Premiered – 1 May 2004 (Beltane)
Tina hung up the telephone, only to have it somehow miss the cradle and fall to the side. It was almost as if Tina's hand had been shaking.
But that was ridiculous! Why should Tina be nervous? Surely, a simple telephone call to one's mother just to set up a lunch date would not make one ill at ease. And with Tina's demonstrated calm reserve even under what might have been called battlefield conditions, there seemed no possibility of Tina feeling anything but business-like calm in dealing with her mother.
Obliquely, Tina noted that the mother-daughter relationship between her and Metese was not exactly the norm. One could count, for example, all of their interactions by simply adding up the appropriate notations in Tina's day timers over the years when she and her mother had found the time to schedule one another into their lives. Obviously -- or from Tina's viewpoint, presumably -- such was not the standard, traditional, or typical mother-daughter thing.
Still... Why could Tina's calling Metese for a lunch date be so unnerving?
Something in the way Tina phrased her question caught her attention. Then she noted the uniqueness: Tina had never before called Metese and asked her for lunch; it had always been the other way around!
'My God!' Tina thought. 'Have I never called for my mother!?'
A burden, the weight of centuries, seemed to lower itself onto her shoulders. Her charge to forever be one unto herself suddenly seemed more than anyone could bear, much less Tina, the Executive Vice President of Worldwide Enterprises! Tears welled in her eyes, even as she braced herself to support the weight. Then, with decades of experience, she managed to shoulder it aside. The universe eased back, and Tina took a deep breath. The air felt strange in her lungs, as if the air hadn't entered her body for some time.
Quietly, Tina looked down, thinking, hurting... 'What did I miss?' she wondered. 'What might my mother have taught me?'
One arm came up to support her head, as it leaned to one side, seeking a moment's rest. Then obtrusively her intercom distracted her attention, and true to her calling, she took the time to address a simple but pressing business matter. When the business was done, her reverie returned and she let her mind drift into new areas. Like men.
Momentarily finding her confidence waning, she asked, 'Is there something wrong with me? Am I unnatural?' It seemed unlikely from her viewpoint. She enjoyed men. She enjoyed sex with them -- provided, of course, that she chose the time, place, and partner. At the same time, she had no interest in women, no lesbian tendencies. 'So what was wrong?'
The question recalled her reactions to her two brothers, both of whom would gladly have provided any number of services for her. 'But they're my brothers, for Pete's sake!!' Then she remembered. Perhaps Harrison wasn't.
With one hand absently hitting the switch on her intercom which told her secretary and others that disturbing her would constitute a crime punishable by death, she thought back, two days prior, when Reeanna, Dan's wife, had taken her to see Harrison .
The trek from Dan's lair to Harrison 's dungeon involved a whole new set of adventures for Tina. Her escort, Reeanna, some bygone cast off that Dan had once stumbled across in one of his many forays into the outer world, seemed particularly delighted with her charge. She grinned constantly, laughed occasionally, and highlighted her conversation with such gems as: "We're turning here." And, "Now we're going down these stairs." And, "It's nice to have lights so we can see." Tina found herself at a loss for words when it came to responding intelligently to Reeanna's pronouncements. The statements seemed to encompass completely the thought, with no need for clarification by another point of view.
Dan had told Tina that his marriage with Reeanna was profoundly sacred. Tina could find no way to resolve this with either Dan's actions or Reeanna's Pollyanna attitude. Could Reeanna possibly know some great truth that the rest of the world had forgotten? Could her constant state of joy and childish delight, represent anything other than immaturity? It was possible. But Tina was unlikely to discover the truth as there were adventures yet ahead.
There were, for example, the two slides. Reeanna "Weeeeed!" all the way down each one, while Tina merely gulped at the thought of exiting two and three floors at a time on a narrow, steep and highly functional quick escape from the upper floors. There was always the possibility of going too fast and finding oneself embedded in a wall. Worse yet, there wasn't a single equivalent to a runaway truck ramp for those slick individuals who found themselves without brakes. Tina ended up bouncing off the walls to slow her descent the first time, and then just let it all hang out on the second slide, figuring that if it was time for her to get into sheetrock, then so be it. She ended up piling into Reeanna, who laughing hysterically, had forgotten to clear the final feet of the slide.
