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Short Story Down-Well Visit

Down-Well Visit by Jim Melanson SciFi short story

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Regina Windass sighed deeply as she looked at the Blood Pudding on her plate. There were some things she knew that she would have to face every time she came down-well. Unfortunately, a black mass of ... sausage, with too much Pennyroyal, was one of those things. The housekeeper had served her the plate, just before she dashed off to go to the shops. It was her cousins house, her cousins housekeeper, and most likely the vile slice of sausage was her cousins idea. She always stayed with her seventh cousin on these trips to Earth. They got along like two peas in a pod in person, just as much as they did via email. Except, that is, when it came to breakfast selections. A computer engineer by trade and desire, Regina's breakfast usually consisted of a bagel, sometimes toasted, and a Pepsi. On really, really special days, she might splurge for a bacon & toast at the facilities cafeteria.


Her small bachelor apartment back home only had a kitchenette. To be honest, the kitchenette wasn't much more than a hot-plate with pretentions. It sat, mostly unused, on a small table near a grimy old sink, surrounded by pedestrian beige walls. Regina ate out a lot.


Despite the aged and fading building she lived in, it was home. It was what she knew. The large window at the end of the apartment gave her a stunning view of more residential structures, under the small dome of Phrygia Town. She'd had her fill of seeing laundry on balconies; faded Chinese paper lanterns hanging from electrical lines; and cement covered in rust stains, caused by the high humidity of the “city”, as they called it. Oddly though, having been away so long, Regina was missing it. You love what you know.


Things were much different here on Earth. You could breathe without worrying about air system contamination. The death of 4,356 workers at Idaville was a memory that haunted everyone; everyone living in the fabricated environments of the Galilean moons. With the levels of humidity in the towns on Ganymede, there was always the risk of Legionnaires' disease or something equally, morbidly, microbial.


What Regina loved most about her visits and spent a considerable amount of time doing, was walking around barefoot on the lush green lawn of her cousin's estate. There was no grass on Ganymede.


Her seventh cousin, once removed, flounced into the room. Regina believed Sophie's seven years of life in this idyllic setting left her a bit of an airhead, okay, more than just a bit. She greeted the child with a smile and pleasant good morning, as she knew was polite to do. The thought flaming through her mind wasn't so kind, Does she have to be all pixies, elves and fucking unicorns, all the time? The child gave her much older cousin a toothy grin, sans incisors, and headed for the toaster.


The very first time Regina visited her ancestral home on Earth, she thought the gravity was going to kill her. Two years of intense resistance training, weight training, and twice a day cardio workouts had been the core component of her preparation for that visit and each subsequent visit. The regimen was also a mandated requirement by Sun-Star Insurance. The insurance behemoth's underwriters had to be confident of her ability to survive going to Earth, without winding up as gravity-squashed puddle of biological ooze. They would never insure her for the trip if they weren't. Having been born and raised on Ganymede, with its near-Mars gravity, the puddle-of-ooze scenario wasn't that unrealistic an outcome for an unprepared off-world visitor. Without the ever coveted Sun-Star certificate of travel, however, she wouldn't have been able to book passage. The administrative weenies at LaGrange station would never certify her for the inner planets without it. Of course, those born down-well never had such restrictions placed on them. The term off-worlder was a pejorative term to most off-worlders. It was a term used for humans born anywhere other than on Earth. In the eyes of the Jovian born, the policy of an insurance certificate for off-worlders objectified the whole second-citizen mindset that the political activists were always prattling on about. She snorted to herself, thinking about it, she wasn't sure which annoyed her more at the moment: the contemplation of second-class citizen status, or the little pixie-dust freak finger-drawing faces in the peanut butter that she had just put on her toast.


Her visit was almost over, thank heavens, she thought. She had her ticket booked for home. She was leaving in four days on the ISS Stephen Hawking. At least the Familias Windass had sprung for luxury tickets. She sure as hell wasn't going to ride a Cycler here and then home again. The British Spaceways commercial flights were too cramped for comfort, even their new commercial MAX5000 was still little more than a glorified cattle car. The round trips on the ISS Stephen Hawking had been the temptation that finally made Regina say yes, eight years ago. She loved her time on Earth with Celeste and Sophie, pixie dust notwithstanding; but she loved when it was time to go home as well. She didn't have much of a life back on Ganymede, but it was her life ... and it didn't have an immature seven-year-old running around prattling on about mythical creatures, as though they were real. Unicorns were her latest objet d'nonsense. Several times a day for the last two weeks, she found herself thinking, Thank God I never gave birth to one of those!


At the age of twenty-eight, after Regina's father's death in the terrorist attack at the Assaracus complex, the family elected her to take care of the legal matters on Earth. So here she was on her third trip, hoping to finally and permanently finish the legal business. She was just waiting confirmation from the solicitors that her father's funds had been unlocked. Her father had been CFO of Jovian Mining for twenty-five years. While it wasn't discussed openly, there was a fair bit of this and that, which bled innocently off the larger contracts, and had to wind up somewhere. A good portion of it wound up in his private bank accounts. Her father's seven wives, nineteen children, and thirty-six grandchildren all wanted a piece of that pie. Out of the whole sodding brood, she was the only one that the wives could agree upon to handle the dissolution of his estate. She had argued with them, weakly, proposing it should go to probate through a reputable Earth firm. However, her mom and the six step-moms refused. They didn't want a single penny to pass to someone else's hands, if it didn't have to. She couldn't blame them really. The ol' codger had socked enough away that none of the seven wives (current and ex) would ever have to work again. Once their share was taken, it would still leave a respectable inheritance for each of the children. That, however, was where the gravy train ended. Her dad had left nothing for the grand-children. Let 'em make their own way, he had muttered many times, that's how I did it.


