Part 2: Jorge with a Cat (Part 1: 20 Dec 04)

Out the corner of his eye, Jorge saw the reflection of a ghost-pale woman. Her head was down and her feet were up. He looked back at the cat and guessed it was probably their head and ass pointing in the wrong direction. With recessed light-strips along every surface but the door, there had been no way to determine which was the ceiling.

The door shut behind the ghost woman. Jorge still watched the cat. It clutched the sock in it's forelegs and kicked it to death. He could hear clicks (she must be attaching her straps to his walls) and the puffing of cat breath (as it killed the sock). The cat was drifting toward the surface Jorge had previously selected as the ceiling but was the ghost woman’s floor.

Eyeing her reflection peripherally, Jorge noticed she had re-oriented to his floor and ceiling. How accommodating, he thought.

The ghost woman's reflection was blurry, but Jorge could see that she was wearing the same gray suit he was dressed in, that she had a man’s hair cut, and that there was nothing in her hands. He grinned (because he enjoyed proving himself right).

"I was just playing with the cat." Jorge said. "I love how graceful she is and how she's able to get around so well."

The cat pushed off the ceiling with one paw and continued to mouth the sock as it roll-floated.

"Obviously she's been here a day or two longer than me." Jorge continued.

The ghost woman's reflection stared at his back.

Since they were now sharing a three-meter cube, he could hear the ghost woman’s breath almost as clearly as the cat's. And the ghost woman's was more rapid than someone of her diminutive size should sound, unless she just finished exerting herself (Jorge pictured her finishing a sexual-romp and rushing to get here). No, it was probably nervousness on her part; but why? He could smell her. It was a clean smell, no deodorant, no lotions, no sprays, and no sweat. Jorge posed a few mental guesses as he sized up her floating reflection.

Maybe the ghost woman was upset (unless stiff-stern was her normal posture). She probably was accustomed to people placing 'conversation with her' higher on their priority list than 'playing with a cat'. She might even think I'm being rude to expect her to talk to my back, he thought. Jorge decided she was a superior officer and possibly one of the vast majority he had met who relied primarily on the rank displayed on their uniform, instead of their personality or any semblance of an ability to lead, to command others.

Jorge's mind wandered...I wondered if the ghost woman just needs to get laid? He began to fabricate a mind-movie. The elastic straps and lack of gravity added flavor to his fantasy as he imagined her contorted into a position similar to the cat's at the present moment.

He checked her reflection again. Still there, still not even a throat clearing. Jorge drew out the silence by slowly reaching down to unfasten a strap before trying to turn around.

In a soft, slightly-husky voice, the ghost woman said, "Your cat is male."

Pleased he got her to talk first, Jorge unhooked, pushed-off, turned and (after missing once) re-hooked. He decided not to respond to her "your cat" bait — just because he woke up with it didn't make it his — she wanted to make him start a line of defensive questioning: Oh sorry, did I say she? I didn't notice. Yes, I see. It has balls. My mistake, I usually refer to all cats as a ‘she’ and all dogs as a ‘he’. How are you today ma'am? Why did you say this was my cat? Blah blah Bullshit.

Looking the ghost woman straight in her scowl, he said, "Name?" While he gave her his most innocent expression: Eyebrows raised. Hands motionless.

"The cat has a National Serial Number. Names aren't assigned." She didn't smile as she said it and her brow said she had nothing more to add.

Jorge noted her eyes were the same color as her hair. Mousy brown; sparrow brown was more appropriate. Combined with the stark whiteness of her skin, it put her on the unattractive side of plain. Jorge gave her a 4 on his desirability scale. He always ranked women. He never admitted to it. Never told others — even close male friends — and didn't really like the trait. He just did it. Always. Jorge didn't think he was going to like her. He'd do her; he'd do anyone on his scale above a 2. But he was well on the road to hating her.

In slightly less than 1.3 seconds Jorge mentally ticked through a few of the various other answers ghost-woman could have given:

1. Major Mary Wickless, but you can address me as Ma'am (would have given confirmation to his previous mental guesses).

2. I'm sorry. You are Chief Warrant Officer Jorge M. Hayden; I wasn’t told you had amnesia (taking the offensive and causing him to pause).

3. We call that ugly feline 'TB', short for ... oh, I hope that scratch on your cheek isn't from him? (Humor—the best way to take command).

4. Yours, the cat’s or mine? (The checkmate response.)

"I didn't mean Jenny." Jorge replied, pointing his thumb over his shoulder. "I meant you." He accented the word by bringing his hand back to point at the ghost woman before grabbing a strap (arm swinging had caused him to pivot). Jorge hoped anger would work. If his guess was right and she was upset, turning it into anger should be easy.

"Captain Susan Fortnoy. I’m the G3."

Jorge inwardly smiled (I really like being right).

She paused and scanned his face to see if her rank or position had sunk in, or if she needed to elaborate. No anger yet. Jorge guessed either his expression held or the captain figured anyone who would name a male cat 'Jenny' needed the full speech, because she continued.

"I am the Operations Officer responsible for foreign relations on the Minnesota."

Another pause, Jorge thought it was probably to see if he would show any confirmation that he had already figured out he was on the Minnesota (commonly referred to as the SS Minnow). He was certain Sue never referred to herself or the space station by nickname. Jorge hoped her use of 'foreign relations' hadn't caused him to change his expression, because he had no idea what was foreign about him that needed relating with (or to).

She kept going. "I'm here to provide a familiarization brief and welcome you to the station," with no emotion on her face or in her voice.

"Sue?" Jorge asked. "Captain . . . as in the Navy rank for Colonel?"

