Friday, May 30, 2014

Coffeeshop



   “Mary?”

   Molly Berenson, Sean Carrol’s previous girlfriend, had just walked into a downtown Seattle coffee shop and spotted Mary Robinson in line.

   “Oh, hi! How’s it been going, Molly?” When Molly hesitated in giving an answer, Mary said: “It’s alright if you don't want to talk.”

   “No, it’s OK. One of those things I guess… it worked out OK, I’m just not cut out for the cloak and dagger stuff—ohmigod! That metaphor is exactly what happened to Sean! I’m sorry I said that!” Molly flushed with embarrassment.

   “It’s apt. When you look at it that way it’s funny, except for the part about Sean actually getting stabbed,” Mary said. “But that’s behind us now, at least, I think it is, Sean never mentions it.”

   “But whoever did it is still out there, doesn’t that worry you at all, and him living with you?”

   “I think that after the coverup was exposed, Sean was no longer important, and except for an occasional request for an interview, it’s over. I hope he’s not worth killing anymore! But enough about that, how are you doing? Are you still seeing that guy, what was his name?”

   “Blue Eyes?  I was overjoyed to see him again, but… ” Molly paused.  “You know, people say that prison will change a man. In his case, it didn’t. He’s still stuck in the WTO protests of 1999! Radical politics has a short shelf-life; I work for an insurance company now, for Christ’s sake.”

   The women reached the head of the line and ordered.

   “You’re going to make a career in insurance, Molly? Can you see yourself there for the next twenty years?”

   “You know, I might. I’m very good at what I do, I work for reasonably decent people, I can see it happening.”

   “Children?”

   “No longer an option,” For a moment, Molly looked crestfallen, “Menopause comes early in my family.”

   “I’m sorry, again, I don’t want to pry,” said Mary.

   “It’s a day to day thing, the flashes are the worst part, what’s that old joke? ‘My God! I forgot to have kids!’  What about you, Mary, are you still happy with your business?”

   “Well, it is changing. The NSA kind of wants to dominate all internet intelligence, although they can’t really monetize it the way we can. We’ll keep at it until it isn’t practical… ”

   “Or until someone buys you out?”

   Mary was taken aback for a moment, wondering if Molly knew something about the impending sale.

   “Business is good, but everything has its price. Sit with me, I want to to pick your brain a little.”

   “Sure,” said Molly, “There’s a window table open.”

   “Molly, did Sean every talk about his family with you?”

   “Not much. He seemed… I mean it wasn’t as if he was hiding some big family secret, but he just didn’t talk about them much… a little about his mother, no siblings, oh I forgot about Billy, but he doesn’t really count, does he?  Nothing about anyone else. Of course, we know all about his father.  He’s got an aunt… in Iowa somewhere. She’s quite elderly; she was eighteen when Sean’s mother was born. Sean did say that she took care of him when he was little.”

   Outside the coffeehouse, a steady stream of pedestrians walked by. Mary, out of habit, scanned the crowd.  Suddenly she turned her face away from the window and tersely said:

   “Molly, listen. Turn your head away from the window.  There is someone taking pictures of us—don’t look—he’s sitting on a bench across the street. Shit. I’m sorry Molly, I shouldn’t have exposed you.”

   “It never ends, does it?” Molly was mad now. “I told you that I’m through with this crap. Sorry, I’m leaving.”

   Molly stormed out with her coffee.

   Mary took out her cell phone, but by the time she had turned the camera on, the man across the street was gone.






Fiction

By Professor Batty




Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Bower



   Flippist World Headquarters now has a garden annex. A cozy little shelter; a place for reading or writing or just a spot to sit and look at the flowers. All cedar, big enough for two (if they are friendly) but even if no one is sitting beside you, you are never alone:



   April, our "garden sprite", is always on duty.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 2 




Monday, May 26, 2014

Most Dangerous?


Jófriður Ákadóttir, at Faktorý, 10 October, 2012

   Silk rock.
   As good a name for this genre as any—the translated title of the newest Samaris CDSilkidrangar. Produced by Friðfinnur 'Oculus' Sigurðsson, this album continues music in the vein of their earlier self-titled release: a background of Þórdur Kári Steinþorsson's trippy electronica overlaid with Áuslaug Rún Magnúsdóttir's clarinet and Jófriður Ákadóttir's breathy vocalizations.

