It was a beautiful day, thought Mr. FtF as he sat on the patio with his newspaper waiting for his wife to come down. Why did it always take her so long to get ready in the morning, he wondered? All that … preening! He put his paper down and gazed at the canal that flowed past the bottom of their garden. Purple liquid sparkled in the light of the two suns in a way that never ceased to amaze Mr. FtF. It depended on their positions relative to each other he supposed, as he sipped his kaffa.
The canal was wide, twenty times as wide as their house, he’d once calculated, and theirs was a big house too, a grand affair on many levels fabricated from clear plastic. He liked the way passersby on the canal could see their expensive furniture, pictures and ornaments, not least the life-size statue of the Great Ruler, carved from a rare and precious green stone.
“Good morning, Mr. FtF.”
He looked up at his wife. “Why, Mrs. FtF, you look lovely today! The kaffa’s hot and there’s toasted fragen. Come and join me.”
Mrs. FtF, sat down. She loved the way she could feel warmth on her front and back at the same time and watch the canal flowing slowly past, in no hurry to go anywhere. “Anything in the paper, Mr. FtF?”
“Hah. Look at this!” He held up the newspaper to show a picture of some kind of craft.
“What is it?” she asked.
“A goddamned rocket ship can you believe! That’s what this addle-brained government want to build!”
Mrs. FtF poured a cup of kaffa and spread a slice of fragen with a creamy blue paste.
“Well, they must have a reason.”
“Reason be damned!” exclaimed Mr. FtF. “They say they’re going to fire it into space!”
“Where would it go, and who would drive it?”
“That’s just the point, Mrs. FtF, there is nowhere to go! As to who would pilot it, airmen would be specially trained.”
Mrs. FtF felt excited. “Maybe they’ll find some new people out … out in space!”
“Don’t be ridiculous. Our scientists have scoured the sky with the best telescopes ever built. Looked out to other galaxies even. No sign of anyone! In any case, the Great Ruler says that GdG created the universe specially for us, here on this planet.”
Mrs. FtF stood up and bowed her head. “Praise be to GdG.” Then she sat down again.
“Anyway, where are they going to get the money to build this thing?” asked Mr. FtF, rhetorically.
“Good morning Mr. FtF, good morning Mrs. FtF!” It was their neighbour, Mr. DnD, sailing past on his silver sail-boat. He pulled into the bank, tied the sail-boat and walked up their garden path. “You’re looking lovely today, Mrs. FtF, if I may say so!”
Mrs. FtF felt a flush of pride. “Why thank you Mr. DnD, and, yes, you may say so!”
They all laughed. “Come and join us,” said Mr. FtF.
Mr. DnD sat down and Mrs. FtF poured him some kaffa and spread some fragen.
“I suppose you’ve heard about this crazy space ship idea?” asked Mr. FtF.
“Well, my son works for the government, as you know, so I’ve been hearing about it for a while. But I’ll tell you something you don’t know. Where they’re going to get the money from.”
“Where’s that then?” Mr. FtF asked. But Mr. DnD seemed in no hurry to spill the beans, chewing his fragen, sipping kaffa and gazing at the leisurely-flowing purple canal.
“Come on, Mr DnD,” said Mrs. FtF. “Out with it. Don’t keep us in suspense!”
“Clothes, Mrs. FtF. That’s where it’s coming from. Clothes, they’re going to tax our clothes!”
“Tax our clothes. How will they do that? I’ve never heard of anything so ridiculous!” exclaimed Mr. FtF.
“Well, a government inspector will call round and count your clothing items. You’ll pay one percent of a unit per month for each clothing item.”
Mr. FtF made an exasperated gesture. “Well, Mrs. FtF’s going to cost me about …” He made a quick calculation “… about three units a month!” He turned to his wife. “Right Mrs. FtF, tomorrow I’m going to take half your clothes to the tip. So, you’d better get started sorting!”
Mrs. FtF pulled a face. “What about you, Mr. FtF, all those old shirts that don’t fit you anymore! All that fragen you eat!”
“Pah,” exclaimed Mr. FtF.
“Anyway, Mr. DnD, what about gloves, does each one count as a clothing item?” asked Mrs. FtF anxiously.
“Don’t worry, Mrs. FtF,” smiled Mr DnD, “each set counts as one item.”
Mrs. FtF got up. “Excuse me, I just need to er, powder my face.” She went indoors, both hearing and seeing the men arguing about the relative values of firing a rocket ship into space. Whoever heard of such a thing, she thought? She went into the bathroom, reached out a tentacle for a towel and wiped her forehead. She admired herself in the mirror, where her five eyes blinked back. She felt so happy she could feel drool spilling from her beak. Yes, she did indeed look lovely today!
Featured in the book, Letters from Reuben and Other Stories: 40 Little Tales of Mirth
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