Tuesday 18 September – Day 14 of 30
Steve woke up this morning feeling quite pleased with himself. As far as he knew, he hadn’t insulted anyone yesterday. He’d been pleasant to Jim Henson at breakfast. He’d done his errand boy job at the iTower without showing a trace of resentment, in fact, without feeling a trace of resentment. (Okay, he admitted to himself, you weren’t resentful because you spent most of the morning reading about Dylan and the rest of the day imagining iPod interfaces.)
As he got up, Steve noticed that Newton was still in his sleep sack, with his eyes closed. This was most unusual. Isaac adhered to a strict routine, and he began each day with a brisk early morning walk around The Square. He was rarely there when Steve woke up.
“Isaac!” Steve whispered, “what’s the matter? Are you sick?”
As soon as he said it, Steve realized that was a silly question. People didn’t get physically ill on The Cloud. Maybe Isaac was soul-sick. When he himself had been so depressed a couple weeks ago, Isaac had interrupted his morning routine to bring him a cup of tea.
Seeing no movement at all coming from the mat next to his, Steve decided to return the favor. He set out for the food tents in The Ellipse, thinking he would look for a crumpet also. They could have tea and crumpets together before he went to work. It would not be a proper English breakfast, but he thought it would still be a nice thing to do for his friend.
When he got back with the hot crumpets, butter, jam, and cups of tea, Isaac was awake but still in bed. He was visibly startled at the sight of Steve bearing gifts.
“Here you are,” Steve said, “medicine for the soul.”
Isaac smiled. “Touché! Is this payback? Did I give you a lecture on the importance of a healthy soul?”
“No payback,” Steve said. “I was worried about you and thought a cuppa, as you say, might make you feel better.”
“Oh, I’m feeling fine,” Isaac said. “I’m just varying my routine. I’ve decided to be a late riser for the next decade or so, and measure what effect it has on my thought processes. When you’ve been a resident as long as I have, it’s too tempting to set up a comfortable regimen and get stuck in it, so I try to re-invent myself every once in a while. Well, you know why we’re here.”
Yes, Steve did know. But a nice comfortable regimen was not Steve’s problem. He had to change jobs every time he mastered a new skill. Maybe he should start a Book of Jobs to keep track of them.
“Come to think of it, Isaac, why don’t you have a work assignment? Everybody else seems to. Did you ever work? What jobs did they give you?”
“Of course I worked! Someday I’ll give you the whole list of jobs I did. I’m retired now! That’s the advantage of choosing again and again to stay here, instead of choosing again and again to leave. I’ve been here 285 years you know! I get certain privileges.”
Steve knew Isaac didn’t approve of his efforts to try to leave early. Isaac thought he should emulate him, settle down, make a life. But Steve had not given up his secret plan; he just didn’t talk about it anymore. He was still working on a way to get off The Cloud.
(to be continued tomorrow)