A moralist conclusion to a space going romantic tragedy and the treachery of life.
|We resume the narrative with the accidental survival of our hero Christian Roy, who is now receiving first aid from a Bonnark. The story is mostly about Swope who in her search for love, romance and child rearing goes to an outrageous…Oh just read it.
“I’m so sorry!” she cried as she smeared antiseptic over the puncture wounds in his back. “We should take you to a veterinarian or something! You might need stitches.”
“No that’s okay,” Roy winced as she applied bandages.
“I guess you don’t like me now! Oh, crap! Can I screw up tail wagging or what?” she began to cry, as the tip of her tail curled into a knot. “I guess I should just throw the minced larva away and go home!”
“No, no,” Roy replied soothingly. His conscience stepped up to the plate, did a moral one eighty, and smacked him. “We should just go slower that’s all.”
She stopped and looked up. “You’re not giving up?”
“No…I think you’re a sweet girl…sweet Bonnark…” he replied. “It’s just that it’s been a long time for me and well….You is a Bonnark. You’re different from Deerwood…” he stopped himself there. “Everything is different from Deerwood…We need to slow it down.”
“You wouldn’t mind having a Bonnark? I mean…” she began to stutter and her tail uncurled. “We make cheesy taco?”
“Shut up and kiss me you fool,” Roy laid on the charm. She didn’t taste like a woman, he came up lacking in vocabulary to describe it, other than he enjoyed it. As for Swope, she realized she didn’t know anything about human males but enjoyed finding out about this one. Both knew they found something in the other, neither sure what it was but it was worth looking for.
What they didn’t know is across the lake on the other beach by the estuary were two more Bonnark. Both watched the interaction between Christian Roy and Swope through binoculars.
“My god! Sister do you see that!” the larger fleshier of the two gaped.
“Yes sister I do!” her sister stuttered in shock. “That’s Edo’s daughter! Somebody should tell her!”
“Yes somebody should!” the older and larger replied aghast. “The tail wagging!”
“That’s not his tail sister!” the younger gaped and temporarily lowered her binoculars. “I came here to watch birds not to see smut! I know she was raised better than to be a grab bag!”
“So, your full name is Christian Roy?” Swope asked him as she smeared Icy Hot on his ankle. Both agreed to keep their hands off each other, well his hands off her and her paws off him once they fell off the picnic bench and he sprained his ankle.
“Sure is…” he replied grateful they really didn’t get past foreplay. Actual sex might kill him. “You know you’re really prepared for everything…”
“I read books,” she shrugged. “Makes up for a bad social life.”
“Bad social life?” Roy chirped. “Fun girl like you?”
“That’s why I want a human,” she reminded herself. “He doesn’t know I’m ugly and a klutz.” She then said, “People think I’m a cheap tail wager because I work at the Golden Plume…Sort of makes things difficult.”
“Everybody has to do something,” Roy shrugged.
“Well you take what you can get. Why’d you join the Navy?” she smiled and wiped her hands off. “Seems to me military service is for those lacking in ambition. Traveling the universal divide with particle cannons and vaporizing pirates anyone can do that.”
“Nothing else I can do,” he shrugged. “No family…No education. The Navy is teaching me to be a pilot and I can fly for mining companies as a surveyor afterward. It was either that or work myself to death in a shipyard like my grandfather did…I want better.”
“No family? No mother? Father?” she seemed surprised. It didn’t conform to the image of him she had in her head. She began to realize that she lived in books, and that wasn’t all good. She also saw in him qualities she liked.
“My father I never knew…He was lost in space right after I was born. Mother? She passed away when I was eight. I grew up with my grandparents…” he shrugged. “Had its points. You?”
“Mother, father,” she smiled. “Intact family…I think maybe a sister or a brother…” she slipped.
“You think?” Roy chuckled.
“Mom’s tail is feathering with plume, golden fuzz on the edges,” she answered and realized he probably didn’t know much about Bonnark. “It’s a pregnancy indicator.”
“How old are you?” Roy shot back in a panic. He saw himself going to jail.
“In people years or Bonnarkian years?”
“Yes,” he glared at her like a wounded puppy.
“I’m thirteen in Bonnarkian years…” she smiled. Then she made a joke. “Young stuff!”