   It's pretty good. A few of the tracks are a bit 'clubby' (noticeably the opening track Nótt) and the chord modulations are simple (lots of minor sevenths). This would be unremarkable trance electronica if wasn't for the singing of Jófriður Ákadóttir. Is she The Most Dangerous Person in Icelandic Music Today? Or is she New Icelandic Music Messiah, here to conquer the world with her inspired interpretations of 19th century Icelandic poetry? I wouldn't put it past her. She's only twenty, and it looks as if she is capable of accomplishing anything she desires. I can see her being an absolute monster in ten years. Her work with Pascal Pinon has been discussed here before; this group takes an entirely different approach but the constant in both is Jófriður's innate melodic sense. The standout tracks on the CD are Ég vildi og fegin verða and the wonderful Vögguljóð—performed with an expanded wind section in the studio version.

   Do I recommend Silkidrangar? Yes, with reservations. Electronica has a not undeserved bad rep for being lazy and monotonous. This album doesn't escape that trap completely but it does contain plenty of interesting material, enough to satisfy this cranky old curmudgeon.

UPDATE: Samaris is featured in the Time magazine article: From Brazil to Iceland to Korea: Go Around the World In 11 Bands.

UPDATE: Featured in NPR podcast, Samaris coverage starts at 11:45

By Professor Batty


Comments: 0 




Friday, May 23, 2014

Executive Decision



   “Members of the board: Data interception is nothing new. The role of Alan Turing and the Enigma machine during World War II, as well as its effect on the war’s outcome, is well known. The modern equivalent of this program, Thinthread, existed well before 9/11. The metadata collected by it pinpoints your actions to an astonishing degree. After 9/11, the privacy protections for US citizens and corporations were eliminated through the Prism program. At first, private call records from all the countries phone systems were routed through the NSA. Later on, calls were routinely wiretapped. Then emails were read with impunity. Elements within the government strove to obtain significant amounts of this information: for analyzing trends, winning government contracts, sizing up competition—virtually all aspects of the business dynamic. Its reach is nearly universal, including the people in this room. As we have seen, changes in the administration have only had negative effects. I’m not a constitutional lawyer, I have no opinion on this situation.  The legality of these actions is beside the point. What is important is that there should be no reason why routine business communications are exposed to the scrutiny of outsiders in this manner.”

   Mary Robinson, president of Applied Diffusion Research, was delivering her final argument for the sale of ADR’s cryptology services to a boardroom of Amasales executives. Sean and a trio of lawyers sat behind Mary.

   “This is where the ADR system comes into the picture. The huge torrent of information on the modern internet is a potential vehicle for distributing diffuse streams of data in videos, websites, raw data files;  your communications can be incorporated into them a way which is impervious to brute force cryptology as well as concealing the originators’ and receivers’ identities. You’ve worked with us in the past. Our record of ‘No trace left behind’ in the surveillance and communication fields is unparalleled. The modern reality is that no standard communication, encrypted or not, is safe. As per our initial agreement to demonstrate our capabilities, we have prepared for each of you a sealed manila envelope containing your respective personal communications for the last month. Normally, we wouldn’t make a hard copy—no paper trail, of course. These kinds of reports would be accessed by our system and only decoded on a ‘need to know’ basis. All the information contained in these envelopes is readily available to governments, hackers or other ‘interested parties’, i.e., your competitors. Our cryptology services will prevent this type of ‘data mining.’ Any questions?”

   The room was filled with the sound of rustling envelopes. Sean scanned the faces of the corporate officials as each one opened his personal envelope and leafed through the printouts. Amasales’ CEO was impassive, but his face and ears reddened considerably. Mary, still standing, maintained her ‘serene warrior’ pose. Finally, the CEO spoke:

   “It’s obvious that we’ve been throwing our money away on security, but what prevents you from using your system to sell our information to competitors?”

