A Bad Thing

Lily is already at Bambang’s Noodle House when Lucy arrives. She is sitting just inside the door, by the restaurant’s plate glass front window. Lucy goes straight to the table and sits down. She puts her backpack on the floor and slips her foot through the shoulder strap. Paranoia, thy name is Lucy.

“I already ordered for you,” Lily says. She turns the facedown porcelain teacup at Lucy’s place right-side up and pours from the white kettle that’s at the center of the table.

“Double spicy?” Lucy asks.

Lily snorts. “Obviously.”

“Thank you.”

Lily puts the kettle down. “Going to Big Sur tonight. Going to spend the night on the beach.”

Lucy taps her foot against the side of her backpack. “Who’s going to Big Sur?”

“We are,” Lily says. “You and me.”

Lucy snorts. “I can’t do that. I’m in the middle of a thing.”

“Yeah, yeah, you said. A thing with Omar.” Lily tears the paper off her chopsticks, crumples it in a ball and drops it on the table. “I bet you haven’t heard from him yet.”

“Of course I haven’t heard from him. He’s flapjacking Omar.”

“Well, what’s your thing?” Lily asks. “I can help you with it.”

“Just a thing,” Lucy says. She taps her foot a little faster against her pack.

Lily leans in, grinning. “It’s a bad thing, isn’t it? I can always tell.”

“No, you can’t.”

Lily nods. “Totally can.” She raises her hands and flutters them by her cheeks. “You always get all red in your face when you’re doing something bad. You turn into a strawberry.”

Lucy wants to touch her fingers to her face, but she manages to keep her hands on the table. “Why are you going to Big Sur?” she says.

“Meeting some people,” Lily says. “And don’t try to change the subject.”

“I’m not changing the subject. I never even brought up the subject.” Movement in the dusk light outside the window draws Lucy’s eye, and she turns her head. There’s a dog who has walked up outside, a little one. Short hair. Brown. It stops outside the restaurant and looks up at her through the glass. What’s it called? Lucy thinks. A corgi.

“Well, so you know, I’m doing a bad thing tonight, too. That’s why we’re going to Big Sur.”

“I’m not going to Big Sur,” Lucy says.

“Drink your tea,” Lily says. She takes a sip of her own. “Want to know what my bad thing is?”

Lucy touches her cup, decides it’s still too hot to pick up. “You’re going to tell me what it is even if I don’t.”

Lily grins. “Flapjacking right.” She reaches into her coat pocket and pulls something out, sets it on the table: a small cork-stoppered glass bottle, about the size of a walnut. The glass is smoky colored.

“Don’t make me guess,” Lucy says.

“You know you want to.”

“I really don’t.”

“Killjoy,” Lily says. She lifts the bottle from the table and pulls out the stopper, then puts her index finger over the opening and flips it upside-down, then back over again. She holds her finger up so Lucy can see the thick smear of liquid that’s on her skin, then says, “Stick out your tongue.”

“What is it?” Lucy asks, dubious.

“It’s a surprise,” Lily says.

“I don’t like surprises.”

“You’ll like this one.”

Lucy frowns. “If I wake up with my kidney out, I’m going to kick your ass.” She leans forward and opens her mouth, sticking out her tongue.

“Nobody wants a kidney these days. Pineal glands are all the rage with the kids now.” Lily slides her finger across Lucy’s tongue, then pops her finger into her own mouth to clean any excess liquid from it. “Dry ‘em out, grind ‘em up, snort ‘em right up your nose. That flapjack’s got nothing on this stuff.”

Lucy smacks her lips. Whatever it is she’s just put in her mouth, it tastes terrible. “That’s disgusting. Tastes like feet.”

“Worth it. You’ll see.”

“Okay, sure.” Something bumps against Lucy’s calf, and she looks down to see that the corgi has somehow slipped inside the restaurant, and is pressing itself against her leg. “Hey,” she says. “How did you get in here?”

“Guy opened the door to leave,” the dog says, “and I walked right in.”

Lucy sits up straight in her chair. “Whoa.”

Lily grins. “Oh, yeah. Stuff kicked in, didn’t it?”

Lucy looks from the corgi to Lily and then back again. “You’re flapjacking me.”

“I’m not flapjacking anybody,” the dog says. “I got snipped years ago.”

“This dog is talking to me,” Lucy says.

“That’s why we’re going to Big Sur,” Lily says. “Going to sell this to some fogheads down there.”

“Scratch my ears,” the dog demands. “C’mon. Do it.”

Lucy reaches down and rubs the base of the dog’s ears, first one, then the other. “This dog,” she says again, “is talking to me.”

“Maybe,” Lily says. “Could just be that stuff is really good flapjack.”

“Pick me up,” the dog says. “Up, up, up.”

Lucy picks up the dog and puts it in her lap.

One of the restaurant’s workers brings two steaming bowls of noodle soup on a tray over to the table. As he takes the bowls from the tray and sets them on the table, he says, “You can’t have your dog in here.”

“He’s not my dog,” Lucy says.

“Speciest,” the dog growls.

“He came in when somebody opened the door,” Lily says. “We’re just checking for tags. He must be lost.”

“No dogs,” the worker says, but he doesn’t press the issue. He leaves them and goes back to the rear of the restaurant.

“Flapjacker,” the dog says. It starts to sniff at the noodles.

“Hey,” Lucy says. “Hands off. That’s mine.” She shifts the dog in her lap so that it’s further from the table’s edge and away from her bowl.

Lily slurps a mouthful of noodles, then taps her chopsticks against the side of the small bottle. “This stuff is amazing. You’re talking to a dog. I’m watching your hair turn into smoke. The fogheads are going to eat this flapjack up.”

Lucy picks a water chestnut from her bowl with her fingers and feeds it to the dog. “So wait. You’re going to Big Sur to sell drugs?”

We’re going to Big Sur to sell drugs, right.”

The dog flicks its tongue across its mouth. “That’s so spicy. Give me some more.”

Lucy picks out a chunk of centipork and gives it to the corgi. “Am I whispering right now?” she asks Lily. “I can’t tell.”

Lily nods and leans forward. “Yes, you’re whispering.”

“I have a flapjack ton of emote drops in my backpack, and I want to get rid of them.”

Lily pauses in the act of raising more noodles to her mouth. “Wait, seriously?”

Lucy nods. “Like… a flapjack ton.”

“More,” the dog demands.

Lily drops her chopsticks into her bowl and laughs loudly. “That’s perfect! Is that why you were waiting for Omar to call you?”

Lucy nods. She pulls out another bit of centipork for the corgi.

“Pfft. He snoozes, he loses. Where did you get the drops? Never mind, don’t tell me. Doesn’t matter.” Lily picks up her chopsticks again. “I’ll get you more of a return on your investment than he would. Plus, I won’t charge you anything for my services, either. This is your lucky day, girlfriend.”

Lucy scratches the dog behind its ear. “I need some luck. It would be a nice change.”

“I need some more centipork,” the corgi says. “Gimme.”

Lily slups noodles into her mouth, then says around them, “Eat up. Couple of hours from now, you’ll have foghead credits in your wallet. Guaranteed.”

Lucy looks the corgi in its eyes. “What do you think, dog?”

“I love you,” the dog says, wagging its tail. “More centipork.”

Lucy picks out another chunk of centipork and holds it out for the dog. “Looks like it’s our lucky day, dog,” she says.

“Flapjacking right,” the corgi says, taking the meat between its teeth. “Flapjacking right.”


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