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E-Books (english-e-reader), Arlo's War (1)

Arlo's War (1)

The snake's world was a silent one. Its world was a box with a glass front. It was staring at its next meal. Its meal, a rat, was staring back.

The rat sat frozen with fear in the corner of the large box. It heard a soft shaking sound and answered with a few high sounds of terror. The snake was hungry and moved quickly. It was a big North American diamond-backed rattlesnake, almost two meters long with enough poison in its bite to kill several men. The rat was soon dead and the snake stretched its jaws to begin the business of swallowing its meal.

Arlo Penton sat and watched through the glass as Susie ate her rat. The sight made him feel a little uncomfortable - it always did - but that, he thought, was the way of Nature. And he did admire snakes. He admired their smooth beauty and their beautiful patterned skins. But most of all he admired their deafness.

Arlo had discovered some years before that snakes were completely deaf. They depended mostly on their highly developed sense of smell, and their tongues could actually taste smells from the air. As well as this, their expressionless eyes could see the heat given off by the bodies of other animals. Arlo watched with feelings of deep respect as the rat slowly disappeared down Susie's throat.

The snake lived in a world without annoying continuous noise. A silent world. To Arlo, snakes stood for beauty and perfection. He loved to watch them and admire them. If only his own world could be as silent as theirs! That was why he had caught Susie. More correctly, he had Chico - a local gardener - catch her for him. Susie had been caught in the rocky dry land that bordered Tucson, Arizona, where Arlo lived. Chico was most casual in the way he touched dangerous snakes. Sometimes he would even eat them. 'They're good to eat and they're free,' he would say. This disgusted Arlo, not because he didn't like the idea of snakes being used as food, but because he thought it failed to give the snake enough respect. Nevertheless, he was glad Chico had found Susie. She was a beauty.

Arlo liked living at the edge of town. He had to drive to work and it took him over an hour each way. It was noisy and hot, but at least he had quiet when he got home. Quiet was very important to Arlo. As a young man he had been a soldier and had fought in a war. His mind had been damaged by the noise of loud and terrible explosions and he had to be sent to a hospital at home to recover. He had met his wife, Maria, there. She was one of the nurses who had looked after him.

He still hated noise. 'Everybody talks about pollution,' Arlo would say to anybody who would listen. 'The way we poison our environment with this and that, yet the one thing which really poisons the quality of our lives is noise. Everywhere you go you hear people making noise, noise, noise. Where can you hear the birds sing these days? Not in the city, my friend. All you hear is traffic, loud radios and people with noisy machinery. Twenty-four hours a day it's noise, noise, noise. It's enough to drive you crazy.'

Too much noise took Arlo back, in his mind, to the war with its loud explosions that had brought death and suffering. Maria had saved him from madness. Maria and his work and his pills.

To look at, Arlo was like many other fifty-nine-year-old men: he was of average height and his once-dark hair was now grey. He was neither fat nor thin and dressed casually - usually in black trousers, a blue shirt and his favourite cowboy hat. His thin face had taken on a more troubled look since Maria had died of cancer one year before. She had helped him through the bad times and made sure he took the pills he needed to keep him calm.

But now Maria was gone.

They had no children. Most of Arlo's time was now given to his work. Even when he was at home he would be thinking about work, putting new ideas down onto his computer. His work was his life.

Arlo had a job in a company called Teckno-Toys, which made electronic toys for children. He was the company's chief designer of radio-controlled toys, such as cars and aeroplanes. These toys were so clever and amazing that many fathers bought them at Christmas for their children, only to play with them themselves. The cries of Aw, Dad, can I have a go now?' were often heard in many homes where Dad had bought one of Arlo's marvelous toys.

His toys were indeed wonderful. The cars were tough but fast, while the aeroplanes were like magical birds that would fly up or down and turn in the air whenever you told them to. They could be guided from great distances with the powerful electronic controls that Arlo designed.

What Arlo liked best about his work was the electrical side. He would leave the design of the toy's body to others, but design the electronic controls himself. By the time the toy was finished it would be the best that money could buy. Arlo had a garage full of small model planes, boats and cars he had made. He often used them to help test out new designs at home - that was why he had been allowed to keep them.