   “Once it has been installed, the contents of the encrypted files in the ADR system is opaque to us. Its operation is nearly fully automatic. Our operators only need to update the ‘dialogs’ of data transfer from time to time.  Because of the fluid and diffuse nature of this system of encoding, the matrix is always changing. Only the intended recipients will be able to decipher communications,” said Mary.

   “How do we know these people are reliable, that one or more of them won’t do a ‘Snowden’ on us?” The CEO was cooler now, but Sean thought that there must have been something hidden within the emails which had really gotten to him.

   “Everyone working at ADR has been recruited with security in mind. They all have compelling reasons to remain anonymous. We know a great deal about each employee and they know and respect that.”  Mary retained her poise. “Personnel turnover at ADR is extremely low.”

   The CEO looked at the CFO, who nodded.

   “Ms. Robinson, would you be willing to sell ADR in its entirety, including the transfer of all its employees, not as contractors but as full employees, in a cash plus stock options transaction?”

   A momentary tremor passed through Mary.

   “That would be a… possibility. Starting from the original figures… we’ll have to get some numbers and terms on paper. I’ll have my people talk to your people.”

   “Shall we meet again, with the new proposal?  Same time, same place, next week?” The CEO's smile was toothy, lupine.

   Mary's smile was pleasant but tight.

   “Until next week.”

   Everyone got up, shook hands and began to file out. It reminded Sean of the end of a little league game. The CIO walked over to Sean, pulled him aside and began to speak:

   “You’re Senator Clarkson’s son, the one involved with that business in Iceland?”

   “Yes, I am he.” Sean didn’t like to talk about Billygate but he thought he’d see what this guy wanted—he might find himself working for him soon, Sean didn’t need to  burn any bridges before he got to them. The CIO was enthusiastic:

   “So, if I may ask in a general fashion, did ADR encryption have any part in that affair? I mean if it’s OK to talk about.”

   “Well, until that situation is fully resolved with the legal authorities I can’t really comment on it. I will say this, however: The government had possession of my laptop and could not get any information out of it.”

   He thought it better not to mention sending Billy’s files to Mary via the Icelandic Postal Service. The irony of using snail mail wouldn’t be appreciated, and it certainly wouldn’t help Mary’s efforts to sell ADR.







 Fiction

By Professor Batty




Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Whispering Muse

A novel by Sjón
Translated by Victoria Cribb
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013
I, Valdimar Haraldsson, was in my twenty-seventh year when I embarked on the publication of a small journal devoted to my chief preoccupation, the link between fish consumption and the superiority of the Nordic race.
   So begins this strange book of tales, set aboard a freighter in 1949. Valdimar is a "supernumerary", a guest, and most of the tales are told by Caeneus, the ships second mate who is possession of a piece of the legendary ship Argo. By listening to this 'splinter', Caeneus recalls stories of Jason and his crew, stories which include Caeneus himself!

   Sjón is noted for his fantastic tales, tales told with a historical overlay, such as The Blue Fox and From the Mouth of the Whale. This book was derived from a number of sources, but the themes are from Sjón himself. I got a sense the the author was critiquing Northern European culture, there is a strong sub-theme about theories of racial purity and the disastrous effects which were manifest in World War II.

   While not for everyone, I think this book is a little more accessible than the other two mentioned. It may be a little less poetic for that, but the three titles make for a truly unique trilogy.



By Professor Batty


Comments: 2 




Monday, May 19, 2014

Art-A-Whirl 2014

   Another year, another Art-A-Whirl. I've started to burn out on this event, the good artists seem to be fewer and fewer while the growing attraction of this Northeast Minneapolis event is a proliferation of brew pubs. Not that there is anything wrong with a good microbrew, I've been known to indulge in one myself, but it turns the focus away from the artists. The same holds true, but worse, with the growth of music stages. Not only do they generally feature bad music, but the sound pervades throughout an entire building, effectively driving out any lofty thoughts about art one might entertain. It can become a bit too much for the younger attendees:


Solar Arts Building

   But there were many nice visual moments; the artists' galleries tend to be in re-purposed industrial buildings which have their own aesthetic:


California Building

   At times the overall effect is astonishing:


Solar Arts Building, painting by Caitlin Karolsczak

    Some become truly overwhelmed:


Casket Arts Building








By Professor Batty


Comments: 2 




Friday, May 16, 2014

Emerald City



   After the stop at the falls, Mary and Sean drove south, then back on the other side of the Hood Canal—ending up on Bainbridge Island. The town was crowded on a Sunday afternoon, filled with both locals and day trippers.

