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This Shoal of Space:

Zoë Calla & the Dark Starship

(World's First E-Book—Published On the Web in 1996 For Digital Download)

a Dark SF novel originally titled Heartbreaker

by John Argo

Preface   Chapter 1   Intralog  Part I-Chapter 2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9   10   11   12   13   14   15   16   17   18   19   20   21   22   23   24   25   26   27   28   29   30   31   32   33   34   35   36   37   38   39   40   41   42   43   44   45   46   47   48   49   50   51   52   53   54   55   56   57   58   59   60   61   62   63   64   65   Part II-Chapter 66   67   68   69   70   71   72   73   74   75   Outlog


Chapter 72.

Roger waited in his office as darkness fell. He opened the middle drawer of his desk and took out the large Kraft package and set it on his knees. The phone rang and he picked up the receiver. "This is Roger Chatfield."

"Roger, this is Dean Mollinger of City University, New York. I am returning your call."

"Glad to hear from you, Maud."

"It's been a long time, Roger. How's life?"

"Oh..." He wrestled with the package, and out spilled his resume. "...It's had its ups and downs."

"Mostly ups, I hope."

"How about you?"

"Ups and downs." Long ago, they had been lovers. She was a beautiful woman and they'd kept in touch, maybe a Christmas card, a phone call every five years. "I called a friend at Vermont College in Kaukasin, Vermont. You always wanted to go there."

"Yes." Years ago he'd spent weekends there with Maud. Chill autumn nights; crisp stars; gloomy trees with fire in their leaves; hearth fire flickering in leaded windows at Kaukasin...Enough of California.

"They are interested, Roger. Send your resume right away."

"Wonderful. My family and I need a new start. I've been meaning to make this move for a long time, and then—recently, some events—well, maybe I'll tell you about it one day."

"I heard about San Tomas. It must be dreadful out there."

"Dreadful? Yes, that's probably the word. I want the position if they offer anywhere near the right money."

"I think they'll come in low but within your range. I think you can jack them up five grand no problem." After the call, Roger stood, stretched, and sighed.

He dialed home. ZoŽ answered. He said: "Hi, Honey. I think I'm going to be a little late. I think I found something..."

"I'll fix supper for the kids," she answered. There was a dullness to her voice.

"I'll see you in a while," he said and hung up. By the day, he was losing her. Or were they just drifting apart, like lifeboats after a silent shipwreck far out in the galaxy?

As darkness fell, as the green filtering sunlight from the roof gave way to creeping night, and the electric lights went on, Roger reflected upon the state of his life. He did not care to stay on at the zoo. He felt betrayed by the Burtongales; by Wallace; by Polly; maybe even by Susan, snatched away in the prime of her beauty. Susan ... he began to shake, remembering their love for each other. She always wanted to have another child. Always loved to put on magic shows for the children at school. Loved children.

But I have my two kids, he thought, I must not forget that. I am in love with ZoŽ, but where is that going? Her mother is insane, and now she is breaking up. Poor Max. I must think of Elisa and Rudy. If it is just a matter of Max being sick, then we can manage. But if ZoŽ can't take the pressure and if she is going the way of her mother, then maybe we'd better step back and give this thing a long look. Tears welled up in his eyes.

What am I going to do? The only time I ever felt like this was when I buried Susan. Roger Chatfield got on his knees and started to cry. All the years of tears were in there, and he hunched on the floor, holding his face, sobbing like a child. He did so for a long time.


Copyright © 1990-1996-2014 by John Argo, Clocktower Books. All Rights Reserved.