72. Tequila Nangrybird

The humans left to go drinking. And eating. There had to be some eating in there too.

George thanked Kima and Michel for coming. Neither of them responded; thanks weren’t required. He and Michel assisted Kima out to the taxi-van. Michel carried her, and George made all three of them invisible.

Jas, their driver, a turbaned Sikh with a narrow, kindly face, greeted them. George liked Jas because his first reaction to finding out that George was an alien was to consider what his religion demanded of him, which was brotherhood and assistance to the stranger. On occasion Jas was troubled that food never formed part of that friendship and assistance, and from a scientific viewpoint it didn’t make sense to him that George never ate. Learning that every other Sixer did eat, like everything else alive, had been a relief, but it outlined how unusual George was; he was a bridge between two species, not subject to everyday rules.

Jas drove them to the boat, which idled up to the public boat ramp at Vanier Park. With obvious relief, Kima vanished and jumped into the water.  Michel waded after her. George followed, and brought the bucket, which Sparrow secured. Kima had told Sparrow it was very pleasant to hang onto a boat and get dragged around by it. Michel, who like most landmorphs preferred to be in the air, stayed on board to talk to Sparrow, whose practicality and humour he much enjoyed, although he found his reverence for Kima to be convulsingly funny, since it was pretty much how he and George felt about her too.

The humans didn’t know, because the Sixers didn’t tell them, that the three had been linked, in various combinations, for the entire meeting. Michel had sat out on the balcony to give Kima and George a turn. It was easy to link and speak at the same time; all the landmorphs did it habitually. They’d link to one person, as if that person was some kind of sentient security blanket, while conversing in a larger group. They didn’t talk about it, because it seemed as rude as pulling out one’s cell phone at the dinner table, although not as overt.

While Kima was getting her escort home, a haunt at the southern end of Saturna Island, Anh, Jesse and Avtar were scratching off the tequila menu at a Mexican restaurant in Kitsilano. Jesse had texted Colin the coordinates, and as he joined them, he was careful to sit as far from Anh as possible.

“Got me some catching up to do, I see,” Colin said as he strolled up, looking at half an hours’ worth of carnage at his associates’ table. There were shots on the table.  “God, I could so pig out on some carnitas, too.”

“I already ordered some,” Anh said, and snapped her finger. Their plates arrived. 

“Well done,” Colin said, and inspected them as they went by. Jesse had ordered a bean burrito, saying, “What? What? I live alone!” at Avtar’s raised eyebrow. Avtar went for the shredded chicken enchiladas. Anh had ordered double carnitas.

“Go ahead, have one,” Anh said, shoving it off her plate onto a napkin and handing it to Avtar, who handed it to Colin. “You’re lucky I feel like sharing, I literally haven’t eaten all day.”

“You should not go into a meeting with Sixers on an empty stomach,” Jesse said.

“You really shouldn’t,” Avtar said. “Kima, when she winds up, she’s the smartest person on this planet. You gotta have carbs on board when she’s in the room or you are at a big disadvantage.”

“George is much the same,” Jesse said.

“Kima is socially backward, compared to the boys,” Anh said.

All three men, their mouths arrested in various stages of chowing down, looked at her, and slowly started eating again.

“You guys are like a circus act. How long have you known each other?”

“Him and me?” Jesse said, pointing at Colin. “Two, three months.”

“Never met either of them before tonight,” Avtar said. “Are they crazy or is it us?” he said, waggling his eyebrows.

“Right,” Colin said. “The night of the murder.”

“What? They’ve murdered someone since they came to town?” Anh squeaked, blowing food out of her mouth. Colin snorted.

Jesse said, “No, no, I found a dead body.  Didn’t mean to upset you.”

It was Avtar’s turn to be horrified. “You found a dead body?”

“I’ve had an interesting year,” Jesse said, and decided to quit talking until his food was gone.

“You’re lucky,” Avtar said. “You work with Michel and George.”

“But not Kima,” Anh said.

Avtar said, “Yeah, for me it’s mostly Kima, and tiny bits of Michel and George. Is Michel as crazy and cartoon-like — and as menacing as that — all the time? I think ‘oh, he’d never hurt me’.  Then I wonder. And somehow —”

“Well, yeah,” Colin said. “That’s our lot. We’re sidekicks, and part of that is dealing with how wilful they are compared to humans.”

“We had the sidekick discussion — I thought we were fine,” Jesse said, offended.

“He gave you food poisoning,” Colin said.

“Oh god,” Jesse said.

“Michel gave Jesse food poisoning?” Avtar asked.

“Can we not fucking talk about this right now? The food’s fantastic and you’re harshing my wallies.” Jesse said.

“I don’t have any problem being a sidekick,” Anh said. “Especially when the hero says ‘Go party on my tab!’”

“This isn’t partying. Ever seen George give a light show?” Colin said.

“A light show.”

“Oh yeah,” Colin said.

“You mentioned it about a hunnerd twenty-nine times,” Jesse said.

“He can make Laser Floyd look like a hand-painted stereoscopic image of Niagara Falls,” Colin said.

“Eat your food before it gets cold,” Anh said.

“I’ll order some more carnitas,” Colin said, “in part to repay my debt. But I think I’m gonna hold up on any more alcohol.”

“Why, man?” Jesse said. He saw no hypocrisy in saying, “I’ve never seen a man puke with such grace, it was revelatory.” He offered illustrative arm-waving and nearly poked Avtar with his fork.

“Hey!” Avtar muttered.

“I try to bring polish and precision into everything I do,” Colin said coldly.

“Tell that to your knob collection,” Avtar said, and Jesse, warmed by food and tequila, exploded with laughter.

“You know you guys look like a lifestyle ad,” a boho woman in her thirties said as she passed their table on the way to the restroom.

“I am not the token white guy,” Colin said, but quietly.

“You totally are, you dumbass. I’m the one who’s nobody’s stereotype,” Jesse said.

“You were right to ask,” Anh said to Avtar. The last of her carnita disappeared into her mouth, and she shoved it into her cheek so she could talk. “It’s definitely them that’s crazy.”

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Born when atmospheric carbon was 316 PPM. Settled on MST country since 1997. Parent, grandparent.

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