Stargirl

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Chapter 4: Bag

Outside turned out to be airier than inside, and smelled a bit better. It had space and sights and all sorts; Ziggy drank it in, breathing as deeply as she could. Her head turned in every direction, taking in as much as possible.

‘So this is meant to be more conducive to idea-generating?’ Veggie asked. He was kicking a stone along the path, scuffing his shoes across the concrete with every step. TM believed that he genuinely had no idea what they were doing out of the flat.

‘Yeah, I guess,’ said Ziggy absently.

TM looked her over as they walked, heading in no particular direction. Her new skin tone looked good in the natural light, he thought. Could have been Balinese, or possibly Russian or Chinese. She had found a pair of dark blue sneakers from somewhere; as with the rest of her new clothes, TM was almost positive they hadn’t come from the flat, and she hadn’t brought anything in with her except the Bowie cosplay gear. Her new hair fell in sleek waves, and she regularly shook her head to clear it from her eyes. She didn’t seem to mind. One ear stuck out, breaking the line of hair like a dolphin’s fin clearing the surface of the ocean. It was a small, tidy ear. An Inuit sort of ear, maybe, or Filipino. TM tried to give up thinking about possible ethnicities at that point, before he decided Ziggy looked like she was from every conceivable nation of the world. ‘So,’ he said, slowly and carefully, ‘why are we really out here?’

‘Whatchu mean?’ she asked, fixated on a squirrel as it weaved in and out of traffic on its way across the road. Veggie spotted it too; TM heard him blurt out the word ‘Frogger’ behind him.

‘There’s more to this,’ TM said.

Ziggy turned her gaze to him, and he wasn’t entirely sure how he felt about it. ‘Maybe,’ she admitted. ‘I guess I just want to live a life.’

Veggie scrunched his face up in an apparent attempt to make himself look as confused as he possibly could. ‘Right,’ he said. ‘I think I gathered something earlier about you being literally a star, and all that, but I can’t say I totally follow.’

Ziggy sighed. ‘You don’t really need to,’ she said. ‘Just think of me as new to everything, and eager to try it all.’

‘So you were up there,’ TM said, flicking his eyes towards the heavens, ‘and you were being a star and all that, and now you’re down here and you’re being a person.’

‘That’s basically it.’

‘And this works... how…?’

Ziggy harrumphed. ‘Stop trying to reduce stuff down to parts, or how it works. Just take it as what it is as a whole thing, you’ll feel better for it.’

TM thought about that, but didn’t manage to formulate a response before Veggie interrupted.

‘So let’s just take it as read that you’ve beamed down to Earth, or whatever you did, and this is the first day of Human Ziggy doing people stuff,’ Veggie proposed, kicking his stone off into the bushes.

‘Much obliged,’ Ziggy said.

‘And you picked us to be your guides on how to be a people and live a people life?’ Veggie spluttered, as if it were the most ridiculous thing in the world. ’I mean… us?’

‘Why not?’ Ziggy shrugged, a laugh-like melody slipping into her voice. It was, TM noticed with some relief, a voice that was very similar to the one she’d had back when she was still Bowie Cosplay Ziggy. At least there was some continuity to the whole thing. ‘You’re as qualified as any other person, so… just show me the world, and I’ll owe you pretty much everything.’

‘You’ll owe us,’ Veggie repeated, turning the phrase over in his mouth like a fresh piece of super-minty gum, or a coin he was testing for gold. ‘Alright, then, make us rich and we’re even.’

‘Fair play,’ said Ziggy. ‘Quid pro quo and whatnot.’ She scanned around for a moment, then her gaze settled on a man strolling casually by on the other side of the road with a plastic bag full of groceries. ‘Right, got it.’

She sauntered over to the happy shopper, beckoning TM and Veggie to follow. They did so, scurrying through the light traffic.

‘What’s she doing?’ TM whispered.

‘I dunno,’ Veggie replied, eyebrows furrowed. ‘Maybe she’s going to invite this guy to become a junior partner too.’

‘That’s not even a real position – and she doesn’t have that sort of authority!’ TM pointed out.

‘Do you think she knows that?’ Veggie wondered with concern.

‘Shit.’

‘Hiiiii,’ said Ziggy.

‘Um,’ her mark said, holding his bag a little tighter, ‘I’m not, er… buying, donating, whatever this is.’

