An interplanetary tale
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Buffaloberry and the Spacer. By KJ Hannah Greenberg.



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 situations.

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 both improved.

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 among aliens.

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 intergalactic school.

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 rewrites.

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.


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