May the Fourth Be With You

Ruby twisted her white robes around her knees and crossed her legs, revealing a peak of her huarache sandals.

“I don’t know Leia, it seems like a guy-thing.”

Leia shifted her intense gaze from the scroll in front of her, quill paused centimeters from the page, “Really? What makes you say that?” She lowered the quill and returned its tip to the ink well on the dark wooden table where Ruby sat across from her, looking more uneasy with every passing minute.

“It’s not like it was with Yoda. He loved women Jedis. Now we just have Luke, and let’s face it, his force is weak. Anyway, he always pays more attention to the male recruits.”

“Let’s try to avoid absolutes, Ruby. Always. Never. No one always or never does one thing or another. If you think Master Luke’s force has become weak as he’s aged, that’s a serious accusation. Perhaps more serious than the other you just made. Remember your place and rank.” A slight breath of air escaped from between Leia’s lips. She pursed them tightly together, annoyed that she had even let that much of her opinion escape.

Ruby felt the room buzz with force, Leia’s force.

“I’m sorry, Mistress Leia. I forget that he’s your brother, and I forgot that he’s my teacher. You’re right. I spoke out of turn.”

“Apology accepted. This time. Next time I’ll toss you on your ass. With my mind. Got it?”

“Got it. I guess I just miss Yoda.”

“We all do, now get over it. Luke is Master Jedi. Yoda retired to the beaches of Ishapstar. It’s an adjustment. But stop being such a weakling. Work for Master Luke’s respect.” Leia reached for the quill again, tapping the excess ink on the side of the jar. “Now, let’s get you signed up. I have others waiting for recruitment who would take your spot in an instant.”

The pen raced across the page in the narrow, boxy script Leia had labored years to achieve. It was just right, not too girly, more typeset than anything else. No little hearts or smiley faces to dot the I’s. This was a man’s world. Even if Leia knew she was stronger, wiser, better than her nitwit brother, she accepted long ago that she was to recruit and he was to practice. The force inside her was ten times greater than his, but she would never tell Ruby that.

“It’s a real commitment, Leia. I mean, this is it. Once I sign that paper I get my lightsaber. I’m officially a Jedi, Class C.2.1.1001.”

“True, Ruby. It is a path you must choose, but know that the force does not make mistakes. It is something you are born with, not something that develops over time. You have the force. Use it, harness it, learn from it.”

Leia reached across the table pen in hand. She smiled widely, knowing that Ruby would sign. Once she did, Leia’s quota for the month was reached and she would get her bonus. “Come on, Ruby. Sign the paper. Everyone wants to be a Jedi, right?”

“You think?”

Idiot. Ruby’s eyes widened in surprise and Leia worried for the briefest of instants that she had spoken the word out loud, ruined her chance for that bonus–a weekend retreat with Yoda studying advanced force self-defense. She planned to actually use it some day to keep her promise to Ruby–toss her on her ass. But Ruby hadn’t heard her mind, and Leia hadn’t spoken the word out loud. Ruby was deep in her own thoughts.

“Ruby, I know. Take the pen. Sign the paper.”

Ruby’s hand quivered and lifted from where it had rested on her lap. It moved through the air independently, like an toy that belonged not to her, but to Leia.”

“What? Leia, I–”

“Look at me Ruby.” Their eyes met and Ruby could see the darkness, the wickedness deeply rooted in Leia’s force. She was helpless to resist her, her force was too weak a match for Leia’s years of study and brooding hatred for her brother. “Sign the paper. Join us. Do it. Just sign the paper.”

Ruby’s hand moved through the air. She could feel the molecules stretch like molasses as she fought against it.

“You can’t, you can’t do this, Leia!

“I can and I will. Sign it.”

And with that Ruby’s hand relented and she pressed the quill to the page, scrawling her name in close proximity to her real signature. It was close enough that no one would ever believe her. How could they? She pressed the tip of the quill deep into the page, feeling it bite the wooden desk beneath it. It was done.

“There,” Leia released her and Ruby’s hand fell limply to the table. The pen rolled off the side and clattered to the floor, “Anyway, we need more female Jedis.”

 

Bife e Salada

“Do you need help ordering?” The man at the table next to Mia smiled and leaned in, speaking as if the two were part of a great conspiracy.

“I guess I do. I thought that because I can read Spanish I could read Portuguese,” Mia looked up and tried to smile, but his overpowered hers, which just came out weak and crooked, a self-consious grimace. She flushed a mix of embarrassment and charm. It was enough for the man.

He leaned in further, invading the obligatory personal space that separates strangers from intimacy, and jerked his chin to indicate that she was to come closer for a secret.

His breath was heavy. The words tumbled out of them in a flurry of musical cadence, “Don’t say that around the Portuguese, huh? We hate the Spanish.”

“Oh, I had no idea,” Mia felt red heat creep up her neck.

The man leaned back, all the way back, lifting the front legs of the chair off the cobblestone patio and balancing on the back two. He shrugged indifferently and with a precise and practiced movement, flicked a wayward strand of black hair off his forehead with the back of his hand.

“Americans never do.”

His features were angular, distinct in a way that were he to visit the United States, everyone could tell in an instant he was from Europe, not Cleveland. It was not clear exactly what constituted that–a subtlety just beyond the grasp of simple explanation.

Mia pushed her glasses up the bridge of her small nose and refocused on the tatty, stained paper in front of her, pulling absentmindedly on a strand of blonde hair, glad to break his gaze and return to the menu.

“What’s good?”

“Steak. Get the steak, but ask for salad instead of fries. The fries are shit here.” He bounced his chair back onto all four legs timing it perfectly with his expletive. “How are you in Lisbon and so helpless that you can’t even order from a menu?”

“It was a last minute thing. I usually try to learn enough of the language wherever I’m going to not be so…” Mia paused and pulled the word as it flashed in front of her mind’s eye, “American.”

He wagged a finger at her in disapproval. “Only Americans are always worried about being noticed as Americans in their travels.” The effect was equal parts chauvinistic and charming.

Mia scanned the restaurant’s patio and realized that she didn’t hear a single other table speaking English. It was so Mia to pick a place where she stuck out. It was a great flaw. Most times she wanted to hide, be a wall flower, observe, but she put herself in situations that made it impossible.”Well yes, I mean, we are Americans, so it makes sense. Aren’t you worried about the same when you travel?”

“No. We Portuguese love being Portuguese. Why would I care if someone said, ‘Ah, that man is so Portuguese?’ It would make me smile.” And with that the man did. A great, wide smile whose effect would have put anyone at ease. It was a smile that spoke of a deep kindness and vulnerability. A smile that communicated that this was a man to be trusted. At least with Mia’s dinner.

The waiter rounded the corner and the man seemed to sense the waiter before he saw him, flicking his hand into the air in the universal signal that said “I’m ready.” A large fat man with a dirty apron streaked with orangish handprints lumbered to the table like a great creature, elephantine but dim. His small head was framed with cheeks so round that it made closing his mouth an impossibility. His lips clung to his face, slack and gross.

“Yeah?” The rolls of his neck shook slightly with the single-syllable vibration.

The man pointed at Mia and smiled at the waiter. Mia saw that it was true, the smile seemed to hypnotize the fat waiter, and she wondered if the man knew he had a latent superpower that made all of those around him like him.

“The American, bife e salada, yeah?”

They both turned and looked at Mia. One tall and thin but sitting and then other standing but short and fat.

Mia smiled back at them and finally relaxed, “The American, steak and salad. Gracias.”

The waiter scowled and the man shook his head, “That’s not the right word.” But he was grinning, enjoying her mistake, and she felt she had permission finally to smile back and laugh too.