Authors: John Strauchs
“You tell her yourself.
I am tired of listening to the crap about why you won’t
“I have to run. Please,” said Jenny.
“Fine, fine. Where are you staying?” asked Krissy.
“Someone has a house right where I am working.
It’s on Eagle’s Head Island.
This will save me a ton of hours.”
“Who is this someone? Like you don’t know anybody in lobster land,” said Krissy.
“I just met him. His name is Jared Siemels.”
“A guy? Are you nuts?” said Krissy.
“He’s a nice guy. There is nothing to be concerned about.”
“Are you nuts? What is wrong with you?” pleaded Krissy.
“Will you stop it? I can take care of myself.”
“Fine! Lars can go to the morgue to ID your body. It won’t be me.”
“Don’t be so damn melodramatic,” said Jenny.
“Keep your cell on.”
“OK, no problem. Well, maybe a problem.
There might not be cell coverage on
the island. In fact, it’s unlikely. I’ll use the land line as soon as I get there,” said Jenny.
“Like call me…Often!” said Krissy.
“Sure, sure. I’ll call you later.”
“Hey, beam me a picture of this guy so I can finger him in the lineup.”
“Very funny! Bye!” Jenny snapped her phone shut.
She was out in less than 20 minutes and they drove back to the cove.
“Do you want to give your sister my phone number?”
Puzzled, Jenny missed that he had asked a question.
“You look frustrated,” said Jared.
“My sister is impossible.
She’s been mental ever since she decided on drama as
her major at CMU…you know…Carnegie Mellon.
On top of that, Krissy is taking a
computer science class and learning programming. It is contrary to the laws of nature.”
Jared made no comment. He pulled into the garage. They walked out. He hit the
remote on his key ring and the car beeped back and the garage door rolled down and
locked. They walked down to the beach to the small Boston Whaler.
“Wow. No motor. I should have known. The currents are very strong in this bay.
If I have to do this on my own tomorrow, I can see myself being swept into the Atlantic.”
“Not to worry, Jenny. I have an outboard on a second boat you can use.”
“I feel really indebted for all the trouble you’re going to.” Her brow furled again.
He noticed that she was very expressive in her facial mannerism.
He didn’t like
that, but it was a small thing.
She climbed into the boat and he pushed them off the
beach, jumped in, and began rowing. As soon as the boat was little more than thirty feet
from the shoreline a current grabbed them with a jolt and spun the bow toward the port
She had an uneasy feeling. She was being marooned on an island with a man living alone.
He hadn’t smiled once.
Was it too late to back out of this?
This was a mistake
He began to row with rhythm. Shirtless, she noticed that his physique changed
dramatically as he exerted himself. His stroke was strong. The instant the boat started to
retard from its forward glide, he would pull on the oars again and the boat seemed to be
in smooth perpetual motion.
He was easily, almost effortlessly, rowing against the current.
It was fascinating to watch.
Rowing had never before seemed to be such an art to
her. He was a fascinating guy. “
Maybe it wasn’t a mistake
He smiled at her.
“I usually wait for the tides.
In the morning I let the tide and
currents take me to the mainland and six hours later, they bring me home again. Actually, I enjoy rowing. Am I repeating myself? I do that a lot. Sorry!”
“I can see that you do—like rowing, that is. As I said, if I was the one rowing, we
would be half way to New Brunswick by now.” She laughed. “
He has a nice smile
A little more serious now, but only slightly, she continued, “I am quite comfortable at sea, but I do depend on science and internal combustion engines to get me there.”
“Then we will have to make a point of it that you are entirely comfortable tomorrow,” said Jared.
A lobster boat passed them. Jared rowed into the wake.
Someone from the boat
waved. Jared waved back.
“No. Just people who know me.”
,” she thought.
He reversed the oars as he approached the boat house. The overhead door to the
boat house went up as they approached.
Jenny glanced around to see if someone had
opened it for them. He drifted in and tied off the boat to the dock. They climbed out and
walked out of the boat house.
Jared called out, “lock it.”
It closed and locked.
looked around. A large, two-story log cabin appeared ahead of them. It was surely the
biggest log cabin house she had ever seen—and Maine was full of them.
A copse of big
birch trees surrounded the house.
The setting was breathtaking.
The logs were golden
yellow surrounded by the beautiful pealing white bark of the surrounding trees. A porch
wrapped around the house.
There were flowers everywhere.
Some were hanging and
some were in window boxes. It was only May. “
They must have come from a hot house
she thought. She was amazed.
She could see at least six high white wicker rocking
chairs. As they approached the house, she could hear the front door unlock. She looked
back at him. She expected to see him using some sort of remote control device, but he
didn’t appear to have one. He was still only dressed in shorts so he couldn’t be carrying
very much. She was perplexed.
“How was he doing this?
She opened the front door and walked in.
This was not the house of a bachelor.
There were no socks and grungy underwear on the sofa. No beer cans and half-eaten pizza slices on the coffee table.
It wasn’t any kind of guy’s place that she was accustomed
to. The house was immaculate and beautifully furnished and decorated.
