Quantitative Unease

Quantitative Unease

Image by khwanchai on Adobe Stock



Hi. My name = Aioli McCoy. And, first things first, I think this is stupid. And by this, I mean you. Diary. Journal. Thingamajig. Honestly? I’m only writing to make Pauleen (wife) happy. Due to, earlier, when I came home from work, she sat me down, put on serious face like she had big news to share, then handed me this black moleskin.

This was the word she used. Not notebook or journal. But moleskin.

Next, she told me that she’d heard, while listening to Supreme Parentale, her favorite parenting podcast—which, fun fact, is how we ended up adopting Slick (son) to begin with, Pauleen hearing an advert one day for an adoption center solely dedicated to housing kids victimized by FAs (Family Annihilators)—that adopted children = better off if their adopted father = “emotionally regulated.”

To which I said, honey, dearest, sweetie, am I not already, in my current form, “emotionally regulated”? Do I not exhibit, on a near daily basis, a variety of emotions? From good to bad and back again? Such as a few nights ago? When I found myself watching Slick peck away at his handheld device? And how I filled with such unprecedented joy at seeing the way he sucked on his lower lip? Did I not become so overwhelmed by this seemingly small sight that my eyes welled with tears? And was I not, sweetie, dearest, capable of stopping said tears basically on command after I noticed Slick staring at me? Were these not the signs of an “emotionally regulated” father? Sweetie honey lovebird?

But Pauleen countered by offering a different example.

She talked about how, later on that same night, she caught me staring into what she calls “deep space.” Apparently, for her, my staring into deep space = sign of internal unrest which itself = sign that I’m withholding something from her.

Which, to be clear, I am not, in any way/shape/form doing. No, I tell Pauleen everything. Within reason, of course. Obviously, there = certain things in my day I don’t deem important enough to tell her. Small things, minor happenings. The quality and/or consistency of my bowel movements, for instance. Or the clothes Mr. Spayde (boss) wore to work. Or the shape of the clouds that hung outside my office window.

But important things? Major events? Even medium-sized events? Everything gets confessed to Pauleen.

Who, despite my protest, I could tell still wanted me to write in you, thingamajig.

So, this is me, Aioli McCoy, 43-years-old, writing.

And now this is me, Aioli McCoy, saying that, seriously, I = A-OK. Why wouldn’t I be? I live in a nice house, located in a nice suburb right in Midwest US of A. Lots of red bricks + gabled roofs, green lawns + moms pushing strollers.

Idyllic, comes to mind.

Also, for some reason, hickory.

I’m also employed which, in these trying times, is no small accomplishment. And not only am I gainfully employed, but my job = mighty fine indeed. Solid pay, decent PTO. I have my own desk, my own computer, my own nameplate.

And all of this while, everywhere else, it seems, people = getting fired, canned, evicted.

Trying times indeed.

But not for the McCoys! No, siree, we = formidable family unit. We care for one another. We make sacrifices when necessary.

Like this writing itself, right now, this = sacrifice I’m making b/c I know it will make Pauleen feel better. And, at day’s end, is this not what I want > anything else?

Besides, this isn’t so bad. Writing, I mean. Seems simple enough, no? You just write one letter, and after that, you write another, and ta-da, writing!

Plus, this is still way, way > helping Pauleen research kindergartens. Which she’s doing right now + nonstop ever since Slick arrived. Seriously. When I wake up for work, where do I find her? At the desk, researching. And when I come home? Same thing.

I know it’s coming from a good place. Everything Pauleen does/has ever done comes from a good place. (Hence why she = love of life.)

And, obviously, I, too, want Slick to become a “well-rounded” + “compassionate” + “thoughtful” person. Of course I want that. Who wouldn’t? But I spose my problem is I don’t see how things like “teacher-pupil ratio” + “course curriculum” + “emotional mediation” + all the other categories listed on Pauleen’s Excel spreadsheet such as “hand soap quality(?)” + “fluorescent lighting(??)” + “olfactory irregularities(?!?)” will lead to Slick becoming solid, stand-up dude.

Have I shared such thoughts ^^^ with Pauleen? Naturally, yes. Time + time again I’ve told her how, so long as we show Slick love, then all will = OK in the end. Eg, last night, post-Taco-Tuesday dinner, the three of us, sitting in the front room, watching our favorite family-friendly content, The Nukes Go Nuclear. At one point, when the show cut to commercial, our reflection appeared on screen, and I saw, like a split-second vision, us together on the couch, looking like model American family.

What more could one person want?

But, to be fair, Pauleen’s not sans reasoning. If Slick = normal boy, she says, then I’d = 100p correct. Except Slick = not normal. In fact, he = very abnormal. Due to how many boys personally witnessed their biological father Annihilate their biological mother + sister via gardening shears?

It’s b/c of this, she says, that his schooling must = top-notch + specially tailored to meet his personal needs.

O, well... should probably go to bed now. After all, tomorrow = big day. Due to Mr. Spayde is announcing new Head of Bonds. It’s btwn Yrs Trly + Roger Dickinson. Who, yes, although younger + cooler haircut + sharper dresser, has only been w/company for three years, compared to my eleven.

Anyways, so long, thingamajig. It’s been nice knowing ya, but don’t expect to hear from me anytime soon. Due to, no offense? But Aioli = A-OK w/out you.



No point in beating around any bushes. Truth is, I = not so great anymore. In fact? For the last week? I = pathetic, stressed out, zombie Aioli.

It all started last Thursday when, in front of our entire office, Mr. Spayde officially announced Roger Dickinson as Spayde Capital’s new Head of Bonds.

Which = mega shock/embarrassment for Yrs Trly. Due to everybody had already seen me packing up my desk in preparation of moving into the big glass-walled space right next to Mr. Spayde’s office. For the rest of the day, while at my boring, medium-sized desk, I kept hearing what sounded like people whispering behind my back. Just like how Ty Sickles + Hayden “Beefy” Burns would whisper from around the corner prior to smacking me in the face w/their pee towels.

Eleven years = how long I’ve been w/Spayde Capital. And eleven years also = how long I’ve been happy w/Spayde Capital. But, thingamajig, I must confess, ever since Roger Dickinson received promotion? And left for lunch only to return w/new genius self-driving company car? Which he showed off to everyone? Just pushed some buttons on his phone and, wha-la, the car appeared outside? Ever since then, I no longer = happy here. Suddenly, my desk = not so nice anymore. Plus, my car = idiot car. My car = so dumb it still needs me to drive.

What’s strange is, although technically, nothing has changed in my life, it somehow seems as though everything has changed. Why can’t I access earlier joy? Why do I catch myself staring into “deep space” now? Am I still the same person? Or is this a new and unimproved Aioli?

And believe you me, like an emotionally regulated adult, I’ve tried to talk about this... this... this discontent, let’s call it. For each of the last five nights at dinner, I share my inner horrors, my deepest confusions.

