Working at the gas station gave me the possibility to not only be confined at home but also at work. At least I could enjoy the transit between places, that’s what I told me everyday. And better go to work than turn around all day in the studio I rented since I left the Inn.
You can’t imagine how many people need gas during the confinement. It looks like in this part of the country people don’t have as many dogs as them in the big cities, so they do all sorts of crazy things to be able to get out.
A man came to the station this morning. I’m sure it was to give the equivalent of a walk to his brand new red GMC Canyon, you know, treating his car like she needed fresh air and to get some exercise regularly. From behind the makeshift window made of transparent wrapper, I asked him how was his day. You know, to be polite. He showed me the back of his truck. I swear there was a cage with two dingos in it.
The guy told me he captured them the other day in case the cops stopped him in the street with no reason to be out. At least, he said, I could still say I’m giving them a walk. I told him them being in a cage would hardly pass as a walk but he answered me with a wink and a big grin that cops weren’t that intelligent. I’m glad we have makeshift windows now, at least seeing his teeth I didn’t have to smell his breath. I’m not sure who’s the less intelligent in absolute terms, but in that case I’d rather bet his IQ would fail him.
Well that’s probably the most exciting thing that happened before I went home after work. As soon as I got home I received a phone call from Prune. On the landline. It’s like she has some magical means to know when I’m there.
Anyway, she asked me if I washed my hand. I told her yes, though I honestly don’t recall. But I have to make her think all is ok. She started to talk again about Jasper. Each time she mention the subject I’m a bit uncomfortable. I’m not sure I fancy having a brother, even if it’s kind of being in a TV series. She said she had looked for him on internet, contacted some adoption agencies, even tried a private called Dick. That’s all that I remember of the private’s name. Dick, maybe that’s because he never answered her calls. Might be dead of the pandamic I told her. PandEmic, She corrected. I know, I told her, I said that to cheer you up.
We talked about Mater too. That made me laugh. Apparently Idle saw her in a fuschia pink leotard. Prune half laughed herself when she mentioned the leotard, but she said : Truth is I don’t know what Dido had taken when she had seen Mater outside. I suspect the om chanting was simply snoring.
There was a silence afterward. Maybe Prune was thinking about age and the meaning of life, I was merely realising I was hungry. I swear I don’t know what crossed my mind. I have a tendency to want to help my sister even if I think there is no hope. You know, I told her, about Jasper we could still go and ask that woman in the bush. It’s like she already knew what I was going to say. Tiku? I knew by her tone that all the conversation was fated to lead there. Yeah. I can drive you there after work tomorrow.
Of course, we didn’t even have to go there after all.
Summer is slowly ending from our side of the planet. Despite the onslaught of depressing daily news, it makes me wonder if everyone suddenly became concerned for Mater for reason:
a. because she’s at risk not to become centenarian in time to get the medal of enduring persistance
b. because we should now cancel the expensive party we had all started to plan with great pain
c. because the longer we search, there’s still no telling who and where is Jasper and whether he’d be there even for a remote party behind screens…
Some idiot has disabled or smeared all my cams on the Inn, so I only can spy with the sounds now, it’s a bit jarring at times. I thought I heard Bert cough a few times.
Maybe it’s just code…EricKeymaster
Sense rolled case diary himself
Distance says travelling nearly happens
Lots wanted ignoring suddenly mass
Slammed search rukshan messages locking
Dusty careful liked floating ailill
Vision jasper habit became lavatory
Thick fair landed olli gold
Love enjoying mavis shape lived
Anxiety doubts army geckoEricKeymaster
Jerk had been tracking all of it. He’d done a nice map of all the location the both of them had travelled, with little animated pins for the dolls they’d collected.
It was a bit difficult to get them all to focus, and by them he didn’t mean the pins.
After Shawn-Paul and Maeve had come back home, their little lives at the building had resumed with some slight changes. For one, he’d finally realized through some fine deductive work worthy of Sherlock that Maeve was the one behind the dolls postings on his website. He was finally sure after a firewall update got her locked out of the website and she requested to get back in. Anyways, that made things easier, although they still mostly exchanged and discussed though the website despite them being front door neighbours on the same floor. But the arrangement was convenient, especially since Shawn-Paul had kind of unofficially moved in with her and Fabio.
He’d invited them in Lucinda’s apartment to do a little old fashioned slide show —Lucinda’s apartment was bigger he’d argued; and all the funny collection of paraphernalia she’d gathered on the walls and cabinets tops was always great to set the mood or do an improvised theme party. For sure, it didn’t have anything to do with the fact he wouldn’t need to clean up and push all the mess in the corners of his own apartment.
Lucinda was all excited. And not just by her new boyfriend Jasper. She wanted to make a book about their expedition, and everybody had immediately rolled their eyes. Books in this century, she must be the last one dinosaur raving about books.
The slide show started by the end. Where the dolls all ended up finally. La Isla de las Muñecas in Mexico: the Island of Dolls.
That’s when they were all appreciating the fitting finish line that the door bell rang.