It was overwhelming. There were oil paintings of marine scenes on the walls. The furniture was rustic, but obviously very expensive. It was all handcrafted wood furniture.
The chairs and
sofa were highly polished drift wood with plush white leather cushions.
The tables were
cuts from massive logs with intricate ring designs.
The floors were polished hard wood
but softened by beautiful Persian rugs. Sensing that he didn’t walk through the house in
muddy shoes, she slipped her sneakers off.
Jared said in a subdued voice, “Mozart—you pick,” and suddenly “
” could be heard coming from everywhere.
“Jared, you said you lived alone?”
“Yes, but I do have a woman who comes here from time to time to take care of
this place…usually when I’m not around. Her name is Marie Bird. I think she’s coming
in the morning.”
“Who are you talking to?” asked Jenny. Who turned on the music?
“The house,” said Jared.
She didn’t understand but let it drop. There was too much to take in.
“It is fabulous,” she said.
“I like it.
Why don’t you go upstairs and freshen up.
on you. Perhaps a shower?”
“That would be great. Where shall I go?”
He pointed up the staircase.
“First door on the right.
I can still see a lot of clay
You will find bathrobes in
the dressing room.
Please help yourself. I’ll be in the kitchen to see what we can
scrounge for dinner.” He thought for a moment. “If you don’t see switches or handles on
things, or if they don’t seem to work right, that usually means they are voice controlled.”
“No, it’s really quite simple once you get the hang of it.
You know. Lights on.
Shower on. The commands are very logical.
If you say a temperature, that’s what the
water temperature will be. You do know Celsius, don’t you?”
“This is absolutely unbelievable,” said Jenny.
“If you don’t know how to do something, just say ‘talk to me.’”
He opened a drawer and took out a small plastic pin.
“Put this on and the house
will know where you are.
You can also just keep it in your pocket.
I’ll program you into the system a little later.
After that, it will know who you are as well.
will learn what you do and how you like to do things so after a while you have fewer and
fewer commands to make.”
“This is really, really cool. Where did you find this stuff?”
He thought about her question, but decided to answer it anyway.
“I wired the
house myself. I built a gadget for this and another for that. I doubt I will ever feel that it
is really finished.”
He paused again.
“If you run into something you can’t figure out, just say ‘talk
to me’ and the house will play some audio files that tell you what you need to do to make
it work. Sorry. I already told you that.”
She waved it off…smiling.
“It does have AI, but it is still somewhat primitive.”
“AI?” asked Jenny.
She was stunned.
“I’ve heard of houses like this.
Or, maybe I haven’t.
It is incredible.”
“Not really. It is only a few months of work.”
She tried to grasp it all.
“Do you sell these systems?” she asked.
It’s just fun to build them.
I like things that can never really be finished. Would you like to see the rest of the house?”
“Of course. By the way, what is the time? I need to call my Mom.” She couldn’t
see a clock anywhere.
I don’t have one.
I do have a Clepsydras in my bedroom but I think
that wouldn't be what you are expecting."
There was puzzlement on Jenny's face.
"A Clepsydras is an ancient water clock.
The model I built was developed by
Ctesibius, a Greek who invented a reasonably reliable way of using water leaking from a
reservoir to tell time. I would love to show it to you."
"That sounds fascinating, but right now I need to know the time."
She was not
about to walk into his bedroom. No way!
"I know where we can find the time. This is my work room,” as he led her out of
the living room.
All of the walls were saturated with book shelves and books.
were computers everywhere.
“Parallel processing…of course,” as his hand swept the room.
Jared glanced at the lower corner of one of the monitors.
“It is 7:18 p.m. Now that I think about it, there is a clock on the range as well.”
There were colored wires running around all of the base boards, but they were
neatly tied and bundled.
Some stuff didn’t have any wires.
It must be wireless. “
that was dumb,”
“Of course its wireless.”
At one end near the stone fireplace was a massive television screen—larger than any she had ever seen before.
hadn’t touched anything or even said anything, but as they walked around the computer
monitors were turning themselves on. “How are you today Jared?” one computer said in
a feminine voice.
The ceiling fan started to turn slowly. There was a huge flat screen
monitor on the ceiling.
“Doesn’t that hurt your neck trying to see the monitor on the ceiling?”
He glanced up. “I like to read while I am lying on the floor.” She saw clusters of
fluffy pillows in the center of the room.
“Oh yeah! It is like a library,” she said.
“Actually, most of my books are on DVDs.
I have digital ‘juke boxes’ that hold
hundreds. The servers are in the basement. You can see that I have a lot of Blue Tooth. If
you’re interested in reading something, let me know. Any of the monitors you see that are
sort of vertical, as opposed to horizontal, are set up for books. It is much better and faster
than reading hard copy. Unfortunately, there are many books that haven’t been digitized
yet—especially the older ones.”
There were electronic games all over the place.
They were all unplugged. He
even had some old time pin ball machines.
There was a chess board on a marble table,
but the board was empty.
Some of the monitors looked like they had video games on
them. She had never seen so many games. They were everywhere. Games of all kinds.
