A City Stranded Cowboy's Robot Mercy Killing Business

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 9 (v.1) - El Infierno

Submitted: January 14, 2020

Reads: 6

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Submitted: January 14, 2020

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"What was it you said you wanted to bury again?" Tex asked.

"Don't worry about it." Junji replied.

Although Junji didn't have a dead body on him, the fact that they were retreating deep into the woods with shovels had Tex a tad on edge.

"How long's this gonna take?" Tex pushed. "I don't wanna be late for Bianca's meeting."

"Not long."

"Why don't you just tell me what we're doing?"

With a little sigh, Junji slung his bag off his shoulder and pulled out a large blue thermos with a yellow sticker on the lid. 

"That a bomb?" asked Tex.

Junji opened the top of the capsule to reveal the first of what was likely several stacks of gold coins sitting in clear plastic boxes. Tex breathed a tiny sigh of relief.

"You're a cute little wack-job, aren't you." Tex muttered.

Junji beamed.

"Come on." Tex followed with a jab of his thumb. "I know the perfect spot."

The spot Tex had in mind wasn't far. They stumbled upon the familiar patch of dirt and moss after just a minute of straying from the trail.

It took about six scoops for their shovels to hit metal. Tex wondered if he should think twice about giving away the location of his secret stash, but he trusted Junji too much to care. 

Tex uncovered just the top of the safe with his shovel. Dropping to his knees, he punched in the password to the numbered lock.

"Is that a gun safe?" asked Junji.

Tex opened the top of the gun safe and shined his phone's flashlight inside to reveal it was filled halfway to the top with pistol ammunition. 

"May I ask why?" Junji scoffed.

"Everybody thinks the government's gonna come for our guns. I say they're gonna come for our ammo."

"...Kijin."

Junji didn't seem like he approved, but he lowered his thermos of gold into the safe nonetheless. Tex closed the door and locked it. 

"Why don't we change the subject?" Tex asked as they started to pour and pat the dirt back over the safe. "How's it going with the--writing?"

"Good." Junji replied. "Ying says hello." 

"I, uh--hi." 

"I will relay the message back to her."

"You see her every week?"

"Yes. She's the only friend I was able to keep post my leave."

"Hmm."

Once they'd finished with the dirt, Tex rearranged some twigs and moss to make the ground look natural. 

He wasn't too worried about it. They were far enough out, and there was no one around.

"You ready?" asked Tex.

"Yes."

"Good. Let's get to that meeting."

After picking a bug from his hair, Tex took the lead back to the car. They'd gone off trail, but it was a nice enough day for Tex to enjoy the hike.

Tex had always liked nature walks. They'd been easier to come by when he hadn't lived in a city composed exclusively of apartment complexes and protest demonstrations.

"You seem to be in a good mood." Junji said.

"Don't see a reason not to be."

"Hmm. May I ask you something?"

"Anytime."

"How did you start this organization?"

Tex smiled to himself. He'd been waiting for Junji to ask.

"Kind of a long story." he replied.

"And we have a walk and a drive."

"Alright then, I'll tell you. I've known what tetragramming is for the past decade. Was never really a fan of the, uh, general concept."

Junji didn't look particularly surprised. He gestured with his hand for Tex to continue.

"After the war, I didn't really have nowhere to go, my home being destroyed and all that." Tex followed. "I lived in Oklahoma for a while with my wife, but that didn’t exactly work out.”

“Oh.” Junji replied.

“Barton let me come up to Seattle and live on her land, least til she bullied me into supporting myself."

"I can imagine."

"Still, I weren't about to not commit massive tax fraud. So I started going to--um..."

"What?"

"...Libertarian conventions. That's where I met Sean."

"Was Sean in the right building?"

"I don't remember how tetragramming came up, but he told me about some weird alien discomfort radar he and a friend had found. After I saw it for myself and learned he wasn't full of shit, I decided I wasn't gonna sleep another night until I formed an organization."

"Hmm."

Tex wasn't sure if he was imagining it, but Junji's tone sounded strangely fond. When they got to the car, Tex got in and unlocked Junji's door.

