The Fiction of Philip Kaveny
By Philip E. Kaveny,
The Judge spoke,
“Boy! We is going to slow your ass down.”
Cal stood before the judge. He was six feet one and weighed 177 pounds. His muscles stood out under his flying suit, and even a week of debauchery, which he fondly recalled, could not dim the gleam in his sapphirine blue eyes.
Cal was not worrying because his mouth piece who stood next to him had winked to him indicating that the fix was in, the bribe had been paid and he would not even have to spend another night in jail. Within a few more hours he would be at the console of his starship and New Georgia would only be a dimming glimmer in his view screen.
Cal liked new Georgia and always came there on leave. He could have chosen the sophistication of New Paris, or the glamour of Nueva New York, perhaps the somber grandeur of New Moscow, but for him it was always New Georgia. It reminded him of a place his ancestors had left five generations before. When he was very young, his great grandfather had told him stories that his great grandfather had told him.
These were stories about bootleggers who had become stock car drivers, and finally test pilots and illegal distillers who had by accident discovered a fuel that had allowed humankind to escape the solar system. Somehow New Georgia touched that corner of his mind that was on that desolate and now destroyed planet that had been all their homes.
The Judge’s voice snapped Cal’s mind back to attention.
“Boy, do you realize the seriousness of the bill of charges that has been brought against you?”
Cal looked lazily at the judge. His boredom was showing through.
“First, you are charged with conduct regardless of life and property at the Peachtree center. You flew your hover craft at an altitude of four feet above the ground disrupting Brother Billy’s Prayer session.
Second, you flew to Sister Amy’s Bingo Parlor and disrupted a thousand faithful who were playing devotional Bingo.
Third, you went to Miss Lillian’s Ice Cream Parlor and said that you wanted to spend the night with the three best looking Heifers in the stable.
Fourth, when the deputies were called to restrain you, you did with malice of forethought maim, injure and abuse five members of the New Georgia Militia.
Boy you have been summarily found Guilty on all counts.
What do you have to say before sentence is pronounced?”
Cal looked towards his mouth piece but only found an empty space where Colonel Phylum Pham Phlapjack had stood. He suddenly realized that the fix was in all right.
The judge spoke again.
“Let me take this opportunity to educate you and to explain to you that reason that you are not simply hanging by your balls outside of my court house.
Since that last time you graced New Georgia with the presence of you worthless carcass there has been a revolution. New Georgia has been granted its independence as a sovereign state. What this means is that you and all the hot shots like you no longer have EXTRA TERRITORIAL RIGHTS. We can try you, we can sentence you and we can hang you because, sir, everyone in New Georgia is sick of you and your fellow fly boys bullshit.”
Cal thought about it: did this Rube mean business? What did he mean about Extra Territorial Rights? He had never bothered to think why all of the past fines and sentences had never been carried out. He had always taken his special status as a star freighter pilot as a matter of course. But now it had been taken away from him by a set of political circumstances which were beyond his comprehension.
Boy you are as fine a specimen of a human being as has ever come before this court. Look at you. Muscle like steel cables, the strength of three of my best deputies, and most annoying, a mind that races past any of ours.
Cal misread what the judge was going to say next. He expected the equivalent of having to say four “Our Fathers” and two “Hail Mary’s” and being told to ‘go and sin no more.’ The problem was the judge was a Baptist and an act of contrition meant nothing to him.
“Boy we is going to make an example of you. Tell me, boy, how much do you weigh at l G?”
Cal stood perplexed and then converted the 80.5 kilos he
Weighed at 1 G to 177 pounds and answered.
“177 pounds, what is to you, windbag?”
The judge smiled cruelly and said,
“You will not see sunlight on New Georgia again until you weigh 377 pounds”
Cal made a break for it but it was to no avail. The deputies were all over. He made a few of them pay for it, but finally they subdued him, and dragged him to his private cell at the detention center. His room was not spartan, it was 12 by 20 feet, not much smaller than the cabin on his ship.
