Upon entering Destiny’s yard, Mark and Julie Reiner take a moment to inhale the floral scent of the garden. “You know, Mark,” Julie exhales, “Destiny’s garden never ceases to amaze me.”
“I know,” Mark replies with equal awe, “how does she manage it all:
government duties; It’s Our Destiny, and creating such an amazing garden?”
“That and all the canning, jamming and freezing. Does this woman ever sleep?”
Destiny emerges from her house. There is nothing spectacular about the exterior of her home as it is shaped, much like the majority of Hadrian’s homes, designed to access solar energy. It differs from the average only in the size of her yard. Most people admire her for living in simple accommodations like the majority of Hadrian’s citizens, rather than expressing her status and wealth through grandeur, but the same cannot be said about her yard. Destiny puts all her energy into creating and maintaining a magnificent garden, one that produces fruit and vegetables to last her the year as well as donate much to the local food bank. “Hey, you two,” she greets her film team, cheerily, “what’s all that cackling about?”
“Oh, that, that’s just your hens clucking about as usual.”
“Ah, my birds are useful, aren’t they? They keep me fed in eggs and meat.”
“I always pictured you as a vegetarian,” Julie remarks.”
“Oh, no,” Destiny replies. “I can appreciate the vegan and the vegetarian, but I am not one to live by such values.”
“Why not?” Mark was curious. He and Julie had often discussed switching to vegan.
“Life feeds on life. It’s as simple as that,” Destiny muses. “We exist because we feed on the life of plants and animals. Animals exist because they feed on the lives of plants and animals. Plants exist because they feed on the decaying bodies of plants and animals. It is the way of existence. What matters most is that we respect this truth and not abuse our natural relationship with the plants and animals we share the earth with.”
“That’s very true,” Julie replies with a smirk directed at Mark. He is the one pushing for a vegan approach, one he feels better suits the philosophy of Hadrian. Destiny Stuttgart, however, has just provided Julie with all the artillery she needs to avoid a future without meat, milk, eggs or cheese. Beef she could live without, but no chicken, no eggs, no cheese, that is just unreasonable as far as she’s concerned. That and vegans won’t even consume honey! All Mark can do at this point is sigh his chagrin.
“So,” Mark knows when the discussion is moot, and now is no place to argue over vegan versus vegetarian, “today’s episode is going to be shot at the Saskatoon tree.”
“Yes,” Destiny replies as if to a query, “and then the kids and I will clean the berries in the breakfast nook followed by jamming. I’d like to end the piece off with the three of us making Saskatoon ice cream using some of the berries I picked and froze yesterday.”
“Sounds like it is going to be a fun episode.” Looking around, Julie asks, “Where are the kids?”
“Both still inside. Gordon is helping Elena with her make-up, and needlessly fussing over his own.” Sighing, “I can’t believe I’ve raised such a vain individual.”
Marks laughs, “he’s a handsome lad, and he knows it. How old is he now 14?”
“Almost, he turns 14 in a couple of weeks,” Destiny replies.
“Won’t be long before all the boys coo over him.”
“They already do,” Destiny replies with a smile.
“And the girls, too,” Julie adds.
“Oh, he doesn’t like that!” Destiny is a little put off by Gordon’s attitude towards women. She can understand, as she too only prefers the same sex, that doesn’t mean one has to be rude when someone of the opposite sex expresses attraction. Gordon even goes so far as to express distaste if the person is trans or intersex. “MaPere was intersex,” she mutters, feeling the insult deeply.
“I’m sorry,” both Julie and Mark are concerned as gloom has descended on Destiny, causing her countenance to be much darker than they are used to from the jovial woman.
“Oh, it’s nothing, you guys. I was just remembering a little argument Gordon and I had.” Seeing their concern, she insists, “Everything’s fine, really.”
“Okay, then,” Marks leaps into action to help ease the discomfort he feels they’ve caused, “let’s get the youngins out here and get this show on the road.”