"One thing kinda led to another at that point." Tex continued as he drove out of the parking lot and onto the road. "Tala moved up here from Olympia to help, and I formed a little community with some of the folks I'd met at the conventions. Didn't end up being too hard to find people invested in the cause."

"I will take your word for it."

"First year was kinda rough. We needed one more person for the adapter to work right, but most people didn't stick around too long. Eventually, this old nun from the town I grew up with gave me a call to make sure I was prepared for the rapture and I sure as hell didn't have nothing to lose, so I asked her--" 

Tex's eyes went wide with sudden realization.

"Are you alright?" Junji asked.

"Marta!"

"What."

"Oh, I forgot to visit Marta."

Junji stared.

"We're gonna go visit Marta." Tex followed as he did the one good thing he'd ever learned from city life: the illegal U turn.

Due to intense anxiety, Tex failed to answer any of Junji's many questions until they'd parked at Forest West Nursing Home. 

"Tala." Tex said into his phone as they jogged up to the front door. "Junji and me are gonna be a little late."

"Please tell me something." Junji begged once Tex had put his phone back in his pocket.

After giving his temples a quick rub, Tex let out a deep breath in an attempt to collect himself.

"Alright." he replied. "Alright. Marta was a nun at the church I used to go to. When I was seven, she was ninety-one."

"How old are you now?"

"Thirty eight."

"...And she is still alive?"

"I've seen Marta make it through bone cancer, a car accident, and seventeen bash-wounds to the head. At this point, I ain't sure she can die."

They got to the entrance set of glass doors. Tex held the left one open for Junji. 

"Funny thing is, though." Tex followed as they walked inside. "She never seemed to like being alive all that much." 

Junji looked like he might have said something in response, but he shut his mouth upon spotting the reception desk just a few feet in front of them.

The receptionist barely looked up as they walked over.

"Who are you visiting?" she asked the two of them.

"Marta Santos." Tex replied.

"Oh, she gets a lot of visitors. Please make sure to clean up after yourself."

Tex was handed a sheet that requested his name, phone number, and relationship to Marta. After he'd traded it with the receptionist for a slip of paper with Marta's room number, Tex realized he'd been so frazzled he'd forgotten to lie.

"That way, just passed the bathrooms." the receptionist instructed.

The halls didn't seem to be particularly well-staffed, although Tex supposed he wasn't about to try and work in a nursing home.

"You did not tell me Marta was in prison." Junji muttered as they made their way to Marta's room.

"This is an old folks home." Tex whispered back.

"A what?"

Marta's door didn't end up being too hard to find, mostly because of the collection of adults that were conversing with each other at a table outside her door. They seemed to be holding a book club for one of Marta's books. Although instead of reading the book, they were tearing out the pages one by one and placing them into a paper shredder. 

A little sign on the table indicated the name of the event was Final Days. The door to Marta's room was open, and Tex could just barely make out a small cot with someone lying inside.

"Let's pick up the pace." Tex said to Junji as they walked past.

"Who are these people?"

"Marta was a little controversial."

Well aware of the many sets of eyes on him, Tex quickly pulled Junji into Marta's room and shut the door behind them.

The room was small, only about the size of a clinic's check-up room. Marta was lying on her back in a white cot, covered in blankets. All Tex could see was her face, which was as skeleton-like as he'd remembered.

Her eyes fluttered open as Tex made his way over.

"Oh, hello, Tex." she greeted.

"Howdy." Tex replied. "How's it going."

"I want to die." 

"Want me to pull a plug?"

Marta sighed. 

"No." she replied.

"Sounds good. I want you to meet someone."

"Who?"

"This is the guy we found to take over for you while you're in here."

Junji waved. After turning her neck with a grunt, Marta squinted her eyes in Junji's direction.

"Did you replace me with a Jap?" asked Marta.

"Welp." Tex said as he turned to leave. "It was nice seeing you Marta, but--"

"What is a Jap?" Junji wondered.

"Uh--"

A few snorts and a dry chuckle from Junji told Tex that he'd been had.

"Goddamn it." Tex said as Junji wheezed. 

"Who's there?" Marta asked.

Junji took a few steps forward until he was next to Marta. Marta turned her head towards him and pushed her glasses up to her face with a withered, shaking hand.

"Hello." Junji greeted. 

