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.”
Before there were any definite indications of that other most bothersome universe, Elspeth had a feeling about it. She told Mireille she’d seen things, witnessed events unfolding in two ways at once. Mireille was skeptical, naturally. She assumed Elspeth had seen identical twins when she described a man stepping off a commuter train at the 69th Street Station and heading off in both directions. Elspeth tried to convince her, but only her. She would never have dared talk of such things with anybody else. Hadn’t they already written her off as a flake, hysterical, an odd duck? Mireille at least would listen and not say any mean things like that. Elspeth was not crazy. She merely had a more pronounced case of SBD (split-brain disorder) than your average housewife and mother of four. Mireille thought, rather, that Elspeth was tired. Elspeth accepted the verdict, and appreciated the time that she got to spend with her friend. After all, she had already seen what would happen to Mireille over there, in the other place.
Instead of a cast, Lorraine got this new kind of thing called a “placeholder”. What you’d do is they take the body part off and they stick in storage for a time, and in the meanwhile you get the “placeholder”. Now, the “placeholder” doesn’t look like the body part in any way. I mean it’s always the same, a kind of rubbery hose-like thing, usually colored bright pink or lime green so you can see it in the dark real good. Your body part’s going to be just fine. It’s doing its healing all nice and tidy in a box, or at least a shrink-wrap, and you get to wag the “placeholder” around so everyone can see you got the new kind of thing. The only way you can qualify for the new kind of thing, or the “placeholder” if you will, is by lottery. You sign up to be a beta tester but even then it’s like a raffle and only the luckiest few get to get it. Some people might ask, why would I want them to take my body part off and stick it in storage and in the meanwhile get stuck with this hideous snake-like appendage and the answer is real simple. It’s brand new. It’s the new kind of thing. Who doesn’t want the latest and the greatest if they can?
Eerdwogh had a nose for such things. He could sniff out trouble from miles away. This was the main reason why Detective Leppy Job kept him on the payroll; that and the fact that the mutt was good enough company during those long, lonely nights staking out his teenage daughter’s prospective prom dates. The only problem was how the dog had to go a lot, and in this neighborhood the residents were not too keen on poodle poo. It seemed every yard had posted a sign to ward off the natural functions. Each sign was more ingenious than the next, as if it were a competition. Leppy didn’t care for this jurisdiction. He often wished they’d never left the city, but the wife, and the kid, and of course the schools, always the schools, not to mention the self-driving-car-bombs. City life was never the same after those things came along. Now it was boonies for life, whether you liked it or not. The ROI on tactical terror was not nearly as high where the population was so much less congealed.
Mom and dad used to fight a lot. All the time, really. He would say something – it could be anything – and she would immediately disagree. Every time. Like if he wanted to go out to dinner, she’d start in on “where’s the money coming from?” but like if she wanted to go out to dinner, he’d be like “okay” and she’d be like, “oh, so now you don’t want to because it’s MY idea, is that it?”. Dad could never win. But it wasn’t like mom could ever win either, because she always ended up talking herself out of whatever it was. If it was something he wanted, she didn’t want it but if it was something she started out wanting she ended up not wanting it because he didn’t care if she wanted it or not so obviously he didn’t care period so then it wasn’t worth it if it wasn’t going to piss him off. I think she always hated him. When he up and died she took it real personal, like he was doing it to her. After that she never left the house again. He would have wanted her to carry on her life like normal so that was the last thing she was going to do.
By noon negotiations had broken down and both sides had retreated to their respective chambers. In the East Wing Senator Bob huddled with advisors, contemplating their next move. Across the hall, Senator Bill was dining on Spicy Jalapeño Prawns and catching up on the Redskins game. The Skins were down by twelve with four minutes left and the situation looked bleak. Although they were playing Buffalo, the Senator felt no affiliation with the team that both bore his name and hailed from the state he officially represented. He’d grown callous during his years in “the swamp” and considered himself full D.C. native though he lived in Maryland and avoided the city as much as he possibly could. Senator Bill was not a man concerned with mere appearances. He was much more shallow than that. He lived his life according the the precepts of legendary Agriculture Secretary Earl Butz and was only concerned with loose shoes, tight pussy, and a warm place to shit.
After that harrowing, dramatic rescue, Orpal and the kids remained in seclusion for several days, seeing no one, speaking to no one, not even to each other. They’d been through too much, and it would be a long time until they fully recovered. Once they did, however, life went on pretty much as usual. Karen became an interior designer. Ricky dabbled in paints. Orpal herself lived a quiet life on the plains of Montana, where she learned to excel at calf-roping, candle-making and needlework. You would never have known, from meeting any one of them or even getting to know them well, about either the shipwreck or the cannibalism.