The woman, her friend, and her friend's wife slept in the same
apartment. Buffaloberry had her own room, but refused to come home unless the
wife was there, since men can be dangerous.
When she was home, she daydreamed about the time zone
differences between her city and Mars. Alternatively, she tried to figure out
how best to stand in for Natasha, one of her "regulars."
Per the former, Buffaloberry was attempting to gain employment
at an intergalactic, cooperative, continuing education venue. A bit of Internet
surfing had yielded the address and Buffaloberry's receding bank account had
provided the motive.
Per the latter, Natasha was a phobic who hired Buffaloberry to
substitute for her in biology lab. The graduate student who ran the lab was
more interested in reading pornography than in checking undergraduates'
precipitation levels, and as such often failed to notice literally incendiary
Natasha and Buffaloberry both worked for Sooner or Later Real
Estate, on one of the trash out teams. Their task was to dismember abandoned
homes. Theodore Sanders, their team leader, paid extra for weekend work or for
jobs involving their team plus any other. Weekend work, completed by multiple
teams, paid triple plus hazard bonuses.
Theodore, wise in the ways of clean out crews, recognized
weekends were for blowing bucks, for eating, drinking, and otherwise making
merry, and for long siestas. He also understood that bringing two energized
groups of people together, in one small house, almost always lead to combustion
involving some manner of braces, joints, plates, and straps. He mollified
competing groups of workers by offering them dibs on detached garages, odd,
metal or wood totems, and discovered envelopes full of powdered substances. If
necessary, he also issued tickets to mixed martial arts tournaments.
Thus it was that while prying paneling off of a wall, not so
much to satisfy the bank which held the property and wanted it free of debris,
as to locate monies that might have been tucked away there, Natasha confided in
Buffaloberry that she feared for her personal safety when in the lab.
Buffaloberry had shrugged, had quoted her standard price and had promptly begun
to fill in for Natasha. Natasha's grades and Buffaloberry's fiduciary health
As for the intergalactic learning cooperative, by the time that
the first snows settled in, mere days after Thanksgiving, Buffaloberry received
her first notice. The powers that be had taken an interest in her teaching a
course on narrative. Roger, the friend and sometime lover, who had given
Buffaloberry a search heuristic, which had turned up the school's URL, was
delighted. He asked Buffaloberry for a loan for the week's groceries and nudged
her toward cuddles.
While twirling Buffaloberry's hair between his fingers, Roger, a
dual philosophy and astrophysics major, sighed a loud over the pertness of the
puppet, which played the two-headed space beast, on The Discovery Channel's
life forms program. He envied Buffaloberry's fortune in gaining employment
Buffaloberry unwound Roger's arm from her torso. While she
opened up the livingroom sofabed and fluffed up the pillows flattened there,
she espoused about lesson plans and grading criteria. Fortunately, her friend
and his wife were visiting relatives.
Just as Roger was about to slide under the sheets, a pair of
reptiles, all coils and scales, slid out. He muttered something about why he
hadn't chosen to major in biology.
That night, Buffaloberry dreamed about space visitors attempting
to fornicate with her. She woke up from her nightmare to discover a forked
tongue, from her dimension, tickling her by smelling her toes. Her scream
roused Roger, who, in turn, took much coaxing to return to the sofa.
Later, when the sun had paced part way up it celestial
staircase, when the smog levels had risen to their typical thresholds, and when
Roger had washed up, breakfasted and returned to crunching algorithms for his
network analysis class, Buffaloberry made notes about her nightmare. Everyday,
thereafter, she spent an hour or more trying to match what her subconscious had
revealed with the odd rhetoric in her email communications with the
It was long weeks before she tripped over the tab, existent in
her software, for translating discourse originating in sovereignties very far
away. There were places for street Martian, for High Venetian, and even for
dialects of a gelatinous race that dwelled in gas cloud outside of the known
solar system. Prior, Buffaloberry had never scrolled down past French to
English or English to Russian.
Hence equipped, she was able to teach other species how to
transform their informal tales into accessible parcels, how to incorporate and
to generate feedback, and, where to find editors for the purpose of possible
publication. She cautioned her students that her course would emphasize:
writer's block, discipline, plot, character development, dialogue, and
Buffaloberry was more than relieved when she realized she lacked
a webcam. Since her employers did not push the matter, she did not buy one.
