AntipodeanSF Issue 308

By J. S. O'Keefe

By two o’clock he was convinced he couldn’t take it any longer. He marched to the manager’s office.

The secretary was busy painting her nails while trying to manoeuvre to eat the last Boston Kreme left in a large Dunkin’ Donuts box. “George, you go right in,” she said. “The meeting was over ten minutes ago. Sam’s got nothing else scheduled for the p.m.”

He took a deep breath; most early-afternoon meetings culminate into undeclared farting contests. He knocked on the door and entered the room.

Sam lifted his face from the Miss April centrefold. His gleaming eyes showed he just came back from a better, happier world. He coughed a little to clear his throat. “What’s up, George, what’s on your mind?”

“Sam, let me summarise my activities since morning. I haven’t done a thing, and got nothing to do for the rest of the day. It’s trout season, I would like to leave a couple of hours early today.”

“Anything else?” asked the manager, sneaking another peak at Miss April. “I mean, Georgie boy, help me out here, could you come up with a better reason?”

“Okay, Sam, let’s try this: My job is totally meaningless to me and it is of little to no value to the company.”

“Still not good enough,” Sam shook his head. He closed the magazine and looked out the window. “You’ve got to try harder, George. If you want me to give you the rest of the day off, you’re to put in a serious effort.”

“Okay, Sam, listen here. If I’d stayed away for the past ten years, or better yet, if I stayed home for the next twenty, it wouldn’t make any difference. Not a single performance indicator would register even the tiniest change. Not mine, not the company’s.”

“Not a single performance indicator?” asked Sam.

“Not a single one.”

“All right, George.” Sam nodded.  “You’ve made your case. But before you leave, don’t forget to say goodbye to Frank Mowery. Today’s his early-retirement party in the small conference room.”

***

Mowery’s party was already on the wane. Only two recent hires, yuppies from Marketing (he couldn’t recall their names, and tried not to) still lingered in the room. On a cheap aluminium tray there lay the sad remains of a molten lava cake.

“George, I am up shit’s creek without a paddle,” Mowery moaned. “The bastards did a number on me. The sons-of-the-bitches forced me out. What am I gonna do pushing sixty! Too old to find another job, too young to retire.” Skull-like face, wrinkled yellow skin and no posture whatsoever, Frank Mowery looked about ninety.

“Sue them, Frank, sue the living shit out of them.”

Mowery shook his head. “I can’t. They made me sign some kind of a separation agreement. I’m getting six months pay in a lump sum. They also intimated that they could bring sexual harassment charges against me if refused to go with my trap shut. Me, sexual? I don’t remember the last time I got it up!”

Sensitive area. He just nodded to show his sympathies. 

Mowery was near tears. “The last three decades of my life I’ve busted my ass for these good-for-nothing dickheads.”

He didn’t believe Mowery had ever been capable of doing actual work.

“George, in twenty years, they’re gonna screw you too.”

He sighed and closed his eyes. He saw a rainbow trout flapping on the water’s surface, even felt the tug in his right elbow. Must get underway. He patted Mowery on the back and left.

***

First he drove to the elementary school to pick up his daughter. He decided to fish the Pennsylvania Canal near the Yardley Inn. 

The crowd of last weekend, the beginning of trout season, was mostly gone; only six–seven people were fishing. “They’re biting real good,” said an obese woman who’d already caught four rainbows.

He had a graphite ultralight rod with a Panther Martin lure. He set up his little girl with a Zebco rod and Power Bait. After missing the first few hits (technique gets rusty during the long winter break), he caught an eleven-inch rainbow.

“Fish on!” his daughter yelled a minute later. She could reel in the line but lifting the fish out of the water was still a tall order for her.

Then he got another hit. The fish missed the lure first but jumped right back on it. He set the hook, and played the trout for a few seconds before pulling it out. In the next half an hour he caught two more fish.

It was getting close to dinner time. “We gotta go, Buttercup.” The line felt heavy as she was reeling it in; it was a twelve-inch rainbow on the hook. They decided to stay ten minutes longer.

***

“Trout for dinner,” he yelled entering the house through the garage. There was no answer. As they stepped inside and continued shouting, his wife’s excited voice from the living room shushed them, “Keep it down! Waco’s burning. It’s on live TV!”

He remembered vaguely that the government had been having some kind of a standoff with a religious sect barricaded in a so-called compound. Now, the cult people were set on fire. He turned around and went back to the Canal.

