By Marie Lebert, 21 December 2017.
Translated from French by Jane Golding.
Drawings by Denis Renard.
Twenty-eighth of December / Twenty-ninth of December / Thirtieth of December / Thirty-first of December / First of January / Second of January / Third of January / Fourth of January / Fifth of January
It is the twenty-ninth of December, with seven researchers in the bubble office, as we already know. There is no official hierarchy amongst them, just an unofficial hierarchy. Chief is the Chief, full stop. As there is no official hierarchy, the researchers will simply be introduced in alphabetical order.
First of all, Boubou and Bub, an inseparable couple, although the introduction is supposed to be for individuals.
Boubou, who is female, and Bub, who is male, are both mad about round objects. In the bubble office, all their things are round: the tables, the armchairs, the computers and the tablets. It’s the same in their home: the house is round, the bed is round, the television is round, the bath is round, etc., etc.
Boubou and Bub eat kilos of peanuts during the day. It’s not the only food in their diet – their doctor explained to them that it was bad for their health to eat just that – but it’s their main food. They even keep a packet on the bedside table in case they feel hungry in the night or have insomnia.
At first, if they were hungry in the night, they didn’t switch the light on, in case they woke the person who was sleeping; but fifty per cent of the time, the packet would fall on the floor, and the result was the exact opposite of what was intended. They had to switch on all the lights with the round bulbs; the other person would wake up, and both of them had to crawl round on all fours looking for the peanuts. They would burst out laughing, have races to see who could find the most peanuts, and then eat them all.
After a few years, they grew tired of this little game. Now, they switch on the light to eat the peanuts. Then all they have to do is prolong their insomnia with passionate embraces, interspersed with shrieks of laughter and peanut breaks.
The researchers were distressed by a shape that was not perfectly round intruding in a round world – it upset their casual precision because, although they were imaginative, they were still precise, at least from time to time. The researchers would often ask them,
“Why peanuts and not something perfectly round? Lots of fruits are much rounder.”
To which Boubou and Bub would reply patiently, both speaking at the same time, “It’s the exception that proves the rule,” an expression which, as everyone knows, is a proverb from Earth.
Bub loves the sea. Before going to sleep, he and Boubou usually watch videos of the Earthly seas. They point their big round television in the right direction before curling up in their big round bed covered with a big round duvet covered in bright green fake fur. Then Bub grabs the round remote control and presses one of the seven round buttons, while Boubou stretches out like a cat and snuggles up against the ample chest of her beloved.
Even before the title appears on the screen in capital letters, Bub always declares,
“The most beautiful seas are on Earth.”
Invariably, Boubou bursts out laughing, because this is so subjective; he first flirted with Boubou by the side of an Earthly sea.
Everyone in the bubble office knew how they met.
Boubou was the plumpest girl in the group, with soft, round curves everywhere: round cheeks, round bosoms, round bottom, round hips. Her hands and feet matched the rest; they were also round and chubby.
Bub sat down next to her. He had to squeeze up against the porthole, because of all Boubou’s round curves. He didn’t make any of the sort of unpleasant remarks that were sometimes made to Boubou, remarks which made her shrug her round shoulders, but had never led to the slightest inkling of going on a diet. On the contrary, he didn’t understand why the seats on the interplanetary rockets were so narrow. You would think all the travellers were skinny.
Bub wanted to get to know her. After a few minutes, he drew a very crumpled packet of peanuts from his pockets and offered it to Boubou with a resounding,
“Would you like some peanuts?”
She accepted gratefully, and even took a large handful. It was definitely the first time he’d met a girl who liked peanuts. Usually they moaned about their blasted healthy diet and always replied,
“You know, I like them, but I don’t want to get fat.”
This didn’t stop them from stuffing themselves with cakes or ice cream from time to time, when they were out with the girls.
While chatting between two peanuts, Bub and Boubou realised that they both belonged to the same travel group, “New Planets” – “Interesting journeys at bargain prices” – and to the same sub-group, “Earth – Europe – France.”
In fact, to be precise, Bub belonged to the sub-group “Earth – Europe – Italy,” but he was so delighted that he had finally found a girl who ate peanuts without making a fuss about it.
On the way to the toilets, he looked for the group leader.
“Is it still possible to change groups?” He asked. “On reflection, I would prefer to spend my holiday in France.”
The group leader consulted his diary.
“No problem. You’re lucky! There’s just one place free in the group which is going to France.”
