Readership looked pretty good last week. That’s encouraging.
Today, we get the second part of the story about Alice determined to land a hunky, handsome guy with the dodgy name of Fidelis Proctor Greenhouse. As Alice noted last week, the name might sound like a gaseous old windbag, but the physical being sure didn’t look the part. We begin as F. P. picks her up at her dorm for a night trip to a remote spot where light pollution isn’t bad. She’s baited him with a false interest in astronomy.
|Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons|
FIDELIS (Part 2)
F. P. sat looking relaxed in an overstuffed chair when I came downstairs at five-thirty sharp. He was as delicious as ever in canvas trousers with zipped and buttoned pockets everywhere but on his fly.He promptly sent me back upstairs for a heavier coat, gloves, and a stretch cap that would cover my ears.
His vehicle was a Jeep with bucket seats, so that put an end to my hope of snuggling on the drive. He monopolized the trip west on I-25 and south on State Road 14 by explaining that local astronomy clubs used the area where we were heading to watch meteor showers because the hills blocked most of the ambient light from the city.
“The best ones are the Perseids,” he said. “That’s the most popular shower because it appears in August of each year when the weather is nice. It produces a rate of 50 to 75 shower members per hour at the maximum.”
“Shower members? You mean shooting stars?”
“Actually, they’re particles released from a comet called 109P/Swift-Tuttle when it returns to the inner solar system. They’re called Perseids because they originate from the area of the sky near the constellation of Perseus.”
“So no shooting stars.”
“None of them are stars. If stars took off like meteors, it would create a helluva calamity. These are just small chunks of rock and ice that comets shed during travel.”
“The Geminids are usually the strongest meteor showers of the year. And the most colorful. They come in December, usually starting before midnight. They’re cool.”
“I’d wager they’re cold.” My pitiful attempt at humor was lost on him.
The light was fading fast—along with my enthusiasm for the project—by the time we reached the parking area. After that, I followed him through the gathering gloom up hill after hill, through one grove of trees and across another meadow until he finally reached his destination, a large meadow rapidly becoming as dark as the closet back home where I used to lock my little brother.
By the aid of his flashlight—and the one he’d given me to light my way—we found a log to sit down on. About time. I was ready for a rest. And the log was perfect for snuggling.
My mistake. Instead of cuddling, I got a lecture on the Usids, the Orionids, the Lyrids, and a whole host of meteor showers. Apparently, they arrived on an established schedule to titillate astronomers and send them running to the darkest spots they can find.
Once he ground down on that subject, I gave him a little prompt to get him to put his arm around my shoulders.
He jumped to his feet. “Let’s move around some. That’ll warm you up.” Then he took out a light laser and flashed it into the sky. It seemed to reach all the way to the stars. He moved it to point out the five stars making up the constellation called Cassiopeia.
I snorted through my nose. “Doesn’t look like a beautiful queen. Looks like a big stretched out M.”
“During the winter. But later in the year, it’ll turn on its back and look like a W.”
“It takes a bushel of imagination to turn that into a voluptuous woman.”
“I guess they had a bushel full back then.” He then pointed out each of her five stars, naming Schedar—which he said was sometimes spelled Shedar or Shedir—as the Alpha star. He droned on about how this was a circumpolar constellation. That meant, I gathered, it was visible from the northern hemisphere year-round, tumbling endlessly from an M to a W to whatever the hell it looked like when it was standing on its ends.
Romantic, Cassiopeia was not. At least to me. I was freezing my butt off in the blackest place on earth while the hunkiest man I could picture either in my dreams or in reality, wandered around prattling endlessly about stars and constellations and Greek and Roman mythology. Finally, I stopped dead in my tracks.
“I wanna go home.”
He turned, spearing me with his flashlight. “What?”
“I’m cold. I’m miserable, I don’t give a damn about astronomy, and I want to go home.”
I could see nothing except the bright light turned in my direction, but I imagined his eyes rendered wide and his mouth slack that someone actually said those words out loud. That prompted me to add the final nail to the coffin of my starry-eyed dreams.
“Fidelis Proctor Greenhouse, I don’t care if you are only twenty-year-old, you’re a gaseous old windbag without a clue to what’s going on around you.”
I guess I’m lucky he didn’t fade away into the night and abandon me to my fate. I had no idea which way was north or south. The only direction I could identify was up… where Queen Cassiopeia stared coldly down upon me. Was she disappointed, too?
So there you have it. Alice now knows why no one ever has a second date with Fidelis Proctor Greenhouse. Let me know what you think of the story at email@example.com. Keep on reading, guys.
Next post: 6:00 a.m. on Thursday.