Aphelion Issue 275, Volume 26
August 2022
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Checking in with the Duke

by Daniel Clausen

Long after people stopped needing fishing boats, Duke Thompson decided he would build himself one. Not buy one, build one.

Without any idea where to start, he sat down in his office and said to his assistant over his vapor phone, "Find me a planet with a beach, an ocean, and lots of the neon-glowy fish that like to blow bubbles with bubblegum… yes, and relatively warm."

Duke Thompson sat back in his 32nd-story chair, in his 32nd-story office, to celebrate his 1,032nd day as the richest man in the galaxy. He overlooked the megatropolis of Venus, the subject of one of the largest debates amongst galactic economists--whether the existence of galactic megatropolises in particular places in the galaxy was accidental or based on some kind of comparative advantage.

The Duke himself rarely gave the idea any thought, instead pondering why so many of these so-called economists had wealth that was economically insignificant. He liked to think it was because they debated such useless drivel as the reasoning behind the location of megatropolises in the galaxy. He was so infuriated by one article by one particularly insignificant economist that on his 632nd day of being the richest man in the galaxy he had personally ordered the buyout of economics departments providing shelters for these professors. In their place he built megatropolises with big statues at their center, his statue, with the words engraved: "I refute you, thusly."

He could have added, "And, by the way, megatropolises are built on the whims of the economically significant. Now piss off!" But that would have been showboating.

In the process of proving his point, the Duke happily drove many of these professors to unemployment, or worse, lifetime servitude as associate professors in departments overstaffed with displaced economists.

Still, he wasn’t entirely satisfied.

He returned to his idea of the fishing boat.

Yes, he would build it. He would do it himself, the Duke way. He would build the thing alone on this tropical island, with the bubblegum-bubble blowing fish, sweat pouring off his back, and his own two hands aching to remind himself of the two things he liked most about himself: one, that he was still that poor boy raised in the harsh patches of Cahill, desperate to crawl his way out of poverty; and two, that he was the kind of man who could afford to be this boy in a place of his choosing at a time that he divined.


2014 Daniel Clausen

Bio: Two of Daniel Clausen's stories have been previously published in Aphelion: "Plan 9 from Hollywood" and "Buddy." His fiction has also been published in Leading Edge Science Fiction, Slipstream, and Zygote in my Coffee, among other places.

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