Sunday, February 20, 2011

Dateline 2032: The Life of JAC03225: Part 8

FICTION SUNDAY

In Part 7, JAC03225 learns about the untimely death of his father. His good friend, MEL03226, arranges to take him home.

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The large black security car pulled up in front of the stone-faced building on 4597 Park Avenue where JAC03325 resided. A large black limousine was parked in front, the driver waiting with the hydrogen engine running, water vapor emitting from the exhaust. The two lions guarding the portico were as stony faced as ever. Two senior officers bounded out of the car and walked JAC03225 through the front door and into the brightly lit lobby. They were not alone.

At that moment, another security detail of four black-cad figures in leather vests and laser-powered guns, were leading an important figure from the elevator reserved for penthouse residents. One of them, the squad leader, gave a nod of recognition to the senior officer leading JAC03225. He was the captain of the alpha squad assigned to the University President. This was considered a prestigious assignment, though often laden with tedious and tiring tasks.

The President was a head-strong older man of seventy-two, a well-regarded public intellectual, who seemed to resist direction from his subordinates, even those assigned to protect him. He was a man cut from a different cloth, from an older generation of men who believed that power was to be worn lightly.  He was also as friendly as a politician seeking election. The University President, recognizing JAC03225, immediately stopped walking forward and turned toward  him, somewhat taking his security detail by surprise for this unplanned maneuver.

“Hello, JAC03325, It’s good to see you, son,” he said, his right hand outstretched and his left hand grabbing JAC03325's right shoulder, in motion so fluid it seemed natural, as if he had done this thousands of times in his life. He had. He also had a way with people, a leader who made others feel comfortable, allowing others to be  themselves. He was a man comfortable in his own skin. So, he allowed others the same courtesy. His style was familiar, warm, inviting. He called everyone younger than him, son “How is everything going?”he said, his penetrating blue eyes looking directly but warmly into JAC03325's brown eyes.

JAC03225 dutifully returned the warm gesture, and immediately told him about the sudden death of his father, sparing no details. It seemed as if he took a while to explain, but it was only a few minutes, and the University President took it all in, with patience. Both teams of security were standing nearby, at a respectable distance yet within earshot of the conversation. They were trained to be ready and alert, to serve, protect and act.

“I am really very sorry to hear the news” the University President said, his face betraying an emotion of sadness, which he tried to conceal. Usually he was quite successful at concealment, but not this time. “I knew your father very well," he said, his voice slightly quavering. "He.. he was a fine man, a fine scholar, a fine friend. We went to school together, you know. That’s very shoc...., uh, very sad news. ”

Somewhat shocked and flustered, he asks his security detail to give him a few minutes alone. They resist at first saying they are pressed for time, but he sternly insists, given the "special circumstances" to give him some needed privacy. They reluctantly comply, standing  no more than five metres away, their weapons armed on stun and ready.

Visibly shaken, the University President tells JAC03225 that he can’t do anything officially for his father. But as he touches JAC03325’s arm again, with some affection,  he says with unmasked kindness: “Your father was a great man, truly he was. Let me know if you need anything. I mean that, truly.”

“I must go. My handlers are getting nervous, and I have to give a speech to a group of prominent business leaders, in honor of your good friend, MEL03226's new position, in fact, and I am running late. Your father always hated that part of his duties.”

He then turned on his heel, and said to the captain of the security squad, in a voice both loud and clear: "Let's go." The University President walked though the doors and entered the large black limousine, after which the driver closed his door and the security detail entered, two in front seat and two in the rear seat. The University President was protected like an egg sandwich. The limo eased away from the building and sped off into Park Avenue traffic.

MEL 03226’s officers then brought JAC03225 to the door of his residence, a dozen or so steps from the main lobby. After assuring them that he was OK, they left, satisfied they performed their duty, as required.

JAC03325 was now alone with his thoughts. He walked around his apartment, and stepped into his bedroom, and sat on his bed. Now he felt alone, more alone then he could remember. He had no physical contact with his past, now that his father was dead, and his mother gone years ago. Gone from his presence. Some said his father died years ago. But not according to his son. He was still alive, only this morning when he left the apartment for what was another routine day. But now everything was changed, and always would be. Nothing would... could be the same. Not now.

He got up from the bed and slowly walked into the living room. A yellow and black winged butterfly flew quickly across the far-side window. Sunlight bathed the room, and the infused his favorite soft chair, near the window, with a yellowish warmth. He moved towards the light, removed his suede coat, deftly took out his media appliance and placed it on a nearby coffee table. He was about to neatly fold his jacket, as he had always done, but instead casually flung it on a facing chair, set up for intimate conversation. He sat down, placing both his hands on his cheek, as if to hold up his head.

No sooner had he done this than more distant thoughts flooded his memory. How his father loved egg sandwiches on rye with mustard and the crusts cut off. It would drive the androids crazy. But he would firmly insist that he was the customer, and that’s how he liked it. It was the way his father ate his egg sandwiches. Tradition. Old traditions.

How his father’s office at AIM U was decorated to match his taste and personality, both warm and exacting. It had wood paneling all around, a large bay window overlooking the city and a large oak desk and matching credenza. Both were rather imposing, many visitors implied. In front of the desk was a small rectangular-shaped Kandinsky rug, always slightly askew.

On the walls were paintings by the Old Moderns: Chagall's The Three Candles, Kandisnky's Composition VII, and Picasso's Three Musicians. He wasn't sure if they were originals or copies, since reproduction technologies were so advanced, and few people really cared for the Old Modern period. But his father and a few friends did.

