Monday, 29 July 2013

'I Was Really Going Places You Know' - The Lament of Tuy

Tuy is one of the important female characters in The Aten Sequence Books, efficiently looking after the practical side of Aten's life at the villa, while at the same time being a sarcastic thorn in his side.  But she too has her story and her dreams, and being stuck on Earth with Aten had very definitely never been part of her plans.

Deir el Bahri

‘I was really going places you know,’ Tuy gulped, as two fat teardrops formed in the corner of her eyes and slowly tracked their way down her flushed cheeks.

‘I had plans, I had dreams, I was really going places.  And now look at me?  Stuck here in this hot, dusty hellhole that doesn’t even have a proper power supply.’

The guard cat broke off from his morning ablutions to fix her with his enigmatic feline stare.

‘Don’t look at me like that.  It’s not my fault that the only thing I’ve got to talk to is a cat.  At least you don’t answer back, which is more than I can say for some of them round here.’

Tuy flung the onions she had been peeling into the bowl with unnecessary vigour and turned around to fetch the goose that was hanging on the wall behind her.

‘And don’t think that I don’t know what you are up to?  If you put so much as one paw on this goose carcass, you’ll be going into the pot with it.  Don’t think I don’t know where that stuffed carp went last week.’

The guard cat looked mildly offended at this insinuation and returned to lovingly licking his front leg.

‘See, even you don’t take me seriously,’ Tuy wailed, as fresh tears started tumbling down her face.

‘But you don’t know; none of you know. I was really going someplace, someplace special.  I was the only one out of my clutch to even make it external processing and do you know how many get through and are given an exit permit? Only 2%!  I was in the top 2% of my clutch and look at me now?  A single mother stuck on a backward planet I don’t even know the name of.  Motherhood was never what I wanted, especially not at my age. And what am I going to do with him? There aren’t any opportunities for a young Galasian here and it’s no life for him stuck in that shed all day.’

The guard cat switched to cleaning his other front leg without even looking up to acknowledge Tuy’s distress.

‘He needs to be out in the fresh air, running and playing with the other youngsters. Not shunned for being different and locked away as if he were a monster.’

These words did cause the guard cat to temporarily interrupt his washing and look up at Tuy with an air of disbelief.  His sensitive nose could detect the rank odour of Piy locked up in his shed, even this far away in the kitchen, despite the strong tang of onions that was in the air and the gamey scent of a goose that had been hanging for a long time.

‘And it wasn’t just the exit permit I got.  I was one of only seven hundred and twenty females to be admitted into the Galactic Cocktail Shaking School on Mildorium 27.  Can you even begin to imagine what an achievement that was?’

The guard cat yawned delicately and turned around to lick his nether regions.  When would the tedious woman shut up?  At this rate she would never turn her back, so he could get at that goose.  She might think she had a hard life down here, but really she had no clue as to what he had to go through just to get the odd mouthful of food occasionally.  And cocktails? Really? She would have been better off going to a good mousing academy, though god knows how many small rodents she would have to kill every day to keep that malodorous turnling of hers fed.

Medinet Habu

‘It’s bad enough that you ignore me when I’m trying to talk to you, but do you have to wash your private parts on my kitchen table?” she asked him irritably.  ‘And how come you can’t talk like those royal cats can?’

If the guard cat had eyebrows he would have raised them in disbelief. Why on earth did the woman think he would talk to her? Having to listen to her rants as he was waiting for food was bad enough.

‘I was great at the cocktail shaking school; one of their fastest learners ever.  By the time I graduated I could mix over fifteen hundred cocktails from fourteen different planetary systems.  And did you know that I was one of only eight thousand graduates ever licensed to use slieppel juice from Grandorminian 75?  That stuff can fell a Lotkair Sloth with just two drops.  I had my pick of jobs.  I really thought that bar in the mining belt was going to be the first step in a glittering career.  It was just oozing with rich miners and droids, all with plenty of cash in their pockets and out for a good time.  The tips were fabulous.  Did I tell you the story of the night that tulsphate miner dropped a 560 carat diamond in my cleavage?

The cat elegantly stretched and then curled up into a ball of mackerel striped fur.  Was the woman going to rant all night?  What he really wanted was to have a quick nap, but he could almost guarantee that as soon as his eyes were closed that goose would be put in the baking pot and he would have lost his chance. But it couldn’t hurt to let the woman think he was asleep.

He could hear that Tuy had started plucking the large bird.  Time was running out and, in the mood she was in, he wasn’t sure he wanted to be around when she started to chop it up with her cleaver.

‘You can ignore me if you want, but I’ve still got my story.  That tulsphate miner loved me you know.  Said he’d take me on his next prospecting trip and buy me anything I wanted. Oh why did Aten have to come into my bar that night?  There were seventy five others on that strip. I mean it’s not like I ever fancied him or anything, but I’d never met one of the immortal ones before.  It’s not often a girl gets a chance to party with a member of the First Families.  He offered to show me his space ship and the next thing you know we’ve run out of fuel in the middle of nowhere. ‘

The guard cat curled up even tighter in the hope the woman would take the hint and stop talking.  Tuy, however, was just getting into her stride.

‘I mean how does one of the immortal ones do something that stupid?  They’re supposed to be role models for us, right? People we can look up to, not incompetent idiots who run out of fuel and then don’t know how to fix the problem.  If I’d known that I was going to be stuck sweeping and cooking in a scratchy linen robe and too much eye make-up I would have just stayed on the home planet.  I could have raised several clutches by now, not just one turnling.’

The guard cat could feel himself gradually dozing off.  His was so sleepy he felt like his head had been stuffed with cotton wool.  The woman’s voice now just sounded like a constant drone in his head and she wasn’t showing any signs of stopping any time soon.  If he wanted that goose he would have to do something drastic.

There was only one thing he could think of that was guaranteed to get her out of the kitchen in a hurry, leaving his coveted prize unattended.  So he slowly reached out his mind, probing until he found the wooden door of the shed Piy was locked in.  He could sense the Galasian turnling impotently hammering at the rough wooden slats trying to get out, so he pulsed some energy into the stout piece of rope that was holding the door closed.  After a few seconds it ignited in a blaze of hot, blue flames that rapidly burned through the rope. The next time Piy’s fist hit the door it swung abruptly open.

Any time now thought the guard cat smugly, as he started counting down from ten.  Ten, nine, eight, seven ....... Suddenly, a loud female scream, followed by the guttural roar of a Galasian turnling shattered the late afternoon silence that had been hanging over the villa.  More screaming and the sound of running feet followed.

Tuy, her tearful rant rudely interrupted by the commotion, angrily slammed the half-plucked goose back down on the table in a cloud of grey and white feathers.

‘Not again,’ she screamed. ‘How did he get out this time?  And why are those stupid girls screaming, it’s not like he’s anything to be scared of. I suppose I’m going to have to go and sort it out.  Not like anyone else is going to.’

She quickly wiped her hands clean on the scrap of linen she used as a towel and ran out of the room in the direction of the screaming.

The guard cat waited until he could hear her footsteps pounding down the verandah, before he lifted his head and looked at where the goose was now lying on the kitchen table.

These humans think they are so clever, he thought as he dragged the large bird off the table and out into the courtyard.  Now he could have his dinner in peace in his special hiding place behind the dung heap, have another leisurely wash and a good long sleep.

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