You Got a Point

Pan settled into the cash register. He’d made a silent agreement to never bitch-slap it so long as it agreed to open by the third try. Today it complied. He tickled its Abrahams, and went to the bank to change out some of the show-offs. He was pretty much ready for another seven-hour sentence; a mind’s potatoes peeling few bothers for traction. He went to the magazine rack to grab the new Reader’s Digest and kicked up his feet to finish a story about the Most Confusing Graduation Gift Ever.

Some guy walked in before Pan’d meandered through an entire paragraph. The man was poised with an air of confidence which Pan prayed would wilt as retardant for all else. Confidence bounded back to the Coke, took the second bottle back, returned to the counter.

“Ass-pocket of brandy,” he said with a flip of his hand. Pan set down the Digestand swiveled to comply.

“How’s your day so far?” Pan asked in his turn.

The guy looked up from his wad of cash like he’d heard a faucet leak. Then he relaxed, and Pan appreciated the eye contact. “Oh man,” he said. “Good, thanks—I suppose. Ready to lighten my load.” He jiggled the bottle. Dork, Pan’s mind hiccupped. Guy continued as Pan handled his change, “It’s been one hell of—well, not really ‘one of those weeks.’ Or quite. You know, in the generic sense I guess.” He looked out the front door, egg-hunting his thoughts. “It’s been very interesting,” he decided.


“I saw my cousin a couple days ago. Hadn’t seen him since I was a kid because our parents –mine and his- had a really ugly falling out. Elephant Man-ugly. Jesus. But yeah, I guess he hadn’t seen me since I was a kid. I’m about ten years younger than ‘im. The youngest of all my cousins so I’ve always been easy to not really think about or remember. Does that make sense?”


The man continued, “But so he wouldn’t shut the fuck up about how much I’ve grown.” He put his hands on the ice-cream cooler below him and leaned in tiny bit. His voice wasn’t low but still sounded like a whisper. “Then he starts saying how handsome I’ve become. Which, I mean, whatever right? Family says shit like that sometimes.”

Pan thought about it. “Not mine.”

“Anyway, I didn’t mind. Compliments are always okay, to different degrees, depending on… whatever, their degree I guess. But he asks if he can stay at my folks’ house that night after dinner, ‘cause he felt too loose after taking twelve rounds with the bottle. But then he talks my parents into thinking that I’m too drooped to drive as well. I was sucking these back”—wiggles the brandy again—“so whatever, okay, I say fuck it.” He paused, pondering the air. He looked like he was about to jump into some cold water. “I’m sleeping on the couch, not a hide-a-bed. I remember feeling like I was being pulled out of some fog, and finding my bearings from a boozy coma. Then I feel, er, I realize that I can feel the cold couch leather on my ass. So I flipped to, all confused, my pants are off? I was right, dude. Then… I fucking realize there’s someone’s tongue just creeping all slowly up my balls.” He hunched his shoulders and mangled the fingers of his empty hand, moving it upward slowly. “So I—”

The door chimed. The Cousin Victim assumed casual, and Pan saw his hue sharpen. A woman walked in, nodded to Pan and went back to the Odwalla fridge. The man watched her, then looked back at Pan. “Anyway,” he said, at conversational volume. “Family. The tie that fuckin binds, right?” He grabbed his goods and, with a parting “thanks for this,” made his way out the door.

“Whoa,” Pan whispered.

The day trotted along. Inspired by Cousin Dick Suck, he created a bunch of fake scenarios for people who would come in, just to entertain himself; his life began to feel like the backstage of his imagination. That is, until Tony came in, followed by Nole. Unrelated. Or so they thought. Tony nodded to Pan.

“Hey Panis,” he said, “what’s smokin’? You know your ‘stache will look a lot better if you clean up that shadow.”

“Hi Tony. Thanks for the advice. How’s life in the slow mind?”

Tony shuffled back to the 40s. “Oh, you know. Whatever.”

“That kind of a day, eh?”

“What kind is that?” Tony rebounded, 40 in hand.

“Nothing.” He looked outside.

