The Cuckoo's Progeny
08: Hashin’ Out all ‘de Details
CopyrightÂ© 2016 Vincent Berg. All rights reserved.
“No, what I says,” Eli said, “is despite me patois, I grasp details and weave together different info to filter undiscovered truths.”
“Excuse me, but who are all these people?”
Everyone turned, not having heard the door open, to discover a heavyset woman with curly reddish hair. She wore glasses, a polka-dot dress and a series of whimsical tattoos.
“Hey, hun! I gots ‘tum people for you ‘ta meet.”
“I’m pleased to meet ya’ll, but let me deposit these bags first.” Betty and Delilah leapt up to assist.
“Sorry. We were supposed to meet you at the fire department, but when we arrived, you’d already disappeared.”
“Yeah, Eli said he had company, so I snuck out early to pick up more wine and essentials to entertain with. Only he never said how many were coming. I was expecting Ken and Julie. I don’t think I know any of you. I’m Zita, by the way.” She set her bags down, taking out two bottles of wine, which she passed to the two women. “You can make yourself at home and start pouring, but don’t let Eli fool ya. He speaks the Queen’s English with the best of ‘em. He just likes to disarm people with his ‘down home’ approach, so they let their guard down.”
Al smiled, studying the subject of their discussion. “I thought it odd you only accent certain words.”
Eli chuckled. “Ye’ gots me, ye’ bloody blokes!” he said, in a dead-on London accent. “Along with me research, I speak several languages.”
“Five,” Zita said from the other room, “not counting either his patois or Klingon.”
“Ye gots to count ye Klingon, woman, else ye got no curse words!”
“Oh, you curse fine in all five, though I’ve got a few spare phrases if you’re having trouble remembering.”
She came out carrying several glasses, while Delilah carried out a single newly opened bottle. “We’ll only need one,” she explained. “Al and Betty aren’t yet old enough to drink. Eli already offered them some iced tea.”
“We won’t stay long,” Al promised. “We only need to explain a few things, and then you and Eli have some issues to discuss.”
Zita sat and offered her glass to Delilah, who filled it for her. When done, she lifted her glass. “All right, this sounds interesting.”
“Before we start,” Eli stood and waved to indicate everyone gathered, “des people save several lives at me Coffee of de Bean today.”
“That was your place?” Zita asked, leaning back on the couch and sipping her drink. “I heard about the accident, and some accidental hero, but no one mentioned it was your shop. Those jerks never tell me nu’thin’!”
“This is gonna be tricky, ‘cause o’ the double names. This be plain ‘Al’, his sister, Betty or Be, Gary or Gar, and Delilah or Del.”
Zita laughed. “Okay, I gotta ask, why the duplicate names?”
“It’s something we just started,” Gary explained. “Al’s always used his nickname, but called his sister by her pet name. We discovered we share more with each other than most families do, so we all adopted similar names.”
“Does that mean I’m a lowly Zit?” she asked, looking shocked, though the corners of her mouth gave her grin away.
“How about ‘Zi’?” Delilah suggested.
“Actually, I’m surprised none of you have noticed yet,” Eli said. “Those aren’t random names, just as your abbreviations aren’t.”
“Uh, what do you mean?” Betty said as the women sat, Zita curling up beside her boyfriend.
“Think about it: Al, Be, Gam, Del, Eps and Zet.”
“My name’s not Gammy,” Gary protested. “I’m not your grandma.”
“No, but it’s close enough. There aren’t many common male names starting with Gam. Those are the first six letters of the Greek alphabet: alpha, beta, gamma, delta, epsilon and zeta.”
“Zeta isn’t the last?” Betty asked.
“I’ll show you one of my text books later, but no, it isn’t. That would be omega.”
“Wait, you’re suggesting we were each named in some specific order? What kind of freak does that?”
“De same one who tattoos de wrists of babies.”
Delilah slapped her forehead, realizing the connection. “The group homes, of course!” When everyone else stared at her, she explained. “If a baby is brought to an organization and no one knows its name, the staff invents one.”
“But we’re all from different homes,” Al said. “Which classics scholar would assign names across multiple State institutions?”
“It coulda been anyone familiar with each, especially if they were well-respected,” Zita expanded. “Say an official or a doctor. Since the names had to be approved by a judge, the person must have had a recognized reputation.”
“So if we return to each group home and discover the common link, we’ll discover who’s behind all this?”
“I’m sorry, but I’m not keeping up,” Zita complained. “I’m enjoying the discussion, but who are you and why are you all here? Is this Orphans’ Anonymous or something?”
“All right, I can admit this since you’re sitting down.” Al leaned forward, taking her glass before continuing. “This might help you understand,” he said, pulling his hair back off his forehead.
Zita’s eyes went wide. “Shit!” She dropped to her knees, slamming her hand against her left breast in what everyone now recognized as an involuntary salute.
Al handed her wine back. “Next time, I’ll try that when we’re both lying on our backs and see whether I get a different response.” Zita accepted the glass, taking a large swig before holding it out for a refill. “Continue with the explanation, please.”
“We’re all outsiders who’ve turned to others with similar experiences, even if we didn’t realize it,” Al said, glancing at his sister. “Whatever or whoever gave us these marks, set us apart from the rest of humanity. Those marks have grown more pronounced lately, just as we’ve each developed new talents over the past week.”
“New talents,” Zita asked, “like knitting?” Everyone took a turn explaining which skills they possessed and how those skills had been accentuated recently. “I’m sorry, but I have no such paranormal skill,” she protested.
“Not that you’ve noticed,” Betty corrected. “But if you’re part of this group, you bring something to the table. We just don’t understand what it is yet.”
“Let’s explore that,” Al suggested. “What function do these skills point to?”
“The salutes indicate something military,” Gary offered.
“The alphabetical order might signify our relative rank,” Betty said. “Since Al is our alpha, everyone naturally assumes he’s the leader and doesn’t question his decisions.”
“You only think that because it puts you in the number two position,” Delilah said.
“Beta position,” Eli corrected her.
She waved the objection off. “If that’s the case, why are the first two the youngest? Wouldn’t they pick the leaders first?”
“Not if they were looking for specific skills,” Delilah pointed out. “So far, Al and Be have the most unusual talents. They might take longer to locate and identify.”
“If you think about it,” Al said, lifting his glass of tea to his sister, “Be’s role in locating everyone makes her an essential element. If not for her, none of us would be here. As far as I can tell, I’m only top dog because I’m the big decision maker.”
“Or a captain, if we be a navy crew,” Eli said, indicating each person in sequence. “The Captain leads, the recruiter hires the crew, the military officers provide security, and now you have your information officer and communications specialist. It all fits.”
“What’s more, a captain acts to save lives,” Betty said, “which you do by seeing which actions are safe. It’s logical that you’re the leader.”
“That makes sense.” Zita stood, looking at each person. “I’ve always been good with communication, though much of that is aptitude. I’m good with radio communications, but even then, I usually pick the correct frequency without searching for it, as if I already know what it is.”
“There you go,” Al said, toasting her again.
“If he’s the captain, where’s the damn boat?” Delilah demanded.
“First de crew, then de ship,” Eli explained.