The phrase echoed off the walls of the new house, creating a melodic splendor of acoustical reverberations along the hyperbolic parabaloid that served as a domed roof. The words rang out with finality, astonishment, tantalization, and disbelief. Real estate was unreal.
He considered the matter with much seriousness. The house was beautifully mathematically. It would be perfect, and surely Desdemona could afford it. But he couldn't. He remembered how much cheaper land had been when he was young. His house had cost 10,000 ginkles, a trillionth of a microdulfer! Two hundred square feel. That was how much land was for sale, and half of that space was taken up by the elevator.
Maybe the publisher would call him. But he knew that his most recent work would not be published, that his pages would sit, untouched in some filing system collecting dust. If they were published, he could buy a used rug for the floor. Maybe.
With a sigh, he picked up the phone and began to dial the number of the interior decorator. Now what sort of wallpaper had Desdemona said she wanted?
"Yes, look, I'm trying my best, I really am."
"I understand you wanted something smaller."
"And something more roomy, but it's impossible."
"Yes, perhaps you should. Good day."
James hung up his phone in dismay. Three weeks of making the smallest bookcase, one for a very irregularly shaped corner at that, and she says it's not small enough. He didn't know why he put up with it. No, that wasn't true. Since they had been kids, Ned had been the impractical one, and he had been the carpenter, fashioning each of his creations with some inner passion to save space. He could have a chosen a different career, become a geometer like Ned, or a teacher like Miss "It's not good enough" Jenny Claimont. No, children were not his thing. Research was not his thing. Carpentry, and poetry.
He had written a few really good poems, his favorite of which began:
Find me a place /
Smile on your face /
More room for the human race /
No frivolities, yet lace /
Fill up my briefcase /
Hey, what's with the mace?
(The last line wasn't really part of the poem. He'd been reading it aloud when someone pulled out mace on him.)
He had often been advised to stick with carpentry. Build with wood, not words.
Miss Claimont was not having a good day, and there were several reasons for that. One, she was a teacher. Two, she was a math teacher. Three, it was a Monday. And four, she was in desperate need of a bookcase.
The bell rang, and the lights flashed rainbows. Suddenly, the hundreds of students poured into her room from every angle. And for the next hour, she would have to explain geometry.
Once she had been young and idealistic, and yes woefully inexperienced, and she had believed she could help - make a difference. Students can learn, understand, and grow. Now she hoped only to survive each passing day with some of her sanity intact.
The last of the class trickled in, one of the younger boys banging his head on a doorframe. When her children were all seated quietly - thankfully, discipline was never a problem; they were mindless robots incapable of the creativity to disobey - she began to explain how to find the area of a circle. Geniuses, though they were - everyone is born with an IQ of at least 153 - she was met with little success enlightening them. One by one, they repeated back to her what she had said, uncomprehendingly.
She was part of the Experiment to prepare the future generation, to make them viable in the real world. And they were all failing geometry, and she didn't know what to do. Or maybe she did, but just didn't care.
Jeffrey led her to the door on the 34th floor, where he kept his most secret experiments. After giving the password and identifying his fingerprints, the door opened, inviting her into a world of mystery and discovery that no one else (save him and his cat) had ever seen.
The lab was breathtaking, state-of-the-art, and even though she had seen some truly elaborate research laboratories before, as had all Nobel prize winners, she was impressed with the room, and she told Jeffrey so (though she needn't have told him, for it was obvious from her demeanor that she, unlike his cat, was impressed). He replied that he was glad she liked it, and that she was free to use it any time she liked.
Access to all equipment was a fringe benefit of being awarded, and it would undoubtedly prove to be extremely valuable in her personal investigation: trying to find who had stolen the results from her genetically cloned serpent's hair experiment.
She didn't want to be his, or anyone's assistant, but she agreed to help with his experiment because she needed the money to buy her dream house. Even though she was making enough money to live comfortably, she also had to support her husband. And lately, she had noted, they were both getting too extravagent, hardly the way a respectable physicist should behave, and so she also had to pay the reporters to not comment on her large spendings. Ned didn't know about that of course. There was, she had come to realize, no need to tell him everything, they way she used to.
"Desdemona, I look forward to working with you," Jeffrey toasted, interrupting her thoughts.
It was almost five, time for the Happy Homes Real Estate Agency to close up for the day, when Lisa reached for the phone.
"We'll take it," said Ned Jotings.
She started up her computer to add the sale to her records. The name Ned Jotings was already there, and with it was a note of just two words: