Poetics


By Britta

"I look ridiculous in this, Tom."
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"It's called a beret, and you look fine. Very handsome, in all that black..." Tom led Chakotay into the new holoprogram and guided him to a wooden table near the small stage. "I'll get us drinks while we wait for the others to arrive."
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"What others?" Chakotay asked nervously. He wasn't sure he wanted to be seen in the black outfits Tom insisted they wear, complete with matching hats.
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Tom turned on his way to the bar, "I invited B'Elanna and the captain to tonight's preview."
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Just then the door opened and in walked the ladies in question. Both dressed in black, Chakotay noticed. Now he didn't feel so bad. They joined him at the table and looked around curiously. Janeway said, "Good evening, Commander. This is quite a place." She gestured at the odd works of art adorning the walls.
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"Yes, it is," he replied.
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Tom brought a tray with two drinks on it, one in a glass shaped like a bucket. He handed over a tall, frosty glass to Chakotay and said, "It's iced tea. Now what can I get you ladies to drink?"
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B'Elanna peered into Tom's bucket and answered, "I'll have what you're having."
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"Captain?"
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"Just coffee, Tom."
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"How about a Bohemian coffee? It's a specialty here." Tom smiled at her encouragingly.
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Janeway glanced at Chakotay, who shrugged, then said, "All right. I'll try it."
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"Great, one Bohemian coffee and one Jack Kerouac coming up." Tom slipped away before the questions started.
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Chakotay and the others waited for Tom to return and watched as holographic patrons began slinking in from various doorways. Almost all of them were wearing black. Puzzled, Chakotay sipped his tea, which was quite good.
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Music began playing softly in the background and Tom rejoined them just before a nasal, mumbled voice started singing. "Tom! What is that horrible noise?" demanded B'Elanna.
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Handing her a bucket-shaped glass like his own, Tom said, "Bob Dylan."
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B'Elanna took a quick gulp from her little bucket and nearly choked. Chakotay reached around and patted her on the back. "You okay?"
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Breathing hard, she panted, "What is this stuff?"
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"It's a Jack Kerouac. It's got rum, tequila, orange and cranberry juice, and lime in it." Tom took a small swallow of his own drink and grinned. "Yep, tastes just like the original."
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The captain sipped her coffee and asked, "The original what, Tom? Would you care to tell us a little about your new program, and what's in my coffee?"
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Before Tom could answer, B'Elanna snarled, "Kill that noise, Paris, or I'm leaving."
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"Computer, run subroutine 'Holiday'." The music changed and so did the emotional atmosphere. "Is that better?"
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"Much. Who is it?"
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"Billie Holiday." Tom took a large swallow from his glass and went on, "This place is modeled after a famous cafe in San Francisco called Vesuvio. It's in North Beach and is a landmark from the twentieth century. Neal Cassady and Jack Kerouac hung out there."
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Chakotay could see the twinkle in Tom's eyes. This was going to be interesting. "So who were they, Tom?"
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"Beatniks." Tom smiled smugly.
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B'Elanna looked confused but the captain jumped right in, "Ah. Old freethinkers. I remember studying them in one of my history of the humanities classes."
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"Got it in one, Captain." Tom saluted her with his drink.
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"They wore black, right? And funny hats like these?" Chakotay pointed to his beret.
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"Sometimes," Tom confirmed. "They were intellectuals. They also did some other things a bit differently from the general populace."
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"Like what, drank out of small buckets?" B'Elanna asked.
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"Hey, these are traditional holders for this particular drink," Tom said indignantly as he rose to get a refill. "Anyone else up for another?"
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Everyone shook their heads and Tom shrugged. When Tom returned, Chakotay tuned out the conversation cum history lesson on the Beat generation. Tom seemed to be enjoying himself quite a bit and Chakotay wondered how strong those drinks were.
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The talk died down and Chakotay heard B'Elanna say, "Well, Tom, it's been different, but I've got schematics to review."
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Tom stopped her from rising and said, "Don't go yet. I want to show you what kind of entertainment this place has."
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She settled into her chair again. "Make it quick."
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Chakotay watched Tom drain his last Kerouac drink and move to the stage, crushing peanut shells with his boots on the way. Once there, Tom looked Chakotay squarely in the eye, and intoned, "In honor of Bad Poetry Day, I offer you the following:
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"The smell of you affects me
Much like when the environmental controls
Go offline.
It's like being attacked by horny aliens.
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"My love for you throbs like the warp core,
Powerfully, yet barely contained.
As the engine of my heart strains to beat faster.
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"And then,
My love gushes forth
Like a broken water main,
Spurting up through the fountains
That decorate the plaza of my life."
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Tom finished with a bow to the audience and the holopeople began snapping their fingers instead of clapping their hands for applause. "See? Performance art. The crew will love it!" Tom said as he sat down at the rickety table again.
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Oh gods! Chakotay felt the heat rise in his face and saw Kathryn choking back laughter while B'Elanna looked quite content, as if she'd actually enjoyed Tom's poem. Chakotay took another swallow of his iced tea and willed himself to calmness. It was a good thing there weren't more real people present, he decided.
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Tom smiled, oblivious to the embarrassment Chakotay was radiating. Chakotay wanted to melt into the floorboards, to escape Janeway's eagle eye, but knew it was useless. She wouldn't ever let him live this down; it just added to her arsenal of things to tease him about, 'spurting up through the fountains' indeed. Tom was going to pay for this: Every. Single. Nonrhyming. Word of it.

THE END

Comments? Suggestions?
E-mail me at Britta