“I’m here for Jasper.” he said ominously.
I don’t know if that’s a second youth or what, but getting to that 100 line has put Mater in an energetic frenzy. She’s been putting her things in order, like she said.
My studies on machine learning and artificial intelligence are keeping me away for now. I’ve been studying hard for that Mars program selection, but it looks like it’s hopeless. Anyway, I had the good idea to put nannycams in all the hidden spots of the Inn. It’s not been as much fun as I’d hoped, spying on Aunt Idle and her manic ramblings. You would think she’s drunk all the time, but for all the recordings, I’d be damned if I’ve caught her yet on tape with a bottle. I guess her body just distills it on its own…
I’m not even mentioning the dubious trails of “Uncles” of late: the Fergus, Basil or otherwise. She’d known quite a few of these in her days, although she’s claimed to have been a paragon of matrimonial virtue, being single woman with kids in these parts must have been rough after she lost Pater.
I think I finally caught something between all the cloak and dagger mascarades, tatty letters and all. Digital footprint isn’t big, but it may be something tangible to begin with.
Meanwhile, we’ll have to get started getting the invitation list in order; Mater’s contemporaries are falling by the minute, and Aunt Dido’s braincells are probably dying as fast as that— it won’t be easy to get a complete list. I know I should enlist Devan, I even put him on that family group thing, but he’s not big with all the tech stuff. As for the twins, well… We still have to hear about their stories. At this rate, might be faster to learn to telepathically tack on Dodo’s brainwaves. She says to whomever wants to hear she’s got direct connection to them… Would sound cultish to me, if I didn’t know better about the sisters! I’ll be worried when Mater starts to take this woowoo seriously.TracyParticipant
I wish now that I’d had the sense to open the letter in private. I can’t imagine why I didn’t think of that, but I didn’t. I tried not to make a drama out of it, I didn’t make an announcement or anything. One morning after breakfast I untied the string and opened the letter. It wasn’t any of the things I had expected. Clearly printed in large capital letters at the top was written DON’T TELL MATER.
Quickly I folded it over, dropping it discreetly into my lap under the table. “Any more nettle tea in the pot, Bert?” I asked and feigned a casual yawn.
“Well?” asked Mater.
“Well what?” I asked.
“I can read you like a book,” she said, to which I replied hotly, “Well then I won’t need to write one, will I.”
“What did the letter say?” she pressed on.
“What letter?” I said
“For crying out loud!” she said.
“Pass your cup then,” said Bert, giving me a piercing look. Over the top of Mater’s head he mouthed a word, with a questioning look. I’ve never been any good at lip reading, but it looked like he was trying to say Jasper.
“Who?” I mouthed back, but Mater saw me, so I pretended I had a bit of nettle stuck between my teeth.TracyParticipantFloveParticipant
I told Prune how I couldn’t follow these internet link thingies everyone’s so fond of. Didn’t grow up with computers I guess; it was all letters in my day. I said to Prune, “Will you just tell me who Jasper is, for crying out loud?” Cheeky begger told me not to worry about it and would I like a cuppa? Then she asked how old am I! “I was born in 1935,” I told her. “You do the bleedin’ maths!”
I’ve been checking old records those past few days. Yes, I know, not much ever happens, and I’ve got a lot of time on my hands between my studies. Anyway, I read something rather odd about a bit of rare magic… Sorry, getting carried away again, I mean, I found a passing mention of Jasper.
Guess, the letter is about our long lost brother that nobody ever mentioned. My sisters, with all of their flaws, which I don’t hate them for, have a keen sense of investigation. Must be in the genes, though it may have skipped over Aunt Dodo.
That, or they have just sent a copy of the Boynitch manuscript to sent her into a spin, that wouldn’t be a first.JibParticipant
“You!”, said Jeremy Duncan Jasper before jumping on the woman. “You stole my cat! What have you done to Max ?”
“I don’t have your cat”, said Funley loudly. She was trying to protect her face as an instinctive reaction and pushed on the ground with her feet. The chair had little wheels which allowed her to escape the man’s grasp, but it bumped on Ed’s desk. She was cornered. She jumped out of the chair and ran behind Ed’s desk followed closely by an angry Jeremy.
“I assume you already know each others”, said Ed, tugging at his mustache casually.
“Of course I know her”, said Jeremy in a short breath. He showed his fist angrily. “She was supposedly from the hygiene inspection bureau when I worked at the veterinarian clinic. She stole my cat!”
“I don’t have your cat”, repeated Funley.
“What have you done with him old crone ? You gave me all those papers to read and sign and when I came back you were gone… with Max.”
“Tsk tsk”, said Ed. “We have more important matters to attend to.” He lifted his hand to prevent any objection. “You may or may not have noticed, but I have and that’s the more important. Reality has been rebooting repeatedly, and each time people… or animals”, he said looking at Jeremy, “are disappearing.”
“We need to do something”, concluded Ed.
“Excuse me”, said Duncan, “but what does that have to do with us ? I’m just a bank employee.”