The Teckno-Toys factory was quite separate from the place where Arlo worked. He needed quiet so that he could concentrate and did not want loud upsetting noises to remind him of the war. He could never do this next to a noisy factory. He did his work in an old large house in the centre of the city called The Havens, which was owned by the company. The house was unusual in having its own spacious grounds that protected it from the loud noises of the city. Arlo worked there with a few other favoured employees. They would send their designs to the factory, which would build the models then return them to Arlo and his colleagues to be checked. This arrangement suited Arlo: he had a quiet place to work in, while Teckno-Toys got top-quality new toys that were sure to sell well. Keeping Arlo happy at The Havens had been worth it to them. So far.

Arlo had made enough money from his work to buy a spacious house outside the city and away from the noisy traffic. He built a large wooden tower in the garden so that he could control his models from great distances. He loved that. But he missed Maria and his sleep was sometimes troubled, especially when he forgot to take his pills. But, at least he had his work to take his mind off the war. Work was all he had left.

Bernie Dimaggio, Vice President of Teckno-Toys, held a towel as he watched his boss on her exercise cycle. She often spoke to him while doing her early morning exercises in the private gym she had next to her office. She got off the machine and he handed her the towel.

'He's not going to like it, Miss De Cruz. You know how he feels about the place!'

Bernie's suntan could not hide the way his face turned red as he spoke

'You seem to forget who you are talking to, Mr Dimaggio, I am now the head of Teckno-Toys. My father was old-fashioned in his ways. He made this company but if we are to become the market leader we must change with the times.'

'But Miss De Cruz...' began Bernie.

'Enough, Mr Dimaggio. You may be Vice President and your concern for one of our... er... senior employees is understandable. But we have a business to run. We have to progress; we have money to consider. We can't afford not to sell a valuable property like The Havens just because an old man close to retirement likes a bit of quiet, not when we need the money for building up the factory. It's just not good business sense, Mr Dimaggio, and we both know it.'

'But Arlo has been working at The Havens for twenty years! He couldn't work anywhere else now. You knew him when you were just a kid, Miss De Cruz...'

'I'm not a 'kid' any more, Mr Dimaggio, in case you haven't noticed. And I have a business to run. The property will be sold. If Mr Penton wants to continue to work for Teckno-Toys, he will have to work at the factory, like the rest of us. Or he can go. I trust you will let him know of this development at the appropriate time.'

'You mean after he's completed the designs for the new season's models?'

'Exactly. No sense in upsetting him just now. Not while he's doing useful work. It's not good business, Mr Dimaggio, you ought to know that,' said Eva De Cruz firmly.

Bernie Dimaggio had been with the company since Eva De Cruz had been a child. He had seen the business grow as Eva grew. It was a successful business, though not yet the biggest of its kind. He looked at his new boss, the twenty-five-year-old daughter of Diego De Cruz, his former boss and friend. Eva had studied at the best business school and she wanted to show the world that she was going to be better than her father had ever been. Better and richer.

After Diego's wife, Eva's mother, had died fifteen years before, Diego De Cruz had put all of his energies into the business. The education of his daughter and only child was left to private boarding schools, where she had lived for most of the time. She had been educated from a distance, like one of Diego's toys.

And Eva was the result. Everything about her was businesslike, from her usual dark blue suit to her electronic organizer. Bernie sometimes wondered if her brain had become electronic, too.

And what would happen to Arlo once he was told about the sale of The Havens? Both he and Diego had been in the army with Arlo during the war and had become friends.

After the war they had given Arlo work he could do in peace. They wanted to help him put his broken mind back together. Diego had promised Arlo that there would always be a peaceful place for him to work at Teckno-Toys. What would this news do to him?

'Couldn't you find somewhere else quiet for him, Miss De Cruz,' Bernie asked, 'where he can carry on his work? Diego... I mean, your father... promised Arlo somewhere quiet a long time ago!'

'That was then, this is now. We can't afford to treat him any differently from the rest of us, Mr Dimaggio,' she said after drying her face with the towel and throwing it back to him. 'Now excuse me, but I have another appointment in twenty minutes.'

Eva left him with the damp towel. Bernie was close to retirement age himself. He felt sorry for Arlo. Diego would have done something to help, but not Eva. He might lose his own job if he didn't do as she told him.

Bernie felt older and weaker as he walked out of the gym.

While Eva and Bernie were talking, Arlo was getting into his car to go to work. He had forgotten to take his pill again. His face was already sweating. It was a bright sunny morning and the roads would be hot. He was glad he had completed the new designs and was looking forward to handing them in personally, as usual, to Bernie Dimaggio. They lay on the seat next to him as he drove to the city center. The road was already busy with the morning rush of traffic.