Julie can’t help but roll her eyes, “Oh, yea master of the cliché.”
“Gordon, Elena,” Destiny calls towards the house. The film team’s here.”
“Coming,” Gordon’s muffled voice comes from within, “just putting the last touches on Elena. “Hey,” Gordon cries out, “get back here, you, I’m not done!”
Elena clearly ignores him as she bounds out the door and leaps into Destiny’s arms. “Mama, mama, am I really going to be on the voc wave?” Although Destiny and Ester Stiles are not married or living together, that they are a couple is well known to the child; thus, it is natural for Elena to refer to Destiny as Mama.
“Of course, you are sweetie.” Destiny lifts the girl and gives her a little swing. “Today’s episode is going to be a lesson in berry picking.”
“Saskatoons?” The child asks wide-eyed with excitement.
“That’s right, sweetie, your favourite, Saskatoons.”
“I wuv Saskatoon jam.” Elena squeals.
“The word is ‘love’ dumb dumb.”
“Gordon,” Destiny chastises, “don’t put her down. She’s only five, lots of kids her age mispronounce words.” Now reminding him, “When you were little you couldn’t say the word sorry, it was ‘sobby mommy.'”
A dark glint shoots out of Gordon’s eye, “Yeah, yeah, I remember.” Noticing Mark with the camera set up and Julie checking them for sound, he asks sourly, “You film that?”
“Of course not,” Julie replies smoothly. With Gordon’s animosity towards Mark being evident, she intervenes to keep the peace.
“I don’t know why you insist on using het’ros to film us, mom. You can’t find one gay team in the whole of Hadrian. We are after all a gay country.”
Both Mark and Julie look away.
Destiny feels the insult as much as they do. “I hire a film team based on skill,” Destiny is working really hard not to enter into another brawl with her boy, “not sexual orientation.”
“Yeah, whatever, let’s get this over with already. I’m meeting with Dave and Aleksander at the malt shop as soon as we’re done here.”
Trying not to be curt, Destiny reminds her son, “I warned you this would take a few hours.”
“Seriously?” Gordon begins to pout. “I’ll give you an hour, and that’s it.” Turning his back on his mother, he blinks his right eye and opens a link to his friend Aleksander.
“When did you get a vocal lens?” Destiny asks. “I told you, you were still too young.” The vocal contact lens was recently introduced to Hadrian. Its growing popularity is already changing popular vernacular; what was once known as Hadrian’s net wave is now being called the voc wave. This unique technology, brought into the country by Vocal Online Communications, a company whose CEO is gay, allows the individual wearing one to access the Global wave, make phone calls, record and send messages, listen to all your favourite music as well as access all forms of online media. It runs mostly on solar power using the salt in one’s tears to charge the microscopic circuits.
Gordon rolls his eyes, “Hold on, Aleksander, Mom is pestering me.”
“I’m not pestering you,” Destiny is clearly annoyed at her son’s rude behaviour, “I’m just asking you a question.”
“Mama Ester gave it to me for my birthday. She told me not to tell you because you’d get pis-angry.”
Before Destiny fights with her son, Julie jumps in, “Hey, that’s okay, we will film all the parts with Gordon first. Not a problem.”
“Shall we start at the Saskatoon tree?” Marks asks. “Elena, how about you hold the bucket for your mama.”
“I want to pick, too.”
“Oh, you can,” Mark says as he bends lower to speak eye-to-eye with the girl. “You’ll have all the lower branches.” Elena smiles and takes the picking bucket from Mark.
“Gordon?” Julie asks.
Having turned his back on them again, Gordon is back to conversing with his friend. “Hold on,” he replies brusquely. “Sorry, Aleksander, gotta go and do some stupid filming for my mother. Yeah, no kidding. Hate it. See ya in an hour.” Turning, he glares at the group, “alright, I’m ready.”
