Today, I’m posting chapter fourteen of The Souring Seas, part one of my climate change saga. I’ve devoted the past five days to making changes that reflect comments I’ve received.
The Souring Seas now focuses on the adventures of a young academic scientist studying the effects of increasing ocean acidity on the ecosystem. It leaves the science fiction and dystopian elements of my overall story to the later parts of The Road to Environmental Armageddon.
One of my two main characters struggles to balance conflicting interests in academic research and environmental activism. The other has a simpler perspective focused on convincing the public to respond to the impending climate change crisis.
I’ve junked my prologue (no one thought it was a positive element) and updated chapters one to thirteen. Here is chapter fourteen.
The Souring Seas
Thursday, September 17, 2020
Tony stomped home after another frustrating day at the university. He’d been struggling to accept that he’d be spending eight months worrying about courses when he yearned to start the research project itching to burst from his brain.
He glanced at Beth’s living room window in the adjacent apartment building, but it was dark, not surprising because she was busy on the Smugglers Cove sound stage. Tony checked his mailbox hoping for a note, but he only found a business letter from the company managing his apartment building.
He ripped it open and the word eviction immediately grabbed his attention. The letter announced the owner’s permission to renovate the old house, turning it, and the one behind, into condominium units. The notice gave him until October thirty-first to vacate his apartment.
Tony climbed the stairs hoping Beth would return from her day’s labour. His options included finding a new apartment and moving in with Beth. He preferred option two, so it appeared silly to search for new digs, perhaps even sign a lease, provided living together remained a possibility. He had six weeks to convince her the timing was right.
They’d only been intimate for three weeks, so Beth might not appreciate an aggressive approach. He contemplated ways to finesse the problem without generating any good ideas.
He began sorting his possessions while cooking dinner. Later, he kept an eye on Beth’s apartment while he worked on an assignment. At midnight, when he gave up and retired, she hadn’t arrived home.
When he returned from Dal late the following afternoon, he found her note in his mailbox. It simply said ‘Come over when you get home – Beth’.
“Hi stranger,” Beth said when she answered his knock. “How did you evade security?”
He laughed. “The building’s door was open, so I snuck in. I looked for you yesterday, but you were out late. Not working you too hard?”
“It’s been an easy week. Monday to Wednesday were reasonably long days, but yesterday and today I was free at noon. Had dinner with my parents yesterday, so you should blame them for keeping me up late.” She paused with furrowed brows. “A good reason you were looking for me yesterday, or were you simply lusting after my bod?”
“I’m always lusting after you, but I have another reason.”
“I’m not into cooking tonight. We can discuss it now or at the restaurant.”
“Your normal place, I presume?”
She smiled as she danced a little jig. “Only place that gives me complimentary wine. If we put a pillow under your shirt, they might give you some.” She was referring to the alcohol-free wine Dimitri was experimenting with. So far, they hadn’t discovered a brand he and Beth deemed worth drinking.
“I’ll forgo the pillow, but let me change. Won’t be long.”
When Tony returned, Beth stood on the sidewalk, gazing at surveyor’s stakes.
“What’s happening?” she asked.
“That’s what I wanted to discuss, but it’ll wait.” He took her hand, and they set off, young lovers strolling arm in arm to the restaurant. “Anything exciting on the set?”
“This week was less intense than last, and I didn’t get tired.” She paused, took a deep breath and Tony slowed his pace. “We’ve made great progress. My scenes for two more episodes are done. Then I’m in one more episode in two weeks.” She paused again, took another breath and resumed her monologue. “After that, I’ll be done until a final episode in November when I’m looking real pregnant.”
“I’m surprised they don’t add a little padding and get it finished.”
She shook her head. “Can’t. My key scene has me wearing an inappropriate two-piece swimsuit to a pool, so they can’t use padding.”
“Isn’t it a kiddies’ show? Seems over the top.”
She laughed. “It’s for teenagers, so pretty mild, just enough to entice the teenage boys.”
Tony stopped, puzzled. Teenage boys wouldn’t be interested unless she was naked like the famous Demi Moore photo. He shook his head. Better change the subject. “You had a good visit with your folks?”
“The door’s open for me to move home, but since I’m no longer alone, they’re okay with me staying here. They want to meet you, so we should break down and go for dinner. They’re definitely happy for me.”
“So, all’s good?”
She nodded. “But what about you? You haven’t told me about your latest experiments, and I’m missing my oceanography lessons.”
“Not much has happened. I’ve focused on stupid courses, and Jacinta’s writing her thesis. Rosie’s started her BSc project, but she has five other courses, so she’s spent little time on it. It should give our first quantitative estimates of the increase in production we get from Jacinta’s diatoms.”
“No oceanography lessons for me?”
“Unless you want me to explain what Rosie will investigate?”
“Another time,” Beth replied as they approached the Parthenon.
They were early, barely past six, so the restaurant wasn’t busy, and the staff gave Beth extra attention. Beth loved the attention and didn’t complain when they asked personal questions.
Once they settled at their table, Dimitri approached with the wine.
“This is the best one I’ve found,” he said, putting a glass of dealcoholized red wine before Beth. “You won’t need ice.” Beth had previously insisted the fake wine was more palatable when colder.
They ordered crab cakes for the appetizer, and souvlaki, lamb for Beth and chicken for Tony, for the main course.
“Look at them,” she exclaimed when the crab cakes arrived. “The perfect number, one for me, one for my baby and one for you. And Dimitri has located a drinkable wine.”
While the perpetually hungry Beth chowed down on crab cakes, Tony sipped his wine and addressed his potentially sensitive issue. “They’ve surveyed my yard because the owners are turning my building into a condo. I’m being kicked out.”
She looked up, beaming. “I can make space for your stuff in my closet. So, no problems.”
Tony choked on his wine. “That’s it, no discussion.”
“What’s to discuss? Storage space is a potential problem, but it can’t be insurmountable.”
Tony reached out, taking her hands in his. His sense of relief was palpable. “You’re wonderful! You never cease to amaze me.”
“Don’t get too excited. I haven’t finished eating. And now we’re celebrating, I’m ordering a dessert. And I must thank Dimitri for finding a good wine. Will you attract Debby’s attention?”
Tony waved Debby, the waitress, over. He stumbled through the meal in a daze, drinking more wine than was good for him and skipping coffee he probably needed.
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