A novel by EJ Spode.
Chapter 18: I reconnoiter the Stockman
I will be entirely honest with you about something. Everyone said that Penny was still jonesing for me, but you know, people say shit. Maybe she was. Or maybe she just wanted to see me and say hi. But more than all that I was beginning to wonder if it was time to move on. I mean I had met some exceptional women at school, and who knows, maybe Penny and I were stuck in a rut that we were never going to get out of. And I had no idea what she was into now. Maybe she was into ripped guys that sold Massey Fergusson tractors. Maybe she was with a farmer that looked like Leonardo DiCaprio. Who fucking knew?
That last thought struck me as false. Penny had always had a thing for artists – creative types. She dug me because I was into writing. Obviously she was still into that. But had she grown in her literary tastes? Would she track what I had been writing for the last three months? Forget about whether she liked it; would she understand it? At all? Probably the answer was yes, but still, who knew? All these thoughts were going through my head as I was skipping down the road in my loaner Subaru.
My phone started chirping, and I fumbled around in my front left pants pocket trying to get a handle on it, and only managed to get a grip on it after it stopped. Apparently not having learned my lesson from the night before I checked my messages. There were five texts from Athena. None of them were happy. Then I got notice of a new voicemail. I accessed it.
“EJ, I know you are with Circe. I’m really getting tired of trying to help you; you don’t deserve Penny. You are on your own now.”
This wasn’t good. The fact that I slept with Circe didn’t mean that I didn’t love Penny. Penny was still my number 1. She was the girl I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. It’s just that I was scared. What if the chemistry was no longer there? Clearly, I had to find out.
I decided that the place to start was by calling Meej.
“Yo Meej, it’s EJ.”
“Yo EJ!! Where you been, dude? You alive? You ok?”
“Long story. I’ll fill you in one of these days. But in the meantime, I was thinking about dropping by the Stockman tonight and checking shit out.”
“Cool, great news, you’re gonna hate the place now though, it’s full of fucking phonies.”
“Yeah…no doubt; what time you going to be there?”
“I’m there now! You gonna join the prosetry slam tomorrow?”
“Dunno bro; see you in a few.”
Of course I lied about the “dunno” part. I had every intention of going to the prosetry slam and kicking some Sodak ass, but I didn’t want him blabbing that all over the place.
Meej was an interesting case. Penny and I more or less adopted him in high school, or rather, I should say that she adopted him and I tolerated him. He was just this lost fucked up kid a few years behind us in school and he had a nasty drug habit among other things, but his big problem was his attitude, which was not attractive. Everyone and everything sucked, and everyone and everything was fake. Now I’m prepared to agree that there are a lot of fake things and fake people in this world, but Meej couldn’t reliably discriminate between the things that were truly fake, the things that were just marginally fake, and the things that were genuine. He just had these lenses that told him it was all fake.
I don’t even get why he was so negative. He came from this solid middle-class family. His parents were from somewhere in Latin America, but they came to Sioux Falls to work for Citibank’s credit card division (which was in South Dakota because of our nonexistent usury laws). I met them a few times and they seemed pleasant enough, but, you know, into their work. They were also into assimilating, and I guess that tracked as phoniness to Meej.
But, whatever; Penny had a soft spot in her heart for Meej and over the years he gradually won me over too. He was loyal as fuck to Penny and that counted for something. He also had an artist’s soul and he was a reliably good writer – at times he was even excellent. He also had mad knowledge about classical meter. From time to time he would write me emails in dactylic hexameter. For example, here is one he sent me just before my winter break:
Subject: A Homecoming in Dactylic Hexameter
When you get home from that shit school get yer ass back to the Stockman.
Our fave bar has been ruined by posers and loserz and worse stuff.
Place is all scumbags and pervs now, drooling all over yer girlfriend.
Penny is blowing them off, but, seri’sly you gotta show up.
Last week Athena was there with me checking it out and like she agreed.
That place needs to be purged of its fail and its loozerness right now.
Stockman’s gotta be saved at ALL COST cuz it is OUR place.
Dude could write. He was just a pain in the ass to be around, which was the problem.
