Ancora Io, (Part 21) Annapurna III
(this is a continuation of a novel, Ancora Io, started here. The full text can be found here.)
During her lunch break, Annapurna rang Maxwell, "I am sorry, Maxwell. I am ringing you to apologize; I told you everything was well. I have thought it over, and everything is not well. You have been a kind friend to me; I should have been more honest with you."
Maxwell took a while to digest this, and Annapurna had the uncomfortable thought that he might be writing down what she had just said verbatim.
"Maxwell, are you there?"
Maxwell sighed, having a distinct feeling of deja vu. "Did your mother suggest you call me, like last time?"
Annapurna didn't hesitate, "She thought I was rude for not confiding my discomfort with last night. Not at the Diner. Afterward."
"Are you referring to the incident of the Dragon eating a book above the Town Library?"
"No, Maxwell. Dragons are imaginary. It was just kids, 'twisting your tail.'"
Annapurna could hear Maxwell thinking. He sighed again. "So, if it was imaginary, why are you feeling uncomfortable?"
It was her turn to pause. He continued, "And anyway. You haven't asked me how I feel about the whole thing."
She gulped, "Are you feeling chipper, Maxwell?"
"No, I am not. I am agitated. I saw a Dragon eating a book. You may think it was some elaborate hoax, but that thing looked at me. I saw its eyes looking at me. I was terrified. I still am worried."
Annapurna's brow furrowed. "It must have been kids on the second floor. They must have been scaring everyone who came by last night. I guarantee that they all had a good laugh at our expense."
"I would like to believe that. But too many strange things have been happening here."
Annapurna was a little gentler, "Like all the teaspoons disappearing?"
"It has me fazed. And, it left you feeling unwell."
She hurried, "Oh no, Maxwell, that was not what left me feeling unwell." She bit her lip and explained that as she sat, wanting to write but unsure how to start, she had imagined herself in her story. "It was most unsettling; experiencing what I was writing."
"There, I told you strange things were happening! Did you write it? Or is the writing thing happening to you as well? "
"I think what happened to me was different to dragons and spoons, Maxwell."
He corrected, "Teaspoons. I wonder if it could all be connected."
"If you look hard enough and prepare to play hard and fast, everything is connected."
"Can we meet again for a snack after work, please?"
"Bring your mother. She can be an impartial arbitrator. She may also suggest how we can determine whether the dragon is real or a hoax."
"I would like to avoid the Library tonight, please, Maxwell. Particularly if my mother comes to the Diner."
"Maxwell, we need to get back to work. Do you accept my apology?"
"Of course, it was an unsettling evening all around."
"One last thing. Do you know anything about a person called Bruce? He is a Town Councilor."
"Annapurna, please stay away from him. He is a scoundrel and a bounder. He drives a silver sports car and runs the bar on Main Street."
"Good. Find out all you can about Bruce. I need to be prepared."
In the time Maxwell took to draw a breath and ask, "Prepared for what?" the phone line went dead.
During afternoon tea, Annapurna asked her accountant friend Geoff the same question. Geoff gave her a different answer, "Bruce Grimswald comes from an old family here. He was married, but there were some problems, and now he is single. He has had his problems, but he seems to be a fairly solid respectable man."
Annapurna was taken back, "I had heard a different story. Perhaps we are thinking of different people."
"Maybe. The town needs people like Bruce Grimswald to keep the wheels turning. Perhaps you struck someone jealous of his wealth."
Annapurna smiled, "A good reason to get a second opinion from someone I trust."
"On that note, a word to the wise: Bruce is a cany businessman - it is best not to get too close to any of his deals."
Maxwell picked Annapurna and her mother in his car and drove them to the Diner.
The Black Cat was waiting for them to arrive.
They started the evening exchanging idle chit-chat and watching the cat demolish a bowl of cream. After dinner was served and dispatched, the notebooks were brought out. Annapurna's mother turned to Maxwell, "Describe your Dragon."
Maxwell shot a glance to Annapurna, who protested, "It was just some kids playing a game."
More insistently, her mother asked the question again, "Describe your Dragon. What color eyes did it have, what type of scales, what was it doing? Why was it there?"
Maxwell hesitated and bowed his head, "Your daughter thinks it was just kids playing us for fools. If so, I was caught, hook, line and sinker. I can't tell you about the scales. But I saw the eyes. They were the same type of eyes as a cat. I could feel them looking straight at me."
Maxwell scratched the head of the black cat who was looking over at the kitchen.
Annapurna's mother smiled at them, "Maxwell, thank you for your recollection, and thank you for looking after my daughter last night. You have still not answered the most important question: Why?"
"I can't explain what I saw. It was so unreal."
"I once worked in the field of astronomy, teaching the young about science and reality. You may be surprised at how much reality and unreality intersect in space."
"Annapurna suggested you might have a suggestion on how we can determine whether the dragon is real or a hoax."
"Perhaps that is not the right inquiry."
"I adhere to science and, as a matter of policy, avoid imaginary things like dragons. But we are in uncertain times - science is driving us to places we cannot imagine. Forever we seek the comfort of astrologers. We forget we walk our futures. Dreams and premonitions, like political commentators, are like signposts our minds thread together. Sometimes we can laugh at our dreams. Sometimes they are worth chewing. And then spat out.
But... Surprisingly, dragons sometimes serve an essential role in understanding the real world. Astrology and Astronomy were once one and the same scientific endeavor.
Once, science had to explain the awkward orbit of the moon, as it wobbles in orbit around the Earth. To do so, scientists imagined two 'shadow' planets: Rahu with an orbital cycle of 18 years and Ketu with an orbital cycle of 7 years. By watching the motion of these two shadows, it was possible to calculate the dates of eclipses.
You may smile, but we scientists once called Rahu and Ketu the head and tail of the dragon, the serpent-headed beast that attempts to swallow the sun."
She paused and cleared her throat.
Annapurna passed her a glass of water, "I am sorry, have I been speaking too loudly?"
"Not at all. But I do not understand."
"A disproof of Rahu or Ketu, as simple as it appears, would remove a tool we use to explain the real world. It would not help us understand eclipses."
"I still do not understand."
"Sometimes the real question is 'Why' not 'What'. Why did someone or something scare you? Now, it may be that it was just a bad joke, but something more sinister might be lurking in the background. If you truly want to understand the eclipse that may be in the offing, you need to cast your rod into deeper waters, not to get distracted by speculation."
Annapurna blurted out, "Bruce wants to sell the Town Library!"
The Black Cat turned to Annapurna, and its eyes became sharp and bright. Maxwell asked, "Bruce, the Town Counsellor, you asked me about?"
But Annapurna was looking at her notebook. Words were starting to appear on the open page.
She called a warning, "Maxwell!"
Just then, a loud car pulled up outside the Diner, and Betty and an older man came in with a drift of snowflakes. They were arguing.