She wanted to like him. From the start she really did. She listed the good things, the nice things, the “all-stars” about him. He knew how to dress well. He was clean. He had a good, warm laugh. Other people seemed to like him, so there was that. He had good references, so to speak. Friend of a friend of a friend. The glass eye was a little bit weird but that wasn’t his fault. Childhood accident. He wore a diamond ring on his left pinky. Who does that? His hairpiece was kind of pathetic, but come on. She was wearing her own hair in pigtails for christ’s sake. She tried to remind herself about all that unconscious bias training they made her do at work. First impressions, can’t trust ’em. Last impressions, same. One out of three jokes actually being funny doesn’t make him funny overall. Sallow skin, maybe he was lying about his age. The voice, though. That was kind of a deal-breaker, kind of a show-stopper. He sounded exactly like Mickey Mouse. What was she expected to do with that?
“I don’t know, I think he said he was a Space Oil Salesman.” Maggie shrugged and took another sip from her tall glass of diet cola. Across the rickety card table, Serra sat inspecting her nails.
“I doubt it,” Serra said without looking up. “I mean, whatever.”
“Maybe it was about his dog. He’s always talking about his dog. I think it’s an Old Spice Retriever or something like that.”
“Guy’s an idiot,” Serra said, completing her cutaneous inspection and glancing up with a wry smile.
“I agree,” Maggie said in all seriousness. “Guys are idiots.”
“You have an ear infection or something?” Serra asked, and wrinkled her nose in that way she did whenever she was trying to justify this friendship.
Elvisha looked like the type who would say a thing like that. Machine 101 made a note. She went on.
“I’d like a grey that’s more than a grey, a grey that speaks of foreign adventures, of climactic moments, of momentous indecision.”
“How about one of these?” the clerk at the hardware store presented a tab featuring four different shades. Elvisha barely looked at the card.
“A grey like the dream of a humpback whale, drifting in the sea at night, alone with the stars. A grey like a thirty-eight hour bus ride through an endless, invisible forest. A grey like a four dimensional tile, etching its weather-beaten life story through the ages.”
Machine 101 deleted the note. It must have made a mistake. Elvisha was a different type altogether.
Jameson ordered fifteen gazebos from gazebos.com and felt very proud of himself. So proud in fact that he went straight on to southwestmanufacturersawesomedealsoftheday.com and purchased eleven pre-fabbed sheet-metal corrugated rooftops. Some lucky patron was going to have a time explaining that one. The simplicity and ingenuity of the feat brought forth the best of his smiles. Evelyn would never believe it. Rooting around in the pile, he pulled out another carbon slip from the day’s selection of credit card receipts. He had to think of something good now, something that would truly bring her joy, something even sweeter than last week’s magicalfairydustgoddesswreaths.com.
Lightweight lemon drop physique.
Cold shoulder tactical maneuvers.
More mercy than you can tolerate.
Dance hall light beer omission.
Sixty seven ways to party hardy.
Tell the truth if you have to.
She doesn’t remember your name.
Esther went down the wrong hallway.
Fortune cookie rubber stamp brigade.
Let me hear you say “yeah”.
In another half an hour the sun would set and this rendition of life on Enceladus would come to an end. Its icy waves would freeze in place and its denizens would be rolled up and stashed in the nearest cubbyhole. Rovaldo leaned back and inspected this latest round of creation, and decided it was good enough for entry in the database. Forty seven hundred points were added to his collection and the other players in the game nodded and prepared to take their turn. It was a solemn bunch that gathered weekly in the twilight behind the supermarket parking lot. Once a haven for avid plastic recyclers, the wasteland now also featured planet-builders and bottle-cap collectors. For the wandering homeless, it no longer sufficed to drift. Nowadays you had to have something more to offer, some talent, some hobby, a gift. Rovaldo didn’t mind. He’d always been one of the stranger demigods. He liked it that the others were now being dragged into the realms of profitable productivity.
Inside that man there was another man, and within that other man was nothing. She wanted to know more but the meter had expired. Elle removed herself from the premises and stood outside on the sidewalk, looking back at the little hole in the great purple door. The show guard shook his head and stepped between her and the entrance, his beefy arms full of script tattoos from a very old edition of the book of the dead.
“It’ll cost you,” he grumbled in such a deep bass voice that at first she thought he was warning her about trout. Or something.
“I know,” she finally said, feeling more and more uncomfortable in those heels. “I only wanted another minute.”
“It’s never enough,” the show guard told her. “Everybody always wants more, no matter how long they’ve been in.”
She remained standing there for several long moments, considering the price.
“You’d better not,” the show guard advised. “It’ll take everything you have in the world.”