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Matthew showed his work to a body of researchers at the IWD (Institute for Waste Disposal). His heart tightened. The white-coated scientists raised their eyebrows and whispered to each other.
At last. Now, he believed he'd found the perfect solution for ridding the world of accumulated waste. Eventually, one of them approached him. They’d be in touch. But how? By e-mail, by post? When would they ring? His previous proposals were deemed 'impossible' if not 'crazy'. Maybe this time was different.
He whistled as he wandered home. Soon, he'd be welcomed back into the fold of the scientific community.
A few years before, illness obliged him to stop work. Now he felt ready to start again. Months passed - nothing. He started to despair. What should he do? Who could he call?
At university, Larry acquired a Science degree and later a Doctorate in Science and Technology. Over the years he'd acquired many contacts in Industry and in government. Some of his inventions were snapped up by firms. Soon after, he gained a worthy reputation. However over the years, his methods became obsolete. No matter. Old ideas never die. He was convinced his inventions would play a part in today's world.
He spent most weekends with his two old friends, Sally and George. Both were single and middle-aged like himself. Some 40 years ago, they'd been at Brown Hill School in Surrey. Circumstances had driven them apart. Sally got married and had lived abroad. Her husband Mark died, so now being childless, she lived alone. George had served with her husband in the army. After the military, George went into stockbroking. He found it hard adjusting to the rapid, racy pace of the modern work-place, so left as soon as he could. Larry had time to contemplate marriage. Nevertheless, his efforts took him to various parts of the world, mostly to the United States and to the Arab Emirates. He'd not had the opportunity to be with his school companions until recently.
Usually, Sally invited them both for lunch for old times. It was also to keep loneliness at bay. In the past, both had fancied her, but their shyness prevented them to come forward. Mark, a stranger from the group, didn't hesitate. She soon fell in love with him, and soon after they were married.
At one o’clock that Saturday, Sally heard the door bell. A strong smell of lavender polish overwhelmed the corridor. She quickly
scanned the hallway, straightened an umbrella into its stand before opening the door. “Hello, you two.” She lifted up her dangling watch-pendant.
“Exactly one o’clock. That's incredible. George you're always on time.”
“ That's army training for you. I dragged Larry along. I hope you don't mind.” Taking off his wooly hat, he unbuttoned his thin tweed coat.
"Not at all." She looked at Larry who seemed to be day-dreaming.
"He was in the basement with test-tubes and his computer, " continued George."Probably didn't want to be disturbed."
"Nonsense!" Larry scouled at him. "I'll always make an exception for you Sally."
"Come in you two," holding out her hands."Let me take your coats. Help yourselves to a drink. Whisky or Vodka? Whatever's in the cabinet. I’ll go and get some ice and check on the vegetables. Hope you both like roast lamb.”
After lunch, the men helped Sally clear the table.
“That was delicious,” said George. “Mark always used to tell me about your fabulous cooking."
Larry noticed tears welling up in her eyes.'George should know better. Of course she misses him. I have to say something.' "Sally, I really enjoyed your Brussel Sprouts. So, so, so tasty."
Dabbing her eyes with her handkerchief, she smiled a little. “You bachelors……I bet you have Take-Aways or pre-packed meals most of the time."
Larry grinned. “You're right. I'm far too busy with my work. I guess it's the same for you,” turning to George who just chuckled.
All of a sudden, Sally confessed.
"I'm out of Nescafe and tea. Why don't we go to the new café on the green? It opened last week."
The two bachelors agreed and moved to the closet to get their coats.
In her shawl, Sally waited outside. Snatching his walking stick and hat, George appeared, hobbling as fast as he could through the front door. Larry, cursing quietly, followed him as he tried to put on his own coat. What's the rush? As far as he knew, Sally said the place didn't close until late in the evening, but what could he do- that was George all over.
They'd ordered their coffees but decided not to linger in the place.
“I’m glad we’re out of that café," said Sally."I couldn’t bare it. It was so noisy. People were shouting to each other yet
though they were next to each other. I even found it hard to understand what the waitress was saying.”
"We agree," said the men in unison. "It was unbearable," continued George who then led them to a bench on the green, facing the village church.
Larry noticed their female companion fidgeting. "What is it Sally?"
"It was terrible for me as I'm slightly deaf in my left ear."
At this, George made a grumbled and offered her a weak smile before sitting down. As he stood before them, Larry cleared his throat, took off his glasses to clean them.
"I wanted to ask both of you for advice." Sally stared at George then looked at Larry."I know neither of you have any idea of the kind of work I do..."
"I know you do scientific research," protested George"
"Yes, but you have no knowledge of the scientific world, or as I said before, of the kind of work I do but ..." he started to say watching a lone oak leaf spiralling down to the ground.
Sally's attention was elsewhere.“What a lovely day. It’s not too cold now. It’s only the start of October. We can listen to the robins
chirping above us in the trees.”