Christian Roy did some fast math in his head. “That’s nineteen in human years…Or so.”
“Twenty-two, in human years” he laughed. “You live around here?”
“Back in town,” she answered. “You come from earth or another planet?”
“I’m ethnically Lunarian…From earth’s moon. Grew up there with the grandparents…”
“Are they still alive?”
“Not for a couple of years…” he answered her and played with her pointy ears. Her tail began to wag.
“So how long do you have here?” she smiled, making more plans in her head.
“A week,” he answered.
“Not much time to really get to know each other,” she answered. “In human terms anyhow…”
“We’ll figure it out,” he smiled and made her tail wiggled.
She smiled back, kissed him and then tripped over him as she tried feeding him the berry jelly mold
“So where is he now?” her father, Roo glared disapproving at his daughter. They sat in the living room with her mother in the kitchen clanging about. She tried to look sweet and innocent but couldn’t pull it off.
“On his ship,” she replied. “He only had a week here…”
“And you let him grab your pouch like a cheap tail wager?” he glowered at her accusingly. He did it not to make her feel bad, but as to give her a sense of shame, not to be cruel.
“It’s my pouch!” she sputtered.
“It’s your pouch! It’s The Cradle of Life! The Devine Inspiration gave it to you so you could carry on the meaning of the name Bonnark!”
“And I want more than this!” she yelled. “I want more than a Bonnark that wants just what his supervisor gives him! More than a fifty-hour workweek on an assembly line! I want to see places! Carry my kit through the Emerald Forest of West Heaven so they want more!”
“Spoken like a human,” he dejectedly replied. “It’s okay to want more, but not more for the sake of it! That’s what the human problem is. Not that they want more, but that they leap before they look. It’s not the way of the Bonnark.”
“Bonnark smarnnark!” she yelped. “Get to know him! He’s really a shy timid man once you get past the lack of body hair and his humanity!”
“I know what Lorenzo the geologist says…”
“Lorenzo…He’s the quality control engineer at the plant. When I heard you were being a grab bag for a human I talked to him. This…”
“This Christian Roy,” Roo went on. “He’s a sailor. He’s a human sailor…He’ll have a pouch or whatever human girls have at every port…Which I suppose is a lot like what your mother has but in different places…” Roo thought about that for a moment and then went on. “You won’t be special to him. You can’t make him love you by having sex with him and you won’t keep him with a kit. Human males don’t work like Bonnark. It’s the way the Devine Inspiration made them to be.”
“Give him a chance!” Swope jumped to her feet and stood on her hind legs. “He’s…I know he’s a decent person. Yeah! He’s not a Bonnark but he’s not an animal either! No more than we are…Besides he doesn’t…”
“Doesn’t what?” her dad stared through her. He knew his daughter and knew what she was going to say before the conversation started.
“He doesn’t know I’m ugly,” she said quietly.
“You’re not ugly! Where did you get that idea?” Roo emphatically pleaded. He was angry that his daughter had such low self-esteem; he tried to raise her better than that.
“My tail’s too short and my pouch is too large,” she began to tear up a little. “I know you’re going to tell me it’s not but it is…I’m ugly with a loose pouch…Human’s don’t know what pretty is for Bonnark.”
“The Devine Inspiration doesn’t make junk…You’re not ugly!” he barked and tried to tone down. “If you want to travel, you can! Be a geologist like Lorenzo…Go to a human school and learn from the good they bring.” He then thought about it. “If you still want to be this Christian Roy’s house Bonnark that’s fine too. The Devine Inspiration made them in her image also, but what I’m saying is this if you do pair bond with that man, do it because you want him for him, not because you’re lonely and want a warm paw up you. Not because you want from life things that aren’t for you, or because you’re too lazy to work for those things, but because this Christian Roy is like no other Bonnark…Man…In the universe.”
She sat down and contemplated what her father said.
“Now that this issue is settled,” he went on in his normal manner. “You’re cousin Darll is home on leave. He’s coming over with your Aunt Barballoopsie and Uncle Karf…He’s back from special training on earth with the Bonnark Defense Force. He can tell you all about humans…Ignore your Aunty Barballoopsie...She’s a little off. Set the neighbor girl up with a human named Edwin. I’d like to know how they get their names…Edwin…Sounds like a stomach disorder.”
