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Chapter 26: Major O Breaks Down
The Major sat huddled on a park bench weeping. She’d never wept before. Tears were pouring from her eyes and her shoulders were going up and down with each sob.
She’d never been a little girl standing beside an open grave, looking on helplessly as her grandmother was lowered into the ground. She’d never lost a pet. She’d never had her best friend move away. She’d never watched her parents divorce. Heck, she’d never really had parents. She’d always been the Major — strong and reckless, too tough to cry. That’s the way Chester Newport liked her.
But she’d also always known that Chester Newport was looking out for her. That he would protect her no matter what scary thing was breathing down her neck. Now, if what Lady Katrina said was true - that Chester Newport was imprisoned in the Prince’s dungeon – then everything was different. All bets were off. She was on her own. Suddenly everything seemed too scary, too hopeless.
The Major felt Earwax climb out of his holster. Earwax was her constant companion, an unusually long ferret, with cinnamon-colored hair, blond highlights and an ear stud. The Major raised her head.
Earwax started into his Weasel War Dance, spinning around like a whirling dervish in a fistfight with himself. He did this whenever the Major needed cheering up. It was very funny, like two squirrels fighting over one nut.
Major Occam wiped away her tears.
“You’re right, Earwax. We can’t give up now. Everybody’s counting on us.” Even Chester Newport, thought the Major. Earwax fell over backwards like he’d knocked himself out. The Major rubbed his tummy.
Two minutes later she and Earwax were walking along a dusty black and white road. In fact, everything on Caviar was black and white, there wasn’t any color at all. The Major was digging in her encyclopedic memory. There was something she needed to remember about Caviar.
“Hey, Earwax, guess why Caviar is called Caviar?”
Earwax ignored her. If I could talk, thought Earwax, would I be riding around in your boot?
“Good guess, but it’s not because the ocean is full of sturgeons. It’s because the ocean isn’t full of sturgeons.”
Earwax rolled his eyes.
“You see, the woman who surveyed this planet loved caviar, and when she saw that the planet was eighty-eight percent water, she thought, if I name the planet Caviar, whoever settles here will have to get some sturgeons and then the next time I pass through, I’ll be able to feast on the yummy stuff. But what she didn’t know was-”
“I can’t remember what she didn’t know.”
Earwax looked skyward. This kind of thing had been happening a lot lately.
“Ironic, isn’t it? I don’t know what she didn’t know.”
The Major kept glancing around. She had Lady K’s Court Order in one hand and her stun-gun in the other. The dirt road was lined with little ramshackle houses leaning crookedly like bad teeth. They looked abandoned, except the Major kept catching glimpses of curtains moving and people peeking out at her.
A screen door squawked and two tough-looking white guys without shirts came out onto their porch. Between them they must have had every tattoo in Cutthroat’s Tattoo Catalog. They whistled at her but she ignored them. She kept walking till there were no more houses. She looked down at the Court Order.
“It says Jessica lives at 179 Markland with her dad, Josh Override. Does that name sound familiar to you? There’s 177, so this pile of boards must be 179, but there’s no way anybody could live in that.”
The house at 179 Markland could only be called a ruin. The roof had caved in; the porch roof was holding on by its last nail; the windows were broken. Any paint the wood siding might have had was just a memory. The only odd thing was the nearly-new bright red rocking chair rocking on the porch.
“Earwax, do you hear music?”
The Major was hearing faint music, island music, a man singing a catchy tune. Josh Override - singer?
The Major considered asking the tough guys if they knew what happened to the inhabitants of 179 but thought better of it. She brought her stun-gun up to her mouth and whispered.
“Stunner, I may need you.”
“I’m sorry, Major, I’m not feeling good.” This time the Major rolled her eyes. She couldn’t believe how messed up things had become since Chester Newport had disappeared.
She watched as Earwax sniffed around. Something didn’t feel right. She looked back down the street. Quite a few black and white people were out now. The porches were filling up. They wouldn’t see many Ranger uniforms here. The Major turned back. Ahead of her, the street ended at a chain-link fence. Behind the fence was a scrap yard full of pipes and rusting machinery.
Earwax scampered toward the falling down house. Suddenly what was left of a screen door swung open and out stepped a tall black man, more young than old, wearing frayed shorts, white t-shirt and flip-flops. An ugly, three-legged cat came through his legs joining him on the porch.
Seeing a person come out of 179 surprised the Major almost as much as what he was carrying: a shotgun. Earwax climbed up onto the porch and began sniffing the cat. The man aimed his gun at Earwax.
“Call off this rodent or you’re both dead.”
“Earwax, leave the cat alone.”
Earwax backed off the porch.
“So, what do you want?”
The Major waved her piece of paper. “I’ve come to warn you. Jessica’s mother means to harm you.”
“I didn’t think Her Ladyship wanted anything to do with me or her love child?”
“Circumstances have changed.”