Like the Prose: Challenge #10 – Write an anecdote. (I couched mine in Basil & Zoe’s first meeting.)
“It’s not like I’m ever going to need this kind of math later in life anyway,” I grumbled at my mother as she led me through the different biology labs of the ship. “I’m going to be on stage.”
“I know you have your heart set on an arts career, Zoe, but that doesn’t mean you should skimp on your education.”
“I have a 4.0 GPA. I’m in all advanced placement classes. I’ve been accepted to three Ivy League schools, two conservatories and the Space Fleet Academy – ”
” – where you will never even consider attending – ” my mother’s tone was wry.
” – where I wouldn’t attend if you paid me,” I corrected.
“Say that a little louder, kiddo, I don’t think the captain heard you.” She turned into a door marked ‘aquatics.’ “Here we are…” We walked through three more labs, pausing in one that was lined with tanks and lit with only dim blue light. There were benches down the center of the room. “Sit.”
“Because this is the jellyfish lab, and jellyfish are calming, and you, my sweet daughter need some calm in your life. So, sit here. Get a grip. Come home in half an hour and try the math homework again.”
“Half an hour?” I whined.
“Complain again and I’ll lock you out for an hour.”
“See you in twenty-nine and a half minutes, Mom.”
“Smart choice.” And she left, heading out the way we came in.
And I… well, the jellyfish were kind of entrancing. So much so that when someone else came in the room and spoke to me I jumped.
“Pardon me,” a smooth voice said. “I did not mean to disturb you.”
“You’re not bothering me,” I began as I looked up into a face I’d never seen before. But I was thunderstruck, because the features I saw above the collar bearing pips of a lieutenant commander were pale silver, like moonlight. Belatedly, I added, “Sir.”
“May I ask why you are in the aquatics laboratory at this hour? Traditionally students are restricted to the civilian decks after school hours.”
“My mother is giving me an object lesson in relaxation.”
“I am afraid I do not understand.”
“I was freaking out over a math assignment and she brought me hear to stare at the jellyfish for half an hour because ‘fish are calming.'”
“My mother is Dr. Harris. Lieutenant Harris. I’m Zoe.”
“You may call me Basil.”
“You’re a synthetic lifeform?”
“And you’re an officer?”
“That is also correct.”
“If you stay with me, will that count as lifting the restriction on being here?”
“It would, yes.”
“Then, Basil, would you like to watch the jellyfish with me for twenty minutes?”
“Thank you, Zoe, I accept your invitation.” He joined me on the bench and we were quiet for several minutes but then he broke the silence. “Were you aware, that the term ‘jellyfish’ is not accurate?”
“I’m not sure what you mean?”
“These creatures are neither jelly nor technically fish. Rather they are varieties of the phylum Cnidaria which includes the ‘true jellies’ but even those are not fish. In fact the word ‘jellyfish’ actually proves this.”
I was understandably skeptical. “The word ‘jellyfish’ proves that a jellyfish isn’t a fish?”
“Yes. You see, in scientific nomenclature we compound names imply an inaccurate description. Consider the name ‘starfish’ for sea stars, or ‘seahorse’ for the creatures that are obviously not equine.”
“Huh. I’ve never really thought about it. Interesting.”
“I am glad you found it so.” He gave me what I perceived to be a considering look. “Does your mother allow you to spend time on Deck Zero?”
Deck Zero was the domed recreation and observation space at the top of the ship. It wasn’t a deck, hence it’s name, and it included a formal officers’ mess as well as common space.
“I’m seventeen. As long as she knows where I am, and I maintain my grades and meet curfew she doesn’t care where I go. I mean… we live on a spaceship.”
“Then, if you would care to adjourn to the Deck Zero lounge, I believe I can assist you with your troublesome math assignment.”
“You mean, you don’t agree that staring at jellyfish to rest my mood will magically fix the problem?” I teased.
“I am certain a calmer mood will help,” he hedged. “But it will not impart understanding where there is none.”
“I’d need to get my tablet,” I said. “But if you truly don’t mind, I could use the help.”
“I will accompany you,” he – Basil – replied. “I would like to ensure that your mother does not object.”
“Yeah, that’s probably a good idea. Although, it would have been nice to let her think her jellyfish plan worked.”
Basil looked at the tank in front of us, and then at me, again. “In a way,” he said, “you could say that it did.”