mastered without the recognition of what it is. It is our heritage and our destiny.

All of history, philosophy, and science is one great conversation. It is the comparing and contrasting of the inner conversation of individuals. It is the exchange of ideas, truths, and passions. Learning to converse well, to speak effectively, to render things truly is what has always and will always give us meaning.

We are a story telling species living out a story.

Michael Crichton once observed that he was accustomed to silence. That it didn’t bother him because his work required him to be quiet and alone for long stretches of time.

It does seem that there is a sort of reticence among writers. Often they don’t talk much. Why?

Well the answer is that writing is a conversation. And if you converse with an audience and with yourself for a living you may find that the need to talk is less urgent.

Which is something that makes you better at talking. Knowing that you’ve said something and said it well fills you with the sort of confidence that let’s you continue doing so. There comes with practice a natural and ready pruning of the wild rose bushes of not just forums, or interviews, but casual conversation.

Such a confidence is what I would like to see everyone cultivate. In a world as complex as this the exchange of nuanced ideas without awkwardness or haste is absolutely necessary. It won’t be done through observing 57 rules of power, or studying the habits of the successful, or emulating pithy TV characters. It will come with taking language and interpersonal relationships as seriously as an increasing number of us take going to the gym.

It will require long form reading, writing with at least some regularity, and accepting that others may know more than us and we’d better take the time to find out.

The act of running towards a cliff is cheap.

Telling the lemming to stop is priceless.

Rootless – (Book Teaser)

Advisory: Language, locker-room banter, Germans, tobacco use. 
Smoking is bad folks.

Arthur


Carter watched the fly. It’s translucent wings granted rainbow chromaticism by the glow of his monitor.

In an instant the six legged nuisance was hovering inches from his face.

“I see you Art.”

The voice sounded tinny over the speakers.

“Very funny Greta.” So they’d moved on to flies.

The air was cold. He could feel it through his sweater.

The machine landed on the desk and did a little dance.

“Warum bin ich so fröhlich? So fröhlich …? So..” Greta was feeling matronly again.

Arthur Harrison Carter suppresed the urge to smash the tiny monstrosity.

He didn’t like the direction Halifax had taken.

“If I don’t finish this inventory then none of us are going home.”

“I don’t want to go home.”

“I bet Ted does.”

“You bet your ass Ted does.” Again it was tinny. Schroeder was taking the whole retro approach a bit too seriously.

Quirky. Halifax was certainly quirky.

“Wie heißt du? Du heißt Beelz!” It was almost unintelligible through the ancient PA.

“Magst du?”

..BUZZ…BUZZ….BUZZ…

The robot was vibrating with pleasure. She’d programmed sounds.

“Beelz, einen schönen Namen!” The creepiness continued.

Arthur’s hand came down heavy. There was nothing but a funny sort of residue. Nothing at all reminiscent of the organic. Just fine silver dust. Gunpowder gray.

Art could hear Greta screaming. A smile stretched across his thin lips.

“Jesus Carter.”

“We’re all going to need Jesus before this is over.”

“I didn’t think you the religious sort.”

Arthur certainly wasn’t religious but there was something uncanny and unpleasant about the little impostor and Greta’s name choice.

“He is a monster!”

“Yea..an expensive monster. That was three thousand in parts and five hundred for two days labor. Karl is going to throw a fit.”

“I already explained that I won’t put up with creepy or annoying shit.”

“He’s going to fire you!” Greta screamed.

“He can’t fire me.”

“You are a cocky son of a bitch you know that?”

“The cockiest and sumofabitchiest somoabitch thank you kindly for the recommend!”

Arthur’s confidence wasn’t unwarranted. There was literally no one who could replace him. There just weren’t many neuroscientists, with high level security clearance, and a decade of software engineering experience.

“I dunno these Germans stick together. Especially when they want to screw with the English.”

“The Germans are opportunists and the English have something they want.” Thin cruel lips.

“Arschloch.”

“Yes, darling I am perfectly detestable. Now I think you have some steps to retrace. Tick tock.”

“You are a truly wicked cunt Art. Truly wicked.”

“Vielen dank.”


Shuttle

“Mongolian sky!” Art screamed.

“Mongolian sky in fucking deed my lad!” Ted rejoined.

Greta did not join in the ritual opting to fume in silent Teutonic fury.

The trio were standing beside a couple of gleaming silver eggs in the Gobi desert. Vast polished spheres that reflected a starry Eastern sky. Spheres that weren’t a joke like solar panels because they drank those stars. Sleepless, deathless, self-sustaining sentinels in a cold and lifeless void. It never ceased to be spooky.

“Anybody fancy a fag?” Carter asked pulling out a pack of Chungwa.

“I’d prefer morphine.” Ted said nonetheless drawing a death stick from the little red box.

Art watched Gretas long thin delicate fingers reach for a ciggy. She had beautiful hands. Her bright grey eyes shot him a withering look.

“Feuer.” She muttered.

Art pulled out a Zippo with a hula girl on it; lit his own cigarette, took a few puffs, and then with pained comic slowness extend the device to his flustered colleague.

She grabbed it, turned, and began walking off.

Ted was about to say something but Art’s hand shot up to restrain his shoulder.

“Don’t ruin it you pillock. Such a lovely thing.”

“O you are truly an evil prick…”

“She looks good in those jeans.”

“That she does. But you’re still an evil prick.”

“I think you’re looking for the word genius. I just got the only woman for a thousand miles to give me a butchers at her ass.”

“You didn’t plan this.”

“No but I seized an opportunity when I saw it. That’s as good as planned.”

Ted shook his head and laughed. It was quickly lost in the silence.

The two men had a hard time telling what was smoke and what was their breath. The fact that they could be out at all without gear was itself a pleasant break.

Temperatures in the Gobi were wild. It was good that they were here in the summer rather than the winter or fall. It could get to forty below Celsius during the cold months. Now it felt to be about 14 degrees.

“You know that it’s going to be a scorcher today.”

“You say that every night.”

“And you say that I say that every night.”

“The rituals complete then?”

“We are truly hermits, truly monks then?”

“Yes.”

“Then the ritual is complete.”

Greta was rounding the corner with stereotypical punctuality.

“I guess Wu is gonna be here in a tad.”

Sure enough after a few moments the three boffins heard a strange electric hum.

Ted cackled in faux mania as he climbed the little boat ladder.

“I really do hope we get those mad scientist goggles soon.” Art quipped.

“You guys are such dorks…”

“Ladies first darling.”

“Pervert.” She said smacking Art’s ass with a resounding slap.

He howled with pain and Ted’s mock laughter became real.

“How do you like being treated like meat.”

“Jeez.. try to give a girl a compliment.”

“You Anglos have such flat bony asses.” Greta remarked nursing her hand.

“Nah, that’s just ‘im love.” Ted called down from the hovercraft.

To Be Continued