   “Sean, I’m hungry… ”

   “A piece of cold toast isn’t enough for you to make it through the day?” Sean laughed.

   “Hitchcock is a good place to eat. It’s down at the end of the block.”

   “It’s a little past four. They won’t start serving until five. What do you want to do till then? There is a museum, a museum about the island, on the other block. Here’s a good bakery here… ”

   “No, I don’t need any of those empty calories. Let’s check out that museum, how bad could it be?”

   The museum was nearly empty.  There was a small theater where a DVD player was playing a documentary about the Japanese-Americans who had been sent to concentration camps during World War II.  Mary and Sean watched it for a while until Mary whispered: “Now I know how bad it can be, this is really depressing, even if Ansel Adams did the photography.” They left the theater and went into the main part of the museum; it was filled with lumbering and fishing artifacts, tools of the trade for the industries which had built the island.

   “I wonder how much of our ‘stuff’ will be in museums a hundred years from now?” Sean said,. “Do you think anyone will be interested in a keyboard, or a laptop, or, heaven help us, a server?  The people who lived here worked with their hands, made things, caught food to eat. What we do seems awfully abstract.”

   “I doubt if our ‘stuff’ will have any value ten years from now, much less one hundred,” said Mary. “I wonder if what I have done for a living so far will retain any of its appeal?  Spying on philanderers and cheats isn’t the most fulfilling use of one’s time. It’s kind of pervy.”

   “Only if you enjoy it. Thinking of cashing out? What would you do? You’re too young to retire. I’ve never seen you golf.” Sean was serious, not in the least bit glib.

   “I’ve been thinking about it, Sean. What do regular people do to fill their time?  Watch cable TV, do crafts, drink?  It all gets pretty old.”

   They stopped in front of two framed pictures. Each frame contained individual pictures of the Senior Class of Bainbridge High School; one was the class of 1941 and the other was the class of 1942.

   “The class of ‘41 has the Japanese-Americans kids, The class of ‘42 doesn’t,” Mary said. “A whole group of people is suddenly made invisible—simply locked away.  Because of who their parents or grandparents were. Sean, who were your grandparents? What was it they did that made you want to become invisible, ending up as a spook, working for me?"

   Sean thought about her question before he began to speak. “My mother didn’t talk much about her mother and she didn’t talk about her father at all. My aunt Tina, in Iowa, would know. On the Senator’s side, all I know is what I’ve read in Wikipedia. He is from an old Southern family, old money.  You were adopted, it must be a different situation for you.”

   “It was. I have never looked for my parents, much less my grandparents. Their legacy is written all over my body. How come you’ve never talked to me about skin color?”

   “I… I don’t know what I’d say. I like your skin.”

   “That’s a good answer… to a different question. It will do for now. Let’s get something to eat.”

   The restaurant was nearly full by the time they got arrived. It was a trendy place, but Sean was a little peeved at the Boomer Muzak on the sound system.

   “Why is 70s rock the de facto playlist in places like this? I mean a little CSN can be nice, but does it have to be every other song?” Sean said.

  “Huh. I don’t pay much attention to it. I never have. Classic rock? Must be classic for a reason. I’m more of a riot grrrl, Liz Phair was my favorite when I was a teen.”

   “You’re not drinking tonight, Mary?”

   “No, I’m not in the mood.”

   Their food came and they began to eat.

   “Sean…” Mary began, “Sean… I think I know what the answer to my question is.”

   “What question?”

   “Back in the museum, the question about what normal people do with their lives, to fill the time.”

   “What?”

   “They have kids.”

   A big gap in the conversation followed her remark. The Muzak began playing CSN’s Our House.

   “Sean, why do you think that Icelandic woman sent you that picture? And no letter?”

   Sean had been thinking about it all day.

   “I don’t know, Mary. Should I talk to her? Should I go back to Iceland?”