I finally made it to the Stockman around midnight. The Stockman is Sioux Falls’ answer to New York’s Flatiron Building. OK, it is only two stories tall, but it is skinny and stands pretty much on its own – meaning it is not sandwiched between other buildings – and … well that is probably where the similarities end. It was a quality piece of architecture though, at least by prairie standards. As noted earlier, it sat next to some active railroad tracks. Inside it was set up so that the center of the bar had a two-story ceiling, which was dramatic, and there was a second floor balcony level that looked down on the main bar. It was ideal for Penny’s events.
When I pulled up, Meej was outside smoking a cigarette. He seemed happy to see me, which always made me suspicious.
“EJ! Welcome home!”
“Heya Meej, what’s going on in there?”
“Nothin’ good, just a lot of assholes and losers. Have you seen Penny yet?”
“Naw, I recon’ I’ll do that now.”
Now like I explained earlier, my big plan was to come in the night before the slam, pretending to not be into her at all, and then come back the next night and, as it were, show my cards. The theory was that I didn’t want to come in the first night acting all into her, because that might turn her off, and who knows, there could well be competition that I don’t know about. I didn’t want to show my hand until I knew what I was up against.
Before I went in I bummed a cigarette off of Meej, who was wearing a bright red hunting hat. It required comment.
“Meej, what’s with the hunting cap, you going hunting?”
“Hunting assholes. This place is thick with them.”
“Kind of like shooting fish in a barrel, though.”
“It’s not for sport, EJ, gotta cull the herd of losers.”
“Well… good luck I guess.”
I dropped my cigarette butt and ground it into the frozen pavement with my not sufficiently warm Nikes and went inside, wondering if Meej was possibly tweaked out enough to go on a shooting rampage. It’s the sort of thing that could happen. It’s not even like the usual mass killing thing where all the neighbors say, “we never saw it coming.” When Meej takes out a dozen with his Browning Automatic, everyone will say, “yeah, we pretty much knew this was going to happen sooner or later.”
Inside, the bar was busy, and Meej had not been wrong in the email he sent me when I was still at school. Penny was behind the bar, and it was indeed lined with losers. You know, people that think they are the shit because they are world famous in Sioux Falls.
I walked up to the bar. Penny had her back to me, doing something with the cash register.
“Hey bartender, can I get a tequila-grapefruit when you have a chance?”
Penny spun around. “EJ!” She said that with a register that was somewhere between excited and annoyed and maybe also uncertain. She ducked under the bar’s service station and ran up to me and hugged me. It was a brief hug and then she pulled back keeping her hands clasped on my forearms holding me at a distance that was both friend-zonie and appropriate for angry words. We looked like two ancient Romans using the pretext of a greeting to check each other for hidden weapons.
“EJ, what the fuck, why didn’t you tell me you were coming in?”
“Well…it was a surprise!”
“Yeah, a surprise.”
“EJ I didn’t need a surprise I just wanted to see you.”
“Well I’m glad to see you too.”
I guess that came out as a snotty response on my part, but what the fuck. She hadn’t seen me since Kat’s funeral and now she was picking fights?
“When are you going back to school?”
“Day after tomorrow.”
“Day after tomorrow.”
“Yeah … unfortunately… uh, gotta go back day after tomorrow.”
“EJ you should have let me know you were coming in; I have to work.”
“Yeah I get it bb.”
“Come sit at the bar we can talk while I work.”
Just then the dude to my right addressed her.
“Hey gorgeous, can you make me a rum and coke?”
Fuck, it was Corky Bruce – well-known giant pain in the ass. How do I explain this guy? He was one of those fat guys that think they are the embodiment of masculinity. You know: Beard, plaid shirt, cowboy boots, and an endless supply of hunting and fishing stories.
The worst part about Corky though is that he thought he was a writer. This absurd thought was hatched from the fact that he had been employed at a small town newspaper as a kind of poor man’s sports columnist at large. His column was called Corky’s Corner and he would write about hunting, fishing on the local lakes – his ice fishing stories in particular were popular. Some of his columns were republished in books (well, Café Press “books”) and they had titles like “Ice Fishing Days” and “Pheasant Season.”
The thing with Corky’s writing is that he must have some weird form of speech aphasia that makes it impossible for him to use adjectives. Would someone not use adjectives on purpose? It was hard to imagine. Here is an example of what I’m talking about:
“Christmas Day I made it a point to get up in the morning and go ice fishing. This was my policy. I did it every year for 20 years. I don’t know why, but the fish like to bite on Christmas Day. They think they are enjoying their Christmas dinner. They think the minnows are just minnows. But the fish are in error. That minnow is on a hook. And that hook is on a line. And I am at the other end of that line. And I am about to catch me some fish for my breakfast on Christmas Day.”
