I'm buttering bread as iDifficult fires up the blowtorch.
There's a knock at the front door.
Oh, the Earth Wire's connected-to-the... Spark Plug! sings my friend to himself as he works on the kitchen floor, oblivious to the knock.
Glancing down the hallway, I half expect to find Dave the postman with a parcel bustling unbidden into the house. But instead, I'm surprised to see the silhouette of a woman outside the front door. Is that my sister?
Come on in, it's open!
As I grab a tea-towel to wipe my hands on, a hesitant figure cracks the front door open and peeps inside.
Hello? Mister Roth?
As the door opens wider, the woman is revealed. A tall, slim, thirty-something lady, casually dressed in jeans and a plain white t-shirt. She's very pretty, with blonde bangs and fashionably chunky-retro glasses. Her feet are bare.
Nope, not my sister. Though come to think, I don't have a sister.
Hello? Mister Roth? she repeats as she sees me, and smiles. I find myself giving an self-conscious little wave. The woman regards me with a passing look of curiosity, and then steps confidently into the house.
Oh, the Spark Plug's connected-to-the... Vacuum Tube!
I conclude that she's far too pretty for me to be Mister Roth, and that I should really stop gawping. I stride forward, trying to remember to look manly, and offer my hand.
Yes, that's me. But please, it's Indigo. Her grip is warm and firm.
Oh, she blushes slightly, Indigo it is. I'm Abbey. I've just moved in next door. I nod, delighted, my mouth suddenly dry. She offers a thin bundle of letters. These were just delivered to me by mistake. The postman ran off before I could catch him.
Yes, that sounds like Dave. I'm aware I'm still shaking her hand. Unhitching us, I take the letters and glance at them without interest. Thank you, Abbey. That's very kind of you.
We smile at each other, and an awkward little silence swirls around us; it seems that both if us are out of practice with this kind of thing. With meeting people.
Oh, the Vacuum Tube's connected-to-the... Tuning Fork!
It's very dusty next door! she finally blurts, pointing to her shirt and dusting some of it off with a shrug of her slim shoulders. She laughs, and continues to smile at me; my thoughts become glacial in its glow.
Oh, for heaven's sake, say something, man!
Um, yep. The house has been vacant for a while now, I say, running a hand through my short hair. For the first time in years, I wish it was still long, and covered up these damned ears. The last owner moved out complaining about the "odd goings on at all times of day". Which made no sense to me. I mean, 'Difficult drops by, but there's just me, Yavin and King living here. Some occasional zebras, I suppose. Oh, and the decommissioned Terminator in the shed. Hmmm. Nope, no sense at all.
Well, I'm glad to hear you say that! enthuses Abbey. We only saw the place the once, and it seemed perfect for us.
My heart sinks. Oh, so that's you and your... Husband? Boyfriend? Kids? Dog? Oh, please let it be a big, dumb, waggy dog. Or a gerbil.
Oh. Well, that could be worse. Did I just say that out loud?
Oh, the Brain's not-connected-to-the... Vocal Chords!
Abbey laughs at my slip and 'Difficult's distant ad-lib, and the ice is broken. Dad's looking forward to meeting you too, Indigo! she laughs with a wink, peering past me to the kitchen. Who's the great singing voice? She raises an eyebrow, Your partner?
My jaw drops and works up and down a couple of times.
No, he's my best friend. She glides past me and links arms, drawing me gently into the kitchen. The action is smooth and confident, but feels neither intrusive nor presumptuous.
The scene that greets us is chaotic.
The cool tiles of the kitchen floor are littered with kitchen tools and mechanical debris. The juice blender is in pieces, and the back is off the microwave. There's a lot of free wiring, the smell of solder, and a mess of duct tape. Man, he works fast.
Rising from the disorder is a small tower of seemingly unrelated junk. The hull of the disassembled hoover forms the core, and from it a haphazard collection of chrome, plastic and multicoloured wiring reaches up to a cross-lashed horizontal broom handle. At the end of the broom, some eighteen inches above the sink, is what looks like the laser from an XBOX 360.
And under the laser stands an unopened tin of corned beef.
