Monthly Archives: June 2017

The Our Little Secret Travel Agency – Chapter 28: Rehab

Wedged into an envelope of ice some thirty feet down into the glacier, Rain is grateful that her default setting is Ataraxia, that wonderful state of shock that helps human beings, and even transhumans, to accept the most dire of consequences with a detached, almost bemused, interest.

She knows that her left hand is broken and her left shoulder is dislocated. There are some shards of ice in her nostrils. It’s a good thing, too, she thinks, that she is programmed to not feel pain beyond the point of sensory notification to reduce and avoid further damage to her robotic body, this “tenem,” which serves as a transhuman vehicle for Morgana’s transferred consciousness.

Of all things to think about, Rain wonders if Morgana can feel this cold in her nose. Up above, at the surface of the glacier where the crevasse swallowed her up after the frozen cap of snow gave way under her weight, she can hear the rescue team calling her name, hoping to elicit a response from her. She can’t move, though. She can’t get the words out to shout back up, “Yes! I’m alive! I’m here! I’m waiting for you!”

The rescue team spools out light weight nylon cord, lowering into the icy void daring, powerful, wiry demi-gods with the prowess of spiders and the finesse of surgeons. Their words bounce off the shimmering blue walls and echo above and then far below her.

Rain replays Morgana’s memory of sitting on an old faded quilt in a park, very pregnant and crocheting a baby blanket, while her little boy suddenly runs headlong off the grass and into the street. Cars screech to a halt, people are screaming, Morgana is screaming. Her little boy lies in the street. Time stops. A bird’s trill flutters through the silence. And then…What’s this? A miracle? Little Travis scrambles to his feet, crying hysterically, more scared than hurt. Scraped and bruised, he runs to Morgana who gathers him to her in a tight, desperate embrace. She sobs with the horror that she could have lost her sweet baby boy. She sobs with the self-recrimination of any mother who has been granted a reprieve from the instant unfolding of a tragedy in progress for which she blames herself. She sobs with an overwhelming gratitude that makes her giddy with glee at her incredible good luck. Yes, this is a true miracle!

Oh, God, I will bear whatever burdens you send me in return for saving my child.

As the rescuers draw closer, Rain remembers falling into this crevasse, how she was magnetically drawn from the safety of the glacial trail by Morgana’s memory of chasing a little boy out into the busy park-side street choked with traffic. Now Rain remembers running frantically onto the ice field, chasing an imaginary child while everyone shouted at her to come back: Graciela, Grégoire, and all the other people who were making the trek up to the Mönchsjoch Hut, even that jerk, the Beefy Belcher, adding his braying jackass bellow to the deafening chorus of entreaties, all replaced by the sickening sound of the cracking ice cap, and her precipitous fall through the void.

Popping noises and explosions of color fill Rain’s head as she hallucinates a repeating loop: A little boy runs out into the street. She chases him and falls through the ice and disappears. Finally, the loop slows and then stops. Her frozen lips warm for an instant as she tastes a coffee kiss that produces tingling sensations in some remote, frozen parts of her body that make her glad to be alive. Right behind her numbed, closed, frozen eyelids, the last little lights flash, the last overheated circuits sizzle and pop, and everything goes dark.

Rain feels herself being lifted out of the crevasse and strapped into a safety harness. Gentle hands and soft voices reassure her that all is well. An electric winch pulls her to safety. Although she is aware of the commotion around her, she cannot respond or even open her eyes. She is vaguely disappointed that her visit to Jungfrau will be cut short and that she will be deprived of Graciela’s company that had so delighted her.

She is taken to a quiet room somewhere back at the train station and is undressed and then packed inside what seems to be a coffin that must have been molded to her body. Her face and body are shrouded with thin, soft velvet and the lid is tightly closed and secured with metal latches. Comfortable in her little cocoon, she drifts into a state of semi-consciousness. The coffin is wheeled to some large echoing area where it is left to wait for what seems like forever. Then she hears the train screeching along the rails and wonders what awaits her at the Spa.

The latches are released by someone who has done this before. The lid is opened and the velvet is pulled slowly from her face and body. The warm air feels good.

Rain cannot open her eyes and cannot move even a finger, but she can feel that someone is gazing at her, taking in every detail of her face and body, inspecting her injuries, bending her limbs, caressing her face and stroking her hair.

Warm lips alight on hers and she is filled with the ecstatic realization that her Mystery Man has found her. Oh, how she has ached to be with him!

