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One day Matthew 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, whispering to each other, but ignoring him.
'This must mean they're interested in my work,' he thought.
At last it seemed as if he'd found the perfect solution for getting rid of the accumulated waste in the world.Eventually, one of the men turned round and said they’d be in touch. But how? By e-mail, by post? How? When would they ring? They didn't say. He knew that in the past his proposals were deemed 'impossible' if not 'crazy', but maybe this time it was different. He whistled to himself, as he made his way home. Soon, he'd be welcomed back into the fold of the scientific community.
Due to illness a few years before, he'd been obliged to stop work. Now he felt strong enough to start again. A couple of months passed - nothing. He started to despair. What should he do? Who could he call on?
Larry had acquired a Science degree and a Doctorate in Science and Technology. Over the years he had many contacts in Industry as well as with members of the government. Some of his earlier inventions had been snapped up by firms and he'd gained a worthy reputation. However over the years, some of his methods had become obsolete. This was not going to stop him from trying. He firmly
believed that old ideas never die out, and was convinced that they still played a part in today's world.
Most of his weekends were spent with his two old friends, Sally and George, all single and middle-aged like himself. Some 40 years ago, they'd been at Brown Hill School in Surrey. But circumstances had driven them apart. Sally got married and had lived abroad.
Unfortunately, her husband Mark had died, so now she lived alone not having been blessed with children. George had served with her
husband in the army. After the military, George went into stockbroking. When more modern methods were introduced, he found it hard
adjusting to the rapid pace and disliked working in an open-plan office, so he left. Larry's time in research had been so consuming that he never had time to contemplate marriage. His taken him to various parts of the world, mostly to the United States and the Arab Emirates. He had not had the opportunity to be with his school companions until recently.
Usually on Saturdays or Sundays, Sally invited both of them for lunch for old times, but also to keep loneliness at bay. Secretly, she knew that both had fancied her in the past, but they had been too shy to come forward. Mark, a stranger from the group, didn't
hesitate. She fell for 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 and straightened an umbrella into its stand before opening it. “Hello, you two.” She lifted up her dangling watch-pendant then looked up.
“Exactly one o’clock. That's incredible. George you're always on time.”
“Army training! I just dragged Larry along! I hope you don't mind.” He took off his wooly hat and unbuttoned his thin tweed coat.
"Not at all."
"He was in the basement srrounded by test-tubes and his computer. I had to drag him away. He probably didn't want to be disturbed."
"Nonsense!" said Larry. "I'm always happy to make an exception for you Sally."
She held out her hands. "Come in you two. Let me take your coats. Help yourselves to a drink. You know where everything is. Whisky or Vodka? Whatever's in the cabinet. I’ll leave you two for a second. I'll 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, especially your butterfly cakes.
Army food, as you know, is not exactly 'Cordon Bleu'.
Larry noticed tears welling up in her eyes.'George should know better,' he thought. 'Of course she misses him. I just have to say something.' "Sally, I really enjoyed your Brussel Sprouts. They were exceptional. So,so,so tasty. I really liked them."
She dabbed her eyes with her handkerchief, and looked at him, and smiled a little. “You bachelors……"she started. "I bet you have
Take-Aways most of the time."
Larry laughed. “You're right. I'm far too busy with my work. I guess it's the same for you,” turning to George who just grinned.
All of a sudden, Sally confessed.
"I've just remembered 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.
Wrapped in a shawl, Sally was already waiting for them outside. Snatching his walking stick and hat, George appeared, hobbling as
briskly as he could through the front door, while Larry, cursing quietly, followed as he tried to put on his coat. He didn't see why they had to hurry. 'What's the rush?' As far as he knew, Sally had said that the place didn't close until late in the evening, but what could he
do- that's George.
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. I was so noisy. People seemed to be shouting to each other yet
though they were next to each other. I even found it difficult 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 churhch.
Larry could tell their female companion wanted to say something else. "What is it Sally?"
"It was terrible for me as I'm slightly deaf in my left ear."
At this, George made a grumbling sound and just offered a weak smile. Before sitting down, Larry cleared his throat and 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 scientifick research," protested George"
"Yes that's right, 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, standing in front of the other two, 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 had not yet acquired wrinkles, but then of course, 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 children leave their classroom and set free in the park.However, I al;ways made sure that there were enough teachers to
supervise them...Sorry Larry, did you want to say something?"
“We’ll be lucky if we can hear anything at all with all this traffic…” interrupted George, before Larry had a chance to say anything.
“Everyone is always in such a hurry.”
“Oh dear, George! What a misery you are on such a lovely day," she said. "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 and gathering like flies to a dung heap.”
“They're addicted to...what's it called?… Ah yes, I know…Twitter. They’d rather spend their time using gadgets than using their
brains, caring for the environment or for the wellbeing of people. None of them seem to care about anything or anyone nowadays.”
She let out a laugh as she shook her head. “Stop being so gloomy George. In spite of what you’re saying, there are plenty of
wonderful new discoveries being made nowadays. 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 and on." 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?”
George reached down and picked up a scrap of paper lying on the ground, under the bench.
"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 n London.”
Larry knew better. The problem was far more complex, but he chose to keep quiet.
“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 quickly, “Wait, George! It looks like part of a ticket to some kind of meeting. It could be interesting.”
“Most likely it's for one of those stupid loud rock concerts these senseless youngsters like to go to," pointing at the group of
young men passing by.
"Stop yelling George," she insisted. "We were just like them once."
In protest, he took off his cap and swiveled it round so the front to face him. “I doubt Larry, you were ever interested in those sorts," he added. "You always had your nose in books." He gave him a friendly pat. "That's why did brilliantly in the academic...and
Sally examined the piece of paper.
“I’m right. It looks like 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 may 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 still alive, it might have made sense to him. But let's go to the meeting."
Shaking his head, he laughed.
“I’m not exceptional, Sally! Actually what I wanted to ask you both was,if either of you know 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 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 extraordinary and peculiar ideas, but I
think this time he might be right. But I’m no scientist."
"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 by Sally's enthusiasm. Although, secretly, he was confident with his invention. He had never understood women, and somehow he was afraid of them. That’s the reason he’d remained single, preferring the company of
computers and books. At least with those things, for the most part, there was always logic. Women’s whims were something else, and
he didn’t think he could cope with that all his life.
“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 waited for the others and stood at the foot of the hall’s steps. 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. It was 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 made sure to wear his best suit for the occasion. He'd even
remembered to polish his shoes.
Sally had her favourite shawl wrappedaround her neck. “Relax Larry,” she whispered.
George was pacing 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.”