No Free Lunch
By Phillip Ghee (USA)
Click here to send comments
Click here if you'd like to exchange critiques
Part 2 by Phillip Ghee
No Free Lunch
Not fazed by the interruption, Jack continues to elaborate. Once back in his hotel he informs Fred that his curiosity got the better of him. He was simply going to throw the basket away fearing that somewhere in his worldly travels that he must have offended some witchdoctor or Shaman which in turn levied some curse on him. But before doing so, he could not resist another quick peak into the picnic basket. He once again gingerly lifted the lid and peaked inside.
Inside it was dark; it was pitch black, no it was shades darker than pitch black if that was possible. The darkness was so great that he felt as if vision itself was being drained from his eyes as if vision was now magnetic and inside the box was the world’s largest magnet.
He lifted the picnic basket up and gave it a good shake. Nothing, no evidence of contents, no retrieval of the earlier mentioned packed lunch, in fact no sound at all emanated from inside the basket, just an eerily nothingness. Provoked, Jack flipped open the lid and without looking in, tossed in the nearest object he could find. The hotel communicator was absorbed by the nothingness. never to be seen from or heard from again.
Oh boy, this was gonna to cost him, he reasoned.
Just as he was about to hurl the picnic basket into the refuge shoot, his eye caught hold of a poster that sarcastically read, in the best translation he could manage, “Keep Switzerland beautiful! Recycle now or America later.” The photo of the pristine Alps was juxtaposed to that of floating garbage heaps gracing the shores of the Statue of Liberty. The photos were not enhanced. And that’s when Gypsy Jack had his brilliant idea.
“Items go in but they don’t come out.” The reasoning was simplistic at best but by all present accounts accurate. Gypsy Jack would finally make his mark on the world in a big way, ‘The Ultimate Recycling Plant’.
Fred grasped his broad red suspenders with both hands as if to steady the body they adorned. If this was true maybe Jack had something after all. Still Jack’s whispered proposal was unacceptable. Fred demanded a demonstration, to which Gypsy Jack gratefully obliged. Jack picked up an errant bottle of Port from the floor, probably dropped by one of the clients that Fred had ejected from the shop. He opened the lid of the basket and tossed it in. He invited Fred to shake the basket. Fred found to his amazement that no sound came forth from the extremely light basket. Again Fred demanded demonstration, this time he picked an item of his own choosing.
That chipped and battered bowling bowl was never going to sell and plus the sheer weight of it made any trickery doubtful. Fred commanded a little more distance between he, the basket and Jack. He speculated that maybe Jack picked up some sort of cloaking device or something at the Great Wal-Mart of China. Fred once more opened the lid and, with a bit of a squeezing, pushed the bowling ball into the basket. He waited a second or two and then the moment of truth. He picked up the basket. It was just as light as it was before being force feed a bowling ball. He held it up to his ear and gave it a good shake. Nothing. And for good measure he commanded the distant Jack to remove and shake his overcoat. Without a moment’s hesitation, Fred opened the door of the shop and announced to the gathered masses outside that due to technical difficulties the store would be closed for the rest of the day. He made it a point to retrieve the cardboard clock before re-entering the store. Everything had value these days and he had no intention of allowing someone make off with it.
Fred opened his safe and produced a genuine, aged bottle of Ripple. He poured a glass for himself and his guest. Taking up the cue, Jack went into a little more detail. CERN, Organisation Européenne pour la Recherche, was an early 21st. Century research facility dedicated to the science of high energy research. For a while, CERN had been focused on smashing atoms in its 17 mile long particle accelerator. The project had achieved some minor successes but when the worldwide revolt against the Internet took hold, CERN was in trouble, also being the developer of the World Wide Web. Because of this the facility became the subject of many demonstrations and trashings by the Anarchists as well as Fundamentalist in every shape, size, fashion and religion known. The facility was forced to close. However, Jack later ascertained, from time to time, splinter scientist groups would occupy the building(s) and conduct many clandestine experiments. He reasoned that this must have been exactly what was going on, the date of the failed picnic.
for Nuclear Research
pour la Recherche Nucléaire
It was once thought that smashing theses atoms and protons and the likes at such high speeds might be the key to unlocking our destruction by inadvertently unleashing a Black Hole. Many, even those in the scientific community, rallied against the experiments.
The Large Hadron Collider, the principle piece of apparatus responsible for all the banging about, was slated to create the same type of conditions that would account for the Big Bang. They hoped to produce some sacred particle, the name of which escaped Jack. Alas, none of this ever occurred before public sentiment turned against the facility.
Jack deduced that the splinter group had been successful, if not off track, in creating something. Once he realized his great and brilliant idea, he contacted every authority and fringe group he could think of to inform them of the going ons at the facility. Heck! He didn’t want someone to come along and claim patent rights or ownership on what he had in his basket. He made sure the facility was raided and the scientist apprehended before he decided that he would unveil his discovery.
“Why me, Jack?” There was a hint of mistrust flavoring the question.
“Because you’re small. Do you realized what would happen if I approached a large company with this? They would steal it in heartbeat, put a stump to my rump, and tease me with ‘take us to court’.
“Then there’s the Government. Need I say more?”
“You’re a world traveler Jack; why not pick a more pleasant environment?”
“I happen to like Sunset City. I like the Ocean. Hell, you can’t even tell that it’s polluted from this vantage point. And if I have to give up my Nomad Lifestyle for awhile and have to stick around any town for a period of time, it might as well be this one.”
The bottle of Ripple was now bone dry and the two men were still negotiating way into the wee hours of the night. Fred, now tipsy, threatened Jack that if he mentioned ‘Tomikawa and Jack’s Recycling Emporium one more time it would be he who would be next stuffed into the basket. Jack settled for 30% of the profits, solely from the recycling venture alone, and as a silent partner. Jack knew he was getting a raw deal but despite the nature of his business he was not much of a Capitalist anyway. He spent his money on life and not on death - therefore he never much tried to accumulate a nest egg. He did have ego though and was sorely disappointed that he would be known or rather unknown as a silent partner.