There were no injuries in the pileup, and in fact, it gave the two women the briefest of camaraderie moments. But this didn't help in the long run. For when they arrived at the last descent, Reeanna smiled her "Lots of Luck!" smile, and merely pointed at the pummeled steel door; behind which, presumably, all manner of monsters and evil wizards lurked. Tina felt suddenly nervous; realizing that her escort had obviously no intention of investigating whatever was behind the formerly-green door. At the same time, Tina was the sophisticate demonstrating to Reeanna's concept of the mere girl, that sophisticated women often trod where girls failed to venture. Or so Tina would have her think -- as if it were required that Tina show her courage. It was one of those feelings that you aren't all that happy to sense, but nevertheless feel obligated to meet in order to live up to some personal paradigm.
Tina smiled her bravest smile, and opened the door. Reeanna mischievously ducked from what would surely be something grotesque emanating from the door. When nothing adverse arrived, Reeanna smiled self-consciously to no one in particular and took off in another direction, supposedly to return to Dan's Lair, but mostly to leave Tina to her premonitions.
Tina, hardly noticing Reeanna's departure, peered down a set of stairs, obviously original equipment for the building and which veered around to the left. Strewn the apparent length of the stairs was a metal recycler's nightmare. Every imaginable configuration of metal parts, motors, frames, unwound wiring, auto parts, rusted fenders, hood ornaments, and junk metal beyond description and/or identification as to its original use lay on the short flight of stairs. The immediate suggestion was that this flight of stairs had not been used within the last decade.
But then Tina noticed what might have constituted a winding path -- sort of a rusted brick road -- meandering its way through the discarded metal junk. Proud of her great discovery, Tina began winding her way down the stairs, neglecting to consider why the stairs were so cluttered. Was the narrow junk yard intended to discourage visitors? The question never entered Tina's mind. This was fortunate, considering that the answer was an affirmative one.
Tina's progress was rapid as she found the pace the path seemed to require and managed to get in step with its configuration. She could see a light at the end of the stairwell which as she approached it, she realized came from a small window opening in the door. Once at the door, Tina knocked. She could hear noises on the other side, but apparently answering the door was not one of the reasons for any of the diverse sounds. Tina, often venturing in where wise men fear to even glance, tried the doorknob, found it yielding, and opened the door, stepping inside.
The room she had entered was exceptionally large, broken up only by heavy pillars cleverly located at intervals sufficient to support the ten stories of building above them. It was a large room, but one with only occasional islands of open areas amidst a proliferation of iron workbenches, lathes, various sophisticated metal working machines intermixed with heavy metal working equipment, and a vast network of hanging electrical cables dropping down to energize machines whatever their location on the floor. The workbenches contained for the most part a wide variety of metal parts, both on the bench itself and in many cases stowed beneath the bench in what was apparently some pretense at order. A few, however, contained what was clearly art-in-progress – items partially polished, awaiting proper connections to adjacent pieces, and in a few instances, covered and not quite ready for show.
Tina felt an unaccountable sense of wondrous discovery as she glanced about the room full of mechanical and welding equipment, artist's paraphernalia and supplies, and the near-stages of completed work. There was the air of great industry and creative labor going on. Two older women worked along one wall with their backs to Tina, intent upon their own industry. As she watched, one moved off to the left, carrying what was apparently a packaged art object, and exited via a small door. The bulk of noises came from around the corner to the right – noises sufficient to make Tina's entrance one without fanfare and explaining why her knocking at the door had proven to be ineffectual.
Tina went for the noise (the greater sign of industry), moving along nicely swept isthmuses between the islands of open space. As she worked her way around some heavy shelves, full of every imaginable piece of equipment and raw materials, she finally saw Harrison . He was working at a forge, hammering away, and slowly shaping some heavy piece of metal to a desired shape. Intent upon his work, he didn't notice Tina even as she approached within ten feet or so. There she stopped, content to watch for a moment.
Harrison was a ruggedly handsome man, sporting the scars of more than a few wars. His tanned, muscled shoulders rippled with each hammer blow, his dark hair gleaning with his own sweat. As he rocked back and forth slightly, he seemed to favor one foot. He was in fact the intense, creative artisan at work. 'Perhaps Dan was right,' Tina thought, 'and Harrison does not carry the Gilan family genes. Certainly, he's the only one into genuine physical exertion.'
Then she smiled, thinking of what his efforts produced. Worldwide Enterprises had purchased several of Harrison 's sculptures and Tina had even found several galleries to handle his work. In fact, a significant portion of his fame as an artist had come about as a result of Tina's promotions. Harrison , in turn, had then given Tina a wondrous piece which he had called: "Child of the Earth". Tina had never fully understood the significance of the title, but had nevertheless treasured the piece as a major work of art. It still held its place as the most honored piece of art in her private office.
For a moment, Tina wondered what Harrison was working on. Dan had commented that she must "absolutely see" some of his latest work, "a major commission". Considering his track record, Tina was more than intrigued. She was even a little eager.