Just a second after her gaze had focused on Junji's face, Marta's eyes turned as wide as saucers.

"Sagrado!" she shouted. "Hombre sagrado!" 

As soon as the words had left her mouth, Marta went limp.

Tex gave her a tiny poke. When she didn't respond to it in the slightest, Tex grabbed her arm and checked her pulse.

"She's dead." Tex realized.

"...We should tell someone."

All Tex could do was stare at Marta's dead face. Up until that moment, he'd thought Marta might have been able to outlive him.

Thankfully, he didn't feel too sad. The death had felt more like euthanasia to him than anything else. 

"What did she say to me?" Junji asked. "When she died."

"Uh, holy man."

Marta's eyes were closed, but Tex still felt like they were watching him.

"We will tell reception." Junji said with a hand on Tex's shoulder.

"Good idea."

The book club was still present as they left the room. Tex did his best not to make eye contact with anyone, but a man with brown hair and a don't piss me off, I'm close to leveling up and you look like just enough XP shirt stopped him before they could make their escape.

"What were you doing in there?" the man in the horrible shirt asked Tex.

"Visiting." Tex replied. "Can you do me a favor?"

"What's that?"

"Would all y'all mind taking this somewhere else?"

The man in the shirt blinked.

"I would mind." he replied. "We've been doing this every Wednesday afternoon for the last three years."

"She just died." 

"Did you kill her?"

As he spoke, excitement twisted on the man's face. Tex's jaw nearly dropped.

"No." answered Tex. "What the hell is wrong with you?"

"What do you mean, what's wrong with me?"

"Morgue people are probably gonna be storming in here in a minute, so you should get out of the way. And she's dead. You don't gotta hate her no more."

The man in the shirt set his face in a way that let Tex know he'd struck a nerve. After taking a step closer, he waved a page of Marta's book in Tex's face.

"So do you also think we should offer albino children as a blood sacrifice, or were you just a devout family friend?" the man asked.

Had Tex been in a better mood, he might have assumed the man's opinion had been formed from anything other than arrogance and cyanide. 

"She believed in hell." Tex replied. "Did you never learn math? Heaven minus a couple of pale kids is a hell of a lot better than--hell."

The man seemed taken aback by Tex's response. After a few moments of uncertainty, he bit his tongue and spat at Tex's face.

It took Tex less than a second to register what happened. He twisted his mouth into a snarl and lunged forward, his left arm making a grab for the man's collar and his right hand balling itself up into a fist.

Tex never made contact. Swiftly, two hands wrapped around him from behind and twisted into a grab that left him unable to move his upper body. Tex tried to turn his head to view Junji better, but found himself hit with a sudden wave of sleepiness as Junji's fingers began to press lightly against his solar plexus.

"We will be leaving now." Junji said calmly as he began to drag Tex backwards down the hall.

Tex's eyesight was too blurry to make out how the man who'd spat on him had reacted. He could tell that he'd attracted a lot of attention from the book club goers, but he was unsure what to do with the information as Junji's hand continued to press on his chest, all the way until they'd gotten to the men's bathroom.

Junji was silent as he maneuvered the both of them inside the bathroom. It was for a single occupant, and Junji locked the door behind them after freeing Tex from his grasp.

Tex felt a sudden chill as Junji's arms left him. Not wanting to sit on the toilet, he took a seat on the sink counter. Junji hoisted himself up and joined him.

"Are you alright?" Junji asked as he pulled a paper towel out of the dispenser and dampened it on the faucet between the two of them.

Tex frowned. His anger had quickly burned out, leaving him with nothing but a feeling of sadness and a sinking sense of shame. 

Twice now Junji had stopped Tex before he could retaliate, and Tex had no reason to believe it wouldn't become a pattern. Tex knew in his heart that it was a good thing, both for his own peace of mind and his criminal record.

"I'm sorry." he muttered.

Junji used a finger to turn Tex's face towards him. Tex was still and kept his eyes shut as Junji wiped the spit from his cheek with cold water and cleaned his glasses.

It was a surprisingly kind gesture, and completely foreign to Tex for it to come from another man.

"I understand." Junji replied.

To Tex's deep relief, Junji sounded like he meant it. He finished cleaning the saliva from Tex's face in less than a minute, but he stayed seated next to him for another five.