Nole passed them both and went to go browse some magazines, glancing up at Pan and Tony occasionally like he was watching a golf game.

“If you mean ready to go swimming in suds? You are correct, sir.” 40 on the counter, Tony was excavating his back pocket. Pan noted it was a Country Club. Tony continued, “My fuckin dog ran off.” Nole looked up. “My ol’ Barker Barrett. All I can hear are my fucking thoughts without his woofs. He’s loud, as you know. And big as a horse. Not a Budweiser horse though.”


“More pony-sized.”

“Yeah,” Pan said. “He’s terrifying.”

“And I had him tied up good in the yard. But I… shit, dude. I came home from work and I just… I don’t know how but he’s gonzo.”

Nole came up with the new Tattoos and Piercings magazine. “K9 Ganker,” he said. Pan and Tony looked at him. “He’s been hitting this hood I see.” Two measures ticked before, “You guys haven’t heard of K9 Ganks?” They both shook their head, Pan freezing his face into focus. Nole continued: “I guess some guy has been calculating it for decades. The K9 Ganker they call him. Er, maybe what he calls himself, I’m not sure. Maybe you guys don’t read the paper. He writes letters to the Chronicle and insists they only appear in the, you know, actual paper edition. ‘No online doggie treats,’ he’s been known to say. But don’t worry. Each dog has been returned safely. Some even think it might be a rig. That each of the owners could actually be… oh never mind. I really shouldn’t.” He looked at his watch. “But expect your dog back in one day, or a rough fourteen and a half hours. And I do mean rough. If it’s him, the phantom rig of collective… shit, there I go again. Give mea muzzle, sheesh. Here you go, P.” He threw some bills on the counter. “I gotta make tracks before my sponsor finds out I came here, to the aisle of temptation.” With that, he made way out the door.

Tony slowly turned his head back to Pan.

“This city’s getting crazier by the day,” Pan said. “That’s Nole. A good friend. He comes in almost every day and predicts hella shit. The Royal Wedding. 9/11. Some stuff that hasn’t even happened yet. Well, I guess that’s the definition of a prediction. Right?”

“Riiiight,” Tony trailed as he took his 40 and opened it. Pan watched his mind fumble until he nodded. “That would be nuts,” Tony said. He turned, tipping the beer at his mouth as he drag-stepped out the door.

A few minutes later Nole came back.

“How about that one?”

Pan clicked a digit at him. “Are we doing this again?” he said.

“Damn right.”


Nole took a breath like he was disappointed. “I’ve been thinking about it. When we were young. All the way to almost thirty. We used to really live. Shit like that, existential games. Making people think.”

“Right, but our only goal was to make them think, ‘What the fuck?’ Not very challenging, nor… I don’t know. There’s no real point.”

“The point is to turn off the numbness in their brains, dude. Make them enlightened in their confusion.”

“Huh. I’ll buy that, Confucious.”

“More Decartes.”

“Stop it,” Pan said. “Anyway, did you hear me just now though? I got him too on a follow-up. Kinda.”

“Nope. Only counts when we’re together.”

“Fuck that. I busted backup on the fly.”

“I saw how he looked when he left. Pretty all right, but mostly residual from my mind-fuck. I think you mostly just tripped him out. Not really a ‘what the fuck.’”

Pan thought about it. “Fair. I guess. But isn’t a mind fuck just a trip-out?”

“There’s a subtle difference. Did you know about that though? The K9 Ganker? That was actually true.”

“Shut it. You can’t do it to me. It doesn’t count.”

“No, I’m serious,” Nole said. “True scoop. I made up all the stuff about the Chronicle and all the little details, but someone has really been stealing dogs and returning them. The dogs look all fucked up though, and never really act right afterwards. Some think he’s been boning them. Which, I mean, I don’t see what else he’d be doing. Every dog has had gnarly diarrhea afterwards. Like butt-leaks. I was gonna get to that with dude, but it didn’t flow so I didn’t force it.”

“Butt-leaks. That’s brute.”

“Anyway, on a lighter note: How’s shit? Wanna go see My Blood Runs Cold? There’s a showing at the Alamo tonight. Cara-Beth’s at her cousin’s house for the weekend for her birthday. The cousin’s birthday.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah. I can’t go, thank God, ‘cause I have to work.”

“Huh,” Pan reflected. “Her cousin.”

“Yeah. She’s pretty hot but that family’s crazy. I’m good on it.”

Pan looked into the shallow distance. “Cousin,” he said again.

“What the fuck is your deal?”

“Oh, some guy just came in and told me about when he was passed out at his parents’ house, his cousin—a dude—tried to suck his dick. Or did kinda. Licked his balls.” Pan chuckled.

“Wow. Crazy. Oh shit, that reminds me. Are you ready for the ultimate?”

“Ultimate what?”

“C’mon, what we were just talking about. The Game.”

“Oh. Always. But I’m nervous, due to the source of your inspiration.”

“Oh,” Nole said. “Not—no. Nothing that crazy. Jesus. My cousins are all girls anyway.” Pan pondered with abstract affection on all Nole’s cousins. Nole carried on: “I just thought of something to do to Cara-Beth’s friend Kelly. She’s going too. To the cousin’s birthday, since I can’t go and C’s codependent. But Cara-Beth accidentally showed me how to get into Kelly’s crib. I took her to help feed Kelly’s dog last week when Kelly was out of town. This could be our magnum opus though, dude. Just imagine the head trip we could instigate. We could change her whole concept of perception.”

“By making her wonder if she’s lost her mind or has a stalker?” Pan pondered. “Hm. Makes sense. Does she have any roommates?”

“I don’t know, but the place is pinner. I doubt it. Unless one of them sleeps in the living room or something.”


“You’re right. She could have a roommate. We’ll just have to be watchful. Sly. Menacing.”


“Yeah. They’ll both be back tomorrow.”

“Meet me here at eleven,” Pan said.


Nole took off, flipping through his magazine.

*          *          *

They slipped through the nightscape, smearing for any syllable’s perfect accent until they were at Kelly’s house, past downtown’s lights and into a stretch’s depths. Even the silence sounded lonely, making the heartbeat felt in Pan’s ears feel like a leaking faucet.

They went to Kelly’s alleged house, and it was shuttered black. Nole found the key. They opened the door and stepped inside. Both holding their breath. They stood draped in its inky quiet.

“This is weird,” Pan whispered.

“You don’t have to whisper,” Nole whispered. He then nudged his head to the deep and they made way.

The found an open room with a bed and flicked on the light.

“Here,” Nole said. “I bet—Je-sus!” he spurted as Kelly’s dog looked up at them from its little bed in the corner. It was a Boston terrier that looked like it had just shot up heroin. It didn’t bark, just lifted its head and sniffed, holding their eyes.

“At least he’s chill,” Pan said.

“Unless he’s trying to guard the house by giving intruders a goddamn heart attack. I almost squirted myself.” Nole regained his composure and moved over to the dresser. It had a mirror and all the furnishings of a jewelry explosion; shrapneled with a few scattered pens, a glass case, a Fabreze bottle. He pulled out the top drawer with jerked persuasion, and after a couple minor injuries and what Pan took to be at least one string of drool, replaced it with the third drawer down. Pan was enlivened by a glimpse of the top drawer’s rolling waves of panty fabric. Even though the panties seemed huge, at least from what the glance could denote.

“Good one,” he said as he moved to her bookshelf. He looked at the titles. “She’s got a wide variety here. Wow. Some good shit though. Mark Vonnegut? Dang, way to be transparent, copycat.”

“Nerd. But actually I think that’s Kurt’s kid.”

“…And so on.” Pan began pulling out the entirety of one bookshelf, the second one down. He replaced them each in reverse, displaying only their naked pages. Pan stood back to admire.

“Thought-provoking,” said Nole.

“It’s what’s inside that counts.”

Next, they traded the placement of two posters.

They surveyed the room looking for ideas. Pan finally said, “I think we should maybe stop there. Leave it subtle yet impossible to ignore.”

“You’re right. Like how What’s-his-face knew David was done before he put the arms on—” Nole’s thought was semi-colon’d by the rumble of the garage door.

They both assumed the crouched stance of alert. “Fuck dude,” Pan hissed.

“Seriously. She must have a roommate. Let’s just hide under the bed until they go back to their room or whatever. We’ll finally learn the perspective of a childhood monster.”

They flipped off the light and slid under the bed easily. The dog watched. They moved around the riffraff of boxes and shoes to obscure them as much as possible. “Goddamn she has big-ass feet,” whispered Pan.

“Shh. I never noticed. But, shh.”

“Yo!” came a man’s voice from inside the house, a door opening and closing with a surety. “What’s the word?… Kay… I guess, but shouldn’t we—?… Oh, sure… All right, let me grab it. Peace, see ya at the shooting range.”

A tempo thundered toward them. They both squeezed their muscles to miniaturize. The bedroom light came on. A pair of Reeboks with orange laces appeared, stopping for a moment in the doorway. In they shuffled. “Fuckin Jesus. Hey, Marco Polo.” A man crouched over the dog, whose butt-nub was gyrating. “I saw that this light was on when I pulled up. Did you turn it off, you freak? It’s okay. Will you tell your idiot-ass aunt that you’re not afraid of the dark? Bitch is gonna run me ragged with our electricity bill. She already got that extra-wattage dildo.” Pan and Nole both squinted their lips and eyes. The man stood and walked over to the closet, relieving Pan by having his back to the bookshelf. The guy cracked open the closet, reached in, pulled out a sawed-off shotgun. They could hear it cracked open, admired, and snapped back. He then marched over to the dresser and stopped. They were facing his backside and could see his reflection in the mirror that was perched atop. His eyes were burning a hole in the drawers. He finally yanked out the top one. Slammed it shut. Did the same to number three. He dug around in the chonies and pulled out some shotgun shells. He put them in his jacket pocket and turned. Pan and Nole tried to be as still as the boxes; even thinking felt too loud. The guy pulled out his phone and sat down on the bed, legs and feet barring them in. They both slowly exhaled as the mattress reverse-rainbowed toward them, just nibbling against their belt loops.

“Alright, Shortstick. The drawers have spoken. Loud tonight. I’ll be there when he walks.”

He stood up, once again almost creating two pairs of soiled drawers as he bent down to kiss the world’s most impartial dog. He then clipped off the light and thundered to the distance.

They were rock solid until they heard a heard a door outside slam shut, the garage door close, and an engine’s guttural fade.

“Holy fuuuuuuuuuckins,” came with Pan’s exhale.

“We just saw some shit, dude.”

“I think we may have also, kinda, just caused some shit.”

“We got the ultimate points.”

“So hard.”

“Hope we didn’t just kill someone.”

They ambled from below the bed and floated through the hallway, smothered in a thought-blanket. They gazed with absence about the kitchen, illuminated by a single streetlamp through the window above the sink. Pan noticed cheese in the cupboard and had to stop himself from instinctually putting it in the fridge. Without mention they went to the front window and stared, like they were opening a fortune cookie.

A car drove by and they twitched. It slowed down, looked like it aimed to stop, and they ducked. They shuttered immobile. Pan spotted the kitchen island that held an Icee. “He came back for—“ he started to say before they heard a slow tempo ringing the back porch steps. Nole was already darting toward what appeared to be the one door in the room. A closet. They slipped in among Christmas lights, a vacuum, a few jackets, and a stack of puzzles. The closet door’s latch clicked duet to that of the front door.

Their breathlessness was roiled within the dark. They heard footsteps approach the kitchen, then its island, the Icee thereupon. Icee. Told ya, Pan said to himself. As though his mind were texting a retort, his pocket jingled two notes. Bing Bong. Their eyes darted a conversation. There was a quickened roar of footsteps.