***

There the fishing seemed to have gotten even hotter. The dedicated few were all about to limit out. They were too busy for knowing about the truly unfortunate misunderstanding between Washington and Waco. Or pondering if peace is just a short break, kind of an injury timeout, in the one war we’ve been fighting for the last six thousand years. Or they’ve already concluded it’s not us vs. them, it’s us vs. us. So it’s beyond hope, what are you gonna do, might as well go fishing.

In the next ten minutes, he caught three rainbows. It was good time.

Back home, they had trout for dinner while listening to the news about Waco. He closed his eyes. Late May he’ll take the old fly rod and hit the creeks in Tioga County or Wayne to catch wild trout. He may spend the entire day without getting a single fish. Or he may catch a bunch of them, and release them all. It’ll be good time.

Based on “Waco Burning, Trout Season”, published in the Winter 1995 issue of Satire (C&K Publications)

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About the Author

john okeefe 300J. S. O’Keefe is a scientist, trilingual translator and writer.

His short stories and poems have been published in Roi Faineant, Scribes*MICRO, Every Day Fiction, AntipodeanSF, 101 Words, Microfiction Monday, 50WS, Friday Flash Fiction, Medium, Paragraph Planet, 6S, WENSUM, Spillwords, Satire, etc.

Issue Contributors

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Meet the Narrators

  • Geraldine Borella

    geraldine borella 200Geraldine Borella writes fiction for children, young adults and adults. Her work has been published by Deadset Press, IFWG Publishing, Wombat Books/Rhiza Edge, AHWA/Midnight Echo, Antipodean SF, Shacklebound Books, Black Ink Fiction, Paramour Ink Fiction, House of Loki and Raven & Drake

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  • Marg Essex

    marg essex 200Margaret lives the good life on a small piece of rural New South Wales Australia, with an amazing man, a couple of pets, and several rambunctious wombats.

    She feels so lucky to be a part of the AntiSF team.

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  • Emma Gill

    Emma Louise GillEmma Louise Gill (she/her) is a British-Australian spec fic writer and consumer of vast amounts of coffee. Brought up on a diet of English lit, she rebelled and now spends her time writing explosive space opera and other fantastical things in

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  • Michelle Walker

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    As a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, I recognised it was definitely God who opened up the pathways for my husband and I to settle in the Valley.

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  • Sarah Jane Justice

    Sarah Jane Justice 200Sarah Jane Justice is an Adelaide-based fiction writer, poet, musician and spoken word artist.

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  • Tim Borella

    tim borellaTim Borella is an Australian author, mainly of short speculative fiction published in anthologies, online and in podcasts.

    He’s also a songwriter, and has been fortunate enough to have spent most of his working life doing something else he loves, flying.

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  • Alistair Lloyd

    alistair lloyd 200Alistair Lloyd is a Melbourne based writer and narrator who has been consuming good quality science fiction and fantasy most of his life.

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  • Mark English

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  • Ed Errington

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    His efforts at wallaby wrangling are without parallel — at least in this universe.

    He enjoys reading and writing science-fiction stories set within intriguing, yet plausible contexts, and invite readers’ “willing suspension of

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  • Laurie Bell

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    Laurie Bell lives in Melbourne, Australia and is the author of "The Stones of Power Series" via Wyvern's Peak Publishing: "The Butterfly Stone", "The Tiger's Eye" and "The Crow's Heart" (YA/Fantasy).

    She is also the author of "White Fire" (Sci-Fi) and "The Good, the Bad and the Undecided" (a

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  • Sarah Pratt

    sarah pratt 200Sarah Pratt is an avid fiction writer and a Marketing Consultant.

    She is currently working on her first novel but loves diving into short stories to bring a little lightness, intrigue or humour to the day.

    Her work has appeared in Sponge Magazine and The Commuting

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  • Barry Yedvobnick

    barry yedvobnick 200Barry Yedvobnick is a recently retired Biology Professor. He performed molecular biology and genetic research, and taught, at Emory University in Atlanta for 34 years. He is new to fiction writing, and enjoys taking real science a step or two beyond its known boundaries in his

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  • Juliette Cavendish

    juliette cavendish 200Juliette Cavendish was born in Liverpool UK and is of Welsh and Norwegian heritage. Juliette has an interest in Artificial Intelligence and Quantum Science and writes in both Science Fiction and Contemporary Fiction genres. Juliette was fascinated with space as a

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