Foreign business affairs
A fable by Bruny Hudson
The more you love a memory, the stronger and stranger it is.
Hobo: Living forever through his adventures
I stopped in front of the kiosk window, my heart racing, and stared at the drawn shades. They were supposed to be open if an attendant was on duty. Remembering the kiosk number, I looked for it above the window. It was the same number I’d found in the directory under Henry’s name.
I jumped onto the windowsill and tapped at the window. There was no response. I tapped again and again, harder and harder each time until it sounded like a pounding, ready to crack the glass. I took a break and tried to scratch at the window frame.
It was too narrow to do any good, but at its side, I noticed the small bell button I’d forgotten about. I pushed it with my nose but wasn’t sure if it was ringing. I pushed it again, this time holding my nose against it for a while before I pulled back.
As I repeated it several times, I cursed under my breath. “Come on, Henry, come on. I’ve made it this far, don’t let me down now.”
When there was no answer, I barked and howled, ignoring law and order to keep the Internet tunnels quiet. After waiting a few minutes without anybody responding or showing up, I leaped from the windowsill, sat down on the floor and racked my brain over what could have been the matter with Henry.
It had been a while since I met him here, so a lot could have happened in the meantime. His listing in the directory, however, was supposed to be a current one, and it had steered me to this kiosk with the matching number.
Maybe Henry had stepped out momentarily to run an errand, but he would have put up a sign about returning shortly, and he wouldn’t have pulled the shades. Then again, he might have thought it necessary because he would be gone for hours. But what if he had fallen ill or hurt himself and couldn’t come to the window?
If I could just get into the kiosk, I might find something that would tell me what was going on or assure me that nothing was wrong with Henry. I stood up and looked alongside the kiosk and the tunnel wall.
There had to be an entrance somewhere, but it was not upfront. I spotted some doors on both sides of the kiosk, but they were quite a bit farther away, probably not belonging to it. Nevertheless, I trotted to the nearest one, and as I’d almost expected, it didn’t have any signs, no name, no designation or other identification, on it. I scrutinized three more doors from top to bottom, including their handles, and came up with the same disappointing results.
The last thing I wanted to do was open a door without having an inkling of what was behind it. Henry himself had warned me about it more than once and even suggested I always walk in the middle of a tunnel to have a buffer against any rogue door that might burst open, sucking me in and propelling me to no telling where.
I wondered if I should return to the relay station and find another kiosk and attendant who could help me. No, I instantly decided, I couldn’t leave here not knowing if Henry was OK.
Tired of checking out more doors, I went back to the kiosk for another try at ringing the bell. It used to make a real loud sound inside the kiosk according to Lorelei, the former attendant. Maybe, I had to punch it several times in a row instead of keeping it pushed down.
I jumped on the windowsill again. Instead of using my nose, already dented from the constant pressure against the small bell button, I bent my head down and moved it forward and backward. As my forehead pressed down on the button and released it over and over again, I heard a faint ringing, but the window shades remained motionless.
To be continued
To read the story from the beginning, click here or go to Fable on the menu.
It didn’t take long for my brow to start hurting, and I pulled my head away from the bell. At the same moment, someone called out in a scruffy voice from inside the kiosk, “I’m coming, I’m coming. Give me time.”
Startled, I stared at the window, still covered by the shades. That hadn’t been Henry, had it? His voice used to be smooth and calming. He always talked like a father appeasing a little pup, not like a grouchy old dog lamenting.
Imagining the worst, I kept watching the window. As the shades slowly went up, the face of my trusted, elderly friend Henry appeared behind the glass panel.
His eyes, half opened, looked droopy, and he blinked them numerous times. He finally kept them open, and with a start, he pulled the sliding window aside and his face lit up.
“OMD … Hobo,” he said, poking his nose all the way through the opening. “What a pleasant surprise to see you. If I’d known you would pay me a visit, I would’ve been on the lookout for you.”
“I wasn’t sure if I would be able to meet with you. I really thought you weren’t here, the way I banged around, hollered and constantly rang the bell.”
“Oh, you did? I was taking a nap. I had a busy morning and early afternoon. So, I lay down afterward and must have passed out completely.”
