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Sarah Lotz

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

The Geek Strikes Back

This lightweight story was inspired by my one time co-scriptwriter, Greig Cameron. Among his many attributes, Greig’s a first-rate, witty and original scriptwriter, an aficionado of all things zombie and he lets me bully him into making coffee. But he also has an undying, obsessive love affair with the first three Star Wars movies. Greig was born in the eighties, so he wasn’t around when the original movie was released in the seventies (I’m old enough to have seen it in the cinema when it was first released). In fact, Greig is such a fanboy that he has a tattoo of the Death Star on one of his legs (I’d post a pic but don’t know how).
So I’ve posted this for Greig and for all the original Star Wars fans – those who long for the days before Jar Jar Binks and CGI overload, who have fond memories of Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher hamming it up and somehow making George Lucas’s dire dialogue sound cool. Those of us who fought imaginary light-sabre battles in the playground and still insist on doing bad impressions of Yoda when we’re drunk. Those of us who were able to forgive Lucas for the Ewoks, but needed trauma counselling after sitting through the shitfest that was The Phantom Menace.
(Also, I thought it would be wise to post this before Helen gets back on line and tells me off for bad grammar, misplaced commas etc).

The Geek Strikes Back (A love story)

Luke fell in love for the second time in his life one rainy Cape Town Tuesday. He wasn’t expecting to fall in love; in fact seconds before this life-changing event he’d been wearily trawling Facebook, which, along with smoking dope in the ladies’, was an instant firing offence. Fortunately he spotted sour-faced Rhoda, the office manager, stalking towards his desk in time to click back to his work. There was a dark-haired girl trailing in Rhoda’s wake, but Luke barely glanced at her. Staff turnover was high in Luke’s IT firm, and barely a day went by without a new techno-nerd slithering into a nearby work station.
“So this is the programmers’ section,” Rhoda said, blasting Luke with stale coffee breath. “Guys? One of you wanna give Leia the spiel?”
Luke sat up. Had he heard correctly? “Did you just say, Leia? As in Princess Leia?”
Rhoda yawned and rolled her eyes, but the girl shot him a shy half-smile. “Yeah,” she said. “My folks were big Star Wars fans.”
“Oh my God,” he said. “My name’s Luke!”
Leia grinned again. “It must be fate.”
Luke was transfixed. Behind the harsh frames of her glasses Leia’s eyes were the same startling blue as Mark Hamill’s.
Rhoda picked her front teeth with the nail of her little finger. “Don’t get it?”
Luke swallowed a snort of disgust. “Luke Skywalker? Princess Leia Organa? Protagonists of The Empire Strikes Back? Return of the Jedi?” Rhoda still looked none the wiser. “Star Wars?” Luke was appalled. Surely she’d heard of Star Wars? What was wrong with her?
“Yeah,” Leia said, “the cool original Star Wars movies. Not the prequels.” Leia paused and looked straight into Luke’s eyes. “The Phantom Menace was shit.”
Oh God. Luke could barely breathe. He suddenly knew with startling clarity that Leia had to be his girlfriend. It was a need so overwhelming that it almost surpassed the desire he’d felt when Nintendo first brought out the Wii; in fact, it almost eclipsed the first time he’d fallen in love (at age seven when he’d watched a metal bikini-clad Carrie Fisher garrotting Jabba the Hut).
Rhoda sighed. “Uh-oh. Geek alert. Come on, Leia, I’ll introduce you to the Technical Support guys.”
Luke’s stomach lurched. “Wait!” If he lost her now he might never get another chance. No girl was safe around Technical Support. “Feel like going for a drink after work? We could…” What? Think! “Um…talk about George Lucas?”
It wasn’t the greatest pick-up line in the world, but it seemed to do the trick.