"Can we stay here?" Tex pleaded.

"We can't stay forever." Junji replied. "We should leave."

"I don't wanna."

"What are you afraid of?"

"What if he's still there?"

"I will check."

Junji hopped down from his space on the counter and disappeared out the door. The second he'd left, Tex began to feel the first strong hints of loneliness.

They didn't last long. Junji was back in less than thirty seconds.

"Most everyone is gone." said Junji. "And we don't have to go that way to leave."

Tex slid off the counter and landed on reluctant feet. He let Junji lead them outside and tried not to make it look like he was hiding behind him.

"We take this to our graves, alright?" Tex muttered.

"Take what to our graves?"

"Uh, never mind."

The walk wasn't far. Tex grew more confident the closer they got to the front doors.

"Marta's dead." Tex said to the receptionist as they left.

"Marta's what?" she replied.

Although Tex was morally opposed to speeding, his desire to not be any later than he had to be to the meeting had him looking for ways to cut time as they drove back. Just once, Tex decided to park his car in front of his apartment building. The only spot open within a five minute walk was next to a thirty minute load and unload sign.

It would probably be fine.

They jogged just a bit faster than they usually did to the building. Tex was out of breath by the time they'd arrived.

Still panting, Tex opened the door of Bianca's office to see Sean, Tala, Luke, Caverly, and a platter of smoked salmon. 

Junji went straight for the salmon.

"Is Bianca here?" Tex asked Tala after he'd gotten himself a cup of wine.

"She's in the bathroom." Tala answered.

Tala's tone seemed uncharacteristically judgmental. Tex raised an eyebrow in suspicion.

"What?" he asked.

"You know she's married, right?"

Tex downed his cup in one gulp.

"I know, I know." he replied.

"Why do you like her so much, anyway?" 

"I'm half Mexican, she's half Mexican. We have a kid and that's one full Mexican."

Instead of laughing at the hilarious joke that Tex had thought of fourteen months prior and been waiting for an opportunity to tell, Tala shot Tex a look.

"What?" Tex followed.

"I think you need to get a girlfriend."

"I'm almost forty. Everybody good got taken." 

The sound of the door opening and closing rang out as Bianca entered the room. She went straight for Luke and Caverly. Tex turned his attention to the snack table, where Junji was talking to Sean.

"You are a farmer?" Junji asked Sean.

"Yeah, man." Sean replied. "Grandfather left me a potato farm and all that."

Sean was wearing a snapback hat with the caption . He hadn't been wearing it when Tex had first come in.

"And you...properly care for it?" Junji pushed.

"Yup. Pray to the sun gods every night."

Junji didn't look convinced, although any skepticism he was planning on voicing was interrupted by the sound of both Luke and Caverly clearing their throats from the center of the room.

"Could we have everyone's attention please?" asked Caverly.

It didn't take long for the chattering to die down. Everyone turned towards Luke and Caverly.

"We have an announcement to make." Luke said as he gestured to Caverly.

"Are you pregnant?" Tala asked with excitement.

"No." 

"Did you grow a second penis?" Sean pushed.

"N--"

"Did you get a penis removed?" Tala wondered.

"Did you switch genitals?"

"Did you switch everything but your genitals?"

"Bianca," Caverly interrupted, "is moving us into separate rooms at the end of the month."

Tex couldn't believe what he was hearing. Luke and Caverly had undergone their share of troubles, but he hadn't taken them for a couple that would give up so easily.

"You got divorced!?" he yelped.

Luke and Caverly both chuckled. As did Junji and Tala, although they covered their mouths.

"No." Caverly replied. "We're just moving into separate rooms."

"For the last couple weeks, we've been taking turns spending the night at our friends' houses." Luke explained. "And it's been going really well."

Tex was very confused.

"Why did you--" he stuttered. "How did you--"

"Junji was actually the one who made the suggestion." said Caverly.

Junji didn't seem particularly comfortable when everyone turned to him and stared. 

"Are you two still gonna see each other?" Tex asked Caverly.

"Yeah, of course." she answered.

Tex frowned. 

"I have a question for Junji." Bianca said with a little smile.

"What is it?" Junji replied. 