The door swung open and there stood their Reebok-clad acquaintance. He made an affirming version of eye contact with Nole, then Pan, then he held out a hand. “Phones,” he said. The two squirmed the confines to produce one, then the other. The guy pulled out his own in a symphonic flip, and shut the closet door with surprising fragility. They heard the latch click as dude leaned against it.

His voice sounded like cotton swaddled through the door. “Hey… No, nothing like that. The score has gained two instruments… Yup. Hiding in the house… Your guess—not mine. I imagine they did. I don’t wanna mess up the place, fucking Margaret just cleaned, ya know. I figure I bring them along. Maybe I could even— …No…Okay, sure. Good point…I’ll bring them with me alive…See you in a shake or two…Right.”

The door opened.

“Don’t say shit,” he proclaimed to their open mouths. “Come with me.”

They followed.

He put them in the back of his Corolla before circling around to the driver’s side. “Sorry you can’t sit gunner,” he said. “My idiot dog took a shit there the other day and I think there might still be some. I get whiffs.” He jammed at the console and away they rolled.

Pan was reluctant to exchange a glance with Nole, but his eye toppled over a glimpse of Nole’s own, bearing down hard. The moment Pan looked over, Nole mouthed the words, What. The. Fuck. Dude. Pan nodded. He figured one of them had to act, since Nole had caught a case of silence…

“So,” Pan said, wincing as the man’s eyes darted to him in the rearview. “What’s the plan?”

“You tell me, fellas,” the man said. “Would it be off cue to say you had a little plan of your own? And here you two are, two men hiding together in the closet. The symbolic civil parallels make me cringe.”

After waiting a beat, Nole spoke. “Oh,” and Pan was relieved to see he’d found purchase. “Kelly didn’t tell you,” Nole went on. “I get it. We’re the Conrad cousins, he and I.” The tires hummed. Nole continued. “Hello? The Conrad Cousins?” He looked over at Pan, who tried to exchange an air of the faintest clue. Nole continued: “Shit. I guess we really are the best. We didn’t want to add any crinkles to the exchange, so we’d been practicing invisibility.”

“Better keep practicing,” the man said.

“Yes, well. Hm. Anyway, we were staking out that closet to make sure it would be big enough to put him.”

The man stopped at the stop sign and bent his head back. “So we fancy to put him in a closet? ‘Kay. But why would you two be involved? Why the fuck wouldn’t have Shortstick have told me when I talked to him just now?”

“Cause he doesn’t know,” Nole pushed. “Neither you nor him were supposed to know. It’s better that way. Trust me.”

Pan chipped in: “You remember the Necessity Clone of 2011? That was our idea. Even the Silly Putty. I mean, it wasn’t our plan at first, but we told them to use it to make the cast for his genitals.”

They saw the man making calculations as he pressed on, slow. Finally, he said, “Oh. Sure. I remember the Necessity Clone of 2011.” Pan and Nole took turns, each holding up an index finger italicized, nodding once.

Nole said, “So listen. Since we’ve been put in this, together, as a team, I say we go ahead and talk it out. The plan.”

Pan blinked kudos at Nole.

The driver seemed to be mulling it over. “I better call Shortstick,” he said. He picked up his phone.

“Yes?” came the voice on speaker. “You better be on your way with those clowns, whoever the fuck they are, ‘cause I’ve been here for ten minutes now and still haven’t seen Kelly. Did you text her the code word?”

“Oh,” the driver said. “I figured you would since I got these hostage guys.”

“Fuck. Okay. Anyway. Um—“

“Speaking of which, these guys claim to have been sent by her. Kelly. There was an alleged, um, arrangement I guess. That she had failed to mention—“

“Fuck me,” Shortstick said. “That’s so Kelly.”

“Is it? It is, huh? Like that—“


“The pizza. Right,” the driver said. “So they’re with me now. We’ll be there at the rendezvous in about four minutes. I just wanted to—“

“What you wanted to do was get here now, fool,” and the line went dead.

“Ohhh the pizza,” Nole said. “She told us about that. Did you know that she did that because of what she knows? Really what she put us through. And that, is this: algorithms lie. Obviously.” They could almost hear the man staring at his thoughts. “Like that guy there,” Nole pointed out the window. All three looked over.