He then went on and on in excruciating detail, yet absent of modifiers. That is a strange talent; I have to give him credit for that. Not everyone can run on pointlessly without the help of adjectives.
I decided to fuck with him and see if I could get him to use an adjective.
“Hi Mr. Bruce, I think we met once, my name is EJ.”
“Call me Corky son, how ya doing?”
“Really good, thanks Mr. Br…er, Corky. Have you caught any fish lately?”
“Oh I’ll say I have! Caught a walleye at the dam. It weighed ten pounds!”
“Wow, so it was a ten-pound walleye?”
“Yup, it weighed ten pounds.”
“So a ten-pounder then.”
“Like I said it weighed ten pounds.”
“That’s a big fish, wouldn’t you say?”
“Well, ten pounds is what it is, EJ.”
“But would you say that’s a big walleye?”
“The walleye had some size to it alright.”
“So it was well-sized. Bigger than your average walleye.”
Corky started staring at me like what the fuck, but I figured I’d keep messing with him.
“I’m just asking.”
“It seems to me you are getting out of line, son.”
“What do you mean, like I’m rude or something?”
“I just said you are out of line.”
“I’m sorry, but what am I doing that is offending you?”
“But like talking how?”
Corky stood up and got into a boxing stance.
“OK punk, you are done disrespecting me. I’d say it’s time for us to step outside.”
“Why are we going to step outside?”
“To settle this.”
“Do you think it will be a quick fight? A long fight? A fair fight or a dirty fight?”
Corky wound up in a big elaborate Popeye wind-em-up motion that gave me plenty of warning and time to duck away from his fist. I jumped off my stool.
“Whoa dude, why so agro?”
We had everyone’s attention now, including Penny’s, who sprayed both of us with club soda from the fountain gun behind the bar.
“EJ!, Corky! Knock it off right now. EJ what on earth are you doing?”
“Just trying to help him buy an adjective.”
Corky got up again and started his big windup.
“CORKY!” Penny screamed. “SIT. DOWN.” He looked at me and then sat down.
“Sorry about that sweetie. This boy is nothing but a jackass.”
Penny just nodded her head like “don’t I know it” and told me to move to the other end of the bar, which I did, although somewhat reluctantly.
I wedged myself between two more of Penny’s groupies. One of them was a juicehead from the local gym. I knew him from high school. Dude’s name was Mark Lamo, but we called him Lamer. And yeah he too fancied himself a writer, but a different kind of writer – the kind that thinks the highest calling of writing is writing album notes and advertising copy and he was all into branding himself. The dude was sitting there dressed – as usual – like an off duty cop in his cheap slacks and blue turtleneck sweater, his head bobbing to music that was playing somewhere inside that diseased mind of his. I decided to fuck with him too.
“Hey Mark, it’s EJ Spode… from High school.”
“Hey EJ babe, long time no see, what’s the haps?”
“Well just checking shit out. You going to be in Penny’s Prosetry contest?”
“You know I am, babe, and I’m gonna wreck it with my postmodern prosetry stylings.
“Hell yeah you are, but did you hear that they are gonna do a drug test afterward?”
“Drug test what?”
“Yeah for performance enhancing drugs. You know. ‘cuz they found out that ‘roids can enhance writing.”
“No it’s true, or at least Penny thinks it is, so like they are doing blood tests and shit tomorrow.”
“Call her down and ask her.”
Lamer called down Penny and she looked at me like “what the fuck shit are you pulling now.”
“Penny babe, EJ here says there is going to be some sort of drug test for the contest tomorrow.”
Penny just rolled her eyes and shook her head and walked away. Lamer looked at me all pissed off like.
“EJ, why you wanna be fucking with me babe? Wha’d I do to you, man?”
“It’s not what you did to me, it’s what you are doing to writing – you are effing it up with your ad copy and liner notes and your blog and your trademarks and your tattoo parlors and your secret fantasy to have your own brand of nutritional supplement and your Japanese restaurant and… yeah. I know about all of that.”
Lamer was staring at me like what the fuck…sort of like, where is this coming from, and sort of like, omg he stole my schtick, and sort of like is this guy fucking with me?