But are Pauleen/Slick interested in me + my problems? Do they provide calming reassurances like Mommy/Sonny Nuke did when Daddy Nuke got laid off from the power plant? Such as, perhaps this really = blessing in disguise? One that might allow me to pursue other passions? Like learning how to make homemade ice cream? And, possibly, if it turns out I have special talent for this, opening up my own ice cream store? Called, I dunno, Brain Freeze? Or maybe Scoops R Us? Or, wait, yes, Cones Cones Cones? Where we specialize in perfecting the art of the cone? Ones w/crisp + flaky exteriors but soft + spongy interiors? Due to isn’t it about time the cones got some credit? Isn’t it time that someone recognizes all the cone does? Such as serving as a vehicle that delivers the ice cream? W/out which you’d be eating via your hands? Or, even worse, in one of those shallow plastic cups/bowls?

No, this is not what happens.

Instead, dinners = filled w/more kindergarten researching + occasional talk re latest FA (Family Annihilator), Carbon Knoll, who Annihilates via an electric nose hair trimmer, of all things.

So, earlier tonight, tired of being ignored + also attempting to be playful, I scoop up a spoonful of refried beans => take aim => fling at Slick. Just like Daddy Nuke did to Sonny Nuke when Sonny Nuke was pouting b/c he’d sensed—via his thermonuclear ESP—that the blonde hydrogen bomb he had a crush on had gotten explosive w/the supercool, wavy-haired FIM-99 Stinger. The point of Daddy Nuke’s move being, in my opinion, to remind Sonny Nuke of two things: 1) Life = far too great/big/awesome to feel down about a hydrogen bomb, no matter how blonde/destructive/lethal they might be, and 2) that he (Daddy Nuke) will always be around when he (Sonny Nuke) needs him. (As covered in the pilot episode, the Nuclear family’s half-life = 20 million years.)

But, unlike Sonny Nuke, who initially found Daddy Nuke’s gesture annoying, but soon returned fire w/his own spoonful of refried beans, Slick instead caterwauls + runs outside.

So, I retrieve the Net + head for the door, but before I can leave, Pauleen stops me w/a that says, what’s your problem, Aioli? Why do you now = such a meanie/buttface? Where is the man I once loved w/all my heart/soul? Gone? Forever? Never returning? Stuck with this jerko Aioli until death?

Now, thingamajig, understand that, at this moment? I wanted very badly to look into her naturally beautiful face—which brings to mind the 90s actress Jennifer Connelly—and tell her how, deep inside? all bottled up? I feel ignored, overlooked, disregarded, small.

But do I do this? No. Of course not. Due to, if I don’t hurry, Slick will reach the neighbor’s tree’s fifth branch which = too high for the Net to reach, even w/the extension pack I bought last week.

Luckily, tonight, I catch him when he’s only at branch #3.

Something weird happens on our way home, though. As in, there we were, walking home, when Slick, whose head still = under the Net, suddenly stopped.

Which = when I see the man in the front window.

Two things about his appearance:

1) He was wearing a funny-looking white gown/dress/blanket

2) His face had a bunch of strange red/pink splotches on it like maybe evidence of rare/severe skin disease.

Also, he was smiling/waving like we = old buddies or something.

And I dunno why, thingamajig, but this man? He gave me a serious case of the willies.

Once home, I asked Pauleen why she didn’t inform me that we had new neighbors.

But do you know what she does, thingamajig?

She gives me a look like I = biggest idiot ever. Says she’s too tired/busy for my quote “shenanigans.”

Ahh, well, thingamajig, such = my life, I spose. My eyes = very heavy now, like they could shut at any



Wow. What. A. Day.

HA! I feel giddy, thingamajig! Giddy, I tell you! Giddy!

{Ok. Slow down now, Aioli. Tell thingamajig what happened.}

More like what didn’t happen. Today, life got confused, it seems. Instead of hitting me w/its usual pee towel, it accidentally handed me—nicely plated upon a sparkling silver platter—one big juicy steak, medium-well.

{For chrissakes, Aioli, what are you yapping about?}

This, thingamajig: my new life as Head of Bonds for Spayde Capital! That’s right. You read correctly. Me, Aioli McCoy, now works in a big glass-walled office!


I know, right!?! Basically, what happened was, earlier today, when I showed up to work—still feeling like zombie Aioli—Mr. Spayde immediately called me into his office to tell me that: 1) Roger Dickinson = no longer w/Spayde Capital 2) I’m to take his place.

And, ok, yes: I did cry. But not that much. Like, five minutes, max. After which I apologized like crazy to Mr. Spayde who the whole time sat there looking confused/uncomfortable.

Except, wait! There’s more!

Such as, when I go to call Pauleen to tell her about the good news? My phone starts ringing b/c she’s calling me! As though we both = on same wavelength, thinking same thoughts, feeling same feelings.

Plus, her news? Somehow even > than mine! Apparently, this morning? Slick caterwauled unexpectedly, and by the time she retrieved the Net + made it to the sycamore tree next door, he’d already reached branch #5.

But, just then, the backdoor opened and this man—who she said was wearing a white gown/robe + had painful-looking splotches on his face—stepped outside. The way Pauleen put it, he didn’t walk across the well-groomed grass so much as he glided across it. He introduced himself as Bartholomew Bedford. Who’d recently moved into the house next door along w/his wife (Cassandra) + son (Isaac), both of whom were currently upstairs, studying.

Turns out, these Bedfords? They’re providing an “alternative education” for their son who = Slick’s age (seven).

What really blew her mind, though, was when he approached the sycamore tree => stared straight up => wrapped his arms around its trunk => and started to, quote, “converse with it.”

Then, moments later? She saw branches bobbing, leaves shaking/rustling, and suddenly, there’s Slick, dropping right into the man’s arms!

So, thingamajig, to summarize: not only did Slick acquire a potential new friend, it also seems as though we’ve finally found a kindergarten to send him to! In fact, Mr. Bedford invited Slick to come by later this afternoon for his very first lesson! Plus? Mr. Bedford’s actual job? Stress management for corporate elites which, as of today, includes me!

I mean, can you believe it?!



Well sort of diary journal, thingamajig, today = craziest day ever. Somehow even crazier than yesterday!

How fast life changes! How unexpected!

Ok, first things first, Slick + I taking casual/light walk. It = so nice outside that I don’t even care he = wearing earpals + staring down at handheld device.

Except, before we even reach the corner, he suddenly stops + bends down. I’m thinking he’s tying his shoes, but no. Turns out, his shoes still = laced. So, what’s up w/Slick? A leaf, is what. I know. Of all things. Except this = not your usual leaf, thingamajig. Far from it, actually. This leaf? Possibly best gd leaf of all time. For real. This is a one in ten million kind of leaf. In all my years, never have I ever seen such a beautiful leaf. It = red/blue/green/yellow. Also, unlike most leaves which = brittle, this magical leaf seems sturdy + holds together nicely. Ie, it doesn’t crack/flake/break when you wave it around.