Suddenly, Harrison stopped his work, the last ringing of the hammer fading away. He tossed his hammer to a workbench, where it made one last metallic ring. Then he simply stood there, resting, thinking on an aspect of beauty not yet realized. For several moments, silence regained a momentary hold on the basement, until Harrison abruptly sensed someone behind him. Tina saw the slight tension in his head and shoulders and straightened herself. Slowly, Harrison turned, more curious than worried, to see whom his visitor was.
When he saw Tina, he showed immediate surprise, only to be quickly dampened. Any display of his passionate or internal feelings had never been a quality valued or encouraged by others. Even as he felt drawn to the intelligence and beauty that Tina represented, he was internalizing his feelings, savoring them. Later, when he recalled the moment, he would remember them all, despite the fact that his memories would only be obliquely related to reality.
Tina knew enough from their previous times together not to expect Harrison to begin the conversation. "Hello, Harrison . I hope I'm not interrupting."
"No." Notably missing from his response were, in order: A greeting, any indicator of surprise at Tina's presence in his studio, an inquiry into her health or well being, or anything resembling additional information of how Tina's interruption was not an interruption.
"What are you working on?" Tina knew she had carry the conversation.
Harrison glanced down at the metal work, still singing internally from the recent rearrangement of atoms so forcibly applied upon it. "I don't know yet."
"Oh." Tina smiled as she realized that beauty in the process of formation is not always seen by anyone other than its creator. With Harrison turning back to her, again waiting for her to somehow enlighten him as to the 'Why?' for her visit, Tina gestured toward another workbench, where a heavy cover shielded another work of art from premature view. "What about that one, under the cloth: Is it finished?"
Harrison looked over toward the bench, thinking a moment of what he had created. "Yes," he answered.
"May I see it?"
Harrison tensed rather abruptly and then hid the actions just as quickly -- even as Tina had noticed the effect of her question. "No." Then as if to explain, a rare event in itself, "It's a commission. I can't show it to anybody yet."
"Oh, a commission?" Tina suddenly remembered Dan's insistence that she must 'absolutely' ask Harrison about his 'major commission'.
Meanwhile, Harrison added, "It's for a wedding. It's very special."
"Yes," Tina said, enthusiastically, "Dan said you had received a major commission! This must be it."
The statement seemed to catch Harrison flat-footed. Then he realized the confusion and almost laughed. "No. This is different. Dan was talking about the Navy contract."
Apparently the confusion had been extremely contagious, as Tina now contacted it. "A 'Navy contract'?" She sounded almost incredulous.
"Yes," Harrison replied, almost grateful to have something about which he knew and with which he could add to their conversation -- hopefully prior to the conversation being placed on the endangered species list. "Right out of the blue, I got this big contract to deliver two dozen art pieces."
"That's marvelous," Tina said, desperately trying to imagine how the Navy Contract Office could possibly have managed to find Harrison and then order something sight unseen from him. The whole thing was beyond rational belief!
But Harrison was on a roll! He kept explaining. "The art is supposed to be designed for reproduction and use aboard the Polaris and Trident submarines, and others ships which spend long periods at sea. If you like, I'll show you some of what I've already done."
Tina was as enthusiastic about the prospect of seeing a group of Harrison 's recent works as she was in trying to understand the Navy's motivation -- even as a small hint of an explanation was beginning to form in her mind. "Absolutely! I'd love to see them!"
Harrison smiled in a manly, puppy dog fashion and led her off toward another bench where twenty four recently cast plates had been temporarily stacked. Each plate measured from ten to twenty inches on a side, and was obviously designed to survive even the kind of implosion a submarine might suffer at going below crush depth. Harrison began setting them up across the workbench, such that Tina could see each and every one of them.
This is when she almost swallowed her collarbone. Never in her life had Tina seen such lude, pornographic, incredibly detailed exhibitions of virtually every known sexual act and/or position. We're talking oral sex, multiple positions of fondling and caressing, kisses applied to roughly every potentially erogenous zone of the human body, and in all cases, the obvious enthusiasm by all of the models -- particularly when there were three and four of them in the same scene. To identify the work as sexually explicit would be to damn it with faint praise. It was, in fact, far beyond that. For Tina, it was the four panels graphically depicting oral sex with intricate detail and the clear presentation of facial and body ecstasy of all the participants that really captured her attention -- even as she continued to attempt CPR on herself (and without appearing to alarm Harrison at the same time).