   “We can talk about that after the sale goes through. We’ll talk about everything then.”

   It was dark by the time Mary and Sean drove on to the ferry. After they were under way they walked to the front of the line of cars, to the bow, where they could see the city approaching across the sound.

   “Seattle looks like a magical place tonight, Mary, it’s as if it were The Emerald City in the Wizard of Oz.”

   “Beautiful… oh God,” said Mary, “Everything is changing… I feel as if it is the beginning of a new life.”





Fiction

By Professor Batty




Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Weird Wanda

Before she was famous for her children's book "Millions of Cats", Wanda Gág experimented with a variety of themes. Some of the images from these experiments were ominous:



Some fanciful:



While others were simply bizarre:



From The Kerlan Collection

By Professor Batty


Comments: 3 




Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mother's Day



   In honor of Mothers everywhere, here is a sweet version of Mother Maybelle Carter's famous Wildwood Flower, as performed by one of my favorite mothers, Karen Kramer.  More videos of this group are at my YouTube site.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 0 




Friday, May 09, 2014

Hidden Falls



   “I like to drive,” Mary said, out of the blue.

   “Huh,” said Sean, looking up from his iPhone.

   “I think what I meant to say is that I like to be in the driver’s seat.”

   “I knew that already,” said Sean, with a smile.

   They were on the Olympic peninsula, on 101, just south of Quilcene. Mary knew these roads well, having grown up in Port Angeles, on the northern coast. The rain forest of Washington State was an alien world for Sean. He had lived on a small farm in Iowa until he was six when he moved to an apartment with his mother in suburban Washington D.C. Almost everything was different out here on the Pacific Coast: the plants, the people, the way people talked and acted;  everything was different, excepting Starbucks, of course. Living with Mary was different as well. Sean had been attracted to Mary from the moment when they met at his job interview. She was an anomaly in the world of coders and hackers: a brilliant and independent woman who ran her own tech business. Sleeping with one’s boss wouldn’t have been all that unusual—if their roles had been reversed. Somehow, it had worked out between them—so far.

   “That’s why I’m worried about this deal with the crypto division sale. It’s been all lawyers so far. I just don’t have a clear sense of what I’m up against. The big shots from the corporation didn’t get to where they are by playing by the rules.”

   “So, rule-breaker, what kind of dirt do you have on them?”

   “These guys are monks. I have never read so many innocuous emails in my life.”

   “You’ve been reading their corporate communications?”

   “And their personal ones. No mistresses or gambling addictions. Nothing. If I didn’t know better, I’d say they that were Mormons.”

   “And what can I do to help in these negotiations, besides being your arm-candy?”

   “As far as these meetings go, that might be enough. They know you played hardball with the Feds and didn’t end up dead or in prison. Just by having you sit in on the final meeting will help them appreciate just how good we are at what we do. Then, if they still have reservations, I’ll give each member of the board a packet of their email from the previous month with the words ‘If you were using the ADR security system this exchange would have never happened’ written on each one of the envelopes.”

   “Their emails. Of course. I think you have it covered,” Sean said, “I’ll be there, with all the machismo I can muster.”

   “Sean, do you feel as if you are a ‘kept man?’ I mean, I hardly gave you a chance to refuse me when you came back from D.C.,” Mary said, in a serious manner.

   “I was willing, although barely able. Getting stabbed hindered my technique for a while,” Sean grimaced at the memory.

   “It was good that we had to start slowly,” Mary said, smiling.

   Mary pulled into the parking lot of the Falls View Trail.

   “I want to show you something, Sean. Something I’ve never shown anyone else.”

   They got out of the car and began to walk.

  “Sean, I’ve never talked to you about the men in my past. Until you came along, I didn’t think I’d ever find someone. You were different: you didn’t resent my intelligence, you didn’t look at me as a ‘conquest,’ a ‘prize.’ How did that come to happen?”

   “I didn’t have an abusive father to set a bad example? Maybe. I don’t know. I do what I can.” Sean had wondered, of course. And certainly his having been raised by a single mother had affected him to some extent. He had fallen into relationships in the past but having never pursued them, they hadn’t lasted. His relationship with Mary had a completely different dynamic than the others. Her observation was true, however, he had never sought to ‘win’ a woman. There was never a question of Mary’s appeal. She was more than just another fling—and she had saved his life.

