Interpretation Pt. 2

__________

    Bill wanted to start building synthesizers but wasnʼt quite sure where to start.
    “I just donʼt know where to start,” said Bill in distress. He had been attempting to build synthesizers for about fifteen minutes and he still didnʼt know where to start.
    “Itʼs been about fifteen minutes! What have I been doing??” Bill said as he questioned what he was doing.
    “Not much, I guess.” Answering his own question. He hadnʼt really been doing anything, mostly just staring at a whatever was on his computer screen. Coincidentally, what was going on just under the thin sheet of whatever it is that protects the important part of the computer screen from mindless fingers and prints was some new age-y Mandelbrot fractal zoom made by a strangely flamboyant and determined middletwenties aged, long-haired, black-glassesʼd, scruff-ball, who also happens to sit, staring at whatever was on his computer screen, but, unlike Bill, is often forced by his work on the computer to never really not do anything.
__________

    “Man, I wish I could take a break from this lame ass computer work,” complained Tim after about thirteen hours of complicated html and javascript coding. The coding he was involved in was for a strange job presented by an even stranger human, who was the resident window and exterior car washer whom he met dropping off his car at a drive-thru touch-free Hand Car Wash business. Alphonso Crunket, of northern New Orleans, had made his way around the States, attempting to make a name for himself as a unique and personable door to door handyman and electrician, sometimes targeting the emerging and freshly built apartments and houses of upper class areas, owned by families who had recently moved in but still had various kinks to work out in both the architectural as well as interior designs, and also to potentially add a few more outlets here and there. A more subversive and secret reason also existed, being that the drawers of the (mostly white) womenʼs undergarments smelled better than any of the other underwear garment drawers he had ever smelled before. Alphonso was a very diligent worker, and had a great attitude, which lead to many job opportunities. The only thing keeping Alphonso from being settled in one place is his uncontrollable urge, from time to time, to touch the supple and perfectly round butts of white women, or to stick his nose where it shouldnʼt belong, in the drawers of said ladies undergarments, especially those between twenty-five and fifty. This same issue is what got him kicked out of a grocery store in Memphis, a liquor store in Salt Lake, a steak and ribs restaurant in Reno, a thrift store in Portland which now landed him at this drive-thru touch-free Hand Car Wash.
    “Maybe I should get my car washed.” Timʼs voice sauntered about a week or so ago, before he took his car in for a carwash. Tim was poor, and electricity was no loaf of bread, and so began the ritual of leaving the house. First: assess the thirteen tabs open on the internet browser, mostly pertaining to black magick, hacking (both domestic hacking and government hacking), big black booty, the history of the early 20th century elections of American presidents, and different recipes on how to make ones own ice cream, more specifically the ones that involve strawberries. Tim loved strawberries. He sometimes dreamed about big bootied black babes feeding him strawberries. Next came the time to close all the programs open on the few computers he had on and working together, which all usually needed to be saved, or to be “saved as...,” dated, described, and finally quit, or Xʼed-out. Once all the programs were closed, the computers, all five of them, could be shut down. Everything in Timʼs room was powered off a single high-grade, personally-designed-and-built AC power conditioner, which made it easy to cut the power to everything in the apartment quickly, both to save money and monitor his wattage draw, but also in case anybody or any organization caught onto any of his criminal activities and he needed a speedy get away. This highgrade, personally-designed-and-built AC power conditioner could in some ways been seen as Timʼs most valuable piece of equipment. “This piece of equipment is so valuable.” Tim murmured to himself, after all the computers were shut down and he was finally able to flip its switch. Tim is often reminded of the strange experience tossed upon him in downtown during a thrift store trip with his buddy Joe, the guitar player from a local avant-guard jazz group. An obviously high and obviously homeless man, taking his stand near an old abandoned lot in between two newly constructed high rises used for the corporate headquarters of either a bank, or a law-firm, was preaching, drunkenly, paper bagged bottle in his left hand and a briefcase in his right hand, begging behind his action for just somebody to talk to.
    “Hey you fucks! You ʻeard of that fucker who ate a airplane?!”
    Joe and I staggered for a second not realizing we were “the fucks.” We had just stepped out of our high-grade medical-marijuana smoke-filled blue volvo station-wagon and the effects of the “dreamwreck” that I had brought to the table and the “purple thunderfuck wonder” that Joe had procured from a dispensary with a fairly outstanding underground reputation were still at its highest.
    “Umm...yeah... I think so.... How long did he take?” Joe played along.
    “Well I donʼt fuckinʼ know! All I know is that ʻe probly needed fuckinʼ gallon of whiskey to wash it down witʼ” He sputtered and spat while he spoke.
    “Would you eat an airplane?” I asked, mildly afraid of what the answer might be. 
