ISSN 1989-4163


Dr. Jessica Smithe, Astronomer

Coos Palmboom

Luckily, there are still normal problems for normal people. Some people have very weird problems, like waking up and not knowing they are a boy or a girl so they use whichever public toilet shows up on their path that particular day. Luckily, again, such debilitating insecurities are just a drop of madness in the sea of everyday concerns. Entertainment though likes to spread the idea that everybody have gone crazy. There are no normal people on screen any longer and as a result of this, very few in society have any credibility left. Credibility has ceased to be a commodity, it's only your money that counts now, how far you have entered the machine. Not being of the machine seeking variety, not if they could help it that is, Trandi Romantic and the subterranean traveller entangled themselves in the normal problem of getting around by train through their city's suburbia, as they were heading for a befriended artist's exhibition opening in one of the few independence breathing towns in the region, and both had chosen to look the art critic type, stylish but distant, as if life after all was nothing but a joke. They hadn't been going out much lately, as their family situation wouldn't allow them, and they both felt they should make the most of this one, might meet people and things, might have some fun.

Like most days that autumn it was raining a lot from an overcast sky when they entered the train at a rain soaked underground station with desperately insufficient swipes of sawdust merely enhancing the mess. The traveller had been wondering when all the water was going to start affecting infrastructure and he didn't want to be alarmist, but he was alarmist. Let's not talk about it, Trandi suggested and they got to arty talk once the wheels were moving. But it was not easy to keep their cool for very long. The train was horribly smelling, like if there were some disinfected corpses lying round, the heating was off on a damp, chilly evening and the information screens were malfunctioning. They were lighting up but not showing any legible image or lettering, the intercom was mute. Lovely ride, the subterranean remarked when after a couple stations they came out of the tunnel and started continuing on overland track. The sky was completely dark now and rain lashing against the window where they were sitting. Don't mention the war, Trandi warned, just take things as they come. The traveller realised he was being childish here but he couldn't help feeling emotional shock.

All I can do is laugh about it, he conceded, trainservice in this here one of Europe's largest second cities is so absurdly bad it defies interpretation. I'm a daily user and I have been in numerous trains like this one, where it's dark and you don't know where you are going or where you are if you hadn't got some idea up front, so you're left guessing and the stations are all closed and dark. And of course you're never on the scheduled hour, which is variable in itself, the schedule, so you just sort of hope there's a train coming. At least in the rush hours they are. But what I hate most is the bottomless stupidity of announcing the arrival of trains which are busy leaving the station or have just passed by at full speed, making the step back warning a bit too vaudeville for the average commuter. How can you not get that right nine out of ten times? Who is playing those tapes? Because we are talking once again regular mistakes here.

It was true, the subterranean traveller could have continued forever with his lament about the state of the railway network, as he had seen so much neglect and misconduct, but then again most other passengers did not complain, not as openly at least, though he would often see knowing smiles whenever he got going. I sometimes call out the stations, did you know that? You? Trandi was caught dreaming by his sudden confession. If the railways are too beshitten to offer a decent system to a city of four million, then us travellers will have to substitute.

Do you think so? Trandi sounded unconvinced.

Well, I do.

It was then they were stopping between stations for the first time that journey. After five minutes people started wondering if it might take a long time. No news yet on lyfeed, someone was able to state, so no accident ahead. Then they got rolling again and they rolled into a station and literally nobody in their compartment had any idea where they were as the weather was turning quite bad at that moment and stations here were largely unlit. They reckoned it was still a couple to go so they might still pick up a sign to go by and they turned another time to the opening, as Trandi updated the subterranean on her friend's successes.

Also, they noticed some of the people sitting around them had begun moving nervously on their seats, looking at them stealthily, though complety admiring and harmless. And when they were having a good look out of the window on their next approach, two of them smiled and said, yes, it's here.

What is?

You are Dr. Jessica Smithe, aren't you?

Doctor Who? the subterranean traveller asked, freeing his companion from the embarrassment.

Dr. Smithe, discoverer of the third Pilades and, if I am correct, the theoretically possible fourth and fifth and so further Pilades constellations.

Call me Jessica, Trandi said.

Certainly, Jessica, they bowed.

The traveller wasn't quite sure this was a clever move by his dearly beloved companion, but there was nothing to be done now. So they all got up at the next stop and stepped onto a rain soaked open platform in one of the quieter in between towns.
Where the hell are we, the traveller mocked.
And how would I know, dear Johnny. Trandi raised her voice: ladies and gentlemen, do you happen to know my travel companion, teenage poet Johnny Three, now leading from behind his third generation? They had never heard of him, but if there was time later tonight a short recital would certainly be welcome.
Thank you, love.

There was now a floodlit white building in front of them with hundreds of people lining up on the stairs and into the interior. Dr. Jessica Smithe and Johnny Three took in the applause and bravos while they were being led to the stage of a large auditorium, Johnny in a backseat between the curtains, Jessica in a comfortable swivel chair opposite her interlocutor, a low table with water and a tablet between them, and a pulpit on the side for a short lecture with questions, such was the programme whispered into her ear by a stage manager.

The subterranean got the feeling that Trandi was dreaming. It was her dream they were in and his realisation made him fear he would break the spell for her, so he leaned back and tried to be as accepant as he could. Things went well for a while. There were questions about the honour of receiving a nobel prize which Jessica effortlessly answered, without as much hinting to whether she had already got one or was this year's everybody's favourite. When it was time to delve into the essence of her discovery and how this was to alter life on earth, she began to stumble. Soon after loud noises were heard in the hallway and a scrawny old woman burst onto the auditorium floor. What is that woman talking about my theories? she thundered impressively. A skinny fingered pointed forwards. She's an impostor. I am Dr. Smithe.

All eyes were on Trandi, and not all friendly. That's when I stood up and tapped her on the shoulder. Let's go. She nodded, not able to let her eyes off the spectacle. Next thing they knew they were standing in a rainy street between low storey houses, wind pulling at their umbrellas. Let's get back to the train. This was the wrong station.

Yes, it was.








@ 2018