Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: May 3, 2057

“Prince Darko,” Leona said.
“Why does he call himself that?”
“He hasn’t explained it,” she replied.
“And he wants to see me?”
“He says you and he have something in common.” That can’t be good. The Cleanser said that he would be contacting him again in the next few days, not the very next day. But it would be odd to have two different nicknames anyway, so it probably isn’t The Cleanser come calling. No, but it is an unusual coincidence. They have to be wary about everyone they meet, but when a strange young man interrupts Leona’s walk with her little big brother, there is an even greater cause for concern.
“He didn’t say anything else?” Mateo asked.
“No, but he claims to be a salmon, just like us. He stressed the part about being just like us, in fact.”
“I don’t like you talking to people who come out of nowhere in the park. How the hell did he find you?”
“He didn’t say.”
“Well,” Mateo began,” send him in, and cancel my 10:30.”
“Yes sir,” Leona said, snickering.
Mateo grabbed the miniature bat from the corner while Leona opened the door and let the stranger in. Prince Darko took a look at it and said, “you don’t need that.”
Mateo did not respond, because it was an obviously stupid remark.
“May we speak alone?”
“She’s my partner. I don’t like to be away from her.”
Darko looked at Leona like he did not approve of their relationship.
“She stays, or you go. Or she stays and you go. That would be even better.”
“You don’t trust me.”
“No der,” Mateo spat. “I don’t trust anybody. But I especially don’t trust anyone who claims to be a prince.”
“I’m not actually a prince. That’s just what my mother always called me, and now that I’m a salmon, I have trouble answering to anything else.”
“You mean...” Leona started.
“Yes,” he answered before she finished her question. “The powers that be implanted the name in my brain so that I can’t use anything else, just like they do with resurrected salmon. I’m sure they get a good laugh out of it.”
“Well, Prince Darko,” Mateo said. “How can we help you?”
He was struggling to come up with the right words. “I’m your...third leg.”
“My what?” That was inappropriate.
“Of the tripod,” he clarified. “We’re a tripod. You, Leona, and I are three of a kind. I’m on your pattern.”
“Since when?”
“To be honest, I was on this pattern before you were, so technically it’s mine.”
“Where have you been?”
“It’s a big, big world,” was all he said.
“That’s not an answer,” Leona said.
“I lived in Ohio,” Prince Darko explained. “I don’t know why, but only recently did The Delegator contact me and inform me of your existence. I’ve been doing this alone for forty-five days.”
Mateo looked over to Leona who told him that he would have begun in 2012, a full two years before Mateo’s first jump. “What have you been up to then?”
“Nothing interesting. I was in my house when it happened. When I jumped back into the timestream, there was another family living there, which was a lot of fun at midnight. Fortunately, I had paid for an entire year of self-storage, so I took all my camping supplies, and I’ve been living off the land ever since.”
“Just like that?” Mateo asked suspiciously. You realized what was going on within one day, which is not yet a pattern, and took the opportunity to start a new life. How could you have known that it was going to happen again?”
“I didn’t. I just...needed somewhere to live, and my tent was already there. It was only after I jumped again that I discovered my timeslipping wasn’t going away.”
Mateo looked to Leona again who only shrugged her shoulders. His story was believable enough, but it was still weird that they had not yet heard of him before. Why did the powers that be wait to bring them together? “Why did the powers that be wait to bring us together?”
“I was told that you were busy running for your lives. I guess they didn’t want to interrupt that.”
“You seemed to have been told a lot. How long was your conversation with the Delegator?”
“Look, I understand that you need to feel me out and size me up, but I’m just telling you what I know. I’m not here to hurt you, or step on anyone’s toes. I’m just trying to keep my head down and do what I’m told.”
“That’s not really our style,” Leona said. “We question everything, and we resist.”
“That’s fine,” Prince Darko said with some excitement. “When I say I do what I’m told, I’m referring to you. Tell me what to do. This is your show.”
“Please wait outside,” Leona told him dismissively. “We need to discuss your application.”
“Very well,” Prince Darko said humbly, with a bow.
“Hope for the best, plan for the worst,” Mateo argued after the stranger had gone.
“Never do anything without having an answer for why,” Leona argued back.
“Never assume you already have the whole story.”
“Never be surprised.”
“Treat everyone you meet with respect.”
“Do not relinquish control of your own life.”
She had a point there. He had no answer to it. “Um...pack the essentials?”
“Did you hear what he said about it being midnight?”
“Yeah, he jumps at the same time we do, which would make sense.”
“No,” Leona complained. “He’s from Ohio. Midnight there is eleven o’clock for us. He’s not on our pattern.”
“So, he’s an hour early. He can’t control that. What exactly is the problem?”
“Don’t you think, if the powers that be wanted him to be part of the group, they would have us on the exact same schedule?”
“Since when do we do something “just cuz the powers say so”.
“That’s a good point,” Leona said hesitantly. “I guess.”
“I feel something for him,” Mateo said. “It’s the same feeling I had when I first met Danica. I think we may be related.”
“Funny that didn’t work when you were dating your sister, Frida.”
“We’re not gonna talk about that!” Mateo yelled, likely loud enough for Prince Darko to hear.
“Whatever.” Leona crossed her arms like a little child.
“Darko is a Croatian name,” Mateo said. “Just like Daria, just like Mario, just like Danica, and just like Mateo.”
She closed her eyelids softly and shook her head slightly. “I suppose I didn’t know that. That would be another odd coincidence. And I imagine, if you two are related, it’s not out of the realm of possibility for the powers that be to keep you apart, just for funsies.”
Mateo stuck his head out the door and looked down the hall to Prince Darko. “Hey, are we related?”
“I am the illegitimate son of Mario Matic.”
Without saying anything else, Mario pulled himself back through the doorway. “Well, there you go. That was easy.”
“Why didn’t he say that when he was pleading his case?”
“Why’s the sky blue? Why does it always fall butter side down?”
“Light scatter and half spin,” Leona said, like he was a dummy for not knowing the answers.
“We’re letting him into our group,” Mateo said, taking charge. “And we’re going to see where it goes. “Treat everyone you meet with respect,” he repeated.
“I sure hope you’re right,” Leona said in a cautious voice.
“If he kills us and where’s our skin, then that’s life. I’m seventy-one years old.”
She scoffed and shook her head. “You’re such an idiot.”
“Were I you,” Mateo said to her lovingly.

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