(For the Etherbooks Flash Fiction competition day six: topic: SPACE)
Joan was a decent sort, the kind of nutjob you don’t regret buying at the government’s Auction. Other villages had their hands full with the wackos they’d picked out, but we at North West Fang Two were satisfied with ours. Every block had to have one since they turned the public health into what they called a “distributed system”. She kept mostly to herself, wasn’t the financial burden like some. She wasn’t a saint, and there were the baseline maintenance costs. It helped that Joan’s parents had been rich enough that some money came down from Central to the Local Council. Of course we didn’t know that when we picked her out. Mostly we got her because the other choices were clearly worse; a large young male schizophrenic, an insufferably incompetent Elvis impersonator, and a perpetually pregnant paranoiac. Joan seemed glorious by contrast.
She was a short, thin anorexic with bright red hair, a constant jogger and accomplished collector. There was nothing she wouldn’t hoard. You’d see her all the time dragging rubbish of all sorts down the streets and into her tiny cottage. Sally and I took to peeking in the windows to see if we could figure out where all that junk finally got to. It seemed there couldn’t be nearly enough room in there. Our own little bungalow was about the same size and we could barely squeeze ourselves into it, let alone the piles of phone books, broken chairs, random metal bars, discarded dolls, bags of used clothing and assorted other whatnots we’d see little old Joanie carrying about. Always cheerful, with a smile and a happy greeting such as “Capitalism is Evil!” and “Mind your pants!”, Joan became quite a fixture around here. She was among the loudest singers at Church on Sundays and would never refuse to pet a friendly dog.
One day Joan caught Sal and me trying to peep through her side yard window. Sally was on my shoulders with her face pressed up against the glass.
“What do you see?” I whispered.
“There’s nothing in there,” she whispered back.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” I said. “We just saw her pushing a broken motorbike in the front door yesterday!”
“Hullo Jimmy!” It was Joan, come around the back yard and standing there staring at us. Sally crawled down and tried to hide behind my back.
“Oh, hullo Joan,” I answered politely.
“Bet you’re wondering,” she smiled. “Where did it all go?”
“It did occur to me,” I mumbled.
“I’ll let you in on a secret,” she took a few steps toward me, and stretched out her arm with her hand open, palm up. Sitting there on it was a little yellow ball, like a golf ball from mini-golf.
“It’s all in here,” she said. “In my compactor. Do you want to see?”
“Um, no, that’s okay,” I said, backing away. I believed her. Why not? This whole thing was my own delusion anyway. I’m the guy they bought at North West Fang Fourteen.