“A bank employee, who was a veterinarian, a plumber, a taxi driver, a tech guy at the phone company… and more importantly a map dancer. I need a team of gifted people to maximize our chances of survival.”
Funley raised an eyebrow. “Mr Steam, à propos”, she said brandishing the paper she had found in the trash can.FloveParticipant
Funley sniffed loudly as she unhurriedly emptied the trash can in Ed Steam’s office, pausing to read any interesting correspondence which may have wound up there. Looking over towards Ed and finding that his attention was still fixed on the computer monitor, she followed her sniff up with a small snort and then a throat clearing noise. When her sniffs and snorts didn’t capture Ed’s attention, she proceeded to blow her nose explosively.
“Whatever is the matter, Funley? Are you ill?”
“Actually, if you are not too busy, there is a small problem I’ve been wanting to speak with you about. I promised I would untangle the threads for you however the entanglement situation is worse than I could have imagined in my wildest dreams. Or nightmares for that matter. I don’t know who has been doing the record keeping — although I would hazard a guess at Evangeline — but the cross referencing, where it exists, is appalling and … “
A tap on the door and the new employee, Duncan Minestrone, popped his head into the office. “You wanted to see me, Mr Steam?” he asked.
Funley glanced towards the door in exasperation at the interruption and then her expression changed to one of horror.
“Jasper Grok!” she gasped. “What are you doing here?”
I found Joe near the fallen bridge. He was sobbing. I approached silently and put my hand on his shoulder.
“Are you alright, mate ?”
“Yes I’m alright”, he snorted. “You remember when we used to play there ?”
Of course I remembered, we called it the bridge to nowhere. I’ve never really understood why Bert had built that bloody bridge. Jasper told me after the blast that the old man also made sure nobody could use it again. That was no surprise. Old Bert was a tight as a duck’s ass when it came to his craft. That’s why he never could make it in his trade, if he didn’t like what you did of one of his creations he’d rather smash it up so that no one could use it afterward. Always the sneaky one.
“I remember”, I said. “Your face looks like a Panda.”
He snickered. “You know my father. He’s got a liking for China.” He laughed, but it felt forced. Anyway, I laughed with him. There was no point in bringing up the gloom, we needed fun.
“Let’s take a dive!” I said. Hoping to change his mind. He tried to smile but cringed as his face must have hurt badly. When he removed his shirt, my heart sank as I saw the dark marks on his chest and back. No pushing him in the water.
“Last one to reach the other side of nowhere!” he shouted before jumping in the cold water.
“That would be you!” I roared. Naked in the wild, at least as close to the wild as you could have here, I felt like a lion, full of strength, dangerous.
When I left the Inn this morning, Mater seemed upset. I regularly kisses her on her forehead before going to the gas station, as I know it pisses her off, but today she seemed lost in her thoughts and she called me Fred. I don’t like it when she does that, it gives me the impression she’s losing it. I wonder who’s going to hold that crumbling place when she’s gone. Certainly not Dido, she can’t focus her mind on a project for more than a few minutes, and it usually does not pass the stage of smokey ideas. I see clearly her game, she’s messing around with Mater for God knows what twisted reasons. They never seemed to appreciate each others much, and I’ve only known them for eighteen years. Looking at how it didn’t evolve much during that time, I bet it had been like that for quite some time. Family relationships are boring, and usually quite messy.
Take Joe for example, he’s crazy. His father is crazy, and his grand-father well he spent so much time in the mines that his family didn’t really miss him when one of the tunnels collapsed while he was inside. They never found the body. The Mining company gave the family a ridiculously small amount of money as an indemnification. Joe’s father lost it in some fracking wallaby race. Bad luck had stuck to him his whole life. Jasper once told me to avoid him. I would have, even if it was not for my dead brother’s warning.
Joe’s working at the gas station with me. He had been working there since he was sixteen when the school told his parents it was a waste of time [for them] to try and teach him anything valuable. His father beat him to keep up the appearances, but they were glad they could put him to work to bring in some more money.
Joe is nuts, but he’s not dumb. He just likes to experiment. He must have a good star watching upon him, unlike his father, because each time he manages to make something explode or break in a real bad way, but he always gets out without a scratch. He’s excited, he’s finished working on his last project. He wants us to borrow a gas tank and go to his place after work. I’ve rarely seen him so excited. We’ll have to put off the hockey with Callum.
Working at the gas station was the only way I found to get away of that dead fish Inn. That and hockey.
Ever since Jasper died, I’ve tried to escape the stifling atmosphere of the family. I felt barely annoyed when mother left, I was already empty.
I tried to come back a few times, but it was too hard to look at the twin girls growing together, whereas I was denied this chance with my brother. Oh! I didn’t have anything against them, I would play the role of the caring and protective brother whenever necessary at school. But it was easier to stay outside and play hockey with my best buddies Joe and Callum.
When dad left, I felt betrayed. I still wonder why he didn’t take me with him on his adventures. Jasper says I’m better here at the moment. I don’t know what’s better, but that’s the only place I can be with no money and no education.
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