"How do you feel about open marriages?" 

As she spoke, Bianca raised her eyebrows at the words 'you' and 'open'. Tex spat out half a sip of wine.

"I am very much in favor." Junji announced.

"...Course you are." Tex muttered. 

Junji shot Tex a tiny glance. Tex wasn't quite sure how to read it, but it seemed to be somewhere between puzzled and hurt.

"Sex is a pleasurable activity, not just for ourselves, but for everyone involved." Junji said to Tex. "Is it not ethical for us to pursue collective pleasure?"

Everyone let out a little 'oooh'.

"Yo, this funky mob boss is woke as fuck!" said Sean.

"Thank you, Sean." Junji replied with a tiny bow.

"You sound like you have more on this subject." Bianca noted.

"I always have more."

"Would you like to do a presentation?"

Junji stole a glance at the presentation board. It was clear from his expression that he was itching to give one.

"I would not be opposed..." he answered.

"Great!" Tala replied. "I'll get the pens."

While Tala got the pens, everyone arranged themselves in a little half circle around the board. Tex poured himself another cup of wine out of sheer disbelief.

Tala handed Junji a black felt tip marker. Tex stood next to Caverly as he watched Junji draw a crude doodle of Earth and label it Planet of Prudes.

"This is Earth." Junji explained.

"Where we live!" Sean replied.

"It is home to many animals, including a species of apes with poor judgement on everything."

"Ha, he's talking about us."

Luke reached down and began to untie his shoe. When he'd finished, he stripped off his sock and threw it at Sean's face.

"This ape species was given the ability to experience euphoria in the form of an orgasm, that potentially can be performed risk free with a few simple steps." Junji said as Sean took off his own shoe and slipped on Luke's sock over his own. "However, a great number of them choose to follow the frivolous idea that sex is something that should only be enjoyed between lovers."

"Well, yeah, but..." Tex cut in.

"What?" Junji replied.

"Sex is intimate."

"But should intimacy only be enjoyed by lovers?"

Tex had no idea where Junji was going. All he knew was that he didn't like it.

"Before I pitch my idea," Junji continued. "I would like to go over the rules of the argument format I'll be using. Is anyone opposed to this?"

Tala raised her hand.

"Tala? Are you opposed?" asked Junji.

"Oh, I was just stretching." she replied.

Junji's face twisted in confusion for just a half second before he turned back to the board.

"I'm sure some of you have heard this before." Junji said as he wrote. "If A, then B. A. Therefore, B."

Once he was finished, Junji stepped away from the board so everyone could get a good look.

 

1. A->B

2. A

? B

"What's the triangle thing on the bottom?" asked Caverly.

"It's the same thing." Junji answered. "Just a more programmer-friendly way of representing it."

Junji pointed to the first thing he'd written on the board, the numbered list.

"This is called Modus Ponens." he explained. "A very common argument form. Any argument in this form is inherently valid."

Luke raised his hand.

"What if I said something like, uh," Luke stumbled, "'If Jesus flies down from heaven and sucks my dick'--"

"I would pay to see that." Caverly whispered to Tex.

"--'Jesus is gay. Jesus flew down from heaven and sucked my dick, so Jesus is gay'?"

"Then you would be a very rational moron." Junji replied.

"Jesus could be bi..." Tala trailed off.

"Although every argument in this form is logically derived, that does not make every argument true. An argument is only as truthful as its premises."

Junji pointed to lines one and two.

"However." he continued. "I have an argument to present today that I believe to be as sound as any argument can be."

After clearing his throat, Junji reached for the pen once again.

"If an action brings about more pleasure than is taken away by said action, that action is inherently justified."

Tex watched as Junji scribbled 'if an action results in net positive pleasure, that action is inherently justified' on the board.

"Can anyone disagree with that?"

After a moment of silence, everyone began to murmur at different times that they couldn't. As much as he desperately wanted to prove Junji wrong, Tex also could think of nothing.

"Continuing on. Sex is an action. Which means that if a sex has a net positive affect on society, said sex is inherently justified. For the purpose of this argument, we will phrase it like..."

Under the triangle, Junji wrote 'if a sex brings about more consensual pleasure than nonconsensual discomfort, it is inherently justified'.