Holding court at the centre of it all stands iDifficult. He has welding goggles perched on his shaved head. He's sporting a Kiss-The-Cook apron over a black t-shirt, eye-watering Hawaiin shorts, and hob-nailed boots. A soldering iron is poised in one hand, and there's a chunk of stilton in the other.
We've been doing some work, I croak.
iDifficult regards us and the stilton in turn.
Sorry mate, he mumbles past a mouthful of cheese, I got peckish waiting for you.
I present my companion with my free hand. This is Abbey. She's just moved in next door. Abbey, this is 'Difficult. He's just retro-fitted half my kitchen.
Without a word, 'Difficult looks about for his discarded hat, a dark trilby that looks like it was born in the 1950s, and pops it on his head. That done, he raises it politely.
Charmed. Abbey gives a little wave, but remains next to me. She seems a bit wary, but this is understandable. Actually, continues the part-time evil genius, you're just in time. We've just finished.
It's very impressive, offers my neighbour, what have you two been building?
An excellent question. I assume Roth brought you up to speed on the broken key for the corned beef tin? He points towards the sink and the silver-and-blue container loitering there. Abbey shakes her head. Well, we really wanted to open a tin of corned beef to make sandwiches.
Uh huh, encourages Abbey. And the key to open it was broken?
He eyes her in surprise. Yes! Exactly! Well spotted! So, we thought the easiest solution was to build a laser from some spare parts we happened to have around. He surveys his kingdom and adds absently, Tho it seems we had far more than we needed.
Well, if you didn't have a regular tin opener, improvisation seems very... she casts about for a suitable adjective, sensible? It is now 'Difficult's turn to beam, pleased to have found a receptive audience. He turns and positions the tin carefully beneath the laser, and flicks a red switch.
Nothing happens. No dazzling light, no sliced metal. He frowns.
If I might observe something, purrs Abbey, slipping away from me towards the machine, and then eyeing one spot from different angles, I have a feeling that the Cheese Grater's not-connected-to-the... corkscrew?
Abbey steps back to my side awkwardly. My friend finesses a electrical meter from his pocket and probes the joint. After a moment, grunts affirmatively.
Exactly right. Impressive. He rubs his chin and inquires affably, How'd you know that?
Lucky guess? It's unconvincing. She squirms a little.
Maybe, he concedes, but there's a lot of components and connections here. It's slim odds.
Abbey blushes for the second time in five minutes. Well, let's just say I'm rather sensitive to energy flows. She extends her palm expressively. I'm hopeless with science, but I can see, plain as day, that the electricity stops there.
'Difficult considers this. Any type of energy?
She nods. Most. Strong, localised ones anyway. And Ley Lines too, if I really concentrate.
Can you sense auras? On people, I mean? From anyone else it would seem like an worried accusation, or disbelief. But my friend is curious. It's his gift.
Yes. Indigo here has a nice friendly one, if complicated. She squeezes my arm. I'd never have stepped in the house otherwise.
Cool. My genius pal nods, satisfied. And then, returning to his work, he makes the required repair with a minor adjustment and a strip of duct tape.
And flicks the switch.
A few minutes later, I'm sitting on the sofa in the front room with Abbey, enjoying corned beef sandwiches with a pot of tea. There is the distant clang and occasional curse of tidying from the kitchen.
So, I swallow a delicious mouthful of bread and meat, what's 'Difficult's aura like?
Lit up like a Christmas tree. Well, more like flashing seaside illuminations, she munches reflectively. There's some major creativity and oblique thinking going on in there.
So, do you think...
Oh, stone cold bonkers. No question about it.
I grin with her, but then cough and ask without guile, But mine was nice?
Her blue eyes twinkle as she stands. Yep, pretty nice. She leans over and pecks me on the cheek. Her blonde locks brush against my nose. Thanks for the tea and sandwiches. Be seeing you, Indigo.
She passes 'Difficult at the door and they exchange happy farewells. When he enters the room, I'm draining the last of my tea.
Nice work, man.
Thanks. He looks shifty.
You didn't tell her that we had a regular tin opener did you?
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