“Never mind, Mark, I just had to get that off my chest.”
I turned to look at the guy on my left. It was Dapper Dave Dendrite. What was up with his dressing like a 1920s Wall Street executive? Some people get messed up ideas about what an artist should look like. Some want to be all boho, but that just gives people the wrong idea about what art is. It makes people think it is a bunch of faking and fronting. Dapper Dave went completely the opposite direction; he decided to dress like a businessman, but a businessman from some other time and place.
To be more precise, he dressed like a 1920’s businessman, but he wrote like people expect writers to write – kind of old school flowery prose. It wasn’t bad, mind you, it just made me think of velvet capes and quill pens and an age before Helvetica font was invented.
Dapper Dave had moved down from St. Paul Minnesota, where he had taught literature at one of those colleges up there. He wrote one exceptionally strong book and figured he could make a living as a writer if he moved to someplace less expensive – like Sodak. And in fact he was making an o.k. living with his essays and in-flight magazine articles about the Reptile Gardens and Mount Rushmore and the Mitchell Corn Palace and other monstrosities on the prairie. And that was the infuriating thing – it was kind of like he was celebrating the monstrosities like they were the highest form of civilization (and remember, we are talking about the effing Corn Palace here). When he got around to writing longer form though, those Corn Palaces and Mount Rushmores were just the backdrops to his stories about the effed up inner lives of the people who lived in the shadows of those monstrosities.
Dave had an off and on friendship with Corky, but it was mostly off. They were the same age, but one was trying to be a lumberjack and one was trying to be a 1920s stockbroker. The thing they had in common was alcohol.
I thought about fucking with Dave, but I decided he looked too drunk and depressed to make it any fun, and truth be told, I had a soft spot in my heart for the dude. His wife drank herself to death, and you know, once he shared some of his unpublished shit with me, and it was all about the loss he felt from that death. It was harsh. I remember the last paragraph of that manuscript vividly. It was about the same struggle that Steady was facing now – about fighting against the inevitable. He closed off the manuscript like this: “So we paddle on, canoes against the current, even as we are carried relentlessly towards the sea.”
What pissed me off was that everyone in Sodak was in love with Corky’s shitty prose and its fishing-report simplicity, leaving a guy like Dapper Dave to rot because he dared to think language was beautiful – like we had left grace and ornament and flourish behind. And for what? A world without adjectives?
I slipped off my barstool and made my way to the signup sheet for the contest and registered under the name Olaf O’Brien. O’Brien was my shout-out to Tim O’Brian and … well, I have no idea where the Olaf part came from.
Then I went back to the bar to get one more drink before I split. I parked in front of Margaret’s station. Margaret was senior bartender, Penny’s assistant manager, and self-appointed guardian of the women that worked at the Stockman. I’m not at all sure they needed guarding, but whatever, Margaret had decided that was her job.
“EJ, when did you get back to town?”
“Hey Mags, I’ve been kicking around town for most of winter break but haven’t had a chance to come here.”
“Is that so.”
“Yup…that be so.”
“And why are you here now exactly?”
“Drinking?… tequila and grapefruit?”
“You know EJ, did it ever occur to you that Penny might not need you constantly messing with her life.”
“Wow, ha, wow, who the fuck are you again?”
“I’m a better friend to Penny than you will ever be that’s for sure.”
“Wow you are on some fucked up trip Margaret, I can’t even.”
“You heard me.”
“Fuck yeah I heard you and you are utterly full of shit. “
“You heard me.”
I couldn’t believe she went back to the “you heard me” crap, which wasn’t even that good of a line the first time.
“Yeah I heard you the first time.”
Margaret spun and walked away. The guy next to me apparently overheard the whole thing and decided it was his duty to interfere.
“These bitches always be talking shit.”
I looked over and it was Curly – or that is what we called him in High School. I think his actual name was Jerome Nelson or some such thing.
He stared at me, trying to place me, I assumed because he hadn’t been called that in a while.
“Yep, at your service.”
“Dang. ‘Spode.’ That’s a name I haven’t heard in a while.”
“That’s probably good.”
“No shit that’s good. Keep you head down, bro. It’s the only way to stay alive in this world.”
“Popped nails get the hammer.”
“No shit they do. But its better to be a popped nail than a popped bitch.”
“Yeah that sounds probably true. But…context?”