"Now. Using the Modus Ponens argument form--"

Junji cut himself off when Sean raised his hand.

"Would this make incest ethical?" asked Sean.

Tex looked over to Sean to see that he was now wearing two hats captioned with , stacked on each other in a neat fashion. Tex looked over to Tala to see that she was wearing one hat that was captioned with .

Tex stopped looking around.

"The danger of incest is the potential creation of a genetically monstrous, and by extension, unhappy child." Junji answered. "So this falls under an outcome of net discomfort."

"What about gay incest, then?" Sean pushed.

"Gay incest is fine."

Although Tex still couldn't see anything wrong with Junji's initial argument, he did manage to dig up something that was bothering him.

"I don't think anybody really disagrees with you." Tex said.

"Hmm?" Junji replied.

"People who are against debauchery agree with you. They just reckon casual screwing is gonna have a bad impact."

Junji turned towards the board and scratched his head in silence. A moment later, he brought the pen back up to the board and added a 'if specifically I believe that' to the front of 'a sex brings about more consensual pleasure than nonconsensual discomfort, it is inherently justified'.

"Seems like a good rule." said Caverly.

"Really?" Tex replied. "It seems like a good rule to let this guy you just met make your decisions for you?"

"Now, as we all know," Junji continued, "if something is ethical in small doses, it is also ethical in large. So I conclude that it's within our best interest to consider that sex is something that could be enjoyed by friends." 

"Bars." Sean replied.

Junji's presentation wrapped up after a round of applause. Junji gave a tiny bow and left the remains of his presentation of the board before returning to the smoked salmon.

The group quickly dispersed back into several sub conversations. Tex caught up with Junji at the snack table.

"What did you tell them?" he hissed to Junji.

"Tell who?"

"Luke and Caverly. How could you tell them to get separate rooms?"

"Most of their problems seemed related to them being roommates. I suggested they no longer be roommates."

Tex frowned.

"It is common knowledge that close friendships often suffer when friends attempt to live together." Junji explained. "Why would it be any different with lovers?"

"You some kinda marriage councilor now?"

"Not really. This is actually my only piece of advice for married couples."

With a shake of his head and another sip of wine, Tex realized he didn't have any more to say. Desperate to think about something else, he turned his attention to Sean, who was now wearing three hats captioned with .

Tex looked over to Tala to see that she was wearing two hats captioned with . Cautiously, Tex reached on top of his head to find a hat.

It was captioned .

"The hell?" he asked.

Tex was still in a bad, weird mood by the time the meeting had drawn to a close. After remembering that he'd parked his car on the street, he made his way outside the building. 

The thought of driving five minutes so that he could walk ten minutes wasn't great, but it was nothing compared to the realization that his car wasn't there anymore.

Tex ran back inside the meeting room, desperate for someone who could help him deal with what was sure to be the worst thing he'd ever experienced in his entire life. Everyone had left but Bianca, who was putting the cheese back in the fridge. Tex tried not to be overly frantic as he ran up to her and began to shake her by the shoulders.

"Please." Tex begged.

"Hwat?" she replied.

"I lost my car."

"Did you drop it?"

"I got towed."

"...Oh."

"I'm gonna die."

"You're not going to die."

Tex was going to die. He let himself go numb and compliant as Bianca sat him down on the empty snack table. 

"Have you called the towing place yet?" Bianca asked.

As she spoke, Bianca rubbed her hand over Tex's shoulder. Tex instantly forgot why he'd been so worked up.

"I don't know where it got taken." he answered.

"That's fine. You just have to call the police department, and then I can give you a ride."

"Jesus Christ. Thank you."

It was about eight in the afternoon when Tex called the police department, who redirected him to another police department, who redirected him to a private towing company, who redirected him to the first police department, who redirected him to another towing company who said they maybe might have his car. When he finally got off the phone at one in the morning, Tex nudged Bianca's foot until she woke up.

"You ready?" he asked.

"Sure." she yawned.

As they walked outside, Tex resisted the urge to thank Bianca a million times more.

"I'm sorry this happened to you." she said.

"Don't be. I can't tell you how much it means to me that you're helping me out."

"Hmm."

"No, really. If there's anything I can do for you, just let me know."

