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Maybe Larry's new idea could work. Usually his proposals were met with either 'impossible' if not 'crazy'. That wasn't going to stop him.
One day he showed his work to a body of researchers working at the IWD (Institute for Waste Disposal). His heart tightened when he saw the white-coated scientists raising their eyebrows and murmuring to each other.
They grouped together to discuss the matter further.
*This must be they're interested in my work.*
At last he'd found the perfect solution to their insoluble problems. Eventually they turned round and said they’d be in touch either by phone or by mail.
He started whistling to himself, as he made his way home. Soon, he'd be welcomed back into the folds of the scientific research community.
A couple of months passed - nothing. Distraught, he contemplated his tea while sitting at his kitchen table. Who could he call on?
With a science degree, Larry decided to try his luck at using his ideas commercially. Soon his inventions were snapped up by firms and his worthy reputation was recognised throughout the world. He’d been handsomely rewarded for his efforts. Sometimes financially but usually he was lavished with expensive gifts. However over the years, his ideas were no longer relevant. Nevertheless that didn't put him off.
*Old ideas never die out. I can still play a part in today's world.*
Most of his week-ends were spent with his two old friends, Sally and George. They'd been at Brown Hill School in Surrey 35 years ago. Circumstances had driven them apart, although Sally’s late husband Mark had served in the army with George. Larry’s work meant he'd travelled the world, but he never saw his school chums until now.
Usually on Saturdays or Sundays, Sally invited her two bachelor friends round for lunch. Ever since Mark's deathfrom a land mine in Afghanistan, she'd call on them to reminisce on old times, but also to keep loneliness at bay
Promptly at one o’clock that Saturday, the two men rang her door bell.
At the entrance, the strong smell of lavender polish was still in the air. Sally quickly scanned the hallway. She realigned an umbrella into its stand before answering the door. “Hello you two.” She lifted up her dangling watch-pendant then looked up.
“Exactly one o’clock. George you always do this.”
“That’s army training for you. I just dragged Larry along!” He started to unbutton his thin tweed coat.
Larry looked down at the floor and then raised his eyes up to her.
“Don't like being disturbed when I'm doing research-” He quickly added, “…but I always make an exception for you Sally.”
She held out her hands. “Let me take your coats. Come in... Help yourselves to a drink. You know where everything is. There's Whisky or…whatever in the drinks’ cabinet. I’ll leave you two for a second and get some ice and check on the vegetables whilst I'm there. Hope you both like roast lamb.”
“That was delicious,” said George. “Mark always used to tell me about your fabulous cooking. He missed your good food, especially your butterfly cakes. Army food wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t-”
Larry butted in, noticing tears welling up in her eyes.
“Sally, I really enjoyed your Brussel Sprouts. I don’t usually comment on food, but I just had to mention them. They were exceptional. So, so tasty. I really liked them.”
She dabbed her eyes with her handkerchief, and looked at him, astonished. “I…I can give you some more if you like……I'll put them a box for you,” but he held up his hand. She stared at them both. “You bachelors never look after yourselves, do you? I bet this is the first cooked meal you’ve had in days.”
Larry lowered his eyes again and then raised them.
"You're right. I'm far too busy working to worry about anything else."
Now fully composed, Sally glanced in his direction.
"I don't have any coffee here so I suggest we can go to the café on the green. Shall we?"
The two bachelpors nodded and shuffled off to the closet to get their coats.
The three of them made for a park bench.
“I’m glad we’re out of there. I couldn’t bare it. I wanted to ask your advice on something, but I couldn't.” Larry remained standing in front of both of them. The gentle breeze dislodged a leaf and he watched it spiral down to the path.
“I agree,” said Sally. “At least it’s not too cold now. It’s only the start of October. Now we can listen to the robins chirping in what’s left of the branches,” she added enthusiastically. “Sorry Larry…you wanted to ask us something. What is-”
“With all this traffic, we’ll be lucky if we can hear anything at all …” interrupted George, as he turned around to sit down. “Everyone is always in such a hurry and never-” He heard Sally let out a short breath.
“Oh dear, George! What a misery you are on such a lovely day," she said. "Anyway we're here to hear what Larry wants to say and not listen to your moans, George."
The old lady was slightly younger than her male companions.
“We were like them once when we were their age." She placed a hand on his shoulder. “George...We were the same....you've just forgotten.”
“Speak for yourself," he replied as he brushed some dirt close to where he was intending to sit. “In our days, those who lived on the outskirts of the capital, like my family, hardly ever used the underground. We lived in the countryside, and when my mum was alive, she believed the air was purer in the countryside. She didn’t want us kids breathing in toxic fumes.”
“I think you’ll find that the air is slightly better in the capital nowadays,” she responded.
“What's with all these young people nowadays rushing about like flies to a dung heap?” he persisted. She shrugged in irriation, but he made sure she wouldn’t interrupt him anymore. “I think people use ...what's it called?… Oh yes, I know…it’s called …Twitter, isn’t it? They’d rather use machines than breath in the fresh air....Well it's not that fresh, but you know what i mean.”
She let out a laugh as she shook her head. “What a prophet of doom you are George. In spite of what you’re saying, there are plenty of wonderful new discoveries going on nowadays. What about these incredible discoveries? Those born blind can suddenly see for the first time in their lives, and there's much more." She put her hand up to prevent him from uttering anything else. “Come on, let’s hear what Larry wants to ask us. That's partly why we moved to the park, isn't it?”
Larry started to open his mouth but his male companion had other ideas. George reached down and picked up a scrap of paper lodged at the foot of the stainless steel bench. He held it up.
"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. It’s bad here in the home-counties. I bet it’s much worse in London.”