   They walked to where the trail diverged: to the left was the lower canyon path, to the right was the upper overlook way.

   “Down here,” she said. About 100 yards along the lower path they came upon a small break in the vegetation. “In here.” Sean followed Mary through a narrow channel in the brush until they reached a small clearing.

   “This is the place. The place where the Blessed Virgin Mary died.”

   They stood silent for a long time. Finally, Mary began to speak:

   “I had a boyfriend, once, in high school. I had been seeing this one guy. He was a senior, I was a sophomore. There was a group of kids in the computer class. I was the only girl. That guy and I came out here—the rest of the group went on further down the trail.  We were just making out a little… ” Mary began to tremble. Sean had never seen her this way, "… he thought it should go further… He held my arms down… Later on, when we met up with the group, he did a ‘thumbs up’ and winked. They all laughed; they all knew. That was the end of it—the end of boys for me. From then on I was on my own.”

   “Oh, Mary,” Sean gently touched her arm.

   “You’re the only man who has always been respectful of me,” Mary said, “Let’s get out of here.”

   They walked back to the car holding hands.

   As if they were children.





Fiction

By Professor Batty




Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Art in Bloom

   The Minneapolis Institute of Arts annual "Art in Bloom" was held last week, an event where florists create arrangements which complement the art in the galleries:



   We attended on the day before the opening, when the people watching is usually better:



   There were several groups of teens in the galleries as well:



   Although their commitment to art may have been less than wholehearted, it was good to see them make the museum as comfortable as home:

By Professor Batty


Comments: 0 




Monday, May 05, 2014

Snapshot


New Ulm, Minnesota, circa 1930, photographer unknown

Yet another visit to the Kerlan Collection to nourish my obsession with Wanda Gág. This time I did see that the previously "missing" photo album had been restored to its proper place. While looking through all the albums again, I noticed that one of the uncatalogued loose photos was of a small shack beside a river, with the shadowy figure of a man entering. I hadn't looked at it closely before—it was somewhat underexposed and blurry—but this time I knew exactly what it was.

Wanda's uncle, Frank Biebl, was an all around handyman and folk artist, I've previously posted pictures of a couple of his hand-carved toys. His self-taught artistry impressed Wanda greatly, she wrote extensively about him in her diaries:
Oh, Uncle Frank!—if you only knew how much more you are an artist, how much more deeply so than many, many "artists" I have met—if you could realize how close are you and I—I with my years of studies, with my knowledge of Cézanne, Renoir, Michelangelo, abstract form, dynamic rhythm, inter-relation of objects—you with a tool you have carved yourself, running your rough, gnarly hand over its negative curves, in complete appreciation of the primitive forms it will carve in wood; not realizing how close you come to—let us say Archipenko!—with his concave forms in a statue, which one is expected to translate, aesthetically, into convex ones."

So this must have been a very important photo indeed. She sketched the inside of this small studio many times and even made a lithograph of it in 1935:

                   
                                    Wanda Gág, Uncle Frank's Workshop, 1935.                                    Winnan 106

By Professor Batty


Comments: 1 




Friday, May 02, 2014

Interrupted Breakfast



   “Sean… ”

   Mary Robinson, buttering toast, stood at the kitchen counter in her Seattle apartment looking at the pile of the previous day’s mail. She put down her knife and picked up a letter with an Icelandic stamp in the corner.

   “Sean, come look at this… ”

   Sean Carroll put down his laptop and walked in from the porch.

   “What is it?”

   Mary and Sean had been living together for almost two years, ever since Sean returned from an ill-fated trip to Iceland—an adventure which left him with a scar from a stab wound and his half-brother, William ‘Billy’ Clarkson, dead in a freak traffic ‘accident.’ Sean had been pressured into assuming Billy’s identity in an effort to hide some incriminating evidence which Billy had obtained about their father, a United States Senator who was then running for president. ‘Billygate’, as the affair was referred to, ruined the Presidential aspirations of Billy and Sean’s father when information about the Senator’s past (which Billy had arranged to be given to the press) was made public.

