Tuesday, July 5, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: May 2, 2398

Mateo pulls up to Leona’s evening workplace, and puts it in park. She looks over at the building, but doesn’t get out of the car. He looks in the rearview mirror to make eye contact with Angela in the back, but she doesn’t know what the problem is either, if there is one. “Are you okay?” he asks.
“What?” Leona asks as if just realizing that there are other people around. “Oh. It’s fine.” She pulls her backpack from between her legs, and opens the door, struggling with it just a little bit, out of unrelated tension, not because of the door itself.
“You can talk to me, remember?”
“It’s fine,” Leona says, pretty dismissively. “I’m stressed, but I can’t elaborate.”
“Were I you,” Mateo reminds her.
“Yeah.” She walks away.
“She keeps doing that. She keeps not responding to that appropriately.”
“Yeah. We’ve noticed,” Angela reveals. She crawls up to the front.
He sighs. “We’re still going to the retail store, right?”
“I should say so.”
He puts the car back in gear, but remembers that he needs to map it out first, so he just holds on the brake, and finds it. Once he does, he pulls away, and heads for their destination. “Listen, I wanted to talk to you about something.”
“Go ahead,” Angela offers.
“I’ve been...kind of wanting a job. I’ve actually been needing it. No matter how much I make, it will barely make a dent in Marie and Heath’s bank account, but I still feel compelled to contribute something. I have to help in some way.”
“We thought you might be feeling that way,” Angela says.
“You’ve been talking about me?”
“Everyone talks about everyone else,” she says matter-of-factly.
“We just think you need to keep a low profile.”
“Lower than where I already am?” he questions.
“I was thinking about applying for a job at the library. That’s why I’m going to the store, to pick up a suit.”
“That’s what I’m going to do. Well, as a volunteer. Great minds think alike.”
He’s about to contend that he doesn’t have a great mind, but that’s the sort of thing his therapist would advise him not to say. He needs to learn to value himself. So he decides that it’s true. “Yes, exactly,” he tells her. That’s a big step for him. “Why do you get to keep yourself busy, and I don’t?”
“No one said you couldn’t keep busy. We have something else in mind for you.”
“How long are these conversations behind my back?”
“I think you’ll like it.”
“You have a list of places you think might hold answers for us, like Easter Island, and Antarctica.”
“Yeah...?” She can’t really be going where it sounds like she’s going.
“We think you should check them out,” she suggests.
“Seriously? How is that a low profile?”
“I guess that’s not the right term. Anyway, they may be dead ends, but they may hold the key to everything. We just think someone should be responsible for trying.”
“You want me to go off alone?” he asks. “That seems weird. I mean, I’m fine doing it alone, but it’s weird that you would agree.”
“You wouldn’t be alone,” she promises. “Heath would be going with you.”

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