Thursday, December 22, 2005

A Very Special Holiday Treat: The Lost Fragment

A few days ago, I posted a bit about Christmas with OSFW. And two days ago, I posted the fragment I wrote for this year's contest. But there's more to this story that I didn't tell you.

You see, immediately after last year's contest, I was so inspired by hearing all the fragments that I wrote another one right away, just to have one in reserve for this year's contest. However, once the "Bad Science/Disaster" theme was announced, my fragment no longer fit the theme, so I decided to bag it.

Now I could hold onto it for next year's party, but what fun would that be? Do I seriously not think I'll be able to write another decently bad two-three pages in the next year? I can write badly in my sleep.

So as an extra-special treat from all of me here at Frazier's Brain, the home of great value at greater prices, I present the "Lost Fragment." You are the very first person to read it (other than the writer, of course) since it was written almost a year ago and then promptly hidden in the bowels of my old computer. Now unearthed for your reading pleasure, Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you...


Arthur Jackson sighed as the whistle sounded the end of his shift at the factory. He shut down his board, picked up his briefcase, and headed for his car. Another grueling day done, he thought. Four hours of backbreaking work, monitoring the blinking lights on his console to make sure his section of the line was running smoothly.

All he wanted to do, he thought as he stepped out onto the parking platform, was go home, sit in his den with his feet up, and drink a beer while he read his paper. He shivered in a sudden cool breeze and reached down to flick the switch on the personal heater attached to his belt. Big-shot scientists thought they knew everything, but they still couldn’t control the weather well enough to keep it warm in January.

He sighed again as he got into his car. He should be happy, he thought. He had what every man dreamed of: a steady job, a nice house with a two-car garage, a beautiful wife, 2.4 kids and a dog. Except that his wife, Astra, hardly ever talked to him, except to complain that he didn’t help enough around the house or that no, they couldn’t afford to upgrade that .4 into a third child just yet. Perhaps he should have them run a switch into his den for the trash conveyors; it wouldn’t hurt to take out the trash every now and then, would it?

He shook his head and fired up the jets. The right rear sputtered a few times before it caught. It was almost time to trade the old girl in, Arthur figured; he’d had her for over a year, after all. He lifted off and started to turn toward home, but a red glow to the east caught his attention, as it did more and more every day. He’d never gone that way before, but today, he gave in.
He circled the district a couple of times before finally settling on an isolated bar called “The Lonely Heart.” He couldn’t imagine who would name their business that; how could they attract customers? Then again, he was going in, so maybe it worked.

He settled to a landing on the platform, got out, and walked toward the front door. A space dachshund was sniffing hopefully at a couple of trash cubes off to the side of the building. It growled half-heartedly at him as he approached, then turned and spun up its tail, lifting off to look for better pickings on the next platform over.

Arthur went in, walked up to the bar and ordered a beer. He really should have a food pill first; he didn’t want to get too drunk to drive home. But no, he decided, live dangerously, seize the day. He sipped at his beer and made a face. There was probably a flavor molecule in there somewhere, but he hadn’t found it.

A telescreen behind the bar was showing a game of Astro-Ball, but Arthur couldn’t pay attention to it. His attention was distracted by the sound of crying off to his left.

A pretty young blonde was sobbing over her drink, a colorful concoction in bands of blue, purple and glowing green.

“Are you okay?” he asked.

“I just… Yes, I’m fine,” she said, gamely attempting a smile through her tears.

“Would you like to talk about it?” Arthur asked.

“Actually, I’d like to talk about anything but,” she said. “So what would you like to talk about, Mister…?”

“Arthur. Just Arthur,” he answered.

“I’m Vanessa,” she said, and this time, her smile was more genuine.

Arthur gazed into her impossibly blue eyes as he sipped at his beer. It didn’t taste so bad this time; in fact, it tasted wonderful, the best he'd ever had.

That’s when he knew he was in trouble.

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