She hears footsteps behind them as her Mystery Man hastily replaces her velvet shroud.

The footsteps slow, then stop, and a woman’s voice breaks the silence.

“I just heard that our little girl has gotten herself into some trouble! How extensive is the damage?”

Rain remembers the voice—it’s Veronica, the attractive woman with silver curls who appeared at her bedside in a lab coat taking notes on a clipboard the first day Rain woke up in the Spa. Veronica was so nice to her. She helped Rain get dressed and then took her on her initial tour of the Spa.

“Bad enough that she’s going to need some joints recast. Her left shoulder has been dislocated—not a big deal. Her left hand is broken and it looks a little complicated but nothing that can’t be fixed. What worries me is her visual capability is not functioning nor is her speech, both of which should be functioning in auxiliary mode in spite of the powering-down by the safeguard mechanism, but we won’t know much until we can conduct a complete diagnostic assessment.”

“And what then? Do you think she’s salvageable?” asks Veronica.

“Absolutely. It would be such a shame to scrap her, but she’s going to need some digital and mechanical rehab. I’ll oversee the whole thing personally. She’ll be fine in no time.”

“Do you know how the accident happened?”

Rain’s Mystery Man, walking over to his computer, taps a few keys, and answers, “Not exactly, but there’s one thing I do know: She’s been hacked.”

Veronica walks over to the coffin, pulls the velvet from Rain’s face, strokes her cheek gently, then replaces the velvet. She closes the coffin, secures the latches, and announces, “Well, I’ll take her off your hands—the lab is waiting for her.”

Through the closed coffin, Rain can feel her Mystery Man’s disappointment at being separated from her once again.

The coffin glides smoothly on its perfect, little, soundless wheels out into the hallway as Veronica shepherds it away from Rain’s Mystery Man.

A single tear slides down the side of Rain’s face.

Music Credit: Amy Winehouse – “Rehab” (Vevo), youtube.com
Illustration Credit: scoopnest.com

To Be Continued in Chapter 29

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The Our Little Secret Travel Agency – Chapter 27: One Enchanted Saturday

The coffee kiss, so warm, so sweet, so addictive. They are breathing the same breath, dreaming the same dream, oblivious to the world around them, which seems to have stopped in order to focus on the only thing that matters: right now.

“MOM!!! Is that YOU???”

Morgana disengages herself before Percival realizes that the kiss has moved on, and for a split second, he has the tipsy look of a drunk about to fall over. Luckily, Morgana doesn’t notice, nor does her daughter.

“Gerri! Wha…wha…what are you d-d-d-doing here?” stammers Morgana, wiping her mouth as if she were a cat trying to brush away the canary feathers.

Gerri covers her face with her hands to hide her eyes welling up with tears.

Percival watches in horror as Morgana embraces Gerri, blubbering, “I’m so sorry, Gerri! Please forgive me! This is not what it looks like! Well—yes, it is—no, it’s not!”

Percival pulls a clean, white, folded handkerchief out of his pocket, flaps it open and hands it to Morgana. Taking the handkerchief from him, she looks into his eyes and senses immediately that Percival understands how in need of comfort she actually is. While she dries her eyes and blows her nose, his hand on her back reassures her that everything will be okay.

Gerri’s red-rimmed eyes peek over her hands. She observes the kindness being shown to her distraught mother by this very sweet man.

“Gerri,” he says, hoping he’s heard her name correctly from Morgana, “I’m sorry about all this. I take full responsibility for this indiscretion. Your mother is innocent. My name is Percival and I’d love to have a second chance to make a first impression on you,” offering his hand to her.

A relieved smile spreads across Gerri’s face and the redness seems to vanish from her eyes. Captivated by Percival’s charm and forthright manner, Gerri shakes his hand.

“Of course, and I’d like a second chance, too, Percival. It is I who should beg your pardon, so I hope you’ll forgive me for sticking my big nose where it does not belong.”

Both women are now beaming a big smile at him. Percival, channeling Ricky Ricardo, says to Morgana in his best Cuban accent, “Lucy, you got some ‘splainin’ to do!”

The tension is officially broken as all three share a laugh. Grateful for Percival’s attempt to lighten the moment, Morgana reaches for his hand and gives it a little squeeze.

“Mom, I’m so sorry to startle you like that!” says Gerri, looking over at Percival to include him, too.

“And I’m sorry, too. Let’s just forget the whole thing, Gerri! So what are you doing here, if you don’t mind my asking.”

