Note: No-Draft Theater is an exercise in improvisational fiction. I intend to write short pieces of fiction only one-to-three posts long, no outlining or other preparation, with each post around a thousand words. These pieces of fiction will only go through the most cursory editing.
I opened the door to Dad’s office just a little and peeked in. My nervousness brought the room into focus, as though I had never seen it before.
I hadn’t noticed how green it was.
Dad’s desk was deep olive with gold studs running along the side. Terminals hung against the walls, their semi-transparent screens flashing blue and green text too fast to read. The walls were wooden with green molding separating the wall from the white, stucco ceiling. two warm lamps flooded the room in a golden glow. The carpet was deep forest-green shag that I used to play on when I was a little girl.
It smelled old in there, ancient paper-filled books resting on his homemade shelves against every other wall in the cramped room.
And there he sat, looking grim and happy all at once, his eyes squinting over a book as though willing the letters off of the page and into his deep brown eyes. He leaned back in his chair, his long legs sprawled over the top of his desk. All it would take is a small, sharp tug on the back of his seat to send him into a panicked whirl to keep upright. I knew this from experience. I had done that to him before.
He hadn’t heard me. But then, I didn’t make a point of announcing myself. I wasn’t ready to give the message, and I didn’t know when I would be.
Earlier that afternoon, I came in from my studies. My peer study group (Alain, Jessy, Katarine, Yomijo, and Sissy) had run off to lunch. I had decided to eat alone. I had a question for my Mere.
Mere was in the living room, her long spider-like fingers rushing over a tablet. Her black hair was pulled almost excruciatingly into a bun, without a single hair escaping into independence. I never knew how she managed that.
She turned to me and smiled. “Hi, Susana. How was study?”
“Oh, you know… study-like. Fractional statistics.”
Her eyebrows raised. “Fractional statistics already? I didn’t do that until I was fourteen.”
I shrugged. “They had numbers back then?”
“Only Roman numerals,” she smiled. “It was easier to chisel them into the clay tablets.” She turned back to her Tab and continued working.
“Mere, I have a question.”
“If it’s about fractional statistics you might have to ask your Dad.”
I smiled. “The question is about dad.”
“Well, I was talking to my friends, and we were talking about what our parents do. Alain’s parents, for instance, do engineering work for the Fleet. Yomijo’s mere creates aesthetical designs for CorpSec.”
Mere nodded. “I’ve seen her work. Very talented.”
“Yep. Well, I know what you do, Mere, but I really don’t know what Dad does. I never asked.”
That was when Mere put her Tab to the side. “Oh,” she said. “Okay. I don’t think I should address this. Your Dad is downstairs.”
“He’s back from his trip?”
“He’s back, and I think he’s the best person to answer this.”
It was then I noticed Mere’s seriousness. She was not usually so serious. Mere was quick with a smile for me, although she seemed a little severe to others. Typical mathematician. Suddenly, I was nervous. Did I really want to know what Dad does now?
As if she could read my thoughts, Mere said, “Go downstairs. Your Dad is in his office. Tell him I think it’s time for you to know what he does.”
Suddenly, I was very reluctant to go downstairs.
“Hmmm?” His eyes remained locked on the book.
“Mere sent me down here. I guess with a message or something.”
He looked up from his book and smiled at me. It was a pleasant smile. It smoothed the creases in his broad, oval face. Except for his eyes. He squinted when he smiled, and wrinkles sprung out to the sides like punctuation marks. “Sorry, just had to finish the sentence. What’s the message, Susana?”
I stepped into the room and gently closed the door behind me. I felt like a naughty little girl being called in for a lecturing. All I had done was ask my Mere what Dad did for a living.
So there I was.
“Is everything okay?” He asked, his brows furrowing. “What’s wrong?”
I smiled, hoping to ease the tension. It didn’t work. Not with me, anyway. “Nothing’s wrong, Dad. Mere just sent me with an odd message.”
“Yeah, well, I asked Mere what you did for a living. I mean, there are often times you have to leave for days, then when you come back we never know when you’re going to go away again. I know what all my friends’ parents do, but when they ask I have no idea what to tell them.”
Dad nodded. “Just tell them that your Dad is an advisor to the Governor-General.”
“Sure. Nothing much to it.”
I smiled and turned to leave. “Thanks, Dad.”
My hand was on the doorknob when he said,”wait, Suze. You said your Mere had a message for me?”
I sighed. It wasn’t that easy to escape after all.
I turned. “Well, yes. When I asked Mere, she said for me to tell you, ‘it’s time.'”
His smile disappeared. “Oh.” He set his book down on his desk. I peeked at the title. ‘Changes in the Anterior Cingulated Cortex,’ it read. It looked like gibberish to me.
“Susana, pull over the chair. No, no. Bring it next to me. This isn’t an interview, this is you and me talking.”
I slid the chair over by him and sat.
Seeing the worry on his face, he said, “Don’t worry, Suze, it’s not bad. It’s just… complicated.”
This did not relax me, but it allowed me to hide my nervousness better. What was I getting into?
He swiveled to face me and leaned forward slightly. “This is hard to explain. I am an advisor. If I don’t flatter myself, I am a very important advisor. Probably the Governor-General’s most important advisor.”
“But you’re not part of his retinue. You’ve been the advisor for two GGs so far. Why didn’t you move on with the last one?”
Dad nodded. “Yeah, well, I am not part of anyone’s inner circle. It’s vital that I not be.”
“Well, then, what do you do, Dad?”
He smiled wanly. “I am a Liar, Susana.”
<To be continued>