He noted down the change.
Bub was delighted. He stopped off at the toilets and returned to his seat, near Boubou. They exchanged names, and talked about their childhood memories and how they were feeling at the moment. Boubou confessed to Bub rather sadly,
“Actually, I don’t like travelling, in fact I hate it. I don’t know what came over me. Now it’s too late to go back, isn’t it?”
Bub nodded. Surprised that he still hadn’t said anything stupid in the conversation, he immediately thought of the right reply,
“When we arrive, we’ll go and buy some real Earthly peanuts, so the time will go more quickly for you. Anyway, I’ve heard that the Earthly peanuts are the best in the Galaxy.”
Boubou smiled. All the sadness had disappeared from her beautiful blue eyes.
In the end, they spent a month together on a French beach, a tiny little beach in Normandy, on the Channel Coast. They ate kilos of Earthly peanuts of every kind and from all sorts of places, from the local market and the local grocery shop to the local supermarket.
They couldn’t understand why the checkout girls in the local supermarket stared at them, dumbfounded, when they saw their trolley full of salted peanuts, shelled salted peanuts, unshelled peanuts, little multicoloured packets of salted and shelled peanuts, and large, transparent packets of unshelled peanuts.
They discovered the existence of shellfish, at least, of winkles and whelks – their budget was quite tight, despite all the little jobs they had both done to pay for the trip. They also ate mussels and chips. They kissed, went swimming, played ball and the French game of boules.
They joked about the Earthlings on the beach. Boubou said in astonishment,
“Oh my goodness, the Earthlings are so thin!”
The most astonishing was the way the male Earthlings stared at the female Earthlings, although you could see their ribs sticking out and although their bosoms and bottoms didn’t really wobble when they walked. On Coral, the males prefer plump girls; perhaps not as plump as Boubou, but in any case, much plumper than the Earthlings.
Boubou and Bub also drank beer and wine, as the Earthly salted peanuts made them thirsty. Put simply, this Earthly European French holiday was absolutely fantastic.
By the time they returned to Coral, and were leaving the intergalactic rocket, they were inseparable. Boubou’s big round blue eyes were full of tears, while Bub was fiddling nervously with the remaining peanut packet in the left pocket of his shorts, tearing it to shreds.
Eventually, they were united forever in a kiss that was more passionate than any on the holiday and decided to live together. They continued their scientific studies together. Then, still inseparable, they began their careers in the planetary scientific research centre.
That’s why, ever since the first time he flirted with Boubou, Bub still loves the sea so much.
For years they have been watching their maritime video together before going to bed. They have a set weekly programme which has never changed – Monday: Pacific Ocean; Tuesday: Atlantic Ocean; Wednesday: Indian Ocean; Thursday: Mediterranean Sea; Friday: English Channel; Saturday: Dead Sea; Sunday: a mixture of the six preceding seas.
The endless movement of the waves helps them sleep soundly, without ever being monotonous. In fact, the huge waves and rollers of Monday’s Pacific Ocean produce a completely different sensation from the small ripples of Saturday’s Dead Sea.
On Sunday, they nearly always spend the day at the Maritime Museum. At lunchtime, they eat fish and shellfish, invariably accompanied by white wine, which reminds them of their Earthly European French holiday.
Their favourite fish is grilled mackerel with a jacket potato wrapped in aluminium foil. The first time, Bub wasn’t paying attention and, without realising, ate the foil as well. This made Boubou laugh until she cried; even more than the time when, without batting an eyelid, he ate the skin of an avocado.
As regards shellfish, they like a little variation. They choose – one after the other, or sometimes at the same time – mussels in cream, wiping up the last drop of juice with pieces of bread; pink shrimps in mayonnaise; oysters with lemon; two different types of clams, plain or stuffed; three different kinds of crab, including tiny little black ones, so small that they are a challenge to eat; razor clams with Martinique Sauce; sometimes langoustines and once in a while, exceptionally, a whole lobster.
When their budget is tight at the end of the month, they gobble up winkles or whelks, which the waiters also call “rangs” or “bulots,” which are probably Earthly local names, just to add a touch of originality.
They always order a huge plate of seafood for their birthdays and eat all of it, right down to the last microscopic winkle and the last tiny morsel of seaweed. They hate waste and never leave anything on their plates. When they are not hungry, which is very rare, as they both have good appetites, they skip a meal and that does the trick.
Here ends the introduction of the two first researchers.