The fox in my left ear highlighted the unpleasantness of involving myself, and muttered that the girl would probably be in no condition to sue anyone if I sat back on my ass. The wydra in my right ear nodded to the fox, but softly bemoaned the fact that I suffer from vengeful luck, and should this adolescent escape with mind intact I would suffer all the fangs of those hounds who persecute breakers of the Pact.
Getting sued has become quite ugly these days.
Between my ears my grandmother piped up in a breathless voice; she didn’t understand what was going on, but she certainly hoped her granddaughter would never be found on the wrong side of the law. She smiled.
Nothing for it. I stood, and the girl’s face adopted a repellent species of hopefulness.
I cleared my throat and then mentally kicked myself because the crowd was already looking at me. Even Loud Frod, who looked smug and expectant as if I were about to back him up. Or something equally inane.
“Everyone,” I fixed on my bureaucratic smile, “I am pleased to announce that the unusual course of this burning will produce a unique, perhaps unprecedented, cosine function. I would like to thank you on behalf of my office,” I added, clenching my fists but keeping my eyes from rolling, “for as you all know, ‘more data is always good’.”
A few heads nodded sagely at the ‘more data’ sophism but I was not getting a convincing feeling from my audience. Temptation flicked her tail and I bit.
“Anyway, as I anticipate this burning will be of interest to the-powers-that-be, I intend to submit with it some notes for posterity, in the finest text-boxes which office guidelines allow. Our good Pollericks will hopefully find his words on our ‘essential emotional reaction’ to the curious state of resembling certain Betelgeusian ancestors, and his advice that this confusion be cleansed in fire –”
I took a breath.
“– near the beginning of our next departmental report.”
People shifted under my sentences, turning quizzical looks upon one another, pursing their lips. This was not what Loud Frod had anticipated.
For I had lovingly let my voice linger on the points which brought out the worst in his speech, and as the crowd tasted these unsavoury leftovers I watched the gears spin in his mind… Spoken in rational tones, Frod’s words sounded like nothing but korba shit, and even he was realizing it.
“Ahm, kind of you, Lalantree, but it’s probably not necessary that I intrude upon such an important piece. Just a speaker, you know.”
“Not just a speaker, Pollericks, why, you’re the only chair burning speaker! And the first to vigorously defend the exclusivity of chair burnings.”
The arrow flew home with a wonderful, fleshy thud. It was one thing to make offhand comments about the MOB, but my department was one of the government’s clockwork angels. Our publications often saw the light of day. And as the now-simpering girl had argued, burnings were not supposed to be exclusive affairs.
My PLOC had gone silent a while ago. Looks were exchanged among the crowd, and abruptly, feet began to move. Considering how long it takes people to put together a gathering, it is amazing how quickly they can leave.
Loud Frod began to elbow his way over, steadily as a bulldozer, but the people still in the square were aimlessly shuffling in and out of his way, the muted sounds from beneath the tensor-dome either forgotten or ignored. And while he maneuvered through them I was not going to hang about. I picked up my PLOC and my Personal IT Unit (PIT), and walked back through the restaurant.
The girl must have run to get around to the door before me. She was grinning fit to split my personality into the half that was disdainful of such blatant worship, and the half that blushed.
Because I was pretty close to worshipping myself at that moment.
Then she surprised me. “I really, really love your poetry!”
“Oh. You…? Well, thank you. I think I might be coming out with another anthology next month. The weather is supposed to be horrid.”
© 2012, Elizabeth Cook