Altogether, this leaf > most flowers.

And when Slick offers me its stem? Like a gift? Something in my chest goes soft like melted cheese. Soon, this same bubbling/sizzling sensation = everywhere inside me. Felt almost invincible then. No, not immortal. But like I = capable of doing literally anything. Briefly, the whole world tilted as though resting on an uneven surface.

Zero doubt about it. This = our first/best father-son moment.

So, of course, I do something to ruin it.

What happens is, strong/sudden wind plucks it (leaf) from my hands. Sends it spinning/twirling high above our heads. Like it was performing some type of dance just for us.

Not until Slick cries out do I realize it’s floating away.

W/out thinking, I chase after it.

Seriously, thingamajig. Can’t stress enough how my mind = completely/totally blank. As though my entire being = dedicated to recovering this leaf.

(Now I wonder: Is this love? Action sans thinking?)

Several times I get close to snatching it. But, always, right at the last second, another gust of air lifts it just beyond my reach. As though leaf = connected to invisible string and God = playing practical joke on Yrs Trly.

From behind, I hear Slick calling my name.

Or no. Not my name.

Calling out for dad!

Finally, it seems like the leaf = settling down. I stop beneath it, raise arm, pinch stem between thumb/forefinger.

At which point I realize one, I’m standing right in the middle of a busy intersection, and two, there’s a small red car about to hit me, and three, now = too late to do anything about it.

Luckily, the person behind the wheel of small red car swerves at last possible moment. Instead of killing me, it just runs over my left foot. Which, yes, hurts like heck + causes me to scream, fall over. Seconds later, though, here’s Slick, looking down at me, laughing. Like this = funniest thing ever and not near-death, almost tragedy. Which, maybe for a kid like Slick? Who watched his personal father decapitate his mom + sister using gardening shears? Maybe this really is funniest thing ever.

I hand him leaf and he holds it like it = solid gold.

So, long story short, Aioli now = hero.

But wait, there’s more! In fact, we’re just getting started!

B/c, turns out, the person behind the wheel of small red car? Who nearly killed me but instead just hurt my foot? Of all people, this = Roger Dickinson!

He helps me up + offers to give Slick/I lift to school. Which he does. And soon, I find myself saying goodbye to the kid. Who, now when I look at him, looks right back at me. And who, when I say love you, buddy, he says love you too, dad. Then scampers off.

And Roger, gnawing on the inside of his cheek, says something under his breath => pulls further down street => parks in shaded spot beneath a large tree => takes out plastic straw, inserts between lips => starts puffing on it like it = cigarette/cigar.

Aioli, he says. Consider today a message from God.

And I say, Roger, I understand, totally.

And he says, no, Aioli, you understand nothing totally. Before puffing some more on plastic straw + reaching into glove compartment. Pulls out, of all things, thin black tool. Which, I quickly realize, is an electric nose-hair trimmer.

I’m like, uhh, Roger? Why do you keep an electric nose-hair trimmer in your glove compartment like Carbon Knoll, latest FA, supposedly does?

And he says, who the heck is Carbon Knoll?

And I go, you, you’re Carbon Knoll.

But he just shakes head. Aioli, you’re an even bigger dunce than I thought, and this = saying something due to I already thought you were a massive one.

Ouch, I say. Can’t lie. Hurts to hear.

Jesus, Aioli. Can’t you see I’m trying to save your life?

And I go, by killing me?

Puffs some more on straw. Says death = only escape for men like us.

And what kind of men is that, exactly?

The kind that = doomed from start.

Now, thingamajig, you’ll never guess what happened next.

{Alright, but may I at least make one guess?}

Sure, but like I said, you’ll never—

{Ok, well. Roger Dickinson drives you to some greaseball bar. Very soon you become good + drunk due to you’ve always been a lightweight. You start saying dumb stuff like, Roger, I know you quit b/c our job = too stressful, and due to this, I’ve maybe been thinking of you in a negative/inferior light, but just so you know, in my book? You still = solid, stand-up guy.

And he says, Aioli, you dunce, here’s why I quit.

Which is b/c Spayde Capital = legal Ponzi scheme. The Head of Bonds = most important job b/c bond sales = company’s main source of income.

Have you spoken w/Fed guy yet? And he gave you $ for bonds? And this made Mr. Spayde super happy? And maybe this even made you happy, too? Well, ever considered what Mr. Spayde + investment teams do w/that $ you receive from Fed guy?

And you’re like, uhh, invest it?

Aioli, you’re an even bigger dunce than I thought—takes another shot of whiskey + signals for refill—and I already thought you were a massive one.

Ouch, you say. Hurts to hear.

Jesus, Aioli. Can’t you see I’m trying to save your life? You need to quit, man. You need to get out while you still can.

But why would I do that? I just got promoted! My car now = genius car! My office has glass walls!

And he says, Does your neck hurt?

And after you roll your head around a little, you go, maybe, a little. Why do you ask?

B/c I’d imagine having a head as thick as yours must put a lot of strain on it.

Ouch times two. Guess I really walked into that one though, didn’t I?

Yes, Aioli, just like you walked into that new office and thought, wow, I’ve finally made it. When, really, that office will be your coffin.

You then show him Spayde Capital’s stock price, thinking this will shut him up once + for all.

Except he = unimpressed. Downs another shot, shakes his head. Aioli, you are a living/breathing/drinking/shitting embodiment of corporate U S of A, land of the imbecilic, home of the myopic.

You shoot him a drunken face like, whadda mean those words?

Alright, Aioli, I’m going to give it to you nice + straight now, ok? Fed guy calls you, right? He buys bonds? Then, w/that money, Spayde + investment team? They use it—he slaps you here just to make sure you’re 100% listening—to buy more Spayde Capital stock. Are you getting it now? Are you picking up what I am putting down, Aioli? Day = fast approaching when Fed guy won’t call. And what then, Aioli? Where will $ come from? Mr. Spayde? You, Aioli? No + no. Ever heard the term quantitative easing? Well, get ready for some quantitative unease, Aioli.

You sit, terrified, but more so drunk. Really drunk. Meanwhile, Roger Dickinson slides off stool + starts walking away.

Hey, wait. How do I fix this? How do I get out?

He stops, looks back, gives you one real spooky face, and says, follow me and I’ll show you.

It’s a grungy bathroom. Scum everywhere. Mirror covered in posters/stickers/flyers. Graffiti all over walls + ceiling. Damp, rank odor. Two urinals, both clogged via paper towels. Which, of course, brings to mind Ty Sickles + Hayden “Beefy” Burns. Shiver runs through you.