“A little off? She’s an artist, she supposed to be more than a little off…” Swope replied. She then thought about it. “Hey what’s this about her setting that neighbor girl of hers up with this human named Edwin?”
“Ask Chris they might know each other…Frankly I can’t tell them apart. Seen one human seen them all…Just because for me they do all look alike! How do you tell them apart?”
“They look different once you’re around them enough,” Swope shrugged. “As far as Chris knowing Edwin…Unlikely, there are thousands of them passing through here every month and billions of them in the universe. I mean what are the odds of Aunty Barballoopsie fixing a Bonnark up with someone Chris would know?”
“Good point,” Roo agreed as he mulled it over.
“Why’d she do it anyhow?”
“His mother was my sister, the one I don’t talk about. See? It runs in the family,” Roo replied with a casual dismissal. “So my sisters talked it over and figured he’d be a good match for this girl. Oh, her name’s Enaj, you know her! Her left leg is shorter than her right by a few smecks…Needs custom shoes or she walks on a slant.”
“Oh,” Swope gasped, stunned at the admission of the big family secret. She then decided to raid the refrigerator for larva. “Is mom procreating? Her tail is pluming and I’m wondering if I’m getting a sibling…”
“It’s either that or cold flashes,” he shrugged. “We’re waiting on the Beetle Test.”
“Well what do you want?” she yelled from the kitchen.
“What ever I get!”
“Spoken like a Bonnark!” she laughed.
The house phone rang and her mom answered it. After a minute, she hung it up and yelled into the living room. “Roo! The beetle died! You’re a father again!”
“Yes!” Roo yelled enthusiastically but didn’t get up off his chair. “I’d jump around like I did with Swope but I’m too old for that!”
“Too old for that!” Swope stormed into the living room with larva dripping from her mouth. “When this kids out of the pouch I’ll be sixteen! Bonnark will think I’m a single mother! And you’re worried about me looking like a grab bag!”
“Screw’em if they can’t take a joke,” Roo shrugged.
“Well if I get sympathetic lactation it’s your fault!” she snarled as her tail leveled out.
“Great practice huh?” Roo retorted.
After dinner, Roo, his brother in law Karf and Darll stood in the kitchen amongst the leftovers drinking fermented Og Leaf and generally socializing. The female Bonnark chattered up a storm in the living room over the impending new arrival. Plenty of tail wagging and pouch talk.
“So how was earth?” Roo asked Darll as he dropped three green Og Leafs into a fancy glass of liquor.
“Different,” he replied. “At least the part I was on. They do have deserts like Bonnarkia but also arctic wastelands…So cold that it doesn’t rain but snows…”
“Snow?” Roo asked sipping the Og Leaf.
“Snow…” Darll searched his mind for a description. “Solid water. When it gets so cold in the upper atmosphere the rain condenses into flakes and that’s snow. When it freezes on the ground that’s called ice…”
“He says they have a dozen different words for it…” Karf his father interjected.
“Like we do for sand…” Darll went on. “Blizzard, lake effect snow, snow storm, snow fall, dusting, glacial ice, ice berg, frozen over…Means different things for them, but for me it means freezing my tail off…” He then laughed. “They have the same phrase…Freezing your tail off but for them it’s even funnier. They never had tails to freeze off to begin with but they have that phrase!”
“Weird bunch huh?” Karf giggled.
Roo laughed, he then asked Darll if he ever had a human female.
“Yeah, once…” Darll shrugged. He then repeated lines from the Book of Truths, “When in the mountains with Mountain Bonnark, do as the Mountain Bonnark do.”
“You jumped the species barrier?” Karf chocked.
“She’s a sweet girl,” Darll looked back astonished. He then remembered where he was standing. He then produced a wallet and showed them her hologram. “We we’re lonely and we met at a slop chute…”
“Okay,” Roo shrugged as he looked at her hologram. “I don’t see the attraction.”
“Are you two going to pair bond?” Karf paled.
“It’s different for them. They have a conscious choice in it…More than we do.”
“I thought they had the same emotions as we do…” Roo questioned and handed the hologram to Karf. He thought she had a face only her mother could love.
“They prioritize differently…It has to do with their basic environment. When they lived as we did seventy-five years ago…Out in the wild, but for them it was about six thousand Bonnarkian years ago, earth was a hostile place. Did you know in their primitive times, they were a food source for wild animals?”