“Schmuck,” Mark mutters. Julie shakes her head, muttering, “Shmendrik,” in reply, and the two chuckle at their private joke. Destiny, also close enough to hear, chooses neither to react or comment. She knows what a Shemendrik is, the Yiddish slang for the ‘master of all jerks,’ and as much as she hates to hear her son referred to in this way, she knows why the Reiners feel the way they do. Gordon has not been pleasant towards her guests.
Getting down to business, Mark directs the group towards the Saskatoon tree. “Julie,” speaking briskly now in work mode, “check the lighting around the tree and pick us the best spot for filming.”
“Do you always treat women like slaves?” Gordon asks dryly. Before Mark can even venture a reply, Gordon begins his tirade against heterosexual men. “Aleksander comes from a predominantly heterosexual country, very Catholic, and very prehistoric. All the men there treat women like property. From what he says, you’d never know we were already in the twenty-second century. People out there are barbaric, especially heterosexual men.”
“Wait a minute,” Julie finally finds her voice. “First off, Mark is not treating me like a slave. Secondly, we’re Jewish, not Catholic, not that that would make any difference. And, lastly, heterosexual men are not barbarians.”
“So says the subjugated lady.”
“Gordon!” Destiny has reached her limit and is doing what she hates most in this world, shouting at her son, “that will be all out of you.”
Gordon refuses to back down. “I know what I’m talking about! Aleksander says a bunch of heterosexual pigs raped his mom. They called it corrective or something stupid like that.”
Julie begins to see the boy’s argument in a different light, “I know there are some horrible people out there, Gordon, and some of them, a lot fewer than you think, are rapists, but that doesn’t make all men bad.”
“No,” Gordon agrees. “Not all men,” now glaring right at Mark, “just the heterosexual one.”
Mark opens his arms, “We’re not all like those men who hurt your friend’s mother.”
“Yeah, whatever,” he turns and marches to the other side of the tree and begins picking.
“I am so sorry,” Destiny is mortified by her son’s behaviour and this odd, new political stance he has taken. His new friend Aleksander is clearly poisoning Gordon, and though one can understand why the boy is bitter, Destiny does not want that bitterness to grow in the heart of her boy.
“Don’t worry,” Julie reassures her, “we’re a lot tougher than you think.”
“Yeah,” Mark agrees, “let’s get started.” Nodding towards the tree, “So Julie,” glancing cautiously towards Gordon, “if you wouldn’t mind, checking the lighting.”
Julie smiles and quickly selects the best spot for filming, which just happens to be on the opposite side of the tree where Gordon is standing. “Gordon, if you wouldn’t mind picking over here where there is better lighting.” Gordon scowls but thankfully refrains from speaking. “Mark, are you ready?” He nods, “Alright, Destiny, nod if you’re ready.” She does, and so does little Elena, quite enthusiastically. “Okay, then,” Julie gets out between chuckles, “I’ll count you in. 5, 4—” She mouths the last three numbers and the word ‘action’ simultaneously lowering her right hand and backing up.
“Hello, Hadrian,” Destiny’s smile widens for the camera. “As promised in the last episode my son Gordon and Ester Stiles little one, Elena—”
Elena bounds forward, waving her hand at the camera, “Hi Hadrian. Hi mommy.”
Destiny laughs as she gently tugs Elena back beside her. “Isn’t she a sweetie?” Now looking down at Elena, “Let Mama Destiny finish baby.”
“As I was saying, the kids and I are going to be picking Saskatoon berries today. As you can see, the berries are plump and juicy, almost like grapes dangling off the branch instead of vines.” Looking down at Elena, she says, “we’re going to teach Hadrian the best way to pick Saskatoons, so the harvest is bountiful. First you—” seeing Gordon grabbing a branch, ripping down tearing off leaves and all manner of berry be they ripe, or green Destiny’s straightens her back remarking “—do not do what Gordon just did.”
Gordon stops mid-rip, “What?”
“Weren’t you listening earlier? I told you to pick the berries individually to avoid picking the unripe one.”
“What’s the difference?” Gordon is not pleased with being censured in front of all of Hadrian.