One stall w/door ajar.

Roger? You there? Only response = electrical buzzing. You crouch, see legs beneath partition. Big lump in your throat. Might even puke. Due to being so nervous. Again, you say his name. Again, only sound = electrical buzzing.

You stick your head around the corner.

There = Roger. Or what used to be Roger. His head’s leaning against the wall, eyes turned back in his head, the dull stumpy end of the electric trimmer barely sticking out of his left nostril.

Plus, a note pinned to his chest. Which now = bloody. Very bloody. Asking you, Aioli McCoy, to return the electric nose hair trimmer to Mr. Spayde, mañana, por favor.

... ... ...

So, how’d I do?}

Uhh, yeah... nice uhh... lucky guess, I spose...


Now, I know this might sound odd, considering what I just witnessed, but by the time my new genius car pulled into the driveway, I wanted one thing + one thing only: Pauleen.

Thingamajig, consider yourself lucky to never know such longing. It can make one ache something horrible. Especially when one thinks—like I’d been thinking—about death + its inevitability. And when I think about this happening w/r/t Pauleen, my mind fills w/gray pixels, like those that used to come on TV when scheduled programming expired.

Seeing Pauleen, I go over to her => scoop her up into my arms => carry her upstairs => drop her onto the bed.

Uhh, Aioli? Is everything okay?

But I don’t/can’t respond b/c I’m too busy smooching. My desire = so strong it was as though some small animal = trapped inside me, working to escape. As though, suddenly, we’d transformed into our younger selves again. For who (whom?) boning every which way = normal, almost daily activity. Times when, post-bone, lying together, twirling her hair around my fingers, our bodies like gutted shells, I remember thinking like, no way will we ever tire of this. No chance we = other couples who get bored of boning as they age.

Afterwards, we lay together, holding one another.

So, did Mr. Spayde take you out for celebratory drinks post-work? she asked.

Uhh, about that...


Well, here’s the thing—and I swear, thingamajig, I was this close to telling her about my run-in w/Roger Dickinson, but before I could, we heard the front door open. Right away, both of us jumped up + threw on clothes. Due to here came Slick, running up the stairs + right into Pauleen’s open arms. She twirled him around then let me have a turn. Which, to my surprise, Slick allowed. For real. Usually, he cowers from my touch. Due to his dad-related PTSD. But, tonight, he went limp in my arms. Laughing/giggling, smiling so wide you could see which of his baby teeth he’d already lost.

And so, in a day filled w/highs/lows, we end atop the highest possible peak.

Our new/best father-son moment yet.




Hi, thingamajig. Aioli again. Obviously. Ha! Who else would it be?

If you haven’t already noticed, I = tip/top + super/duper. Seriously. During these last few days, there’ve been several moments where I’ve been struck dumb by awe/wonderment/amazement, forced to stop whatever I’m doing and reflect like, wow, what an incredible life I have.

Such as, day before yesterday, when Slick returned from next door w/his new friend? And I finally saw what an incredible boy this Isaac Bedford was? Which also helped me understand/appreciate where Pauleen was coming from all those months she spent researching kindergartens? Due to now I saw what exceptional schooling can do for a growing child? And, rest assured, this Isaac Bedford = one extraordinary cookie. Not only can he read + write + recite multiplication tables like back of hand, when speaking w/him, one gets the feeling that you are speaking w/an actual adult, not some little kid.

Or how about after Fed guy called + gave me $ for bonds which I then reported to Mr. Spayde? And Mr. Spayde told me what an excellent job I was doing as new Head of Bonds? Like, way > than Roger Dickinson ever was? Who, speaking of, I’ve heard zero things about? As though he just disappeared sans trace? No obituary/funeral proceedings? All of which has helped assuage (yes, thesaurus used) my sense of guilt/anxiety? Due to it now seems quite likely that Roger really did lose his marbles? Therein invalidating everything he told me re Spayde Capital + quantitative unease?

Ah, yes, thingamajig. Once again, life = A-OK for Aioli.


Pauleen? What’s wrong?


Back to smooching/squeezing. Until, seconds later, I again sense something = off.

I’m sorry, I’m sorry, she kept saying. It’s probably nothing. Actually, I know it’s nothing. Plus, you’re going to think I sound crazy. A pause. It’s Mr. Bedford. Or, well, it’s both of the Bedfords. There’s just something about them that doesn’t sit right w/me. And I know what you’re going to say.

Oh, yah? What am—

You’re going to say, Pauleen, please, this = just your anxiety. Then you’ll point out how, since starting classes, Slick has shown improvements all across the board. Reading, math, conversation. And, most importantly, he hasn’t caterwauled in days.

Well, how about this? I say, trying to sound upbeat. Why don’t you ask to sit in on one of their lessons?

Major league eye roll. Don’t you think I’ve already asked that, Aioli? Mr. Bedford won’t allow it. Or, actually, the word he used was forbid. As in, I forbid you from sitting in on my class. Apparently, an outside observer would compromise the intellectual/ontological/metaphysical integrity of his pedagogy. Aioli? Did you hear me? I said—

He waved at me, I blurted out.

What? Who?

Mr. Bedford. The last time Slick caterwauled, after I retrieved him, we were walking home when we saw this man in the front window, waving.

Pauleen’s face = horrified. Oh, Aioli, this is bad. This is very bad. What have we done?

What? How? It was just a wave. People wave all the time.

No, Aioli. People do not wave all the time. Do you know who waves? Serial killers. Psychopaths. FAs.

I was about to protest, but just then, a knock at the door. There was Slick, wearing his new Sonny Nuke pjs.

Sweetie, is everything ok? said Pauleen.

Mr. Bedfuhd gave me homewurk. I’m spose t’ask you boff a question.

And what question would that be, bud?

His hips = twisting slowly. Like they do when he = nervous. How—


Do you?




Your lass mo-ments?

Silence. For what felt like forever. Until, finally, Pauleen nudged me.

I uhh I think it’s about time I go meet this Mr. Bedford fella.

Pauleen gave me a look like, yeah, Aioli, I think so too.


Ah, there he is. The one + only, Aioli McCoy. Please, won’t you come inside?

Actually, I’m good right here on the sidewalk.

He sighed. Well, in that case, may I offer you a covering?

And I’m like, what?

You’re uncovered, sir. Would you care for one? I have plenty.

Which is when I look down + see that I’m sans pants!

Soon I find myself in the Bedfords’ front room, sitting on a couch wrapped in plastic. This = only piece of furniture. Also, all the walls = blank. No family photos, no decor, nothing.

When Mr. Bedford returns, he’s carrying white linens, neatly folded. He doesn’t just hand/give these to me, but presents them. As in, he kneels + bows, like this = part of some ceremony.

Perhaps you’ll be interested to learn that your gown was originally stitched by members of an indigenous African jungle tribe. It serves a function, you see. In certain places, clothes still do this.

