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Chapter 14

Double A held her arms loosely around TF’s neck as he continued to read Oblong’s latest. When he finished, he kissed her on the forehead and said, “I was sort of hoping for another ‘Snake and Mole’ type story.”

“I know what you mean. I thought Oblong seemed in good spirits after we talked with him, but it’s certainly not reflected in this story.”

“Our conversation must’ve had some impact on his writing—after all, he did mention Rice Krispies.”

“A small victory,” she said. “Apparently a ten-minute discussion with a couple of young fools isn’t quite enough to undo two decades of misery.”

“I want to give the guy a fruit basket or something to cheer him up, but I’m afraid his next blank space story would be about receiving poisoned apples or something.”

“That’d be awfully derivative of Snow White.”

A lightbulb illumined inside TF’s mind. “That gives me an idea. What about getting Oblong a woman?”

“Like a hooker?”

“No, I mean like a companion...it did wonders for those dwarves and it’s definitely improved my outlook over the past couple of days.”

“So, like a pay-by-the-day hooker?”

“You’re really taking all the romance out of my suggestion.”

“I don’t mean to, but do you happen to know any single, forty-something women looking to date an odd albeit interesting guy who spends his days writing grey room horror and talking animal stories?”

TF shook his head. “What do you think the daily rate is for a prostitute?”

“I have no idea, but it’s too bad we’re not in sales, or we could just expense it.”

“Yeah, but then Oblong would see it in our expense report and figure out that his new girlfriend is just a rental.”

“We could buy him a dog.”

“Nah, he writes about animals, but I don’t really see him as an animal person—especially after what happened to the mouse and the pigeon.”

“Well, the mouse had it coming,” she said.

“Not the pigeon though. That poor bird started off with a broken wing, and it only got worse from there.”

“What then?”

“A calendar with cute animal pictures?” he asked sardonically.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea—it’s the middle of the year and besides, giving calendars to people in prison is its own brand of torture.”

“I’m just brainstorming here.”

Double A rubbed his shoulders. “Then lightning is bound to strike sooner or later.”

“What about dinner tonight?”

“Based on the story we just read, I don’t think him spending more time with us is going to have a positive effect.”

“No, I mean our workday is nearly done...want to have dinner and discuss this further—just the two of us, no mourning executives or frat bros?”

“I’d like that.”

* * *

Double A and TF walked hand-in-hand from the restaurant to the parking lot. It had rained while they’d been having dinner, and despite being seated near a window, neither of them had noticed.

“How long were we inside?” he asked. “When we walked in it was dry and sunny.”

“I’m not sure, but I love the smell of the air after a summer rain.”

“What’s the air smell like to you?”

“Metallic flowers,” she answered. “As if miniscule bits of iron charged with electricity are whirling about in the atmosphere like pollen. Why, what’s it smell like to you?”


“Well, what you lack in poetry you make up for in pithiness.”

“I don’t know any poems, but I still remember a couple of the limericks we’d recite at house parties before doing a keg stand.”

“I’m sure they were charming,” she said sarcastically.

“No, but what they lacked in charm they made up for in vulgarity.” TF clicked his key fob to unlock his car’s doors.

“I wish you had let me pay for dinner tonight?”

“You should allow me to pay while I still have money. I figure on Monday my salary is going to get cut in half.”

Double A opened the passenger side door. “I don’t know if you made a smart decision, but you definitely made a gutsy one.”

“That’s pretty much what the old man told me too.” TF started his car. “When the idea to stepdown occurred to me, I never had a doubt that it wasn’t the right thing to do.”

She buckled her seatbelt. “You’re decisive, I’ll give you that.”

He backed out of the parking spot and drove toward the street. An old woman walking a small dog stopped on the sidewalk, waiting for his car to pull out. He yielded to the pedestrian and waved at the woman to continue on, but she didn’t move.

“With your headlights on, she can’t see you through the windshield.”

“Good point.” TF rolled down his window to wave on the elderly woman. “Go ahead ma’am, we’ll wait...nice dog.”

“That’s kind of you,” said Double A. “I would’ve just gone.”

“Truth be told, if you weren’t here, I would’ve too, but I was trying to impress you with my kindness.”

“Consider me duly impressed. You know, we’ve been nattering on all night, but we never did get back to discussing how to cheer up Oblong.”

“The more I think about him, the more I think maybe he’s exactly where he wants to be—exactly who he wants to be, so perhaps we should just let him be...know what I mean?”

“I do...like happiness isn’t really what he’s after, so maybe he’s content with his life as it is.”

“Exactly...he seems content.” He rolled up his window as the old woman and the little dog continued to cross slowly in front of them. “Still, it’d be nice to see him a little happier.”

“You should’ve just gone.”

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