Rating/Warnings: PG, None
Author's Note: This is this week's 1000 word story, prompt is "Decent", but I didn't do that good a job of it, it's far more influenced by the fact that it's Memorial Day. *laughs*
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Any and all resemblance to any persons living or dead is pure coincidence.
David Li opened a black and white Tao-etched Zippo lighter with a well-practiced motion that came from lighting his ex-boyfriend's cigarettes. He couldn't smoke, but it hadn't stopped him from enjoying the ritual of it with his lover. A rasping flick and flame bloomed to life, even and clear. He held it to the bundle of joss sticks until all of them caught. He shook them out, slipped the lighter in his jean's pocket, and took the joss in both hands. He bowed three times before pushing the sticks into the sand in a soup can set before him.
Fragrant smoke spiraled up into the calm air.
Deftly fishing a blackened coffee can from the plastic grocery bag he kept all his offering equipment in, he set it down and pulled out a sheaf of Hell Notes. He fanned them carefully before setting them under a rock. He got out the small plaque with the name of his grandfathers and his grandmother on his father's side, and set that up as well as a small picture of Bella, a Newfoundland he'd owned out of college, to the side of it. Next to that was a list of all his friends who had died, to his sorrow the list was longer by three names this year.
Small origami pieces came out of his pockets next: a house, flowers, books, and furniture. Then he pulled out magazine cutouts of soup bones, foods, bishi, and dog foods Bella had liked. David knew he was mixing traditions here, but he figured if it was the thought that counted, he might as well think of as much as he could.
Ever since the kid in Chinatown had shared his notes, David figured it couldn't hurt. David had seen enough code go non-deterministic, understood enough about quantum physics or even dice to know that even if something wasn't probable or easily repeatable, it didn't mean it was not possible.
Chance played strange games, and he wasn't adverse to trying to get it to bend his way.
Bowing to the plaque, David said the names of his ancestors and then the names of his dead. He pulled out the lighter again and started to burn notes a few at a time, interspersing them with the various pictures and models. For each of the named dead, he gave his offering, and then grinning a little at himself, he offered to Bella as well.
For her, David was comfortable enough to offer words as well.
"Hey, girl. Sorry I waited until Memorial Day this time, but I needed to calm down I think. Abe's doing a great job of keeping me busy, and an even better job of making me stop and rest now and again."
David thought about the last two weeks. Reverting to high school biology skills, David used the last two weeks working with a crew of people trying to help Spanish researchers with various methods of growing and deploying petroleum-eating bacteria. While the sets of bacteria worked wonders in the lab, they were having problems on the open seas of the US Gulf Coast with the spill from the mile-deep Deepwater Horizon rig.
Between lack of open water testing, how to deliver the lab bacteria to the petroleum, and how to keep them under control once they were deployed, David started with working in the lab to get a good feeling for what populations of which bacteria replicated with what kinds of characteristics. He did that by just helping the techs grow them under all kinds of conditions and seeing how they responded.
"You know how my head never stops, girl. Abe kicked me out of the lab on Friday, so I finally got myself moved out of his guest room this weekend."
David looked out at the sea view from the back porch of a little vacation house in Santa Cruz. The house lay a few miles down the road from the lab, and waves washed at the cliffs across the street, above a walkway nearly always filled with bikers, joggers, and walkers. With the failing economy, David managed to bargain the manager down to two-thirds the normal price for three months' rent. He asked Bob to send the first two pods with his kitchen, clothing, and bedroom furniture, and they'd arrived on Sunday.
David enjoyed making his own breakfast again this morning.
"I haven't been home enough to watch TV or play video games, Bella, that might tell you something. I like being this busy, working this hard. Ask everyone to help us find some solutions, all right, girl? The deployment mechanism is a bitch, excuse me for saying. Also, please have everyone look out for Chris, Luke, Bob, Eva, Mack, and Morgan, I've been thinking about them, and I've been hurting less.
"I'm sending extra Hell money for the newbies, too. You take care of Tennyson, Wilma, and Bernard, too, right? Show them around." David found tears on his cheeks and wiped them away carefully. "I miss them, but they're good folks, you make sure they have what they need. Decent housing, food, and the power to make their own choices there. Right? Right." David lit more billion dollar notes, and was glad he didn't feel like he had to do this in a cemetery.
"One more thing, Bella." David sighed wanting to be honest to his dead. "I'm kinda... lonely. Can't even take care of a dog with these hours, but... well, having someone helped... before...."
For just an instant, the fire in the can curled into the shape of a fox with a curling tail. Maybe a trick of the eye or the mind, but David frowned as the last of the notes burned to ash even as the joss crumbled away.
"Thanks for listening, all of you," David finished to all his dead. "Thanks for the help and... well..." David paused his voice broke to a whisper.
"Good-bye, I miss you, and I hope you fare very well."