    “Are you fuckinʼ kidding me? Where the fuck would I find an airplane? Now, see, fuck. I been thinkinʼ more and more ʻbout this. They say yer possessions own ya, right? And isnʼt there some sayinʼ you are what ya eat? Well if thats the fuckinʼ case, then it seems like the only way to know and be yerself is to eat the shit ya got! But then I been thinkinʼ, why the fuck would I do that shit for free? How much more money could I get if I ate the most valuable thing I owned, fer entertainent, compared to how much Iʼd get if I sold it! I decided that Iʼd make sure I got about ten times more than I think I could sell it for.”
    There was a bit of a pause as we tried to figure out what to ask next.
    “What is the most valuable thing you own?”
    “Ah! My pride and joy. My signed 1940ʼs rookie Joe DiMaggio baseball card.” He held up a card, which looked like it may have been a baseball card at some point, but was now creased, crinkled, and covered in pen markings and sharpie doodles. “ʻSignedʼ is one way of thinking about it,” I whispered, chuckling to Joe.
    “How much do you think thatʼs worth these days?” Joe asked.
    “These babies go fer ʻbout two-hundy on the good olʼ introweb... which means Iʼd ʻspect ʻbout... les see here, two-hundy but ten of ʻem...uh... two grand! Yeah! Two grand, thatʼd be nice.” His expressions reminded me of some kind of bird, like a smaller kind of bird.
    “Iʼve got twenty bucks. Would you do it for that?” I decided this experience called for the full immersion of my attention (and wallet) at the time.
    “Lemme see the money ferst...” He eyed us with that weak left-eyed squint and that wide open right-eyed gaze that most people drunk get, but varies depending on their dominant eyes. I took the twenty dollars and tossed it on the ground over near where he was sitting in his shopping cart wrapped in raver-like beads. He promptly devoured the card without question and stared at us, this time with one of the calmest looks I had seen on anybody in the past five years. We left before we even watched him pick up the twenty dollars.
    Joe and I walked on laughing about the experience.
    “Well fuck, now I donʼt have any money for the thrift store.”
    As Tim continued to ponder the experience later, he figured the most valuable thing he owned would definitely be that power conditioner, and in the thought of eating it came the ideas of immanent death, mainly because lots of the components involved were fairly toxic to humans. But the look on that homeless mans face, after he ate what definitely still could have been his most valuable possession, whether or not it was actually a 1940ʼs Joe DiMaggio baseball card, which actually go for about $400 on Ebay in early 2014, was too impressionable to Tim that all he could think, for some time, was that there was a secret to happiness, something lacking in his life, in eating ones most valued possessions.
    Tim stepped out the door, passing his mildly attractive middle-aged roommate, Martha, who obviously doesnʼt get the attention she tries to attract, with clothes that outline every detail of her body, let it be emphasized: every detail, along with perfume that if applied lightly might be a bit attractive but in the drenched cloud that lingers around her all day, theres almost nothing to do but let out a cough.
    “Hey Tom...” she said almost too seductively, enough to send thoughts that were mildly strange and erotic through Timʼs brain.
    “Hi Martha.” He said hurriedly as he fiddled with getting the key in the door to lock it. She pranced up the stairs, showing off her nicely shaped ass in such a tight pair of yoga pants that they were basically see-though. Tim would never really try anything with Martha. She wasnʼt black, and therefore didnʼt have a big black booty. Tim only got boners from black girls with big booties. He hopped down the stairs and landed in front of his classic 1989 steel-blue Volvo 740 GL station-wagon, that had morphed slightly to a more brownish steel-blue due to extensive neglect in the cosmetic department. A man, dressed pretty officially, black suit and all, walked by Tim as he landed his slightly exaggerated jump down the few steps to the curb, and Tim noticed the slightly green tinted leather briefcase gripped tightly in the manʼs right fist.
    “Good day.” The man spoke with intimidating ease.
    “Uhh... hey man.” The drive over to the closest carwash Tim could find was soundtracked by an intermittent radio struggling to receive The Gap Bandʼs 1982 track “Outstanding,” which was still great even when the radio kept cutting to a commercial about a some special radio-only offer involving a set of limited edition ceramic kitchen knives. As he pulled up, another car, also a Volvo, and also a station-wagon, but just a few years younger and painted perfect white, was rolling out from the carwash, with a late-30s or early-40s looking bearded driver who looked a little bit madder than most people should look on a bright, although hazy, (some would say smoggy,) and sunny day, in the east valley of L.A. His vanity license plate said BILLION, and he actually had bright blue foam dice hanging from his mirror.
    Tim pulled up into the garage and parked his car. Taking one look into his right side view mirror, he noticed right away the curves of what looks like a deliciously large and well shaped black booty. As he turned and looked with his own eyes, he saw that his original impression still held true, and he immediately began having thoughts about being alone in office of the drive-thru touch-free Hand Car Wash with this insanely attractive female.
    “Hey there now!” Burst a voice, accompanied with a knock on the door, an older black man popped up out from the place where the black booty wasnʼt, and scared the shit out of Tim, who quickly recovered.
    “You can obviously see how dirty my car is,” Tim said timidly, “and I was hoping you could help me do something about that.”