‘It’s nothing like that, no worries,’ she reassured him with a wide smile. He relaxed, and she struck. Her finger punctured the flimsy plastic of the bag, tearing a wide rent. Fruit, instant noodles and other sundries cascaded forth, like the jackpot from a slot machine filled with overpriced groceries.

‘What the fuck,’ said Shopping Guy, which TM secretly agreed with.

‘This upstanding young man here,’ Ziggy declared, ‘was on his way home after a hard day in a very respectable job, having used his hard-earned money to procure necessary goods for his lovely wife and beautiful children!’ She picked up an item from the selection of fallen purchases by way of demonstration, and found herself brandishing a copy of Tits magazine aloft. ‘Imagine that’s baby food,’ she said chirpily.

’There’s a magazine literally just called Tits?’ Veggie demanded of the hapless shopper, who nodded reluctantly. ‘We could have come up with better than that!’ A look of realisation spread across his face, and he turned to TM with a dawning excitement. ‘We could come up with better than that!’

‘No,’ said TM. Veggie deflated.

‘Anyway,’ Ziggy pressed on, ‘this charming and professional young fellow was on his merry way back to his abode, when – oh no! – tragedy struck! He finds his goods scattered about!’ She flailed her arms about with theatrical gumption, demonstrating the sheer horror of the situation. ’So what does he need? Why, a Veggie Ziggy TM Bag Puncture Repair Kit, of course!’

‘A what now,’ said TM. She waved a wagging finger in his direction.

’Why, a Veggie Ziggy TM Bag Puncture Repair Kit, of course!’

‘Oh, of course,’ said TM, who was rapidly coming to think that it might be best just to go along with this sort of thing.

‘One simply takes the damaged bag,’ Ziggy declared, demonstrating – Shopping Guy didn’t try to resist as she tugged the thin plastic from his confused grip, ‘repairs it like so – I mean, we obviously haven’t got a prototype yet, but you get the idea. Don’t worry, though,’ she confided in Shopping Guy, ‘the product is gonna be totally –’ she winked and held her hand up in an OK sign with a click of the tongue.

‘Oh, good,’ said Shopping Guy. TM gave him a reassuring nod.

’And then, with a little Veggie Ziggy TM magic, the bag is repaaaaired!’ Ziggy almost sang, holding the limp piece of non-biodegradable plastic in the air as if sacrificing it to the gods.

‘Huh,’ said Veggie.

‘Here ya go,’ Ziggy said, stuffing the bag back into Shopping Guy’s hands with a friendly pat on the shoulder. ‘Sorry about your stuff, but we’re making money here.’

He nodded dejectedly, making no effort to pick up his scattered groceries. The trio left him there; Ziggy led the way with a cheery bounce.

‘So… just to be clear,’ Veggie said, ‘your idea is that we design a thing for repairing holes in shopping bags.’

‘Yup.’

‘Single-use, disposable shopping bags.’

’Well, yuh. Just cos they’re single-use doesn’t mean that that one use shouldn’t be as enjoyable and stress-free as possible.’

Veggie stopped in his tracks. ‘TM,’ he declared, ‘I think she might be a genius.’

‘You’re serious.’

‘Fuck yeah,’ said Veggie, the corners of his mouth getting ever further from each other as his grin widened. ’This is an idea for a product that is absolutely useless. It’s perfect. People will buy it in their thousands!’

TM thought about it for a moment. ‘You might actually be onto something,’ he admitted, and Ziggy burst into a wide smile.

‘Awesome,’ she said. ‘Let’s go make mon-ay, yeah?’

She started to head in the direction of the office where TM and Veggie made their pitches, strolling off with an enthusiastic swing of the arms. TM found himself unsurprised that she knew which way to go.

‘You know we need an appointment, right?’ he piped up. He felt almost reluctant to puncture the atmosphere that had both Ziggy and Veggie grinning so happily that between them they had more exposed teeth than he’d ever seen outside of a shark documentary, but somebody had to point these things out.

‘Nah,’ said Ziggy dismissively. ’They’ll have to make an appointment with us when they realise how fuckin’ sweet of an idea we have.’

‘That doesn’t make sense,’ TM started to say. Then he shook his head. ‘You know what? Yeah, they will.’

Ziggy patted him on the back with an almost grateful look. ‘Fuck yeah,’ she said.

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