What’s in a Name?

(600 words)

Dr Rowina Scott stood at an enormous round window, gazing in awe at the towering pyramidal blocks a thousand stories high that dominated the city. She never grew tired of looking at them nor ceased to wonder at their immensity. Multi-coloured sky pods darted around and between them. A bleep from her pager jolted her out of her reverie. The director, Dr Abraham Klein, wished to see her urgently. What the hell did the old bugger want?
She knocked softly and entered the chamber. Klein’s office was circular and enormous, and painted in brilliant white. Huge oval windows in the ceiling far above showed a cerulean sky dotted with small white clouds. Dr Klein did not look happy, she thought.
“Take a seat, Dr. Scott.” Klein gestured to a sumptuous white chair and retreated behind his desk. He sat down and rested his chin on the inverted ‘V’ of his fingertips. “It’s about the Oceanic Integrity Committee.”
Rowina crossed her legs, admiring her slim calves, trim ankles and painted toenails. The hours on the treadmill were paying off, much as she disliked the old-fashioned methods. “Yes?”
“It’s being headed up by Professor Yasarin.”
“What!” Rowina almost exploded. She stood up, put both hands on the edge of the enormous desk and looked Dr Klein directly in the eyes. “What the hell are you saying?”
Dr Abraham Klein’s eyes wavered, looked down at the polished amboyna burl, then, bracing himself, back into Rowena’s. “Look, I knew you wouldn’t be happy.”
“You can say that again!”
“He’s a changed man, into environmental conservation, reforestation, breeding endangered species, stricter emission controls ….”
“For Chrissakes. If he’d got his way at the 2030 climate summit, we’d all have drowned in our beds by now!”
“Look, he was wrong, we all know he was wrong; he openly admits he was wrong. Anyone can make a mistake.”
“Oh, opposing anyone and everyone who argued for emission controls for ten years. A mistake!”
“Now, now, Dr Scott, listen to the man. Be reasonable.” A smooth voice with a hint of a Russian accent came from behind.
Rowena whirled around, surprised. The man had entered the chamber soundlessly.
Professor Yasarin adjusted the silver-rimmed glasses on his Roman nose. She had to admit he was quite handsome, in that cruel Gulag-commandant way. She could feel his eyes scanning over her, undressing her mentally. “Dr Scott, er, Rowena, if I may be so bold. Look, I know we haven’t always seen eye to eye.”
“But, look, things have changed, I myself have changed, and now I want you onboard. Onboard as someone on the committee I can trust to make the right decisions. The right decisions to care for our oceans.”
“OK, well, look, they’ll come at a price.” Rowena looked from Professor Yasarin to Dr Klein and back to the professor.
The professor took a seat and put his head back, staring at the distant ceiling. “Yes?”
She continued, “One, I get the right of veto, two, I move to the office on the top floor, and three, er, I want the next research vessel named after me.”
The professor laughed. “Is that all?” whilst Dr Klein made a noise like a fart.
Rowena looked down at her holographic nails, watching seagulls fly. “Uh-huh.”
“Well, my dear, I’ll tell you what. Why don’t I take you out for dinner and we can discuss it?”
Rowena looked from Klein’s apoplectic visage to Professor Yasarin. She noticed his teeth were white and straight, something she always looked for in a lover. “Well, I’m free tonight.”

Featured in the book, Letters from Reuben and Other Stories: 40 Little Tales of Mirth

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