Accordingly, she was careful not to access visual feed during class time.
After one asynchronous class meeting, Buffaloberry received a
twenty-year contract. Trouble was, that she knew of no lawyer who could protect
her against loopholes in interplanetary agreements. Mentally shrugging, she
electronically indicated herself to be an agreeable party. Thus far, neither
the headless rodents of Andromeda or the giant space slugs of the Pinwheel
Galaxy were giving her any problem.
Time passed. Roger won a scholarship to a prestigious graduate
program. Natasha got pregnant and quit school. Buffaloberry's friend and wife
announced that they were relocating to Pittsburgh .
Buffaloberry leased a studio apartment and advertised for a
roommate. She found one on the Internet.
A writing student of hers, from the Triangulum Galaxy, wanted to
be Buffaloberry's benefactor. Greatly enamored of Earthly ways and means, of
fashioning tales to explain affective and sensate stimuli, the critter wanted
to pay all of Buffaloberry's rent. In exchange, all it wanted was proximity to
its teacher, i.e. it wanted a key to her apartment.
During the first few months of her lease, Buffaloberry futilely
searched under furniture and inside of cabinets for a visiting spacer. She
found none. After a while, busied with her surrogate student service, her
trashing out hours, and her time spent evaluating alien verse, flash fiction
and essays, Buffaloberry stopped hunting for her roommate. Merely, she left the
lights on when she went to sleep. All was well until the first critique of her
teaching arrived in her spam box.
Her disgruntled, yet invisible, "roommate" had found it
necessary to inform its teacher that it wrote poetry in order to adjust the hue
of its outermost horns and that Buffaloberry had no right to deconstruct its
doggerel. In fact, all of Buffaloberry's words about meter, about rhyme, about
point-of-view, about economy of diction, and the like, just proved her to be a
doofus. She wouldn't know how to write feedback even if forced to listen to the
harmonic discourse of whales on Planet Zink.
Buffaloberry promptly deleted that email. The next hour, though,
her regular email box, too, had begun to accept notices from the complaintent.
What's more, administrators from the intergalactic school had sent her a notice
informing her that her rating, as a teacher, had been compromised. Her name had
slid from the Class One to the Class Three column.
Buffaloberry deleted all such letters only to see them mushroom,
unbidden, on her computer screen. Among those tiny windows, which opened of
their own volition, was an announcement, written simultaneously in Russian,
French and English, that Buffaloberry was not permitted, according to select
bits of her employment contract, to remove, from her disc drive, letters
containing "constructive" content.
A virus scan revealed nothing. An expensive payment to a techie
who made house calls, likewise, resulted in no evidence of tampering. After all
such efforts, the disenchanted student was still able to fill Buffaloberry's
box with lambasting of an extraterrestrial kind.
In the end, after changing her email address and trading in her
laptop for an archaic desk set didn't work, Buffaloberry embraced a cruder
option. She pushed an alley cat, face down, onto a functioning photocopy
machine. She faxed that picture to her faraway employers.
Suddenly, her bank account showed a surplus of over one hundred
thousand Earthly dollars. In addition, a deed to a small farm in upstate New
York , baring her name and all manners of legal seals arrived by messenger.
Further, an electronic communication, sent to all of her known electronic
aliases, suddenly, immediately, and forthright released Buffaloberry from her
remaining nineteen and one half year commitment to teach narrative to creatures
from outer space.
Buffaloberry enrolled herself in a correspondence course in
animal husbandry. Her homestead was populated with chickens, cows, and guinea
pigs. Her rolling woodland acres sheltered foxes and deer. It suited her to
learn to respond to that menagerie.
Though she never learned about the life cycles of her former
employers, and she never met her former, imperceptible, apartment partner,
Buffaloberry did continue to receive, for the remainder of two decades, regular
savings account deposits. She also took up, as a hobbyist, organic chemistry.
Until the time when she and Roger married, Buffaloberry played
with polymers. She won a prize for the flavoring agent which is the source of
sour apple ice cream and received a patent for a flame retardant fabric for lab
coats. She learned to tincture powerful medicine from stinging nettles and to
make soothing bath gels out of lavender. What she did with her theodolite,
however, is another story.