Arlo's War (1)

The snake's world was a silent one. Its world was a box with a glass front. It was staring at its next meal. Its meal, a rat, was staring back.

The rat sat frozen with fear in the corner of the large box. It heard a soft shaking sound and answered with a few high sounds of terror. The snake was hungry and moved quickly. It was a big North American diamond-backed rattlesnake, almost two meters long with enough poison in its bite to kill several men. The rat was soon dead and the snake stretched its jaws to begin the business of swallowing its meal.

Arlo Penton sat and watched through the glass as Susie ate her rat. The sight made him feel a little uncomfortable - it always did - but that, he thought, was the way of Nature. And he did admire snakes. He admired their smooth beauty and their beautiful patterned skins. But most of all he admired their deafness.

Arlo had discovered some years before that snakes were completely deaf. They depended mostly on their highly developed sense of smell, and their tongues could actually taste smells from the air. As well as this, their expressionless eyes could see the heat given off by the bodies of other animals. Arlo watched with feelings of deep respect as the rat slowly disappeared down Susie's throat.

The snake lived in a world without annoying continuous noise. A silent world. To Arlo, snakes stood for beauty and perfection. He loved to watch them and admire them. If only his own world could be as silent as theirs! That was why he had caught Susie. More correctly, he had Chico - a local gardener - catch her for him. Susie had been caught in the rocky dry land that bordered Tucson, Arizona, where Arlo lived. Chico was most casual in the way he touched dangerous snakes. Sometimes he would even eat them. 'They're good to eat and they're free,' he would say. This disgusted Arlo, not because he didn't like the idea of snakes being used as food, but because he thought it failed to give the snake enough respect. Nevertheless, he was glad Chico had found Susie. She was a beauty.

Arlo liked living at the edge of town. He had to drive to work and it took him over an hour each way. It was noisy and hot, but at least he had quiet when he got home. Quiet was very important to Arlo. As a young man he had been a soldier and had fought in a war. His mind had been damaged by the noise of loud and terrible explosions and he had to be sent to a hospital at home to recover. He had met his wife, Maria, there. She was one of the nurses who had looked after him.

He still hated noise. 'Everybody talks about pollution,' Arlo would say to anybody who would listen. 'The way we poison our environment with this and that, yet the one thing which really poisons the quality of our lives is noise. Everywhere you go you hear people making noise, noise, noise. Where can you hear the birds sing these days? Not in the city, my friend. All you hear is traffic, loud radios and people with noisy machinery. Twenty-four hours a day it's noise, noise, noise. It's enough to drive you crazy.'

Too much noise took Arlo back, in his mind, to the war with its loud explosions that had brought death and suffering. Maria had saved him from madness. Maria and his work and his pills.

To look at, Arlo was like many other fifty-nine-year-old men: he was of average height and his once-dark hair was now grey. He was neither fat nor thin and dressed casually - usually in black trousers, a blue shirt and his favourite cowboy hat. His thin face had taken on a more troubled look since Maria had died of cancer one year before. She had helped him through the bad times and made sure he took the pills he needed to keep him calm.

But now Maria was gone.

They had no children. Most of Arlo's time was now given to his work. Even when he was at home he would be thinking about work, putting new ideas down onto his computer. His work was his life.

Arlo had a job in a company called Teckno-Toys, which made electronic toys for children. He was the company's chief designer of radio-controlled toys, such as cars and aeroplanes. These toys were so clever and amazing that many fathers bought them at Christmas for their children, only to play with them themselves. The cries of Aw, Dad, can I have a go now?' were often heard in many homes where Dad had bought one of Arlo's marvelous toys.

His toys were indeed wonderful. The cars were tough but fast, while the aeroplanes were like magical birds that would fly up or down and turn in the air whenever you told them to. They could be guided from great distances with the powerful electronic controls that Arlo designed.

What Arlo liked best about his work was the electrical side. He would leave the design of the toy's body to others, but design the electronic controls himself. By the time the toy was finished it would be the best that money could buy. Arlo had a garage full of small model planes, boats and cars he had made. He often used them to help test out new designs at home - that was why he had been allowed to keep them.