Fortunately for Tina, Harrison had had his back turned when she felt the first sensations of total shock. As a consequence, he missed most of her gagging and the abject look of terror. By the time he turned back to her, Tina's eyes were merely the size of saucers, albeit utterly intent upon memorizing every detail of what she was seeing. Harrison watched her for a moment, sensing her total immersion, recognizing her surprise mixed with fascination.
Glancing back at his work he explained, "The idea is to provide something of a sexual surrogate. To allow sailors on long cruises some form of sexual release in the 'privacy' of their ships. This might reduce problems and diseases encountered in foreign ports. I think the Navy will really appreciate the work."
Tina didn't have the heart to tell Harrison that the Navy was going to totally freak when they saw that they were buying what any senate investigation committee in existence would instantly denounce as "Porno in Extremis!". Instead, she managed to ask, "Does your contract have any specifics on official approval prior or acceptance...?"
"No." Harrison 's answer was amazingly complete. It had never occurred to him that anyone would not like his work -- especially this work, with such universal themes and popular motifs that virtually everyone would find them wonderfully pleasurable.
Tina continued to stare at the work, slowly recognizing the inherent artistic quality of the plates. Many, she realized, would be masterpieces if only one could get over the first impression of the ultimately erotic fantasies. After a moment, she found her voice. "They're incredible!! Really!"
Intent upon the work -- taking her eyes off the stirring scenes was not yet a plausible possibility -- Tina did not see Harrison 's reaction to her approval. Had he experienced the same physical symptoms in a cardiac intensive care unit, nurses and doctors would have been scurrying to his side. His height increased by an inch, his chest swelled, and his heart went into full throttle in order to pump blood to every part of his being. And his eyes positively twinkled with delight -- or maybe just shown in a very manly way. Ultimately, he was very pleased with Tina's reaction, and would never forget this moment.
Slowly Tina managed to return to the same space-time continuum and turning for the first time to Harrison , she said, "They're extremely good, Harrison . They're just magnificent! Not everyone will see the wondrous art you've created, but... They're magnificent, nonetheless."
The man smiled. "Thank you, Tina."
Then she smiled even more. "Of course, they're not as good as what you once gave me."
Harrison felt the intensity wash over him. "My 'Child of the Earth'," he replied, lost in a mental picture of one of his better creations.
"That's the one." Even Tina's eyes were beginning to twinkle. (Which is okay, since she's a female -- female's eyes are allowed to twinkle; men's aren't.)
The combination of all this twinkling and manly equivalents, however, was beginning to have its inevitable effect. Tina's attractiveness had increased by several octaves, while Harrison was beginning to entertain possibilities of everything from Tina being able to see him as a man to Tina and he participating in several of the plates' suggested pleasures and possibilities. Naturally, this resulted in Harrison making the first semblance of an approach to a smiling Tina -- a half-second prior to her being able to recognize the obvious.
The immediate effect of Harrison 's first movement was a small metal work being hit by one of Harrison 's arms and falling off a workbench. He attempted to catch it and naturally managed to hit three other objects in the attempt. Suddenly, the entire workbench was into a minor form of bedlam. Harrison felt his world falling apart, objects flying in all directions, as he sought Tina's touch.
Tina, having missed by a mere half-second in recognizing the obvious, attempted to ease Harrison's clumsiness by touching his arm and trying to calm him down. Inasmuch as her touch had been the first item on his urgent agenda, the touch did anything but calm him down. He turned to her, one hand going for the waist on one side, the other for her opposite shoulder. Which is when yet another metal object went into a very short orbit, hitting the floor with what was becoming a typically loud noise.
The concept of 'This man is still carrying a torch for you and it's recently been re-lit!' suddenly manifested itself to Tina. Her reaction was to place both hands on his chest and lock her elbows -- the intent being to keep Harrison at an appropriate distance. The effect, as he moved closer, was for her arms to slide up his chest (a nice touch in itself) and over his shoulders, as if ready to wind about his neck preparatory to an intense kiss.
As her face plummeted toward Harrison 's neck and chest, Tina did the only thing any woman might have done in similar circumstances: She collapsed her knees and dropped out of the rapidly enveloping arms. She quickly ended up as a heap on the floor at Harrison 's feet, while he looked down in astonishment. Aloud, she tried to cover herself with something like, "Oh! I must have stumbled!"
Tina, in some respects, led a charmed life. The present moment proved itself to be no exception as both of the older ladies, previously at work in the other part of the room, arrived to inquire why so many objects were being knocked off the workbenches. They came into view just in time to see Tina go down and hear her lame excuse. Not recognizing it as such, they ran to help and thereby alleviated Tina of the problem of not being lifted up by Harrison 's strong arms and to whatever destination he might find appealing.
