Fiction, Interrupted

(For my dear brother Mike, who will understand.)

All of Lekan’s hard work, years of careful maneuvering, negotiations, and endless planning, the people who were no longer with them, all of the many losses, hard-won victories, and battles fought to dispiriting draws had led to this moment. He surveyed the amassed battalions, peoples and species from all over the globe, both under his command and those who were not and sighed. What a waste. His second-in-command, long of frame, finest archer in the past hundred years, Abimbola, stood beside him and asked “Whatcha doin’?”

“What?”

“Readin’?” It’s Sammy, he of the department of marketing… I mean, Sammy from marketing. I’m pretty sure that his brain existed only to count calories and keep track of which muscle group he had worked last.

“Yes. I am reading.” I attempt to revisit Edkiri and find out what Abimbola wanted to ask. I’m only in the break room because if I sit at my desk, I feel compelled to work. Besides, every time I pick up a book, the phone rings or the computer tells me I have an email.

“Are you really enjoying that, Tansy?” He takes a bite of one of the bananas that he carries around with him. Because of Sammy, I know that bananas are high in potassium. I don’t know or care why that’s important.

“Yes.” Surely if I confine myself to one word answers he will get bored and go away.

“Why?” Apparently not.

I splutter. A variety of answers bounce through my brain, each less socially acceptable than the last. I settle for “Because it gives me pleasure?”

“Huh. Never liked reading. Boring.” He takes another bite of banana.

“I’m sure.” For Sammy, it probably is—very few fiction books concern themselves with sword swinging’s effect on the deltoids. I nod, smile, and dive back into Edkiri. The day began… no, that’s too early…fog drifts up…unable to sleep further…armies assembling…oh, yes…asked…

“Is it about vampires?”

“What?”

“Your book.” He gestures to it.

I look at the cover to reassure myself. “This is a dragon,” I pointed out.

“My sister reads those vampire books. The one where the vampires bite people?” Narrowing it down to all of them.

“Uh-huh. Well, this one doesn’t have any vampires. It’s epic fantasy.”

He grins broadly. “Oh, that kind of book. I like the internet for that. No readin.’ Just movies and pictures, you know.”

I shake my head. “It’s not about fantasies. It is a… Oh, never mind. It’s science fiction with magic.” I could feel millions of both science fiction and fantasy fans screaming at my definition, but it was the best I could do.

“Oh. I didn’t think chicks liked science fiction. Isn’t it too…hard for you to understand?”

With the right jury, I wouldn’t be convicted. I could be lauded, in fact. But unless they were going to start empaneling from cons, I would be going to prison for a long time for killing Sammy. “Not that I noticed. Now if I could just…”

“What’s it about?”

I sigh. There isn’t a chance I’m going to get out of this. I will have to have my lunch break in my car from now on. “This is book eleven, the last in the series which took the author twenty years to write. I’ve read each one many times and have been looking forward to this book for years, the climax…” I can see his face and change what I’m saying to “conclusion of the series. It’s about Lekan and his best friend, Ambimola, who have been trying to defeat the great evil that had been infesting their lands for years. They are about to meet the enemy in the fields of battle.”

“Oh. Is there any bangin’?”

“Not so far. They’ve been busy fending off the malevolence of Ibi.”

“Huh. And you’ve read eleven of these?”

“Almost eleven.” I could be ten more pages in, if Sammy had decided to go for a walk for lunch. If I had the power of Ibi, I wouldn’t waste it on oppressing the people. I’d make it so that people who interrupted reading for anything less than a fire or a lottery win would be poofed out of existence.

“Are all of the books that thick?”

“Pretty much.”

“You could hurt someone with a book that thick, ya know.” I am certainly tempted to.

“Now, if you’ll excuse me…”

“You know what you coulda done instead?”

“What?!?”

“If you weren’t wastin’ your time with that stuff. You coulda trained for a marathon or gotten really cut.” He nods. “Taken a lotta work, but…”

I stare at him. “I don’t want to get ‘cut’ or run a marathon. That sounds awful. I like to read. It makes me happy.” I feel like I am explaining this to a five year old. “If I wanted to exercise more, I would certainly be capable of doing so. Please let me read my book. Please.”

“Chicks are weird,” Sammy says before he leaves. I look at my watch. Fifteen minutes left of my lunch break. I can probably get to the end of the chapter. Certainly, I can find out, finally, what Abimbola wanted to ask.

… Abimbola, stood beside him and asked “Do you think it will be worth it? Once we free them from Ibi’s reign, do you think they will appreciate their independence, their liberty? Fight against the next malignancy that arises?”

Lekan surveyed the land scarred by encampments, smoke from a thousand fires rising over the nervous hubbub of beings about to war, knowing that the chances of their individual survival in such an epic battle were small. He took a deep breath and replied “Yeah, Tansy’s right in here. Readin’. She’s in a bad mood, but we can cheer her up, no problem, the both of us.”

You’d think all those hours of activity would have improved Sammy’s reaction time, and he could have ducked when the book flew at him, on a trajectory Abimbola would have approved of.

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