“Oh yeah,” the driver said. “A single-wheel skateboard.”

“They’re coming from all angles, my friends. We have to be constantly alert.”

The car pebbled on until they finally found a good place to rest. They parked. “All right,” the driver said. “There’s the bushes.”

Pan said, “How about we go over it once. Since we weren’t even there for your guys’ meetings. And something could slip if we don’t do one last check for cracks.”

“Sure,” said the driver. “Good idea.” Pan tried not to look startled at how easy that had been. The driver dove right in, “We’ll be in those bushes there. Shortstick is already across the plaza, waiting. Kelly has been tracking each of the K9 Ganker’s abductions. She’s been waiting for, well, as you both know—“

“Mmhmm,” in unison.

“Kelly’s been funneling down her theories, and she’s induced it down to only two possible suspects. We know either way that the Ganker lives in this area, close to the plaza; and each of the ganks has shown a progressive pattern, from away, and inching closer back toward his home. The classic progress of a crime wave. All leading to a pinnacle of justice. To right here. Right now. Watching the world wake up—anyway.” They each exchanged an eye of preparedness. The driver continued: “Kelly made a series of signals, left for me in my room”—they both almost guffawed beneath this sudden development, but held tight—”for when it was a sure thing that K9 Ganker will be striking his next victim. In a spot pre-determined by Kelly. And we are to then, meaning now, wait for him to go to The House on McNamara, between the plaza and Fifth, where we’re certain to behold his grizzly intentions. As soon as we see him, well, you guys know the re—the re-ghit—“ He heaved. “Sorry, I’m squeamish. I don’t love the thought of murder. But the only thing more ghastly is the befouling of a dog’s purity, as K9 Ganker has been seen to achieve. The perv. All those returned dogs being stricken with a loose ability to hold in turds is the sad reason we’ll have to… elecht!” He heaved again. Pan noticed him steal a look at the front seat, and the aroma wafting therein. “Anyway.”

Pan felt his face swim to the roots of his hair. Murder? Even of a pet-a-file, it wasn’t one of his life’s goals. Still, this was where their wiles had led them, and he was willing to see it out, whatever it may bring. They all crouched in the greenery, eyes wide and lips tight.

Suddenly they heard the driver whisper, “Oh shit,” as he grabbed his sawed-off and crouched like he was on the line of scrimmage. “There’s Shortstick.” They looked over to see a man with dark hair, a black shirt buttoned to his collar, sleeves rolled three-fourths up, and cocked like he was daring himself not to breathe. “Something’s going down.”

Pan whispered, “Time to execute.”

“Both plan,” answered Nole, “and man.” He laughed out a snort.

“Shh,” said the driver.

Suddenly there appeared a man walking like the ground had nerves. There was a small dog suckered into his grasp. They watched Shortstick fall behind him while asserting his glare toward their bush.

“Let us move,” the driver hissed.

Pan and Nole flowed into his wake, watching his gestures that sang to surround. They went a few steps ahead and to the Perv’s left. They slid into the greys of town’s forgotten agenda, where the poor and the forgotten rambled. They moved down by the river, closing in on the bridge.

The alleged K9 Ganker turned down Seventh Street and on they pressed. The bridge finally scrolled out before them, a silence underlined by their movement. Alone. Pan had never experienced such desolation as the Seventh Street Bridge on a weeknight. The only voices were those of the river’s jogging footfalls.

They could all scarcely feel more obvious, retaining the formation they’d found at the plaza, and Pan felt the man’s eyes dragging behind them like a fishing line. Then, he stopped. The K9 Ganker looked over the bridge and the wind picked up. Pan felt his mouth moving as all else were frozen, watching the man’s necktie dashed over his left shoulder and trembling into the breeze. “Just be cool,” the driver yelled.