__________

    Bill had to get his car cleaned to make sure the date he was meeting that night, a nice girl whom he hadnʼt actually met yet, named Denise Brown, was not unimpressed with the average, 1998, white Volvo station-wagon, which he so endearingly named Pearl, partially because of its shiny white and pearly exterior, (when cleaned as it is now,) but also because the first girl Bill had ever kissed had been named Pearl, and he has never really quite gotten over the fact that she has moved on and is now married to a professional football player. He is so hung up on this girl in fact, that his garage is now named “the clam,” again, partially because of the issue with Pearl but also because the garage-doorʼs electric motor that is supposed to open with the push of a button had been smashed and broken due to some carelessness involving his lawn-mower and a drunken night of solo croquet, leading to a very tough and athletic work out to pry open the garage-door every time he needs to take Pearl out for a ride, which happens just about everyday, seeing that his mediocre gas station job wonʼt work itself.
    Bill was speeding, fast, down the highway after picking up his Volvo up from the car wash, caught in his own negativity, as he realized how late for work he was going to be again. It was never really his fault, it was just the combination of events that caused him to be late. He would always organize perfectly the order of events that would occur in his day when he woke up each morning, producing a schedule that in theory seemed to work, but in practice, was never quite fulfilled on time as Bill wished, which then seemed to drape a sheet of stress lightly over his entire demeanor. It was the same exact case today, involving the scheduling of trip to the local touch-free Hand Car Wash to remove the layer of dust caused by too many late night drives into the desert, but this car wash place, after the car was dropped off this morning, apparently had some issues with men in black suits asking about some lost briefcase, which prevented them from being able to clean the car by the time stated. This seemed like obvious bullshit to Bill, who knew for a fact that men in black suits donʼt go around actually talking to people and intimidating them like that, which meant these guys made this shit up, which meant these guys are liars, and Bill didnʼt like to deal with liars, even though he was one a lot of the time, or “when he needed to be.” Combined with the fact that he still had no idea where to start in the world of synthesizer building, the drive to work was a stressful endeavor to say the least. He pulled up to the Circle K he had been driving to for the past five years, and with his rushing speed, pulled the turn a bit too quickly and bumped the corner of his car on the piece of wood outlining a few of the sides of the parking lot.
    “Fucking shit. Of course thatʼs what would happen right now.” He cursed himself as he pulled open the plexiglass door that was covered in various official stickers about tobacco sale or lottery tickets, chiming the christmas-like sleigh-bell that is so inappropriate in late March.
    “Wow, youʼre later than usual today Willy.” Billʼs co-worker, a scrawny middle eastern college student named Cameron, who was a bit too sarcastic for his own good, slumped over the counter in the prescribed red ʻCircle Kʼ polo shirt, mop in hand, rubbing his eye underneath his small wire-framed glasses. Bill told all of his co-workers that he goes by Willy. He doesnʼt go by Willy anywhere else.
    “Well you know...”
    “Wait lemme guess, ʻitʼs just the way God throws them outʼ?” It looked like Bill had been using that phrase a bit too often recently to explain all the stupid shit that happened to him. He thought quickly.
    “Well, I was actually going to say that sometimes people are terrorized by strange government people these days, man. Those kinds of dudes dressed in black suits, with the dark sunglasses and shit. I mean, it could happen to anybody! It happened to the people at the car wash, and I know those guys pretty well, they wouldnʼt be up to no weird shit that would call in dudes in black suits. Iʼm just sayinʼ with all this government interference, how can we ever expect to do anything on time anymore?” Cameron was actually stumped of sarcastic things to say so he want straight for his backup backup choice of response - care hidden in insult.
    “Are you fucking ok, Willy? You seem pretty fucked up right now.”
    “Didnʼt sleep much. Just been pissed recently.”
    “Well, if youʼre seeing dudes in black suits, you might wanna try to sleep a little bit more...” “
    Fuck you, Cameron.”
    “Here, you can mop this floor.” Cameron handed over the mop and went back behind the register as an older lady walked through the door. She looked about seventy and bought a bar of chocolate, a bottle of orange juice, and a magazine with classic hot rod cars covered in scantily clad tattooed women. She looked at me and winked as Cameron rang her up.