“Wow. A lot of games.”
“Why so many games?”
“Do you remember the song by the Beach Boys,
In My Room
“No, why?” she answered.
“Well, this is my room.”
She didn’t have a clue what that meant.
Jared grabbed a guitar that was leaning against a chair and sang.
“You’re pretty good. That was great. What’s it from?” asked Jenny.
“Beach Boys. 1963”
“Neatl Boy, you have a lot of toys and games.”
“I don’t know what a lot is.
I suppose so. The pachinko machine is the most interesting,” he said.
“Why is that?”
“It lets you play around with interesting probability experiments. You can slightly
improve the odds of winning by thinking about winning.
Just slightly! You might have
read about it in
,” said Jared.
She still didn’t have a clue.
What was he talking about?
There was a large framed photograph of Albert Einstein hung above the mantel
over the fireplace. Einstein was sticking his tongue out for the camera.
“That’s funny,” said Jenny. “I’ve seen this photo before.”
“Yes, it’s famous.”
“If you admire this man, why did you choose to use that photo? There must be
plenty of better photographs of Einstein.”
“I wanted Einstein in a playful mood,” said Jared.
There wasn’t any point to trying to get her to understand.
She wouldn’t understand no matter what he said.
He wasn’t going to answer that question.
comprehend how sticking his tongue out was a part of how Einstein survived. Jared was
still learning how to stick his tongue out. He needed the photo to remind himself to keep
Jenny fingered the carvings on a wooden box on Jared’s desk. It had carved designs on the sides and it was constructed of many different colored woods. It was highly
polished. The brass fittings on the corners and at the lock gleamed. Someone polished the
brass every day to make it look so bright. It was a work of art.
“This is beautiful.”
“Yes, it is. My father made it quite some time ago.”
“The carving and inlays are exquisite.”
“They are ancient Latvian symbols. Each one has a meaning. Many are similar if
not identical to Sanskrit designs.”
“What is it actually?”
Jared looked puzzled. “It is a box. What are you asking?”
“What’s it for? Is this where you keep your keepsakes?”
“Not exactly! It’s like Pandora’s Box. I keep my thoughts in it.”
“You mean like Pandora’s Box from Greek mythology.”
Jupiter hid all of the world’s diseases, sorrows, and crimes in the
box. When Pandora opened the box because she was curious, evil was inflicted on humanity.
It is the same story, in essence, as Eve and the forbidden fruit in the Garden of
Eden. Of course, it never really was Pandora’s Box. It never belonged to her so she had
no right to open it.”
Jenny didn’t understand.
Did Jared keep a diary in the box?
It sounded mysterious. He was beginning to sound certifiable. Was he a nut case? Or, was he testing her?
Was this a ruse to find out if she was like Pandora and would open the box. Was this a
He obviously liked games.
She wouldn’t give him the satisfaction.
ask about the box again.
“What do you do for a living, Jared?” asked Jenny.
He thought about how to answer her question. “I invent things.
I make a decent
living from the royalties from my patents,” said Jared.
“You make a living off of your inventions. That is amazing.”
“You know, of course, that I don’t invent knowledge—not really, or at least not
that often. I mostly assemble knowledge that already exists. The secret of most discoveries is connecting knowledge, not so much the discovery itself.
I am good at connecting
Actually, I suppose it comes down to being able to remember where the dots
are. Let me show you around.”
He led the way.
“The kitchen is over here.
yourself whenever you want something. I have a cook but I don’t ask her to come in very
The kitchen was a chef’s dream.
There were two microwaves, but they looked
odd. He had three ovens, two up and down and one really big one next to them. The center island had a “Jenn-Air” smooth-top range.
The sink looked like it was made of granite. She wasn’t sure but she thought he had two massive refrigerators that any restaurant
would kill to own. One might have been a freezer. One corner of the kitchen looked like
a booth out of a diner from the 50s.
There was even a miniature juke box in the booth,
the kind where you get to flip through leaves of song titles. The ceiling was covered with
hanging bright copper pots, pans, and cooking gizmos. There were wine racks and wine
glasses suspended upside down from overhead shelves. Just like the rest of the house, the
kitchen was fabulous.
She felt guilty about not being much of a cook.
About the only
thing she saw that might have been in an ordinary guy’s apartment was something that
looked like it was beer on tap.
There was a poster next to it of a voluptuous girl who
looked like she was selling beer. The words were in German. It was St. Pauli Girl beer.
“And in here is the Florida room.” He led her out of the kitchen. The room was a
glassed-in porch with marvelous white wicker furniture. It was full of ferns and Norfolk
Island pine trees. A large white hammock was stretched across the far side.
“This is very nice in the winter. I’ll have to put the screens in tomorrow. And this
is the downstairs bathroom and shower.
It’s handy if you come in from the beach, although there is a shower at the boat house as well.
The bathrooms have some surprises
that I will let you discover for yourself,” said Jared.
She peaked in.
A bidet? This might be the only bidet in all of Maine
Yes, that is a surprise