Their first date was an Alderaan-sized success. Apart from the Star Wars connection (which was enough for Luke to start picking out wedding invitations), they both loved Terry Pratchett, were both Dark Elves in World of Warcraft and both hated wasabi and cheeseburgers. Luke even loved Leia’s slightly crooked front teeth, and the acne speckles around her nose. She was perfect.
Well, almost perfect. Luke discovered the one downside to his new girlfriend when he went home with her after their third date, and a blur of white fur threw itself against his legs.
“Luke,” Leia said, grinning proudly. “Meet Han. Han Solo!”
Unlike his namesake Han wasn’t much to look at – a little terrier type dog with snaggle teeth and flat black button eyes.
“How cool is this?” Leia said. “The three heroes of Star Wars together again! Luke, Leia and Han!”
“It’s amazing!” Luke said, trying to sound enthusiastic. He’d never been much of animal person. He bent down and gingerly stroked the dog’s head, immediately regretting it. Han Solo stank – not that typical unwashed dog smell, but a ranker, almost diseased odour that infested every inch of the flat like the nicotine stench of a chain-smoker’s home.
“Shame,” Leia said. “He’s got a skin condition.”
Luke snatched his hand away from the dog’s head.
“Don’t worry!” Leia laughed. “It’s not contagious. He’s just got some kind of fungus.”
“Oh good,” Luke said, sneakily scrubbing his hand on his jeans.
Initially it wasn’t a problem that Han Solo slept on the bed, curled into the ‘C’ of Leia’s body. At that stage in the relationship Luke was willing to put up with anything – even the smell. For Luke, those early weeks had the idealistic glow of an American movie montage – involving endless pillow fights, constant sex, Radiohead soundtracks and lazy Sunday mornings.
But as the weeks rolled into months, instead of acclimatising to Han’s particular odour, Luke was convinced it was getting worse. It infested the duvet, the pillow cases, and when he left the house he could smell it on his t-shirts, and even (he was convinced of this) his boxer shorts.
At first Luke tried to compromise. He bought a squashy padded dog bed upholstered in pitch black material – Han Solo’s own little Death Star – which he placed a couple of metres away from the bed. Han seemed to accept the situation cheerfully, then, at 3am, Luke was woken by a wet sucking noise – the sound of a gleeful terrier chomping at its private parts. A week of this and Luke was suffering. He was even too exhausted to play Guitar Hero after work.
“Shame!” Leia said when Luke explained the problem (sensibly not using the words ‘bastard’ or ‘euthanasia’). “It’s his skin condition.”
“Can’t he get treatment? Shall I take him to the vet?”
“Oh, Luke. That would be great! You really care, don’t you?”
Luke cared all right. He cared enough to hope that the vet would suggest one little prick and a relegation to the great canine planet in the sky. But half of Luke’s salary and several cortisone injections later, the vet was adamant that Han was cured. The dog had other ideas.
It was time for Plan B.
Luke bought an inhaler and stuck it prominently in the bathroom, next to Leia’s body spray.
“What’s this?” she said the next morning, clutching the tube of Ventolin, face blanched with concern.
“Oh shit,” Luke said, “I didn’t mean for you to find it – I didn’t want to worry you. It’s just for emergencies.”
“What emergencies?”
“I have allergies. To dust. Pollen, fur, that kind of thing. Seriously, Leia. It’s fine.”
One night of faking a hitching chest and streaming eyes was all it took.
Again, it wasn’t an easy transition. Han spent a good week whining and scratching at the bedroom door, but Luke was quietly triumphant. He’d won the battle.
But not the war. In fact, he’d sorely underestimated his adversary. A couple of weeks later Luke snuggled into bed, curling up to Leia and scrumping the pillow. Then he sat up.
“What’s wrong?” Leia asked.
“My pillow!”
“What about it?”
“It smells of…dog!” Luke thrust it into Leia’s face. A couple of tell-tale white hairs stood out on the dark fabric. “Have you been letting Han into the bedroom?”
“Of course not!”
“Well I sure as shit haven’t!”
Their first fight, words whizzing and zinging between them like Rebellion star ships. Luke spent the night on the couch and the next three days in the dog box.
So when it happened again two days later, Luke kept it to himself. But his loathing for Han Solo festered like a neglected cancer. The scrabble of claws on wood made his scalp twitch. The glimpse of a chew toy made his jaw clench. But worse than this: he began to loathe his favourite trilogy of all time. After all, who could forget that in The Empire Strikes Back, Han shags Leia and poor old Luke is left to deal with the embarrassing fact that he’d spent most of Star Wars fantasising about fucking his sister? It was enough to turn anyone to the dark side.
Luke needed to catch Han at it. He needed proof.
A couple of days later, he slipped out of work early, raced to Leia’s, and crept into the flat as quietly as he could. He tiptoed towards the bedroom door, and flung it open.
“Got you!” he yelled. But there was no bundle of fur on his side of the bed. In fact, the dog was snuggled on one of Leia’s old hoodies in the armchair in the lounge. Han looked up, peered at Luke, sniffed disgustedly and plopped his head back between his paws.
Simultaneously disappointed and relieved, Luke headed to the Spar, determined to cook up something special for supper – spaghetti bolognaise, his speciality.
Leia still wasn’t home when he got in. He ripped open the onions and started to prepare the rest of the ingredients. Then he paused, mid-chop. There was a sound coming from the bedroom. A sound he recognised. The sound of a dog gleefully licking a body part. Luke checked the couch. Han Solo was gone.
Still clutching the chopping knife loosely in his left hand, Luke nudged the bedroom door open with his foot. There he was, the little button-eyed bastard, rolling around on Luke’s pillow! Han paused, and then, almost as if the dog knew Luke was watching, sat up, and using his front paws for leverage, pulled his bum across the pillow case. Twice.
Luke felt something akin to a roar bursting out of his chest. “That’s it you little motherfucker!”
Luke lunged, body catapulting across the bed. Han scooted, but he was too slow. Luke managed to grab his tail just as he leapt off the bed.
“I’ve got you now you -!”
“Luke! What the hell -?”
Luke froze. He let go of Han’s tail and the dog scrabbled under the bed. The knife clattered onto the wood of the floor.
“Answer me!” Leia’s voice pulsed with anger.
There was no way he was talking his way out of this one. Luke knew that Han had won. The dog had turned him to the dark side, and you didn’t need to watch the prequels to know that there was no coming back from that.