Larry knew otherwise. The problem was far more complex than George imagined, but he chose to keep quiet. It would be lucky if he had the chance to say anything anyway.
“Don’t be such a misery George. Most of them do their best. “she said taking off her thin, silk shawl and placed it on her lap. Seeing that he was about to throw it away, she said quickly, “Hand it over, George. Have you actually looked at it? From here, I can tell, it’s part of a ticket to something.”
He sat back down and handed it over to her, dismissively. “It’s probably for one of those loud rock concerts these…” gesturing to a young man walking past, “…these youngsters go to.”
Now several steps away from them, the adolescent, still on his mobile phone, was oblivious to the six, old eyes fixed on him.
“George…I keep telling you,” insisted Sally. “We were just like them once."
He took off his cap and swivelled it round so the front to face him. In the meantime Larry kept quiet as he positioned his thin body between them.
“I don’t think Larry was keen on any of the kind of things we all used to go to,” added George. "He always had his nose in books." He gave Larry a friendly pat. "That's why he made it to university and we didn’t.”
Now that the fragment of paper was in her hands, Sally stared at it, and tried to decipher the remaining smudged letters. Almost immediately she turned to them both, tapping it. “I’m right. It looks like it’s the remnants of a ticket to some kind of meeting….. tomorrow. I can make out the name of the hall in London and what looks like part of a date. It’s exactly the kind of thing you’d be interested in Larry.”
“Let me see,” said George rapidly moving towards her and snatching it from her hands. After inspecting it he said, "You're right, it looks like it!"
Larry grinned at her, inwardly satisfied.
Sally leaned towards him and said,
“I don't know much about all the machines being produced nowadays,” she said. “I can’t cope with all this technical jargon they use for any kind of modern equipment. Especially new cars. When Mark was alive, he knew the inner workings of any tank and could easily look after our cars, but I don’t know how he’d cope now. Things are constantly changing…It’s all going so fast too fast." She looked at him again. “It’s probably child's play for you scientists, but it’s not for us ordinary mortals.”
Shaking his head, Larry started laughing.
“I’m not a mechanic Sally! I think you’re mixing up vehicles with electronic machinery.” She gave him a hard look, but he'd not seen it. “Actually what I wanted to ask you both was who could I approach with my new idea?”
Sally looked at him quizzically. “What are you talking about?”
George mouthed to him, ‘SHE DOESN’T KNOW’.
Larry cleared his throat. “Sorry, I thought you knew, Sally." After she stopped shaking her head he continued,"I think I’ve found something to deal with all the plastic that's floating around our oceans. It can even be seen from space."
"That's a bit of an exaggeration!" George cut in.
Regardless, Larry continued. "Something has to be done about these mobile mountains. That’s why I’ve come up with this formula.”
After a moment of silence, George said, “Sally, you know how Larry is. He always has these crazy ideas but I think this time it might work. What I’ve heard so far sounds fantastic…..” Larry remained silent, and George added. “I’m no scientist or chemical expert-"
"Like me," said Sally under her breath,
Undeterred he carried on, “Larry’s formula should help dissolve the plastic.”
After a few seconds, Sally snapped back, “That’s no good.That won't work! The seas don’t need another pollutant on top of what’s already there. No, no, no…That’s not a good idea.”
Larry gave a start then spoke up.
“Don’t jump to conclusions, Sally. It’s not that at all. I’ve just discovered how to convert all these noxious chemicals into clean, pure water. You wouldn’t need a desalination process to clear away the salt. It’s a much cheaper option.”
"This calls for champagne -” and stopped when she saw that her words had not pleased him.
Larry had never understood women. That’s why he’d remained single, preferring the company of machines. On the whole, there was always a logical reason to their behaviour. Women’s whims were something else, and he didn’t think he could cope with that all his life.
“Hold on a minute,” said George. “Let’s not rush into things. Actually Sally, you might be right. Larry... I can’t see how it's done. You’d have to convert a vast quantity of sea water and contain it in what? …Large vats? You'd need massive ones for that. It’s impossible. At first, I was excited by your idea Larry, but now... I’m not so sure.” He turned and fixed his eyes on Larry. “How’s it done?”
“All will be revealed in due course. Wait and see.”
“Then I guess we’ll have to go to that meeting after all, “said George with a tone of irritation in his voice and scratching his head.
Sally nudged Larry and whispered, cupping a hand over his ear. “He’s always been the spoil-sport, but he likes organizing everything and everyone, so we'll let him get on with it. I’m sure it’ll be OK. I’m quite excited to go now!
Larry chuckled, but then mumbled quickly, “At least he’ll tell us how to find the place.”
George stood at the foot of the hall’s stone steps. Although he’d forgotten to bring his glasses with him, at least he could make out signs and markings sufficiently to get to the right place. With his blurred vision, he looked at the posters on its notice-board and was reassured to find that indeed there was a meeting at six o’clock that evening. He glanced at his watch. It was only five o’clock now and the meeting was at the same time. Plenty of time to tell the others where to come. It was easy to find. The hall was on the same street as the main entrance to the British Museum.
After several phone calls, the other two arrived.
Larry kept fidgeting and flicking imaginary dust off his trousers.
Sally adjusted her shawl and cast her eyes towards him, “Relax Larry. Take deep breathes. Make sure you speak out loud and clearly. You’ll be fine.”
George paced around and stopped dead when he noticed a lady struggling up the stone steps with a collection of files and pamphlets. He hurried, as best he could, towards her. “Let me help you with all this. These must be for the meeting tonight. It’s about scientific discoveries to combat waste, isn’t it?”
The woman stopped. “Yes... There is a meeting tonight… But not for the one you mentioned. That was last week.”
Larry stared at George and walked away.