Larry looked at her and marvelled: how young she looked for someone in her mid-fifties. Her face wasn't wrinkles, but then he remembered- he was several years her senior.
"We might get an Indian summer you know," she said. "I remember days like this when I was a headmistress. I used to let the
children leave their classroom early and set free in the park. But, I made sure there were enough teachers to supervise them...Sorry Larry, you were saying?"
“We’ll be lucky if we can hear anything at all with all this traffic…” interrupted George, before Larry could say anything.
“Everyone's in such a hurry.”
“What a misery you are George... on such a lovely day." She turned. "Let's hear what Larry wants to ask us."
Ignoring her, he continued. "As for that crowd in the café..."
“Forget it George! We were just as noisy once." She placed a hand on his shoulder. “You've just forgotten.”
But George persisted.“What is it with all these young people nowadays?" he added."They're all dashing around, gathering together like flies to a dung heap.”
“They're addicted to...what's it called?… Ah yes, I know…Twitter. They’d rather spend time using gadgets rather than their brains. None of them seem to care about anything or anyone nowadays.”
She let out a laugh, shaking her head. “Stop being so gloomy George. In spite of what you’re saying, there are plenty of wonderful new discoveries. What about things like those born blind who can suddenly see for the first time in their lives, and there's so much more. I could go on." She put her hand up. “Come on, let’s hear what Larry wants to ask us. That's partly why we moved to the park, isn't it?”
George reached down below the seat and picked up a scrap of paper lying on the ground.
"An example of what I'm talking about,” he said. “We’re all paying enough council tax as it is. The least they could do is keep
public places clean. Why don't people use the bins? It’s bad here in the home-counties. I bet it’s much worse in London.”
Larry knew better. The problem was far more complex.
“The various County Councils do their best.“ Sally brushed away a hair from her eyes. Seeing that he was about to throw away
the torn piece of paper, she said, “Wait, George! It looks like part of a ticket to some kind of meeting. Let's have a look.”
“Most likely it's for one of those stupid loud rock concerts these youngsters like to go to," pointing at the group of juviniles passing by.
"Stop yelling George," she said. "We were just like them once."
He huffed, took off his cap and swiveled it round so the front to face him. “I doubt you were ever interested in that Larry. You always had your nose in books." He gave him a friendly pat. "That's why you did brilliantly in the academic...and joined the scientific world.”
Sally examined the piece of paper. “I’m right. It’s the remnants of a ticket to some kind of political meeting about the environment at the Dodge Hall in London. I think it's... tomorrow.”
George rapidly moved towards her and snatching it from her hands. "You could be right, but it's rubbish." He threw it in the dustbin before Larry had a chance to see it.
Sally leaned towards him. "I admit I don't know much about technical gadgets and all the jargon associated with them. Perhaps if Mark was alive, it might have made sense to him. But let's go to the meeting."
Shaking his head, Larry laughed.
“I’m not exceptional, Sally! Actually what I wanted to ask you both was, if either of you knew of some organization which might be interested in the system I've been working on for some time now.”
Sally frowned at him.
George interrupted and said to his male friend. ‘She doesn't know.’
Larry stared at him confused, realised then cleared his throat. “Sorry, I thought you knew, Sally." He continued, “I think I’ve found a system which deals with all the plastic that polutes our oceans. That awful mound is visible from space."
After a moment of silence, George said, “Sally, you know how Larry is. He might have these peculiar ideas, but I think this time he might be right. But I’m no scientist but-"
"Neither am I," Sally muttered.
"If Larry's formula solves the problem of plastic waste, then it'll be wonderful for the future of the world - Let's celebrate. What
about a drink?” suggested Sally and stopped. "What's wrong, Larry?"
"I think it's too soon." He was embarassed. Although confident with his invention, he wasn't reassured by Sally's enthuysiasm. In truth, he'd never understood women, even afraid of them. Perhaps that’s why he’d remained single, preferring the company of
computers and books. At least with those things, for the most part, there was a logical explanation. Women’s whims were something else.
George never had those hangups.
“I guess we could go to that meeting after all, “said George. “It might be useful. There'll be exchanges of ideas and it's possible Larry might meet people in the same line of business.”
George stood at the foot of the hall’s steps waiting for the others. Although he’d forgotten to bring his glasses, he could make
out signs. Indeed there was a meeting at six o’clock that evening. He glanced at his watch. Only five o’clock. Plenty of time. The
hall was on the same street as the main entrance to the British Museum.
Twenty minutes later, his two friends arrived.
Larry kept fidgeting, readjusting his tie and checking his cufflinks. He'd chosen to wear his best suit. He'd even remembered to polish his shoes.
Sally had her favourite shawl wrapped around her neck. “Relax Larry,” she whispered.
George paced up and down when he noticed a lady struggling to climb the steps with a large bundle of files and pamphlets. He
hurried towards her.
“Let me help you. These must be for the meeting about the environment tonight, aren't they?”
The woman stopped. “Yes and no. There is a meeting tonight… But not for the one you mentioned. That was last week.”