“No kidding?” Karf, his father interjected, quite surprised.
“No kidding…” Darll looked back. “Seriously. They keep the animals in cages that eat them like groceries at a place called a zoo. Tigers, lions, and bears, a whole slew of animals that eat people. So if they bonded as we do, they were at a disadvantage…Your mate is eaten by a tiger what then? You’re either going to pair bond with another or die lonely. That’s why I think they want everything fast, and why they take without asking…They know they're on somebody’s menu.”
“Ever go to a zoo?” Karf asked him not really believing what his son told him.
“It was part of a tour in a place called Pittsburgh,” he shrugged. “They had a lion there that I really think could eat a person easily. Big teeth and claws!”
“Bet they made the lion sick,” Karf laughed.
“That’s really out there…” Roo said thoughtfully. “Cold with hard water and man eating animals…Not Bonnarkia for sure.”
“Makes you grateful to be us don’t it?” Karf told him. “The Devine Inspiration has a sense of humor huh?”
“Yeah she does,” Roo agreed. “So about this human female…You say she let you have pouch and it was just for entertainment?”
“Not quite...” Darll answered thoughtfully. “It’s a temporary bonding. The circumstances we were in wouldn’t let us stay together and humans need to be held like that or they get weird.”
“So what’s it like? I hear it goes sideways…” Roo asked his nephew and moved his hand laterally in the air.
Darll chuckled. “You just have to get use to them having nipples on their chests. Sally-Mae was a sweet girl, just lonely. Well, so was I and she was in season…”
“Uh what would you have to say if Swope, your cousin had a human?”
“Blast’n!” Darll chirped. “If she meets the right one he’ll be with her for life! Assuming he doesn’t go off and get his head shot off…I assume he’s a sailor?”
“Yes, you been around them and I was wondering. I work with a few at the plant…”
“They work on a different time table than us,” Darll went on. “As I said, for them it’s more choice, less instinct. The opposite of Bonnark. I have noted it is easier for the human male to bond with Bonnark than the human female. They expect more animal stupid from their males than they get from us a rule. It’s about expectations…”
Before anyone could say or ask anything else, Darll’s pocket phone rang. He stuck it to his ear and listened. He paled slightly before returning it into his pocket.
“That was Charge of Quarters at the base,” he exhaled and looked nervous. “They cancelled all passes and leaves…They said the Martians declared independence.”
“Barballoopsie,” Karf yelled as he walked into the living room. “Turn on Inter-Space News…Your son just was activated!”
“What happened?” Roo asked his nephew. “I haven’t been following interplanetary events…Generally don’t.”
“The Martians want independence from the United Planetary Confederacy…Something over self-determination and taxation with representation, freedom of religion. Things we take for granted and as normal. This is how humans survive by taking what isn’t theirs to take…It’s their nature,” he exhaled and put on his saucer cap.
“Look good in the uniform,” Roo said.
“Responsibility before disgrace,” he replied. “Status of Forces Agreement. They support us in peace, we support them in organize slaughter.”’
“Hey thanks for the kimono,” Swope told Chris as she posed for him in front of the video camera. He sent her a laptop computer and via real time chat, they conducted a long-term relationship.
“Sorry about the shoes, nobody makes dumbbell shaped slippers yet,” Chris laughed.
“Big feet what can you do!” she chirped. She held a bare dumbbell shaped foot up to the screen.
“What happened to the tail? Out of season early this quarter?”
“It’s the stress you’ve been putting me through!” she accused him.
“Just how am I doing that?”
“You’re floating around Mars waiting for this insurrection thing to settle down and I’m worried sick…”
“I’m worried enough for both of us,” he reassured her. He did it with such confidence she almost forgot he wasn’t a Bonnark. “Don’t worry…I’ll be back on Bonnarkia before your next cycle starts…And I’ll be a free man.”
“Then can we mate and marry…In that order!” she giggled. She then picked up her detached tail and waived it at him. “Saving it for you and only you!”
“You better or I’ll just have to forgive you,” he laughed. “Thanks for the hologram…I had it copied and stuck that to the instrument dash on my PB-80 Tiger Shark…”
“You know I wished you’d get away from the combat arms bit.”