    “The secret to long life...” she said with a slightly humorous tone as she turned and waddled out the door. After Bill had finished mopping the floor, cleaning of some of the remaining vomit that was expelled in the store a few days earlier by a violent and ill heroin addict who was screaming helplessly about people, egyptian gods, pain and jalepeno-cheddar-bunned hot dogs, of which he was in the isle of, and decided that it was about time for a smoke break. Bill thought he was clever sometimes because of somethings. One of those things was how he was able to sneak a little bit of his weed, a nice home-closet-grown stash that he had begun growing about five months earlier and had recently cut, trimmed, and cured to perfection, into his daily hand-rolled cigarettes. The reason itʼs mentioned that he thought he was clever and not that he was clever is because everybody he worked with knew. Bill thought he was so clever because if anybody did ask about weed, which sometimes they did, he thought his explanations were enough to convince them that he actually did not mix weed into his rolling tobacco. They werenʼt, but people saw how hard he was trying to hide it that they eventually gave up and just went on with their lives without telling Bill explicitly that they knew he smoked pot at work. This perpetuated the idea in Billʼs mind that he was clever, which, as of now, should probably be seen as a bad thing. Bill went to great lengths to try to hide his love for weed which included having two different but identical packs of tobacco, except for two tiny colored stickers on the tops of them, one red and one green, with one, (obviously the green stickered one,) topped off with a decent bit of ground up “Blue-Trane OG,” while the other remained a normal pack of tobacco. It also included having at all times an aerosol can with a scent that Bill could tolerate, which he would apply gratuitously, forming a cloud that drenched most spaces Bill entered. To most people, these types of things seemed to prove even more that Bill loved weed and was obsessed with trying to hide it. Nobody ever cared whether or not Bill smoked weed or not, but they all thought it was hilarious that Bill thought it was worth such incognito efforts. Maybe he was more in love with the spy-like aspect of life and it just so happens that he projected it on the first thing he had to keep secret.
    “Ey Willy, lemme hit that spliff you got...” Cameron said poking his head out of the door.
    “Sorry Cameron, I donʼt smoke that stuff. All I got here is the good olʼ tobacco.” Bill said in a mockingly conservative accent.
    “Well it fuckinʼ smells like dank weed out here...”
    “I mean, I can show you my tobacco bag, if you wanna see whats inside...,” he pushed, pulling out the red stickered tobacco bag from is backpack.
    “Aight never mind, dude.” He closed the door. Bill assumed he had fooled Cameron, at least enough. He went back inside and took over on the register, which consisted of an extended period of bad radio music and strange customers buying things they donʼt want anybody else knowing they buy, but have to encounter a clerk to be able to buy them, and therefore spit out some of the strangest small talk Bill had encountered so far in his various odd jobs since childhood. Maybe it was just strange because he was kind of stoned. A nerdy white kid, who looked like he had spent the last few days stuck in a world of warcraft binge, stumbled in looking confused and excited. He quickly found the magazines and began scanning for a particular one. He walked away from the magazines without one, looking frustrated but made is way down the isle landing at the first aid section, across from the candy section, grabbing a container of petroleum jelly and a Kit-Kat bar before making his way to the register.
    “You guys have any other magazines behind the counter? I couldnʼt seem to find the one I was looking for...” The question was timid and taboo for him.
    “You mean the porno magazines?” Bill asked flatly.
    “Yeah...”
    “Which one did you want?”
    “All I remember was that there was a bunch of Bʼs in it...” He said in way that implied that he really did not want to say the actual title of the magazine. Bill reached down under the counter and pulled out a magazine that by glance had the profile of a bodacious black booty on the beach.
    “Big Bodacious Black Booties Bouncinʼ on the Beach Volume 69? A classic. Thatʼs $19.99” Bill knew his magazines, whatever they were. The nerdy guy spilled twenty-five bucks out of his pocket and walked out in a hurry. Bill chuckled a little, not because he thought it was weird, but because he could totally relate. The whole time during their interaction though, while sometimes looking into that guys eyes, the thoughts of synthesizers: their circuit boards, their wires, their knobs, their simplicity, their complexity, kept popping up, teasing him.
__________

    Denise Brown, a kind but often frantic middle-aged brunette with a hint of a South Dakotan accent, ran a decent but struggling gem store a few blocks down from a car wash that always caught her attention. She was always confused by the sign advertising “The Only Drive-Thru Touch-Free Hand-Car-Wash in America!” and pointed it out to all her visiting friends from out of town. Her gem store also sold beads and other craft tools and there werenʼt very many other gem stores around. Despite this, she still didnʼt have much business. Her poor location, a strip-mall with mostly fast-food restaurants and supermarkets, probably didnʼt help.
    “The only customer Iʼve had in the past month has been this one little old lady that buys tons of bracelet and earring making materials about every three or four days. Sheʼs even given me a few of her bracelets.”
    She held out her wrist to Bill in the car, who had picked her up for dinner.
    “Looks nice. Itʼs got some great green beads in there. Thatʼs one of my favorite colors.” The road didnʼt allow him to look at the bracelets for too long.
    “But yeah sheʼs quite a character. She always comes in eating chocolate and drinking orange juice. Have you ever tried them at the same time? I could never handle that. She tries to talk to me about hot-rod cars, but I just donʼt know anything about that stuff. Sometimes sheʼll try to explain cars in terms of stones and beads and it makes it a bit easier to talk about.”
    They arrived at a Mexican restaurant, and found their way to the bar. Bill ordered a glass of wine; he couldnʼt handle anything with carbonation. Denise went all out and ordered a margarita - on the rocks.     “I canʼt believe we were so close to each other, finding each other on the internet. Iʼm surprised Iʼve never run into you before. But that lady, Iʼm pretty sure she came into the Circle K today and bought a bar of chocolate, some orange juice, and a magazine about hot-rods.”