Nothing happened for what seemed like forever.
Cal inspected the room and found that it contained a stool, a shower, a flat mirror (stainless steel), and a smooth wall that suddenly became an one l meter monitor on which appeared nothing but snow, which his sensation‑starved mind sought to make images. About then a picture of a woman snapped across it.
“Welcome to the New Georgia Center for Attitude Adjustment and Political Re‑education. It is all very simple, your sentence is as the Judge has passed on you. You will not see daylight again until the dial on the far wall above the steel plate says 377 lbs. You will notice two drawers. The one on your right has pills that will make you hungry. The other has a pill that will end your life. It makes no difference to us whether you go out waddling or feet first.
You will find that the food locker has been generously supplied with tasty and high calorie food: nuts, chocolate, cheese, ice cream, fried chicken etc. The rest is up to you.”
Then, abruptly, the screen went blank. Cal went to the drawer with the single poison pill and looked at it. He thought of images of darkness and unity and death. He thought of life as intrusion into the order and solemnity of the universe and then cursed whatever dark gods amused themselves with his fate. He held the pill to his lips, smelled the faint smell of almonds and then dashed the pill down the toilet along with the ones that were to give him appetite and started to chow down. At first he could only eat a pound of cheese and a cup of nuts at a time with a pint of ice cream for dessert.
When he did not eat he exercised just as he would of in the Zero G of a ships cab.
Weeks passed and he wondered if anything was happening. Then, while he was doing some movement, the supposedly indestructible fabric of the ass of his flight suit burst all the way around to the front of crotch. He now had nothing to wear as he sat nakedly on the floor and continued to eat his way to freedom. He continued his exercise but in a much more half‑ hearted manner.
More time passed as he seemed to lose all track of it. He kept his sanity by making pictures in his mind of the worlds he had visited. He thought of the water planet and soft skinned women, he dreamt of the ice planet and great ice schooners that could cut across a continent in a day. And, finally, he dreamed of the last burst of light from a star whose gravity was pulling it back in.
Then the Video screen clicked on and the same woman’s face appeared.
“Cover your nakedness. You look shameful”.
Lines appeared. An opening appeared in the wall, the door dilated and Cal saw the inside of a closet. It contained a size 60 double breasted suit, three pairs of underwear and socks, and a pair of size 13 EEE wing tips, which fit him perfectly, along with three white shirts and two bow ties. He tried it all on and it fit.
Cal walked to the steel plate stepped on it and the dial read 389 pounds. The door opened and Cal lumbered out into the sunlight which burned his eyes. He reached into his coat pocket and found a pair of black sun glasses.
Cal walked heavily down the main street of New Georgia heading towards the space port where his ship had been impounded along with his customized, single‑passenger hover car. A half day later, with burning, bleeding feet, he lumbered past the gate of the space port. Cal still had the dignity of a pilot and his credentials, but as he reached his ship and tried to enter he felt the door of the airlock cut into the side of his 56 inch waist. It was a cruel fact that there was no way that he would ever fit inside that ship again.
Next, he untethered and jumped into his hover car which did not hover, but crashed lifeless into the gravel. Cal pulled himself to his burning feet wishing he had the poison pill that he had so cavalierly thrown away.
Then his mind moved from self‑pity to revenge. He knew the layout of New Georgia, every pilot did. It barely covered 1000 square kilometers, protected as it was from the primordial smog of the rest of the planet by a geodesic dome which contained the envelope of nitrogen‑oxygen which supported 40,000 human souls. It would be easy to find a weak point and place a charge which would burst the envelope and allow him to watch as the population choked to death, along with himself.
In his mind he thought of what he would need: a barrel of fuel oil and some fertilizer. He could buy what he needed with the hundred dollars in gold that he had in his pocket.
Just then he heard a horn honk and turned to see a pickup with a rifle rack on the back of it.
The voice rang from the cab.
“You need a ride, fat boy? Which way you going?”
Cal saw the pleasant face of a male field worker stare out. He thought to himself:
“Why not. I can kill him, take the truck steal what I need and put an end to myself and this fucking place.”
