“A spaceship has everything but space.”—Wife-ie
Earth time: 1830s
Planet Hy Man is a small planet, which, up to the arrival of Arthur of the North, was a haven for the four-legged creatures.
No one remembers the exact date the spaceship landed on Planet Hy Man, only that they came from some place north of the Milky Way and made Planet Hy Man what it was before women took over.
Arthur of the North, along with his sphere of energy, a few plans, and a set of tools, took control—although it wasn’t a piece of piss, as he would later make out.
He was twenty at the time, and thanks to several treaties, a few bribes, and a keen sense of order, control was his for the taking.
Arthur of the North and his crew had been in space searching for a home for longer than they could remember.
At first, they kept a log, performed daily mind-numbing rituals, and embraced their sense of duty, which involved restraint. Space turned contraception into fertility, and after an outbreak of births, it was agreed by all on the spaceship that segregation was the only way to survive . . .
After all, the last thing you needed on a spaceship was a kindergarten.
As time progressed, the daily rituals ground the crew into a sense of pointlessness, and their sense of duty waned.
Some (mainly the women) turned to the stars, others (mainly men) chanted, and finally, most sulked.
Celibacy—the key to survival—made life as bearable as a tooth abscess. There was a limit to how much happiness a nag-free life could bring, and many missed dancing, celebrating, and singing, which without a decent fumble afterwards was as pointless as many felt their mission was.
Arthur of the North’s father (a man who didn’t last long on Planet Hy Man) was fed up.
The last time he’d had his conjugal rights, he had a full head of hair and a set of teeth that made mincemeat of tough bits of “pseudo-steak,” and Herself did not answer to “Wife-ie” or “hey you” but to a selection of names he had now completely forgotten but knew put more than a smile on her face.
How long had that been? he thought.
He was casually helping himself to the ladies’ leftover rations at the time, illegally picking his way through last night’s roast, when he began to wonder . . . When did all this pickling segregation start?
He thought the log would help give some timeline to all this celibacy, and perhaps some hope.
He began to search the streamlined kitchen, which took all of two minutes . . . and without thinking, he shouted, “Wife-ie?”—a term which, thanks to segregation, was as obsolete as fresh air on a spaceship.
He looked at his Wife-ie as she entered.
She stooped through the doorway.
“What are you doing here?” She sighed. “No, don’t tell me, eating.”
“Couldn’t resist your roast. Ours is a pile of pickle—by the time I get my share, all that’s left is a few bits of gristle and a dumpling you could Frisbee . . .”
He stopped as Wife-ie moved into the kitchen.
His mind wandered to what was underneath Wife-ie’s so-called house jacket . . .
Wife-ie stood upright with a “here we go” sigh.
She, being one of the few tall members of the crew, was always stopping and straightening in the spaceship, which would be the makings of her longevity on Planet Hy Man—and the beginnings of yoga.
“Pickling mass destruction, that’s what their food is.” He looked at his wife. “Weapons-like . . .”
She thrust an “almost as good as home” roast potato his way with a “here” and watched as he mashed down on it.
Her hubby had the memory of an ant.
There was a time when he was as bright as the Milky Way, thought Wife-ie. Now he circles the kitchen repeating himself like heartburn.
“He’s not much at the cooking, our son, is he?” she muttered.
Hubby eyed his wife; he could almost see through that jacket.
“Just wondering about dates and things,” said Hubby. “How old am I, and more’s the point . . . your ovaries?”
He tightened his squint.
“Shouldn’t they have retired by now?”
He gave up the squinting and went for eye contact. “We could, you know . . . engage in a little fumbling?”
A “fumbling” joke was on the tip of Wife-ie’s tongue.
“I thought the log might help,” he said.
“Yes, a quick flick might give us an idea of time and . . . your ovaries,” said Hubby.
“You’ve the log,” said Wife-ie.
“What?” Hubby choked on his potato.
“We left it with you, remember?” said Wife-ie with an unnecessarily hard slap on Hubby’s back.
“Oh, that,” he coughed, waving her away. “Did we not give it to you?”
She looked at his confused face.
“You’re the ones hung up on records; we’re to plot the stars,” she said.
“Whose idea was that?” he said.
“Yours,” snapped Wife-ie.
“I don’t think so,” he muttered.
“Ask your son,” she said.
“Is he not our son?” said Hubby.
“Well, yes,” muttered Wife-ie, “but he gets all that forgetfulness from you.”
Hubby tried to digest the information, process it through an ageing maze-like brain, while Wife-ie, fed up repeating herself, sent a “to whom it may concern” memo.
“Someone somewhere has misplaced the log,” she wrote. “And that someone is male.”
The memo sent a ripple of distrust through the ship. Accusations began to fly, abusive memos were sent back and forth; all hell was about to break loose, erupt into a battle of the sexes.
Arthur of the North saw his chance.
Despite his short stature and teenage years, Arthur of the North had a persuasive power about him and soon rallied the crew into searching rather than blaming.
Finally, the log was found in an old toilet no one had used for years due to the sort of smell no amount of cleaning removed.
It was the toilet of reading matter, were the crew went when Mother Nature was not playing ball and the only cure was constipation water, which took a fair amount of sitting to take effect.
Things had improved since the constipation water days, and the toilet had been forgotten, along with its reading matter.
Late that day, segregation thrown to the imaginary wind of a spaceship, the crew sat about the table staring at the last pencil scribblings of a Gran only some remembered.
“That wasn’t written yesterday,” muttered one.
“Shows the pointlessness of a log,” muttered another.
“As out of date as Wife-ie,” muttered Hubby, which nobody chose to acknowledge.
“We could work on updating it,” said Arthur of the North, “recall facts—things that happened.”
“What the pickle for? We’re all going to die here, who’s going to read it?” muttered one.
“Yeah, who cares?” muttered another.
Wife-ie quietly flicked through the log, then slid it to her son with a “keep it to yourself” look.
With a quick scan, he slid the log into his pocket and looked at his crew.
“Maybe there is light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.
“Yeah, and maybe there’s a torch up my arse,” said a voice from the back.
Arthur, making a mental note to keep that so-and-so occupied, ended the meeting.
He, under his mother’s guidance, took control of all reading matter, including the log, sliding it in his underwear box where no one would dare look.
There was more to Gran’s ramblings than first thought. In fact, they were anything but ramblings and could even be, as Wife-ie pointed out, the saving of the spaceship.
Gran had used the stars to plot and map the way to a planet she called Hy Man because, as she put it, men were too high and mighty to listen.
“There are planets,” she wrote, “just ripe for the picking. If only that arsehole of a husband would listen to me.”
Wife-ie and Arthur of the North stared at her detailed maps as clear as their so-called insipid tea.
“We’ve been going around in circles for years,” muttered Wife-ie, “and under our noses was a map—stupid pickling segregation.”
“That was Father’s idea,” muttered Arthur of the North.
She glared at her son.
He threw her a weak smile. “If only we worked together . . .”
She continued the glare . . .
“Like, err . . . you suggested.”
“Exactly,” muttered Wife-ie.
“We’d be there by now.”
Arthur of the North nodded.
“Checking may be important,” she said, “but listening is everything.”
Arthur of the North nodded again.
“But then again, what child listens?” muttered Wife-ie.
“I do,” said Arthur of the North.
Wife-ie, ignoring her son, stared out into the dark sky.
“This must never get out,” she said.
Arthur looked up at the sky, wondering what Wife-ie was staring at.
“The crew would go mental,” she said.
“Have someone‘s guts for garters.”
Arthur laughed nervously.
Wife-ie turned to him. “Probably yours.”