The Usual Suspects
by Margot Comstock
Reid was delighted with his recent--and very lucrative-- arrangement with the incomparable Mealon Usk; Reid might not be top man on the totem pole, but he was there and moving forward. The addition of Finn and Fred the Red made an unbeatable complement, he thought. He was happy to be part of the move to occupy Mars, oh, too bad if it was a little chilly there. They had stocked up on warmness, clothes, heaters, lots of ways.
More pride came to Reid when he thought about the comeuppance that would fall to Beau-Zeau when he realized the GAL 9000 he’d just acquired was already passe, that the new Pal 9000 already ran rings around the Gal and her contemporaries. Fortunately, Beau-Zeau was so excited about his plans for Mars that he dismissed these annoyances.
Reid’s secret was that, while Usk, Finn, and Red were hot to land on Mars, occupy that planet and build it up, Reid’s goal was even farther: Reid had his heart set on Venus. Yes, it would be hot, but that could be dealt with. He’d already begun studying how to live in very hot climate.
The problems increased, whichever destination they’d choose, Reid knew. And returning from Venus might not be possible…. Maybe Venus wasn’t feasible. He’d have to learn more. If Venus wasn’t doable, he’d be happy with Mars.
Wiser hearts (should any be found) would strike more welcoming ground (if such was to be found in the immediately available Universe). Flinn sat comfortably with an ice-cold Bourbon in hand, enjoying a mental panorama of good, exciting things that were soon to happen in his life. Fred was across the room collecting hors d’oeuvres and chips and salsa to enhance the cocktail hour. Finn love the Bourbons Fred made; her hors d’oeuvres, not so much, at least not always….
Still, she was a good kid; actually a better woman now that they weren’t so often at odds.
Fred was possible more excited about their plans to Venus than Finn was. He was very aware of the dangers possible in this adventure, life and death at risk. But he’d studied all the contingencies; nothing was certain--except that it would be exciting. Beyond that, unknown.
Fred, on her part, was in a dilemma, although she wasn’t letting it show. In fact she wasn’t upset by it; but she had no idea what she would do about it. Fred and Finn had a good relationship in many ways, even put up with the long-term edge that had never totally gone away. But unexpected things do happen when you’re making other plans, as a very wise man once said. This time, it was serious (although thinking of it often made Fred chuckle.) Last week, she had realized she was pregnant. What to do? Might be obvious to many people. But not to Fred. She wasn’t young, she never thought she’d get pregnant, never planned to; but now that she was, she wanted the baby.
So, she thought, could the baby go with them to Mars? Why not? Er, probably a lot of folks would think she was crazy. What if she just didn’t tall anyone? Hmmm. So she kept her news to herself, and decided not to worry about it until she had to.
At first Beau-Seau had been furious at the scam (as he saw it) Finn and his friends had done. But he had a powerful liking for the Gal 9000, and he had not yet learned of the Pal 9000. The money wasn’t really an issue to Beau-Seau; he’d more than he could imagine ever needing, plus he was intrigued with Finn’s plans, as long as he didn’t have to go with them. So, declaring to himself that he’d avoid those people in the future, he returned to his current schemes.
Mealon Usk took a different tack. Though comparable to Beau-Zeau in regard to their holdings, Usk had no use for the man. Usk was excited about the trip to Mars (and would Mercury be possible too? He thought that unlikely; it was closest to the sun and likely extremely hot. Still….) but. despite his initial excitement, he wasn’t sure about actually going on their wild trip. Unless...he thought…unless I could design, and build, the ship. Now, that was a hell of a good idea. Usk was absolutely convident of his ability to build vehicles. Okay, cars, earthly cars, had been bis expertise. Usk knew he could do it. Best.
He would go to NASA and offer his services in exchange for learning everything they could teach him about building space ships.
The NASA folks were well aware of Usk and, despite the vast difference between vehicles and their requirements, a contingent of them thought it would be interesting, a learning experience for both Usk and them, and aldo damn fun.
When Reid heard through the greapevine about Usk and the NASA plan to teach him about making spaceships, Reid begged to sit in. Because of his role in the planned flight to Mars, NASA and Usk welcomed him.
Reid was super excited, and called Finn as soonas he could. At first Finn laughed; when Reids response was silence, Finn realized Reid was serious.
“Reid, that’s great! What a good idea! You’ll be able to help us a lot that way too, with all you learn, keep us up to snuff too,” Finn said. “Good going, man!”
Reid smiled broadly. “I’m really glad you think so, kid. I hope I can help a lot!”
“You always do; you’re my true uncle, Reid.”
Reid had not entered Stacy’s mind--or heart--in a long time. Her kid did, Cav did just a little, and Henry. She felt a little sad about Henry; but not much: Stacy didn’t do sad.
In a way she was a different person since she got clean. But, dear reader, do not fear: she was still, still, Stacy.
After all the troubled time, she’d gone back to the squash court. She practiced regularly. She commandeered opponents. She played them until she beat them regularly and then dropped them. She ate regularly and she didn’t drink until she felt fine without.
She slept alone and liked it. She only say people she liked, and there were very few.
Finn was who she liked best. But he was with that girl most of the time, and she didn’t like Fred.
She got her information about the trips to other planets by osmosis, as she saw it. She had no interest in going. She was proud of Finn but wished he weren’t going; nevertheless, she was proud of him.
She was only happy, if you could call it that, when she was playing squash, or something like it.
Sometimes she didn’t sleep well; past annoyance would worry her. One such night, she called Cav.
“What was your game?” she asked when he answered.
“What was your game?” she repeated.
“Squash,” he said…..”And other games. What’s up?”
“You’re a bastard. But sort of fun for a while.”
“Where are you? Want to come and see me?”
But Stacy had hung up.
So much had gone bad for Cav. He new he was a bit— well, quite a bit--older than he had been. But he wasn’t, well, old. Fifty wasn’t “old,” for heaven’s sake.
Still, he felt old. He wondered if people who lost all their money instantly felt old. Maybe.
Cav shook himself.
“Mate, what are you doing? Get off it!”
After a couple of minutes, he got up, put on a good jacket, and headed for a pub that had games.
The pub was brightly lit on the outside. Inside, the bar was dimmer, just right really. This place had Anchor Steam on Tap, and Cav ordered one. He sat at the bar for a wile sipping his beer. Feeling a bit more alive, he ordered another and took it with him to the gaming area.
There were a bunch of guys playing some game, putting down a ten--or was it a twenty?--and sat down nearby to watch. Pretty soon, he knew the game. He put down a twenty, watched a minute, and took a turn.
An hour later, Cav had more than 50 dollars, despite having “lost” two games. He took a seat where he could watch some more, ordered dinner--lamb, as he was a little homesick--another drink.
After the good meal and a few more games, he felt better than he had in a long time.
He said good by to the guys he’d played with, dropped another 20 on the table, smiled, and headed home.
Maybe life could be good after all, he thought. Even when you’re old.
Just as he was reaching his place, his cel rang.
It was Stacy.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.