Time Enough (short fiction)

People thought it was easy for Clara, and they were right.

“Can you get those reports back to me by three?” Barry asked.

“Sure. No problem.”

Her schedule was already swamped, but she’d find the time. She always did.

Three blocks away, a gunshot rang out. She considered if she should do anything about that. Five blocks away, sirens blared. Two sets of them. She usually didn’t get involved unless it was four or five.

“Clara, are you okay today? You seem distracted.”

“Sorry Just have a lot on my mind.”

“Anything you want to talk about?”

“No, thanks.”

“It’s not . . . personal . . . stuff?”

She rolled her eyes. “You mean lady business, Barry? Is that what you mean?”

He backed away a step. “No. I mean, we understand when you have . . . personal issues.”

The ultrasonic pitch of a Martian spaceship penetrating the upper atmosphere vibrated at the back of her skull. They were coming down somewhere in South America. Damned Martians. How many failed invasion attempts did it take to convince them they were wasting their time?

“No, Barry. It’s not that. It’s never that.” She pushed up from her chair. “I have to use the bathroom.”

“You do that a lot,” he said.

Clara shouldn’t have said anything, but she had a spare moment. “Damn it, Barry. What does that mean? Yes, I go to the bathroom a lot. I still get my job done. I still meet all my responsibilities. Responsibilities, I might add, you know nothing about. So why don’t you let me go to the bathroom as many times as I want so long as everything gets done?”

“I didn’t mean anything by it.”

He looked genuinely hurt. “Ah, damn it. I’m sorry. I just have a lot on my mind. I’m taking an early lunch.”

“That’s a good idea. Take your time. You’re the most reliable member of my team. Sorry if I take you for granted sometimes.”

“Thanks, Barry. I know you appreciate what I do, but it’s nice to hear sometimes.”

Somewhere, people were screaming. People were always screaming. Shouting with glee. Terrified of harmless things. She couldn’t check them all. She didn’t need to. But when she’d read in the newspaper about a guy stabbed in an alley just down the street, she was reminded of how many people she didn’t help.
When no one was looking, she ducked into an empty office and flew off to fight yet another giant Martian robot somewhere in Argentina. Along the way, she saved a dog from being hit by a car.

People were right. It was easy for her.

But it was never easy.

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