He was on the right track. Her eyes squinched and she folded her arms across her flat chest (impressively, without spinning against her straps). Jorge tried a little harder. Without hand gestures, he said, "I'm tired of the game Colonel. I want some answers: Why am I here? How did I get here? How did my last mission end? What are my present orders and what is a goddamned soldier doing in space?"

The Jorge Hayden Book of Rules listed: 'Referring to a Naval or Air Force officer by Army rank' as number one with a bullet, under the heading: successful ways to piss someone off.

"Anything else?" She asked. No anger.

"Yea." No. . .yes ma'am, Jorge went for broke. "Why is my roommate a cat? I've been locked in here with it for hours with nothing but six walls and a broken monitor. If I start bumping into cat turds or breathing piss, I'll kill and eat your station mascot."

"Mister Hayden, you are still a member of the US Army and will continue to handle yourself professionally. You will conduct yourself as an officer and representative of the United States on this multi-nationally operated station. As such, you will afford members of all forces, both US and foreign, with the respect due their rank and position."

The ghost-woman-captain was fairly good in her delivery. No stutters. She wasn't flushed. Worst of all she wasn't angry. She was stern. Her attitude was calm, but she still looked upset. Maybe she just didn't want to talk to him. In-briefing a lowly Warrant? Maybe that was the job of some Army Captain — what the Navy called a Commander or some shit. She hadn't even started a teeny-tiny sway against the straps.

She continued, "I am not here to answer questions. I will provide you with a short tour and point out the necessary facilities. The shower and bathroom for both you and (she paused) Jenny." As she said that she nodded at the wall opposite the monitor and said, “latrine open.”

A portion of the wall slid open to reveal odd-compact contraptions. Jorge had never seen a space latrine before and immediately wanted to ask how it worked. Instead he decided to keep on the track he had started.

"Look, I’ve got to hand it to you, Captain." Jorge chanced his infamous, 'eyebrows raised, lips pursed, shoulders hunched, and (the tricky part) palms upturned,' body posture. "My last memory, prior to waking up a while ago, was of a mission which ended negatively . . . the location and nature of which I am not at liberty to discuss." He added in case this conversation was being monitored or recorded by some US Department of Defense weenie who's job it would be to fuck him later.

Jorge knew no one was better at — or took more pride in — screwing their own, than the US DOD.

"I'm not dead," Jorge continued. "No...not in a hospital." Jorge let sarcasm enter his posture and voice, "Better yet, I have no memory of a free shuttle ride to the SS Minnow, where a person of my training and experience has abso-fucking-lutely no place to be in the first, middle, or last place." He started to sway and caught a ring above the monitor. He finished with the kicker, raising his voice for the effect, "I wake up, locked in a room with a cat? And you aren't here to answer questions?"

Looking at the cat, which Jorge referred to as 'Jenny' on the spur of the moment because it was the first pet name (his second wife's little kick-dog) that came to mind after the ghost woman said it was male. The cat was no longer occupied with his sock (which Jorge grabbed with a minimum of flailing and put back on his right foot with a twist-bounce against his straps). Jenny was now in the latrine; it’s orange head sticking out of a rubber-boot-looking thing near the ceiling (at least, the surface Jorge's head was closest to).

The ghost-captain said, "Hayden, the Minnesota's computer will answer your questions. Later." This accompanied a nod at the monitor. "Once we finish with a tour, you can come back here and ask. Ok?"

Two hours later, Jorge was finished with enough of a tour to make him certain he wasn't a prisoner of war.

"All your questions can best be answered by the computer," the captain had repeated every time he asked anything besides how to operate the exercise machine or how to flush the shower-toilet-cat box or what the lighted indicators in the gravity elevator meant.

"Your room monitor is voice recognition activated, turned on with the word Minnesota followed by your last name, and will open and lock your door."

"What about the cat?" Jorge asked as he finished thanking her and was returning to his room. They were standing in one of the workstations with gravity — false gravity — but when you were walking on a floor that was always a floor, Jorge didn't care if it was because down was down or down was spinning away from the center. Jorge figured the cat was a prank the crew played on newcomers.

"You mean Jenny?" The Captain asked, a hint of a smile restricted to her eyes. "He is yours." She was able to put an accent on both 'he' and 'is'. "Again, the computer will explain." She said and departed up a ladder that led to the central control room.

Jorge wanted to call it ‘the bridge’ but learned from the Captain that a bridge was for piloting a ship and this station was not piloted, but stationary in space — thus the name. He thought it was funny calling it the CCR, though. He may be the only person on the SS Minnow who knew of the music group, some ninety years gone, that went by that acronym-name. As he entered the gravity-elevator (the captain had given it a name he heard and immediately forgot) Jorge told the elevator to return to his floor and hummed a portion of a partly remembered tune, "Doot, Doot, Doot, walkin out my back door".

The elevator rose and so did Jorge, leaving the floor and beginning to drift.

Jenny greeted him when he returned. The cat seemed more attentive than when he left. Jorge didn't think cats acted like this; asking for attention like a dog. He never had a cat, so he just assumed they were loners. After insuring that the cat didn't need to use the latrine (waste unit was how the Captain referred to it) by opening the door and waiting to see if Jenny entered, the cat attached itself to Jorge's suit. It's claws were extremely uncomfortable. Jorge got them to retract only after he looped the cat and secured him with straps to his lap.

Jorge stroked the cat. Jenny began to purr.

...OK beulahs and beulnubbins, if the length of this spacestation's cruise isn't contorted in the minds of your fellow countrymen causing Jorge (pronounced whore-hey) to be mistakenly called Gilligan, then once this author hears what animal (from a 70's Chicago tune) Jenny is named after, he will continue with 'Jorge and the Cat part 3'...

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