“Hank!” Bev Avery’s voice was hoarse, as if she’d smoked far too many cigarettes in her life, but it was the 32nd century and cigarettes were long gone, relegated to the dustbin of history.
The teenaged boy in front of her was sitting at the kitchen table and was still listening in on wireless ear buds, engrossed in a PADD with an image of an old, old musical group on its face, a group that had been, by most people, stuck into the historical dustbin with cigarettes. Pearl Jam.
She finally got in his face. “Little Hank, I am speaking with you.”
She was silent – those ear buds were awfully good – but her gestures and her facial expressions and her face turning a bit purple were enough to get the kid to take out the ear buds. “… and another thing,” she continued, and he was about ready to put the ear buds back in when she looked at him in some exasperation. “Don’t you give a damn whether the crops come in, Little Hank?”
“Don’t call me that, Ma.”
“Oh, Mister HD-I’m-Too-Good-To-Be-Called-Like-My-Daddy? Or granddaddy? Or great-granddaddy?”
“Just, just, Ma, please, I’m sixteen years old. Can I please not be called ‘little’ anymore?”
“Fine. Henry. Is that better?”
“C’mon, Ma, you know I wanna be called HD.”
“And this,” she pointed at the PADD. “What is this, your favorite song?”
“No, I never heard it before.” The PADD slid into sleep mode and showed the time – 1623 hours – and the very old-fashioned date October 12, 3104.
“Be that as it may,” Bev said, “you need to be thinking about your future, yanno. You’re gonna inherit this here farm. We settled here, on Krios Prime, ‘cause the soil is good and we could grow good crops. We are feeding the Federation, Little – uh, Henry.”
“Meet me halfway, okay, hon?”
“I don’t wanna be here. Ma, haven’t you ever felt that way? Where you were, just, you were outta place?”
“This is your place. This is your home. We do good things. You should be committed to doing good things. It’s a part of being mature. If you wanna be treated like a grownup, you gotta start acting like one.”
The front door opened, and in strode a mountain of a man. “Big Hank!” she exclaimed, smiling. She came over and kissed him and he made an exaggerated show, even in front of their only child, and held her waist and she even, ironically, lifted one foot behind her, the essence of ironic romance.
Big Hank leaned over to his son. “You get those machines cleaned?”
“Uh, I guess so.”
“I will check. And cut that hair.”
“Pop, c’mon! Everybody wears it this way these days.”
“Well, not in my house, they don’t. And another thing, Little Hank – you need to leave the replicators for food and farm supplies. Don’t be using them to make a guitar.”
“But –” HD backed down when Bev’s eyes told him – don’t go there.
“What about your schoolwork? You still failing Biology?”
“I, um, I’m getting better,” HD said.
“Well, go upstairs and study,” Big Hank commanded.
“Uh, yeah,” HD sighed, took his PADD, and left.
Big Hank turned to Bev. “He’s gotta learn. This is his future. He can’t be thinking of music and all that pie in the sky nonsense.”
“Yes, dear,” she replied, a reflexive response.
“I’ll be out checking on the machinery. That kid of yours’ll be the death of me.”
“Ours, Big Hank,” Bev smiled, “Even when he’s a little naughty.”
“Yeah, that’s true. Gotta go.” He kissed her again and departed.
As soon as the door had closed, Bev sat down at the kitchen table and, from upstairs, she heard her son play and sing by ear, by memory, a song that was over a millennium old and he had only heard once before. She shook her head. “You’re never gonna be a farmer at this rate.”
“Where o where ….”