   “There is a letter here, addressed to you in care of me, from a ‘Pora' in Iceland. You know anything about this?” Mary turned the letter over in her hand as if the explanation might be written on the back.

   “It’s pronounced Thora, the Icelandic alphabet has additional letters," said Sean as he took the envelope from Mary, “That must be from Billy’s old girlfriend. I wonder how she got this address?” As a rule, Sean never talked about any of the women with whom he previously had relations. He definitely had not told Mary about the encounter with Billy’s girlfriend. He had also received no communication with Þora since he left Reykjavík, although he knew that she must have been aware of the whole Billygate affair.  “I wonder what she has to say,” he said, taking the envelope out of Mary’s hands.

   He opened the letter. It contained only a photograph of an infant. On the back was written Vilhjálmur Stefán - 15 March 2013.

   “Is that someone you know? Someone who I should know?” asked Mary as she looked at the picture, “What does this mean?”

   Sean didn’t really know, yet somehow he felt that the child must be Billy’s… or was it his? He had known her, of course, when he was pretending to be Billy. Why was she sending this now, rather than a year ago, or when she first knew she was pregnant? Sean’s misadventures had been a hot story in both Iceland and the US; Þora must have known all about it. It had only recently begun to fade from the public awareness.

   “I’m not sure.”

   “Sean, you knew this Þora woman when you were in Iceland?”  Mary usually wasn’t interested in Sean’s previous girlfriends, but she could see that this might become company business, her business.

   “Yes,” Sean said.

   “Okay, I want to know all about it, this situation could be potentially damaging.”

   Mary Robinson had created Applied Diffusion Research as a sort of digital private detective agency, one which used cutting edge search and encryption techniques for a variety of customers, all of whom demanded anonymity. She was in the middle of negotiations to sell the encryption side of the service to a large corporation which had been recently burned by secret NSA ‘backdoors’ in the usual encryption schemes.  During ‘Billygate,’ she had managed to keep ADR out of the headlines, barely, by keeping a low profile and casting Sean in the role of an ‘independent contractor’. Any unfavorable new exposure could jeopardize a deal worth millions.

   “It happened when I was pretending to be Billy. We spent a morning together, I felt that it was an important thing to do to avoid blowing my cover.” Sean spoke slowly. He was trying to come to grips with the situation, not just for a possible paternity suit, but also how Þora got Mary’s address. Sean had become increasingly wary of people trying to contact him since the fiasco with Billy and the Senator. Too many hack journalists had been trying to create something out of nothing in the past few months (although they had been strangely silent on the Senator’s indiscretions). The last thing Sean or Mary (or Þora, for that matter) needed was an actual scandal.

   “You fucked her.” said Mary, her eyes flashing.

   “Uh, hmm… Yes. We did have sex. I didn’t think I had much of a choice.”

   “You could have said no,” Mary said, getting her ‘power look’ on.

   “And blown my cover?” Sean was backpedaling now. No one enjoyed being the subject of Mary’s scrutiny. Her BS detector was extremely effective—and she always got to the truth.

   “You must have been a pretty good actor.”

   “I mean com’on, my girlfriend Molly was being tortured by FBI agents. What was I supposed to do?”

   “You liked fucking her, didn’t you?”

   “It was alright.”

   “ '‘It was alright.’  I bet it was.  Com’on lover boy, O International Man of Mystery, fuck me, fuck me now, just the way you fucked her,” Mary said. She was a woman possessed.

   “Now?”

   “Now.”

   “What? I’m supposed to turn it on, like a switch?” Mary got closer, her eyes were inches from Sean’s.
   “I’m wet,” she purred.

   “Uh… Give me a minute,” said Sean

   “I’m counting… ”  There were several seconds of silence. Finally, Mary’s countenance broke and she smiled and laughed. “I always wanted to perform a scene like that.”

   There was an another moment of awkward silence. Finally, Mary put her arms around Sean and whispered in his ear: “I’m still waiting.  And I am very wet.”

   Sean felt as if he were about to burst.

   Afterward, they ate cold toast.





Fiction

By Professor Batty