    “Ha, how coincidental. What were you doinʼ at the Circle K? Gettinʼ gas?”
    “Oh, uh, no... I work there.”
    “Oh cool. What do you do there?”
    “Uh, I usually work the register. Or mop. I guess it depends.”
    “Oh.” She gave the stare of a person who probably took acid too many times.
__________

    Tim was up late, something normal for him, still working on that project for Alphonso. The program was supposed to monitor large money transfers happening in a fifty mile radius of his touch-free hand car wash business. The day he had decided to get his car washed was quite eventful. Alphonso went to town on him in the waiting room, while the girl with perfectly shaped ass began spraying down his car. The story was a bit difficult to interpret because Tim had a decent view of his car being washed, but Alphonso already repeated himself quite often so the gaps often got refilled.
    “Lemme tell ya, Tim! This shit felt weird, man. Iʼm tellinʼ ya, I was just about in the hole. Me and my baby were about to lose the car wash, not beinʼ able to pay all the bills and such, but then, all ʻaʼ sudden, while I was walkinʼ home one night, kinda drunk, I saw this greenish briefcase by the road. Lemme tell ya, that shit felt weird, man. Like somebody gone do some spell over it or somethinʼ. Well I went to check it out and see it if it was open, and of course it was locked with those little four digit rollie locks on each side of the handle. I mean, I didnʼt wanna try too hard to get some locked briefcase open, but I decided Iʼd try a few turns of the lock and see if anything popped open. This is where it gets weird man. I just randomly moved ʻem and then bam! The thing was open. It felt like it wanted to be opened, man. And then it got even weirder. There were fuckinʼ stacks of money! Fillinʼ the whole damn thing! I fuckinʼ ran home with that shit and shoved it under my bed. The next morninʼ I called those folks who own the car wash property to tell them that this and last months rent are no problem now and they seemed fairly relieved. I took out a wad or two ʻa twenties and went to treat myself to a breakfast martini. When I came back, the briefcase was gone, and nothing else had changed or moved. I was fuckinʼ shocked. This was like four days ago! And then, man, these fuckinʼ black suited fuckinʼ government folk show up and start askinʼ me about this briefcase! How the fuck would they figure out that I found that shit on the road? They thought I still had it but I told ʻem over and over I donʼt know where it went. I never mentioned the lock opening part, so they assumed I was fairly harmless. But damn! They were some intimidating fucks!”
    “Phons, I have no fucking clue how to respond to that story. Are you still fucked on rent or what? Also I just met you, this is kind of overwhelming - I just wanted a car wash.”
    “Man, Iʼm sorry I just donʼt got much friends to talk to you, ya know? and I mean, Iʼm not smooth sailinʼ on rent, but those few twenties I grabbed were actually more like a few hundreds, and business has been keepinʼ up. I think weʼll be all right in the mean time. But I gotta ask ya, what do you know about math, or like, computer things?”
    “Iʼm pretty good with computers, but not as good as computers are with me, if you know what I mean.”
    “Honestly, Timmy, I have no clue what you mean, but can you make a program that, say, monitors all the big financial transactions that go on around town? Iʼm curious to see if that kinda money I lost could be tracked. How much would I owe you for that kinda thing? Ten, twenty bucks?”
    Tim thought about the fifteen hours of work it would probably take to make that program and thought twenty bucks was a little low.
    “Al, that kind of program would probably take me about fifteen hours. If I asked for minimum wage, thatʼd be about one hundred and twenty bucks.”
    “A hundred and twenty bucks! Well damn, what about ninety dollars and free car washes for life?”
    “My life or yours?”
    “Probably mine, seeinʼ that might be goinʼ any day now.” He chuckled, “I guess it depends on if who ever inherits this place likes ya or not.”
    “Fair enough.” Tim was about to mention seeing a black suited man with a briefcase earlier today when the unbelievably attractive lady came into tell Tim his car was done.
    “Your car is done.” She tossed him the keys. Tim just stared because she was too hot to respond to.
__________

    “I have one brother, heʼs kind of a pain. He always seemed to get in the way. His name is Mark. I think heʼs some kind of consultant somewhere on the east coast. We donʼt talk very much. My parents are not too far though, and I see them every once in a while. Honestly Iʼm surprised theyʼre still alive. Letʼs just say they fit in well on the west coast.” Bill cracked his knuckles again.
    “Not to tell you what to do but you should cherish that relationship with your brothe because he might disappear mysteriously and youʼll have second thoughts about the state of your relationship.”
    “You seem fairly passionate about this. Personal experience?”
    “You wonʼt believe me. Itʼs kinda freaky.”
    “Donʼt worry, I like it freaky.” Bill winked awkwardly and Denise gave a strange and uninviting look.