And I go, do what?

And he says, serve a function.

Well, they still serve a function here, too, I say, my tone = friendly/jocular (yes, thesaurus used). They’re really good for covering up peckers + who-haws!

Here, Mr. Bedford laughs. It’s not that his laugh = bad. It’s just that it also gives me the major willies. Due to it = silent. As in, he makes not a peep. Yet his face/body does everything faces/bodies do when someone = laughing.

Indeed they are, he says, sitting down on the floor, criss-cross applesauce. So, Aioli, how may I fulfill your inquiry?

Well, see, I was lying in bed.


And my son, Slick, well, he asked me a question.

Oh, what a marvelous child he is. Although, be advised that, after our session today, your boy wishes to be called ____, Mr. Bedford here making strange clicking/clucking mouth noises.

(My face = Mommy Nuke’s face when Sonny Nuke uses cool/hip young person slang.)

Noticing this, Mr. Bedford says, ____ is Thanatoid for “Loveshine.”

I thought I heard voices, says a new voice via my right. Turning, I see Cassandra Bedford. Who = super pretty. Like, stunningly pretty. Her white gown seems to make her creamy/golden skin glow. And you must be Aioli, smiling wide enough to show her teeth. Which, of course, are perfect.

Also present was Isaac, who calmly entered the room + dropped to the floor next to his dad + then lay down on his back.

Hi, yes, well, the reason I dropped by was—

We are all going to die. You. Me. Everybody. Death is not to be feared. Death is life and life is death.

Please, don’t mind Isaac, said Mr. Bedford. He’s just going through his nightly meditation.

We are made of particles. Particles have no meaning. They are random. They are pointless. They exist because they exist.

Our school was once much larger than this, said Mr. Bedford. Whose face = almost hard to look at this close up due to those red/pink splotches were nasty indeed. In our last home, we had more than a dozen students.

Not to mention the adult classes, added Cassandra. Originally, Bartholomew intended his program to be for corporate elites suffering from severe stress.

Where was this at? I asked.

Chillicothe, said Mr. Bedford.

Detroit, said Mrs. Bedford.

My eyes went from one to the other.

Well, we’ve moved around quite a bit, clarified Mr. Bedford. As you can imagine, it’s not easy for people like us to feel settled.

Bartholomew hates the p word, but there’s really no other way to describe it.

My eyebrows crinkled.

As in persecution, Aioli. I find it a bit self-important, but Cassandra’s correct. There is no other way to describe it. We’ve been persecuted everywhere we’ve gone.

Outcasts, said Cassandra. Modern day lepers.

Well, technically, the modern-day lepers are the modern-day lepers, but you get the point.

I blinked. Cassandra joined me on the couch. She smelled like flowers. You’re the first neighbor, Aioli, in all of our many homes.

Many, many homes.

The very first to see our school and not go running to the police.

Meanwhile, Isaac’s eyes remained closed, his expression calm/peaceful, his voice flat + steady. Time is relative. Linearity is a false perception.

All we’ve ever wanted is to raise Isaac how we believe is best, said Casssandra.

Today’s culture is vile, said Mr. Bedford. It’s diabolical.

What with the screens and the noise.

Everyone knows it’s wrong.

Everyone knows.

And yet nobody wants to do anything about it. See, Aioli, it’s our opinion that there are two worlds. There is the world of here + now.

And then there is the world of all + time.

We believe there is no greater skill for a child to learn than the one that allows them to discern between which is which and what belongs to what.

I will not die because I have already died. We are ghosts haunted by ourselves.

Wow, I said. Did he rehearse this?

Why don’t you join him? I can lead you through a brief exercise, if you’d like.

Which = how I ended up lying on the floor next to Isaac.

Steady your souls, said Mr. Bedford. For an asteroid is about to hit Earth. The government’s known about it for some time. Years, in fact. They tried to redirect it, but failed. All is lost.

Behind my closed lids, I saw the giant rock hurtling through space, covered in fire. How much longer?

Minutes, Aioli. Maybe less. Embrace it. Let the awareness enter your body. Feel your bones, boys. It’s all going to be gone. Just, like, that. One instant. One blink. Then poof. You. Us. Everyone. Everything. Gone. Forever.

I thought about Slick. Saw him playing outside. Picking up leaves. Lying in bed, sleeping. His face when he sleeps = peace on earth.

Later, when my eyes opened, I felt a relieving sensation. As though I’d just come up for air after being underwater for a long time. Suddenly, out of nowhere, I started laughing. Not a haha laugh, though. More like how you laugh after stepping off a rollercoaster.

You did great, Aioli, said Mr. Bedford.

A true natural, echoed Mrs. Bedford.

I’ve had many students, but nobody has done so well on their virginal trip.

You’re special, Aioli. Very special.

After making arrangements to return tomorrow, Mr. Bedford again asked how he could fulfill my inquiry.

Oh, I said. Don’t worry about it. Just a misunderstanding, is all.



My apologies, thingamajig. I know you’ve probably been wondering where I’ve been {actually, no, not at all}, but don’t worry {wasn’t worried}, all = well. In fact? It’s possible things right now > well. Great, even. And I owe it all to the Bedfords. Who’ve been kind/caring enough to include me in their school.

Our days start w/morning meditation. Followed by math/science. Then world history/English. Then philosophy. And, finally, another round of guided meditation.

These last few days also = most time I’ve gotten to spend around Slick. And this truly = greatest gift of all. Due to, I love the little bugger > life itself. Seeing him outside of our home, in new environments, interacting w/other people, has allowed me to gain/access a deeper appreciation/affection for him.

Then, toward evening, while the boys play upstairs/outside, Mr. Bedford + I retire to the plastic-wrapped couch for talking + eating homemade ice cream. Which Cassandra makes herself via cherished family recipe. Mr. Bedford does most of the talking, of course. I think I could listen to him talk for hours + hours. Due to he = smartest/fascinating-est man I’ve ever met.

He’d started out as a plain ole thanatologist, traveling the world, experiencing different/diverse cultures, learning various customs re death/dying. Seeing how others approach The Terminus, he said, cuts one’s world into pieces.

Then, one day, years + years ago, in Appalachia, he visited a Pentacostal tent to observe the funeral of a small boy who’d died via lung cancer. In this church, funerals lasted for several days, sometimes weeks, until, finally, the body = only bones.

Had I ever seen a dead body, he asked me.

I’ve actually seen six, I said w/pride. In fact, I went to a funeral just last month. My wife’s second cousin. Went on a jungle cruise, caught a rare tick-borne disease, heart stopped before she could even get to the dessert spread.

Apologies, Aioli. I should’ve been clearer. I wasn’t asking about funeral bodies, which are hardly bodies at all, more like mannequins, if you ask me. Not dead, but embalmed. Preserved. Like fish on ice.