“You’re doing well then?” I shifted around on the windowsill.”
“I’m doing all right, except for getting old, I guess. When I was younger, even a pin dropping would have woken me up, and now you’re telling me I’m sleeping like a rock. That’s something old dogs do.”
“Don’t say that. My kitty sister, Sabrina, sleeps like that, too, and she’s only in her teenage years. Just yesterday, I think, I had to actually jump on top of her and shake her to wake her up because I needed her help.”
Henry laughed. “Maybe it’s just the hard work and not old age after all that sends me into such a deep slumber. But, come on in, before you fall down from the windowsill.”
Henry moved away from the open window, and I crawled through it and on top of the service counter.
“Make yourself comfortable,” Henry said as he stepped into the adjacent room. “I’m getting us a snack and a drink. I’ll be right with you.”
I hopped from the counter onto the office chair in front of it and looked around Henry’s office. It wasn’t messy, but the desk, standing alongside the counter, cluttered with lots and lots of papers and folders and dog collars and satchels, gave the appearance of a busy place.
Some of the paperwork had slid onto the countertop, and spying the be back soon sign sticking out from underneath, I pulled it out. I jumped up to the window and closed it, placed the sign in front of it and drew the shades. I didn’t want any interruptions.
Sitting back down on the chair, I contemplated the small assortment of satchels lying on the desk. I sniffed, and the smell of kibbles hit my nose as I had expected. Just like the collars on the desk collected by Henry, those bags, filled with emergency provisions for Internet traveling, had to be lost and found ones belonging to young, inexperienced pups clowning around in the Internet tunnels.
No wonder Henry was tired and needed so much sleep. Picking up after careless and unruly youngsters and keeping them straight was a chore by itself. As I stretched out to wait for Henry to bring out the chow, I felt kind of embarrassed and decided to get up and help him.
To be continued
Henry came back before I could even shift my weight. He was pushing a tray with heaps of different goodies through the partition separating the office from the storage room.
“I hope you don’t mind eating on the floor,” he said. “It’s easier and faster than trying to lift everything on top of the counter.”
I jumped down from the chair. “This looks fantastic. I’m half dead from hunger and thirst.”
“Yeah, I thought so. You look all haggard and wrinkled.”
We both dug into the feast, and I swallowed a gallon of water in between bites.
“How did you put it all together so fast?” I asked after we’d finished. “You were only gone a couple of minutes.”
Henry licked his mouth. “I’m always prepared so when I get hungry, some delicious food is right at my paws and I don’t have to waste time scrounging up some tasteless kibbles. But tell me, what brought you here?”
I lapped up another mouthful of water, burped and leaned back. “You can’t even imagine what happened to me, and I can’t think of anyone but you who could get me out of this jam, and in a hurry.”
“I imagined that much,” Henry said, his eyes twinkling. “I’d like to think you just dropped by for a friendly visit, but from the frown on your face, I could tell that you were in some kind of trouble again.”
“And you wouldn’t believe the worst part of my trouble. I have to find my friend Ludwig again. He disappeared … in India.”
“Oh, no. Do you have any reference point to where he might be in India you could go by?”
“Yes, I have the URL he last used, which was an India address, when he uploaded himself to a computer and disappeared. I emailed it to my home and hope my brother saved it for me.”
“In that case, that smart little device, the Searcher, I gave you the first time you were trying to find your friend, should do the job in locating him when you follow him to that address.”
“That’s what I was counting on.”
“So, you remember how it works? You dial in your friend’s tag or Internet ID number and follow the beeps. The pause between them will get shorter and shorter the closer you come to your friend. And the new Searchers are even more refined now, more sensitive and having a much wider range. I have some right here, all charged and ready to go. Let me get one right now.”
“Wait,” I said, “there’s a major problem. There’s something wrong with my tag and with Ludwig’s, and probably with our Internet accounts, too.”
“Oh my.” Henry scratched his head. “That definitely makes things more complicated. I might be able to help you with your tag, but Ludwig’s is out of my league. And his tag has to be functioning for you to find him.”
To be continued