“Just visiting a friend, but I’ve got to talk to you. There’s so much stuff going on right now and I’ve got to run—as usual, right? But can we get together tomorrow? How about I take you out to lunch—would that be okay?”

“I’d love that, Gerri! Just let me know the time and the place and I’ll be there!”

The two embrace, and as Gerri starts to walk away, she goes back and gives Percival a little one-armed hug. “So nice to meet you, Percival. I hope to see you again—and thank you for being so sweet to my Mother.”

Morgana and Percival hold hands as they watch Gerri trotting up the steps.

“Phew! That was weird!” says Morgana, “And you’re right—‘I got some ‘splaining’ to do!”

Laughing from the sheer exhaustion of what just happened, they link arms and make their way down the Cascade’s steps to head over to the Rose Garden.

Bringing her free hand up to her face, Morgana nuzzles her nose into the hollow of her curled up fingers. The warmth from her hand brings the feeling back into her nose. At once, she is struck by the sensation of Rain wedged into a glacial crevasse, small shards of ice intruding themselves into her nose, her hair and into the sleeves of her coat. Momentarily shaken, she stumbles, but Percival hangs onto her arm and prevents her from falling.

“Whoops!” says Percival, “Don’t tank on me now! We’re just starting to have fun!”

Morgana recovers her gait, shaking off the visceral flash from Rain’s predicament. If she were ever to tell Percival that she transfers her consciousness into a 3D printed sexy robot body named “Rain” who cavorts around Switzerland, he’d think she was stark raving mad. Not that she was planning to tell anyone other than Jerinda about this…

“All that kissing has left me a little light-headed,” she says, throwing a shy glance at Percival, who draws her a little closer and plants a kiss on her forehead.

“I’ll bet you didn’t eat anything for breakfast! What do you say that we stop into the Saturday Morning Market at Grand Lake and grab a little something to tide us over until lunch?

“Sounds good,” agrees Morgana, as he guides her across the street and under the overpass where on the other side of the chain link fence, parked cars share the space with a few homeless people who are just beginning to contemplate the disheveled reality of their asphalt morning.

Percival and Morgana navigate the lumbering flow of Saturday strollers crowding the market. Percival makes a bee-line for a small food cart and buys two tomato, mushroom, and squash galettes from an old hippie guy with long silver braids trailing out from under a faded blue bandana.

“Good to see you again, Chief!” he says to Percival, handing him his change as Percival shuffles one of the two galettes to Morgana.

“Good to see you, too!” he says to the old hippie guy, and including Morgana, he adds, “I just had to have my weekly fix of one of your galettes! I’m almost hoping that my friend here doesn’t like galettes, because then I’d get to eat both of them.”

“No chance of that!” says Morgana, taking a proprietary bite of her galette.

“Of course, there’s no place to sit!” says Percival, looking around, hoping to prove himself wrong.

“I don’t have a problem with walking and eating, do you?” asks Morgana.

“Not at all,” says Percival, as they both tuck into their respective galettes.

“A galette, huh? I never heard of that before! It sure is good. It must be French.”

With a deft maneuver, Percival flips the small slice of tomato that has flopped over his chin into his mouth before Morgana can notice, and, without missing a beat, explains what a galette is.

“Galettes are buckwheat cakes or pancakes and they can be flat and square or flat and round, or really any shape at all, with some kind of savory mixture on top, like a pizza. If they’re pancakes, then the mixture might be stuffed inside. Either way, it’s a pretty good idea. And you’re right, they’re French!”

“I’m impressed that you know that!”

“Don’t be too impressed—After eating them for about a year, I finally just asked that guy to bring me up to speed on what makes a galette a galette.”

“Well, then, let me tell you that I’m so impressed with how you handled that whole situation with Gerri just now. You’re such a gentleman, Percival. I’m so glad I met you, and I’m even glad you met Gerri, but I’m sorry about that scene we made.”

“Morgana, we don’t have to talk about it, if you don’t want to.”

“No, it’s fine. To make a very long story short, I’m still married but my husband, Jack, is in a coma and has been for a few months. He’s not coming out of it anytime soon, probably never. That’s not what ended our marriage, though. The marriage was doomed from the beginning. I just found out that Jack has cheated on me that whole time—with my sister!”

“Oh, no!” says Percival, almost choking on his galette. “That must have thrown you for a loop!”

“It did! It completely blew my mind, but then everything started to make sense after so many years of blaming myself or chalking up our problems to Jack’s drinking or stress or what have you.”

“So how are you dealing with it?”