Tina fairly fell toward the women, who quickly helped her to her feet. As she managed to regain her balance, Tina nevertheless continued to hang on to one of the women -- her only link with the kind of support sufficient to divert Harrison 's attentions.
"What happened?" the other woman asked. "We heard all this racket..."
"It's okay, Tess," Harrison blurted out. "Just me being clumsy!"
Tina turned to the other woman, still steadying herself thereby, and said, "Thanks."
"Sure," she said. Then answering the unspoken question, "I'm Eunice."
Harrison quickly went through introductions with the two older ladies. In the process, Tina discovered that Tess and Eunice had been with Harrison for the last nine years, acting as assistants (although obviously not as models for the Navy Contract), keeping the place approximately organized, and in general mothering the reclusive craftsman and artist. When the two women realized they had intruded upon their surrogate child with his first lady friend in years, they beat a hasty retreat. As they left, Tina realized that appeals for mercy, screams of rape, or the onset of a small war would not bring Tess and Eunice back to Tina's part of the room again and thus potentially disturb Harrison 's privacy. Tina was now on her own!!
Fortunately, Harrison was now considerably calmer -- even if he wasn't yet diverted from his previous goals. Tina decided offense was her best defense, and turned back to him, with something of her customary aggressiveness.
"Have you talked to Zak lately?" When Harrison 's face abruptly changed to a blank, incomprehensible stare, Tina added, "You know, our father."
Harrison thought for a moment before he answered. "No. He doesn't talk to me; I don't talk to him. He doesn't need me; I don't need him. Or his millions! My art's selling just fine without any help from him!" The hurt and rage that flashed out of his internal fire almost unnerved Tina, who had never seen this side of his intensity.
She glanced down to the ground, unable to meet his gaze. "I'm sorry," she whispered. For a moment, she found the whole thing incongruous. When Tina had introduced the first portions of Harrison 's work to the outside world, she had effectively acted as an essential officer on behalf of Zak's company. At that time, Harrison had shown nothing but genuine admiration for her and had virtually handed his power over to her. Worldwide Enterprises had thereafter purchased numerous works of his, albeit normally through one of the many galleries carrying his work. In effect, Zak had indirectly supported Harrison , even if only through Tina. But there was still this immense rift between the two men.
As Harrison shuffled slightly, uncomfortable with the momentary chill between them, Tina suddenly realized that the Navy Contract had all the earmarks of Zak's manipulations. Only her father would have the audacity to force the United States Navy to issue a contract for art work from a relatively unknown artist and without the normal approval authority for what it was buying. They'd have to take it, even if they only planed to deep six it.
Suddenly, Tina's sense of justice flared. Her head came up, reasserting her authority in all matters strategic and allowing her eyes to gaze intently at some distant object. In her mind, the decree went forth: There was no way that the U. S. Navy was going to destroy one piece of Harrison 's art! Tina would not even consider allowing it!!
Tina's renewal had the effect of re-establishing her attractiveness in Harrison 's eyes. Bolder and driven by a deep passion, he stepped toward her. When she did not flinch, did not even sense his movement (still in fact, planning to scuttle the entire U. S. fleet as necessary!), Harrison turned gentle. Still trying to gauge her feelings of possible affection, he reached out and with the backs of his fingers gently caressed her arm.
Tina had seldom if ever felt such an abrupt change in her emotions. In a split second she went from the point of being ready for the greatest sea battle in history to suddenly finding herself aroused and warmed by a man's touch -- and mixed with a dash of panic. This was not a man! This was her brother! It was also someone whose feelings she desperately did not want to hurt. There was just no way she wanted to go any further down a romantic path with him. The thought of simply succumbing to guilt or adherence to someone else's sense of filling some prescribed role as a woman, did not even enter her mind. Instead, she simply knew that it was time for retreat. But a well considered one.
Turning to him, she grabbed his head with both hands and kissed him briefly -- but with sufficient force that he was certain to recognize what she had done. Just as quickly, she turned and ran for the exit. For a moment, she looked like a younger O. J. Simpson dodging would-be tacklers as she darted in and out and between the workbenches and equipment. Tess and Eunice looked up, only to see Tina hit the door and bolt through it.
As she took the flight of stairs in a record time for the uphill shalom, she felt flushed, confused, and totally bewildered at her rampant emotions. This unplanned, rampant sexual stuff was becoming a great deal more than she was ready to handle!
Chapter Nine – Shaky Ground
Chapter Eleven – The Underground
2003© Copyright Dan Sewell Ward, All Rights Reserved [Feedback]