The pup-fucker saw them all, Shortstick and the trio. They were crowding in on him, and the man said, “Here we are.” They each took a step. “My desperation befitting,” he continued. “Even the… world’s… hopes… and…” They were closing upon him, tap by tap against the bridge’s floorboards. The suspect continued: “…fruitful…desires.” He put the dog down, set a hand on the railing and Pan saw Shortstick steady himself to leap. He noticed Shortstick’s freakishly long arms and figured him close enough to grab the man.

“Hey guys,” Pan said. “Be sure not to let this doggie-fucker leap. He’s sure to be carried to freedom by—“ The man crouched with both hands on the railing, just as Shortstick broke into stride half a step before the rest. The K9 Fucker hucked himself with the precision of a sawhorse gymnast up and over the railing.

Shortsick’s hand grazed the man’s Jetstream, yelling “fuck!” as he leaned over the rail in his wake. Pan joined him and looked over. He saw, over the rushing creek, the timed sways of feet, body, and so on, held by the man’s necktie, which had trailed to the seam between the bridge’s joists. There it had wedged with surety firm enough to snap the dog fucker’s neck. The legs twitched a conversation to the his newly-skewed spine, the propulsion of a blood vessel’s hurrah epicenter-ed at the tie’s grasp. Then, the tie slipped and down he splashed into the river, where he came to bob downstream, into the night’s darkness.

“Huh,” said Shortstick. “Mission… accomplished?”

Pan opened his mouth to speak while Nole saved him the bother: “She’s been here all along,” Nole said. “Kelly. Testing to see if we’ll be able to follow her next to the Kitty Shitty. Some guy down in Petaluma who’s twice as rich as this guy. Upon whom her inheritance is now shared. Provided we, he and I”—nodding toward Pan—“bring over our Polaroids.”

Their silence held enough volume to make Pan want to seal the deal. “You got a point,” he said. “We better make tracks.” The question mark seemed to explode. The driver looked over the bridge and Pan said to him, “The tie that binds, right?”

The driver gave them a ride back to Kelly’s house where their car was parked.

*          *          *

Two days later Pan was sitting behind the counter, reading. In walked a face that he remembered with little more clarity than most dreams.

“Oh shit,” he finally said. “Hey Shorts. I mean Shortstick.”

The man walked to the counter. “Hey… what’s your name?”


Pan? Jesus. Is your brother named Pot? Anyway, I just wanted to say, I liked your style the other night.”

“Well, thanks for letting us carry on. After.”

Shortstick pondered, then nodded, slow. He said, “That’s really why I wanted to come in here. You guys were inspiring that night, after my idiot partner told me all the garbage you both spoon-fed him, I thought, Fuck, these assholes are actual professionals.”


“Which was sort of why I wanted to come by. I just wanted to really make it clear, if you sing out a single note of this opera, our boys will step from the shadows. And wink you both from existence. Is that completely clear?”

“Well, I mean. That’s pretty straightforward. So, yeah. Clear. My mouth is zippered. Zipped.” He vaguely gestured toward his lips. “Anyway, our word is our bond. Kelly made us do some unruly things to prove our allegiance.” Dammit, he thought. Why couldn’t Nole be here? Such pointage for nothing.

“Right on,” Shortsick held out a hand. “Good to work with you making the dogs of this town safe. Hit me up if you ever need anything weird or sketchy.”


Shortstick turned to leave. “Check ya later.”

Just as he stepped into the doorway, the gent from two days ago who had spoken of being nut-licked by his own cousin walked in. Pan watched him lock eyes with Shortstick and pause.

The nut-lickee said, “Oh shit. Hey Shortly. Wow. Uh. Is Aunt Shell here too?” He darted eyes to Pan, who tried to look uninterested. Nut Lick’s color assumed purple. “Dang it, I forgot to pay the meter,” he said and rushed away.

Shortstick looked at his hands for a moment before raising one and glancing at Pan. “Later,” he said. Trailing behind the man as he flowed back into daylight, Pan could hear Shortstick calling out, “Hey! Jeremhiah! Psst! Hey! Come back! C’mon! Let’s talk. We’re family!” and so on until it dissolved into the distance.

“Small world,” muttered Pan. He picked up his book and started reading.