KALP PUTS his shoes down on the tiled floor of the small foyer and dutifully says, "Honey, I have arrived." He looks down, fingers splayed, waiting for the small quadruped that ought to be greeting him. He is looking forward to the experience of petting a cat. He has been informed that his own fur is not dissimilar and he is intrigued.
"It's 'honey, I'm home,'" Basil corrects, pushing past Kalp. He kicks his shoes in the general direction of the hall closet and bundles himself — laptop case, BlackBerry, coat, file box, blueprint tube and all — up the stairs at the end of the hallway.
The trunk is still on the front step.
Gwen removes her shoes at a more sedate pace. "Why are you standing like that?" she asks, and the question is not spoken with the anger face or tone. She has the "curious" tone, her head cocked to the side in a way that indicates interest.
"Your cat," Kalp says. "I must stroke it before I enter your dwelling, must I not?"
Gwen smiles, one of those large, genuine flashes of small flat teeth that Kalp is beginning to associate with real pleasure, and laughs. Kalp straightens and tries to lean into the rippling sound without looking desperate for its touch.
Kalp loves Gwen's laugh. It is so good.
"We don't have a cat," Gwen says. "And you don't have to say 'honey, I'm home' every time you walk in the front door, either. That's another of those television stereotypes."
Kalp had learned about television stereotypes today while watching "Diff'rent Strokes" in the canteen at the Institute.
There is muted banging from upstairs, and by the vibrations that skitter down the walls and waft from the open air above the staircase, it feels as if Basil is pushing around furniture.
Kalp turns to head up the stairs, curious, but Gwen catches his elbow and leads him instead back to the front step. Together they move the trunk into the hallway beyond the entry, leaving it at the foot of the stairs where it will be easily accessible but not impede progress. Once that is finished, she walks him through a door with a rounded top, into the kitchen. Kalp pauses just outside it, staring at the photograph of Basil and Gwen standing before some large round mechanical contraption that has been built beside a wide river. Beyond the river, through the spindles of the wheel, is a stately building.
"What is this?" Kalp asks, tapping the glass that protects the photograph. "This machine."
"Hm?" Gwen pops her head back around the corner to see what he is referring to. "Oh, that's the Eye of London. It's a Ferris wheel. You, uh, see these pods? You pay for a ticket and you can go up and around and come back down."
"And what is the purpose of a Ferris wheel?"
Gwen shrugs. "For fun. To look. I like getting up in the sky, as close to the clouds as possible. Basil does it because he likes to look at the city all laid out like toys. He likes the shapes of the buildings and streets."
"When may I utilize the Eye of London?" Kalp asks. He is filled with hope that Gwen will say tonight, but knows it is a juvenile desire. They all have one more work day before the week-end, the two day rest holiday, and therefore they must be responsible and stay inside the domicile today and take appropriate rest.
Gwen considers his question. "How about we go into London on Saturday? Go up in the Eye, take you shopping, get 'proper fish and chips' for Basil?"
Saturday is not today. Today is Thursday. But Kalp keeps the disappointment hidden. He is lucky enough to be going at all, and he cheers himself with the thought that the anticipation will just make it more enjoyable.
YOU ARE READING
IN THE NEAR FUTURE, humankind has mastered the arts of peace, tolerance, and acceptance. At least, that's what we claim. But then they arrive. Aliens--the last of a dead race. Suffering culture shock of the worst kind, they must take refuge on a wo...