The boy was about 21 and smiled with a toothless grin.
“Better hop in the back. I don’t think we can both fit in the cab.”
So Cal pulled open the chain that held open the tail gate and rolled. As he sat down the truck pulled away. In his mind he had made the bomb which would kill the colony. He was at least halfway there already, all he needed was fuel oil and fertilizer. New Georgia was the only human colony which kept a hydro‑carbon base transportation and energy system. Now he thought that stupid sentimentality would allow him to wipe them out. He allowed himself the entertainment of thinking that he could be one of the last to die so he could watch the others choke and freeze in the primordial soup. He was sure he could make some makeshift breathing apparatus which could keep him alive that necessary few minutes to make the others die.
Then abruptly he was planning how he could garrote the rube driving the truck.
“End of the line, fat boy, but you can buy me a beer if you got a dollar.”
Cal looked around as he pulled himself to his burning feet. He could barely walk as he got out of the half‑ton Ford pickup. They were in the parking lot of a small tavern. Cal followed him in, vowing he would kill him later.
This was a part of New Georgia he had never been in. It was old and dirty even after less than a hundred years. The buildings were of wood and tar paper, and besides a trough to piss in, some beer signs that were on the wall, and a one meter television screen on the wall, and the room was barren of furnishings.
The rube interrupted Cal’s train of thought right after he had dropped a silver dollar on the bar and had signaled for two beers.
“How’d you’ll get to be so fat anyway?”
Call thought of a slow way to kill him after they left the bar and then answered him honestly.
“I used to be a starship pilot until I pissed off a judge. He sentenced me to gain 200 pounds.”
The rube look at him incredulously and said,
“My ass you were. You were a pilot just like I have a celestial mechanics tool kit in the box of my pickup. If you ever sat in the pilot’s seat of a starship I will kiss your big red ass.”
Just then the video screen came on. Wrestling was as popular in New Georgia as it had been in its name sake. Cal tried to speak but the rube interrupted and ordered two more beers.
“Now shut the fuck up, the Duke and the Mongol are teaming up against The Gripper and Elvis for the tag team championship of New Georgia.”
Cal couldn’t believe what he saw. Four men as large as him standing in a 24 foot ring. He thought he had never seen men so big and ugly besides himself. The tag team match started and Cal was astounded by what he saw the huge men hit each other with: chairs, tennis rackets, spray each other with fire extinguishers and then finally jump on each other until two of them could not move and the other two were declared the winner.
The rube pounded the bar and slapped his knees and chortled.
“Hey, fly boy, you think you could do that for a living YUK, YUK, YUK?
Cal thought, “Now I really want to kill him but for now I just want to beat the shit out of him.” Cal still had sizeable strength which he had retained with his work‑outs in prison.
“Take that, you Cracker Shithead, and that, and that!”
Cal bumped him from one end of the bar to the other,
Literally mopping him across the floor until the rest of the patrons restrained him.
No real damage had been done to the rube and as they brushed him off, he said,
“YUK, YUK, YUK, YUK, nobody ever done the Mr. Weasel before! I never lost a fight before. Course you caught me off balance. Well, what you say you and I go down to the Omni and pick up a thousand on amateur night. They’ll pay a thousand bucks to anyone who can stay three minutes in the ring with the Mongol and the Gripper. What do you say the Weasel and the Fly Boy give it a try? I already had the shit beat out of me once, I might as well get paid for it. Right Fly Boy?”
Cal could not believe what he was hearing. A man that he was shortly going to kill was asking him to make a fool of himself before thousands of fools. This was not the fate of a starship pilot.
Then Mr. Weasel said,
“You look hungry big boy. Let me buy you dinner. Give my boy here four fried chickens and put it on my tab.”
“Make that four fried chickens, slaw, and fries, and some biscuits. And make it quick, asshole, before I mop the floor with you too.”
So they bought Cal dinner.
