Thursday, February 21, 2013


All Academic

The irony of CaveWomen hitting the lecture circuit was that many of their venues were in colleges and universities.  Most of the presentations involved multi-media views of past expeditions with an emphasis on social media involvement, so they had become very popular with students.  Many faculty members usually turned up too, and most were fans, but a few came in to the lectures trying to stir up trouble.

Those were Tass’ favorites, and Pet saw that familiar gleam in her best friend’s eyes as Tass stepped into the microphone.  The fool had groused that the CaveWomen were ‘putting foolish thoughts’ into impressionable young minds and demanded that Pet and Tass explain themselves.

“Weeeellll,” Tass started leisurely, “we don’t think that putting thoughts into heads is wrong.  New thoughts are why all these kids enrolled at your fine school and any teacher worth his tenure that objects to thoughts that aren’t his own might want to reconsider being a thought-master and get over himself.”  The audience chuckled at Tass’ smug smile as she finished by leaning way over the podium and saying, “Just some food.  For thought.”

Pet briefly considered doing the humane thing and feeling sorry for the professor, but she was always uncomfortable in the spotlight and just wanted the lecture to be over.  Tass might be the face and voice of CaveWomen, but Pet was its heart and soul.  Pet was the one with the facts, figures and theories, so she brought the wood, but it was always Tass who brought the fire.  The lectures were very profitable too, and the money earned from them helped to fund CaveWomen’s grammar school presentations which were always done for free.

So in many ways, Pet had gone to college like Ray had wanted; she just did not do it the way her father had anticipated.  But she knew he would have been proud of her, she could imagine the look in his eyes from seeing the same look in Araceli’s.  Tass’ mother was extremely proud of both women; she had been running the business-y end of CaveWomen since its inception and attended as many lectures as she could.  Araceli was in the audience for this lecture at U.C. Davis, bouncing Chuy’s youngest on her knee.

Chuy Romero had cleaned up his act several years ago after an especially long stint in jail.  Tass paid his tuition at a trade school and now her big brother had a wife, two kids, a steady job and relieved mother.  Chuy was quite proud of his little sister too, both his little sisters for that matter, and Petra’s Glyphs had a very small, very unlikely hardcore fan base of aircraft mechanics.

The lecture was drawing to a close now, Tass was telling the audience where to find them online and directing them to the merchandise table where they could buy books and T shirts.  It would be at least another hour before they got out of the auditorium since many of the audience members wanted to shake their hands and talk a bit.  Usually, it was Tass they wanted to meet, but a few of the quieter ones always made sure to seek out Pet and tell her that they wished they were brave like her.

Tass was happily holding court surrounded by about twenty people while Pet gathered up the lecture materials, a couple of girls approached Pet and she even signed an autograph. The man on the fringes of the crowd kept catching Pet’s eye, he didn’t look much older than her except for his pure white hair.  His face was not heavily lined with wrinkles and his posture suggested a very fit body, so she wondered if the white hair was natural.

Out of nowhere, the man winked slyly at Pet and grinned as he took a few steps toward her, extending his hand.  “Thirty seven,” he said by way of introduction.

“I..I’m,” Pet stumbled before recovering gracefully, “huh?”

He laughed, “I’m not an old man, saw you staring at my wandering white.”  The man shook Pet’s hand firmly, which made her feel odd, and said, “Walker Keel.”

Pet realized she was still holding his hand and dropped it quickly, a bit flustered, saying, “I’m Pet, Pet Brazil thank you for coming to the lecture.”  That sounded very lame to her ears for some reason and there was a tiny awkward silence, so she rushed to ask, “What is wandering white?”

Walker laughed again, he had a very nice smile and it seemed as though the laughter came very easily to him.  “Just something my crazy aunt Ro used to say, folks in my family go white early, Auntie always called it the wandering white.”
Pet did not know what to say, but she really wanted to say something to Walker, to keep the conversation going for some reason.  Finally she asked, “Did you enjoy the lecture?

“Very much,” Walker replied, “although I am very new to this, I didn’t even know about you until last week.”

“What happened last week?”  Pet was curious.

“My father in law died,” he said with a sadness creeping into his green eyes.  “Former father in law anyway, he was a good man, an eccentric man.”  Walker then looked directly into Pet’s eyes, “He was a big fan of yours,” he said and held out a manila envelope.

“What’s this?”  Pet could not actually be less interested in the contents of that envelope at that time, all she wanted was to talk to this man for hours.  She then remembered her manners and rushed to say, “I’m so sorry for your loss by the way.”

“Thanks,” he replied softly, “my ex asked me to help out with his estate, which is what brought me here.  We needed to know that you were on the level, Amos could be a little trusting.”

Pet’s head snapped up at the sound of that name, “Amos is a great name, he must have been a great man, your father in law.”

Walker nodded, “He was, in his own way and I’m going to miss him.  Amos found something a while ago, I think he meant to get in touch with you but, well,” Walker quieted for a moment, “well, Amos got distracted easily.  I guess that ‘s the best way to put it.”

All of a sudden Pet realized that this was one of those moments, one of those defining moments in life and her definition was in that battered manila envelope.  That familiar pounding in her chest had been there since Walker Keel smiled at her; her hands were shaking as she opened the envelope and saw the photos.

All the blood drained from Pet’s face and she even swayed a little, prompting Walker to swoop in gallantly and steady her.  Tass had stopped talking, she was staring at Pet with concern as was her coterie of admirers.  Pet slowly pulled one of the photos all the way out, it was a rune; it was her rune but not just that, not by a fair distance.

Tass broke away from her crowd to come look over Pet’s shoulder and was quiet for several long moments.  Tass then said the one thing they were both thinking, the only thing that could sum up this unexpected treasure,” Holy shit fuck!”

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