Photo credit, Pixabay.
On this Side Character Sunday, meet Malachi of Undercurrents in Time. The nineteen year-old Malachi is a sort of actor hired on by an agency that is contracted by Professor Milt Braddock in his attempt to thwart a future disaster. This post is a never before published background that I plan to develop into a novel of its own, followed by an excerpt from Undercurrents in Time.
Malachi’s Point of View:
I looked down at the notice in my hands. It read: “Academic Probation. Please report to your career counselor’s office to clear yourself of probation and enroll for this semester’s classes.”
Then there was the other notice: “Notice of financial aid suspension.” I didn’t even read that one. I knew what it meant. I’d been missing assignments left and right and failing most of my recent tests. I knew I was failing out. This meant I would have to prove myself or go through a lot of red tape to ever get financial aid again. My pizza delivery job was not really paying for even my necessities. I sat on the couch and chewed on a toothpick nervously.
Maybe I could ask them to increase my hours, just until I figured out exactly what I would do next. I thought about picking up the phone to call my brother, Timothy, but thought better of it. We hadn’t talked since I left for college, and here I was a year later, picking up the phone to talk? He’d know something was up right away, and he’d certainly give me hell for it if I asked for money because of failing out of college.
A better idea came to mind. I got up and opened the door to my apartment, peering across the hall. Mr. Ackmen’s paper was still on the doormat. Looking both ways, I stepped from the apartment and stooped to pick it up without making a sound. Stealthily, I retreated back to my apartment and closed the door ever so quietly. Classifieds. There they were. So many ads for sales that probably involved going door to door. I did not own a suit. Though I wouldn’t mind finding a decent paying job, buying a suit, and then getting a better job. Finally, I found a headline that spoke to me. “Put Those Acting Skills to Use.” It read: Acting job. Get your foot in the door. Tryouts Thurs., 11/04 at 10 a.m. at LLJF, 2033 Spindle St.
There was no phone number, so I figured I’d just show up. I circled the ad, tore it out, and used a magnet to hold it in place on the refrigerator door. At least now I had a plan, and with my social skills, I should blow away the competition for this entry level job. Little did I know just exactly what this job would require of me.
Suffice it to say, there was no Shakespearean play, and Jack Fontaine certainly wasn’t scrreing candidates for commercials or daytime TV. Still, it became clear I would be putting my acting skills to work, and the job actually did seem right for me. I walked out of that office hoping I’d played my cards right and would receive that return call ASAP. I was ready to be just about whomever Jack Fontaine needed me to be, and I knew I was just the right candidate for the job.
Excerpt from Undercurrents in Time (Malachi meets Dr. Milt Braddock):
Malachi made small talk; he definitely must have been an actor, Milt thought, briefly wondering what his real name was.
Jack headed off on his own, coat obscuring his camera, and Milt and Malachi continued their walk. Without thinking, Milt tried the door to the Science labs. Locked. Of course. Anyone working in there would have a key. What would he do if Mahoney happened to walk out and bump into him?
He steered Malachi back down the path to the Health Sciences complex, watching the lab building the whole time. There were lights on; he could tell. Exactly who was there and what they were doing, he couldn’t know. He made a mental note to see if Jack could finesse his way into getting a building key. Jack was able to do a lot of things Milt hadn’t foreseen, so maybe it wasn’t too much. “So, Malachi, are you thinking of college yourself? Or have you been in college?” He forced a smile.
“Look,” Malachi retorted, “I didn’t ask you a thing about yourself, why you’re here, or what you’re doing in these hand-picked areas of the campus.” He waved his hand toward the Science labs.
Milt was taken aback, not so much by Malachi’s response, but at his own carelessness. He had let his guard down with a stranger. Albeit, a stranger who was paid to be discreet, but still a stranger who might tell things for the right price. Things such as, a man hanging around the Science department at MIT when the campus was all but shut down. They were snooping around; that had to be obvious to Malachi. Milt was usually good at compartmentalizing parts of his life, particularly scientific secrets; he knew there were some times you had to fib to avoid revealing them, but he was not used to this sort of stealth. Still, it could be a matter of utmost importance in his attempt to stop Mahoney.
“Touché,” he responded. “You know your job well. I apologize.” He added with a whisper, “I’m not accustomed to being so duplicitous. But, you know, I must keep an eye on the competition.” He then wondered if even that was saying too much. Louder now, he added, “I’m just here because my nephew can’t decide between Chemistry or Health Sciences. “
“Well done,” Malachi answered, lightening up. “I’m leaning toward Chemistry.”
“Okay, but we’ll view the Health Sciences area and buildings, just for good measure.”
“Of course, Dad.” Malachi looked down, walking with his hands in his pockets.
“Uncle,” Milt corrected, looking straight ahead.
“Yeah, well, you’ve spent a lot more time with me than he ever did,” Malachi said, winking.