    “Well, um, I had a half sister that disappeared in the desert. She wasnʼt stupid. She knew how to camp. She was not completely unprepared. Her footsteps ended at the face of a giant rock and nobody ever figured out anything. I hadnʼt spoken with her in months and didnʼt even find out she had gone missing until three weeks after. It was already old news at that point. It really shocked my mother and sheʼs been slightly off her A-game ever since. She still sometimes calls me Dari. That was her name, Dari Whitler, we had different fathers. She went to college and studied biology or something and I lived in a van with one of my boyfriends until I started becoming spiritual and its relation to stones and jewelry. My parents were pretty surprised I could get this business together, but Iʼm pretty sure theyʼll be less surprised if I lose it.”
  “Believe it or not but I actually had read about the Whitler disappearance. Unexplainable phenomenon is one of my specialities. I canʼt believe that happened in your family. I canʼt even imagine what that would have been like.”
    They walked slowly from the car to her front door.
    “Not much we can do about it now. I tried to move on because my mother couldnʼt. But anyway, thanks for the fun dinner. Maybe we can hang out again soon or something.”
    “Yeah, Denise, thatʼd be great.”
    A fluffly white cat hopped up onto the windowsill next to her front door and meowed through the window screen.
    “Awwww heyyyy there cuttieee patoot! how is my pearly pearl doing this fine night???” The drastic change in her speech quality when talking to this cat was comical.
    “Your cat is named Pearl?” Bill asked nervously.
    “Yesss sheee issss!!!!” She said addressing the cat more than Bill.
    “She looks like a cutie. Well good night, Denise” Bill said holding back the tears of his unforgettable high school break up. He gave a quick hug and left faster than was socially acceptable, knowing he could probably never be with this woman again - only because of the name of her cat.
    He walked back to his car and drove off down the road. As he made it closer to his place, he felt the urge to console his unresolved emotional issue with chocolate, which is how he dealt with it when it was occurring about twenty years ago. He left the store with two “king-size” chocolate bars, one already half stuffed into his mouth, and walked back to his car. In the process of opening his car door, something caught his eye in the bushes on the side of the convenient store, which he originally thought was an animal, but on closer examination seemed to be a briefcase. He lugged it out of the bushes and brought it over to his car and tossed it onto the passenger seat. He took off back to his place. Once he got inside, he found a screw-driver, knowing he would never be able to figure out the four digit codes for the two locks on the briefcase. He stuck the screw-driver into the locks and got them pried open with relative ease. When he opened the briefcase his mouth dropped and sounds that came out he didnʼt intend. It was filled with seven vacuum-sealed bags of extremely well grown and cured weed. Bill got so excited that he accidentally knocked the little bits of synthesizer parts he was trying to put together all over the floor. He was still so happy about the weed that he didnʼt even care about the spill of electrical components. He got some scissors and cut open one of the bags and stuffed a large nug into his bong and smoked it until his throat stung. It was the best weed he had ever smoked. He watched what seemed like a hilarious movie, and ate what seemed like a delicious meal. He had the best orgasm he had experienced in years that night.
    He woke up in the same spot the next morning and got up to look for the briefcase and gaze at the plethora of weed he had stumbled upon during his emotional chocolate binge. To his dismay he couldnʼt find it, and figured that because he had gotten so high, he thought the weed was valuable enough that it should be hidden to make sure nobody else could find it, but then again - because he had gotten so high - he had forgotten where he had put it. After a thorough dismembering of his apartment he came to the conclusion that the briefcase was not hiding out somewhere near him, and was somehow gone. He then jumped to the conclusion that the whole thing had been a vivid hallucination, but then quickly dismissed that as being too far fetched. He drove off to work that day, late, still in a haze from the night before.
__________

    Tim sat on his roof and was feeling pretty radical. He had never really felt this radical before, and decided it was about time. Next to him sat his most prized possession - his high-grade, personally-designed-and-built AC power conditioner, whose fate was now in question. He felt his possessions had taken too much hold over him. They tied him down, kept him worried, and he always needed more. The speech from that homeless man he had recently remembered had left a strong impression. The thought of eating the power conditioner still seemed fairly ridiculous, so instead he took another bong rip and held it over the edge of the roof in the alley way between his building and the one next door. He let go with the least sentimentality. The crash scared a cat.
    “I need a break from this shit anyways.”
__________

    “So I was thinking in my head, like, all day that if I didnʼt find a way to get rent paid for my gem shop that Iʼd have to move back into the trailer parked outside my parents house back in South Dakota, which is pretty much the last thing Iʼd ever want to do.”
    Denise was on another blind date with another guy from around town who was also too afraid to make a relationship without the mediating help of the internet.
    “So while I was thinking about this, I was walking to open up the shop, afraid it would be my last few days. I suddenly tripped on what I thought was the curb but when I looked down there was a slightly green tinted briefcase. I picked it up and tried to carry it inside the shop but it was extremely heavy. I eventually made it in there and was fiddling with the locks. You wonʼt even believe what happened.”
    “Try me!” This guy was too excited all the time, and his voice was a little too high for his size. She didnʼt know what to do so she just kept talking. His name was “Bob!”