Professional wrestling had been quite the rage in the colony of New Georgia, and after the revolution it had become a mania. It took place at what was known as the Omni, which was in fact a giant big‑top tent that was used for wrestling on Saturday night and revivals on Sunday morning. Both drew several thousand spectators, but those in the know said that wrestling drew better. In addition, the matches were cablecast to every household in the recently proclaimed Republic of New Georgia.
The next day Cal and Mr. Weasel went to the Omni for amateur night. Cal was still wearing his size 60 suit and bow tie since they were all the clothes he had. Mr. Weasel was wearing a string tie and a Cowboy hat and was all dressed in black, including cowboy boots that made him seem two inches taller.
They came just in time to see the Mongol and the Gripper finish off the last of two unlucky contestants who were trying to last the time limit. One of the unlucky fellows was lying unconscious on the lip of the ring with a broken chair next to his head. The Gripper was blowing carbon dioxide from the fire extinguisher into the face of the last of the unfortunate amateurs that tried to claim the thousand. There was a kind of nattering silence as they hauled off the two challengers.
Then the announcer stepped to the center of the ring and waited as a long slender microphone slid down from the top of the tent into his waiting hands, and it was none other than Cal’s departed defense consul Colonel Phylum Phlymphlam Phlapjack.
The colonel pulled down the mike and spoke with a booming drawl:
“Unless, Ladieeees and Gentllllemen, we have any more fools in the audience, that will be the end of our show for the evening.”
Just then Mr. Weasel shouted from the back of the tent.
“Me and Flyboy here will take on your two piles of gator’s squat, and kick their ignorant, cracker asses into next Tuesday.”
The Gripper reacted like a great ape that had just had his favorite tire swing stolen. The Mongol, on the other hand, being a class act, simply turned around and bared his rosy red ischia calamities to the Flyboy and Mr. Weasel. As a matter of fact, both The Gripper and The Mongol resembled lowland apes in both body size and proportion although they lacked the heroic features of their terrestrial relatives.
The audience broke with laughter and applause as Mr. Weasel walked and Cal waddled down the aisle. Some of them held their sides as they passed. He made quite a spectacle in his now dirty and wrinkled black suit and cockeyed blue tie.
Cal concentrated as he walked angrily down the center aisle on burning feet. His rage burned with a cold blue light which had concentrated second by second for 18 months in the New Georgia attitude adjustment center.
Cal could not remember who he was or where he came from. His anger sprung from the depths of his tortured spirit, trapped as it was inside of a great sack of fat. Just as his mind flashed back to who he was and what he had lost, he tripped on the edge of the lip of the ring. As he dragged himself to his feet, he turned just in time to see Mr. Weasel lift up the tent flap and slip out into the parking lot.
The Mongol came charging at him with tennis racket in hand, but before he could raise it to strike him, Cal caught the Mongol’s right hand and pulled it back through his crotch and proceeded to pull him across the ring on his nose. Somehow the Mongol managed to tag the hand of his teammate who jumped over the top rope of the ring, wicker chair in hand. As Cal released the Mongol, who collapsed into a wrenching heap on the floor, the Gripper broke the wicker chair over Cal’s head. The chair caught on his shoulders.
Cal picked up the whiffle ball bat and ripped it across the shins of the Gripper who doubled up grasping his throbbing shins just long enough for Cal to bring the force of his doubled fist down on top of the Gripper’s bald sweating head.
The Mongol was back on his feet just long enough to take one last look at Cal, before he crawled out between the ropes of the ring. The Gripper was breathing but not moving.
The colonel climbed into the ring, signaled for the mike, and placed a clammy hand on Cal’s heaving chest.
“Ladieeees and Gentlemeeen, the new Tag Team Champeeeen of New Georgia, The Fly Booooooy.”
Cal took his thousand‑dollar bill and tried to form the image in his mind of a gossamer winged ice cruiser being propelled by 200‑mile‑an‑hour winds at supersonic speeds across the frozen surface of a continent of an ice planet. Cal wondered if he would ever see it again.