Monday, 8 September 2014

A path less straight (pt. 4)

My God, it's full of apps

With the boat returned unsunk despite Bracken’s best Admiral Nelson impression, we retrieved the car and Bracken directed us along a series of gravel roads to the wooden cabin he was renting. It looked like a completely rustic affair from the outside, with a separate hut for the toilet and no running water, but a wire promised electricity. Bracken had not locked the door, being short on pockets and long on trust.

Inside was more modern, with worn but comfortable furniture, a small, but ample kitchen and bedroom space on an upper level. Bracken handed us beers from the fridge and invited us to make ourselves at home while he dressed for dinner.

“He doesn’t seemed concerned,” I commented.

“Nothing bothers Bracken much, that what makes him good at his job,” Egg said. “Well, nothing except his relationship with Huggy, and that’s always on and off.”

Bracken reappeared in well-worn jeans and a shirt that had seen better days. He had his phone clasped to his ear and was having a rapid conversation that kept veering into something that sounded like Russian. Egg led me outside when his brother started banging about in the kitchen.

Down at the lake shore we watched the water and sipped our beer. The part of me attuned to city life marvelled at the complete lack of traffic noise. Tree rustled, somewhere across the lake a duck gave a raucous laugh, a series of waves lapped gently on the shingle beach, but there was no man-made noise other than that we made ourselves.

“Does he know where your mum went?” I asked. “When you two speak to each other I don’t catch more than one word in three.”

“He’s checking with someone who might know where she went from Vladivostok, but she didn’t say anything to him other than saying she was going to spend some time with friends and family.” He responded.

“That’s a start,” I said.

“The sky should be clear tonight, I’ll see if i can get through to Aphelia,” he said.

I frowned, the phone signal was excellent, I had made use of it to reassure my parents that I was not being spirited away to be married into a cult. Just then Bracken called to say dinner was ready and I never got around to asking him what he meant.

Dinner was salmon,accompanied by sautéed mushrooms, a mashed root that I could not identify and a sweet berry sauce, it was all excellent. Bracken said he had caught the fish himself, although I saw no fishing equipment, and everything else was gathered from the forest. He admitted that the beer was shop-bought, as it was out of season this time of year.

Throughout the meal he asked me everything about myself, recanted tales of his time in Russia that all seemed to revolve around potatoes or vodka or often both and let slip a few stories about Egg. I asked him what he did in the family firm.

“Trouble-kneeing,” he said. “Its like trouble-shooting, but instead of going in all guns blazing, you creep up on trouble, tap it on the shoulder and then, when it turns around, you knee it in the knackers as hard as you can.”

“So, why do they call you Bracken?” I asked.

“Because that, my good lady, is what it says on my birth certificate,” he replied with a straight face.

“He’s named after where he was found,” Egg added. “Some negligent sasquatch parent abandoned him in the undergrowth.”

“How dare you besmirch my honour!” He cried in mock anger. “Actually, its where I was conceived. Of more interest is why we call my brother Egg.”

“And why is that?” We had briefly giggled over the names in each other’s passports at the airport.

“Because after three live births, our mother was fed up with pregnancies, so left him in a nest for Dad to sit on.” He replied.

After more beer Egg taught me how the Finnish use a sauna, although I was glad he suggested we use bathing costumes rather than leap naked into the lake. I was a little dubious but there was no showering facility. Emerging from the water I felt clean and relaxed, the sun was just touching the trees across the lake. As I redressed I checked my watch, I recalled setting it to local time, but it did not appear as late as it should have been.

Egg and I sat on the lake shore and watched the stars slowly come out of hiding above us. There was a hooting and hollering as something naked dashed from the sauna and plunged into the water, Egg shook his head slowly. The splash turned to a wake and then vanished from my view in the gentle ripples.

“There are many more stars here than at home,” I commented.

“No lights to scare them away,” he explained. “Perfect for calling Aphelia.”

He retrieved his phone from his pocket, but instead of making a call he thumbed open a star-gazing app and placed the phone on the ground. Gazing out over the lake I could almost believe the stars and their reflections formed two separate hemispheres of night sky, leaving us adrift, floating amongst the points of light. Egg stood, looking up and turning, as though looking for a particular star.

Some stars seemed so close and bright. I twisted my body, but could not see the trees and cabin behind me, just more stars, my change in viewpoint making them into new and different constellations. Something nagged me that they should not behave like that.

Egg put his hand on my shoulder and pointed out a shooting star, it seemed impossibly close. He took a half-step forwards and made a grab for it. Opening his hand, he showed me a little sparkling sphere about the size of a ball-bearing. I suddenly recalled the mushrooms Bracken had prepared for dinner.

Threading her way through the shining throng was a short woman in a summer dress, her curly hair cascaded down her back and she was barefoot. As far as I could tell she had just materialised out of the air, but then I was too mesmerised by the surrounding galaxy to be a credible witness.

“Egg,” she said, with a voice that seemed all sparkle and comets. “Unexpected and long distance. It’s Dad, isn’t it? His heart.”

“Yes,” he replied. “You knew?”

“We’ve always been very close, even when we are so far apart,” she answered.

“I’m looking for Mother,” he said. “Has she been in touch?”

“She called me from Baikonur three or four months ago, we argued as usual, you know what she thinks of my marriage.” She shook her head lightly and frowned. “After then, nothing.”

“This is Cass, by the way,” Egg said belatedly. I smiled and waved, wondering if there was some sort of protocol to be observed. She greeted me in return and went on to ask about Vesta, Egg reassured her, but I could not help feeling there was something between them they were avoiding discussing in front of me.

As they spoke Aphelia slowly became less distinct, her voice sounding like she was drifting away from us. She finished with a warning.

“Be careful, Egg, there’s something major brewing and they don’t always let the junior members of staff in on that stuff.”

“Something’s been screwing up forecasting recently, I was told it might be a storm of some kind,” Egg said. “Do you think this may have something to do with Dad?”

“I don’t know, I’m too far away to have a clear picture,” she replied. “You need to find Mother to get to the bottom of it. Be careful who you trust. Take care, Egg, give my love to Vesta.”

With that she was gone. Egg stood still for a moment and then bent down, retrieved his phone and put it back onto standby. I realised I could see the trees and the lake again; the stars were once again distant pinpricks of light, still beautiful, but not quite bursting with same amount of splendour.

“That’s enough star-gazing, I think,” Egg said. “Fancy a night-cap?”

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