She looked at Celeste's daughter, lips outlined in peanut butter, trying to shake a peanut butter coated napkin of her right hand. The left hand was, of course, still clutching the toast with peanut butter, unconsciously closing her fingers tighter as she focused on the napkin stuck to her other hand. Regina just hung her head and stared into her coffee. She tolerated the child as good naturedly as she could. She loved Celeste, so she was as nice as possible to the evil spawn of her cousins loins. Celeste was a widow, her husband succumbing to a virulent influenza three years ago. During Regina's last visit, two years ago, the young widow had been mopping around in sundresses and floppy hats, trying not to cry every time a bee buzzed. This time was different. Regina emerged from the down-well transition hospice to find a vibrant, vivacious, thirty-something woman. She was living every day as hard as she could. Celeste had been in party-mode from the moment Regina had been able to stand up, three days after planetfall. For the first week, it had been go-go-go! Each evening, after dinner, the two of them would crank up the tunes in Celeste's bedroom. They would tart-up as only two confident, single women can, then hit the town. Of course, hitting the town in Campsea Ashe, Suffolk, meant going to the Dog & Duck. Still though, lager was lager, tequila was tequila, and all the young men in town were in attendance once they heard there was an up-well visitor.


Regina leaned back in the chair, extending her very long legs and raising her very long arms as she yawned, fully stretching her seven foot, four inch, slender frame. She heard Celeste coming down the stairs and mentally gave thanks, casting a weather eye at the pixie-dust fairie. The kid was now trying to lick both peanut butter and toast out of her clenched fist, the aforementioned napkin now fully cemented to her entire right hand. Celeste's problem now, she thought.


Last night, having recuperated for two days, they had hit the Dog & Duck again. Regina had to stop drinking for forty-eight hours to have the pre-departure bloodwork done. The fact that this was done five days before she departed still mystified her. The bloodwork was going to be repeated during the lay-over at LaGrange station. With the bloodwork behind her and her blood-alcohol level not a concern, the women had hit the Dog & Duck again last night. At least this time they came home together. Regina had her pick of the town's eligible (and some ineligible) men, Celeste just liked watching the idiots making fools of themselves. Earth-born men seemed to be drawn to up-well women like children to candy. Regina found this part of the visit to Earth, very acceptable. Earth men, with their squat, compact frames, were much... shall we say... larger, in certain ways, than up-well men. Regina smiled, thinking about the two nights she had been entertained by Clyde, after last call.


Regina and Celeste exchanged the usual greetings. Celeste gave Regina a disparaging look when she saw the mess her darling Sophie had made. Sophie gave her mom a toothy smile and a peanut butter kiss on the cheek. Regina just looked away innocently, doing a poor job of suppressing a smile.


The phone rang.


“Oh! I hope that's the solicitors, maybe this mess is finally over with.”


Celeste was closer to the phone. She snatched it up and spoke quietly for a moment. She glanced at Regina with an odd expression on her face. Regina waited patiently, arms folded, looking down at the five foot three Celeste. Her cousin picked up a pen and wrote on a pad of paper. She hung up the phone and just stood there, not saying anything.


“Well? Was it the solicitors? What did they say?”


Celeste turned to Regina, slowly looking up, until she met her eyes. Now it was Celeste's turn to try and suppress a smile.
“No love, it wasn't the solicitors. It was the boarding administration for the ISS Stephen Hawking. They got your blood work results,” she smiled so widely she looked like the top of her head was going to roll off.


Regina was thoroughly confused, these boarding administration calls were perfunctory affairs that said you were permitted to board. No one had ever been denied, “Oh? Is... is there a problem?”


Celeste couldn't contain herself, she doubled over, exploding in a paroxysm of laughter. When she finally looked up there was tears streaming down her cheeks.


“Celeste! What the hell is so funny? What did they say?”


Celeste got control of herself and wiped the tears out of her eyes. She looked over at her daughter's round eyes and round mouth, staring without comprehension at her mother's reaction.


“CELESTE!”


Regina reached over and yanked the piece of paper out of her cousins hand. It simply said, “Dr. Atwater, 2 PM”. Regina looked up at Celeste, “This is for me? I have an appointment?”


Her cousin was biting her lip to stop the laughter, she nodded her head.


“Who is he? Is he in town?”


Celeste nodded, “He's the counties only Gynecologist.” Celeste turned away, she just couldn't keep her face straight.


“Oh my God... oh no... what is it? Celeste! What is it? Did they say? What's wrong? Did they say what's wrong? Oh, no! Do I have a parasite?”


Celeste couldn't take it, the laughter took over again. She turned to Regina, between gasps and guffaws, she said, “Yes, love, yes. You have a parasite,” she looked at her daughter and then back at Regina, “Love, do you have peanut butter on Ganymede?”

To see more of Jim Melanson's work, click the link to his website or scroll down to the bottom of the page to view his member details Visit Jim Melanson's Website.

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Regina Windass sighed deeply as she looked at the Blood Pudding on her plate. There were some things she knew that she would have to face every time she came down-well. Unfortunately, a black mass of ... sausage, with too...

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