Monday, staring at lychees in the specialty shop, Zuberi wondered who had murdered the snitch. And how he and Rosa could have quarreled over something so — impersonal.
They were an ideal couple, had met in their late thirties, wiser. Evenings, one put on music. The other cooked. They alternated weeks. They strolled the parkways of the Skycity, chatting.
Last night, Zuberi had listened to Rosa’s public case — a sweetdrink company charged with sinking illegal wells. The insider who’d sent the wells’ map to the police had gone missing. They’d checked his usual haunts. Murder, surely, but no body.
“How dare they steal water?” Zuberi had sputtered. “With seawater still rising and salinating freshwater, mountain glaciers no longer feeding rivers—” He shook his fork.
Rosa nodded. “Algal blooms ruining drinking sources. I know. It’s a crime. That’s why we’re charging them.”
“The Corporation Limitations Act of 2052 has been our Magna Carta,” Zuberi waxed on, “limiting the rights of multi-national corporations. Corporations are just like Mesopotamian rulers — they always become dictators, then claim godship.”
(Zuberi’s degree was in Ancient History; Rosa’s in Political Studies.)
Rosa put her glass down. “Yeah, I get it. Now stop preaching.”
“Just thinking aloud,” he said.
“The police are on it.”
Zuberi bristled. He took a slow breath, changed the subject. The rain catchment system was leaking. Perhaps the condo board needed reminders? They discussed summer plans. He suggested a canoe trip in Manitoba; she favoured hiking the coast of Vancouver Island. He’d lived in B.C., wasn’t thrilled. Rosa snapped that she’d paddled rivers with her first spouse.
There was another awkward pause. They puttered in different rooms all evening, pretending they were adults.
Zuberi turned and walked out of the shop empty-handed.
On Tuesday, Zuberi was having a difficult day with twenty-three students, aged eight. Two refused to work, a third had been disrespectful to the newest refugee. A fourth had a glorious meltdown, which had necessitated evacuating the class. The newcomer had beckoned Zuberi down and wiped yellow paint off his black hair.
He took them outside. That glorious system of continuous Skyparks in Toronto, (tall buildings joined by law at two levels for rain catchment and solar/wind energy) was heavenly. It was a greenspace you could stroll for hours.
Watching them climb dwarf maple trees, Zuberi retraced the marital argument. It still bothered him. Surely they could choose a summer adventure for both. He loved the coast. She loved to paddle. It was only their third anniversary next weekend. He had an unpleasant taste like plastic, in his mouth.
He herded his class to the Japanese water garden. They were delighted when he unpacked watercolour paints and grasspaper.
The small cataracts were deeply soothing, and he mulled over the importance of freshwater, scarce in the world. Corporations would steal it. (Where was that body? Wouldn’t it be ironic if…) He considered famous water spots nearby.
Every lifeform needed water. Maybe marriages as well. He’d wanted to river paddle; she’d wanted the Wild Pacific Trail. He suddenly had an idea, and picked up a small brush.
That night Zuberi served Prince Edward Island mussels with mixed greenhouse vegetables. They watched a film set in the Antarctic Ocean and he was careful to avoid speaking of missing persons or summer plans. They were each extremely polite.
Wednesday night he picked up lobster and served it with potatoes and greens. He told Rosa about an amusing thing one of his students had done. She almost smiled.
Thursday night he cooked lime kokoda, a difficult fish to despine. He told her, offhandedly, about his thought about the missing body. A famous water body, such as Niagara Falls or the Elora Gorge? He handed Rosa pawpaw in coconut cream, then chatted about the weather.
Friday night, as they sat down on their balcony to a dinner of sea palm, wakame and dulse roasted with crispy shiitake mushrooms, Rosa started to chuckle.
She nudged him with her foot. “You’re up to something. And I might finally be beginning to get it.”
“I’m innocent, attorney.”
Rosa buttered a fresh roll and gave him half. “You and your culinary hints. Hmm.”
Zuberi loved it when she grinned with a mouth full of food. It was unrestrained, impolite, genuine. He loved her peeling herself out of her suit, then yanking on sloppy comfortable clothes. She was in a loose grey thing now with rips in the knees, curly hair pointing every which way. He stuffed the roll in his own mouth and grinned back at her.
“Does it have something to do with our argument? Or our anniversary tomorrow?”
“Oh my goodness. Is that tomorrow?” he asked. “I was just thinking we need to freshen up the solar paint out here.”
She threw back her head and laughed.
The next evening it rained, spoiling the picnic he had planned at the Japanese park. He thought his week’s meals had been rather inspired. It had definitely raised the bar. In the meantime, he took a deep breath, let it pour through him, let it go.
Rosa’s legs were stretched out across the exact width of their bed, across him; she was snoring lightly. Zuberi smiled in the dark. The poor informant’s body had been found in the Niagara Whirlpool, as many others had, over the centuries. Now Rosa could prosecute the corporation’s Board of Directors with murder charges.
Tonight, Rosa had enjoyed his tiny painting of a red sand Prince Edward Island beach. He leaned over to the side table, took a long drink of pure water, then closed his eyes. A Ziptrain to the east coast, flying over the rich greenways which had once been paved major highways, and were now a marvel in themselves. That would be lovely. Certainly they’d see deer, maybe a lynx? Then who knows? Kayaking, hiking, whatever. It really didn’t matter. With Rosa, it would be great.
Jerri Jerreat writes under solar panels on an ancient limestone seabed near Kingston, Ontario. Her fiction has been featured in The Yale Review Online (Nov. 2018), The Ottawa Arts Review, (June 2019), The New Quarterly, The Antigonish Review, The Dalhousie Review, Room, and in science fiction anthologies such as Glass and Gardens: Solarpunk Summers (World Weaver Press) and Nevertheless: Tesseracts 21 (Edge Publishing).