I wasn’t sure how this woman had gotten “Dendrite” from “Darius,” but I could count the number of times a customer got my name right on an abacus with only five pegs left. It was five. Five times.
“Hello,” I said in my best Customer Service voice. “Is there something I can help you with?”
“That’s what I intend to determine,” she said. Her voice sounded kind of familiar. Probably a repeat customer. We had few enough representatives that I sometimes dealt with the same customers more than once.
“Okay. Is this about a package you’ve already booked with us, or are you looking for information on a new destination?”
“This is not about vacation packages.”
“Alright.” This was not a good sign. “What can I help you with?”
“I’m going to guide you through a series of cognitive meta-adjustments,” she said. For all its formality, this sentence didn’t come across as rehearsed. It sounded like she actually talked like that. “Call them psychological course corrects, to see if you are have certain capacities, or at least the potential for these capacities.”
Ladies and gentlemen, we have ourselves a nutbag. That was exactly what I needed.
“That’s not very a professional assessment,” she said, “but this is only the beginning of our relationship. I won’t take it personally.”
“Holy shit,” I said. Had I just called a customer a nutbag out loud?
“Perhaps I haven’t properly set expectations,” she said. “We are offering you a position in our organizational structure. This is your initial interview.” Now that I heard it more, her voice sounded very familiar, and not like a customer. Could it be her? I hadn’t seen her in a few years. This is exactly the kind of thing she would do.
“D…Dawn? Is that you?” I almost called her by the name she made up for herself, but I stopped myself. It felt too silly coming out of my mouth after all of these years. “Dawnesha Campbell? Is this the Dawnesha Campbell I went to highschool with?”
“We did not attend school together,” she said.
“My name is Darius, ma’am. This is Lucky Travel customer service. Did you intend to call Lucky Travel customer service? Can I help you with information on one of our premiere vacation packages?”
“I intended to reach you, Dendrite,” she said. “We are considering slicing you open, and this is an attempt to determine your suitability.”
“Whoa! Was that a threat? Are you threatening me?”
“Not in the literal sense. However, if we choose to follow through you will likely be put into proximity to semi-extant physical harm.”
“Listen, lady.” I heard the irritation in my voice.. “We take threats very seriously here at Lucky Travel. Now if you’d like to refrain from that kind of talk and keep this professional, I’d be happy to tell you about our vacation packages. Can we do that? Is that something that we can do?” I wanted to hang up. I really did. But I also didn’t want to get fired, and that would get me fired even though I’d just been threatened with evisceration.
“I want you to think about science class,” she said.
“Alright. I’m sorry,” I lied, “but I’m going to have to let you go.”
“I will,” she said. “Once you think about science class.”
“Alright, lady, my supervisor is telling me that I’m going to have to hang up on you if you don’t have actual business. I don’t want to, it pains me to do this, but I’m going to have to press this little button here and drop the call. Have a very nice day.”
“I want you to think about Mrs. Kostelecki’s eighth grade science class.”
“Shit.” That stopped me cold. Who the hell knew the name of my eighth grade science teacher? I didn’t think Dawn did, but she probably could have found out. Who the hell was this?
“Look outside,” the crazy woman continued. “Can you see the moon?”
Before I could stop myself I glanced out the window. It was nighttime, and the moon was full and bright yellow. How did she know that? Was this woman watching me?
“Yes, I can see the moon.” I was letting her direct the conversation. You weren’t supposed to let the customer direct the conversation.
“Good. Now look at it.”
“Look at it and think about the class on April 6th, your eighth grade year, at precisely 10:13 AM. You were sitting with your back to the life-sized resin skeleton. You didn’t want anyone to know that you hated that seat, that you were always afraid the skeleton was going to reach out and grab your face with its cold, bony hands. Can you remember.”
“You just drank the kool aid you were supposed to be saving for lunch. You knew you’d regret it later, but you couldn’t resist. It tasted purple. You could still taste the purple on your tongue. Can you taste it?”
I could. Bright and sweet and energetic, like wine from cartoon grapes.
“Mrs. Kostelecky wore the fuzzy red sweater you thought made her look like Santa Claus. She was talking about the moons. Can you see the moons?”
“…was formed along with the earth in a process scientists call ‘co-accretion,’” Mrs. Kostelecki’s deep voice drifted into my ears. She had a thick Eastern European accent, which all of the kids could understand but none of the parents could. “We used to believe that luna secunda formed the same way, but evidence gathered during the Artemis 9 mission confirmed a fringe theory that I myself was very fond of when I was a little girl hoping to grow up to be an eighth grade science teacher.”
The class laughed. We ate out of her hands. How could we not? She was Santa Claus. She continued.
“That is, that our second moon was actually a rock hurtling through space which was caught by earth’s gravity like a ball in a catcher’s mitt. Does anyone know what that process was called? Yes, Annie? That’s right. Extra-solar capture. This also accounts for the fact that unlike lunda prima and most other stellar bodies, it is not a perfect sphere. Where I am from, we used to call it sendvič měsíc. In English that means ‘sandwich moon.’ And doesn’t it look a little bit like a sandwich?”
“It does, doesn’t it?” asked the lady on the phone.
“Yeah,” I said, “I’ve always thought so.” And it did, with that split down the middle. Like a cheeseburger from an Arcturan fast food commercial, with a rounded bun on either side. It was even kind of the same color as a piece of processed cheese, only glowing. Electric space cheese. I remembered how when I was little I asked my mom if that’s what the astronauts ate, when they were up there, and she…
“Ffffuck.” The word seeped out of me, low and slow, like helium draining from a balloon. I had barely noticed what just happened. It didn’t even seem strange, what I was seeing, even though some part of me knew that it might be the strangest thing in the 13 billion year history of the universe. It came on so naturally, so slowly, that I had barely registered that right in front of me, through the window, two different moons hung in the sky.