Ironically, it was Han Solo who brought them back together. Leia had been off work for ‘personal reasons’ and, worried, Luke made his way to her building, toting a middle-of-the-range bunch of flowers and a cheap bag of doggy treats. Leia opened the door on the third knock. Her clothes were unwashed and baggy, her hair hung in greasy strands and when she saw the doggy treats she burst into tears. After several hitching attempts she blurted out the whole story. The vet said it was a massive embolism of some sort. Han had died in his sleep.
Luke moved in after that. He brought Leia soup and hot chocolate in bed, pretended to cry with her and held her in the middle of the night when her body shook with grief. Little by little she began to recover; the discovery of a chew toy under the couch only eliciting the merest grimace of pain.
And little by little the bedroom lost its doggy funk and began to smell of the things bedrooms should smell of – sex, baby powder and warmth. Luke was even feeling ready to re-watch the old classics, and planned to break out the Star Wars trilogy again; Han Solo held no fears for him now. He rushed home early in order to set the right ambiance – microwave popcorn, six-pack of Coke Zero and a tube of low-fat Pringles. Heart racing with pleasant anticipation, he jumped up eagerly when he heard the click of Leia’s front door key.
Her face was alive with excitement. “Luke! Luke! You’re not going to believe it! Just wait till you see!”
There was something emerging from the shadows behind her. Something large. Something hairy. Something that resembled a walking carpet.
“Luke! Meet…Chewbacca! He’s a bouvier! Isn’t he just gorgeous?”
Chewbacca eyed Luke through his own brand of inscrutable brown button eyes. Without a word Luke turned around and made his way into the bedroom to start packing.
He knew when he was beaten.


Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Louis Greenberg</a>
    Louis Greenberg
    April 17th, 2009 @17:10 #

    Per your introduction, this is my era. I'm going read it on the weekend and chortle into my ink-stained shirt pocket.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Fiona</a>
    April 17th, 2009 @22:04 #

    Laughing too hard to comment, excuse me...

    Just read it a second time, and still laughing too hard to comment.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    April 18th, 2009 @19:28 #

    The Force is strong in you, Sai-rah Lightzabre. Glad I am to have read this.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Lauren Beukes</a>
    Lauren Beukes
    April 19th, 2009 @19:21 #

    Hilarious! Greig is going to love this (and I will post a pic of his deathstar tattoo tomorrow). The line "those early weeks had the idealistic glow of an American movie montage" is amazing. Envious of your way with metaphors.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Sarah Lotz</a>
    Sarah Lotz
    April 20th, 2009 @17:46 #

    Oh please do show off the tattoo, Lauren (or tramp stamp as they call them on Eastenders) - it's a corker. Wish me luck with my trip through customs with a bag full of Moxies.


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