“These bitches are seriously popped.” He waved his arm vaguely at the staff behind the bar.
“You know it.”
“Ohhhh…. Well some are nice.”
“Yeah well popped bitches like this better be nice if they wanna get some.”
“No I mean some of them are hot.”
Curly turned and stared at me like I was from Mars. “What the fuck you talking about?”
“I mean some of these girls working here are hot.”
“Where the fuck you been, in prison?”
“Well as a matter of fact…”
“These bitches be crackhead skinny – they got no curves, got no game, don’t got shit.”
“Hmmm, I see what you mean I guess.”
“They still getting’ plenty though, that’s what’s fucked.”
“Yeah that’s pretty fucked.”
There was an awkward pause after that. I did not want to know one more about his theory of the Stockman girls getting’ it. I also wanted to make sure his assessment of the other girls didn’t apply to Penny.
“But that tall girl there, Penny, she’s pretty fine.”
Curly stared at me again. “So you have been in prison.”
“No dude, what’s wrong with her?”
“Well for starters she has no ass…”
“What’s wrong with her ass?”
“It’s flat as fuck, brah, look at it.”
“Well you know I’m a leg man myself.”
Curly started at me with his patented incredulous look again. “So you think she has legs?”
“Well look at them…”
“I’m looking brah, no calves no thighs, straight up atrophy – she’s walking on number two pencils.”
“Jesus, talk about popped.”
“I said I got the point.”
“Look how she hunches over because she thinks she’s too tall. Fuck, look how knobby those knees are. Feet are canoes.”
“Dude, I said I got the point.”
“Sorry EJ, If you have a thing for that girl…”
“Me? No, I just thought she was cuter than the others. Beautiful face, you know?”
That incredulous look again.
“That face is the shit that’s *really* popped.”
“Have you seen a waspier face? No lips. Bags under the eyes. Skin is shit – too much sun time, not enough sleep.”
“Take care of your skin bitch.”
“Ain’t symmetrical either.”
“Face is bugged, look at it – it’s lopsided.”
“Yeah ok Curly, I got your point.”
“Her teeth are bad too.”
“Just keepin’ shit real EJ. These white women – people go on about how fly they are and they are straight up busted wrecks like that one.”
I needed to end this so I told Curly I had some text messages to answer. He was like “sure thing brah” and I pretended to look at my phone messages. After about thirty seconds of my fake texting, Curly excused himself to go to some other place where the bartenders were less popped.
I was sitting there feeling like Curly had knocked me to the canvass. Just then Penny came up to me and gave me another Cuervo and grapefruit juice.
“This is for staying out of trouble for five minutes.”
“Thanks babe.” I needed to generate a conversation, so I went to a topic that I thought was going to kick-start things. “So, how is business going?”
“Oh shit EJ, we are on very thin ice. I make enough to pay the bills and set aside a few thousand dollars and then the water heater breaks or some other fucking thing, putting me back at the starting point. It’s three steps forward and then three steps back. I really don’t know if we are going to make it. The bankers are always in here, pretending to be here to party but I’m pretty sure they are checking up on us – like are we going to go under?”
“You mean they want to repossess the bar?”
“Exactly EJ, and I tell them all about the good news – the three steps forward — but I don’t tell them about the three steps back. I eat the expenses with my own money if I can, because they are fucking vultures.”
“Jeezuz that sucks.”
“Right? I definitely need to refinance or get a cash infusion or something because we are running on vapors.”
I wasn’t sure if she was thinking of me as her angel investor or what. She sort of danced around the investor option, which gave me an opening to offer something if I wanted. Knowing Penny’s modus operandi, she would turn up the heat at a later point.
It was definitely something to think about though — going into business with Penny. I’m pretty sure I would only have to be the money guy and she would handle all the day-to-day stuff. As I was pondering this Penny pulled out some architectural plans.
“Let me show you something. This is a plan I had a friend draw up. The ideal thing would be to add another floor to the building and put rooms up there and start an artist residency.”
“That sounds cool. Do the artists stay here?”
“Yeah of course babe, that’s how it works. Plus we collect application fees. And of course we get a commission on their work.”
I looked at the plans while Penny went off to wait on people. This was classic Penny: Dreaming big while she was running on fumes. And the problem is that while she was always dreaming, her dreams were always failing, and she was always hitting rock bottom.