“Looks good on a resume,” he told her. “Good plane.”
“Well don’t get yourself killed,” she admonished him.
“Hey I got every reason to stick around,” he told her and kissed the camera. “I swoped a Bonnark.”
In the evening, two days later, Swope’s dreams and world died. Two Navy men, both human, arrived at her residence. They sadly informed her that her betrothed, Lt. Christian Roy, didn’t return from his first and only combat mission. They delivered the remainder of his worldly possessions, two sea bags and a chest to her, as there wasn’t a body to recover.
Once they left, she passed out on the living room floor.
She spent the next week in bed, refusing to eat or drink. Her life ended there in a very real and profound manner. The fifteen-minute war on Mars, fifty-two light years away, it killed her too. Eventually, after much consoling from family and friends, she slowly resumed her life.
She quit working at the Golden Plume and listlessly took one job after another. She avoided males, both Bonnark and human. She always wore the ‘Diloo’ a plain cloth sack over her tail, a symbol of mourning when she went into season. Eventually, she became Sister I Bonnark, and entered a nunnery overlooking the Valley of Shadows Past.
Eight months after Swope entered the nunnery, broken hearted; her Christian Roy recovered from his coma. At first, he had no memory of anything, not even himself. It took him time to recover, and a year after that he stood in the infirmary on Io and adjusted his uniform for the last time. As he looked in the mirror, he remembered what he did.
He remembered nuking an industrial facility.
He remembered being shot down on the way out.
He knew he aced a half a million human beings and that killed him. He couldn’t justify his actions to himself morally. As he rummaged through the final paper work and reviewed it for accuracy, the war killed again.
He remembered Swope the Bonnark.
They told him his head injury would do that. That his memory and his life would come back to him in pieces, a bit there and a bit here. It might take years, it might never happen. A very important piece just knifed him. The worst part was he couldn’t feel much, that piece wasn’t there yet. From what he read, when he was shot down, his bio-transponder stopped working and they assumed he was dead, not they exactly, the automated program in Personnel Accounts.
When the transponder ceased to work, a sub-routine went into action, and that meant Swope thought he was dead. His insurance went to her, his belongings, his last will and testament bequeathed unto her. All because of an automated computerized sub-routine, somebody overlooked.
He looked in the mirror and a crippled murderer looked back.
“She deserves better than me,” he thought.
He decided to let her go, for he truly loved her. In that decision, he made a fatal error in judgment.
He forgot she was a Bonnark.
He moved on with his life as it were. Drifting aimlessly for years, he eventually acquired gainful employment with Luna Deep Space Incorporated as a pilot. He never returned to Bonnarkia. He too, earned his destiny, lost in space, lost in time.
Swope leaning on her crutch walked the long trail in the Valley of Shadows Past, she slowly and methodically climbed to her sanctuary were a statue and monument to Christian Roy stood. The life size monument, beaten by time aged into the living rock they carved it. She sat on a stone bench carved from the mountain before it and placed what she assumed to be her last tail at its base. There were many, many dried and old tails there.
She looked at his statue and remembered him with affection.
“Aunty Swope! Aunty Swope!” a child’s voice called out.
She looked over to her right and smiled warmly as her two great-nieces ran up the trail. They dressed more in human fashion, by upbringing, than she ever did by choice. One played with a human baby doll.
“What brings my favorite girls here? This place is for old dead Bonnark.”
“Dad wants you to come and stay with us, at least for the Holy Days…” the oldest chirped. “He sent us to bring you home where you belong!”
“This is my home…” she nodded toward her monument.
“He lives in your heart of hearts…” the youngest said. “You still love him?”
“I always love him,” she smiled sadly.
“We love you too,” the oldest said and hugged her. “Come home!”
“In a moment I have to say good bye, again” she with a quiet sad smile and expertly held back a tear.
“Why? He lives in your heart of hearts…Always!” the oldest reminded her. “That’s what Bonnark means…devoted love!”
In the fullness of time, Swope also passed away. As The Rite of Passage commemorated her, as the flames consumed her tails and smutted the monument to her only love in this world, the Devine Inspiration took note. In the celestial realm of her ancestors, she found the excellence of wholeness denied her by a trifling quest for a tear lost among raindrops.