No, an actual dead body, he continued, turns rotten. First it bloats. Blood pools. Oils/liquids ooze from its flesh. Which turns green as it’s eaten by bacteria. Hair/nails fall out. Eyes deflate like dried dough. Smells, which = unimaginably horrid, attract insects. Such as maggots. Which arrive in swarms. Little non-white larvae like alien garbanzo beans.

Normally, he = strict observer of the respective ritual. Due to participating might compromise results of study. So, for six days, he stood near the back of the tent, writing down notes, sleeping in short spurts. But then, on day seven, he did something he’d never done before.

He approached the casket.

The boy’s body was still in its bloating stage. A white foam crawled forth from its mouth. The eyes = empty sockets where flies nuzzled.

Overall, it = worst sight he’d ever seen.

Meanwhile, behind him, everyone = laughing/chatting/eating/drinking.

He couldn’t take it, he said w/tears in his eyes. And by it, he meant everything. Life, death. Living, dying. It all = too much to handle. He just wanted it to stop. He just wanted it to end.

So, he reached into the casket => picked up the body => fled into the nearby/surrounding fields. Right in his arms, the body began to fall apart. But he kept running. And running. While, behind him, the whole congregation followed in pursuit.

Eventually, the mob caught him. And once they did, beat him + tied him to the trunk of a tree that’d been chopped down + headed back to the tent w/the boy’s decomposing body.

For many days, Bartholomew sat there, alone. Exposed to the southern July sun, the capillaries in his face ended up bursting. Hence the nasty/painful-looking red/pink splotches.

What savages, I gasped.

No, Aioli. Not savages, just people. Who taught me the most valuable lesson of all: to never confuse the world of here + now w/world of all + time. Of course, it = one thing to know this, but it’s another thing entirely to internalize this. Internalization, Aioli, is at the intersection of ideas and feelings. It’s where we merge. We know many logical truths. But it’s another thing to live with your knowledge. Of your own inevitable end. Of the relative unimportance of the here and now.

But how did you survive?

An angel came to my rescue.

Wait, really?

He laughed his silent laugh + patted me on the back. No, of course not, Aioli. But, in some sense, yes.

Right on cue, Cassandra then entered the room via the hall. Turns out, she = angel who rescued Bartholomew, and that boy who’d died = her younger brother.

They’d been together ever since. Traveling/teaching/escaping.

More ice cream, Aioli? she asked.

The muscles in my face = sore due to I was smiling so big. That sounds just—

Dahd? came a familiar voice. Dahd, are you here?

Well, ____! What a surprise!

Slick?! Is everything alright? Why aren’t you in bed? Where’s mom?

Home, he said. W/scary man.

I blinked. What scary man?

Slick sucked his thumb. Shrugged. Iiiiidohnnoooo... he says he wants you.

At the door, a hand grabbed my shoulder. It belonged to Cassandra. Here, she said, handing me what looked like another pint of homemade ice cream. It just might save your life.


Here, thingamajig, is the scene I walk into.

Mr. Spayde (boss) sitting at the dining room table, holding the handle of the Net, whose webbing = over Pauleen’s head. He’d activated the cinching-feature that’d come w/the extension attachments so that Pauleen = immobile. She kept trying to get my attention, but my eyes were on the not one, but two electric nose hair trimmers standing upright on the table. And, next to these, Roger Dickinson’s bloody note.

My apologies, Aioli. I typically loathe unannounced visits, but what choice did I have? You’ve been absent from work. You don’t return my calls. Hmm? Oh, why the long face? I’m only here to see how you’re doing, my boy.

And I go, really?

And he laughs. No, Aioli. You dunce.

It = at this point, thingamajig, that I suddenly understand what’s happening. This right here + now = dreaded doomsday scenario. Which Roger Dickinson warned me of. As in, the Fed stopped buying our bonds => now Spayde Capital has no new $ to buy stocks of Spayde Capital => whose stock price will plummet => soon, if not already, everyone = broke as heck.

Aioli, what do you know about the Malaysian dung beetle?

Uhh, dung beetle, sir?

Yes, Aioli, a dung beetle. A very special kind of dung beetle. Mr. Spayde turned on one of the trimmers, the one sans Roger’s blood/brains on it. Which I then realized meant 1) Mr. Spayde brought his own electric trimmer, and 2) in all likelihood, my boss, the financial titan + CEO of Spayde Capital = Carbon Knoll, latest FA. As the trimmer buzzed, it inched/wobbled toward the table’s edge. What makes the Malaysian dung beetle so special is it possesses a gas that’s toxic not only to its predators, but to other Malaysian dung beetles, too. And unlike any other beetle known to man, the Malaysian dung beetle demonstrates patriarchal tendencies—right before the trimmer fell off the table, Mr. Spayde reached out + palmed it—rather than letting its family become consumed by a predator, it will instead release its toxic gas. Killing its family. Killing itself. And, yes, occasionally, the predator, too. Do you see what I’m getting at, Aioli?

I shook my head like no, not a clue.

Mr. Spayde groaned. In a world of idiots, Aioli, you just might be the king of—say, what’s that you’re holding?

Homemade ice cream, sir. Our neighbors make it. Would you care for some?

I gave him the whole carton => fetched a spoon => watched from the far side of the room as he took multiple giant bites. Alright, Aioli. In the past, I had Roger’s help. Yes, it’s true. Together we = Carbon Knoll. But since Roger opted out, I’m left w/you, it seems. So, we’re going to play a favorite game of mine. Called Sophie’s Choice. Ever seen it, Aioli?

I make a face like seen what, sir?

Nevermind, he said, then groaned. The game = simple enough. Either you...


He coughed. Took another bite of ice cream. Either...


But he = choking now. Pauleen screamed/shrieked. Slick just stood by my side, watching. Soon, Mr. Spayde’s face = strange shade of blue. By the time he stopped choking, the room had become silent. Pauleen was lying in the corner, whimpering. I’d wet myself. But Slick, he calmly walked over to Mr. Spayde + took his pulse.


Yes, Slick?

I’m pwetty sure he’s dead.



Well, thingamajig. Since we last spoke, things have only gotten more complicated.

First, the other night, I was about to call 9-1-1 to report the dead Mr. Spayde/Carbon Knoll when, suddenly, the front door opens and in walks the entire Bedford family.

Bartholomew looked at the scene, then at Isaac + Cassandra, made one of his clucking/clicking mouth noises, and then, next thing I know, the Bedfords = springing into action.

Cassandra + Isaac left to go next door where they began digging the hole.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bedford addressed the body.

Aioli, Pauleen whispered. We need to call the police.

I, for one, agreed. Due to, even though I unintentionally/indirectly killed Mr. Spayde, I feel as though the police would = grateful/forgiving that we caught latest FA, Carbon Knoll.