    “Ok, well, I assumed it would be impossible to get the briefcase unlocked, but when I picked it up to put it on to a chair, the weight of it just forced it open, and out poured a bunch of amazing stones, mainly emerald and jade, of all sizes and shapes, and of perfect quality. I pretty much freaked out and tried to figured out a display situation for them front and center. I was thinking maybe selling these would put my business back in the safe zone for a while. I went to the back and grabbed all the signs I had to advertise the new stock. The lady I talked about earlier, the one with the chocolate and orange juice, came in and I was really excited to show her the new stones but when I brought her over to the displays, all of the stones were missing. I then realized after taking a look around that I couldnʼt even find the briefcase.”
    “Oh, uh, Iʼll have the salmon, with, uh, the new england clam chowder.” He said in response to the waiterʼs silent interruption.
    “Iʼll have the linguini with chicken, and wine, more wine please.” The waiter left with a silent nod. “Where was I, oh yeah, so it was gone and when I told the lady it all disappeared, she was really disappointed because she came today specifically looking for emeralds and jade! Regardless, she bought her normal bunch of goods but I still felt slapped in the face all day. But it keeps going.” The guy yawned. “Then, while Iʼm home at around 9:30 pm, when nobody should be out knocking on random peoples doors, I hear a knock on my front door. Mildly afraid, I grabbed one of my kitchen knives - I live alone, well, with my beautiful cat Pearl - and stuck it in my pocket. All I could see through the peep hole were black suits. I was too afraid to answer. They stood out there and knocked for about twenty five minutes. They had to have known I was there, my car was parked outside and a light was on in the house, but they eventually left and I could relax. I barely slept. That might be why Iʼm so tightly wound right now.”
    “That sounds like a pretty frightening experience. Wait, sorry, did you say your name was Debbie?”
__________

    Bill was stuck cleaning the bathroom and whatever is behind the ʻemployees onlyʼ sign, but sometimes that was better only because he didnʼt have to encounter many people.
    The sleigh-bell rang astutely. There was a low murmur and the sound of a sarcastic response from Cameron. He came through the ʻemployees onlyʼ door with his hand over his mouth and his eyes wide.
    “Dude, Willy, holy fuck youʼre not crazy. There are guys in black suits here and theyʼre asking to talk to you. What the fuck did you do?”
    “Uhh... seriously? Hold on.” He tossed down his mop and went into the main store.
    “Mr. Bill Winter? We would like to have a word with you.” They stood too straight.
    He had the quick thought that maybe he should just run, but he was too stoned and therefore too afraid to really pull that off.
    “Uh, yeah, sure. Letʼs go out this door.” He lead them behind the store to get some privacy.
    “Mr. Winter, we would like to ask you a few questions about a recent encounter you may or may have not had with a slightly green tinted briefcase. We have reason to believe that you may have found it in the bushes outside of a convenient store and brought it back to your living location. It is something that is very important to us and we would like to have it back. You wouldnʼt want your employers to learn about your illegal drug usage, would you?”
    “Sir, uh, I swear, I only had it for that one night night, maybe even less than the whole night, and honestly, truly, when I woke up the next morning it had disappeared. Iʼm not sure what to make of it.”
    “Mr. Winter, do you mean it was stolen?”
    “Uh, I mean, I thought I was alone, but thatʼs the only explanation I can come up with. Unless it grew legs and walked off. But what do you guys need all that weed for?”
    “Excuse me?”
    “Uh, the briefcase... it was filled with weed... I thought thatʼs how you knew about my ʻillegal drug usage.ʼ”
    “Mr. Winter, we were just bluffing. We assumed everybody did drugs around here, guess we were right. But marijuana? In the briefcase? You saw marijuana in the briefcase?”
    The two men looked at each other.
    “Interesting.”
    The two men thanked Bill for his time and made their way down the alley way. Bill overheard the beginnings of the mumbles.
    “That guy must have a strong emotional attachment to marijuana.”
__________

    Tim now wandered a lot. He never really went home, never seemed to get cold, and the food he could score from friends and unaware fruit-stand clerks kept him fed well enough. He had given is car to his friend who was struggling to find a job so he spent a lot of time walking aimlessly for miles. After waking up from a bit of a trance from walking, he realized that he was sort of near the old touch-free hand car wash. He had a usb drive to drop off for Alphonso - that program he had designed to find that money he thought was stolen. Tim had a feeling it wasnʼt going to work, but he finished it anyway.
    He crossed the street carelessly without looking. Alphonso was talking up an older lady with basically the same story he had told Tim. He walked up right at the part where the briefcase goes missing.
    “Hey there Timmy! How you been, man? Havenʼt seen you around these past few days!”
    “Iʼm solid. Not much goinʼ on. Just came to drop off that program you wanted... Itʼs on this usb drive. You can just have it.”
    “Ohh woowieee thanks buddy. Boy, have I been waitinʼ for this gem! Maybe my luck will turn around again. And hereʼs that wad ʻaʼ cash you wanted. Ninety bucks.”
    Alphonso handed over a bunch of folded bills. Tim grabbed the stack, and looked over at the old lady, pulled out a single dollar bill and put the rest of it on her lap and walked off out the lobby.