“By ripping like you are doing, you are tearing off leaves and unripe berries. We want to keep as many unripe berries on the branch as possible so they can ripen and be harvested later.”
“Like this, Mama?” Little Elena queries.
“That’s it, baby,” Destiny coos in reply.
Gordon mimics the child and his mother, silently, behind her back. Julie places a hand on her forehead and shakes her head. The stream is live, so anything would only augment Gordon’s antics.
“So, as I was say—”
Before Destiny can finish, a voice is heard calling from the house, “Mother Stuttgart, Mother Stuttgart.” As Destiny Stuttgart is one of the principal founders of Hadrian, the people have come to refer to her as Mother Stuttgart.
“Oh Mother,” a harried Maxime cries as he races out the door just behind a young Arab man. “I tried to stop him, but he wouldn’t listen.”
Annoyed, Destiny calls out, “Cut!” Looking Mark, she inquires a little too late, “Was that live?”
Mark shrugs apologetically, “that’s what we discussed.”
“Turn me back on.”
Mark nods, and Destiny begins, “My apologies Hadrian but something beyond my control has come up. This will no longer be a live episode. My team and I will continue filming later, and the episode will air tomorrow in an edited format. Please forgive me, sometimes life happens.” Glaring now, turning all her anger on her housekeeper, Destiny yells, “What in Hadrian’s name is going on?”
Maxime cringes. One seldom sees Destiny Stuttgart angry, but when she loses it, even Hadrian himself is glad he isn’t alive to witness it. “I am so sorry, Mother, he just barged in.”
“Who?” Destiny storms forward and glowers at the young Arab man. Not even giving the man a chance to speak, she vents more of her spleen on Maxime, “Didn’t you tell him I was filming?”
“I couldn’t, he wouldn’t listen, he just pushed his way in and past me.”
As the young Arab man did before her, Destiny pushes her way past Maxime to stand face-to-face with the stranger who had the audacity to barge into her home unannounced. “Who are you? What do you want? And why shouldn’t I call Quadrant Officials right now and have them drag your sorry butt to jail?”
“I am sorry, Mother,” the youth began.
“I don’t need your apologies! I need an explanation! And fast.”
“My name is Patel Raboud.”
Destiny’s hands jerk up, “Is that supposed to mean something to me?”
“My husband is Sulieman Nasser.”
A slight pause ensues while Destiny ponders this new information. “Do you think being his husband gives you the right to barge in on me? He and I are not exactly friends, you know.”
“I know,” Patel replies.
Destiny is not surprised. “No doubt, he talks about work at home. Has complained about me.”
“No, he never talks about work. He is very tight-lipped, even with me.”
“Then,” Destiny’s hands fly up into the air, “What’s the point of all this?”
“My husband,” Patel looks warily at everyone listening, steps forward and whispers into Destiny’s ear, “he talks in his sleep.”
Destiny pales. “Everyone,” her voice is almost a whisper, “please leave.”
Maxime quickly slips back into the house.
Gordon leaps up, “Yes! Does that mean I can leave, too?”
“Yes, Gordon, go play with your friends.”
Gordon quickly races out of the garden giving his mother no time to change her mind.
“Mama?” Elena begins to weep.
“I’m sorry, sweetheart. Something’s come up, and Mama is busy. I promise we will film tomorrow, okay, sweetie?”
“I promise.” She bends down to kiss Elena on the cheek and wipe the tears from her eyes. Looking up, she pleads with her eyes. Mark and Julie respond immediately.
“We’ll take her home.”
Destiny laughs feebly. “How is it you two always manage to say the same thing simultaneously?”
“Years of marriage.”
Another simultaneous response helps to perk up the overall atmosphere, and even Destiny manages a slight laugh. “Thank you.”
As soon as the Reiners leave with Elena in tow, Destiny turns back to Patel Raboud, husband to one Sulieman Nasser, her expression now solemn, and asks, “What’s this all about?”