I woke up this morning to hair all over my face (not an unusual occurrence, since it’s mid-back length) and a shock of memory. I’d meant to do MGC yesterday, with a special interview I’ve been planning for weeks, and again I’d let myself get sidetracked into life’s minutiae and it didn’t get done. So I was lying there in bed wondering what I was going to write for you, and then because my nose was cold, I got up and went down to check on the wood furnace. While I was doing that, it came to me.
The First Reader, who is a remarkably patient man, considering, had complained about something the night before, and had made a joke a couple of weeks ago, and it coalesced into this: what do you do about hair in space? I’ve read many books about spacers who keep it very short, but total depilation would not be attractive – until it was, and then hair would probably look gross to a community that had only known bald. Here in this house, I get teased about hair in the drains (it’s not only mine) and the amount I shed. No more than most, but when each strand is over two feet long, it’s easier to see. No, he wasn’t complaining about my hair (although I’m sure he’s woken up with it in his face, too) it was lack of space around the bathroom sink. Easy enough for me to tidy up, it was simply a matter of putting some things in their proper place. He apologized, explaining that I was getting the brunt of stuff others have done – women who kept so many cosmetics and doo-dads there wasn’t room to so much as wash your hands.
And all this daily tidying and washing and putting away made me think about space travel, and space stations, and times in the not-to-distant past when people simply didn’t have as much stuff. In many stories, this doesn’t have much of a place. But there are times when inserting a few tiny details can really bring a tale to life. And there are stories which are great reads, and focus on the cooking and cleaning and processes that support the Glorious Warfighter Hero types. The superb Temporary Duty by the late Ric Locke, for instance. Or the first part of the Trader’s Share series by Nathan Lowell, which begins with Quarter Share and how to make proper coffee. Maybe it’s because I spent so many years as Suzy Homemaker that these things matter to me.
On a military ship, it’s easy enough to see that pushing broom is an assigned duty. On a trader’s ship, similar things with cabin boys. On a family ship? It could get quite variable. A passenger liner might be a luxury, or a scow full of refugees. The First Reader points out that under close quarters, personal odors could become a serious offense. “You could kill someone over bad breath,” he pointed out. Actually, he thinks a story with a plot point over court-martialling for not brushing someone’s teeth could be amusing. Or perhaps a man who signs onto a ship, and persists in wearing perfume until he is busted down to the lowliest rank possible (side-note: last year the young students on campus were all wearing a cologne (ok, not all, but a lot) which smelled to me just like Deep Woods Off. Made me giggle. None of them were the types I knew were out on the weekends hunting and fishing, so it had to have been some new scent that was all the rage).
As I was making breakfast, and talking to my son about the finer points of how to mop a floor, it occurred to me that I know what the next crisis in my work in progress should be. And it will involve the biggest mess I can think of, and a clean-up. What better way to forge a team and test the mettle of new crew?
Or how about this – who really knows your ship? The captain and officers, or the janitors and technicians who keep the equipment running? Unlikely heroes, but fun to bring into the mix.
Speaking of which, it’s time for my family to get ready for an incoming load of firewood. We don’t have to split it (thank goodness) but we will have all hands on deck unloading and stacking it. Team-building, character building, and where are my work gloves? LOL