Except, when I take out my phone, Mr. Bedford walks over to me => smacks it from my hand => grabs me by the throat => stares deep into my eyes.

That = very, very unwise, Aioli. I’m very disappointed, he said. I thought you = special student. But maybe I was wrong.

Just then, at the sound of electrical buzzing, we turn to see Pauleen wielding not one, but two nose hair trimmers.

Step away from my husband, she says.

Brief standoff ensues. Then, suddenly, he lunges for Pauleen. Like he = wild animal. But, get this, thingamajig, before he reaches her? The Net comes down over his head. Cinches tight. I turn around, see Slick, holding the Net’s handle w/both hands.

 Next: Isaac + Pauleen return. Their faces = shocked at new developments. Mr. Bedford commands them not to worry + finish executing mission.

So, together, they drag Mr. Spayde’s body away from the table + out of the house.

After taking control of the Net and leading Bartholomew outside, I deactivate the cinching feature, therein releasing him.

Aioli, there are no words to express the depths of my profound disappointment. You’ve committed the greatest mistake possible. Confusing the world of here + now with the world of all + time. Expect a fate far worse than death to arrive on your doorstep very, very soon.

Then walked away => down the sidewalk => disappeared into his backyard.

I returned inside to find Slick + Pauleen in the living room, watching a classic oldy episode of The Nukes Go Nuclear where Sonny Nuke accidentally walks in on Daddy/Mommy Nuke getting explosive.



Thingamajig, I have one thing + one thing only to say. Which is this: thank God for Pauleen.

There I was, late afternoon but still lying in bed, due to feeling all doom + gloom, when Pauleen came running into the room wearing biggest smile of all time + looking even more like 90s actress Jennifer Connelly than usual.

Shows me her device. The screen = some website called www.evidencemarketplace.com. As Pauleen explains it, this = underground digital marketplace where one can buy/sell items involved in real life crime/murder.

I cover my face w/hands. Like oh no, what did you do?

But then she whispers a # into my ear. My hands fall. I stare at her. Ask her to repeat it.

She whispers same # again.

Rest assured, thingamajig, this #? It = so big we could open up Cones Cones Cones tomorrow.

So, later tonight, someone w/the username Milkdud will be arriving at the house to purchase Carbon Knoll’s coveted electric nose hair trimmer.

But, as I wait, thingamajig, I can’t help but wonder what the Bedfords are doing right now. In fact, since the other night, this = all I’ve been able to think about. Every now + then, I look out the kitchen window at their house. B/c, truth is? I miss them. All three of them. And I know Slick feels the same way. He’s already caterwauled twice today. I see him sitting alone, on his device, looking sad + lonely, and everything in me wants to go over there + say something that’ll make him feel better. But what’s there to say? Do you know any wise words, thingamajig? Even semi-wise words? B/c I’ve got nothing.

Well, Pauleen’s just come running down the stairs. Apparently, the prospective buyer = in the driveway.

Talk soon, thingamajig. And, if you can, think of something for me to tell Slick.


Currently, I = outside, hiding in some bushes across the street. Due to Pauleen kicked me out of the house b/c I got into an argument w/Milkdud. Who = old cranky nun lady w/attache case full of $ to buy Carbon Knoll’s nose hair trimmer. But who also = mega turdface buttmunch who, when I turned on The Nukes Go Nuclear, told me, in my own house, of all places, to quote, “grow up.”

And I said, excuse me?

And she said, that show’s for idiots.

And I said, well, at least I don’t smell like hand soap.

She gasped. I don’t smell like hand soap!

Uhh, actually, I said. You most definitely do smell like hand soap.

Which was when Pauleen asked me to leave. Or, technically, she didn’t ask me anything. She just gave me a certain look then. A tired, worn-out type of face.

But, whatever. They’ll make their deal and soon the McCoys will be A-OK once again.

So, now I wait. And wait. And, thinking about the last two months, find myself trying to believe in them. But, somehow, I’m unable to. Due to, for some unknown reason, it all feels unreal. Like a story that happened to someone else.

I wonder: what would Daddy Nuke do if he = in my position?

Probably he’d go ballistic. And shoot gamma rays out his eyeballs. And make seismic farts that reduce surrounding terrain to dust/rubble.

Ha. Daddy Nuke. What a goofball.

And yet, for all his goofballery, I think what makes him a good dad is something else. Something besides protecting Sonny/Mommy Nuke. Such as, when Sonny Nuke oversleeps for school, who = person to wake Sonny Nuke up? And when Sonny Nuke’s face turns deep red like it does when he’s about to go atomic? Who = person to calm him down + reassure him that all = well? Or when Mommy Nuke came home crying acid tears due to the other neighborhood bombs kicked her out of their war club b/c she wondered out-loud like war, what is it good for? Who = person to remind Mommy Nuke that she’s > all those other stuffy, bloated bombs combined?

See, thingamajig, maybe being a good dad is more like being an ice cream cone, .ie.,  something that delivers/supports/stabilizes.

Hold on now. Something’s happening. Was that Slick? I swore I just saw Slick running out the—oh, what the—a police car just pulled into our—wait, two police—no, three police cars—oh, no. Oh no no no. Police = exiting vehicle + walking toward our front door.

Oh, God, thingamajig. What’s happening? When will this end?


Once inside, this = note left out on dining room table.

Dear Aioli,

My apologies if this note is brief, but I don’t think I have much time as the police are currently on their way here. After you left, Milkdud continued talking bad about The Nukes and this, I could tell, was bothering Slick, and then, to make things worse, she takes out—of all things—a tiny pair of nose hair clippers! I tried getting her to put them away by explaining that Slick has an allergy to anything that reminds him of gardening shears, but this Milkdud was quite insistent. Long story short, Slick ends up caterwauling, steals the attaché case full of $, runs out the door! I’m sure you’ll find him in the sycamore tree if you go look.

After this happened, Milkdud became very, very upset. Said she may work in a shady system, but she herself is not a shady individual. I kept telling her I’d get her money back in no time, but the damage was already done, she said, then called 9-1-1.

So, overall, we’re screwed, honey. We’re very, very screwed... 

And yet, despite the fact that I can’t think of any way this won’t end horribly for all of us, I feel strangely ok. Is this what faith is? But faith in what? I dunno, Aioli. But I know it’s something. I feel it when I think about you. I also feel it when I think about Slick. And all of us, together.

Somehow, when I feel this thing, I know there’s a world out there where this is all still possible.

Anyways, I see the red and blue lights outside now.

Be safe, Aioli. And take care of our boy.

Xoxo, your petunia, Pauleen.