The Teckno-Toys factory was quite separate from the place where Arlo worked. He needed quiet so that he could concentrate and did not want loud upsetting noises to remind him of the war. He could never do this next to a noisy factory. He did his work in an old large house in the centre of the city called The Havens, which was owned by the company. The house was unusual in having its own spacious grounds that protected it from the loud noises of the city. Arlo worked there with a few other favoured employees. They would send their designs to the factory, which would build the models then return them to Arlo and his colleagues to be checked. This arrangement suited Arlo: he had a quiet place to work in, while Teckno-Toys got top-quality new toys that were sure to sell well. Keeping Arlo happy at The Havens had been worth it to them. So far.

Arlo had made enough money from his work to buy a spacious house outside the city and away from the noisy traffic. He built a large wooden tower in the garden so that he could control his models from great distances. He loved that. But he missed Maria and his sleep was sometimes troubled, especially when he forgot to take his pills. But, at least he had his work to take his mind off the war. Work was all he had left.

Bernie Dimaggio, Vice President of Teckno-Toys, held a towel as he watched his boss on her exercise cycle. She often spoke to him while doing her early morning exercises in the private gym she had next to her office. She got off the machine and he handed her the towel.

'He's not going to like it, Miss De Cruz. You know how he feels about the place!'

Bernie's suntan could not hide the way his face turned red as he spoke

'You seem to forget who you are talking to, Mr Dimaggio, I am now the head of Teckno-Toys. My father was old-fashioned in his ways. He made this company but if we are to become the market leader we must change with the times.'

'But Miss De Cruz...' began Bernie.

'Enough, Mr Dimaggio. You may be Vice President and your concern for one of our... er... senior employees is understandable. But we have a business to run. We have to progress; we have money to consider. We can't afford not to sell a valuable property like The Havens just because an old man close to retirement likes a bit of quiet, not when we need the money for building up the factory. It's just not good business sense, Mr Dimaggio, and we both know it.'

'But Arlo has been working at The Havens for twenty years! He couldn't work anywhere else now. You knew him when you were just a kid, Miss De Cruz...'

'I'm not a 'kid' any more, Mr Dimaggio, in case you haven't noticed. And I have a business to run. The property will be sold. If Mr Penton wants to continue to work for Teckno-Toys, he will have to work at the factory, like the rest of us. Or he can go. I trust you will let him know of this development at the appropriate time.'

'You mean after he's completed the designs for the new season's models?'

'Exactly. No sense in upsetting him just now. Not while he's doing useful work. It's not good business, Mr Dimaggio, you ought to know that,' said Eva De Cruz firmly.

Bernie Dimaggio had been with the company since Eva De Cruz had been a child. He had seen the business grow as Eva grew. It was a successful business, though not yet the biggest of its kind. He looked at his new boss, the twenty-five-year-old daughter of Diego De Cruz, his former boss and friend. Eva had studied at the best business school and she wanted to show the world that she was going to be better than her father had ever been. Better and richer.

After Diego's wife, Eva's mother, had died fifteen years before, Diego De Cruz had put all of his energies into the business. The education of his daughter and only child was left to private boarding schools, where she had lived for most of the time. She had been educated from a distance, like one of Diego's toys.

And Eva was the result. Everything about her was businesslike, from her usual dark blue suit to her electronic organizer. Bernie sometimes wondered if her brain had become electronic, too.

And what would happen to Arlo once he was told about the sale of The Havens? Both he and Diego had been in the army with Arlo during the war and had become friends.

After the war they had given Arlo work he could do in peace. They wanted to help him put his broken mind back together. Diego had promised Arlo that there would always be a peaceful place for him to work at Teckno-Toys. What would this news do to him?

'Couldn't you find somewhere else quiet for him, Miss De Cruz,' Bernie asked, 'where he can carry on his work? Diego... I mean, your father... promised Arlo somewhere quiet a long time ago!'

'That was then, this is now. We can't afford to treat him any differently from the rest of us, Mr Dimaggio,' she said after drying her face with the towel and throwing it back to him. 'Now excuse me, but I have another appointment in twenty minutes.'

Eva left him with the damp towel. Bernie was close to retirement age himself. He felt sorry for Arlo. Diego would have done something to help, but not Eva. He might lose his own job if he didn't do as she told him.

Bernie felt older and weaker as he walked out of the gym.

While Eva and Bernie were talking, Arlo was getting into his car to go to work. He had forgotten to take his pill again. His face was already sweating. It was a bright sunny morning and the roads would be hot. He was glad he had completed the new designs and was looking forward to handing them in personally, as usual, to Bernie Dimaggio. They lay on the seat next to him as he drove to the city center. The road was already busy with the morning rush of traffic.