This is the final post for the year – off to do things with peeps — yeeps! So I leave you with the final part of Scene 2 of the Glass Eye story:
“You yellin’ at me,” Eddie’s voice was sunshine and thunder. No lightning.
“I have to sign it back in, remember? You were going to —”
“And you were going to be gone, right? What happened?” He rubbed Bunny’s head with one hand and balanced himself against the wall with the other. “Call him off, first.” He fell against the wall as Bunny pushed into his legs with puppy enthusiasm.
“Don’t give him a treat every time you see him, and this won’t happen.” Safi gave Bunny the hand-signal to heel. Bunny waggled his body a final time and returned to his station at her left leg.
“What happened?” Eddie tossed the treat into the air. Bunny’s head followed the trajectory, caught it and chewed with gusto.
“Bastard. Just know we’re staying in your vicinity — close! — until that one works its way out.” Why did he do that? Every time. Every single time. And he always had the treats that created the worst case of SBD farts imaginable. Kangaroo bits.
“It’s just a fart. Everyone farts. Right, boy?”
“Call him Bunny, or call him Dog; nothing else. You know what happens. Don’t do it. Sal already suffered it today — did you tell her to do it?”
“Did you bring your equipment?”
“In here.” Safi swung the backpack forward and patted the lid. “Do you want to go back to your office?” Her jaw tightened.
“Nah, got the nex here.” He spun around and opened the lid of a white box. He pulled out his nex-screen and a palm-sized, white-panelled container.
The box. The groan was internal. Why wasn’t she looking for what Sal told her he took? Safi needed to calm her nerves, play it out the way it was expected, not be too dumb — and not miss such obvious things.
“The eye, the batteries, if they’re not still in it?” His face lit up from the screen connecting.
Safi squatted and opened the outer flap. She lifted out the box with two globes. “Both here,” she said and placed it inside the cushioned interior of the container. “Battery in.” Please don’t look.
The glance he gave was no more than a flicker of his eyes. Eddie nodded. Safi breathed out, folded the edges in, slid the lid closed, put it back in Eddie’s hand. He didn’t look, just dropped it onto the top of the papers and folios and scrunched up padding.
“Thanks,” he said. “Was there anything else?”
“Not that I know of. All the other stuff went with Base One.” It was supposed to go with Base One when he called security to escort her out.
Eddie the Lip smiled with one half of his face. The other half remained stiff and turgid as only the scars of bad burns can. He smiled a grim dark line that felt like a mirror.
“This is a tough profession, kid. Most don’t get noticed.” He let out a guffaw. “And I know what it took to notice you.” He patted the box. “Most don’t make it through the interview process. You did. Of the ones who get past that first stage, more than 80 percent fail in the induction. You didn’t. You got let down, you think. And now you burn with it.” He lifted one hand to his face, ran it down the ropy scars before moving it to her face.
Not quite touching, but the heat from his hand was enough that Safi flinched.
The clip-board slid into the air-space between them. Dark lines blurred. Safi blinked twice, stopped herself. Eddie would notice if she behaved out of the norm. She let the tear slide down her cheek.
“You didn’t think it’d be easy, did you? Or that you’d never be let down? Or maybe you think you let someone down? You know what? Shit happens. Get over it, get out while you can.”
Safi slowed her breathing, leaned her knee against Bunny to catch his attention, flicked her little finger.
“Holy shit!” Eddie scrabbled backward along the wall. “That’s bad, Dog, really bad. How do dogs get to do farts like that? Holy shit; I’m outta here.” He handed her the screen. “Put your wrist over this,” he pointed to the graphic, waited. When he looked up at her face, he grabbed her hand and slid the screen under it.
The screen beeped three times before it pinged acceptance. A long list of characters followed, all the items she’d signed out from Eddie.
“So that’s it, then?” Safi asked, fighting the need to swallow.
“Yeah, I suppose.” Eddie slid his hand into hers. “Take ’em for all you can get, kid. Good luck with Dog.”
“What?” It slipped out. Did he know?
“The appeal. You deserve more than they offered, and we all know it. Get a newbie lawyer from Human Resources. The older ones are too aligned with company policy. Get a green recruit. Get a lifetime’s worth of value.” He pressed the lift down button.
Safi groped for Bunny’s collar, twisted it around until the name-tag was uppermost, gripped the handle, and turned away.
“I’ll miss you, Eddie,” she whispered half-way down the hall, and after the whoosh of the elevator door closing.
Sweat poured down her back, stuck to the waistline of her linen pants, steamed against her skin. One more phase to get through, and two check-points.
See you in the new year, with a new story!