The night air was cold on Tex's face. He shoved his hands into the pockets of his jacket and hoped Bianca's car wasn't too far away.

"Well, there is something I'm curious about." Bianca said.

"What's that?" asked Tex.

"How's the business going?"

"...Which one?"

"The robot mercy killing one."

"Oh. It's going alright."

"How's Junji working out?"

"Working out great. Though he's kind of a nut case."

"How so?"

"You ain't met him?" 

Tex wasn't sure why, but he was hit with the sudden suspicion that he could have asked his question in fewer syllables.

He shook the thought from his head.

"He doesn't seem so weird to me." said Bianca.

"I dunno. He's got, like, aspergers or communism or something."

"You don't like him?"

"No, he's great."

Bianca let out a tiny hum of amusement. Tex found himself searching for more things to say, wanting to avoid any hint of awkwardness.

"This one's mine." Bianca said as she pointed to a car with a strange hood ornament.

The hood ornament was more colorful than most of the ones Tex had seen. As they got closer, he saw that it was a figure of a cartoon teenage-girl with comically long blue pigtails.

Tex thought nothing of it in the slightest. He was silent as Bianca got in the car and unlocked the door for him.

The inside of Bianca's car was a little messy, although only because of the dozens of graphic novels and memorabilia from television shows Tex didn't recognize that were scattered astray. Tex lifted a key chain and read the back to see that it was for a show called Full Metal Alchemist, and from the features of the characters pictured, he was able to distantly recognize it as Japanimation.

It seemed to be a common theme with all the other books and trinkets.

"Oh, Dan got that for me." Bianca said as Tex put the keychain down. "At a--convention."

"Huh." Tex replied. "You know, I've never seen any of them Japanese shows. Where they got the big eyes and all that."

"Really?"

"Wait, I've seen one. I saw the movie with the big rabbit thing."

"My Neighbor Totoro?"

"Yeah, that. Did you like that one?"

"Miyazaki's kinda normie, but he's alright."

Tex coughed.

"I'm surprised Junji hasn't shown you anything more interesting." Bianca followed.

"Not really. Why you so interested in him, anyway?"

"I'm interested in his culture."

"Ah."

Bianca had always been interested in learning more about culture, whether it was one she was a part of or not. Tex wasn't shy to admit he found it one of the many indicators of her class.

Silence fell over the two of them as Bianca started her car and backed out of her spot, but Tex didn't mind.

"Is everything alright?" she asked once they'd gotten on the main road.

"Why do you ask?"

"Seems like something's on your mind."

"I don't wanna trouble you."

"I wouldn't have asked if I didn't want to be troubled."

Tex bit his thumb and let out a helpless snicker. There were half a dozen things bothering him, although he forced himself to only pick one.

He ended up going with the fight he'd almost gotten into at the nursing home. Bianca kept her attention on traffic as Tex cited the story, although he could tell from her expression that she was listening.

"Sounds a little ironic." she said once he'd finished.

"Ironic?" Tex asked.

"You can empathize with Marta because you can imagine what it might be like to believe in hell. But you can't empathize with someone who can't empathize with her."

"Might of if he hadn't spit in my face."

"Spitting does not encourage empathy. Then again, neither does punching."

"Calm down, ma."

They got to the towing place in less than twenty minutes. Talking to Bianca along the way was nice enough, although Tex couldn't help but feel a little confused as to why most of her knowledge seemed to be about cartoons.

Tex braced himself for the worse as he walked up to the towing company's front desk.

Although Tex was able to prove he was the owner of the car to the employees, he was unable to present his registration information, as it was inside his car. Thankfully, he was able to avoid both the problem and an eternal cycle of paperwork with the help of two men named Benjamin Franklin on top of the three hundred dollars he already owed.

"I think I just got conned." Tex told Bianca as they went down to collect his car.

Tex's key didn't work on his car for some reason, so he was forced to hot-wire it. He gave Bianca a ride to her car and thanked her again before he left. As he drove back to his spot at the office, he did his best to collect himself and not think too hard about how he wasn't sure he was in the same car he'd started with.

When Tex got back to his apartment, he had fifteen missed calls from Forest West Nursing Home.


© Copyright 2020 Adonav Longwood. All rights reserved.

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