He remembered it gave his father enjoyment. That was good, and important. And so was the freedom to imagine and think in non-practical ways. As a child, he was fascinated with the geometric lines and swirls of the Kandinsky rug, the interplay of the red, blues and gold shapes, playing a Schoenberg symphony of color. He would imagine himself a painter, or a musician, or even both in the folly of youth. He dreamed to dream. His father was no impediment in that way, as many other fathers were, In fact, he encouraged it, by saying: "It's important to follow your heart, your passions, and bring beauty and poetry to the world. It's as important as science, perhaps even more so.

He would often accompany his father to his office when he was four or five years old, and watch his father doing research on a precursor to the media appliance. His father called it a computer, which he manipulated with all ten fingers.

There were also the memories at the park near the house where he was raised, a large bungalow on a tree-lined street. At the park, he learned to throw a ball, his father patiently teaching him the kinetic mechanics of throwing and catching. He remembered how happy his father was when he made his first successful catch. “Great JAC0, Great—You did it.” and tousled his hair and gave him a hug. "Hard work and perseverance when directed in the right way will always pay off."  JAC03225 liked the closeness of his father.

When JAC03325 was ten, he failed to make an important sports team. One of his classmates used his father’s influence to make the team in an unfair way. JAC03325 came home crying. His father held him close, kissing away his tears, and said: “JAC0, my son, the most important thing is that you tried your best, that you did it honestly with integrity. I could use my influence, of course, but I won’t. It wouldn’t be right.”

In the certainty of youth, JAC03325 was righteously angry at his father for not helping him secure something that he then considered important. Afterward, he didn’t speak to his father for days. His father, though somewhat hurt by JAC03325’s distance, remained close yet patiently distant, allowing JAC03225 to find his true bearings.Yet, he couldn't stay angry for long, not with his father.

He always tried to be his own person and live up to his father’s expectations. And then there was the shame of his trial and conviction. Even then, he suspected his father was keeping something important from him, a secret that he could not yet share. For his own protection, he said.

Before he was taken away to prison, his father held him close. He could still feel the whiskers and smell the after-shave lotion, a musk scent that was as strong as his father. A few years before, when his father was on top of the academic world, JAC03225 had said as a teenager: “Dad, why are you wearing that stinky stuff? You could afford something more elegant, more refined. What would people say?”

His father looked him in the eye with affection and said. “I know, son, but it was what my father wore. It's good enough for me.

"I wonder if I could find that same brand of after-shave," JAC03225 thought to himself for no particular reason, as he got up from the chair and looked out the bay window. He could see people strolling nearby on Park Avenue, some couples hand in hand, laughing and giggling. It was a warm spring day. The room's automatic lighting system switched on, as the light from the sun dimmed. Its iridescent disk lowering under the horizon, settling down for the evening.

The media device rang, startling JAC03325 from his private thoughts. It showed a private caller, which was only designated for government officials, notably the State Security Office. “It must be MEL0 worrying if I’m all right,” he thought to himself. He answered the media device dutifully and with feigned cheerfulness.

“Hi, MEL0. I told you I’m fine. You’re such a worrier.”

“Hi JAC03225, said a warn woman’s voice whom he immediately recognized. It was the prosecuting attorney he had met earlier that day at the cafe. “I heard about your father, and I’m sorry to hear about his sudden death.”

“MEL0 told you?”

“No, my father.”

Your father?

“Yes, he’s the president at AIM U,” she said with some embarrassment. “You bumped into him a earlier this afternoon in the lobby. He called me from his limousine on a private encrypted line. I had to call you, also on a secure encrypted line. I am taking somewhat of a risk doing this, but I feel compelled to. I heard your father give a talk when I was a teenager, somewhat rebellious, and my father dragged me to a lecture that your father was giving on Ancient Law. Your father was an excellent lecturer, and he’s one of the reasons I became a lawyer. And, perhaps I shouldn’t say this, but he was a fine man. I wanted to let you know. Good-bye.”

“Wait a minute, what’s your name?”

“I’m sorry, I forgot my manners. It’s DIG15825.”

“Oh, you-re originally from New Metropole, the big city.”

“I’m originally from Metropole, its original name. I have a hard time calling it by its new name, although I should know better. Our family moved when I was very young, twenty years ago when I was seven, when my father was just hired at AIM University. That’s when we first met your father. I’m sorry but I really must go. I wanted to catch you early; and I have to finish preparing a legal case before morning.”

“Thank you for calling. Perhaps we’ll see each other again.”

“Perhaps. I wish you well, JAC03225. Good-bye.”

“Bye DIG15825.”

It was 9 pm, not late, yet JAC03325 was tired after such an eventful day. He thought about going to bed early. Tomorrow he would have to make preparations for his father’s funeral and memorial service. He would have to make calls to persons he hadn’t spoken to in years. Who should he call? Who would be there? Who would show up? His thoughts about the near future were immediately interrupted by a noise at the window, a high-pitched sound.

It was a bird; a small black bird singing loudly, belting out a beautiful melody that JAC03225 had never heard. He had never heard such sweet singing. So late, singing in the dark was a most unusual sight. The blackbird seemed to be singing not only for him, but for other black birds. Yes, that was it. He was singing for other birds.

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
Blackbird Fly

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That completes all of the excerpts of Chapter One. I plan to complete the novel, which I expect will take until July or August 2011. Then I plan to publish it in some form, possibly as an e-book. I will keep you posted in the Announcements.

Copyright (c) Perry J. Greenbaum, 2010. All rights reserved.

Author's Note: This is a work of fiction. While the author might have been inspired by some true-life events, names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or locales is entirely coincidental.

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