As expected, Slick = in the sycamore tree. And, also as expected, nothing I say changes this. To make things even worse, he doesn’t look right. In fact, almost looks like he’s sleeping. Still, I try + try, until I see that, directly beneath where I’m standing = Mr. Witcock Spayde’s final resting place. The image of his body flashes in my mind. Worms/beetles/centipedes burrowing into his earholes/nostrils. I get the willies => run into the Bedfords’ house => where I’m immediately hit w/noise. Which = music from upstairs.

Now, you must understand, thingamajig, I didn’t have any idea what I was doing. It all felt rather dreamy. Like, was this me? Was I doing this?

After walking around the first floor, seeing/hearing no one, I notice two changes: 1) the couch in the front room = gone, and 2) at the bottom of the stairs = two suitcases.

So, I go upstairs, look into the room where the music’s coming from.

Inside = Isaac lying on the floor w/his eyes closed. Also, next to him on the floor, I see not one, but two empty/dirty ice cream bowls.

I have tasted the larva in the soul of space, but I was not bothered.

Just then, I got weird/eerie feeling like someone = watching me. And, sure enough, when I turned around, there = Mr./Mrs. Bedford, standing side-by-side, blocking my path.

Aioli, said Mr. Bedford. Welcome back.

Bartholomew thought you’d return, added Cassandra. He had a feeling.

I get them from time to time, said Mr. Bedford. Feelings, that is.

He was holding one pint of frozen cream, Cassandra a bowl/spoon.

Care for another bowl, Aioli? she said.

I shook my head.

I get feelings, but Cassandra gets ideas, said Mr. Bedford, who’d begun dishing out the frozen cream. Which do you think is better, Aioli? Feelings? Or ideas? Personally, I prefer ideas.

Which is funny because I prefer feelings.

But one always wants what they don’t have. Isn’t that right, Aioli?

Feelings are like anchors, said Cassandra. Feelings hold you in place. They stabilize.

For better or for worse, said Bartholomew. He now kneeled + proffered the bowl of frozen cream.

But ideas move the world forward. Ideas belong to the world of all + time.

Besides, anyone can feel.

But it takes a special someone to think. Because to truly think, Aioli, you must rise above your circumstances. Both personal and contextual. You must be able to think like part of the universe.

Eat your frozen cream, Aioli. Go on. Eat.

To truly think, one must sacrifice modern man’s greatest illusion. His own permanence.

Eat the cream, Aioli.

One bite won’t kill you. And even if it did, would it matter?

I can give you money, I said. Please. Slick has it right now, up in the tree. Get him down and you can have all of it.

Do you mean this money, Aioli? said Mr. Bedford, who now reached behind him and came back with the attache case. My heart fell to my stomach. Eat your cream, you pointless pissant. Now.

It tasted bitter + chalky. I ate it so fast my head felt like it’d been dipped in ice. But, once done, I gave them a look like, now will you help me?

Mr. Bedford stepped forward, placed a hand against my cheek. You really were my best student, Aioli. Never have I seen someone internalize the lessons so wholeheartedly. So, understand that this hurts me > it’s going to hurt you. And, believe me, it’s going to hurt you quite a bit.

Cassandra had gone into the other bedroom, but she now returned w/both empty/dirty ice cream bowls. There were tears in her eyes.

Then, together, they started downstairs.

Wait, where are you going?

Clackamas, said Mr. Bedford.

Kilmarnock, said Mrs. Bedford.

But what about Isaac? And Slick? And me?

Life is beautiful, Aioli. But living? Living = pain.

I tried to follow. But, suddenly, the whole house tilted. My legs went weak. I couldn’t find a center of balance. Everything looked like an optical illusion. Solid shapes merged together like beads of water on a pane of glass. Colors pulsed + changed shades in a way that made it seem like they were breathing. I leaned against the balustrade. From there, the front door looked to be in another area code.

Just then, words from Pauleen’s letter came to me.

But I know it’s there. I feel it when I think about you, Aioli.

The Bedfords = bottom of the stairs, double-checking their luggage, it seemed.

Ha! Thingamajig, they never saw me coming.

Or, really, I should say that they never saw me falling.

But boy o boy, I know they felt me falling.


When Cassandra toppled, her head must’ve whacked the floor hard b/c she looked unconscious. Mr. Bedford kneeled over her, trying to wake her up. When he saw this = pointless, he turned to me.

But I was already on the move again => through the house => out the back door => toward the sycamore tree.

And where did I get the strength to keep going? No idea. I wasn’t even thinking about it, I guess. Due to, in my mind, I saw Pauleen like how she looked when I’d first met her. So young! So bright! No, thingamajig, not love at first sight. I = too stunned at first sight. I couldn’t believe someone this beautiful was sitting so close to me. In my hand-me-down car whose smell of sweaty socks + beef jerky I could never get rid of. Listening to Xmas music. Driving around, talking about everything + nothing. And the smell of her perfume! I could smell it now, even, as I wrapped my arms around the sycamore tree. It filled w/me longing. I longed, thingamajig. I longed for things that were gone and never coming back. I longed for futures imagined but never realized.

I started climbing up the tree, but only made it to the second branch when something fell over my head/face. It pulled/yanked. I fell. Standing over me was Mr. Bedford who = holding the Net.

Feel your ending, he said. Accept what must be—

At which point Slick fell from high above + landed right on top of Mr. Bedford.

But, oh, thingamajig. There = no time to celebrate. Due to Slick looked dead. Oh, it was awful. Seeing him like that. Lying there. As though asleep, but less alive, somehow.

And, yes, thingamajig, I know I’ve had my issues w/devices. But I can’t deny that when I saw the device in Slick’s hand? I’m not sure I’ve ever felt happier.



My apologies, well sort of diary journal thingamajig. I haven’t been writing too much lately. Due to, for the last few days, I + Slick + Isaac = hospitalized, getting the poison flushed from our bodies.

All the doctors/nurses who saw us were surprised that we = still alive.

But, for some reason, I couldn’t agree.

After I recovered fully, several detectives came to speak w/me. Figuring there = no point in lying anymore, I recounted the events of the last month to the best of my abilities. And, turns out? Honesty really does = best policy. B/c not only were the detectives super/duper nice + understanding and agreed to release Pauleen immediately, they also let me know that, very soon, I’d be receiving lots + lots of reward $! Due to, apparently, the Bedfords = high up on Most Wanted list!

Pauleen + I are now working on officially adopting Isaac. Soon he + Slick will = brothers. Already they play like puppies and fill our home w/sounds of their laughter.

And, maybe best of all? With all that reward $ coming in? I’ve decided to finally open up Cones Cones Cones later this summer!

Anyways... Pauleen’s saying dinner’s ready so I should get going...

But I’ll see you tomorrow, old pal.

(P.S., thank you, thingamajig. For everything.)

About the Author

Daniel Bartkowiak

Daniel Bartkowiak is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago. His work has been featured in issues of Thrice Literary, The Write Launch, Free Spirit, and Allium. He is 27 years old.