The gust slapped Anthony right in the face. He took a moment to shake it off before continuing to fiddle with the small propeller in his hand. He had to fit it tightly to the top antenna on the boat in order to maximise the accuracy of the wind measurements. Focus and patience. That was what was required.
Below him, his colleague Mary prepared bait for her own experiments once they would be out at sea. The stink from the dead fish was overwhelming, but, hey, all for science, right?
– Hm. he muttered in agreement to something she said..
Despite himself, he kept on fiddling with the experiment as he watched Mary. The scene as a whole was not a pretty sight. Gory, full of knives and blood, yet he could not take his eyes away. His ears tuned in, too.
– It’s terrible stuff, you know. she said. Full of confirmation bias. We kinda all know that he wants to prove what he can’t prove.
– Not good. Anthony said.
– All of his work done at one spot, and not just one spot like ‘South Africa’, but one spot like ‘this beach at this remote location’ kind of thing. Ever heard of a place called Shark Bay?
– It’s in Australia. Filmed to death by Attenborough, that place. Granted, there’s many tiger sharks there, biggest population on Earth and all that, I think — his favourite spot is called Useless Loop, by the way.
– No, silly.
Anthony could see the wind shaping Mary’s hair into a flowing shape. He knew the hair did not move much. The air did. Just like in a lenticular cloud.
How wonderful, he thought. Beautiful. The physics and – Mary, too. He felt a bolt slip out of his fingers. It made a louder splash in the water than he would have wanted to. She looked up.
He smiled awkwardly at her.
– Perhaps you should get another bolt. she said.
– You know what’s funny? he heard himself say. For the briefest of moments there, I thought I had lost my experiment. I had to force myself to realise that this was just a bolt. I have many bolts. It’s a sort of confirmation bias, I guess. Nothing of the sort this imbecile comes up with, but still.
His mind raced: ‘For the briefest of moments there…’? Really? Am I writing novels here? And did I just call a colleague an imbecile? What the…!
He took up another bolt.
– I would have never used that word myself. she said. Her eyes pierced him to the point where it hurt. I only think it.
Her smile had turned into a positively beaming face.
– I… he began.
– Here, you dropped another bolt. she said.
…wonder what she thinks about me! his mind finished the sentence.
Anthony found himself out of words to say. He saw how she smiled. He felt the air between them taking up a certain quality that made his heart beat a little faster. He knew he could simply go and embrace her, gory hands and all. What he wanted to do was talk, however, and that he could not do.
– Everything ok? she asked. Here, we’ve been standing outside so long. Shall we go inside and have a cuppa?
Anthony smiled, too, now. This felt marvellous.
– I’ll fix the tea. he said. You go and get the blood off your hands.
– Nice one. she said.
I’m going to ask her out back home, now, am I not? he thought and climbed down.