Story Go Round 1/31/2003, round 1, #5

"Salve Regina"

Well, the first few weeks were pretty depressing, and we won't talk about them. The canisters were completely empty, and HQ said no more would arrive for another month. It was handy of them to focus on that - when the new bunch would show up - rather than why the cylinders of the gas we all needed to survive on this rock showed up empty in the first place. They pointed out that the whipped cream canisters would arrive then, too. Oh goodie.

While waiting, I decided to bone up on my Latin. Every shift I recited noun conjugations over a whipped-creamless sundae. Without the sweet topping, I could taste how mediocre our ice cream really is. It only added to the low morale; when the ship's counsellor took us through the guided meditation exercises to "activate our primary optimism," most people either cried or had cravings for Rocky Road. Not that it ever stopped him ...

To be honest, I really hated him - "Salve Regina" I would cry when I came back to my quarters only to discover another missing button. The other fellas would razz me and snap towels on my exposed fanny. Oh owie. I had to wear my padded underwear for a while. But then every crew has to have a scapegoat, and we had plenty of problems to pin on my hide. Of course, I could devote several days to describing them, but I won't.

To pass the time, I would translate HQ's transmissions into Latin - but I got stuck on "whipped."

"Hey, Latin-goon," Frank snarled, strutting past, "wanna hear my confession?"

"Hey, Space Marine" I said to his boots, "sic transit vir" which I accompanied with a stiff middle finger (behind my back). Somehow he knew anyway, and he picked me up by the hair.

"Wanna be dead along with your language?" he sneered - an idle threat, and we both knew it - the loss of even one person would upset the delicate balance of CO2 in the gas exchange catalometers for years to come. I passed gas from the stress. Then one of my buttons dropped from somewhere inside his coat, and I knew.

I said, "Hey man, c'mon, gimme my button ... pleassse?"

"Ah shucks, he had to go and say 'please,' okay fine, here's yer durned buttons back." My hunch had worked out - his role as ship's counsellor had won one over his role as ship's bully - and I knew then I would survive.