“You know, so much better than I ever would have imagined. Don’t get me wrong—I’ve done my fair share of crying, but I was so unhappy for so many years that I feel like I’m all cried out now. When Jack first had his stroke, I was wracked with guilt because I was always so angry with him, but now that I’ve found out what the truth is, I can understand a little why he was the way he was. I think we each tried in our own way to make a go of things, but like I said, the whole marriage was a mistake from beginning to end. I don’t really blame him, and I don’t really blame her.”

“Well, that’s big of you! I don’t know that I would be so generous.”

“The person I’m most angry with is myself. How could I have stayed in such a lousy relationship all those years? How could I have put up with such shabby treatment and pretended that things would get better? My biggest comfort, though, is Gerri. She’s the bright spot in my life.”

“Does she know about Jack and your sister?”

“No, and I’m wrestling with whether or not I should tell her. It would kill her to find out. And now I’m wondering if my sister’s kids are Jack’s!”

“Oh, that’s a real dilemma! Do you have anyone to talk this over with?”

“No, Percival. Both my parents are dead, and my best friend, Jerinda, is somewhere in Switzerland recuperating from aphasia—that’s another story. I can’t imagine keeping this a secret from Gerri forever, but I also can’t imagine telling her about her father. She idolizes him. She’s always been Daddy’s Little Girl, and in so many ways, she’s been my best friend. She does know, however, that he’ll never recuperate, and she even knew that I had a date to see you—and she was happy to know that I was interested in someone.”

“Well, then, I guess seeing us wrapped up in that kiss was a little much for her!”

Morgana laughs, blushing at the memory. “Yeah, I guess so! How embarrassing! But it was worth it.”

“So I’m the only person you’ve told about Jack and your sister?”

“Yes, you’re the only one for now, and the only one I’m even comfortable thinking about discussing this with, maybe because I don’t know you that well, but I feel like I can trust you.”

“Same here, Morgana. I’ve been alone for years now. I blame myself for my marriage ending. It was one of those things that happen while you aren’t paying attention. I became obsessed with my career and before I knew it, my wife had had enough. No big deal, no drama, but one day, I came home and she was gone. She left a note on the fridge that said something like, “Just in case you noticed that I am not here, I would like to confirm that you are, in fact, correct in your observation. And one more thing: I’m not coming back. Have a nice life. I know I will!”

“Wow! Was it a surprise?”

“I’m ashamed to say it was! I loved her and she loved me, but I thought that being together was all about sharing the same address and filing joint tax returns. Turns out I was wrong. I wrote to her and begged her to come back, but all I ever got from her was the divorce papers to sign. Irreconcilable differences, no kids, no divorce settlement—she just wanted out.”

“Did the divorce change you?” asks Morgana as she notices the old Grand Lake Theater, looking forward to maybe catching a movie there with Percival sometime soon. She thinks how nice that would be—it’s been ages since she’s been there.

“Yes! It made me realize that play is not a luxury, it’s a necessity, and that we should never take for granted all the people or things that make us happy. And no matter how fascinating our work might be, the most important thing you can to do is put a limit on it. I have to keep reminding myself that I work to live, I don’t live to work.”

As if on cue, a big, fat orange cat saunters out of a sidewalk café and rubs against Percival’s leg. He bends over and scratches the cat’s head while the cat purrs loudly to elicit more attention.

This Percival is one nice guy, thinks Morgana. He’s sweet, kind, thoughtful, likes animals, and is such a gentleman. And he’s so handsome and charming.

They walk up the hill to the Rose Garden and as they pass through the arches, they both become aware of the magic that awaits them.

They stop, and look into each other’s eyes. “Now where were we before we were so rudely interrupted?” asks Percival. They both feel each other’s heart beating madly as they resume that blissful kiss that began way back at the Cleveland Cascade. All of a sudden, right now is right back where it should be.

Yes, this was the kiss they were both looking for.

Art Credit: Wonsook Kim, “Lines of Enchantment,” (http://galleries.illinoisstate.edu/exhibitions/2016/lines-of-enchantment/)

Video Credit: Dusty (True Stereo) “I Only Want To Be With You,” HD (Posted by “themotownboy1”who writes: “Published on Aug 16, 2013. Re-upped & tweaked, Dusty’s first hit from 1963, with my remastering of the stereo mix and special video tribute. I hope you enjoy it!” Also, “Dusty Day” information can be found at http://www.dustyday.co.uk/

To Be Continued in Chapter 28

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