    “Well, hey, Tim! Where you goinʼ? You donʼt need the money?”
    “No I was just thinkinʼ about a piece of chocolate, Iʼm gonna hit up this Circle K across the street.”
    “Iʼll follow ya!”
    Alphonso ran after Tim, who again was crossing the street carelessly. Tim opened the door and was unaffected by the sound of the sleigh-bell. He walked directly to the chocolate section and grabbed a small bar of dark chocolate. The cash register smelled like weed.
    “Will this be it? Just the chocolate?”
    “Yep.”
    “.98 cents is your total.”
    The door opened and Alphonso slopped in.
    “Hey there Bill! How are you doinʼ today? Did that clean and bright Pearl impress the ladies you were talkinʼ about?”
    “Letʼs just say she didnʼt say anything about it...”
    “Aww well better luck next time pal....”
    Tim had already left the store and was sitting on a curb a few feet away from the store. As he swallowed the first bite of the chocolate bar he looked on the ground to the right of him and saw a green briefcase - one pretty similar to the one that strange black suited man was carrying. He was surprised he hadnʼt noticed it when he sat down. He didnʼt really care much for it, but wondered if that was the same briefcase that Alphonso had lost and walked inside to let him know.
    “Yo, Phons, thereʼs a green briefcase out here, kinda like the one you described. Do you wanna check it out?”
    “Hot damn are you fer real? Letʼs go see that thang!”
    Bill looked up from the counter concerned.
    “Did you say green briefcase? Where?”
    They all ran out and saw that Denise, while gas was sputtering into her carʼs tank, had wondered over to the briefcase and was holding it in her arms.
    “Hey, lady! Thatʼs my briefcase!” Alphonso shouted excitedly.
    “Your briefcase?” A few others responded in almost unison.
    “Itʼs empty. Somebody stole the stuff inside.” She looked sad.
    “They stole the money? And left the briefcase? What bastards!”
    Bill chimed in.
    “Wait a second. Money? Were you going to sell the weed? Why wouldnʼt you just smoke it?”
    “Weed? You mean, like, marijuana? This briefcase did not have no marijuana in it when I found it! It had some good hard cash in there. Tons!”
    “Excuse me gentlemen, but when I encountered this briefcase last it was filled with precious stones, mainly emerald and jade, it didnʼt have any trace of money, or...weed....”
    Everyone was very confused and frustrated. Seeing as the briefcase no longer housed anything of desire, they all figured it could just be thrown out. Tim grabbed the briefcase and started to carry it to the trashcan. Before anybody knew what happened, a loud sound accompanied with a flash of green light exploded where Tim stood with the briefcase and within a millisecond the sound and light were gone, taking Tim and the briefcase with it.
    “What the fuck...” They all stared in disbelief.
    A black unmarked vehicle zipped by and pulled into the gas station. They screeched to a halt and quickly popped out of the car.
    “God damnit - weʼre too late.”
    Alphonso walked over, still stunned, and attempted to communicate.
    “Do you guys, uh, have any idea what the fuck just happened?”
    “Before we get to that, will all of you please come over and describe to us what you saw?” They all walked like zombies. Bill started.
    “Well, this guy, Tim I guess his name was, grabbed this briefcase we were all lookinʼ for and was gonna throw it out because it didnʼt have the shit we were expecting and all of a sudden he just burst into flame and burned up right before our eyes!” Denise interjected.
    “Fire? No, it was like a blinding light of infinity. It was like God was right there!” Alphonso had some objections.
    “All yʼall be trippinʼ! You didnʼt see the space ship that was above him? The briefcase had nothinʼ to do with it! He got abducted by aliens!”
    The men looked at each other as if they expected this kind of thing to happen. One of them took of his pair of sunglasses and addressed the group.
    “Now weʼll try to explain this the best we can but we still have a pretty vague idea of what is actually occurring. Weʼve been looking for this briefcase for sometime. It seems to have a mind of its own and itʼs virtually untraceable - due to its strange ʻfeatureʼ.”
    “What do you mean, ʻfeatureʼ?” Alphonso asked carefully.
    “It moves. Itʼs alive. It moves better than us. Through space, and even time. There are accounts of the briefcase being found in 18th century Europe, 14th century China, even all the way back to the Romans. It has a bad habit of taking unsuspecting victims into some dimension we canʼt reach. This is the fourth abduction that has occurred in America in the past six years. Thats forty percent higher than the six years before that, and eighty percent higher than the six years before that. In other words, theyʼre taking more and more of us. It seems to cause many of those that encounter it to see illusions or hallucinate - sometimes with irreversible effects. Anyway, we have more research to do. Have a nice day.”
    They got in the car and drove off before anybody could respond. Bill walked back to the cash register and saw Cameron. He put on a stoners accent.
    “Strange things are afoot at the Circle K.” he said laughing.
    Denise got back in her car and drove off towards the gem store. Alphonso sat down on the curb finished the last bite of Timʼs chocolate, carefully watching the ass of the hot blond lady pumping gas.