Tuesday, June 13, 2017

SCIENCE FICTION




"Listen, lady..." said Lyle. He paused, to remember what he was saying, and remembered five seconds later: "...Time is money" he said. Lyle loved to call women "lady." Every woman was "lady" to him, and every man was "amigo." It befitted his appearance--Lyle wore Hawaiian shirts every day, and he looked like that type of guy, on top of that--but strangers were always a little surprised by just how much of a belligerent loudmouth he was.
"Fuck off" said the lady, in that old lady manner of insulting that's intended to be overheard and applauded. Everyone was listening to headphones, though, and there was no applause. Lyle let the woman stew quietly until she got off the bus, and then took her seat. It was going to be a while until the bus made it to the food trucks, so he put on his headphones.
Earth Crisis / all this suffering sang the guy from Steel Pulse. Lyle took comfort in the idea that everything sucked back in 1984, too. He sang along, to himself. Misguided people / they don't seem to care...
Traffic, as per usual for San Francisco in the year 2222, was a nightmare. The population problem was out of control, as you might imagine, and the traffic had gotten worse and worse until there was no room for anything else. The cars got smaller and smaller and hardier and hardier until every car was just a thick plastic egg, designed for constant collisions with every other car on the street. Things that were on the street, like parks and buildings and mailboxes, had to be fortified, and raised above car height, and pedestrians had to walk on top of the cars. Suffice it to say, there was a lot of honking. (You couldn't complain, though--noise cancelling headphone technology had gotten so good, you couldn't even hear it!)
Lyle was standing in line, now, just inside the humming circumference of a large fortified food truck circle. He was talking to his friend Jim, a shy, sarcastic businessman who, like Lyle, had dreams of becoming a popular science fiction writer. The food truck they were in line for--CRACKERS, the white people food food truck--had become a bit of an Algonquin Round Table-style meeting place, in their minds, although they were the only two people who met there. Without fail, for the most part, they would reserve themselves a spot on the wooden bench closest to the truck every Tuesday, "from noon to noon thirty," and exchange quips and story ideas over deviled eggs and cucumber sandwiches. Afterwards, they would feed the local pigeons the crusts from their sandwiches, which the food truck guys would give to you in a dainty little bag if you asked (it was an "animal style"-level secret at CRACKERS), and it was during these postprandial bird-feedings that the conversation REALLY started flowing.
"Get this, amigo:" said Lyle, as soon as they sat down. (Lyle always went first.) "It's a short story called... PARTY SUB."
He paused, to let it sink in.
"Cool" said Jim. "I'm already not taking it seriously."
Lyle ignored him. He hated when Jim made that type of comment.
"It's a nightclub on a submarine" he said. "And it's Halloween night, 2222. There's a big dance party, and in the middle of it they get attacked by a squid."
"That's pretty good " said Jim.
"Yeah" said Lyle. "And get this: In the end, the squid eats them, like a big Italian party sub!!!"
"Ha!" said Jim, charitably. "Is the crew of the sub Italian?"
"Maybe" said Lyle.
They'd already finished their food, and started feeding the birds. The pigeons cooed, graciously, livening up the conversational pause, and providing Jim with a means of transition.
"My short story's about a giant animal too" said Jim. "A giant bird."
"You got my interest!" said Lyle.
"Well" said Jim, "you know how everyone drives those egg cars now?"
"Yeah..." said Lyle.
"Take that, you old bitch!" screamed a passing motorist, as his victim careened into the far side of the CRACKERS food truck.
"Speak of the devil" said Jim.
Underfoot, a two-footed pigeon stole a piece of bread from a one-footed pigeon, who flew away.
"Jeez" said Lyle. "What is his problem."
"In my story" said Jim, plowing ahead, "the government gets the material for the egg cars from a giant bird that lives in Japan. They trick it into laying eggs, and then they hollow them out and use the shells to make cars."
"Far out" said Lyle.
"Yeah" said Jim. "And then the giant bird finds out that we've been killing her babies, and goes berserk."
"Hell yeah, amigo" said Lyle.
"It's like, a criticism of the auto industry."

"Why do you think we both wrote stories about animals and food?" said Jim, after a spell. He'd been going to therapy, recently.
Lyle concentrated, earnestly, because it was that time in the conversation. "Because we're always coming here to eat and feed the birds" he said. Lyle could be very perceptive, sometimes. He'd see those obvious things that Jim didn't notice. 
Jim concentrated, now. "Are we boring?" he said, after another spell. "I feel like that means that we're boring."
"Why?" said Lyle. "I'm not boring."  
"Well, that's why we write science fiction" said Jim. "We don't have anything interesting going on in our lives, so we have to make a bunch of stuff up to be interesting."
"No way" said Lyle. "Are you OK? You're extrapolating like you're on bloopers right now."
"Yeah" said Jim.
"Anyway," said Lyle, "We DID in fact base our stories on our real lives, because we wrote about animals and food, like we're doing right now. So that means our lives ARE interesting enough to write stories about!"
"Yeah" said Jim "but it's a loose connection, is what I'm saying."
"Nothing wrong with that" said Lyle.
"Sure," said Jim. "But we couldn't be the heroes of a story, I guess is my point."
"We could" said Lyle. "We totally could." His face brightened. "And to prove it, I'm going to write that story tonight."
He did, too. He went straight home, fired up his FictionWriter5000, and wrote a science fiction story with him and Jim as the heroes. It was like this story, in a lot of ways, but more trippy and badass.

1 comment:

  1. This is a lovely story. Your portrayal of the future feels very accurate. Bless this post 🙏🙏🙏

    ReplyDelete