The worst thing was that she was again trying to get me to finance her dreams. I had been down this road before. After a few months she would start to resent my financial power over her – real or not and no matter how hands off I was. It was an impossible situation.
I looked at the blueprints and just wanted to get the fuck out of there. I decided that wouldn’t be cool; it would be better for Penny to come back so I could excuse myself. I also didn’t want to give away the fact that I was still all in with the idea of us being romantic partners again. That information was going to be kept close at hand until the prosetry slam.
Penny came back after waiting on a couple of her customers.
“So what you think? Pretty cool plans, no?”
“It looks great Pen; hope you can find a way to make it happen.”
She took the plans from me, sort of looking at me like she was trying to figure out where I was coming from and then said, “sure…it’s definitely going to happen.”
We exchanged a few benign questions about our family members and then she changed the subject to the obvious thing.
“So, EJ, you haven’t signed up for the Prosetry Slam.”
“Yeah, I’m not feeling competitive these days.”
“Well…that’s a change. Are you feeling ok?”
“Yeah feeling great, I’m just more chill these days.”
“San Pedro cactus.”
“Is that so? I’ve heard that does good things for the soul.”
“I can swear by it.”
This was one of those conversations where no one was saying anything – like two animals circling each other trying to figure out the intent of the other. Was this a friend or a foe? She was thinking the same thing, and she knew that I knew that she was thinking the same thing. She had the easy out though.
“I’d better take care of my customers…”
Me: Yeah actually I have tol eave but..
Penny: sure, no problem…
Me: …Let’s definitely get together before I leave town…
Me: You know…talk about stuff..
Penny: Yah talk is good…
That was totally awkward. I slid off my barstool and went outside. Meej was still out there for some reason, talking with Danny Ripley, who was a local hog farmer. I swear this dude Danny had a divine calling to be a hog farmer. In junior high kids put up posters of football players and rock stars; Danny put up posters of hogs that said, “hogs are beautiful.”
“Meej, Danny, what’s up.”
Danny was smoking a joint, which was a pretty brave thing to do on the streets of downtown Sioux Falls.
“Hey EJ, you on break or somethin’?”
“Something like that.”
“You going to do this poetry slam thing?”
“Naw, it’s played for me.”
“How’s the hog business?”
“Is what it is I guess.”
“I hear ya.”
“Word. Want a hit?”
“Sure. Thanks dude.”
Meej had replaced his orange hunting cap with a hat that said “ABS”.
“What’s with the new hat Meej?”
“American Breeder Service, I just got a job there.”
I looked at Danny to see if he was tracking. Then I looked back at Meej.
“What the fuck is American Breeder Service. …Or do I not want to know.”
“It’s my new employer. We artificially inseminate cows.”
I looked at Danny again, but he was acting bored with it, like this is shit every farmer knows.
“Meej, what the fuck you talking about?”
“Well, we get these vials of bull semen and then we stick them up inside the cow and break them and inseminate the cow.”
I looked at Danny one more time. He was smiling, nodding, and hitting his joint.
“OK, that’s enough. I don’t want to hear any more.”
“No it’s awesome. I have these long rubber gloves and I stick the vial up inside the cow’s vagina and break it in there.”
“Jesus fuck Meej! Shut up already!”
“Sometimes the cow cums.”
Danny sort of snort laughed while trying to hold in his smoke.
“Dude I’m out of here. You are one twisted motherfucker.”
Meej and Danny were laughing uncontrollably at that point so I just started walking to my car. On the way home a question occurred to me:
Was Meej fucking with me?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Image: Jana Astanov.
Chapter 1: Giants in the Earth:
Chapter 2: The Welcome Inn:
Chapter 3: Dimebag Bob’s:
Chapter 4: The Trojan Horse:
Chapter 5: The Turtle Diaries:
Chapter 6: The Cartagena Diaries
Chapter 7: Penny
Chapter 8: San Pedro
Chapter 9: Triggered
Chapter 10: Letters and Dreams
Chapter 11: Helena and Steady Eddie
Chapter 12: Circe
Chapter 13: Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Chapter 14: The Sleepover
Chapter 15: The Bittermilk Road
Chapter 16: The Rocket Sisters
Chapter 17: The Pelorum Avenue Street Racers
First published in 3:AM Magazine: Sunday, February 26th, 2017.